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The Big Stupid Review


American Dream Serialization (Early Chapters)
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Maurice Stoker
Introduction to Jim Chaffee's Studies in Mathematical Pornography by Tom Bradley
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: American Dream Title Page by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 1 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 2 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 3 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 4 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 5 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 6 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 7 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 8 by Jim Chaffee
Studies in Mathematical Pornography: Chapter 9 by Jim Chaffee
Modern Tragedy, or Parodies of Ourselves by Robert Castle
Totally Enchanté, Dahling by Thor Garcia
Hastini by Rudy Ravindra
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 5 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
Unexpected Pastures by Kim Farleigh
Nonviolence by Jim Courter
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 4 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
The Poet Laureate of Greenville by Al Po
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part VI by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 3 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part V by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part IV by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 2 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part I by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part II by Thor Garcia
The Apocalypse of St. Cleo, Part III by Thor Garcia
The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter Volume 1 Translation by W. C. Firebaugh
DADDY KNOWS WORST: Clown Cowers as Father Flounders! by Thor Garcia
RESURRECTON: Excerpt from Breakfast at Midnight by Louis Armand
Review of The Volcker Virus (Donald Strauss) by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
Little Red Light by Suvi Mahonen and Luke Waldrip
TEXECUTION: Klown Konfab as Killer Kroaked! by Thor Garcia
Miranda's Poop by Jimmy Grist
Paul Fabulan by Kane X Faucher: Excerpt from the forthcoming Infinite Grey by Kane X Faucher
Operation Scumbag by Thor Garcia
Take-Out Dick by Holly Day
Patience by Ward Webb
The Moon Hides Behind a Cloud by Barrie Darke
The Golden Limo of Slipback City by Ken Valenti
Chapter from The Infinite Atrocity by Kane X. Faucher
Support the Troops By Giving Them Posthumous Boners by Tom Bradley
When Good Pistols Do Bad Things by Kurt Mueller
Corporate Strategies by Bruce Douglas Reeves
The Dead Sea by Kim Farleigh
The Perfect Knot by Ernest Alanki
Girlish by Bob Bartholomew
The Little Ganges by Joshua Willey
The Invisible World: René Magritte by Nick Bertelson
Honk for Jesus by Mitchell Waldman
Red's Dead by Eli Richardson
The Memphis Showdown by Gabriel Ricard
Someday Man by John Grochalski
I Was a Teenage Rent-a-Frankenstein by Tom Bradley
Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Fred Bubbers
Believe in These Men by Adam Greenfield
The Magnus Effect by Robert Edward Sullivan
Performance Piece by Jim Chaffee
Injustice for All by D. E. Fredd
The Polysyllogistic Curse by Gary J. Shipley
How It's Done by Anjoli Roy
Ghost Dance by Connor Caddigan
Two in a Van by Pavlo Kravchenko
Uncreated Creatures by Connor Caddigan
Invisible by Anjoli Roy
One of Us by Sonia Ramos Rossi
Storyteller by Alan McCormick
Idolatry by Robert Smith
P H I L E M A T O P H I L I A by Traci Chee
They Do! by Al Po
Full TEX Archive
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Making the Switch

By George Sparling

Fauburg Marigny ca. 2004

I left my wife and was now a desperate stranger in another town. Without a job, knowing no one, having no contacts, and without hope of acquiring skills, I sat alone in a scuzzie bar, sipping watery beer. No microbrew shit for me, a guy who'd taken philosophy courses in the same college as my wife Karen who had garnered an advanced degree in computer science.

I'd read, "tear the mask from error is to establish truth," something a minor Enlightenment philosopher named Maurice Falconet pronounced, quoted in Peter Gay's The Rise of Modern Paganism. Not a required book, but I was a procrastinator. I'd read a solid overview of the Enlightment, the era named by Kant. I relished stray pieces of information, unable to link them except when drunk or on a caffeine high. No amount of Red Bull would push me through college.

I hadn't converted, I hadn't made the switch to the digital world as Karen had. One could not remain an Erasmus in 2007.

What I most enjoyed was driving a cab; having memorized the town's streets, I firmed them up in mental gridlock. It helped pay for my education, though I stopped attending classes. You might say I was in the horse latitudes and left without any wind to sail through life as had Karen. After five years of marriage, the social and intellectual gap widened to the point I felt diminished.

So I took the bus to a town far away from her.

The best times I had living with her weren't actually in our house, sharing experiences as normal married couples, but driving a taxi around town. It supported me money-wise as well as giving me independent terrain all my own. l enjoyed taking fares to their destinations. I looked upon it as fate, each fare having a definite place they claimed. Each fare had a goal, and I counted it a significant accomplishment. It made my own struggle to achieve parity with Karen easier, at least for a short period. As for our marriage, she preferred the status quo but I needed distance, maybe returning when I found success, i.e., money. Having a career was out of the question.

Something about Falconet's mask attracted me, maybe because I felt uglier than I really was, now peering into the bar's mirror. The tavern was on the outskirts as I was.

I'd tumbled downward: a severe crack lacerated the mirror in two places. My broken images I compared with Karen's looks; if not beautiful, certainly above average. Attractive entailed being an attractor; that was plain as we walked down the sidewalk together. Too many male glances; I learned that hard fact as my self-esteem plummeted. The double-cracked mirror reflected Elephant Man, a movie I'd seen in bitterness and self-destructively five times.

A man sat two stools away, looking at me in the busted mirror.

"We're no angels," the man spoke to me, still staring in the mirror. His name was Hank and he worked in the Building and Trades Local Union. "You hungry?"

I'd just enough money but after that, paraphrasing Nietzsche, sought zeroes. But I wasn't too proud and would call Karen if I floundered.

"Yeah, I'm hungry," I said, embarrassed to admit it. He moved over to me, stool to stool, tete a tete, French for just plain knocking heads together.

He asked me what I did for a living. Now, most people never asked one that; that wasn't bar talk unless it flitted naturally in inebriated streams of words. Maybe my ultra-serious expression (disturbed?) gave me away as an old-fashioned bum.

"I can get you good pay for an indefinite length of time. Interested?"

I nodded and said, "I've no trade, no skills," and Hank said that was fine because,

"On this job all you have to do is picket a house under construction."

"What about the flak I'd get."

"No problem. The guys aren't working there now," Hank said. "The man I hired before quit out of the blue." Hank bought me a couple of microbrews while he nursed scotch and water.

"Scared off maybe?" I asked. I saw Hank's left hand, how a crooked red scar jigjagged through it. "A broken bottle did that.

Did some picketing in the Big City and things got rough." On the fifty-cent play box a melange of blue collar populist songs whining about rich men dancing to the poor man's nickel or some such grievance.

"Too radical for them maybe," I said. My experience with synchronicity had always been striking, something I never missed. Philosophy hadn't taught me that. Maybe grandmother's wisdom had, how she wrapped everything up as happening simultaneously, slurring time.

We split at midnight after Hank gave me his business card, the address of the hall clearly and boldly printed. I patted the card in my shirt pocket. I swayed and stumbled, making my way back to the motel, also on the outskirts. With Karen it had always been a house close to the central business district. The outskirts reminded me of softcore porn, there but not enough there. You always wanted more, the harder stuff, but I'd stripped that from my life now.

I swatted a couple of cockroaches crawling across the bedspread before I crept in between the cruddy sheets.

fauburg Marigny ca. 2004

For $40 per day, I held a union sign ( "THIS IS A NON-UNION LABOR SITE" ). The quiet neighborhood spooked me at first. The foundation had been laid, stacks of lumber were piled near a mound of dirt. Occasional passersby eyed me suspiciously. I drank strong coffee from an Aladdin thermos Hank gave to me. Maybe Hank wanted the union to flex some muscle, get coverage from local TV stations. I felt like Eugene V. Debs of the 21st century, an era having more in common with Paris Hilton, the blogosphere or the virtual world of Second Life. I was as out of step with the times as Thomas Aquinas would be if he lived now.

A truck rounded the block, three guys looking at me. I gulped down another cup of caffeine to buttress myself against what I saw as a threat. The Dodge Ram cruised by again and again until it finally stopped. A tall, lanky guy stepped out and strode over.

"How's it, bro? I'm Clu." Not much bopping fists anymore, at least not on the TV shows I watched.

"Cold. Looks like rain," I said, hating myself for cliche-talking. Out of fear I should have shown my aggression, letting Clu have it with some obtuse Ludwig Wittgenstein epigraph. Maybe that would've been like Kryptonite to a stranger wearing a Yankees cap. So foreign, philosophy, as I shifted my feet in loose dirt. I wondered why I hadn't tried a taxi job.

"Me and those two guys were going to get the floor in today, put up studs."

"The local wants to shut this down. You're non-union." I shook as he spoke, my aversion to conflict strong.

"How much is Hank paying you? $30 a day?"

"$40." I felt small, double digit wages for what, an up-and-coming philosophy teacher? I'd always shirked middle-class responsibility. Too insecure, basically too frightened, knowing I'd be overwhelmed to encourage others to enter mainstream bourgeous life. I preferred manual labor jobs. Quick, what was the opposite of philosophy? Driving cabs, no? Standing next to Clu, I realized I had no future as a philosophy instructor. Being a professor, that was as real to me as believing in God and knowing I'd be consciously aware of my sovereign self in heaven. I then wanted to give Clu a big friendly hug for my satori.

"That's no kind of ends," Clu said. I assumed "ends" meant money.

"What sort of ends are you talking about?" I asked.

"Maybe three Franklins a week." I turned my neck, seeing Clu's friends gawk and laugh.

"Who do I whack?" I asked. Nervousness translated into paranoia leading to humor. I'd read enough Kafka to realize that. "I watch 'The Sopranos'," I added.

"I watch football. You're fucking with me?" he asked, smiling.

"What do I really do?" I once heard a long-ago friend's priest say the way of life was to live a holy life and go to heaven. Could all that be achieved in eight words?

"I give you three eightballs to sell, you know, Devil Dust," Clu said, moving closer as if this street was busier. The only noise was a bus.

"I don't know anyone. I'm new here." But I wanted to do it and expected Clu to make it easy for me. "Why ask a stranger like myself? I could be a nark."

"Hank set you up because he's a big-time dealer around here and wants to turn us into a nullity."

Nullity: Latin root meaning none. I flashed upon the Cary Grant movie, "None But The Lonely," its brooding darkness, how one had to choose mind-numbing work or crime. Odets's screenplay showed a third way to live—fighting fascism.


"You measure out the crystal by the quarter or gram." Clu sounded more business-like than Hank.

But, then, Clu wasn't staring at me in a cracked mirror.

"What are eightballs?" I asked and Clu said they were three and one half grams. If you want to know the origins of nothingness, then consulting Sartre would be your man. If you wanted to be somebody, I wanted both essence and matter combined, then it was Leibniz's monads. Questioning, Clu was my Socrates.

"Only I'd be giving them to you. Free," Clu said.

"How can you trust me?" Clu's old man had been a contractor before Hank had become a honcho.

"He slashed Hank with a bottle," Clu said. "We're non-union and to hell with phoney politics."

Clu went to the truck. He came back, handing me the eightballs in small, clear bags, plus a delicate scale, or "skies" the arcane professionalism decreed.

"Hank has a fine recipe for meth, made lots of money," Clu said. "The union job acts a cover for converting straights into methheads, enrolling people into the UFC."

"What's UFC?"

"United For Crank," said Clu. "We just want to work this area, is all. Hank wants the whole freaking state to himself."

"Monopolies end up selling shoddier goods," I said, my lips uncontrollably twisting into a wicked smile.

Clu and company would cook, making good quality glass and I'd weigh and then sell. It was opening another franchise; captitalism requiring expansion or death. We shook hands like business partners. The quid pro quo: I had to quit going radical, so I ripped the sign up. Easy when you have no solid principles.

"Let's get the highway rolling," said Clu and gave me a ride to my motel room. Clu also gave me two names at the same bar I'd sloshed in the previous night.

No citizens remained these day, only consumers.

I turned on the FM station as I weighed it out, listening to Lenny Kravitz go about being the chosen one.

"Confidence-building," I said, sniffing now and then.

I weighed many bags, working precisely and neatly. That night, listening to an after-midnight, all-music FM station, I saw car headlights turn off. A woman got out and opened the room next to mine. I quickly opened the door and introduced myself. Maggie told me she worked the swing shift at the only all-night, big chain restaurant in town. It was nearly 2 a.m.

"There's still room for bacon and cheese hamburgers," she said, asking with her tired eyes if she could visit me.

The paraphernalia was on the table and I'd no intention of trying to hide it.

"Try it, you'll like it," I said. Maggie told me she took Bennies to keep awake because sometimes the other waitress failed to show. And she worked part-time at a convienence store nearby, too.

"A secret boozer. Uses makeup to hide her haggard look," she said. We snorted and talked all night. Len Chandler declared his independence from fools, knaves and cowards on the airwaves, his triumphal vision seeping in.

I finished a few bags and Maggie knocked on the door of another motel room. A woman staggered out and Maggie burst inside, telling her she had something to wake her up forever. We three snorted then drank beers. We tossed the empties hard against the wall, not caring about noise, just shooting the shit. Sunrise, we squinted in unision, laughing how our eyes forced the sun to rise. Then we got in Maggie's car and zoomed to a bar she frequented.

I carried the eightballs in my zipped jacket pockets. The barflies shared the candy. I went to the bathroom, seeing the urinal's harsh, yellow-stained porcelain flaming, making my piss gaudy as it ker-splashed. For days and nights, I couldn't count the sunrises and sunsets, crank delivering its chrome and diamonds. We bounced around town, downtown and outskirts, people from one bar knowing others in homes, others in upscale bars, then to homes secluded in forests and to apartments with smooth Danish furniture. The future was ours, the past the devil.

Maggie finally crashed, slept for a few hours. She then drove to the restuarant hoping her long-time employment there would pull her through the hole of not losing her job. The others had scattered and were gone, bodies whirling and spinning with platinum, disappearing into so-whatness. I sat alone in my room, touching the leftovers as it permeated my skin, still high. But what about Mr. Clu? How was it left? Did he want the money or the bags? And about Hank: Had Karen put him here, knowing entanglements would bring me down? I meant "down" as in getting over my head, not crashing and burning. Had she followed me or had she sent private security to watch where I went? Getting even for dropping her? Had she controlled my every move and twitch? How would anyone put tabs on the vorticism, the crooked-edged machine of cubist images from that magazine, Blast. Had she sicced Blackwater surveillance ( "keep watch" ) on me?

I walked to a store where they sold handguns and bought a twenty-two revolver plus a box of bullets. It began to rain, hard and nasty, as I walked the outskirts. No money for a room, I needed and wanted to hitch back to Karen in spite of my paranoia. The basis for the paranoia may have been paranoid, like Roosevelt's " the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." But with me there wan't "we" anymore.

The rain pushed me down deeper into the earth. I knew how to make the switch. I stood in a mud-soaked gully off the highway. I knew what to do with the gun.

Fauburg Marigny ca. 2004

© George Sparling 2008