Things around here have been shit-diculous, shit-fucking-diculous, didn’t I tell you? They cut my hours at the circulation desk, again. Studs Terkel died. Wes broke his leg, don’t ask me how. Talk about an Indian summer, right? Fine, not really, but it’s been raining a bunch for early November, and I’ve only needed to wear my medium jacket around, you know that scuzzy blue one with the little green epaulettes? And if you think I’m letting you off for fucking up my transmission because I haven’t bugged you about it lately, then you got another thing coming.
But you know what really’s chafing me these days? That kid, that little fucker who went missing, was found, safe and sound, in San Francisco. Are you kidding me? You can’t just disappear at 0430h the morning of Halloween and lead everyone on for a few days before just turning up totally okay on the beach. It sucks, man, just really sucks.
‘Cause you wanna know what I heard? I heard there was a girl, one of those real lovely ones with hyphenated last names and masochistic streaks, and they went out together on Halloween night, not the real article but the Princeton one before break a week earlier, and he’s a robot and she a Sarah Palin, and they danced at Charter Club to the new Beyoncé and “So What” and “Womanizer,” real close and sweaty. She reminded him of an algebra teacher he’d had in high school, that night. At some point during all this, and I didn’t hear exactly when or how, this girl, his girl, starts dancing with some other guy. He goes to get beers, comes back, and she’s all Nick and Nora on this big, muscly dude, just like that. No tears; he’s stoic-tough that way. He didn’t tell anyone, not his roommates or parents; just packed a bag with Clif bars and boxers one night during break when they were all asleep. Just hopped on a plane and booked it. That’s what I heard.
But come on, let’s be serious, here’s probably what happened. We all get it in our heads that we’d be better off missed every once in a while, contract supply to jack up the price a little, you know, like OPEC does every once in a while. Dude’s just tired of being taken for granted, tired of being somebody just by being there. So don’t be there for a few days, he says. Go west, young man. Return to the sea. The romance of being unaccounted for. Maybe there is really a girl, maybe he can’t get her out of his mind, as she’s sitting pretty with what’s-his-face right now, stinking of Herbal Essences and gabbing and gabbing and gabbing about the goddamn gossip girls. But maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe there’s no girl, just him and his Weight. And then there’s Public Safety, hot on his trail with their bloodhounds, segways, GPS, triangulation, agglutination, agriculture, mass culture, point mass, yadda yadda like some North by Northwest shit. Times like these, right?
So, in my mind, he ends up at Golden Gate Park, the big rectangular one in the middle of town. I been once, but that was when I was a little kid, so my memory’s hazy. I see flowers, ferns, crepuscular sunlight wafting through cypresses. He’s just got to think a bit, stare skyward contemplatively. ‘Cause things have changed around here. Everyone on TV past coupla months went around dropping their “g”s at the ends of gerunds, sprinkling “folks”es hither and thither. Reared heads reared their heads, game-changers changed games. Everyone’s a computational linguist, and everyone’s a poet, not just Hart Seely.
But the kid, right? His parents are with him now, says Pee-Safe’, and they’re doing the S.F. thing, riding the trolleybuses, getting some salt-water taffy at Fisherman’s Wharf, dim sum in Chinatown. And he’s telling them about how great that Obama guy is and how he wishes that his grandparents and great-aunts spoke English so they could really hear how the guy talks—Barack English, you know? Yes, yes, we’re glad you’re safe. But it’s really spilling out of him now, sloppy and quick, ‘cause here’s this guy, right, and he’s the public-est face in the world right now, and he’s got a vision and a dream and a goal, and he’s working his hardest to see those through. But he’s sticking his neck way out there, he’s saying, and right now, if Barack can slog through all what dirty politics and lies that he’s slogging through, then here I can slog through my nonsense too. That’s, I think, what’s great about him, this man. He’s you and me and Jesse Jackson and Tito the Builder and disappearing Princeton kid too.
Or something like that. Like I said. Change. Even my iTunes has changed. What is that Genius thing, with that stupid purple atom logo? I clicked on it once, and it gave me a big, dumb list of songs that I should buy given that I like Shuggie Otis. Fuckin’ Gil Scott-Heron, man, fuck.
I don’t want to be a Glum Gus about it, but all this shit, it’s really taken it out of me, man. These few days, these last few days of the campaign, you won’t believe the jitters I had reading those polls, like serious shakes, I tell ya. Going into Big Tuesday, I didn’t want to think about the possibility that all the pre-election polls were just all totally super-wrong, like they were in New Hampshire in January this year. That was so weird, right? But now I guess we can pat ourselves on the back—little warm Nelson Mandela smile and waterworks going—and just veg out, read the Internet for five hours. The Internets, bee-tee-dubs, they’re filled this morning with stern popup ads saying, like, “Did OBAMA Buy The Election? Vote YES/NO Now!” under a frowny photo of Barack. Those are pretty good.
Christ how’d you get me started on this? Now I’ve gone and missed lecture, and my goddamn groin is hurting again ‘cause last time Larry and me played squash he did one of those really lob-y, slowish serves that always boxes me in the back corner, ‘cept this time I actually got to it but I was so surprised that I’d returned the serve that I just stood there in the back, dazed sorta, so when Larry hit it real low and fast down the side wall, I lunged real hard and plum pulled my leg out of its socket. You just don’t know, man, you never know. I’m going to get a flu shot.