Friday, January 18, 2013
Once Kennedy lay dead, murdered in Dallas, half his head shot away, and Johnson took the oath on the plane before returning to the air, and long before the next decade, when the president’s sexual follies surfaced and still the country did not reject him, but before such tawdry exposé , Malcolm X murdered in Harlem, shot on a stage like those he stood upon elsewhere, Martin Luther King murdered in Memphis, shot on a motel balcony where he was simply taking a breath of the air we all breathe, and Bobby Kennedy murdered, shot in the basement of the hotel where he was celebrating victory in the California primary–and “now on to Chicago!,” his speech ended and none followed . . . once all that was gone, there was still the war in Vietnam and then the parade of tyrannical follies, from Vietnam to now, when Bobby St. Clair sits in the restaurant getting drunk on a Saturday, feeling fucked up and sour on the world and wanting to lose this consciousness of walking through a pretty little passage of humanity leading to what he preferred to call Hell on Earth, even though he knew history too well to accept as holy writ the words that secular saints wish to make sancrosanct.
In the movie Medium Cool, the protagonist, a Chicago TV reporter covering the 1968 Democratic convention, is watching tapes of King's and the Kennedys’ funeral processions (but never Malcolm’s) and says to his lover, a young woman with a son come to the city from Appalachia: “It’s National Drainoff Day all the time now. We mourn their deaths and next thing you know, after we think we’re okay, it happens again”–or some such words, Bobby doesn’t remember but he knows that was the gist of the remark--while outside her walk-up, down on the street that ends at the park where cops are bashing the skulls of protesters and following them into the street where the blood continues to flow, a new chapter of whatever-day-it-is-by-now cuts (not in the film but in memory) to Judge Hoffman’s order to tape shut Bobby Seale’s mouth, bind him with chains, and carry him from the courtroom where Seale’s white brothers, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Dave Dellinger, Rennie Davis, John Froines, and company, continue to be tried for helping to begin this demonstration against the war in Indochina and the American political parties’ machinery spewing out Miami’s coronation of Nixon, followed now on the conveyor belt by the roughshod ride over Minnesota’s McCarthy and the enshrinement of Minnesota’s Humphrey who loses to Nixon, and from there on assassination and persecution of the movement devolves into Reagan and his sorry legacy that continues to strip the American people of their rights, take their lives, and perpetuate a mockery of their history. In his first inaugural speech the actor Reagan mouths the “city on a hill” remark John Winthrop issued aboard the ship Arabella on its way across the Atlantic in the year 1630 to plant hoary Puritanism in this newfound and once more disgraced land, initiated by the attempted extermination of its original inhabitants by whatever means declared necessary..
Bobby drinks in the Congress bar and Cristina begins her shift. He’s got to keep something in reserve for tonight, not only for his clarinet but for her sweet cunt afterward. He would rather skip the gig tonight but shit, he’d just be hornier than hell waiting for her to get off work, keep drinking, wind up too drunk to fuck. She’s something like eight years older than him. She is one of his father’s two widows. Now that he’s found his mother in San Diego and with his own marriages over he may as well love Cristina the best he can and maybe give her what she wants. He can’t help it his late father married her while his birth mother was still living, though no one who knew it was not Henrietta Murphy in the car destroyed by the train had ever said a word until this guy here gave Bobby the tip he followed south . . . and now back in Seattle, he feels nearly sick to death of this that he knows is his only life.
(18 January 2013)
copyright 2013 by Floyce Alexander