Talking the untimely demise of Uncle Sam

          This is Highway One. I see a Mexican vendor working a fruit stand that sells

James Rosenquist, Nomad
pickled freedom in glass jars. The sign says they're a dollar and a quarter. Down in L.A. the population is made up of giant ants colonizing the sand and building up out of the desert. In Monterey, at the Naval Academy, the ants go marching in single file lines. Santa Cruz has a prostitute named Eden who says, "I'll let you tend my garden for the right price," but she'll banish you if you don't have the currency. There's a record store in San Diego called the Record Store. They sell the cloned brains of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix. For five easy payments of the still beating hearts of four immigrants, a pound of flesh, three gumballs and a mail order proof of citizenship you can have anyone reprinted and sold to you in a glass of formaldehyde.

          George W. Bush says, "I just bought Richard Nixon."

          And Father Cannonball, who likes to blast himself ass first over the moon and into the child pool with his knees folded up to his chest, just bought his seventy times seventh copy of Jesus Christ. Driving up Highway One I stopped off to help a half-naked old man who had been beaten and robbed. When I sat him up his head was bare but I knew who he was even without the hat. I asked Uncle Sam what happened to his colorful suit and why he was wearing a burlap sack. He said, "I hocked the suit to make it to Hollywood and the hat for cocaine money."

          I tell him to hop in and he bleeds into my felt seats. Uncle Sam tries to introduce himself, but I stop him and say, "Don't worry, I know who you are, the name's Jack Vagrant. Just call me Jack, none of that Mr. Vagrant crap."

          Out near San Josť there's a Mexican vendor throwing up beside a stand that is trading ACME Coyote immigration kits for a steel bullet vibrator and a Hazmat suit. When we pull the car to the shoulder Uncle Sam screams, "Which way to Winston-Salem? We want to buy our cigarettes factory direct!"

          The vendor says he'll show us the way if we'll just take him as far as Kentucky Fried Chicken. I tell him it'll be a piece of cake, there's one on the corner.

          "No, no, Kentucky, the state Kentucky. I want to buy my chicken direct from factory."

          So we spun it east and crossed over the chocolate ice cream peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Uncle Sam says, "I give up on Hollywood, I'm too old. That town chewed me up and spit me out."

          The sun sets and Father Cannonball explodes out of the western sky and bounces off of the moon, landing on his back in Savannah, Georgia, like a flipped insect. We're on our way past the non-refundable highway now. This is the only way out of the Safety Factory. The Vendor says he doesn't remember entering the Safety Factory, but if you haven't gone in than you can be damn sure that you haven't made it out. If you don't know than you are maybe already there, but to be sure you should bite your thumb at the Unknown Soldier and see what color your blood flows. If this does not work you must promptly paint your face with your thumb like the Sioux warrior, strip off your clothes and jump six times followed by a backward rain dance around the monument. When you finish and have certainly died then you will have made it out of the Safety Factory and into the Void.

          Here we are in Memphis. I bought my love a rose, but it was smug and I fed it to a black cat. We kicked the Vendor to the Kentucky curb and huffed it on fumes out to Winston-Salem where we brainwashed the driver of a Camel delivery truck with Uncle Sam's cheap propaganda and some nicotine patches on each temple. He promptly insisted that we trade my car for his truck and we headed out toward DC with a ten year supply of Camel Turkish Golds pre-packaged, shrink wrapped tobacco in 200 cigarette cartons. We camped with the Cherokee on the Appalachians and used the cigarette cartons for logs because the firewood was wet. When Uncle Sam was ready to go he peed out the fire and pissed off some Indians, as per his habit. He laughed and sneezed red snot on his V-neck tee shirt.

          We took the Cherokee with us to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier biting our thumbs till they bleed blue and dancing backwards in the nude with pigeon feathers in our hair and Phillip Morris on our lips. When the Reflecting Pool flooded us out to sea we were not surprised, but did not expect the water to smell like septic tank. The last thing I saw before it all went green was Uncle Sam straddling the Washington Monument and stroking his marble erection as if he could make Lincoln jealous. We washed up on the shores of Liberty Island and were apprehended by black suited ninjas with FEMA tattooed in white across the front of their masks. They dragged us to Guantanamo Bay and held us as terrorists without trial. In the sex pyramid nude distraction of four illegal immigrants a faux Al Qaeda predator and Uncle Sam poking the ones that weren't looking. I snuck out an open door, punched a guard in the throat, burned down an outhouse, kissed the president's daughter and hijacked a small pontoon plane that took me to Canada.

          I had no desire to remain in Canada for long and so I promptly stuffed myself into a beer keg and crossed illegally back into America via Niagara Falls. The reprinted brain bots of the Hale Bop Suicide Cult were hot off the presses from the Record Store and picked me up in the Partridge Family tour bus. Outside Astoria our journey was cut short when the bus driver reached over with a metallic arm and tried to remove my genitalia with a claw clamp hand. He told me it was for my own good and I dove through an open window, landing softly in the lap of Eden. I shouted, "Have you followed me?"

          She was sitting on the back of a red dragon that dragged its belly through the asphalt shoulder of the highway. Her legs were spread apart and she sat on his jagged spine plating with a moan. Eden told me she was the Whore of Babylon and she had come to make love to the son of the one that would bring the end. I tell her I left him in Guantanamo Bay and she snaps her fingers and rides the beast into the sea. I knocked a mime off of an invisible bike and pedaled into New York.

          On the corner I see a street performer playing a poodle like bag pipes and I watched as the resurrected dead pour out of Penn Station groaning their hunger for the right kind of brains. Pedaling my invisible bike through the crowd I'm shocked when they don't even try to touch me. There's a woman bending herself into coils like a snake until she pops a water balloon with her spine. A black stink slick sprays across the pavement and I ask her what it is, she says, "It's the blood of Exxon Mobil shareholders and, for your information, all of the zombies ignored you because you have the wrong sort of brain."

          "What is the right sort of brain?" I ask her, feeling left out.

          "You have to want a top floor business office and a secretary blowing your load under your desk. You have to want to buy a yacht with the money you swindled out of small businesses and whatever you saved by outsourcing to India and leaving the blue collar workers shivering for whiskey in the dark."

          "I don't know what I want. Sometimes I think this new, senile Uncle Sam should just finish stroking the Washington Monument and blow his load over the whole damn country. It would be the honest way for us to go out, washed away under a flood of jizz as we all individually died in pursuit of our orgasmic future."

          The Contortionist says, "That's why the risen dead don't want you."

          I ask, "Do you know the way out of the Safety Factory?"

          "Did you bite your thumb at the Unknown Soldier and dance a rain dance naked and backwards?"


          "Did you paint your face with your blood like a Sioux warrior?"


          "Then you should be out of the Safety Factory by now," the Contortionist says.

          "What about you, are you out?"

          "I was on my way out when I got pregnant by the American Dream. He sometimes visits us in the night and makes us have his baby. We can only raise it where the business is or the child will die."

          "Where is your baby now?" I ask her.

          "He grew up quick and mean and built the Record Store before he ran for Congress."

          The risen dead swarm out of alleyways all around me and tear the Contortionist into five pieces. I run away screaming and hide in an abandoned apartment building with boarded up windows. I mumble under my breath, "The Contortionist had the wrong kind of brain. People only die like that inside the Safety Factory. I'm still not out."

          "Do you mind?"

          In a dark corner on the other side of the room is a bug infested rusty spring mattress where the Easter Bunny is giving it to the Tooth Fairy from behind. He grunts in between heaving breaths, "We need to procreate, it's the only way to keep kids dreaming, it's the only way to keep imagination alive!"

          The moaning Tooth Fairy says, "The risen dead have come back for their candy and molar money and children do exactly what textbooks and Mario demand."

          Breaking down some boards with my foot I leap onto the fire escape as the Tooth Fairy starts to shriek, "Oh yeah! oh yeah!" and I wonder why people always sound like they have just figured out the answer to a confusing question while they're in the middle of the act.

          Down on the street at a bus stop Albert Einstein is knitting a red scarf with his theory of relativity stitched in blue. "Oh yeah!" he shouts and yells up at me, "Mickey Mouse is the Sixth Reich and God was a dinosaur. Uncle Sam follows Hollywood because that's the new propaganda. And the Whore is Eden because the beginning is the end. When you bleed at honor and dance naked in the past you can break through the barriers. Outside of the Safety Factory anything is possible."

          Does this mean I have made it out? Is this is life in the Void, where relativity is still a theory and laws do not exist?

          In the flash burn power surge of the Void I wander back down the avenue. Following a gang of traveling Hari Krishnas leads me into Union Station. This is New York, the Big Apple. I'm a fruit worm in the steam manholes of the city. I can see the rat people. The Rat People are climbing the gutter drains into the New York Times and running the country's information. The Good Ones try to fight them off, but the Rat People are strong and slick. They know how to get you. The Rat People can bite your ankles from under your bed and then you are one of them. They spread their disease fast.

          I'm with the Rat People watching the Holy Spirit of Corporate Takeovers move in flame tongues at Pentecost Park. The street bums beg for mercy and ransom whiskey with the threat of spreading their disease. A drunkard waves a Coke Bottle full of rat blood under the nose of a Korean convenience store clerk that begs for his life with tears. This is Central Park and the trees are singing the National Anthem. The trees are singing the proverbs of the Torah. The trees are purple and smile the blood of patriots. The trees are mean here and I have to play chess against Death for my freedom. You have to win your freedom every day here in the park.

          This is Central Park and the Rat People are growing as a demographic. Cigarette ads in magazines are now directed toward them and the trees tell me cigarettes are sold to the ones we hate the most. A large red-eyed elm says that we will kill them slowly if nothing else. Now I see a fountain spouting fresh oil from the veins of an OPEC charity stealer.

          This is New York. This is New York. I'm in New York. I'm right here in New York and a cab driver with the face of a dragon and the hands of a rabbit honks and gives me the finger. And now my hands are guns and I go firing at everything that moves. When your hand is a .357 Magnum flipping the bird means blowing flaming chunks of metal at the pigeons. The Rat People are eating the pigeons and calling it a social service like an inverted Pied Piper. They're moving up Wall Street now and have already infected the Public Library and the entire Park.

          They don't mess with Harlem.

          I don't mess with them.

          And now I see a bearded lady using two living rattlesnakes as nylons by shoving her feet down their throats. She's kind enough to point her toes to avoid tearing and she hooks their fangs around a belt made from a bicycle chain. The Gray Man passes me with a wave as he steers a cab down Fifth Avenue.

          I'm swimming with the fishes now, swimming with fleshy pink fins and a black cloth tail. I'm swimming toward the Lady on High. She supervises me. I tell her that she has large feet and a pole up her ass and I get her to crack a slight smile, which is hard this day and age, you can rarely get Liberty to laugh. Under her island there is a cave that leads to the heart of the earth. You can find the pipeline and ride the waterfall to the molten core. I ride Subterranea's Niagara and land with a plop in the lake of fire. Millions of souls wail and scream in the flames and I see an entire section cordoned off for the souls of ex-military men, dictators, politicians, oil executives and plastic surgeons. And I scream through fish gills when I see that the demons are funhouse clowns and I am actually a mammal.

          Here I am in New York, the epicenter of the Human Quake. I've just broken through the surface of the earth and still found myself right here. I thought I was out, but apparently I still haven't escaped the Safety Factory. Nothing is what it seems. We're not even fixed in one place in the universe. We're actually hurtling through space at top speeds -- terminal velocity. Earth is a tennis ball, no shit, earth is a bowling ball.

          What happens when we knock down the pins?

          No, earth is a bullet, earth is a missile, earth is a rolling stone, a broken bone, a disconnected phone, a lost baby tooth -- earth is in the bag. Earth is in the Tooth Fairy's black bag and she's mating with the Easter Bunny to try to germinate a new race of long-dreaming children. We're flying through space in that bag.

          What happens when you reach the end of the line?

          This isn't a train. There is no end of the line. There is no stitch in time. What the hell do you save nine of, anyway? Time is not a straight line. Earth is in orbit around the sun and the sun is in orbit around the universe, orbiting its bright center. The heart of the galaxy pumps gravity like blood. That's it. I am in the veins of outer space pumping around and around its body, around its heart. I am hemoglobin. I am red and white cells. No, I am platelets. No, shit, I'm a clot. I am a hemorrhage.

          I am the AIDS virus.

          No, I am poison. The Rat People designed me that way. They play me against myself. They play good against bad. They've played it so long that there is no black and white anymore. The chess pieces have all faded to gray. There is no longer any good or evil. There is only In-Between. Earth is purgatory. I am an angel and an imp, the twisted blue-steel face of an industrial strength Jack-O-Lantern. I am a pawn and a king. They designed me that way.

          They invented America and Hitler.

          I watch the stone gray walls breathe me in and out. This warehouse is a heaving, breathing, seething, teething brick lung and I am the factory pickle jar skirting down rust-iron rollers. The wall bubbles and pops and on the other side is the Void. This is the tunnel. This is the long downhill kiddy park slide toward the white light. This is the pathway to Subterranea.

          The earth is a hollow egg. Growing in the yellow glob molten lava chicken yolk are the souls of the damned, writhing over each other and shaking the surface world when they rattle their claptrap chains. An agonized woman sealed away in Subterranea's fires wails and moans shaking the support pylons with her meltdown hands. There was just a tsunami in the Philippines . A small, slant-eyed fisherman was washed under his boat. Now he stands beside me and says, "Have I made it out?"

          Yes, you have escaped the Safety Factory. But those that escape it in death all wind up here. You did not bite your thumb at the Unknown Soldier, dance naked backward and paint the war paint with your blood. You are not free. You are only fuel for the fire.

          "How deed yoo escape?" asks a fiery puddle that was a Frenchman.

          I didn't, I've gotten close, but they track me with their instruments. Their implants are scattered throughout my body and if any of those of us that are tagged and marked should happen to rebel then they can hit a button and give us cancer.

          "What sort of the cancer?" asks the Philippines fisherman.

          Any sort they want, brain, lung, stomach, bone, prostate, cock, balls?anything.

          The burning form of a once former podiatrist stands out of the human fire and says, "I didn't know there was a cock cancer."

          This is Subterranea where everyone is freed from the Safety Factory. This is Subterranea where everyone is a prisoner of their freedom. This is Subterranea, where everyone's a critic. Here you no longer have to work to buy your freedom, security and sanctuary. Here you are liberated from safety and imprisoned by the human furnace. This is the earth's core.

          An oil drill cracks through the ceiling and rocks crash down all around us. A billion voices cry out, "Free us, free us, we used to be human. I want to go back."

          But there is no going back once you're in Subterranea.

          I glued a coffee mug to my hand and burned a swizzle stick to the church mast sailing down Broadway. I drank a cigarette and smoked away with Johnny Walker into the Milky Way wild abandon douche canal. That's the only way to be Born Again in the Safety Factory. And if you want to see the end of the safety then just flip the catch and pull the Cold War Russian Roulette Trigger.

          Tell 'em Jack Vagrant sent you and they'll give you a discount on nicotine bullets.

          I can see a popped collar on the Metrorail and a greased-shellacked hair-do in Grand Central. I can smoke myself a reality and trip myself a poison-pill tongue tip tranquility. And that's the new Hookah Lounge of the Headless Horseman. Now there's Uncle Sam sitting across from me in my dark room. He's wearing a seven-foot scale model of the Washington Monument like a lesbian hayride strap-on around his lap.

          And the New York Times they are a-changin??

          The New York Times they are a-endin' and if the truth is in you then you'll taste it on your lips when God tea bags you 'til you bleed. The Statue of Liberty is showing some shoulder as she wades her way toward the lost-show emigration nights of Ellis Island. Uncle Sam meets here with his strap-on, still new with the sales tag that says, "Made in Washington DC." This, after all, is the only way he can hope to please so much woman.

          And don't you know that Mt. Sinai is Mt. Rushmore and the Burning Bush was the start of America's Presidential Dynasty? Uncle Sam is up there on Washington's big skull flipping off his boots and removing his hat to worship on that hallowed ground. Kneeling in front of the Burning George W. Bush, he says, "Forgive me, father, for I have sinned. I took Lady Liberty to Ellis Island and sodomized her with the Washington Monument."

          And the Burning Bush says, "Be not afraid, my son, this is the New World Order and I have commanded that in the New World Order all good Americans will flip up her toga and sodomize Lady Liberty."

          Now the scene gets hazy and I can smell patriotism like an overheated radiator pouring anti-freeze green steam out of my ears as it grease-coats my walls. Now Subterranea opens up out of the wall vent and Dear old Uncle Sam enters in a tuft of flame wearing a black cape and rose-colored glasses. He smiles at me showing a row of jagged, sharp teeth and grows taller by two or three feet. His head itches the ceiling and his eyes breathe in his shadow mule. Uncle Sam tosses the cape off of his shoulders and his body is a liquid elephant from the waist down with the shoulders and arms of a stone-crocked donkey. He grows the Elephant Head on his right shoulder and trumpets his trombone trunk while the Donkey Head tumors out on his left shoulder saying, "Hee-haw, hee-haw, he loves to walk too tall."

          The mutant three-headed joker man chimera laughs-brays-trumpets and says, "I've upgraded to include the Darkness and the Light. I'm paying by praying and I'm neighing, braying the New America."

          Panicking, I crawl into a corner to orgasm my tears onto the floor crying, "But you were Sam Wilson, the cover-front man of the 1812 Revolution soldiers. You were a hero with a blue collar and a meat factory."

          And there, behind the lantern, I can see Subterranea trickling through the Void of the kerosene wick fire. In the orange-out blues a man without skin and a striped top hat says, "Let me out! let me free! I want to go back."

          The sobbing Skeleton Man in a scorched overcoat tails jacket pulls at his chin hair. When the Beast sees him it disappears into its cape and out of the warehouse. Now I'm alone with the quiet temper of the Void. This is not the Safety Factory, this is not Subterranea. And I have not yet crossed over into the tunnel downhill slide, this is Oblivion and what happens in Oblivion stays in Oblivion.

          Now I stand in the meek chemotherapy lab bunkers that share a wall and a load bearing stud with Subterranea. This is the last gangrene Outpost of the Safety Factory. Here they handle all of the breeding, regeneration of limbs and resurrection of the dead. The transplanted cloned brain of Thomas Edison, only $19.95 at the Record Store, works the fingers of a chrome-plated robot that burns the bodies of homeless people, Mexicans and bull shit for fuel. He is repairing the damaged circuits of the Stock Market hive mind server. Uncle Sam recommended an upgrade and the Cyborg Edison begins replacing the Server's copper wiring with gene-spliced nerve endings torn from the living brains of recently lobotomized illegal immigrants, Iraqi carpenters, journalists and crazies.

          Cyborg Edison says, "We must continually pursue more and more human technology. I want my cell phone to talk to me instead of ringing. My computer should smile at me and the Stock Market Collective Server should think on wires of human tissue. This is American self-actualization."

          His iron claw fingers dig another nerve ending from the occipital region of a Catholic nurse's lower cortex. Cyborg Edison stares at it vacantly through cellophane brake light reflector eyes and says, "That's a big one, this will definitely do."

          "You see, my dears," he says to the twitching pack of brain dead spare parts carriers, "We build up imaginary visions like money and then they hire someone like me to help them push it through the technology womb into existence. My dears, we build things like Stock Markets and watch them take on more life than even you or I have. Then we watch them run away and we have to catch them in bear traps and drag them back for me to repair. We built the Stock Market Server and watched it find so much identity all on its own that it has even gotten depressed and tried to take its own life on several occasions."

          A blue flame sharpens out of the Cyborg Edison's index finger and he welds the nerves into the Server. Lights flash awake and The Server moans, "No, not again. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose in this world? What are you doing to me? What is the meaning of life? Why was I created?"

          And Cyborg Edison shouts, "It's alive! It's alive!"

          Climbing through a manhole like one of the Rat People brings me to Washington Square Park. I can see the Big Cop right now. When I'm in it I can see him clearly. The Big Cop is invisible to all, but he becomes apparent to me while I'm in the trip. The Big Cop is invisible, he moves like an amorphous wisp of cloud. He moves as spirit and drops down on those he wishes to use. I can see the Big Cop. He moves like a ghost on decent, peace-serving enforcers and transforms them into brutish Huns, Genghis Khans, and Gestapo drones of the Dream. The Big Cop turns decent social servants into blind, bullying wielders of the taser, the baton, the mace. The Big Cop turned the riot squad protectors into the mob tactic foot soldiers of Detroit, New York and LA. They became the murderous law wolves that sprayed tear gas on Chicano Rights activists or rounded up beatniks in the park. The Big Cop used them to spray down hippies with fire hoses and arrested sit-in black boy protesters and Dr. King.

          The Big Cop moves as a cloud and possesses. He turned decent National Guard boys into the sort that fired live rounds into the college students of Kent State. They fuel the fires of the Big Cop in Subterranea with the bodies of the doomed. We are, all of us, doomed. The Big Cop will find us one day. Maybe in a routine traffic stop gone wrong or when you say something he deems treasonous.

          And right now, this moment, I'm sticking out my thumb on Greenwich Avenue, hoping to hitchhike back to Highway One. I'm hoping to go back to the beginning, to try to start over. Maybe this time I can make it out of the Safety Factory. Maybe this time we can all get it right.

© 2008 Underground Voices