Yesterday, as if by the work of woodland sprites, a copy of Harper's appeared in our mailbox.
This magazine was mailed to our address. It was mailed from the distribution facility for Harper's magazine to my landlord, who lives at the same address.
I opened the mailbox. There it was. Mail. Just like in America where, when people mail you things, they arrive.
I brought the magazine inside. I put it on the kitchen counter. I said, "Hey, mail came for you," to my landlord, who was in her office working on some sort of paper for her master's degree. A poetry paper. Something about Patterson, New Jersey. There's nobody named Carlos in Patterson.
She was startled. Mail. It never comes to us. Bob has blocked all our mail. How did this get through?
It was Jedi mail. It was Kung-fu mail. Mail more powerful than Bob.
Perhaps there was a temporary mailman on duty who did not realize that Bob refuses to deliver mail to our house. Perhaps this unindoctrinated mail carrier innocently delivered Harper's, only to have Bob find out later that this was the first pinhole in the entire dam. The hole in the dike for which no finger was large enough to block. First Harper's, then the Visa bill. Mail would have to be delivered nearly every day, and he had successfully delivered none of it for months.
Perhaps this temporary mailman found himself in a dark parking lot one evening, meeting up with Bob.
And that is why we should expect no more mail deliveries.
This is Alaska. Mail is not a right. It's the privilege of those who grease Bob.
"My God. Mail. Why do you think Bob delivered it?" said my landlord.
"Maybe Bob is sick. His fill-in probably delivered it not knowing Bob has banned our mail."
"Maybe Bob is dead," she said.
"Could it be?"
"I'll check the obits," she said. And she did. "Nothing."
She leafed through her magazine, then went back to writing her poetry paper about the subtleties of Patterson, New Jersey. A poet with three first names. I've been to Patterson. I used to have relatives there. I didn't know it had been made famous to the literary world.
"Why do you hate Bob?" she said to me, without looking up from her computer.
Without thinking: "I don't hate Bob. I hate what he stands for."
"What does he stand for?"
"Some sort of in your face 'I'm Bob and I don't have to deliver your goddamned mail,' sort of attitude."
"This is Alaska," she said.
"And that makes it right?"
"You'll get used to it."
"Tell that to Visa when they wreck my credit rating."
"I told you to get a P.O.B."
"I have a P.O.B. It's out there by the street. I'm going to write to the postmaster general."
"Don't go starting trouble over this."
"Bob needs firing," I said, rooting around for a pen and paper. Then I muttered as I wrote - "Dear Postmaster - you have in your employ a mail carrier who would rather sit at the Triangle Bar and brag about catching king salmon with dynamite than delivering my auto insurance bill - for which I have to pay a penalty. And I think he stole my ATM card. Have you been getting reports of explosions in the Gasteneau Channel? I believe the source is your employee, Bob. I am therefore taking this time to notify yourself and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms..."
"Don't you dare," said my landlord.
"Go back to writing about Patterson. This is man's work."
And so she did while I set about a man's work.
The local public radio station is KTOO. Because radio stations have such a limited audience in Juneau, those that rely on commercial advertising tend to go out of business. There are only so many times you can listen to an ad for "The Hangar" restaurant before you're rendered immune. Only so many times you can hear about how Arctic Carpet is having its fall spectacular sale, or how the Wee Fishee shop has a catnip blowout going on, or that on your new Mitsubishi, Lexus, or Jeep - Evergreen Motors will not be undersold by anyone else in Juneau - all zero other dealers.
With no advertising, the only radio left is that supported by the government. Unlike the rest of the U.S., public radio in Alaska is actually public. The random public has complete access to the airwaves. Amateurs have their own radio shows. Viewpoints of all forms are espoused, as is any talk, as long as FCC rules are obeyed.
KTOO recently acquired the resources of three recently defunct commercial broadcast stations. Therefore, there will be four public radio stations in southeast Alaska.
This all seemed like a great idea until suddenly, there was a programming problem. How to fill up these stations with radio stuff?
A call went out for suggestions. I made some.
Play more music I like - was my suggestion. I listed my favorites.
They put out a notice on their website: "Three of you responded to our call for programming ideas..."
And I wondered who the other two people were.
Then a call went out for volunteer DJs. My Alaskan friends suggested I apply. At first, I demurred. What the hell would I say on radio? I'd rather listen than come up with stuff and have to be entertaining for an hour or two in public.
I waited two months. Then I gave in. I sent KTOO a message. I told them I was their man. I would not only play the music I liked, but I would host on-air mental spoon-bending exercises, a whale-calling contest, and interview local poets who wrote about their little brother getting electrocuted while fishing an English muffin out of the toaster with a grapefruit fork.
Apparently, this passes for entertainment in Alaska.
I am supposed to report for one form of training or another, to learn how to follow FCC rules and talk nice on the public airwaves.
"KTOO said they're considering me as a volunteer DJ," I said to my landlord.
"Oh great! You'll be wonderful."
"I'm going to play Porcupine Tree, if they let me."
"I'm sure they will. They're not-for-profit, so you can play almost anything."
"I now have a platform to launch my anti-Bob campaign."
The muscles in her face went entirely limp. Then they tensed while she contorted into the form undertaken only by the snow leopard, just before it strikes.
"Don't you dare."
"It will be my radio show. I'm going to call it the, 'IT'S ALL BOB'S FAULT' hour. I'm going to blame everything on Bob. Everything from Ann Coulter to Cynthia McKinney to gas prices, peak oil to global warming to my goddamned Visa bill coming late. It's all on Bob, now. It will be cathartic. It will be a call in show. People will call in and blame Bob for their ills. Just like in the old days. We'll pin our aliments on Bob and burn him in effigy. With all the angst being whipped up by the commercial press, it's about time someone did it on the public airwaves. I'll be lauded as the next Edward Murrow or Bill O'Reilly. My time has come."
"You'll have to move out."
"Yeah. And into the governor's mansion."
"Come on. Be serious."
"I'm serious. Bob started this war, not me. I've just upped the ante."
"This is a small town. Bob has been here longer than you."
"Couldn't be a more perfect venue. Bring 'um on, damned dynamite fisher."
As a budding radio personality I started taking a greater interest in the techniques of the media talking heads, mostly because I decided that's what I want in life. I want to become a rich media talking head. I want to whip people into a frenzy of hatred or love -- but mostly Machiavellian fear - say anything I want, and get paid strictly for ratings over content.
After all. Fox News Channel has higher ratings than any other "news" organization on cable. Do they do this by purveying the truth? Good God, no. Ratings have nothing to do with truth. Ratings are like the judgment of a 12-person jury. They're what people want to hear.
For reasons that up until now have been beyond my comprehension, people watch Bill O'Reilly over and over again. They watch him say idiotic things - things he knows are idiotic, and he doesn't care. Why? Because he has the ratings and is getting paid gazillions of bucks for whipping people into frenzies of hatred and fear, and occasionally love.
Same for Ann Coulter. And now that new bozo on CNN.
Same for guys like Michael Moore and Al Franken, who seem to exist simply to provide cannon fodder for the big guns. They don't stand a chance under the maniacal lunacy of lame-brained dog meat like Sean Hannity. The right-wing media is backed by millions of people in middle America (like my mom) who have been searching for decades for a legitimate full-framed video analog to The National Enquirer and the Daily Globe.
And now there will be me.
The general public has been acclimated to a lot. We've gotten used to a lot more sex on the airwaves. I remember when they couldn't show bras on the television, even during commercials. Bra companies had to show fully clothed women and schematics to sell their products. And then someone decided our children's eyes wouldn't melt seeing a bra on the television. We all salivated, waiting for our first fully-exposed bra ad.
Now you can see people in thongs on broadcast TV. The word "ass" is flipped about as frequently as an article.
Oh, how our morals have deteriorated, mourn the right.
Meanwhile, right-wing pundits accuse U.S. GIs of massacring unarmed Nazi SS officers in WWII. Right-leaning columnists in a blaze of masturbatory self-flagellation, taking advantage of the primacy effect like any lawyer -- that saying something abruptly will make it stick in people's mind as truth, irrespective of how clearly it is refuted in the future -- accuse the Clintons of being gay and the wives of dead Americans of garnering too much enjoyment from widowhood, as if a breathing individual could believe we'd prefer dead spouses and frequent TV spots to never having lived the nightmare of 9/11, and as if being gay was somehow akin to an undesirable condition. Twenty years ago knotting up history and blurting such bulldingy in a glaze of mental infirmity would have brought hell and creation upon the head of the sorry individual who'd stumbled onto the broadcast bandwidth with such dreck. Bringing your own private dream-hell to the public should be a felony, yet we reward it by patronizing those who buy advertising space during such satanic effluent.
They forget that we know the anti-Christ will come disguised as a Son of Light.
But they get the ratings, the same way the Daily Globe continues to make money selling the latest Elvis sighting report to people in grocery store checkout lines. Ratings mean money. Money makes everything ok.
The left-wing media is being victimized by profits. But without the left to victimize, there would be no profit. To have angst, there has to be an enemy. Without an enemy, the right would eat itself alive and implode under the weight of its decalcified carcass.
Now it's my turn. I'll interview people who have been abducted by UFOs, ass-probed and pithed, they have microchips inserted in their frontal lobes and demodulate powerful-yet-secret government low-frequency radio with their minds. Bring on the spoon-benders. Every conspiracy is true. The Trilateral Commission. The Illuminati. The Santa Barbara Garden Club.
I'll have on people who can prove Tiger Woods is a titanium golf robot. I'll interview people who know the explosive capacity of every compact car in America. Conspiratorial off-the-grid libertarians with 10-gauge shotguns. Grocery store clerks who sing like Pavarotti and wanna-be authors with broom closets full of unpublish(ed)(able) manuscripts. Damn the publishers. Damn the government. Damn the left. Damn the right. Damn the moderates who can't pick a side. Damn the rich. Damn the poor.
Why take half the money? I'll be syndicated by Christmas.
Attack is how we are rewarded. Attack ads are how campaigns are won. Attack is how we win ballgames. Attack the plate. Attack the ball. Attack the enemy before we are attacked. Attack while we are strong. Only the weak let themselves be victimized -- so attack first to show you are strong. Strong is rich. Rich is right. If we are thinking of attack, you sure as hell know they are. Hit them first, before they can react. Hit them while they're weak. God is on our side. We are right. And to the right go the riches. Poor is wrong. Poor is stupid. Poor is evil. Attack or you will be poor. Get angry or you will be poor and poor is wrong.
We are an attack society and it's all about money. The left plays victim. The right plays "sword of God", and money is made by all. All. Both sides. Let's get rich killing as many things as we can.
And now there's me. I want my slice of the American way.