The Rodent Cycle
(I am writing a book. It is called Salamander. It is about burning in a fire. And a journal of the plague year(s). It will be longer than The Anatomy Of Melancholy. This here is a small sliver: 21,682 words. Lie back. Smoke some opium. See if it does anything, for you. & if it seems like, in this part, I’m dancing around the fire, not really burning, not being there, in the thing itself: have you never read Slaughterhouse-Five? Catch-22? “There, there. There, there.” And. “So it goes.”)
February 2 is the day the Americans everywhere pause in their labors to await word from an oracular rodent who comes up from out of the ground to deliver climate wisdoms.
“Zoomancy,” that is the fancy word for such: humans scrutinizing the parts, patterns, particulars, of non-human creatures, for clues as to past, present, future.
This has been going on forever, from long before there were any Americans. The Incas, for instance, would remove the lungs of a llama, and inflate them by blowing into the trachea; priests then studied the distended veins of the blatted llama lungs, discerning thereby what the Incas should do in the politics. A Babylonian who might have a question, s/he would walk up to a sleeping ox, and splash water on its head. The reaction of the ox would then be compared to a Chart containing seventeen possible oracular answers. If the beast opened both eyes, that would be a “yes”; if both eyes remained closed, that would be "no answer, try again later"; if the animal rose up and drove a horn through your groin, that would be “oops." The Lombards would bake the head of an ass, then burn a piece of carbon on it. The names of suspected criminals were next recited: if, as a name was pronounced, the judge heard a certain distinctive crackling, sounding from the carbonized ass-head, that meant the person was guilty. It should surprise no one that the Kleagle worked like twelve bastards to revive this practice in the Americans’ immigration courts.
And so, too, come February 2, among the Americans, sleeping rodents are yanked out of their burrows, and ordered to announce whether winter is ending.
These rodents, it is said, achieve their climate forecasts through their shadows. If such a beast sees its shadow, winter will persist; if no shadow, spring soon come.
The most famous such rodent is Punxsutawney Phil, of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
“Punxsutawney” is a totally shit-just-made-up name, concocted by the Lenape to punish the white people for smallpoxing them and stealing their land. Because no white person can really pronounce it, without spluttering like Sylvester the cat. They look and sound funny, when they try.
“Punxsutawney,” it is said, variously translates as "town of the sandflies,” “town of the mosquitoes,” and “poison vine.”
Needless to say, none of the Lanape actually lived where is today Punxsutawney. Because the Lanape were Sane. Also, Decent. Only white people, would put down roots, in a horror hole infested with mosquitoes, sandflies, poison vines.
As befits a creature who dwells in a Hell of sandflies, mosquitoes, and poison vines, Punxsutawney Phil has never been universally loved. Sometimes he is actually, actively libeled. Back in 1908, for instance, the luciferian time-traveler Jeff Bezos commanded the Washington Post inscribe an editorial damning Phil as a false prophet of fake news:
“We want it distinctly understood that The Post is no blind, fanatical disciple of the ground hog. There has always been with us a lurking suspicion that this greatly lauded beast is an impudent and stupid humbug. Our persistent inclination is to class him with the goosebone, the hen running sideways across the road, the Tar baby, Brer Rabbit, and Brer Fox. The conjunction of a sunshiny 2d of February and a subsequent spell of detestable weather has never occurred to us as more than a mere fortuitous coincidence. Even now, although events should bolster up the superstition and yesterday’s bright sun be followed by six weeks of gloom, and cold, and grippe, we should stubbornly adhere to our incredulity—still maintain against all comers that the ground hog is no prophet."
Phil must also ceaselessly beat off the many pretenders to his throne. These alternate rodential climate criers include Chattanooga Chuck, out in Tennessee; General Beauregard "Beau" Lee, of Lilburn, Georgia; Hutty The Hog of Kansas City, Missouri; and Smith Lake Jake of Graysville, Alabama, a burg formerly known as Gin Town, because no one but a rodent could stomach living there without guzzling at all times great gallons of gin.
On the American continent, predictive rodents seem to have first emerged among the Pennsylvania Dutch.
The first thing to be understood about these people is that they are not Dutch. They are German. That Germans, they would be called Dutch: this is because everything, in the humans, is confused.
These particular humans, they became Americans when they emigrated from the shithole countries along the Rhine, where everyone was being pillaged and rapined in the Thirty Years War, the Sunni/Shia conflict of its time.
Once they became Pennsylvania Dutch, they proceeded to make Farms. And, in the winter they would sit in the House, on the Farm, and stare out at the snow, until they couldn’t take it any more, and then they would go out and pull a rodent up out of the ground, and ask it if the winter couldn’t be over already please.
Back in the homeland, there on the Rhine, badgers, with those people, they were the animals that were in charge of ending the winter. But a badger, it can rip a human’s arm off, right at the root. And so the Pennsylvania Dutch, there in the new homeland, decided it was safer to go groping around for a groundhog, rather than a badger. Because, they were in wisdom.
Sometimes a badger will want to live under your house, and then what you do is move. A badger is not a rodent, but is instead closely related to the wolverine, an animal the size of a cat that can take down and kill a bear. Evolution taught the wolverine that the way to meet Danger is to stand there and face it head-on. This worked well, until came the automobile. Which is why, today: wherever there is a road, there are no wolverines.
My companero Jeff was once riding along atop his horse when he casually roped a passing badger. He then spent the next six hours desperately trying to prevent the enraged animal from climbing up the rope onto the saddle to there make mincemeat of his gonads. The badger was the most dangerous creature he ever roped, he says. Except for his wife.
Seems he was a-rest at home one day, out in the yard, lazily roping his children, when his wife, she detected a certain look in his eye, and she said to him: "Don't you rope me, Jeff. I mean it. I'm telling you. Don't do it." He avowed that yes, no, he wouldn't rope her. But then, he just couldn't help himself—as she passed by, he roped her. She said nothing. Just slipped out of the rope. He thought that was the end of it. Until the next morning. When he awoke, walked through the front room, and saw, there in front of the wood stove, all laid out, his nice new special roping rope, cut into one-inch pieces.
It is possible that woman employed a groundhog, to dismember the rope. Because, like all rodents, the groundhog has Teeth. These are very sharp, and constantly employed in Cutting and Sawing. The animals' incisors grow at a rate of an inch every three months. Which is why they are out there gnawing your deck. So their teeth will not become long as walrus tusks. If you go out and yell at them, they will for sure whistle, and maybe bark, which is their way of announcing Danger.
The capybara eschews whistling when there is Danger, going straight for the bark. The capybara is the world’s largest rodent, living around water down in South America, where it is the favorite food of the anaconda. The anaconda is a snake the size of a train that can wrap itself around and squeeze open a nuclear power plant. In order not to become the favorite food of the anaconda, the capybara runs fast as a horse. Once upon a time I conceived a great notion to ranch capybara and then accumulate many midas piles challenging cowboys to race said rodents on their horses. No cowboy would believe his steed could be outrun by a rodent, with a bird or a cat or a monkey strapped to its back . . . until I had taken his money. You see, while no horse really wants a human atop its back, capybara don't mind riders at all. Everywhere in nature, can be seen various members of the animal kingdom, standing or sitting on capybaras. There is in fact an entire tube, devoted just to this phenomenon.
Heather, cowgirl with the sass, refused absolutely to believe a rodent could outrun her horse. You just wait, I told her, and see. And, once you are won over, you can join me, traveling the land, in a sort of capybara caravan, stopping here and there to challenge people with horse-hubris to race against these rodents, who will be saddled with monkeys. The horse-hubris people will scoff at the notion that a rodent can outrun their equus, and so will wager all of their dollars, that it cannot be done. Then, will come the race, and they will Lose. We will, I explained, then take their money, and accumulate a great midas pile, which we can use to buy the oak lot next to the feed store, which you can then transform into the horse annex. As, it is written. So, it will be done. And, it will be, a new dawn.
I first met capybaras in the weirdo wing of the San Francisco Zoo, where they were placed right across from the backward-penis hippos. The backward-penis hippo is a form of pygmy hippopotamus where the male has a penis that juts not fore, but aft. I used to know what is the term for an aft-backwards hippo-penis, but it's slipping my mind at the moment, and I am not looking it up. This is because the Kleagle says that he does not exercise because the body is a battery, with but a finite amount of energy, and so, if he exercises, he will thereby deplete the battery of energy he needs for acts truly important, like grabbing women by the genitals, or feeding from the KFC bucket. The Americans elected the Kleagle to be their president, so that must mean he knows what he's talking about. And so, if the body is a battery with but finite energy, so too must be the tubes. You can only go into the tubes so many times, to research this or that, before the tubes battery runs down, is exhausted, and collapses in on itself, like a black hole. I do not want any black holes, here on this Duncan Phyfe. So that is why I am not going to find out what is the word for a backwards-penis hippo.
This, is Logic.
A potential impediment to the capybara Plan was that it is not "legal" in California to "own" capybaras. Which is a nonsense. Because capybara are already here, free-range, most notably down around Paso Robles, where they frequent waste treatment facilities. California has many stupid rules involving animals. For instance, once I decided there should be zebras on this property. But then I discovered that to roam zebras I would not only have to get a special permit, but also go to an actual zebra School. I do not need any zebra School. I already know what is most important to know about a zebra. To wit: (1) they will never be tame; (2) they need a ten-foot fence, not a mere six-foot deer fence; and (3) if they don’t like what you are doing, they will kick your head right off your body.
When you are marooned among the Americans, and you want to race capybara, then in order to cavort with said rodents, within the Law, you must live in either Texas, or Pennsylvania. Texas, because there pretty much everything—so long as you are a white person—is legal: not so long ago, it was perfectly permissible in Texas to speed down the highway with a loaded gun in one hand, and an open bottle of whiskey in the other. Pennsylvania, presumably because of that state's well-known rodent fetish: see Phil, groundhog, Punxsutawney.
But I had a scheme, to surmount any legal difficulty. I was going to obtain a pardon from the governor. Jerry Brown was nearing the end of his second go-round as governor, and executive officeholders are renowned for going strange, when issuing their final pardons. So I figured Brown could grant a pardon, prohibiting prosecution, and for all time, when I raced the capybaras.
I have an "in" with Brown because when he was governor the first time I wrote a story in the newspaper about him being naked. For this he has remembered me, for what is going on forty years now. What would happen is that I would promise not to write another story about him being naked, so long as there was the pardon. Also, I know where is his ranch, down there in Colusa County. There Brown is planning a quiet retirement. But his retirement, it would not be quiet, if he did not issue the pardon. Because I would round up a herd of free-range, unpardoned capybaras, and then run them onto his land. It would be like a cattle stampede. Capybaras push out babies every few weeks or so, and so soon it would be like a Soylent Green of capybaras, there on his ranch. Brown would not want that. So, he would grant the pardon.
Then, pardon safely in hand, we would clean out the cowboys of all of their money, betting on the rodent races. And then the cowgirl with the sass, she would saddle up her pony. And ride him, on a boat, out on the sea.
But then the town burned down, and I got distracted, and by the time I remembered the capybara pardon plan, Brown was no longer the governor.
And thus we are now back again with the subterranean rodents. And how, in 2020, when arrived February 2, and the humans, they went out to pull the groundhogs up from out of the ground, to hear from them about the winter, many of the groundhogs, they were not there. This is because the groundhogs did not have the proper papers, and so the Kleagle had them deported. The Kleagle has a great Hate for nature, because it is not gilded, and so he wants it all put to sleep. Many of the groundhogs have long lived in Canada, and when the Kleagle came after the American ones, for the deporting, a lot of them began gnawing their way there at top speed. It was like a Trail of Tears, except all the wood on the way is chewed. Which is why it will go into the histories as the Trail of Splinters.
Some of the groundhogs reached Canada upon an Underground Railway. A single groundhog will churn up some 700 pounds of dirt in constructing just one burrow; and each groundhog, s/he makes a lot of burrows. So it is nothing for them, really, to dig long tunnels, beneath the Kleagle regions, in order to reach Canada. Where, like the black people of yore, they can be Free.
The Kleagle also tried to ban the true-life documentary film Groundhog Day. He considers it wrong, fake news, a failure that should never have been made.
As, for many years, it wasn’t.
Groundhog Day was an emanation of the ether that traveled through the many levels and into the brainpan of the human Danny Rubin. He peddled his Groundhog Day script for many years, to the men with the money, who all said they loved it, but of course they would never finance it, because nobody would want to pay to see it.
Then, once upon an eon, Rubin was scratching around for a new agent. He sent that agent the Groundhog script. That agent said he loved the Groundhog script, though of course it would never be made, and of course he would never represent Rubin. But what he would do, he said, was pass the Groundhog script on to another client, who might maybe like it.
That client was Harold Ramis. Who had committed a series of serious crimes against cinema—Stripes, Meatballs, Caddyshack, etc., et al. And who knew that Ghostbusters, on its own, was not enough, to Atone. And so he decided to take Groundhog Day. To try to answer for himself, before the cinema gods. And because of the Ghostbusters, which brought in more dollars than there on leaves on the trees, the men with the money, they said they would let him make it.
Ramis then worked with Rubin to refashion the script, in order to rope into the project Bill Murray. Because Ramis felt it essential that the protagonist be a complete asshole. And Murray, Ramis knew, he, was that man.
And, indeed, during filming, Murray fully flowered, in all his utter assholeness. He threw extreme and dangerous tantrums, including demanding, among many other unsane things, that the movie go all dark and moody: he wanted a sort of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold feel. Murray was then still smarting from the reception of The Razor's Edge, his bid to break through in a "serious" film. But audiences did not want to see that movie, and the critics all laughed and called Murray names. It was a rerun of Steve McQueen's pants-down go at Ibsen's An Enemy Of The People. It is why Marion Morrison—that is, John Wayne—never indulged, on stage or on screen, his true affection for the works of Noel Coward. Said Wayne: "It never got past the thought stage. I guess they figured that maybe spurs and Blithe Spirit wouldn’t go together. Can’t you see the critics? ‘Wayne should go back to killing Indians, not Noel Coward.’”
Nobody ever gets to be what they really want. That is just a Law. Robert Redford. He got to be “Robert Redford.” But that’s not what he wanted. He wanted to be a professional baseball player. But, for that, he just didn’t have it. And so, in all of his life, he is unfulfilled. The closest he got, was The Natural. Which is why he worked like twelve bastards, for more than twelve years, to get that film made. So he could be. If but for one brief shining moment. Something, like, a professional baseball player. In a shit. Just made up.
“My life,” he says in that film, “didn’t turn out the way I expected.”
“I believe we have two lives, “says the woman in white. “The life we learn with. And the life we live with, after.”
Murray these days is suffering from the curse that has descended upon those in the Hunter S. Thompson karass. In the years since Thompson blew his brains out, things have not gone swimmingly, for those in Thompson's once and future boys' club. Johnny Depp, for instance, today arrives at premieres so bibulated he is unable to walk without assistance. He has spent all of his money—which once totaled more than the annual GDP of many African nations—and now regards as a wise career choice nakedly frolicking in Marilyn Manson videos. He abandoned long-time partner Vanessa Paradis to become an Amber Heard tabloid toy. Once the Depp toy was broken, Heard moved on to Elon Musk, a man who has never really been sane—he wants to nuke Mars—but who completely lost all his remaining marbles, once he was Hearded. Heard left Musk blubbering in the bed, wondering publicly how best to suicide, but his "recovery" may be even worse: Musk now manufactures “personal flamethrowers,” and peddles them, laughing maniacally, all over the tubes. Depp meanwhile walked eyes wide shut into another Amber alert, saying Heard had him Libeled, but then the judge said: no, she spoke truth, you are an animal, go hide in a hole.
Murray has yet to experience an Amber alert, but he has meanwhile become Bobo the wandering sot, randomly inserting himself, while various sheets to the wind, into this life and that. Once—and this is in the tubes—he memorably weaved into some guy's bachelor party and there commenced dispensing whiskey-breath relationship advice. A thespian is really the last sort of person anyone would want to listen to on matters of love and marriage. This is because, by the very nature of the craft, a thespian is required to be so many different people. The kahuna Serge King talks about this in his book Changing Reality: a gift of shamans is becoming other beings, and "actors and actresses, whose profession developed out of an age-old shamanic tradition, are the most well-known practitioners of this skill today." This is why, when you become involved with a thespian, you may drift off to sleep next to sweet Sir Galahad, but wake up gazing into the glittering eyes of Chuckles Manson.
In Groundhog Day Murray shamans forth Phil Connors, a television weatherman in Pittsburgh, whose defining characteristic is that he is an asshole. The film also immediately establishes that this man is not about the Real: we see just his hand, frozen upon a field of blue, as he intones gibberish about temperatures. Phil is beaming through the television, emitting bloviations about the weather, working before a blank blue screen, upon which will be projected for the viewers at home a map, which is a non-real representation of various lands and waters—which themselves are, but only maybe, Real.
Before he is out of this intro TV spiel, we know that Phil is a smug, contemptuous ass. Hole. And we don't want to be around him. But we travel with him anyway, because the film compels us to, on his assignment to Punxsutawney. There to receive the wisdom. Of the rodent. On February 2. Groundhog Day.
While Phil's producer, Rita, and his cameraman, Larry, can appreciate the charm in such frivolity, Phil himself is volubly aggrieved that he must mix with those he regards as morons and hicks, in senseless service to an overgrown rat. He sneers his way through the day; then, at its end, is unable to return to Pittsburgh, because of a blizzard (that he failed to predict). Phil mopes with his crew back to Punxsutawney, and there grumps off to sleep.
To awaken the next morning: in the exact same day.
Every day, for Phil, is now Groundhog Day. He is trapped in an endless rerun. And only he is aware that everyone in town is in a time loop, reliving the same ol' day. Day after day after day.
Early on, along his stations on this cross, Phil sees a sawbones and a shrink: they have no answers. Next, he consults a pair of town tipplers, in a bowling-alley bar.
"What would you do?" Phil glums. "If you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?"
To which one of the tipplers replies: "That about sums it up for me."
It is in the company of these tipplers that Phil decides that since he is forever looped into the same exact day, nothing he might do, on any particular manifestation of that day, will have any carry-over effects, into any "next" day—as there never is any "next" day: always he will inevitably awaken, at 6:00 a.m., there in Groundhog Day, begun anew, once again—and so this means he may safely, and without consequence, embark on a grand tour of the vices.
And so Phil avidly indulges, for centuries, in gluttony, lust, larceny, fetishes as outre as may be depicted in a film rated PG. Until eventually in this Phil reaches an Ecclesiastes moment: he's been through it all, and all, is just . . . boring. Also, stupid.
Next, he connivingly decides to seduce Rita. He’s still a complete asshole. And so, through endless repetition, he caddishly accumulates vast quantities of information about her, so as to craft what she will consider a perfect day. So that, at the end of it, she will consent to be his bed-toy.
Because, in this, in both means and motive, Phil is foully base, he never gets there. In the end, in each day, Rita can always sense it: she is—somehow, some way, she just feels it—the target of some creepy scheme. Phil almost makes it, once, but, ever after, he each time falls further and further from his goal. Sweating, desperation. Increasingly, repelling, her.
So Phil next goes Musk-like morose, and takes to sitting in his pajamas in front of the television, eating popcorn and drinking whiskey, impressing the old folks at his B&B by correctly “guessing” all the Jeopardy questions.
While in this meditative state, Phil, like a true American, conceives a CT: It is all the fault of the groundhog. The weather-predicting rodent, it is somehow responsible. For all of this. If the hog, he can in some way be Stopped, Phil figures, the days, they will then begin again.
So Phil kidnaps the rodent, throws it into a truck, and then they drive together to a quarry. And then Phil guns the vehicle off a cliff, and, together, Phil and the groundhog, they become a roaring fireball.
Because, everything, in the end, goes to, fire.
But it doesn't work. The CT—like all CTs—it was Wrong. Phil, the groundhog, Groundhog Day: they all persist. For Phil. Right at 6:00 a.m. The "next" day. Which. Is the same. Damn. Day.
Phil next embarks on a millennia-long tour of various ways of killing himself. Now that he knows he will live again, every time, he dies. Until that too, gets boring. Also, stupid. For several hundred years, immediately upon waking, he shuffles downstairs in his B&B to grip the toaster, take it upstairs, plug it in, and drop it into the bath with him. In this way, he can at least, short out the day, early.
Then, tired even of ending his life, Phil, as is common with humans who come to understand that life is non-ordinary, conceives a desire to communicate this non-ordinariness to other humans. So he announces to Rita that he is immortal, a form of god. As is also common, this does not go over well: he is not believed. As an attempt at proof, Phil demonstrates to Rita his intimate knowledge of the lives of the various townspeople, which he has gathered over the endless millennia he has lived among them. But Rita regards this as some sort of trick.
“Maybe the real god uses tricks," Phil moans. "Maybe he’s not omnipotent, he’s just been around so long he knows everything.”
Phil, now in the eleventy-billionth repetition or so of his day, has dialed down his assholeness sufficiently so that it is now possible for a human to stand to be around him without wanting to power-chug cyanide. And so Rita agrees to spend the whole day with him. To test, his story. And, through this day, let's give credit, Phil manages to restrain his Weinsteining impulses. But, still, no, Groundhog Day, it does not let Phil, go.
Nor does it let him go when Phil elects to devote his endless time to more than popcorn and Jeopardy and cad-manning: learning the piano, taking up ice-sculpting, etc.
Because Phil's still not there.
Phil starts to get there when he at last directs attention to the broken begging old man Phil has spurned hundreds of millions of times before. Phil gets the old man in off the street, and ultimately arrives with him at the hospital. Where the old man dies.
Phil refuses to accept this. “Sometimes people just die,” the nurse says.
“Not today,” Phil says. For no one can die, in his day. That day, that must repeat, over and over and over and over and over again. It can't be. That always. That man. Will die. In it.
We then see: repeat: endless eons: in which Phil tries all, in that day, to keep that man, alive.
And, we see that, all the attempts, they, always, fail. For, in that day, that man. He is. Always. Going. To die.
When next we see Phil, he has reordered all of his life. He cannot save that old man—who, in that day, will always die—but Phil has understood that what he can do, is identify the suffering, in that day, of those who can be helped, and that he can arrange to be there, to help them. Because he has lived in that day—forever—he can do that. Because he Knows. All of that day. So, he is there: when a boy falls high from a tree, when motoring senior citizens are arest with a flat tire, when a steak-choker is in gasping need of a Heimlich, when a woman requires a light for her cigarette. He knows when and where he will be needed, and he arranges to be there. All day. Every day. Even whom he formerly regarded as pure apparational plague, his high-school classmate, geekily pressing on Phil insurance—Phil now buys from this guy more insurance than any ten humans might ever need. And why not? It makes the man happy. And it costs Phil. Nothing.
This time, when, at the end of the day, Phil tells Rita he loves her, he really means it. And, this time, the next morning, it is, actually, and at last, for Phil a real, brand new, day.
Because Phil, he has at last graduated. Absorbed the Lew Welch "Course College Graduation Address":
(1) Freak out.
(2) Come back.
(3) Bandage the wounded and feed
however many you can.
(4) Never cheat.
Groundhog Day, it is a charming little confection. But because it is a Law that nothing is appreciated by everyone—not even capybaras, or even chocolate—there have been some grumblings over the years about this film.
One of the grumblings goes like this: why does it have to be framed as a rom-com, fall into a boy-earns-girl fable?
This of course is a criticism that can be howitzered at most all of the movies—even those about the politics. To wit, Reds: boy meets girl, boy and girl have some sex and some politics, boy's kidneys bleed out and he is buried in a Wall. Or, 1984: boy meets girl, boy and girl have some sex and some politics, rats in the face cause boy to shift his love to Big Brother. Etc. The movies, they are all always about love. Because love, is all there is. We know this. Because, Zimmerman. He, said it.
Also, in this case, rom-coming, it seems actually appropriate. When one considers just why it is that the groundhog comes blinking out of his burrow round about early February. It is not because he is a narcissist with an overwhelming need to stand staring starry-eyed at his own shadow. Or because he is some human helpmeet up to chatter about the weather. No. The rodent, he comes up out of his hole, because he’s looking for a woman.
“Many male groundhogs do come out of their burrow on Groundhog Day, but not to see their shadow," says Lab Coat Stam Zervanos. "At this time of year, males emerge from their burrows to start searching for the females. The females come out probably seven days later and stay just outside of their burrow or maybe just inside their burrow." After the males determine where are all the women at, both sexes "go back to their winter burrows and spend a little more time in hibernation. In March, they all emerge together, and that’s when mating occurs. The males know exactly where the females are, [so] mating can occur very rapidly."
After the mating, come the little baby groundhogs. And, in this, it all plays, all over again. Just like, in the movie. Groundhog Day!
A lot of the artists, they will not talk about their art. They prefer that it remain in mystery. David Lynch, he is famously one of these. Thus, for example, he will not tell you why in his true-life documentary series Twin Peaks: The Return the Real Dale Cooper oozes out of a wall electrical socket, where he is then taken, by all and sundry, for the recently departed tulpa Dougie Jones, who was just recalled to The Lodge, and from that very spot; Dale, then, just assumes he is Dougie, because everyone treats him like he is, and also the knowledge of his true Dalenenss, it sizzled away, during his incarnation through the wall. Sorta like what happens to us all. Here. When we come. Here. To this planet. Or, why, later, Dale, in Dougie, dimly aware that he is more, and other, than Dougie, sticks a fork in a wall electrical socket, to deliver a shock to the system, thereby hoping to recover his Daleness. Which. He does.
Lynch just assumes you will Know about such things because at some point some doctor harangued you, as him, about the cigarettes. Lynch smokes all of the cigarettes, all of the times, even when he is asleep, which he never is, and it is currently a Law that a doctor will harangue you to stop smoking (whereas formerly the Law was that a doctor would come on the television and suggest what brands of cigarettes you should smoke). And, in the harangues ,the doctor will commence the St. Vitus Dance about heart disease. Explain about the heart. That every heartbeat, it begins with an electrical spark. That no one really knows why. Or where the spark comes from. But, it's Real. And a human, s/he is therefore a creature of electricity. And in the life of any human, there can be good electricities, and electricities not so good. Like, if you are the human Phil Connors, there in Groundhog Day, the electricity that powers you, that is good. And the electricity that powers the toaster, that is also good. But if you are Phil, and you sit in the water in the bathtub, and then you plug in the toaster, and you then drop the toaster into the bath, that is then Bad. Because your electricities—that of you, and the toaster—they are not, in that moment, in the bath, compatible. And so you—Phil—go to the boneyard. Until, tomorrow. Which is. Today.
And thus we now understand. The various Dales. And the various electricities. In The Return.
Danny Rubin, the Groundhog writer, he knows all about, the spark. Because that is also what is required, to make a screenplay, come alive.
“When you start putting together all the pieces of things that you visualized that would be wonderful, it all seems in your mind to be wonderful, but then when you look at what you've created on the page, it’s like a Frankenstein’s monster. You've got a head, you've got the hands, you've got the feet, you've got the body; you’ve thought of everything, but when you look at it, it's still just a bunch of dead meat, lying there on the table. And you're trying to get a pulse, to go through the thing. What makes it real? It's complete artifice, it's completely made up, it's all these things from your head, and your desires and dreams, and it isn't real yet. And, somehow, something has to spark, off the page. To join the life, that's going on in this world that you've created. And to make that life smooth, to make that feel real, that’s the absolutely impossible thing. Writing a good screenplay, it's almost impossible.”
Rubin has not really had a "successful" screenplay since Groundhog Day—in the sense of "success" as a screenplay eventually becoming a film, that is actually produced and released, and that people then watch. Groundhog Day was a confluence, and Rubin has not merged with such again. His work is just too quirky; he cannot write Normal.
But Rubin doesn't mind. He believes it better to be a one-hit wonder, than to have never known wonder at all.
Rubin also doesn't mind that to all and every, to friends and family, to people he will never know, he is the groundhog man. Everywhere, the humans want, always, to communicate with Rubin, about the groundhog. These communications peak each year around February 2. And, these days, on that night, Rubin and his wife, they push back the furniture in their living room, and there, they dance.
David Lynch is anyway easy enough to figure out, even if you don't know electrical sparks in the heart explain why special agents ooze through wall sockets. All of Lynch's work is informed by something that happened when he was a little boy, growing up in a perfect sunny little Pacific Northwest neighborhood. One afternoon he was out in the street, playing with his brother. When around the corner came stumbling a naked, bloodied woman. The woman sat down on the curb, and she cried. And Lynch, he cried, too.
That woman, she is Lynch's Groundhog old man. And Lynch will never relent. In trying to determine what happened to her, and in trying to save her. Because, you know, Groundhog notwithstanding, in some Realities, it can, be done. Just because it hasn't happened yet, doesn't mean that, someday, somehow, it won't, will be. And that is why, it so came to pass, that at the end of his most recent documentary, The Return, Lynch moves all, of all and all, all of time, and of space, to pull it off: to keep, that woman safe.
As, someday, I would, make it be: the town, it will not, burn down.
Back in the Groundhog realm, Rubin doesn't mind discussing the mystery pronounced by his oracular rodent.
“Phil is presented with the exact same day. And the very first time he’s presented with it, it’s probably the worst day of his life. And by the end of the movie, we see that it’s the exact same day, but somehow this is probably the best day of his life. It's the day he fell in love, and she fell in love with him, and everybody loves him, and he was living a fulfilling life, pursuing culture, and things that he loved, and appreciating the day, and doing good works, and contributing to society. And it makes it very clear, that we are in control of our day. We can control our future. There’s something very empowering about it. Groundhog Day, it's almost an experiment, that says: see? Here’s a guy who was having a terrible day, and he's kind of a horrible person, and just through the act of repetition, and paying attention, and remembering, he is forced to change who he is. And by changing who he is, he changes the life that he experiences, and the world around him.”
The town is going to remain burned down. That's just the way it is. Barring some non-ordinary Lynchian mass disordering of time and space, that's not going to change. But what can happen, is we don't have to be assholes, in it. We're still pretty much in the freak out mode, and that will go on for years, but there is also the coming back, and we'll do that, and the bandaging the wounded, and feeding however many we can. Including ourselves. And the never cheating.
We can't unburn the town. But we can be there. When somebody falls out of a tree. Requires a Heimlich. Needs a flat changed. Could use a light.
Because that day was forever, we all know when people need those things, because we've all needed them ourselves. And really, that's we're here for. Paying attention. And moving to do.
Just. As Jeff says. Be kind. Otherwise, it's just the same damn day. Over and over. Again.
You get the worst day. But you can also have other days. You just have to. Get to them.
And so we beat on, boats against the current, burned back ceaselessly, into the past . . . .
So for a couple nights there, came this gnawing noise from out of the kitche
Like, rodent gnawing.
I know from rodent gnawing, because of the squirrels.
Squirrels, they are major gnawers. And we are in peak gnawing season, here, now. Because of the walnuts. There are both black and English walnut trees here, and they put out the walnuts in the fall, the walnuts which are the tree’s babies, but the squirrels, they are abortionists, who want to eat the babies, and when the babies are still fetuses, and to do this there must be many gnawings, of the walnut shells. Because the walnuts put tough shells around the babies. To try to protect them. So the squirrels gnaw and gnaw, until finally they break through, and can commence eating the fetuses. This gnawing, it is persistent, and it is loud: it can be heard, across many lands.
But this didn’t sound like any squirrels gnawing to get at walnut festuses, there in the kitchen.
And, the first night, I didn’t really want to know about any rodent gnawing in the kitchen. Because that would require more effort than lying down. And lying down is pretty much the extent of my energy level, since burning in a fire. So, I didn’t much investigate the rodent gnawing.
I suppose I was hewing to the “just wait, and maybe it will go away” theory. Said theory having served me well, many times, in my life. Though, not always so. Like, I waited for the fire to go away. But no. Didn’t work, that time. The fire. It did not. Go. Away.
There have never been any rodents in this house. That the house is mostly concrete probably has something to do with that. Rodents will gnaw many things, but not often concrete.
After the town burned down, rodents moved into many of the surviving houses. Even ones of concrete. The rodents moved in because there weren’t any people in the houses. Because the Honea Oracle made the people stay away from their houses, and for many weeks. So, all the people gone, the rodents, they were not afraid. They came into the houses. To eat what they could eat. The next people who were not afraid, were the coyotes. Who came into the town, to eat the rodents. It was not uncommon, in the months after the town burned down, to see coyotes loping through the town. Because it was not a town. Not any more. And the animals. They knew that.
Anyway, the second night, when came the gnawing in the kitchen, I figured I better determine what it was. Mostly because I was worried it might be some rodent, trapped. As, so, it was. The gnawing seemed to be coming from this one drawer. And I know that drawer. There isn’t really anything in there to gnaw. It’s a mostly empty drawer. With just some plastic bags. A couple are bags I am saving because they are from the Grocery Outlet. Which burned down. And so there will never be any plastic bags from there, ever, again. They are, like, mementos.
Other plastic bags I am saving because plastic bags in this state are now Against All Laws. It is more legal to have ganja in your drawers, these days, than plastic bags. So, in that drawer, I am allowing those bags, to mature. And then, in twenty years or so, they will be vintage, maybe even antique. And then I can go to the tubes, and sell them, and there make many midas piles. Like people do now with, like, old vinyl.
Since there was nothing in that drawer to gnaw, I figured the rodent was probably gnawing the drawer itself. Because the rodent, it was stuck in there. And wanted to get out.
I felt for this rodent. Because I myself have a powerful desire never to be locked in. Anywhere. That is why once in the Cherokee house, when a bedroom door unaccountably locked itself, trapping me in there, I ripped the door out by the roots, rather than do something Sane and Decent like climb out the window onto the laundry room roof, and down to the ground, and then come in and determine from the other side of the door What Was Its Problem. But no. I just had to get out. Right! Then!
I knew the rodent would not be able to rip the drawer out by the roots.
So I would have to do it.
I waited for all other cats, to sound into sleep. And then I went into the kitchen, and pulled open the drawer.
I didn’t then stand there and Look. Becasuse no one likes to be Looked at it, when they’re stuck in a drawer.
I just turned around, and I left.
Then, the next night, in what should be the gnawing hours, there was no gnawing, there in the kitchen.
And . . . I was kinda bummed. Because I kinda liked, the gnawing in there. And then, it was gone. I mean, I’m glad I opened the drawer. I didn’t want the rodent to be Monte Christoed in there. But, still, the gnawing, it was kinda nice. And, now, it’s gone. And I miss it.
It’s amazing, really, how quickly, you can get used to something. Two nights, and I became accustomed to the rodent, gnawing away, there in the drawer. As when, after the town burned down, I quickly became used to there not being any power. And, therefore, heat. The town, it had burned down, and, in that, so had the power. I had some wood, for the wood stove, but not very much, and I didn’t know how long I’d be up here, in the town burned down, with no power, no heat, so I only burned five logs a night. I was cold all the time, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. And so, therefore, I wasn’t cold. I, just, couldn’t, be. The only time I was really cold was when the logs were burning, and the front of me was warm, but at my back the cold was seeping in through these circa-1890 windows that had no idea windows could actually refrain from passing the outside air into the house.
So, I was cold, but I wasn’t. Because, I was used to it. Like those Inuit, who when the temperature soars to 40 degrees, strip off all of their clothes, so they won’t keel over, from the unaccustomed, heat.
Lord Bentley, the red transparent bearded dragon, who when the town is not burned down wants multiple light and heat bulbs, so his tank temperature never falls below 90 degrees, he somehow got used to the no power and no heat too. I think mostly by putting himself into this torpid state comboing hibernation and suspended animation. I, too, would like to be, in a torpid state, comboing hibernation and suspended animation. Because, then, I would not feel, burned down. But, sometimes, there have to be these jobs, so I can pay the rent, so I can be, here, now, in a torpid state, comboing hibernation, and suspended animation.
Also, if you are in a torpid state, comboing hibernation and suspended animation, you cannot open the drawer, so the rodent will stop gnawing. And so can be Free. Like wanted. The black people. Of yore. And of. Today.
Did you know the humans, they are supposed to hibernate? It is true. We know this because after the French Revolution, census workers spread out from Paris, into the all and every of the countryside, to Count all of the people. And these workers, they found that the people, there in the countryside, they were all asleep. It was winter, it was cold, and so the people all mostly slept, 18 hours a day, arising only to eat and feed the animals.
This, it is Normal, for the humans.
It is also Normal, in the humans, to get used to things. Pretty much regardless of what those things are. Because if you can’t change them, might as well adjust. Up here in the town burned down, people daily move through the Dresden, and think nothing of it. It has become Normal. That it is not, this is only evident, when outlanders blunder in here, and proceed to turn white, weep, and/or flee at top speed.
I went through this long period, in the months after the fire, where I would bus down to the unburned lands, and there become disoriented and sometimes even actively angry, that nothing there was burned down. What a freakshow! How can everything still be standing? Where is the rubble?!
Now, these days, the rubble up here, it is gone, and, now, we’re used to that: now, there are just these stretches, endless, of flat barren red dirt girls. That is the current Normal. Very occasionally some house will arise on a red dirt girl. And, then, that, becomes startling. What is that doing there? Why is there some building? On the red dirt girl?
From this we know that Change, it is Wrong. This is the lesson of cats. Once they get used to something, cays, the something’s job, is never to change. If you bring anything new into the house, whether it is a lamp, or a dead elephant foot, the cat will initially be startled. And will vote, resoundingly, No! But then, over the days, the cat will accept the lamp, or the dead elephant foot, as part of the Normal. And then, if you try to remove it, the cat, s/he will not wanna. Why are you moving the lamp?! And the dead elephant foot?! Them am supposed to be here!
Cleaning around here, it is an ordeal. Not only because it requires more effort than lying on the couch. But because the cat, he acts like it’s Armageddon. He crowds in close and stares fixedly at whatever I am moving and/or cleaning, to communicate that I am supposed to leave off, and leave it be; hoping by sheer force of some cat-staring voodoo, to Prevent the Evil.
Once in the Cherokee house Joe Ben and I moved all the furniture out of the downstairs for some reason; I don’t remember why; maybe to shampoo the carpets or something. And, as we lugged out each piece of furniture, the chief cat, Blue, would hurl himself upon it, to let us know the furniture was not to go outside—It must stay inside! You are making Change! You are Wrong! Finally, there was nothing left, but the carpet. And Blue, he dug in deep, with all four claws: he wasn’t going to let us take the carpet away! That was all that was left!
Where I, dig in deep, what I will never get used to, is death. I, here, am Phil. I want no death. In the day, that is my life. But there seems to be a lot of it about, especially at present, here in this burning, and in this plague, and I want it to stop. We don’t have death in my universe, and I’m sick and tired of it here. There is no reason for it. The other night Dave and I were talking about John LaPado. Who died, for No Reason. Tumors, rampaging, stomach. We were recalling John’s wonders, and his wisdoms. Dave is a musician, as was John, and so he knows more of John’s wonders and wisdoms, than do I. But I got at least two. That dug in deep. The first was in re Elvis. Never could I understand the man’s appeal. And then, once, walking to Cannon’s place, John said: “Elvis moved with the twitch of the earth.” And then, like Saul on the road to Damascus, in a blinding light, I got it. The second is that John would appreciate all musics, regardless of whether they were kool. There is often a great need, there in the humans, to be kool. Because if you are not kool, then you are afeared that the other humans, they will laugh, and they will call you names. But John, he gave no shits. If he perceived value in a music, he would say so—and right out loud. Like when he enthusiastically pronounced, to all and sundry, that Don Henley’s “Boys Of Summer,” it was “the song of the summer.” This was in 1984. And of course he was right. It’s a perfect summer song. Though it was released in the winter. Because that’s, in there, too. It is the summer. Shriveled. Into. Winter. But Henley, he was not kool. And so everyone was just supposed to ignore, what was Real. But not John. As I know it isn’t kool, to say death is anathema, and needs to be abolished; we’re supposed to accept that “death is just another part of life,” and a bunch of other horseshit, that is just pure bollocks. And I don’t care. Because I don’t want to be kool. I just want. John.
When last we spoke of the rodent, I had freed it from a drawer. There had been in the nights this gnawing noise in the kitchen, and eventually I determined it was a rodent in a drawer. I knew there was no food in that drawer, and so I figured the rodent was trapped in there, and gnawing to get out. So I opened the drawer, and then turned away. Because no one likes to be Looked at, when they’ve been gnawing at a drawer.
I then did not hear from the rodent for some time. Until I noticed that, deep in the nights, the tap lamp, it would be on, there in the kitchen. I have on a counter in the kitchen one of those lamps you tap to turn it on. I rarely use it. And, as I do not do Ambien, I knew I was not arising in the night, to tap the lamp, and then Not Remember. Anyway, when you are an Ambien person, you do not just turn on a tap lamp in the kitchen. You also cook eggs, naked, and then you put them on a plate, and you take the plate down to the car, and then you drive around in the car, naked, until you see a hobo, and then you give the hobo the plate of eggs.
I have no cats at present who like to walk kitchen counters. So it wasn’t them. It’s true the doors here are unlocked, and so somebody could come in here to tap the lamp. But nothing else was different or disturbed. And I didn’t want to think there was somebody out there who came into the house nights just to tap the lamp. So I decided it was the rodent. In its travels it would skitter over the base of the lamp, and thereby turn it on.
I wondered if the sudden illumination would startle it. If so, not enough to make it void its bowels. Because, unlike a Kleagle, it