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Rant #59
(published Mid-year, 2001)
The Pleasure of Being Down
a thirty-three dollar rant
by Fritz Swanson


As I write this, I still do not know if Poor Mojo will ever come up as it did before. I suppose if you are reading this, we have in some form survived. If not, well . . . I am okay with that.

So, we're down. Or, we were. Or, we continue to be. We are the once and future Poor Mojo as of the time of this writing.

All I want is a do-over. I want a new.

A few days before The Evil came, Dave's mom gave us 100 bucks for our one year anniversary. It was a sweet gesture. Mrs. Nelson is a stand up lady in my book. What we decided to do with the cash was to split the money up three ways, stamp it with a Poor Mojo stamp, and spend it. Thirty-three dollar bills a piece, with the remaining one going to Allah. Or that was how we saw it at the time. We'd do something fun with the money, and then write about it.

"Thirty-three. One for every year of the life of Jesus," Dave said with the kind of dripping sarcasm that he saves for these occasions. He gave me my stack of bills, pocketed his, and prepared to mail the remaining Tri-trinity to Morgan out in San Fran.

I thought, maybe I would buy a money clip because the wad was so huge. But when I thought that one out, it became a kind of Gift of the Magi paradox and I let it go.

Then I thought that I could, like, pay people to do funny things for a dollar and take pictures of it. I really hadn't gotten far with that idea, otherwise I would describe what I would have had people do here in the essay. That would be funny.

Maybe I can make things up. Like, I could get President Bollinger (President of the University of Michigan) to, like, kiss a rock for a dollar.

I don't know. It wasn't going to happen. I don't fast talk so well.

Frankly, I didn't think very hard about it. I can be really unfocused as a writer when I want to be, and when I get assignments that I am sort of ambivalent towardÉ well, I get weirdly resistant to myself even. Not that this was such a bad assignment, just that it was like the last bite of PB&J sandwich and I just couldn't swallow it without gagging. No good reason for why. Everyone has their stupid obstinacies. That's just how things are.

So, I sat on the cash.

And the WTC blew up, and then collapsed, and we went to war in a heartbreak.

And this is not an essay about that. But, as David Letterman has proven I think, everything is now about that. Just like everything is really about getting laid, or about the presence of our mortality.

You know, we wrote the week before this all happened about Kazhakstan and that whole Hobbit thing. And basically the whole thing started because I stupidly thought that KZ was a "muslim" government (which it isn't, and anyway, shouldn't matter if it was and all of that) and I thought I could whip off an easy totalitarian cautionary tale while we waited for better rants to come down the pipeline.

It was a stupid filler rant, and we tried to make something useful out of it, and it was all sort of tasteless and lazy. Or, that is how I feel about it, anyway. But, it might be because I woke up at four am on Wednesday the 12th and I was half way inside of a dream and I imagined that my rant had been the straw that broke the camels back. The weird fanatic fundamentalists read it and just threw down and said: "Enough is enough with these Americans!"

Which is a really stupid thing to imagine, but it's like when you are a kid and a relative you don't like dies and you imagine that it's your fault because you wished them dead once, in the back of your mind, or while you slept.

And so the airliners came.

And I got very sick that day because of the stress, like a soldier's hair going white when he is caught in a really bad firefight, and I still had these thirty three bucks that I needed to do something cool with, and I was totally scared of doing any writing because of my irrational nightmare vision of what my last rant meant.

My Mom called that day. I think just about every mother in America placed a call to their adult children that day. That's why the circuits collapsed. Under the weight of motherly worry. Danger was loose upon the world and they needed to confirm that their offspring yet breathed. I mean, I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan. But still she called to check on me. But there was nothing she could do.

I was sick. And I had to teach composition at the University that Wednesday. And all of my students needed to talk about the damn tragedy. It was a university mandate. And I thought it was a good idea in abstract, so that we could all get out of our apartments and really just start over with our lives in some little way. Class was re-training for civilization. But it was a terrible thing, too. We were all trapped in it. People cried and I hated myself for being a teacher. I don't have anything smart to say about any of it. One of my students lost her elementary building to the collapsing WTC. She didn't lose any PEOPLE, but she did lose her elementary school.

That seems so unbelievably terrible to me. How do you mourn a god damn building? It's like losing a day from your childhood. You don't even KNOW what you have lost. It's like losing the memory of your first kiss in a poker game. What in the fuck?

I remember my first kiss perfectly. But I swear to you that I do not remember the name of the girl. I can picture her face in my mind, and I know everything about our weird non-relationship, but I cannot remember her name. I remember the tense wetness by the drinking fountain in the cafeteria of my middle school during a school dance. I was in the sixth grade. I remember the stress and fear. I remember the softness, and the dry skin on her lips. But not remembering her name . . . it feels like remembering a rape.

Thinking about it makes me cringe and want to disappear. I want to lose it in a poker game, desperately. I wish a building would blow up and take away all of my memory, just so that moment could be erased.

So, today is the 18th of September. It's a Tuesday. Poor Mojo is still down.

I was so very sick last week. At the end of each semester I either come very close to getting pneumonia, or I actually get it. For the six years I was in school here at UofM I came down with pneumonia 4 or 5 times. That's how I felt last week, Tuesday evening. It was like all of that dust and asbestos and shit had flown across the country and down my throat into my lungs. There is something explosive about an end of semester depression. It deflates me into a puddle of want.

So, I went to the movies last week. Dave and I saw Jeepers Creepers. I spent some of my thirty three on that. Also, last week, my friend Sean Norton suffers from this extreme allergy to fruit mold and he ate an organic tomato soup that almost killed him. He just came out okay recently and yesterday he and I went to lunch at the Coney Island near where I live. We were both sick and depressed and we just basically ate in silence. That was another ten bucks. I have about seven bucks left and I figure I'll spend it on whatever.

The only blessing, as far as I can see, is that Poor Mojo has been down. It was like it never existed and all memory was gone. I could forget about it. I could sink beneath the waves, my tentacles writhing in the glorious embrace of eternal black. I am that much closer to perfect erasure.

So, I'm just trying to make new memories with my thirty three bucks. Nothing fancy. Just a little bit of redemption. A pretty good movie, comforting food with a friend. I've got seven bucks left.

Do you think I can buy someone else's first kiss for seven bucks?

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