Mount Rushmore is more impressive than I imagined it would be to me as an adult. I visited once when I was four or five years old, and certain memories remain vivid, even sacred, but overall the past is oblique—here—and everywhere. The same might be said for “objective history,” which I enclose in quotation marks to underscore its impracticality, “truth” being a matter of subjective despotism. And I enclose “truth” in quotation marks because it cannot be actualized, forcibly or in an altogether carefree manner, by subjective machinery. We need a community. Unfortunately communities always-already operate at the very threshold of inoperability, if not disaster. Consider Jean-Luc Nancy’s terminal imperative in La Communauté désœuvrée:
“The community that becomes a single thing (body, mind, fatherland, Leader ...) ... necessarily loses the in of being-in-common. Or, it loses the with or the together that defines it. It yields its being-together to a being of togetherness. The truth of community, on the contrary, resides in the retreat of such a being.”
So history is fucked either way—assuming, of course, that we give a shit about “truth.” The desire for authenticity chronically nonplusses me. We are imaginative animals, after all, who thrive on the theater of existence from the cradle to the grave. At any rate, I remember my parents and sister and I driving across the desert in a blue van, with a blue interior—blue swivel chairs, blue couch, blue carpet, blue window blinds—and we ran over a family of Native Americans. They had erected a teepee in the middle of the highway in a peyote-induced stupor. There was a lot of blood. The father survived. I remember his blank, bruised face set against the silhouette of the mountains in the distance. It was dawn. His family scattered on the highway, bleeding. “Fleeting-improvised” ghosts leapt from the shells of their corpses and were immediately forced to defend themselves against rays fired down at them by God (a.k.a. “Flechsig”), who, in the 1970s, had declared war against the souls of mankind, and every plainsight act He committed was an act of “soul murder,” according to Skeksis mythology, although Mystic’s told another story. Poltergeists crowded my fragile eggshell mind, shitting hot coals onto the tissue. The police tried to arrest us. [Blank space.] I didn’t understand. “Flechsig” had always showed me kindness. Grandpa Sig (“Pop”) used to tell me so. “You’re not a normal boy,” he told me. “You live for a long time without a stomach, without intestines, almost without lungs, with a torn esophagus, without a bladder, and with shattered ribs. Sometimes you swallow part of your own larynx with your food, etc. But divine miracles (“rays”) always restore what has been destroyed, and therefore, as long as you remain a boy, you are not in any way mortal.” I didn’t know what Pop meant, but I knew he was trying to reassure me, and he told me in good faith, with an eye to my continued success.
The last time I saw Pop before he died was in New Haven, CT. Blood in the streets. He had been mugged and shot on a sidewalk. I was the first family member to make the scene. He reached up and took me by the collar and yanked me down and croaked his last words into my ear through a purple slash in his sharp white beard: “With great power comes great responsibility.” He said it in German, though, and the effekt produced a nightmarish polyphony of insect screams in my headspace.
I tried to remember what Pop’s voice sounded like as I wound around Mount Rushmore towards the faces and the monument. It was a deep voice. It was a male voice. Indo-European accent. I remembered nothing else save backing into Pop on one occasion/occlusion in a golf cart at my parent’s country club. I bruised his shins.
Vestiges of the experience tempt me, escape me . . .
I was young again. Somewhat awkward, but socially capable, and everybody—the bullies, the peers, the teachers and the gastroenterologists—everybody knew that I would blossom into a fully metastacized adult. I befriended a giant Sphinxlike robot from a distant planet. After awhile I realized the robot was a rather small, jocular, albeit traumatized Asian-American. He taught me how to clean things, and adventures ensued. Then I discovered that I was handy with a sword, especially crosses between Japanese katana and Arabic scimitars, and animals liked me, too, so I went ahead and rubbed oil on my chest and yanked on bearskin underwear and summoned a legion of jungle beasts to my capable side. I led them down a makeshift yellow brick road like the Pied Piper, keeping flying monkeys at bay with a Burroughsian raygun. More adventures ensued . . . at which point I uttered, “Montag,” and burst into flames, the holy water in my lungs evaporating . . . Eventually I outgrew these frivolities and became serious, calling important dignitaries on the phone and studying the green section of the USA Today with determination and grit. In public forums, I was careful to first remove the purple section and make a big to-do about throwing it in the garbage. In a very short time, everybody knew where I stood and what I represented. Finally I had manifested the Real Me.
. . . rappelled down his brow, set the halter in place, and hung from Roosevelt’s nostril by a bungee cord that afforded me certain gestures and recoilings when the text called for them. I announced, “You may think I’m beyond Thunderdome, but I promise, I will kill again.” My voice boomed from powerful black microspeakers I had nailed to all four of the President’s pupils, effekting an authoritative sense of the Freudian uncanny. Viewed from afar—Herr Ashenbach shot footage with a Zaprudercam from a local news helicopter we rented on short notice (thanks again, Gretchen)—the Presidents in fact resembled my androids in Dr. Identity, whose exteriors were distinguished from human subjects only by the absence of irises . . .