Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sniffing at the Crotches of Power

Fig. 1. Do you see it? Do you see it?!?
The other night Yours Truly was out enjoying himself with a company of delightful dementigenstia of my acquaintance, pictured here recreating Da Vinci's Il Cenacolo  correcting all of the mistakes in the occult semiotics [Fig. 1].  From left, Louis Brown (holding a credit card rectifying the error in the painting that Bartholemew is not trying to pay for the dinner. Historically, Bartholemew was a notorious check-grabber, and expected everyone else to pony up for the theatre tickets), Mike Dzibiak looking for more vowels for his last name, Wayne Wise (a Professor of Comic Books - it's probably best that we can't see what he's doing with his hands) and Marcel Walker as either Andrew or Judas, depending on how well you know them. In the center is Mark Best, Chair of the Department of Godzilla Studies at Pitt - the less said about his Jesus Complex, the better. The Apostle Thomas is being played by Claude Mauk, Chair of the Languages You've Never Heard Of department at Pitt (you know, like Blonginese, V'larch, and High Pflerman). Then you see Mrs. Doc, me, and Baby Doc there as Matthew, Jude Thaddeus, and Simon, naturally! I mean, who else would we be? Also Maya Best is there as the hostess, not depicted by Da Vinci, who is coming over to tell the party they are disturbing the other customers by all sitting on one side of the table.

Just as in the actual last supper, we all fell to talking about famous celebrities we know. Until I joined Carnegie Mellon, I had a few close calls with the A-List, topped by three events:

3. I stood next to Steven Tyler on 7th Avenue in Seattle waiting for the light to change.
2. I attended an exhibition of Impressionist Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the accidental but prolonged company of Jamie Lee Curtis.
1. I took a piss in a Tribeca restaurant men's room next to Bill Murray [Fig. 2].

Fig. 2.  This image always makes me think of Ghostbusters.
But now I'm in show business, however tangentially, and I've hobnobbed with quite a few well-known folks; Alan Arkin, Elaine May, Ted Danson, John Wells, Stephen Bochco, Felicia Rashad, John Kani, Warwick Davis, Mike Carey and Mike Reiss being on the top of my list of good encounters. The funny thing is that a lot of the fanboy glamour goes away when you are doing it as part of your job. Not all of it, but taking an unexpected piss next to Bill Murray is a lot more titillating than spending three days helping John Wells (who is awesome) negotiate the ins and outs of the school to which he is donating a truckload of money. It's work. It's great getting to know John as a human being, and all that, and to learn from his astonishing example about how to do the work we do as well as he does, but you don't have the giggling consequence-free delight of being a faceless joe. Bottom line, you have to TREAT THEM LIKE HUMAN BEINGS, and that means that you have to ACT LIKE A HUMAN BEING.

But yesterday Jed Harris and I had lunch with the President (Emeritus) of the Pittsburgh City Council, Doug Shields. I'm a fan of the Councilman; voted for him every time he ran since I got here. He backs the causes I believe in, he was a great help to a big project at my son's school, and he came to see our Inspector General twice. After the second appearance he did a postshow talkback with myself, Jed, and Molly McCurdy (dramaturg) and I said "do you think people will be offended by my ridiculous lampooning of city government?" and he said "Lampooning? I thought you had put a hidden bug in the Mayor's Office and just wrote down what you heard." My ego as a writer, dramaturg, and adaptor soared, but my hopes as a citizen plummeted. After all, I put the worst garbage in there I could come up with. Anyway, the Councilman agreed to blurb the back of the book for me, and so when it came out I wanted to give him a few of my author's copies, which I get from CMU Press in lieu of "pay" (love ya, Jerry and Cynthia!). So we had lunch yesterday.

I believe that Doug is on the side of the Wise and the Just, which is probably why he's not Mayor. But every time I speak at length to him I get a better sense of what goes on in government, and at the age of 40 I know I shouldn't be so idealistic that it continues to make me sick to my stomach. It's like the meat and dairy industry - one day you learn how much blood and pus from damaged and infected cow's udders the USDA allows to be legally incorporated into cheese, and you say "I'll never touch animal products of any kind ever again." And a week later you're tucking back into the burgers. Politics is the same way. It's vile and disgusting and warps your mind and showcases the worst aspects of human existence, both on the side of the manipulators and those willing to be manipulated. Plus, no one is interested anymore in listening to me gass on about Marx as a precursor to discussing Brecht or Feminism, or Queer Theory. I should just forget about it and work on robots, but I can't. I keep returning to it like a dog revisiting its own upchuck. Today's sputum has to do with the wholesaling of Pennsylvania's clean air and water to the Marcellus Shale fatcats. I saw a similar process destroy the glorious natural resources of Utah once, and I'm nauseated to think about it happening again here in the woodlands.

Celebrities of any kind, entertainment or political, emit the same smell. It's the smell of your ability to think as an individual rapidly decomposing. The more you sniff it, the more of yourself you lose. Too bad it's so goddam addictive.

No comments:

Post a Comment