Saturday, April 2, 2011
Virgil Goes to New York
There is nothing in the world Virgil loves as much as hanging out with fake alligators: it makes him feel very superior. So he was excited about the second launch in New York City of "Swamp People"--a TV series which chronicles a group of southern Louisiana residents, some of whom are alligator hunters--on the History channel. The network's marketing people had placed very realistic-looking model alligators crawling out of the city's manholes.
Before I knew what was happening, Virgil had packed his old blue sweater and taken the underground sewer route to Manhattan, where he emerged happy to have some time off from countries that are being ransacked, deserts being drenched with blood, and nuclear plants leaking plutonium into the sea. "That's definitely Virgil," wrote my friend Jane, as soon as she saw his picture above. "Not some acrylic alligator. I'd know him anywhere." I agreed.
"I was surprised," Virgil texted from New York, "that in my careful crouch I couldn't see any turtles sliding off sunny logs, no birch bark canoes coasting along, no mosquitoes or dachshunds. I haven't even seen a snake yet, much less forces loyal to Col. Qaddafi. Actually, the only thing besides tire treads I could see from my strategic position half under the lid were two patent leather shoes waiting on the curb. I believe they were attached to that man I remembered, from a poem by Frederick Seidel:
Midwinter murder is in my heart
As I stand there on the curb in my opera pumps,
Waiting for the car to come and the opera to start.
Amid the Broadway homeless frozen clumps.
Patent leather makes my shoes
Easter eggs by Faberge
The shoes say New York is still run by the Jews,
Who glitter when they walk, and aren't going away.
The morning after the Mozart, when I take my morning stroll, I feel
Removed all over again from the freezing suffering I see.
Someone has designed a beautiful, fully automatic, stainless steel,
Recoilless assault shotgun down in Tennessee.
The dogs tied up outside the Broadway stores
In the cold look with such touching expectancy inside.
A dog needs to adore. A dog adores.
A dog waiting for an owner is hot with identity and pride.
I'd like to meet the genius in Tennessee, or at least speak
To the gun on the phone.
I'd like to be both the dog owner and the dog. I'd leak
Love after I'd shot myself to shit. I'd write myself a bone.
"I absolutely love that poem," says Virgil. "You have to admire someone who wants to talk to a gun on the phone. He's, like, tapping into a huge grassroots movement, don't you think? Shine on, you crazy diamond!"
"The thing to remember about dogs," he adds, "is that dogs can chase cars but they can't drive them. As for those phony publicity alligators, they look like they're thinking, sure, very impressive--but they don't have the affect, the style, you know, the vibe of real intelligence. It's just zombie stuff. They're not really talking creatures, like me. And they don't glitter when they walk. I bet they can't even talk on the phone to a gun. Honestly, in my opinion, those alligators are no better than fridge magnets."
And with that short but pungent burst, Virgil takes a swig of tea from his syringe and wanders away, emitting a hollow, bellowing noise.