How did it happen to you? You were just going to Grandma’s house with your picnic basket. You were going over the river and through the trees. You had your little summer frock on. You had your pink socks and Buster Brown shoes. You had a ribbon in your hair. You saw a butterfly and when you chased it you went off the path and ran into The Big Bad Wolf.
How did it happen to you? You were just a young boy on your way back from a baseball game. It was near dark when you stopped in that public restroom by the park. You were standing at the urinal when that man walked in. You never knew anything about that sort of thing did you?
Then you were a young family who moved from the farm into the city because there wasn’t any more money in farming anymore. It was a bad neighborhood. It was a bad neighborhood because you have to put one kind of people one place and one kind in another because you can’t watch them all. You can’t protect them all and there’s no pressing reason to protect the poor from anything. The system doesn’t want that. It’s not cost effective.
It was a good system, as far as systems go. What I mean to say is that it looked like a good system. It was the sort of system where anyone who wanted to work hard could get to live in a neighborhood worth protecting. It was a system that said it wanted to give everyone the same possibilities and opportunities, even if that was impossible, it was an impression that stirred hope and ambition and so... every now and then someone would pull it off... up to a point. Sometimes people won the lottery or wound up on TV or in a sport arena and sometimes they walked around on some rich man’s arm for awhile or became a house pet for a black widow spider.
You expect to lose a few little girls and boys in any kind of system. It’s some kind of donation program for The Dark Side and, let’s face it, there’s a whole economy for that kind of action. Look, we lose just about every little boy and girl on the planet anyway because at some point they have to accept certain things that take away their innocence and childhood forever.
You expect families to have their problems because people want different things and mother’s and father’s all have an opinion of what it’s okay to want and okay to have. They may have learned a thing or two from the time they had to bend over and wait and they want to spare their children the suffering they had. Meanwhile, the system needs these children so they’re going to be hearing something a lot different than what they hear at home but... then again... most of the time the parents work for the system too.
You expect a system to have holes in it. Systems are like cars. They have to go into the shop now and then. The shop is a system too and it needs to have cars with flaws so they can fix them. Things need to break down so that shops can fix them. People need to break down so that doctors can fix them. Laws need to be complicated and full of loopholes so that lawyers can interpret and dance through them. If everything worked more than it didn’t work it would be a whole other thing and you probably wouldn’t be reading this because there wouldn’t be any reason to write it.
Well...all of this... it’s a very limited outline. It’s one of those sketches where you can tell it’s supposed to be a face or a body or a tree but it’s more a suggestion than a complete image. You can’t tell whose face it is. Heck... it could be your face.
Every system and society goes through a series of changes. There’s a time when it’s young and vigorous and all that energy and all those dreams combine to rev the engine of industry and a whole lot of things get done. It’s like Spring. Summer’s a lot like Spring only there aren’t the same requirements of energy and dreams because most of the industry is running along on it’s own. The people are brimming with confidence and there’s a lot of eating and drinking and making merry. Maybe there’s too much eating and drinking and making merry because people are getting fat and looking sleek as seals.
All Summer, people are getting more and more of a good thing and they’re expanding horizontally. Things that were going up are now going sideways. It’s sort of how suburbs appear. Then comes the Fall. There are cracks in the sidewalk and lines on people’s faces and the Age of Cosmetics appears. You can keep up a certain impression for some time beyond what’s real any more through the artful application of makeup and cannily placed lights. Fall is a time of harvest so there’s the impression that it’s never been as good as it is now; whenever that might be in whatever culture is ‘passing through’ it. Because everything looks so good, given all of the state of the art stage effects and nobody is too worried about Winter.
Winter comes and it’s no longer possible to hide the lines and the cracks. A new method of perception is introduced where everyone pretends that there aren’t any cracks and lines and that ‘somebody’ is going to fix all of it anyway. Somewhere along the way, the people who made all the money and got into the position of determining how cracks get fixed and who gets paid for it... these people decided that it made more sense just to break everything down and sell off the parts because it wasn’t cost effective to keep up a false impression. Still... the false impression had to be kept up until everything was sold because most of the people; the people who didn’t have all the money and who didn’t make the decisions... those people were sure to get upset if everything was gone.
So the people who had all the money and made the decisions decided that it was probably better to lock up a certain amount of people who might be more inclined to make trouble than the rest and then to take the rest of the people and put them in different rooms and teach them how to do the Horizontal Hula and that would generate more income for the people with all the money who made all the decisions. Since the people had long ago been convinced to believe that there were no cracks and lines because of the makeup and the artful lighting, it wasn’t hard to convince them that they were in show business instead of prostitution. There’s not that big a difference anyway so...
Really... it’s all a matter of getting used to it. It’s like how some things are an acquired taste. You can tell yourself that it’s yogurt or peanut butter (or both at the same time) or anything you want and Presto! ... So be it.
Sooner or later though... and I’m not sure why this happens but ...sooner or later you wake up in an alley or a pig sty; you might even wake up with hooves and... it’s always Winter when it happens and it’s always cold and, damn! Now you’ve got the shakes too. That would have come in handy when you were doing the Horizontal Hula. Shit... you might still be in business. As much as the customer might appreciate your laying back and taking it, there’s always the implication that if you were more into it they might enjoy it more too. It always seems to come as a surprise to people how they wound up where they did. It never surprises me but I look at things a little different than most people and seldom want the things they want. I’ve always made sure that I was ready and able to sleep most anywhere because I know what kind of discomfort can come when you get too used to comfort and then it gets taken away.
I think the biggest surprise that people experience is finding out that they weren’t in show business after all... that and the fact that they can’t remember what they did the night before or why certain parts of them are sore. For some reason the light has changed too and no amount of makeup seems to do the trick. Maybe some of them are wondering what happened to the people who had all the money and made all the decisions. Well, those people migrated to a new location where Summer is now in full bloom.
'Vanity' is track no. 7 of 13 on Visible's 2007 album 'The Sacred and The Profane'
Lyrics (pops up)