Saturday, May 5, 2012

A horse jumps into presidential politics...

Rocinante For President!

We begin an exclusive series of interviews with Don Quixote's favorite horse:


We had thought about beginning this series today, featuring a number of in-depth discussions with the latest of presidential aspirants to enter this year's politically charged and amazingly dirty and disgusting contest for the hearts and minds of the American voter; individuals who, according to Russia's Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, are "dumber than a sack of hammers."  That aside, we quickly discovered what can best be described as a pretty serious 'technical difficulty.'  Apparently, Rocinante does not speak human.  Initially, we thought it was either bad Italian or maybe an obscure Chinese dialect, but our translator finally figured out that he was snoring.  Unlike humans who need a chair or some other kind of prop, horses can sleep standing up with their eyes open.  Yeah, we thought that was pretty freaky too.  Wait till the Secret Service has to deal with that one!  So, in the interim, we are going to begin with a little background information from Don Quixote himself, who we just happened to locate wandering aimlessly around the outskirts of Juarez, Mexico, though he swears he was in a Methodist nunnery outside Kabul, Afghanistan, where, according to his long and rather convoluted story, somebody had stolen his money, a lovely maiden he had rescued from a topless car-wash and daycare center, and his horse.  He seemed very concerned about the horse, repeating over and over the word,  "rosebud......rosebud."  We're looking into this with the local authorities, but like the problem with Italian, our Spanish is also a little rusty.  The word keeps translating as "nose bleed, nose bleed."  We're starting to draw a rather hostile crowd.  It doesn't help that our cameraman looks like Brad Pitt.         

More information as soon as Senor Quixote...uh, recovers.  

Finally, Don Quixote awakens from what the doctor's described as an alcohol-induced coma.  To avoid unnecessary publicity, we have taken over a Motel 6 on the American side, north of El Paso, Texas.  A few locals give us a curious once over as we prepare the parking lot for the interview. 

"So Senor Quixote...mind if I call you Don?"

"I wasn't drinking.  I was drugged by Taliban bandits, damn you!  And who in the hell are you anyway?  A priest maybe?  Give me last rites a little soon here!"

"Why no Don...if I may?  I'm a political reporter for one of the biggest, most popular programs on American television..."

"Maury Povich?" 

"Well, no."

"You don't look like Johnny Carson.   Not as funny either, I'm afraid."

"Well, he died a few years..."

"Happens a lot in your country.  Look, I'm tired.  What do you want?"

"About your horse, Rocinante.  We wanted..."

"Yeah, where the hell is that old fleabag?  And my servant Sancho...and the woman?  And look, where are my pants?"

"Cut!  What the freakin'...!?"  [The producer's voice...not a pleasant one.]

  "Ah!  I see that moron over there never read the book.  Should have known.  Why are we sitting in this parking lot.  It's hot as that Hades place.  And you know..."


"You should be talking to Miguel.  He wrote the damn thing and forced immortality upon me.  Same with the horse.  We're stuck, while that bastard is dead.  Heaven probably.  His life was all messed up and he wanted to sleep in heaven with angels.  Sounded dull, but so is eternity I discover."  A production assistant hands Don Quixote a drink. He tastes it.  "What do you call this?"

"Tequila Sunrise.  You mean Miguel Cervantes?"

"Should be Tequila Sunset.  Yeah, who'd you think I mean?  Miguel, the gardener?"

"Yes, but like you said, he's dead."

"Great!  You finally understand my problem. An hour in the hot sun and we agree that somebody might be dead.  Next question."

I catch the producer's eye.  He signals to continue.  Not smiling...something else.

"So, Senor Quixote.  Why a horse for President...especially, well, the United States is a foreign country, I mean to you...and well, seems...certainly impossible?"

"Yeah, it's foreign alright!  Why do suppose I was in Afghanistan?  Normal people around there. Not here.  And why don't you ask that damn horse!"

"We can't seem to locate him just now.  And, Don...uh, you were in Mexico, not Afghanistan.  We're pretty sure of that."

"Ah, just whistle.  He hangs around at whore houses.  Don't you understand why he is called Rocinante?"  He finished his drink, frowned, but signalled for another.  "Mexico, huh?  A colony.  I'm to live out my days in a colony, huh?  With peasants.  And a horse that likes foul women.  While Miguel dances around heaven with angels.  Just as well I suppose.  Nothing for knights to do anymore in this world.  All a lie."

I noticed my producer spinning his index finger in a circle. Secret producer code for follow-up question.  Which one though?  "So yes, Don...why is he called Rocinante?"

"Hah!  Sounds better than Sancho!  Sancho means piss-ant or some such thing. Rocin...first part is for humility they tell me.  Means, 'rough man.'  No quality.  Ante means 'before,' though I don't see what has changed myself.  Like this: Nombre a su parecer alto, sonoro y significativo de lo que habla sido cuando fue rocin, antes de lo que ahora era, que era antes y primero de todas los rocines del mundo.  So, now you know."

"Know what?  I don't speak Spanish.  You have an English version?"

Don pointed over at the producer.  "He comes to interview a horse and he doesn't speak Spanish, much less whatever the horse talks!  What do you think the horse's talk?  I certainly do not know. You smart guys drove a long way to be disappointed, but you know that already I think."  He pointed at his glass. "Another one...and skip that red piss stuff."

"So then?"

"Okay.  A name, to his thinking, lofty, sonorous, and significant of his condition as a hack before he became what he now was, the first and foremost of all hacks in the world."

"Ah, a man of the people then?  I think I get it Don Quixote!"

"No, apparently not.  He is still just a horse.  You know, these drinks are much better without the red stuff.  You should try one."

The producer throws his clipboard to the ground and yells, "Take ten and let's relocate the train, wherever the hell its gone to!"    

"La Mancha." 


"You forgot...Don Quixote de la Mancha."

"I care less about you every second.  Where is the damn horse?!"

"Ah, that is good.  I am not real anyway.  Better to talk to the horse, wherever that animal has gone.  But you people, you Americans don't like real characters anyway.  You are like me, but you don't like you don't at all."

"Another drink, Don?"

"Ha!  More I drink, the better truth becomes.  Maybe that producer should drink more."

"He quit drinking for his health...mental maybe."

"Ah, and how's that working?  Never start what you might need to quit. Why I am a knight and he is a producer.  Like a chicken laying eggs.  All your country does...lay eggs, pick wars with losers.  No honor, only dead people.  You leave food on the table and surprised by cockroaches!  What a system!"

"Just how old are you Don la Mancha?"

"Trick question, huh?  Four centuries and eight. I'm only alive if you are reading me. They keep reprinting Miguel's damn book!  I moved on, but you people can't, so here we are exchanging pleasantries once again.  First me, then the damn horse.  You know he lies about everything!"

"And you, Senor only deal in the truth?"

"No.  Not my truth.  Miguel's truth maybe, but he got all blown up in Lepanto fighting with some Turks.  Dented his head, maybe.  So now I fight for Miguel's truth, but maybe there is no truth.  There certainly is no Don Quixote de la Mancha.  Maybe you need to tell that producer before he starts all this nonsense again.  Or maybe another drink...and some sausages maybe."

"We found him!  It's a him, right?  The horse I mean!"  The producer had re-appeared from a distant room, still talking on a device.
"Wonderful!  Better hide the women."  A new drink appeared, along with something to eat.  "What's this?  Not sausages for sure."

"Big Mac.  All we could find."

"I said, 'what,' not 'who.'  Looks like what Rocinante leaves in the street.  You pay money for this crap?  Whew!  Smells a little like it, too.  Think I'll stick to drinking, much safer in this country it would seem.  Where's the damn horse?"

"About ten miles from here.  Seen outside a movie theater."

"Well, better send a truck.  You don't think he's going to walk here?  You be waiting a long time on that horse.  He's pretty lazy.  And he hasn't got shoes on."

"Oh.  He lost them?"

"Ha, no!  He sells them.  Then him and Sancho go to the movies.  Happens all the damn time.  Don't you know?  Horses are not dumb, just very dishonest mostly.  Donkeys?  Ha!  Much worse!"

"Okay, send one of the trucks, dammit!  I'd like to finish before next week!"   

An hour later, the truck returns.  There is much commotion inside the van and finally the door drops and Sancho peeks out, one hand holding a rein.  He does not look happy, more like an orphan who ran away in search of the truth, but didn't find much.  He carefully navigates the steep ramp, the single rein finally revealing a horse's head attached to a reluctant body.  The head looks gallant, but after a single step, the back legs collapse and the horse slides down the ramp on his haunches. And there he sits, at the bottom of the ramp...indignant, though apparently satisfied with his method of arrival at that particular spot.

"Are you shittin' me?  This is what all the fuss is about!  That's not a horse, it's, it's..."

"Bag of guts I would say for sure.  Better have another drink.  This is going to be way too interesting."

"I was expecting...well, a knight's horse would be full of fire, shine brighter than the sun, bedecked in the finest silks and leather, armor of silver and gold...."

"Yeah, you and Miguel must have been reading the same damn books.  How much you think they pay knights around here?"  He looks over to his servant, who is trying to be invisible.  "Hey Sancho!  What movie this time and don't lie!"

Sancho peeks over the still seated Rocinante.  "Apocalypse Now!"

"Figures.  All about chivalry gone wrong. Story of my life it would seem.  That Martin Sheen fellow, he went on a quest and look how that one turned out!  Ha!  And his son, something wrong with that one for sure."

"How is your drink Don Quixote?  And what are these books you speak of?"

"Books of chivalry.  Miguel had me read them, but I'm not real, so you figure it out who was turning the pages, eh?  That dent in his head.  See, he kept going off to war and getting blown up and wanted a purpose for all that shooting shit.  So here we are in this damn parking lot.  Go figure if you want."

"Is that horse going to sit on his ass all afternoon?!"

Ha! That producer makes a joke.  Horse sitting on somebody's ass!  Funny.  Sancho!  Bring Rocinante over here.  Let's see what he has to say.  Yes, this should be good.  Maybe get him a drink too!"  

"Uh, how...well Don, do I just ask a question to this horse...or to you?  Seems kind of weird I mean.  Is it like Mr. Ed on the television?" 

"Ah!  Maybe no, I think.  Watch his body movement and it will reveal something I hope.  If he craps, ask a different question maybe.  Be careful though, he can get pretty obscene."

"Boy, he smells pretty bad."

"No, that is Sancho.  Sancho, go stand by the truck!  Man doesn't bathe.  Thinks it makes him closer to God.  Personally I think it is why we don't see God around here too often.  So.  What is your question for Rocinante?"

"Okay, well...boy this is odd.  So, Rocinante...why run for President in this America?"

"Ha!  First off, this animal does not run anywhere.  Why we got the van!  Oh.  I get it.  Yes, compete with other hopefuls.  Okay, watch his eyes for twitching."


"Yes.  See there!  He answered you.  Okay, next question."  

"Wait!  What did he say?!  I didn't hear anything!"

"You have to be fast mister.  He said, 'Why not?  A woman run, an African run, a movie actor run, a Mormon run...lot of running he thinks.  Must be good food in that white house they all talk about.'"

"Oh.  He said all that?"

"Well, mostly.  I know him pretty well."

"What about his political views...uh, is he conservative or liberal in his thinking?"

"He's pretty liberal with gas.  Phew!  Damn horse eats popcorn all the time.  Need to sit down-wind for sure.  This conservative...what does it mean anyway?"

"Well, small government, free markets...Christian morality.  Big on morality, marriage, family values."

"Ah!  The horse like that free market I think.  He's very selfish and hey, free food sounds good.  We could use some right now and not what that Big Mac fellow brought.  Sausages maybe...and another drink.  And sour beer like those Monks make.  Rocinante likes that terrible drink.  But forget the morality stuff.  Like chivalry...for suckers it seems.  While you turn other cheek, they steal your shoes."

"What?! We going good here."

"He wants to hear from the horse.  You kind of went off there, Don.  So, maybe Rocinante is more liberal in his thinking?"

"This liberal.  He doesn't know this word."

"Uh, let's see, socially, tolerant...distribute wealth more evenly. That sort of thing."

"Ah.  Rocinante says he swings both ways.  Steal the money and give it to poor people.  Like that Robin Hood guy maybe.  Then the rich people can't start more wars and get us horses involved in such nonsense.  Just a minute...something else.  Oh.  Rocinante says what's this moral crap?  These conservatives, as you call them...uh, can't train snake to stay at home.  Not sure what he means here." 

"So, he'd be a moderate kind of president then?"

"Still be a damn horse!  Moderate his filthy habits maybe, but I doubt it.  Once a hack, always a hack maybe.  Improvement seems a human problem.  I become a knight-errant and matters go down hill fast.  Even Dulcinea wander off to find herself she says.  Ha! I bought her a mirror.  No good.  She wants to find other herself.  Why I drink maybe."

"Guys!  We're off-track again.  Can we get back to the horse, pretty please!  Losing daylight."

"Why drink?  You don't really get drunk even, Don.  I mean..."

"Course not.  I am a figment.  So is the horse, so is fat figment Sancho Panza, the bean counter.  Ah, but you are real.  That producer is real.  Rocinante the President will be real, but only with reading Miguel's words.  You notice I drink all this stuff and don't piss.  Should be a good clue about who might be real in this world."


"Okay, Rocinante...what about American foreign policy.  North Korea, Iran?  How would you address the inherent dangers in the world?"  

"Just a minute.  Oh, okay.  He says what's the worry with a country called I-ran.  'I ran where to?' he asks.  Makes a joke I think.  No, he says to steal their clocks...and their clothes.  Naked people who don't know what time it is will change thinking real fast.  Oh.  See, horses don't wear clothes or stare at clocks all day.  No sense of self-consciousness with them.  Boy, horse uses some big words here."

"What if America is attacked?"

"Ooh...he pooped here.  Didn't like that question I think.  Let us see...ah!  He asks who would attack this crazy place?  He says...boy, he crude today I guess.  He says, 'like a cowboy trying to rope a fart.'  Well, okay then.  Maybe we should find him some oats and beer.  Might make for better answers.  Sancho!  Feed this miserable animal!"

"Cut!!  Okay, somebody feed the damn horse."

"Finally, sausages.  I'm wondering about something here.  One faith only you say of the conservatives.  I defend all faiths.  You are circumscribed it seems."

"What?  You mean...uh?"

"Hey, Rocinante's words, not mine.  Drinking Monk's beer loosens his lips.  He says your faith kills your imagination so no other truth can get in door.  That is why I was beaten and left in the road.  Happens a lot when you defend all truth it seems."

"How would that work if your horse, Rocinante, were President, Don Quixote?"

"Good question.  Badly, I think.  Seems your president is called 'defender of free world,' but remains prisoner of one truth.  Hold on.  Damn horse is mumbling with mouth full of food.  Has bad teeth you know from eating popcorn.  Oh.  Sancho!  More beer!  Ah, he says they confuse greed with faith."


"Who what?"

"Confuses things."

"Ask the horse, he said that.  Maybe the evil enchanters.  You ever been to an Inquisition?  Not pretty I tell you.  Nowadays they call them 'candidate debates at town hall place.'  The inquisitors look for this loss of one faith.  It is this duality thing.  Heaven and Hell never stay put it seems.  Like the horse, wandering here and there seeking an answer that works out for him.  And then I must defend it because it is somebody's truth even if the horse is a liar.  Hard job, this knight-errantry.  Should have been a damn blacksmith, I think!" 

"Yeah...I always wanted to be Park Ranger, or maybe Charlie Sheen."

Rocinante stops chewing and looks over at Don Quixote.  "Horse says you on right track to be burned at stake for sure.  Or very rich.  He wants to know what you think about being vice-President maybe?  Just in case things don't work out real good."  

"Hmm.  Might be better than this job is going.  I mean, I'm in a parking lot interviewing a horse and a figment...I think, of a dead guy's imagination.  Or is it my imagination?  Oh.  Is Rocinante saying something?  His lips are moving.  God, he spills half what he eats.  What a mess!"

"Uh, well is being profound maybe.  Always profane or profound.  Hard to tell with this horse.  Says, 'maybe try electing criminals and let the office purify them, instead of seeking an honest man to destroy.'  Something like that.  Probably the beer talking.  You know, that damn horse voted for Nixon...twice I think.  Hard to figure a horse's thinking sometimes. 

"Cut!  And wrap!  I give up...." 



Friday, May 4, 2012

Off on a quest....

Smiles cross all languages!
Culture Shock with a Smile:

As a friend heads off on a very American sort of adventure, I find myself recalling certain conversations we had on the 'culture' of horseshoeing in this, 'the land of opportunity.'  And aside from the occasional recession, the constant political infighting and our failure to agree on much of  anything, opportunity here does continue to flourish.  Just not quite in the same celebratory fashion, or with the boundless enthusiasm as we once coveted this American prize.  Why?  As my chief protagonist in the new book, The Littlest RaceHorse likes to say, "My dear, it's complicated." 

In this country, we have both ignored and prized the educated mind.  I say ignored, because we chronically fail to prioritize the educational process, or for that matter, willingly accept the responsibility for its cost.  Instead, we play the blame game -- pointing our bony little finger at Congress, the President, maybe the local school board or even the teachers, many of whom have lost what little enthusiasm they had to spare. Begging for pencils and paper does that to a person.  Politicians, these bastards of our own creation, born of our chosen system of government, who we willingly and concurrently cast shame upon -- our many little Frankensteins -- remain the chief targets for our self-righteous wrath.  But who are these villains other than the brigands of our own making -- our choice, our agenda, our priorities.  They do our bidding while we claim no ownership of the crop we have sown.  Dust Bowl farming at its ludicrous best.
Making something from nothing...a rare thing today!
And now, in this 21st century, it appears that we have also exceeded the need for the many $150k baccalaureates we still manage to produce each year, and whose expectations this country can apparently no longer accommodate.  We have become, perhaps, like the present Egyptian dichotomy, a country in need of a Spring, or maybe just a serious look at where the train seems to be headed.  Or do we simply offer the business as usual shrug, and toss around the same old  tired recriminations while piously praying for our ultimate salvation from...well, ourselves.  Remember the cherished credo of our founders: "In God we trust.  All others, please submit cash."  Well, the bill has come due on our slovenly, complacent -- even arrogant mindset -- the bare-ass ostrich with his head in a hole.  Proud and blind?  That third-world duality where we covet, even celebrate the papered tiger, yet quietly admire the tradesman, because his skills, as remedial as they might appear to the collegian, guarantees that  his children are not in rags and their stomachs are rarely empty. This, while we in our popular enlightenment, have exported the technology, the jobs and the economy they mutually generate and like Egypt, sadly watch as our middle class children service the needs of others -- a new round of feudalism, the creation of young serfs for the emerging class of mere profiteers, those that casually broker the wealth and effort of others. Urban strip-miners who are just now beginning to feel the hard edge of the anarchy and the social madness they have unleashed.  For this society, like many others in this new age, is rapidly tumbling out of balance, spinning perhaps inevitably toward a point of being unsustainable as a coherent and stable democracy.  For as the middle class falls from view, the very fiber of a compassionate society is stripped away along with it, and the naked beast, the cunning animal in all of us, takes to the street.  He is out there now, watching, waiting -- growing in both strength and determination.         

The middle class has always thrived on the notion found in bettering the lives of the next generation; the children.  It is the foundation of a class that always sought the open road, rarely asked for the easy path and took its minor achievements with both humility and grace.  A success deemed worthy of the effort by standards that only the participants can honestly judge.  And as the middle class continues its downward spiral, what dreams that do remain are rapidly eroded, eaten away by world realities that no longer find it necessary to embrace personal ambition, or the ideals so richly coveted by the individual.  Both represent a kind of sustenance for the human spirit, a purpose for the struggle of existence, and perhaps most importantly, the tangible evidence of your passing this way. 

A little corny?  Sure.  More than a little bleak?  Yes.  But like the shark, it is the subtleties that will kill you.  He bumps you, maybe rubs against you, then bang!  Your leg is missing and he consumes you at his leisure.  But the macro examination is always very relevant in assessing the personal picture.  In these many conversations with the aspiring student, I tried to stare down the clock and re-examine my own motivation for going into a line of work that was physically demanding, complex in the number of skill-sets necessary to succeed, not particularly appealing financially and by some accounts, frickin' dangerous -- especially in 1972, where every other horse you ran into behaved like a dysfunctional Pit Bull...or worse.  But that retrospective task was hampered by a shifting paradigm and one of those anomalies of life that roughly follows the winding path of that old cliche:  "If I knew what I know now...then!"  Well, who says maturity always leads to clarity.  Gray hair, prostate problems, but not always clarity.  The truth was probably that I didn't play well with others...or the myriad of examples found in the first three chapters of Mares, Foals & Ferraris.  You can just pick one and run with it if you like.  Certainly okay by me. 

And the other problem?  Different era with different strokes. Oh, the parameters were certainly similar, but we also had a career breaker, especially if college or inherent wealth wasn't on the plate:  the draft -- and a full-fledged shooting war to go along with it.  Not some video store punk-reality distortion.  Real bullets, real death, real funeral.  Kind of took the fun out of long-term planning.  Honest answer:  rather spend my time with horses than humans.  Still do.

That's my Excuse...What's Yours?

So fast-forward to the present day.  First off, most jobs for marginally educated individuals are now running about par with those for well-educated people and like the draft, you have a job/life expectancy of probably 8-months or less, working for a boss with fewer brains than a hubcap.  So, why not a career instead?  Get a little training, hang out a shingle and find out that 'hubcap and boss' are sometimes mutually inclusive and amazingly, now share the same mirror every morning.  No, psychiatric therapy isn't always tax-deductible.  And the light at the end of the tunnel is a long way off since they never finished it anyway.  Gotta be something else going on.

Be an independent man!  Nope. Instead of working for one hubcap, you've got 300 of them and the same problem with taking a tax deduction on your mental health costs, which seem to be escalating.  And your wife knows how to use a calculator.  And she has been checking the want ads for you.  Thinks a 'real' job might make more sense.  So does your bank manager, your barber, the guy you picked up hitchhiking...most of your clients?  Hmm.

The job?  A hoof full of well-aged horse shit and maggots, a mare that pees on your head if you rub up against her at the wrong time of the month; burned, mashed and rasp-slashed fingers, mud, far too many homicidal horses named, "Princess," checks that are always in the mail (somebody else's mail), people who say, "shoed" once too often on a bad day; rain, snow, sleet, hail...and no, you're not with the Post Office and finally, being fired by a 10-year girl on Ritalin who thinks it is cool to ride the short bus.  Nah, not here.

Ah!  Enlightenment.  OWNERSHIP!  The product is completely yours.  Well, almost.  The truck is made in Japan, the rasp comes from Spain, the nails from Sweden, the shoes from Holland or Germany, the propane from Saudi Arabia, the tires are Chinese knock-offs.  Oh, the anvil?  Canadian.  Close.  But the resultant job is yours and the only thing you exported was your taxes.  Yeah, the IRS has now opened an office in Beijing.  Next year your refund (you don't get one because you're self-employed), will be in yuans.  They look just like dollars, only instead of George Washington, they have a picture of a smiling guy named Mao something.  And now we truly know what the grin was all about. much as you tried to escape from the nuance and uncertainty of global economic raping and pillaging, the pirates still got everything except the sweat.  That you get to keep...for now.

Oh. The other OWNERSHIP!  The intrinsic, esoteric, metaphysical one!  What was I thinking?  Yes, a rare thing today.  A job where you make something pretty out of nothing of value, to place on an animal who will ultimately shit on it, piss on it and finally destroy it in a fit of remorseless sociopathic disinterest.  Only God could come up with such a ridiculous way for humility to flourish on such a selfish little planet.  And yet, it is the only explanation that makes even marginal sense.  You see, Zuckerberg can't do it, Gates can't and Jobs...well, he's dead anyway.  Tangibles.  Nostradamus meets up with da Vinci to forge the earth's iron for the hooves of Don Quixote's great warhorse, Rocinante.  That rare combination of the mind dictating a creation through the inherent dexterity of the hands.  Builders of rare art in the palaces of the modern-day skeptics, those who radically assume that all self-worth is a niggardly ration handed out reluctantly by the paper-hangers who ply the decrepit corridors and uninspiring offices at Visa or American Express.  Bean counters who actually believe that the road to heaven crosses a toll bridge.

Hmm.  The aspiring student?  Not sure she knows the answer just yet, but she did seem pretty thrilled about seeing both da Vinci and Rocinante on the same afternoon.  That's enough for her.  For now, anyway.           
[images: Sandra Mesrine]