Seeing The Elephant

Kage Baker would have been glued to the television today.

She had what she called “a vulgar fascination with current events”. It was the recently-developed ability to see things all over the globe in real time that did it. Webcam syndrome, an outgrowth of the 24-hour news cycle. We were adults when CNN burst on our television screen in a ghostly green storm of tracer bullets over Baghdad – we got used to it so quickly, so thoroughly, that for a year or so I turned the telly on each morning before I even lit the burner under the tea kettle.

When we realized we were mindlessly gobbling down local sports in Warthog, Nebraska along with the daily briefings from the Pentagon, we made a conscious decision to stop. It just didn’t seem healthy; we were getting information, true, but it was like being a goose with a funnel down your throat – we couldn’t control the amount, the speed, even the substance of what we were ingesting.

So we quit.

However, Kage remained interested in the occasional extreme LIVE BREAKING NEWS that would sneak by in crawls under some episode of Spongebob Squarepants. She admitted freely to a truly plebian love of high-speed chases – she’d sit and watch and comment in sardonic amusement as the night-time landscapes flashed past the fleeing prey in the burning lens of a helicopter’s spotlight. “Oh, look, we had a flat tire there once!” she’d exclaim as some desolate intersection in the wilds of San Berdoo was briefly illuminated.  “Jeeze, all those streets are dead ends; what a maroon!”

It was even more mindless than playing solitaire. She used it like soma or the fabled narcotic lotus; something to stimulate the visual cortex while giving the frontal lobes a break.

And, of course, from time to horrible time … the news was real. Important. Devastating. A child down a well (happy ending there); a landmark burning to the ground (not so much). The World Trade Center. The Japanese tsunami. The Boston Marathon bombings this week past, and last night’s fire fight through the dark streets of Watertown and Cambridge.

I remember that she watched the footage from 9/11 until I took away the remote and turned it off; it was more than she (or I) could stand after a while. I am thankful she didn’t live to see the footage of the 2012 tsunami rolling inexorably through Fukushima, carrying burning buildings over the tiny cars with tiny desperate hands flailing out the windows …

Yestreday, I was all mad with triumph, having finished “Paredolia” and therefore feeling like a real writer. I managed to avoid mentioning the elephant in the room, elated as I was by simply completing a task Kage had left me. That’s not so easily done, today. The elephant is raiding the pantry and practicing plies in the living room.

I stayed up very late, listening to the unending coverage of the search for the bombers through Boston’s suburbs. Just when we had thought it was over, the alarm went off for the encounter at MIT; even while we scoffed (“MIT? Come on, what could be happening there?”) a policeman died, shot in ambush. Bullets were flying, bombs were flung from stolen cars like a bad Warner Brothers cartoon. Then one of the bombers was shot, and fell, and was run over by his brother fleeing the scene: more WTF insanity.  And so died Tamarlan, most inappropriately named for a legendary Tartar fighter …

Today, Boston and its environs have been under lockdown (that is being relaxed as I write). The second bomber, Dzhokar, is still at large. He could be dead in an empty house or dark garage; they found his car, and there was reportedly blood in it. The young men’s uncle is calling for Dzhokar to surrender – his father in Russia is claiming the boys were framed. Fenway Park is shuttered, and the Red Sox are once more the bad-luck kings of the world. Most of Boston is shuttered and shut down: except for the Dunkin’ Donuts shops, which someone on CNN made sure to check on and report were open for business.

There is an element of bathos to this. Kage wouldn’t have been able to take her eyes off of it.

And in the meantime … an Elvis impersonator has been sending ricin-contaminated letters to the President and Congress of the United States. A compost heap is burning out of control in Camarillo, and an exploding manure plant has taken out most of a Texas town: Night of the Flaming Shit! A SYFY Original! Los Angeles, last night, had a rash of bomb threats all over the landscape – I had to rush to the CSULA campus to evacuate my nephew Michael. Good thing I’m a native and know all the side streets, or we’d have been trapped in the most enormous cluster-fuck traffic jam I have ever seen … bomb threats went on all night, but none yielded anything tangible except the one at Hooters on Hollywood Boulevard. That guy at least had a lunch box, which was detonated by a robot that looked like the Mars rover while the half-naked wait-staff stood squealing on the sidewalks …

Am I the only one, Dear Readers, who thinks this litany of dementia reads like one of Kage’s more insane cut-scenes? You know, like the fertility parade in Anvil of the World? Gods and goddesses, I hope I am not the only one. I can hear her so clearly in my mind right now, sobbing a laugh and praying a curse, and quoting Walt Kelly …

Man, that is one big, fat, elephant.