An Anthropological Adventure Highlighting Late Pandemic Folly Beach Behaviors

The last time I donned the ol’ pith helmet and ventured inside the rich anthropological domain of Folly Beach, SC, was on 17 March 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic. Even though it was St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday associated with the consumption of intoxicating spirits, a day when inebriates typically jampack the bars of the so-called Edge of America, only a few foolhardy hedonists stumbled the streets that Saturday, their left hands clutching red cups, their right hands thumbing their noses, as it were, at Dr. Fauci’s fervent pleas to stay indoors to stem the contagion.

Why would I – whom sociologists classify as geriatric, advertisers term a golden ager, and young people consider an old fart – expose myself to possible infection? After all, at 67, I fell into the likely-to-die demographic. Why, you ask?  

Because I’m a scientist, damn it; that’s why.

Of course, I submitted a report of that field work, including video, which you can access here.

Well, 407 long days have elapsed since that death-defying foray onto the potentially contagious sidewalks of FBSC 17 March 2020. Now, with COVID cases waning nationwide (albeit spiking in India and elsewhere abroad) and having received two doses of the Moderna vaccine – the second one a month ago – I decided it was high time to investigate. With Caroline, my invaluable anthropological colleague, erstwhile grief counsellor, and crackerjack photographer at my side, we trekked to Center Street to determine to what degree behaviors have changed since the early days of the pandemic.

We set up base camp at Chico Feo and found that outdoor eatery a-swarm with Friday night foragers, mostly tourists, but a considerable number of local denizens lolled there as well. After one low-impact libation, Caroline and I decided to head straight to Ground Zero, the shitshow known as the Rooftop at Snapper Jack’s, a two-block walk. Before departing however, our sponsors, pictured below, suggested we be on the lookout for topers tippling drinks that Jenny (pictured far right) has dubbed “ho-a-canes” and “bro-nados.”

from left to right, Dylan, Patrick, Faith, and Jenny

At the base of the stairs leading to Snapper Jack’s rooftop bar, we encountered our first bachelorette crew, pictured below. They seemed to me, despite the festive pink cowgirl hats, a bit subdued. Caroline and I peppered them with questions. The 23-year-old bride-to-be (second from the left) had found, according to her, the “man of her dreams,” but her companion, the most loquacious of the quartet (far right), said she was patiently waiting for a man who “worshipped the very ground she stood upon” and would settle for nothing less. Upon hearing this, my subconscious selected from its poetic jukebox these lines from Yeats’s “Never Give All the Heart”:

Never give all the heart, for love 

Will hardly seem worth thinking of 

To passionate women if it seem 

Certain, and they never dream 

That it fades out from kiss to kiss . . .

Anyway, we bade them good fortune, wished the bride-to-be a long happy and fruitful marriage, and climbed the stairs passing through a portal that ferried us to the Jersey shore.

No doubt these images can attest far better than my spendthrift prose.

Ladies and gentlemen, as far as these folks are concerned, the pandemic is kaput.


A Short, Disjointed History of Recreational Cannabis Use, 4/20 2011 Edition

Indians eating bhang (cannabis) circa 1790

Happy 4/20 recreational drug users! 

Hey, you’re probably too young to remember when Jack Casady, the bassist for the Jefferson Airplane, admitted that, like President Ford’s son Jack, he, too, had experimented with marijuana. 

These twin bombshells dropped in October of 1975.  President’s Ford’s “shaggy-haired, free-spirited son’s”[1]admission created quite a brouhaha, making the front pages of the New York Times and Washington Post

ALEXANDRIA, VA – AUGUST 9: (NO U.S. TABLOID SALES) President Gerald R. Ford (R) and First Lady Betty Ford (L) pose with three of their four children (L-R) Steven Ford, John “Jack” Ford (not looking all that shaggy-haired), and Susan Ford in the family home on August 9, 1974 in Alexandria, Virginia. Ford stepped into office as president that afternoon, after the resignation and departure of ex-President Richard M. Nixon. (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

Of course, the Airplane’s bassist’s tongue was firmly in his cheek when he followed up Jack Ford’s confession with his own. After all, Jack Casady had laid down the bass licks on the Airplane’s 1967 hit “White Rabbit,” which ends with this exhortation – “Feed your head, feed your head, feed your head!”

Needless to say,[2] people had been fueling their crania via cannabis long before the double Jacks discovered its mind-altering qualities, as this soporific sentence from Wikipedia attests[3]

The oldest archeological evidence for the burning of cannabis was found in Romanian kurgans dated 3,500 BC, and scholars suggest that the drug was first used in ritual ceremonies by Proto-Indo-European tribes living in the Pontic-Caspian steppe during the Chalcolithic period, a custom they eventually spread throughout western Eurasia during the Indo-European migrations.

Not surprisingly, it was the French, the inventors of un baiser avec la langue[4], who introduced marijuana to the West. Jacques-Joseph Moreau experimented with and wrote about cannabis during his travels to North Africa and the Middle East in the late 1830s. 

In 1842, an Irish physician William Brooke O’Shaughnessy copped some quantity in Bengal and brought it back with him to Britain. Later, Charles Baudelaire got a hold of some hashish and extolled its effects. The red-eyed munchie-afflicted genie was out of the bottle. 

Baudelaire demonstrating why it’s preferable to wear shades when you’re stoned. At least with shades, people might guess you’re stoned rather than seeing for sure that you are.

I won’t bore you with the history of its criminalization/ decriminalization. Even in South Carolina, which is about as progressive as electric shock therapy, a medicinal marijuana bill made it out of committee last week in a 9-5 vote. Now, it’s headed to the full Senate. At this rate, who knows, recreational legalization might take place by the centennial of the two Jacks’ admissions in 2175!

I should add, however, that the argument about whether cannabis is a gateway drug is still in dispute, despite the appearance of Wesley Moore’s score-settling poem published over a decade ago.

On the Slave Ship Lollipop

I used to stuff my face with candy
when I was a little boy,
couldn’t cop enough Mary Janes,
would kill for an Almond Joy.

Then I graduated to the Real Thing – Coke.
I was popping five cans a day,
plopping nickels and dimes upon the counter
under caffeine and sugar’s sway.

Now I’m hooked on heroin,
am little more than a thug.
Wish I’d known then what I know now –
that sugar is the gateway drug.


[1] This hipster description comes to us from Business Insider’s website.

[2] EB White would disapprove of this transition, but he’s dead, and I don’t care. 

[3] Don’t even attempt to read the senetence if you’re stoned.

[4] Or as it was known in my hometown of Summerville, SC, “swapping spit.”

Smugness, a Etymological Analysis of Matt Gaetz’s Maledic[k]tions

If you know anything about language, you can tell immediately that the English adjective smug is of Anglo-Saxon origin. It’s short ­– one syllable – but certainly not sweet.  After all, smug rhymes with ugh, that imitative sound of a cough that over time evolved into an interjection of disgust, the involuntary mouthing you might make when running across roadkill or this photograph.

[As in the case of Melville’s detailed explanations of various aspects of cetology in Moby Dick, an impatient reader is advised to skip the next two paragraphs and pick up the prose following the book image below.]

In English, smug first appeared in the 1550s and meant “trim, neat, spruce, smart.” Smug and smock are the immigrant offspring of Middle Low German smücken, “to dress,” as in “to creep or slip into.” [1]  You smücken into a smock. Smücken itself comes from Low German smuk, which means “pretty,” even though it’s a homophone for the Yiddish word schmuck, which means dick, as in penis or schlong

I can’t speculate on why the Low German word for pretty sounds so ugly or how it morphed into the Yiddish word for penis, which over time came to mean “a contemptible person.” I would hazard to say, however, that smug people are generally schmucks.

Ugh, smug Matt Gaetz is a dick, an entitled asshole[2], the type of insecure Lothario who carves notches in his bedpost (i. e., flashes photos of sexual conquests to acquaintances from his cell phone), the type of scuzzball whose success stems from being the scion of a wealthy shitwad who made a fortune providing hospice care, the type of chuff who frat-boyed his way from prep school to Congress exuding entitlement like a princeling dipped in AxL. Obviously, anyone who behaves with such reckless abandon has never faced any real consequences for his misdeeds. 

And perhaps he’ll sidestep repercussions this time as well. After all, he’s hired Harlan Hill (pictured below) as his spokesperson.

But I wouldn’t bet on it. 

[Full Disclosure: over the years, some have accused me of smugness just because of my relaxed demeanor, because I’m trim, neat, and smart, but they are wrong. I’m just snazzy, that’s all[3]].  

the blogger, circa 1980

[1] etymonline.com

[2] C.f. https://wlm3.com/2017/10/25/my-favorite-vulgarity/

[3] I’d insert a “tongue-in-cheek” emoji here, but they all suck.


Stuck Inside of Peoria’s Suburbs with the Arden Forest Blues Again





Dear Abby, 
 
My girlfriend disses me 
when I put “thee” 
in my confessional poetry. 
 
“So Seventeenth Century,” 
she says, “the antithesis of hip, old-fashioned, out of time.”
 
which triggers 
            Bill Wyman’s bass line
                        in the juke box of my mind.
 
You’re out of touch my baby,
My poor old-fashioned baby,
I said baby, baby, baby, you’re out of time.
 
“No way you can publish this rubbish,”
she says, “too loosey goosey, sugar britches.
 
“Try not rhyming every other word. 
The syllables should interlock
like a choo-choo train,
and go chug-chug-chug-chugging,
in a straight line,
 
not go staggering 
               all over the page, 
like a sentimental drunk 
                smashed on Toostie Roll wine.”
 
Otherwise, she’s sweet as pie, my girlfriend,
and treats me nice. 
 
Any advice?
 
 
Signed,
 
Stuck Inside of Peoria’s Suburbs with the Arden Forest Blues Again
 
Dear Stuck,
 
A wise man once wrote:
 
A poem should be palpable and mute   
As a globed fruit,

Dumb
As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless   
As the flight of birds.
 
So, yeah, your GF has a point.


 

A Malcontented Blogger Turns His Back on Aggression: Roman Empire/Super Bowl Edition

If ever an event exists that epitomizes Late Empire decadence, it’s the Super Bowl, the trashy teenage illegitimate daughter of Walt Disney and Joan Rivers.

First, there’s the obscenity of the salaries of these gladiators who essentially entertain us through ritualistic war, a string of overhyped “battles,” each becoming less memorable as the Roman numerals march on into Super Bowl oblivion.  Admittedly, it can be fun to watch these impressive specimens of predatory machismo smash into one another, sidestep tackles, propel perfect spirals, and make acrobatic diving fingertip grabs (though their inability to master the snap count can become tedious).[1] Nevertheless, you can’t help but wonder if the over-compensation for these essentially physical skills is indicative of some sort of skewed cultural atavism that harkens back to Spartacus.  Why, for example, does the secondary coach of the Baltimore Ravens, whoever he is, earn considerably more per annum than Pulitzer winning novelist Richard Ford?  Not to mention Deion Sanders[2] whose career earnings undoubtedly dwarf Cormac McCarthy’s, Toni Morrison’s, and Philip Roth’s combined?

Because our priorities are fucked-up perhaps?[3]

Can you guess which house belongs to Deion Sanders and which to Robert Frost?

Second, there’s the Roman circus of the halftime show, which began innocently enough in the late Sixties with marching bands, but now features antediluvian rockers like Steve Tyler and the Who or commercial hiphoppers like the Black-Eyed Peas.  These performances nearly always end up flat (Prince and Springsteen being exceptions) and occasionally can be painful to watch (Grandpa Jagger frenetically cavorting back and forth across the stage as if it were strewn with red hot coals).[4]  I’m far too lazy to research the cost of these extravaganzas, but I suspect we could coax the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hahn to meditate on the artificial turf at halftime for free, which would be more entertaining than 90% of the halftime shows I’ve suffered through.

Brittany Spears passing gas at the 2008 spectacle

What, may you ask, binds together all of these facets of this undeclared national holiday – the verbal jostling of the interminable lead-ins (Terry Bradshaw bickering with Howie Long) – the game itself, the outsized attempt at halftime entertainment, the pratfalls of the commercials?

Aggression, that’s what.  Aggression is what separates the winners from the losers, those who pay sticker price from those who browbeat the salesperson into surrender, those who claw their way to the top from those who rely on honor and integrity to guide their lives, those who bury their helmets into the runner’s chest from those who wanly attempt an arm tackle.

Aggression is what fuels capitalism, and sports is a wonderful training ground for aggression, from the bestial grunting of tennis players returning volleys to the narcissistic celebratory endzone fandangoes of wide receivers.  These gladiators are worshipped in their high schools and wooed by head coaches who during recruiting banter with mothers they would never actually associate with otherwise. No wonder most professional football players possess Caligula-sized egos. These mannish boys have clawed their way to fame and fortune (the latter thanks in part to their labor unions).  

Who can blame them for copping the Conan the Barbarian look?

Mike Roemer Photography Inc

[1] When I played junior varsity football for the mighty Summerville Green Wave, we were so collectively stupid that we could only go on “hut one.”

[2] I had the misfortune to share an elevator with Deion once, who exuded all of the warmth of a Secret Service agent as he avoided eye contact with the children asking for his autograph.

[3] Here’s a longish quote copped from Business Insider website that discusses one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire: 

The richest 1 percent of the Romans during the early Republic was only 10 to 20 times as wealthy as an average Roman citizen. Now compare that to the situation in Late Antiquity when an average Roman noble of senatorial class had property valued in the neighborhood of 20,000 Roman pounds of gold. There was no “middle class” comparable to the small landholders of the third century B.C.; the huge majority of the population was made up of landless peasants working land that belonged to nobles. These peasants had hardly any property at all, but if we estimate it (very generously) at one tenth of a pound of gold, the wealth differential would be 200,000! Inequality grew both as a result of the rich getting richer (late imperial senators were 100 times wealthier than their Republican predecessors) and those of the middling wealth becoming poor.”

[4] To be fair, I saw the Stones in 2019, and they were terrific. The Supper Bowl performance was an aberration.

From the Journal of Percival Reginal Ignatius Morehouse

[Editor’s note: Dr. Morehouse is the esteemed editor of Latinate Locutions for the Habitually Silent.]

Perhaps what occurred last Friday is the result of the moon’s and the sun’s elliptical longitudes differing by 180 degrees, for in the wee hours, having been prompted from my recumbent position in the arms of Morpheus by a corporal need for vesical relief, I noticed from the bathroom window that the lunar hemisphere facing me was completely sunlit, appearing as a circular disc illuminating the night sky.

You know, it’s possible that these geriatric spouses’ curtailed narratives possess smidgens of veracity. No, I didn’t bay at the full moon, nor did thick fur suddenly pullulate from my epidermis in a lupine metamorphosis; however, the synapses of my cerebral cortex did misfire – if that’s the word –  into a subversive ideation, a completely impractical plan of action, as if the Imp of the Perverse had commandeered my common sense. 

Or as Ovid might say, Habeo cilium barbam supra Fundamentum meum.

A few hours after Dawn had painted the eastern sky with her rosy digits, I descended the stairs to find my consort standing before a pile of dishes  an accumulation of platters in that domestic space where meals are prepared.

“Beloved,” I said, “how would you like to engage in an impractical odyssey that would have us motor from the Holy City to her sister city Savannah for lunch and then turn around and drive home in time to retrieve Haselden from the halls of academe?”

A smile of enchantment beamed from that face capable of launching a thousand ships, a face so beautiful it might prompt Mrs. Menelaus herself to google “plastic surgeons.”

Consort vis-a-vis Rossetti’s Helen (aka Mrs. Menelaus )

Still smiling, she queried, “But do we have time?”

“Yes, my darling,” I replied. “I have officiated a marriage of science and serendipity. If we depart in thirty minutes, we can arrive at Chive Seabar & Lounge on Broughton Street at eleven when it opens, enjoy a repast of an hour-and-a-half, and then drive home and arrive at Haselden’s educational institution by 2:30 post meridian.”

Savannah, Georgia

By nine, we were in transit, headed south on Highway 17S, motoring past the three Rs: the Red Top Community, Rantowles, and Ravenel, the last hamlet infamous for its severe enforcement of municipal strictures governing vehicular speed. On we progressed through Jacksonboro, past the quaint Edisto Motel, and that notorious naval launch site that has been christened with the unfortunate appellation of “Cuckold’s Landing.” 

After what NASCAR aficionados term a “pitstop”* (where I encountered the abomination below), we merged onto I-95, and in a mere hour found ourselves traversing the Savannah River and into the city itself.

*No, I do not suffer from a lisp.


Exactly at 10:55, our cellular amanuensis Siri informed us that “the destination is on your left,” and much to our astonishment, a parking space devoid of vehicle presented itself for the taking.

Even though what happened next might mislead the reader to consider the narrative a fictional account, just as my consort and I reached the door of Chive Seabar & Lounge, a masked woman of Asian heritage somersaulted the sign from closed to open, unsheathed the deadbolt and ushered us in to a corner table. 

Otherwise, the restaurant was devoid of customers.

We ordered mussels in a yellow curry festooned with onions and pickled cucumbers, skewered scallops, and a mushroom salad, which in honor of Mr. Biden’s election, we shared socialistically. 

Each dish was a savory culinary concoction of toothsomeness. And though castigated in verse for his winged acceleration, Time’s airborne Pegasus-propelled transport did not seem in a haste-post-haste mode, so the luncheon progressed in a comfortable sequence of leisurely elapsing.

By 12:30 PM, after the remuneration of the computation of the meal’s reckoning had transpired, we had exited, were ensconced in our automobile, and retracing the trip in reverse order.

The only glitch in an otherwise splendid sojourn was that we arrived at Haselden’s educational institution forty-five minutes early, although, truth be told, that miscalculation afforded us a premiere position in the vehicular parade known as – pardon the vulgarity – “the pick-up line,” but then again, our prolonged  idleness also presented me with the opportunity to chide the English Department Chairman for refusing my suggestion of adding Tristram Shandy to the 6th grade reading list.

At any rate, it was a full day, and I am now more than ready to close the leaves of this journal and retreat once again into Morpheus’s narcotic embrace.

8:45 PM, 29 January 2021.

Beware of Baphoons: an Extended Definition

painting by Olayinks Taylor-Lewis

More and more I see the bare feet of passengers in SUVs  propped up on dashboards in the posture of the baboon pictured above.

Hurtling along I-81 doing 70-plus, the footloose lefty below fills in her lottery ticket trusting the laws-of-average when it comes to trips per-auto-collision while discounting them when it comes to the odds she’ll claim the Powerball jackpot and spend the rest of her days flying in private jets to luxury boxes to sip mint juleps as she watches the horses run at Pimlico.

Let’s call her foolish.  Certainly, despite her simian posture, baboonish is way too inappropriately pejorative.

The man below, a recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, claims that volcano eruptions, not industrial pollution, are depleting the ozone layer and that “Columbus saved the Indians from themselves.” 

Here’s Rush via on personal responsibility concerning drug abuse: 

If there’s a line of cocaine here, I have to make the choice to go down and sniff it [. . .]. If there were a gun here, it wouldn’t fire itself. I’ve got to reach for it and pull the trigger [. . .] We are rationalizing all this responsibility and all the choices people are making and we’re blaming not them, but society for it. All these Hollywood celebrities say the reason they’re weird and bizarre is because they were abused by their parents. So we’re going to pay for that kind of rehab, too, and we shouldn’t. It’s not our responsibility.

From  the LA Times’:

Radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh was booked on drug charges in Florida on Friday, and his lawyer said Limbaugh had agreed to a deal enabling him to avoid prosecution in the prescription case if he continued treatment for addiction problems and avoided any other run-ins with the law.

Let’s call him a buffoon.  Although crude in his intellectual machinations and often grotesque in his bodily incarnations, Rush is too slick to be called a baboon.


Once, in the picturesque Irish village of Roundstone,  Judy Birdsong, JT Crow, and I had what would have been a delightful noontime meal if a shirtless hirsute man and his morbidly obese wife had not plopped themselves next to us at the luncheon counter. Alas, in this case, no-shirt received service. Although he hadn’t shaved any Arabic numerals in his dorsal fur, he did resemble the fellow below.

I don’t think baboonish is too severe a descriptor.


Once a student of mine mistyped baphoon for baboon, and I thought too myself, “What a great word,”  a cross between a buffoon and a baboon.  It sounds just like what it means. Here’s my definition: a baphoon is a humanoid whose buffoonery crosses crudely into the ass-displaying, territorially aggressive subhuman behavior, a combination of buffoonery and boorishness characterized by passionate overreaction. (Note, baboons don’t possess Second Amendment rights, but baphoons do).  

This illustration should go in the dictionary next to the definition:

Of course, most of us only encounter baboons in zoos, and generally we can avoid buffoons if we avoid certain venues; however, baphoons tend to aggressively invade our territory, so they’re a different matter all together. Whatever you do, don’t try to reason with them.

Live Reading of “Loose Cadences for Loose Cannons” (a Horatian satire inspired by Alexander Pope)

“chaos of thought and passion all confused” – Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Man”

Here’s me reading my satirical poem on the Capitol Insurrection at Chico Feo’s Singer/Songwriter Soapbox 18 January 2021.


Here’s the text of the poem:

Loose Cadences for Loose Cannons: A Capitol Insurgent Doggerel Taxonomic Commode Ode

The fever swamps of the radical right
Teem with an abundance of exotic wildlife,

A vast array of various species
Thriving on a regimen of bovine feces.

Look! A QAnon Shaman, bare-chested, toting a spear,
Sporting a smile instead of a sneer,

Stomping around the Capitol wreaking havoc
Fueled by a diet that’s 100% organic.

Then there’s the less colorful Klete Keller,
Who looks to be a regular sort of fellow,

Tall, wholesome-looking, clean-cut, strong of jaw,
A gold-medal winner on the wrong side of the law.

Off duty cops, insurance agents, adjunct professors
Among the herd of headweak aggressors,

A motley crew: CEOs, politicians, welders, sailors,
Some dwelling in mansions, others in trailers,

And militia men galore, bearded, cosplaying Rambo,
Their lingua franca crazy batshit mumbo jumbo,

All exhibiting a disdain for natural selection,
Maskless as they swarm to overthrow the election,

Recording their crimes with selfies and live streams
Taking self-incrimination to ridiculous extremes.

Yet when the FBI arrives to initiate their torment,
They whine and say, “I was just caught up in the moment.”

Like I said, the fever swamps of the radical right
Teem with an abundance of exotic wildlife.

Don’t Mind Me, Just Letting Off a Little Steam

From left to right, Mike Pence, Sidney Powell, Donald Trump, Tucker Carson, Lindsey Graham, Jared Kushner, Paula White, Kayleigh McEnany, Kellyanne Conway, Ted Nugent, William Barr, Rudy Giuliani

I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve had more than enough of this farcical post-election tragicomedy with its drunken star witnesses; its Bethlem-Royal-Hospital[1]grade conspiracy theories[2]); its madcap Marx-Brothers press conferences in parking lots shared by landscaping companies, crematoria, and porn shops. I’ve had enough of smirking Lou Dobbs, looking like a seventy-year-old seventh grader, smugly spewing hyperbolic lies to the detriment of our democracy, and most of all, I’ve had more than enough of pusillanimous Republican officeholders who, when it comes to courage, make the Scarlet Letter’s Arthur Dimmesdale look like Beowulf in comparison.  

Allow me to fill in some of the blanks of Ezra Pound’s[3] brilliantly obscene “Canto XIV”:

Io venni in luogo d’ogni luce muto;
The stench of wet coal, politicians
Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, their wrists bound to
    their ankles,
Standing bare bum,
Faces smeared on their rumps,
    wide eye on flat buttock,
Bush hanging for beard,
    Addressing crowds through their arse-holes,
Addressing the multitudes in the ooze,
    newts, water-slugs, water-maggots,
And with them. Lindsey Graham,
    a scrupulously clean table-napkin
Tucked under his penis,
    and William Barr, 
Who disliked colloquial language,
stiff-starched, but soiled, collars
    circumscribing his legs,
The pimply and hairy skin
    pushing over the collar’s edge,
Profiteers drinking blood sweetened with sh-t,
And behind them Donald Trump and the financiers
    lashing them with steel wires.

[Deep Sigh] Oh, I feel so much better.

Happy Holidays!


[1] To quote Steven Casale, “But there was once an insane asylum so notorious that its very name entered the English language as a word for chaos, mayhem, and confusion. That institution is London’s Bethlem Royal Hospital—nicknamed Bedlam. Founded in 1247, Bethlem is Europe’s oldest center devoted solely to the treatment of mental illness.”

[2] My favorite: former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, prior to his death seven years ago, orchestrated the development software that from a server located in Germany switched votes from Trump to Biden.

[3] My favorite fascist.

Extended Definition: Kafkaesque

It’s certainly not surprising that almost any cool sounding word is likely to be picked up by the subliterati and its meaning distorted, especially by people ignorant of the word’s origins.

Take the word “Kafkaesque,” for example.  How many people who haven’t read Kafka throw the word around as if it only means “weird-ass strange,” not aware that to be Kafkaesque an event must be characterized by surreal distortion and a sense of impending danger.  

Let me offer an example of a not even close to Kafkaesque incident from the Police Blotter of the 11 October 2017 edition of my hometown weekly, The Folly Current.


BAD NIGHT FOR EVERYONE

The R/O[1] was dispatched to Center Street around 1:30 a.m. in reference to a Hit-and Run. Upon arrival, he found the suspect vehicle in the roadway, with the 44-year-old female driver in the driver’s seat, passed out with the car still running. Two victims were also on the scene and said the suspect had backed into their car hard, then drove off. They had followed the car to Center Street. The R/O opened the suspect’s door and then she woke up and asked what was going on. The officer immediately noticed the suspect had bloodshot eyes and impaired motor function. She also smelled like alcohol. The officer asked the woman to step out of the car to look at her back bumper. The woman complied, and nearly fell down getting out of the car. In the process, her boob fell out, and the officer had to ask her to cover up. During the discussion, the suspect asked several times, “what do you need again?” The woman became aggressive with the officer and refused to follow instructions on field sobriety tests. Then she resisted arrest and had to be manhandled into the patrol car. She refused to provide a Breathalyzer test sample, and was arrested for Driving While Intoxicated, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, and Resisting Arrest. While being transported to the county jail, the suspect made several declarations, including that the R/O was violating her, that she was going to tell her lawyer and her sister who is in the media business, and that the R/O was a “wannabe white boy.” The officer notes the suspect made “so many derogatory statements during the arrest, the breath test and all the transports, I couldn’t write them all down, but have it recorded on body camera.”

[1] Blotterspeak for responding officers


Okay, while this incident might well be described as “bizarre,” it is by no means rises to the dada nightmarish distortion of a Kafka story. To be Kafkaesque, it would have to go something like this:


SCHLECHTE NACHT FüR ALLE

The R/Os, conjoined biracial twins (Cuban/Chinese) sporting a freshly laundered uniform (complete with his-and-his golden-fringed epaulets) are shark fishing from the pier at 1:30 a.m. when their supervisor dispatches them to Hauptstraße [1] in reference to a Hit-and Run.

Upon arrival, they find the suspect’s Citroen parked in the middle of Hauptstraße with its 44-year-old female driver – a dead ringer for Marlene Dietrich – in the driver’s seat passed out with the car still running and her cigarette holder in her hand, the cigarette still lit, its ash a gravity-defying six centimeters long.

The two hit-and-run victims, unemployed Lithuanian circus clowns in costume, are also on the scene and report (in heavily accented English) the suspect had backed into their car hard, then fishtailed off, headed beachward.  The victims hopped into their vehicle and trailed in hot pursuit.

One of  R/Os opens the suspect’s door. She stirs slowly into consciousness and asks, “Wo bin ich?”[2]  

The officers immediately take note of the suspect’s bloodshot eyes and impaired motor function. She moves and speaks as if through a green aspic salad reeking of Schnapps.

In falsetto unison, the officers ask the woman to step out of the car to look at her back bumper, The Citroen seems to spit her out in disgust as if she were a chunk of rancid Meeräsche. [3]

Teetering on her stilettoes, she stumbles into the open arms of one of the circus clowns. In the process, her right breast falls out, and the officers, again in unison, ask her to adjust her décolleté, which she accomplishes beneath muttered curses.

Interrogation begins. During the discussion, the suspect asks several times, “Was brauchst du nochmal?”[4]

During her field sobriety tests – reciting the 23th Psalm backwards, walking on her hands on the sidewalk in front of St. James pub – she emits a howling a scream that sets off the car alarms of the vehicles parked along the bars and restaurants. Having had enough, the officers manhandle her into the patrol car as ants crawl from her ear.

Refusing to provide a Breathalyzer test sample, the R/Os handcuff her and charge her with Driving While Intoxicated, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, and Resisting Arrest. While being transported to the county jail, the suspect accuses the R/Os of groping her and threatens that to tell her lawyer Rudy Giuliani and her sister Laura Ingram, who is in the media business.  She calls the R/Os wannabe weiße Jungs.[5]

One of the R/Os notes, the suspect made “so many derogatory statements during the arrest, the breath test and all the transports, I couldn’t write them all down, but have it recorded on my Luis Buñuel body camera.”


So there, that’s Kafkaesque, Lynchian, messed-up, creepy.

That’s it. Thanks for listening to my Ted Talk.

from R Crumb’s book Kafka

[1] Center Street

[2] Where am I?

[3] mullet

[4] What do you need again?

[5] White boy