The Culture Bunker
Beer and Loafing on the Campaign Trail 1996
Part One: Insert Funny Title Here
by William Ham
illustration by David Coscia
Even though your obedient weed-plucker of the societal subterrain here is presently little more than a sequestered sales rep of syphilitic satire, surrounded on all two sides by dog-eared thesauruses and thesaurus-eared dogs (just in case the urge for a synonym for “anhedonia” or “uh” should arise while Snuggles is purging the week’s Ken-L Ration supply on Mr. Barcode’s nasturtiums), I still cultivate fond memories of the days when this boy oversaw a brace of parties wild enough to blow the foliage off Caligula’s head.
Yes, I was a fixture at all the major bashes: The sanguinary soirees of the Omnimenstrual Women’s League, the sodomystical gatherings of the local Heterophobic Pseudo-Pagan Cabal, the 3.2 keggers of the Mock-Alcoholic Society, the ball-deficient bacchanals of the Order of the Autocastrato, the splintered functions of the Unfinished Businessman’s Bureau, and even the monthly avoidance-fests of the Anti-Socialist Unclub.
I held the title of Longest Sustained Hangover three years running (I was disqualified the fourth year for regurgitating red-green bile onto only one of my Keds – to this day, my extremities still redden and flake from the disgrace). My name appears in five successive editions of Who’s Who In Ritual Scarification. By the time I retired (with full benefits and an imitation-rhinestone-studded drink coaster courtesy of the Slobberie, Boston’s leading manufacturer of drool-cups and pre-stained dental bibs), I had passed into the realm of legend. The story of my years on the lampshade circuit became the basis of a folk song by the indigenous peoples of Brookline Avenue and is soon to be adapted into a straight-to-video action-comedy starring Anthony Michael Hall and Fabian. Certain members of the hoi polloi (not to mention their Hawaiian counterparts, the poi holloi), have oft beseeched me to return to reclaim my title (or at least my pants), but I had made a solemn vow never to darken the doorsteps (or the rugs for that matter, but that problem has been brought under control with the aid of certain surgical garments) of the young Turks and kiddie Kurds of the non compos mentality.
Never, that is, until today.
The directive arrived at my abode by Priority Male (an overnight delivery service made up entirely of gay strippers, second in popularity only to Federal Samesexpress): Pernod announced candidacy last night – cover party at Party Party h.q.- – bring back story and some non-dairy creamer.
Perhaps I should explain for those of you too busy trying to intoxicate your pets to follow the intricacies of national politics. Lanx Pernod, eccentric thousandaire and CEO of Pernod Automobiles, Discorporated (they don’t manufacture or sell cars, but they do drive them), has long contemplated entering the race for President. His ’93 campaign was well-received, considering it wasn’t an election year and that he told no one other than his cat. Rumors of a ’96 bid were all over the tabloids and the chat shows: last Sunday’s edition of Female Hummus Wrestlers Discuss the Issues was devoted entirely to the subject. “Pernod has the ambition, the vision, and the cheekbones to make a fine Chief Executive,” moderator Thorina opined before body-slamming George Will to the mat for a three-count. His only deficiency, the pundits agreed, was his lack of a coherent platform (though his collection of footstools is said to be breathtaking). All of that changed with Pernod’s surprise appearance on MTV last night. Surrounded by family, associates, and several members of Candlebox, Pernod announced his plans for bringing the prized but untapped 18-to-27 age group to the polls. “The young people of this nation are often stereotyped as lazy, apathetic, indifferent to everything but mindless kicks. Well, I’ve traveled across this country and spoken with young men and women of every race, creed, and complexion problem, and I’m here to tell you that it’s absolutely true. America’s youth are about as bright as a defective reading lamp. But why fight it? These youngsters need a candidate who speaks for them in a voice not much louder than a mumble. I am that man. Therefore, I am here tonight to announce the formation of America’s fifteenth third party, the Party Party. An alliance dedicated to the fundamental values of ear-splitting noise, feral copulation, and enough controlled substances to incapacitate Wyoming. A new day is dawning, America, one which we’re not likely to see because we were up until three the night before doing flaming jello shots. Thank you. Now here’s the latest from Mariah Carey.” The buzz was immediate and unprecedented, and my assignment was to attend Pernod’s first press conference/puke-bash and capture said buzz like a good journalist. As for the non-dairy creamer, well, I can get it at cost. I know a guy.
I eased into my 1976 Ford Pardon and flicked on the radio. Usually, I tend to restrict my vehicular listening to Gregorian techno and the all-furniture commercial station, but on this occasion I had to prepare myself. Click.
“…thirteen minutes after the hour, although we’re not quite sure which hour, at WHUP – bringing news upside your head 24 hours a day. The top story, of course, is the Presidential campaign of Lanx Pernod. In the mere hours since his candidacy was announced, Pernod’s bid has already sent shock waves through the political community. An informal WHUP poll taken this morning of 200 randomly-selected burnouts and leather-jacketed greasers shows that, if the election were held today, a staggering 89% would cast their vote for Pernod, the other candidates would split 6% of the vote, and the remaining 5% would mistake the voting booth for a urinal. This sudden and unprecedented popularity among the young, slump-shouldered, nostril-probing constituency has not gone unnoticed by the other candidates. In a speech to the four-member American Optimist Society, President Clinton appeared to be obliquely referring to the Pernod revolution. Here is a taped excerpt of that speech.”
The disembodied voice of the President filled the car (something that hadn’t occurred since I threw out my airplane-glue-scented air freshener months before). “‘Certain upstart third-party Yankee scum-rats want you to believe that they alone can turn America into one big crash-pad. But I believe that the people of this nation cannot be fooled by empty promises. Everyone knows that it’s the Democrats who are the real chandelier-swinging, table-dancing, Cuervo-swilling animals that’ll give this nation the hangover that’ll take it into the next millennium. Take FDR, one of our greatest leaders. That wasn’t polio, people. He was so hopped-up on goofballs and cheap wine that he thought it better not to walk. “The New Deal”? An opium vision. Harry Truman? Bombing Japan was not just a way to end the war but a veiled advertisement for ‘shrooms, his controlled substance of choice. And I don’t think I need to remind you about the Kennedys. My administration is but the latest in a long line of Democratic Party animals. Now is as good a time as any to set the record straight. I was misquoted those years past – I never said I didn’t inhale. Hell, yes, I inhaled. I just haven’t exhaled yet. Why do you think my voice is so constricted? I’m holdin’ it in, man.’
“Republican candidate Bob Dole was also quick to respond to this new threat to his candidacy in a speech at the National Trigger-Happy Redneck Association headquarters in Hog’s Bristle, Tennessee.
“‘Nobody can tell Bob Dole that Bob Dole doesn’t know how to party. Bob Dole is the original party beast. You know it, I know it, the dudes in Grand Funk Railroad know it. Bob Dole didn’t lose his arm in the war. No, Bob Dole lost his arm at one of Ken Kesey’s acid tests when Bob Dole tried to fly. Bob Dole’s still seeing trails from that night, let Bob Dole tell you. You’re either on the bus or off the bus, and Bob Dole is on the bus. Hell, Bob Dole practically built the damn bus. You know it, I know it, that hot chick Sunshine that Bob Dole Bob Doled in the back of the microbus knows it.’
“Pat Buchanan was unavailable for comment, saying he was too busy with his plan to annex Canada to pay much attention. In other news, Mad Gerbil Disease continues to sweep the…” Click.
This was no time for trivial concerns. My high-beams had zeroed in on my destination. I took a deep breath and a handful of black-market ibuprofens and stepped out of the car. Now was the time. It usually is.
I was greeted at the door by a fringe-jacketed Secret Serviceman holding a jar of Vaseline and a dentist’s mirror. “Cavity search, sir.” As I submitted to his thorough (yet sensitive and loving) examination, he asked, “Do you have any intoxicants, narcotics or battery-operated adult novelty items on your person?”
“No, sir, I don’t.”
“That’s all right, you can borrow some of mine.” He handed me press credentials and a “PERNOD IN ’96” campaign peyote button. “The candidate is meeting with the press in the Timothy Leary Wing. Down the corridor, third door on the left, right next to the room where we keep the munchies. Have a groovadelic day.”
I headed for my rendezvous with equal measures of ambivalence and uncertainty, though I was sure of three things. This was going to be the true test of my journalistic mettle. This was going to be the pivotal event of my young life. This was going to be another damned two-parter.
Next month, Part Two: “The Part Following This One.”