Sunday, July 02, 2006

A cure for feeling 'down'

We have all had days where everything just doesn’t feel right. You’re a little down, it’s all sideways and you just can’t snap out of it. Usually it’s no big deal. A large coffee and some loud music and before I know it I’m back in the center square. Good stuff, when it works. This time though, it had been three days of moping around like a politician who had just had his third pay raise of the year turned down. Pretty sad.

I’ve never bought into that Oprah/Dr Phil methodology of self-flagellation thing, and I don’t particularly like the self-help book industrial complex. Approach the issue from an oblique angle, dive from the sun and punt that sucker right through the uprights is the way I figure it. To this end I pulled out my copy of Dirk Gently: The Long Dark Teatime Of The Soul by Douglas Adams. Don’t be fooled by the title, this is not some sort of arty-farty self-help book aimed at old hippys and other nimrods but rather the second book in the Dirk Gently, holistic detective series. There is an interesting concept in the book where when Dirk gets lost he chooses a car at random and follows it. The holistic theory is that you may not get to where you want to be, but you will get to where you need to be.

I tossed a couple of Snapples into a cooler, popped the whole works into the Jeep and was off. I feel that it’s best not to over think these things so the first vehicle I saw I dropped in behind and let the cards fall where they may. The vehicle I was behind was one of those huge pickups you see, a Dodge or a Ford I guess, and that dude was here to travel. We hit the hiway and turned south and that’s all she wrote for quite a while. I hadn’t been down this way in a long time and when after about an hour we turned left off the hiway I began to think this was totally weird.

We were heading in towards the S**** Lake campsite. I flashed back to a camping trip I had taken with some friends starting on May 16, 1981, and everything just fell into place. Good times, good food, good beer, good tunes, just all around good vibes. Mayhap we weren’t all standing around bobbing our heads to some righteous Rasta dub, but hey mon, it was good none the less.

The road has not improved at all over the last twenty years and there are still loads of curves and whatnot and then we arrived at the lake and here things have changed! It’s no longer the place I remember with single and multiple player campsites laid out amongst the trees, fire-pits included. Now it’s just a big open area on the water uncontaminated by trees or bushes or anything. Just dirt and rocks, then water. Just the thing for those who enjoy either a minimalist camping experience, or those who would enjoy the German style of sardine camping (get an area about 50’ x 50’, put thirty motor-homes and about a hundred Krauts in there and watch the fun). I still like the idea of trees and stuff when I camp. Fortunately I wasn’t here to camp at this particular point in time.

The pickup pulled off to the far side of the bare area while I pulled intot eh center and parked next to a large rock. I set up my camping chair, cracked a nice iced tea and waited for the long ago good vibes to kick in. And wait I did. The sun rose higher into the sky making me grateful that I had brought my official Boy Scout Tilley hat, and the Snapples were going down pretty easy. I guess the warmth and the relaxing ambiance made me a little drowsy and I spent a certain amount of time in that area between being asleep and being awake. Given this you can understand why I thought I was dreaming when I first heard the sound. There was a steady thumping that slowly became louder and louder. The last sort of dreamy thing that I can remember thinking was, “Hey, it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.” Then hundreds of black helicopters began landing all around me. That’s right, black helicopters as mentioned by various militias, loonies, and oddballs, and they were thapping to the ground all around me and the rising dust and grit was making it pretty dark. The ground was shaking and it was getting darker and darker, then the lights came on. Yeah, I know how that sounds so let me explain.

As it turned out the ground shaking was actually a huge elevator lowering all of the helicopters underground. Then a pie-wedge shaped lid slowly covered over us (see the moon landing in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey for visual info!) The helicopters were all shutting down and loads of military dressed guys were jumping out and forming lines and marching and stuff. I was all agog. I thought this sort of stuff only happened in movies with that Stallone guy.

Then this caricaturtypical English twit guy comes marching up to me (you know the type: too much tooth, too much ear-lobe, not enough chin, probably named ‘Nigel’ or ‘Clive’). “I say, old chap,” he says. “Are you the chap called Agent X, eh wot?” I raised my eyebrow, Spock-like and enigmatic which was apparently the correct move because the next thing he says is, “I say, jolly good show. Follow me please, old cock!”

We, and a pair of armed guards that fell into step behind us, wove our way through the heavily armed helicopters until we arrived at a wall containing a couple of small offices. An officer of some sort occupied the office we entered. The guy was covered with epaulets and ribbons, and as much as I hate to say that he looked like a South American Junta Leader, he did actually look like a South American Junta Leader. “I say, Agent X, sir,” says the inbred appearing English mutt. “Grunt,” responded the officer.

The office was small, yet appeared even smaller with me, the English mutt, the officer behind his military surplus desk, a pedestal with a red button on top, as well as the two guards all wedged in. The officer finally looked up from the hyper-important bits of ‘bumf’ he was looking at and said, “The first most important thing you had better understand, boy, is this. Under no circumstances should you ever, and I mean ever, press that red button! Do you understand what I’m saying here, boy?” (I have heard that this is called ‘foreshadowing’ by many of those in the writing game and is pretty clever besides.)

“I am Six Star General William ‘Stomper’ Featherington-Stonewall I, finished 97th and 123rd in my graduating classes of 1970 and 1982 at the Virginia Military Institute. That’s ‘the Citadel’ to boys like you. Loved that place so much I just had to go through the program twice. These are my credentials, now who the hell are you?”

“I’m, ah, Agent X,” I answered. “I used to be Agent W but I got a promotion. My friends just call me Agent. Sometimes I have an egg for breakfast, with a couple of cups of coffee. I used to bowl about thirty years ago, but I wasn’t very good at it. If I had a choice between being a hammer and a nail, I’d rather be the hammer, but nails are pretty sharp too. I’ve been electrocuted a couple of times, but I find that you never really get used to that. I pulled a bird out of the grill of my truck once…”

“Hold on there, cowboy,” the General interrupted. “You’re heading into the too much information area now. What I need to know is, are we good to go? I want to get this party on the road. We are ready to rock and roll now and I don’t want the boys going stale, so what’s the situation outside?”

“Fair to middlin’, I suppose. Sunny with a high chance of temperatures later. You know.”

The General didn’t look happy. “Don’t be yankin’ me boy, are we clear here? Is the element of surprise on our side here or not?”

“Well,” I said, “you guys sure surprised the heck out of me.”

“Boy,” the General said, “I am becoming very suspicious of you.”

There’s not much worse than having a crazy General suspicious about you. I guess being chewed on by a rabid (or even a rabies free) pitbull could be worse. An explosive bowel movement right at the start of a long international flight would probably suck pretty bad, I suppose. Knocking over a Hell’s Angels motorcycle wouldn’t be good. Then again, everything is relative so the crazy General thing was quite bad enough to be getting on with at the moment. At any rate he was still looking at me suspiciously when he asked, “What we really need to know, Agent X… You really are Agent X, right?”

“No,” I answered, not thinking for a moment. “No I’m not actually. I mean, uh…” Damn! Busted.

Oddly enough things became a little menacing at that point and the tiny office became just a little more crowded as the two guards pulled out their side-arms (taking up some very critical shivering room, I might add). There wasn’t actually enough room in the office for them to point the weapons at me, but just the fact that the weapons were out and obvious had introduced an unwelcome sense of menace to the entire situation.

I figured I had better try to lighten things up a bit. “Hey,” I said. “You guys are that One World Government crowd, aren’t you? The one that is supposedly led by the background boys in the United Nations, but which is actually backed by the Soviet Politburo in hiding based out of some shadowy eastern European capital, right?”

I didn’t like the way that everybody in the room was nervously eyeing each other after they had heard that little outburst. Nope, not at all. Then the General spoke up. “Perhaps,” he said slyly. “And which international law enforcement agency do you happen to work for? Interpol? The FBI? The Mounties? CSIS? The Boy Scouts?”

“Ha!” I said, “None of the above! I’m just a concerned private individual, a citizen of this great nation and I’m only trying to serve and protect democracy as we know it. The right not to vote. The right to watch porn on the Internet. The right to rock out with your cock out.” At first I didn’t know if I should have added that last bit or not, but as they all tried to edge away from me I figured that it was okay. They had been kind of intruding into my personal space somewhat.

Then the General laughed. “Well hell in a basket, we got ourselves a rompy one here alright! You don’t like the One World Government idea? Well me neither! How about them apples? How about One World under God? That idea grabbin’ you okay, boy? No more Islam, no more Buddha, and no more of that Jewish stuff. Just one good old fashioned Christian God, worldwide! But none of the wimp-ass commie, girlie Jesus stuff like what’s in the New Testament. No way in hell, boy. We got us a kick-ass Jesus. A real man’s Jesus. A take no prisoners Jesus. A cigar chompin’, black coffee drinkin’, good woman lovin’ Jesus!” Man the spittle was flying as only a true stone-crazy General can do. Not a lot of fun when one is trapped in a small room with one.

“And democracy,” he continued, “I don’t even know what the hell that means. Hey you!” he says, pointing to one of the guards. “You know what this boy means by democracy, soldier?”

“Hell no, sir,” the soldier yelled back. “It’s Greek to me, sir!”

“Well I should guess to hell so!” The General pointed to me again. “I’ll tell you about the new democracy, boy. We in charge will be telling you what to think, and your right will be to do as you are told. ‘Reality’ television programs, infomercials, Televangelical news, and approved entertainment news will tell you all you need to know. Do as you’re told and there’ll be a minimum of trouble. We will probably get along just fine. You’re a Canuck, right?”

“I do indeed have that honour, sir.”

“Right,” then to the guards he says, “Take him to that Canuck guy, Major-General (acting) Bob ‘Doug’ MacKenzie.” He looked back to me. “He’s the leader of the militant arm of the Western Canada Concept. He’ll know what to do with a nut like you.”

Right ho, I figured, then what the hey and I pounded my fist down on that red button and all heck broke loose (right, like you didn’t see that bit of business coming from a kilometre off. Remember the foreshadowing thing?). The entire underground area (or space, as an interior decorator would say) filled with the sound of aircraft grade machine-gun fire. The General stood up and yanked out his side-arm. He scrambled over the desk and shoehorned his way to the door, which was open. He looked at me and slowly shook his head. “You mad, mad bastard,” he said. “You don’t know what you’ve done.”

“Darn,” I said. “I thought I had just stopped a bunch of rock-head loonies from trying to take over the world and force some sort of Conservative Theocracy down everybody’s throats which would have created a planet-wide regime of intolerance and unforgiving self-righteousness like what currently exists in Iran, Burma, and the United States.” I took a breath. “Right?”

The General looked surprised. “Okay,” he finally said, “so you do know.” He pointed at the guards. “You guys are with me. You, Limey. Deal with this guy, if you know what I mean. He knows too much.” Then with an Animal House Bluto-style howl of “Let’s go” he and the guards trotted out into the smoke filled darkness.

The English-twit guy turned to me and to be honest, I figured this was it. Tits up, toes curled, eyes ‘x’ed, pop your clogs, drop the racket and jump the net time. At that particular moment though it didn’t bother me too much as I was getting tired of having guns, knives, and bad breath pointed at me all the time. Then the English guy says, “Right ho then, chappie. The deal is this. You don’t tell anyone what you have seen or heard here, and we let you go free. I must warn you, I do not bargain as that is a game for cads and other riff-raff. What do you say, what?” I agreed, we shook hands and he ran off into the darkness after the General.

Zounds, I thought, that had been close. I took a peek out the door and I’m no military expert but it looked as though this One World Government thing wouldn’t be happening today. It appeared the red button had activated all the machine-guns on all of the helicopters, and since they had been lined up pretty sardine-like in the confined space of the underground hanger this had caused some explosions that had pretty much totaled the base. Smoking helicopter husks littered the floor and there were all sorts of other military looking wreckage smoldering all over the place. Good thing the base emergency fire suppression units had kicked in or it could have been pretty ugly.

Also, things had become really quiet. Too quiet as John Wayne used to say when he was sober enough to remember his lines, and alive. Then I noticed all the holes in the ceiling, and the knotted ropes that were hanging down from them, so I figured that the One World soldiers had evacuated the base. Next thing two scruffy looking mutts in worn and stained military fatigues walked out of the wreckage and it looked like they were drinking beers. Curiouser and curiouser, I thought, but it appeared to be time to make nice. “Hey!” I called. “One World Government! Yeah! You go girl!”

They both stopped in their tracks and dropped their military surplus beers. “Look, Jeb,” said the uglier of the two. “It’s one of those black-helicopter goobers. Wanna shoot ‘im?”

“Yup,” said Jeb as he raised his rifle to his shoulder.

Not again. “You fellows have got the wrong end of the stick!” I called. “I’m not a black-helicopter guy!”

“Oh well,” says Jeb. “Maybe he’s one of those fruity guys. Let’s both shoot him.” Now they both had their rifles pointed at me and it wasn’t looking good, man. I heard a voice call out, “Hey! I know you.” I looked over and there came Psycho Tom striding through the wreckage and for the first time since I met the guy I was almost glad to see him. Circumstances are everything. “Hey, Tom. What’s up?”

He walked up to me and put his shaved and tattooed head up next to my non-shaven and non-tattooed one. “What’s your name again?”

“Ah, Arnold,” I answered using the most manly, robot from the future name I could think of. “Arnie, you know.”

“Right. Arnie, from work.” Tom scratched at his head and looked around. I looked around too, noticing that Jeb and his ugly brother (or cousin, or brother and cousin) had bugged out. “So what’s up?” I asked again.

“The boys and I just decided that we should clear this rat’s nest out.”

“The boys?” I asked

“Yeah. I told you before, man. We’re the Coon Valley Rangers.”

“Oh yeah.” Then I remembered. “You’re one of those private militia groups.”

“We’re rangers. I told you.”

“Okay. And those were a couple of your boys there drinking that military surplus beer.”

Tom slowly shook his head as he lit a six paper joint. “Yeah,” he said. “Don’t use that stuff anymore, myself. Have to stay straight and clear. Clear and straight. You know?”

“Yeah,” I agreed having never believed in arguing with an armed and crazy guy, especially an armed and crazy guy who has bizarre and cryptic tattoos all over his head. “Where are those One World Guys? They sure as heck didn’t fly out of here,” I said, pointing to all the wrecked helicopters.

“That bunch, man,” he said in disgust. “They ran up the ropes, out the holes and off into the hills. I don’t think we’ll be seeing them around again.”

“Why?” I wondered.

“Dope growers and bears will get most of them,” Tom explained. “And a hard winter will cull the herd even more. By this time next year none of those boys will be in any sort of condition.” Tom shook his head. “I don’t know, man. Foreigners just don’t do well here. Soil’s too rocky and there isn’t enough water.” He shrugged. “Oh well. We’ll just get Wade buddy’s truck in here and fill this pit up with dirt and that’ll be that, y’know?”

“Shouldn’t you maybe let the authorities know about all this, or something,” I asked.

“Nope. Gotta keep under the radar. You know how it is. Hey, you want to join the Rangers, Arnie?”

I shook my head. “No thanks, Tom. You know how it is. I’m allergic to weapons and crazy people.”

“I hear you, Arnie. Jesus loves you, you know.”

“Yeah, I know, Tom. That and ten bucks will get me a coffee at Starbucks.” Tom was lighting a cigarette as I climbed one of the ropes back up to the Jeep. The bright spot, to me, of this entire affair is that I was no longer feeling out of sorts. Funny how stopping religious extremists (AKA: “nuts”) from taking over the world can do that for a guy.

Anyway… Humouroceros

Black helicopter from my back deck


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