by Duff Allen
- Presidential Motorcade Limousine Game
The ten car motorcade spirits the President of the United States to the next presidential location. Part of the unsuccessful importance of this is to create a moving image filmed in real time which creates for the millions of eyes, which may or may not be watching the newsclip, either one mile or 14,000 miles away, a lasting impression that the president not only exists, but that the president is alive.
The concept of presidential existence here defends against any logical reason the legitimacy of that powerless office, if only to show that a living person could lift a fork; or, ostensibly, as the standard but empty myth goes, that this same person could follow a prolix procedure of codes which would launch a devastating nuclear attack across much of the world.
In order that this entire scheme does not collapse as a spent star sucks up its own dying light by the weak forces of residual gravity, as the only real game really left in town, in the otherwise vapidity of absolutely nothing, the black painted line of slowly moving motor cars wishes to create the convincing enough spectacle that there is something of value worth protecting. Otherwise, why all the fuss? Why the switching of positions of the third car with the second, the first with fourth, and the second with the fifth, and so on?
The skillful drivers’ operations are impressive in the same way that tourists are wowed and conned outside Penn Station in New York City by petty criminals in the ever beloved “shell game” (or “cup game”) wherein the feckless desires of the urban arriviste to outwit the in-place machinery of the big city, thus to disprove to himself his provincialism, attracts legions of mid-western losers passing up $20-80 as though ‘twere nothing. Likewise, each of the presidential limousines is an anthropomorphized “shell” (or “cup”) whose suggested “win” is to fend against a presidential assassination, but which together operate in a game that is so fixed as to be completely foolish.
But, anyway, wherefore such bullets? And what grassy knoll shall exist anymore? And what king of power is truly worth killing? The answer is: “None.” The emptiness of the routine is as evident as a world completely neutralized of any instability, at least, until the attempt to reinvigorate the emptihood of this presidential office in response to the fortuity of 9/11 came about.
Nevertheless, to suggest that ensuing presidents behind tinted glass somewhere, whether they are actually in the motorcade or not, have any actual power is as laughable as a child’s being afraid of the dark bedroom at night. Much more fearsome than this organized Detroit procession is to be an ordinary passerby who looks up and sees above him (or her), silhouetted in the empty branches and limbs, nineteen or twenty crows sleeping in a leaf-naked tree before a quiet train station as the morning sun is nearly rising, because sometimes they are there, and sometimes they are not.
- In Defense of Voting Patterns
When stepping into the voting booth, do not believe in voting. Instead, please like how the curtain is drawn magically behind you, the way to think a mermaid’s tale must wrap sensuously about her body without even looking. But, as you go toward the voting booth, before you are concealed inside with all those knobs and levers, go to be seen.
Outside the booth the townswomen, the League of Women Voters, they may all be sitting at card tables with their signature pads to verify who you are by your signature and your photo identification. Embrace the love of seeing that selfsame image of your signature carried forward as a copy in their book. Love how, one year, or four years, or twelve years later, you can reproduce that same inverted signature you have always had that does not resemble even closely your given name. Take Leonardo da Vinci’s already backwards signature and invert it, flip it around, forwards. Nobody will know. Not the banks, not the IRS. The old ladies checking signatures at the voting booth don’t mind.
Go voting to let them see. Go to let them gossip later on, if they are not widowed, that you have come to vote, that you are a participatory citizen in the community. Make sure to vote during presidential mid-term elections, when voting is slight, and sea changes naturally occur in Congress due to irregularities of affection for the sitting president, which has really nothing to do with anything actual, but, still, a perception of things actual. After all, things have been pretty much the same ever since Richard Nixon decreed that no longer could a dollar be exchanged for gold in 1971, and the word gold itself came off the books. From thenceforth, consider how many people, good Americans, have stolen into the night and twisted the little red metal flags off postal letter boxes, residential ones, rural and suburban, every so often over the years. Consider how many municipal street signs have been removed when their presence seemed to mar the natural beauty of the streets. Too, think over the angry shots of pellet guns directly fired at the windowfronts of the nation’s largest banks which seem to have proliferated beyond any conceivable need for cash. Because of these temporal errancies, vote lest anybody consider that such anarchistic crimes should belong to perhaps you, citizen.
As for the act of voting itself, pull as many levers as you possibly can in the shortest time possible once you are inside the booth. Picture being wrapped by the voting booth curtain the way the beautiful bronze “Baker Dancer” statuette at the Met from the third century Greece is wrapped by all her protective folds that layer her dress, and, but for her eyes, completely cover her face and body. Pull the levers willy-nilly regardless of party or office. Remember, you only want to make a good impression, and that you will certainly and easily do so with all the internal clatter and noise that you cause.
When you emerge, emerge wearing a face as though you have just won an enormous pot of money at poker and were not caught cheating. That is how a pro would do it, and that is how you will. Care nothing about politics, who is in office, the taxes they raise, or the taxes they lower; care very much about about the unimpeachable havoc being wreaked in your neighborhood, not really because anybody dislikes anybody there, but because of the current spirit of distrust for any sort of authority at all, whatever the guise, be it a pretzel-munching four star Army general, or that cheerful and friendly baton twirler in a little baton-twirling skirt at the head of a high school marching band remembered from far away, long ago.
Do keep in mind that if you do not vote often and regularly, that you might appear on one of the silent lists of suspects that are never actually written down anymore but are kept in people’s minds. And, last of all, remember that if either your well-established voting patterns or the local neighborhood destruction patterns should change or deviate, you might be tempting a light knock upon your front door by a freshly shaved police officer some darkening night soon enough after November 8.
- Dumb Mike and Me We Always Voted
He’d say things like, “All things being equal.” Then, we’d have to vote on it. And since there was just us two, and it wasn’t just in high school but after that, I’d insist that there being just the two of us it didn’t make a difference. “What do you mean it doesn’t mean a difference?” Mike’d go then. And I’d say, just as plain as I could that if there was a vote over it, how can fifty-fifty decide anything? I mean I myself couldn’t tell you what a vote was then really in high school. And now? Forget about it.
If you have a president, say, and he’s a black one and not almost everybody in the whole country votes for this guy, does this majority make much of a difference? And Mike’d go, “Makes a difference enough, that’s how democracy works. A majority rules.” But between us two what kind of difference would it make anyhow how Mike wanted it? And he’d soap me up or whatever it is you want to call it and lubricate me, and we’d vote because he wanted to, and then we’d do anal if that’s what he wanted. And he’d ask me then for years, “Don’t you feel it, Cherie?” Feel what, I wanted to tell him. Your dick. Yeah, Mike I feel your dick in my ass but that never made fifty-fifty a vote to do it.
Either me or him were that dumb to believe it and this had gone on for really only God knows how long. And he’d always go, no matter what, “It’s a vote no matter what, no matter who wins or loses.” I never could figure that one out. How about if we both wanted to have it in my vagina for a good change? Would that count even more? Doubt it. And he’d just go on doing it to me, talking about politics, and about the importance of supporting the American Dream. Doing it and talking about how the important thing to being an American was about voting, no matter which side of politics you were on. “There are places in the world where nobody gets to vote,” he’d say. “Like Cuba.”
Way back in eleventh grade it seemed pretty smart enough. We learned in Civics class that the way to settle a conflict, which Mr. Wilde defined as a controversy with at least two opposing sides to it toward which a single resolution must be reached, was to vote. But the first time me and Mike did it he didn’t have a rubber with him and he said he had this idea to vote on it. “On what?” I said. “I don’t want to get pregnant, Mike.” “I could use your butt, Cherie,” he said. I figured we’d both have to agree but that’s not how it went.
The end came like this when I was going that I didn’t think Barack Obama should be president. Mike said he’d hadn’t voted for him himself but that’s what the vote says. “No,” I said, “a slim margin doesn’t really mean you win anything.” He went pretty crazy on me saying I didn’t believe in voting and I didn’t believe in democracy from the Greeks, and if I didn’t that that made me a Socialist who don’t believe in voting or equal rights and that I was just insane. “Fine,” I said to him. “You win.”
I told Mike, “Mike, I just want to be like all the other people in America who don’t vote or even really dream about anything at all.” They knew their vote didn’t mean anything and didn’t get all caught up in that making a big difference. They raked their leaves on their yards and put them in big, gigantic brown bags they got at Walmart in the fall and the town took them away. Their kids got older and lost their teeth and new ones grew back in their place. People lived just as long.
Everybody in the U.S. must have been into sex the same kinds of ways Mike and me were. They just didn’t ever need a vote on it. Once you stopped thinking about voting and politics and the government, you could go to a carnival, ride the rides, buy a thing of cotton candy and just enjoy yourself. Of course I didn’t ask or tell Mike that I was going to vote on getting divorced. I just did it, and did it on my own. He asked me, “Is this what you really want, Cher—?” And I didn’t hardly blink back and said that it was.
Duff Allen is a writer who lives in upstate New York. He has an MFA from Bard College where he teaches writing in The Clemente Course for the Humanities. Recent work of his appears in Pure Slush, Burningword Literary Review, In the Ground, and others.