by Daniel Lucca Pujol
The Man worried. He was finally in control, but had absolutely no clue what to do with it. Besides exude, of course. Oh, he could exude: fame, power, prestige, control– you name it. He was a great exuder, but the honeymoon was over. People expected him to do other things, more things than just exude. He could feel it in his guts, and those guts were never wrong.
In fact, they were almost always right, and that was a big deal because his guts had just proved the whole world wrong, and those guts lived inside his body, and his body– could hear the whispers, whispers like a writing on the wall, and this writing was not good, especially for his body’s guts.
The Man knew his star was fading, and everything about it was horrible. Even his most valiant champions were proving to be nothing but chumps.
Chumps that did what chumps always do: scurry back into their own disgusting hovels of small-time ambition and petty concern, leaving somebody like The Man to handle society at large. He’d been deserted, abandoned, left with only a few measly promises and symbolic gestures to thrust toward whatever the most people wanted, but it was becoming hard to find most people.
There were just many people. Too many. Lots of people. More than ever before, perhaps, and a quick Bonk confirmed it: 7.49 billion people, and 3.2 billion of them had access to the Internet. This made The Man worry, for a reason so obvious that he was secretive about revealing it even to himself:
If there were more people on the planet than ever before, and 3.2 billion of them had access to wifi, and he screwed this up, then he could quantifiably be the least liked person on the planet, maybe even in human history– and if there truly wasn’t sentient life somewhere else out there in space then he could quantifiably be the most hated man in the universe. Perhaps ever. In the history all of Creation since the Big Bang.
He could become The Least Liked. And that was worse than hatred. It was indifference, The Man thought, and what one is indifferent towards– one ultimately forgets. Like to flush the toilet. Who has the time? It’s already underwater, and that’s what you wash your hands with, so what’s the big deal?
The questions kept him up at night. He wasn’t sleeping and it was making him sloppy. He knew he was losing his edge. It showed in the numbers. Too many of the wrong people were watching, and too little of the right people were paying attention. It was the perfect storm for a bad look. His chief strategist was right, something had to be done, and he was about to find out the game plan.
The Man pushed on his thighs to stand and began another shuffle down yet another carpeted hallway to yet another “urgent” meeting. The carpeted silence reminded him of a hotel corridor, and the hidden mysteries behind each closed door. It comforted him. Potential comforted him. The Man squished his toes into the deep carpet beneath him and took a moment to reflect on his situation.
His assets were solid, but the name was damaged. He knew what that meant for a business, and– if he was truly the best– what should be suggested, immediately, by his chief strategist: a rebrand.
It had worked before, “To go from a heel to a face.” That’s how he got here. So why not try it again?
“Might work out better this time,” he thought, “To go from a heel to a face, and practice makes perfect.”
His strategist jokingly referred to it as goose-stepping. He seemed to always be ranting about avians, but so far as birds were concerned, The Man preferred chicken, and he still wasn’t exactly sure what fowl had to do with professional wrestling.
He placed his hand on the doorknob, took a deep breath, and entered the room. Everyone stood up. The Man waved them to their seats with a half-smile, and cautiously guided himself into the swivel chair at the head of a beautiful maple veneer conference table with a handcrafted ornamental floor molding. The construction had a 3″ thick table edge, symbolizing both elegance and strength, reinforced by the advantageous sight lines generated by the curated seating arrangement.
The Man slid his hands against the finished hardwood until they reached a crisp, vellum-bound binder entitled Project Reboot. His eyes moved up the table toward his chief strategist, but were interrupted by– of all things– a box of vinyl records. Behind the box, his strategist gave a saucy look, and The Man waited for the pitch.
“What’s this?” The Man asked.
“Pick one,” replied his chief strategist, “they’re mine from college.”
He slid the box down the table, and The Man began thumbing through the records, saying the titles aloud.
“Youth Defense League, Youth Defense Bridge, Screwdriver, Skullhead, Ted Nugent, Vagner, Screwdriver Does Vagner: A Tribute To Skullhead.”
The Man paused and said, “What is all this? I don’t know, which one’s your favorite?”
The chief strategist eagerly rose from his swivel chair, jogged down the table, and cut a thick LP from about a two-thirds way down the stack.
“This one,” he said and plopped it down on the table.
“What’s it called?” The Man asked, “It’s just braille or something on it?”
The chief strategist leaned onto the table. Rolling his tongue in his cheek, he looked seductively toward The Man and said, “The White Album.”
“What? Obviously. Just look at it. Who’s it even by then, and get your elbows off the table.”
“The Beatles,” replied the chief strategist.
“Bugs? Well, at least it’s not about the birds again. So what’s the plan here?”
The chief strategist smoothed out his blazer, returned to his seat, and gestured toward a young aid in an off-the-rack suit. It looked like garbage, but the aid gave a concise, though slightly shy presentation on– just as The Man had predicted– an asset-independent rebrand. Apparently, The Man needed to acquaint himself with the predominant 60 year legacy of The West’s counter-cultural narrative, and reappropriate it for their own causes to improve his overall image.
The logic was to further connect his anti-establishment rhetoric with the cultural legacy-institutions of The Left via a historical revision of consumer culture. Essentially, The Man needed to give The West something called a hegemonic re-interpretation of someone the aid kept calling “Cultural Marxism” to help bring about something called “The Helter Skelter,” but The Man was a man of action, and he only needed to know one thing:
“Will it get me likes?” he asked.
“It is designed to get you the most optimized likes, sir,” replied the chief strategist.
“Most is good,” The Man said, “Let’s do it.”
The Man stood up, tucked the record under his arm and made his way toward the airstrip, where a black helicopter was awaiting him for take-off. He watched the city get smaller until it looked like ants. He wondered if germs looked like ants to ants because they were smaller, then remembered his homework, and with a sigh opened up the Beagle LP.
He found a large poster inside one of the sleeves, and unfolded it to find four large faces staring back at him, suspended in the air, held by his outstretched arms like a newspaper. The vibrations of the flight were soothing, but his arms began to tingle from reading the poster. Weary from his long day, he draped the poster over himself like a blanket to nap until his touchdown in the magnificent Mile High City of Denver, Colorado.
The Man was jarred awake by the landing, and quickly twisted open a miniature bottle of water to refresh himself while he waited for security to give the all-clear. Midway through his bottle, an aid entered the helicopter and reassembled his LP before he was escorted to an underground suite encapsulated inside a secure bunker.
The aid returned his LP and shut the airlock gently behind him. The bunker had an excellent feel, accentuated with a tasteful blend of task, ambient, and accent lighting. The Man felt it coupled well with the room’s minimalist-style interior design scheme.
A portable vinyl record player sat upon a chic, modern-industrial, black metal-framed coffee table. He sat down on the matching black leather daybed, and admired the steel-brushed shine of its sturdy chrome base. Nodding and pursing his thin lips, The Man noticed the sudden sound of a running faucet, and quickly looked behind him.
A knob on the wall began to turn. It was a door, and this door swung open to reveal a man. A man drying his hands with a paper towel, and this man was his Favorite Real News Radio Host! He couldn’t believe it, but then he had to — because it was really happening.
The Man’s Favorite Real News Radio Host dropped his wet paper towel and gave him a quick salute, “Happy 1776, sir. I’m glad to say we’ve got some work to do. Some good, much-needed work.”
The Man nodded in agreement with pursed lips, “Good to know you’re up to speed with the situation. Where are we at with the project?”
The Man’s Favorite Real News Radio Host fished a thick pen from the stash-pocket of his heavily distressed relaxed-fit jeans with road-worn knee articulation, and said, “The very beginning.”
“What’s that?” The Man asked.
“Something to help you with the altitude.”
“Why’s it have lights on it?” The Man asked.
“The lights are the buttons. You press on them when you inhale.”
“Inhale what?” The Man asked.
“Some medicinal herbs, like tobacco– but better for you. We’re all adults here, sir, but let’s try to maintain a case for plausible deniability.”
“Story of my life, so it’s like a tea?” The Man asked, “because I don’t smoke.”
“Sure,” the Favorite Real News Radio Host replied, “this tea’s called White Widow.”
“Like oregano?” The Man asked, “You know I don’t like spicy foods.”
“I’m sure it’s not spicy, sir. This is just a secret tea that you breathe instead of drink by touching the lights on this rectangular tube. The lights vaporize the leaves so you can breathe them.”
“Sounds classified,” The Man said, “but what does this have to do with my white album?”
“Sir, the project demands that you breathe the tea while simultaneously listening to the album. It is a sort of full immersion strategy to expedite your understanding of the opposition’s sociopolitical metanarrative.”
“Sounds complicated,” The Man said, “Now tell me this. Does Cultural Marxism know about my secret tea?”
“Unfortunately yes, sir, that’s why we have a lot of catching up to do.”
“Well, I’ll take the deepest breaths then. The biggest, deepest breaths, in the whole history of rectangular tubes.”
“I’m sure you will, sir.” replied the Favorite Real News Radio Host. He gave another quick salute, and walked to the air lock. As the door hissed opened, he turned once more to The Man and gave a solemn look and uttered, “God bless, and Godspeed, sir.”
The Man pointed back at him, hoping to inject some levity into the room, “Thanks, pal. You’re the greatest, I’ll see you on the other side! OK?”
END (SIDE A)
To be continued…
Daniel Pujol is a musician in Nashville, TN. You can order the vinyl countercultural braille artifact of this spoken word project here.