It's a fine thing to be respected and admired. I mean, I guess it must be.
It sounds cool. Oh, I'm not universally despised or anything, and during lapses in my campaign to destroy myself, I even alienate friends, family, and loved ones, and steal everything within reach not permanently affixed to the bedrock. Occasionally I exhibit a few of your more desirable and pleasing personality traits. Just as often, though, I'm surly and uncommunicative, and when I'm on the pipe, fuhgeddaboudit. Opinion about me then approximates Middle Earth's general attitude toward Gollum, being a mixture of mild revulsion and grudging acceptance in which half the room wants to snap my neck and have done with it and the other to keep me around and see if my deviousness will be of any practical use.
Extending the proposition, I suppose that respect and admiration from people who you in turn esteem is especially gratifying. It makes sense, to me, that one's accomplishments and character would be significantly more meaningful when noted and approved by those whose opinions actually mean something. Conversely, approbation from lesser quarters would be, if not meaningless, at least slightly hollow and ineffectual.
Like, for instance, if the fashion editor at GQ said he liked my outfit, I would be firmly of the mind that whatsoever walk I walked I would be the cock o' it, but if a wino clad in puke-spatte red rags said the same thing, I'd think well, sure, compared to you, I'm Beau Freakin' Brummel. But so is that convenience-store clerk in the gaily patterned smock. Your praise, while appreciated, carries no actual weight. I imagine people in the public eye who garner lots of attention from strangers usually think something along those lines, as in Thanks, yahoo, but you wouldn 't know good acting/singing/writing/blacksmithing if it came free with your breakfast cereal.
Let the Academy or Billboard or the Pulitzer committee or the Golden Horseshoe, or whoever recognizes achievement in farrier-ing, take notice, and they puff up and strut around like post-coital peacocks on payday.
What got me thinking about this was listening to some of the recent squawkings emanating from noted political emu Ann Coulter. From what I'm able to gather from my admittedly limited perspective, she has quite a large and dedicated following among America's klansmen, sexual deviants, vivisectionists, bullies, hecklers, alchemists, survivalists, book-burners, meth chefs, gun-nuts, buttsniffers, knuckle-draggers, spammers, fight-clubbers, and cock-fighters, while retaining a likeability quotient of exactly zero among anyone anybody might actually want to hang out with. The numbers are in and they don't paint a pretty picture: anyone with anything going for them, all the smart, interesting, funny, creative, innovative types, all the nice, kind, helpful and inclusive people, as well as anyone with an empathetic cell or two in their bodies, despises her, or at least her message. I find it sad and disturbing that her pathological need for acceptance is so great as to consider this satisfactory, especially considering the fact that if you could just get her and her followers to shut up about things they clearly don't understand, they're just folks.
I didn't set out here to rant about firebrand conservative ratites, though. In the spring of ’08, my approval ratings were at an all-time low in Fort Bragg, even among my core constituency of tweakers and lowlifes, owing mainly to having reached that unfortunate nadir in my drug cycle where I throw up my hands and say "fuck it all,” inviting either Death or the authorities to remove me from an untenable situation. So far Death has not exercised his option so I end up cooling my heels in stir for awhile. As solutions go, it's not the most mature or intelligent choice and could aptly be considered a “nuclear option,” but it's kept me alive all these years. In a rather perplexingly dichotomous metaphysical dilemma, I must be saved from myself.
Anyway, it came to pass that I liberated and appropriated for my own use — ok, stole to be perfectly frank — an item of valuable property from The Wrong Dude, who assembled a small band of retribution-minded thugs — a “posse” in the parlance — to administer some corrective discipline upon my physical person, or a “beating.”
Luckily I still had enough supporters scattered around that I was able to get wind of this devoutly unwished-for plan and take steps to avoid it. I can be exceedingly slippery when I've a mind to be, and I led these boys on a merry chase for months. Through a program of informants, constant vigilance, never staying in one place too long, and always leaving an escape route, I was able to maintain the integrity of my skeleton and superstructure for some time.
Naturally, the longer I evaded them, the more complacent and convinced of my elusiveness and cleverness I became, and eventually, of course, I was caught slippin'.
It was a Sunday afternoon and I was in my friend Susie's garage, which featured only one operational ingress: the door to the kitchen, leaving me trapped like a rat. I wasn't feeling trapped when it all went down, and was in fact enjoying a lazy-Sunday mellowness that even pervades down to the lower orders. As I sat peacefully strumming my guitar, the door opened and a large man in full ass-kicking regalia — leather jacket, Mechanix gloves, steel-toes — walked in, followed by two more lesser guys and one mean-looking, if stylishly outfitted, woman.
"What's your name?" asked the leader.
"Flynn, what's yours?" I answered, sticking out my hand, already knowing what was up but opting to brazen it out.
Instead of shaking my hand or introducing himself, he snatched my guitar and administered an “El Kabong.”
You may recall the animated equine lawman Quickdraw McGraw and his masked vigilante alter ego El Kabong, whose echoic sobriquet recalled the sound of his weapon of choice, a guitar, crashing down on some evildoer's head. Damned if those sound-effects wizards at Hanna-Barbera didn't get it exactly right, down to the merrily chirping birds orbiting my kabong-ed dome. It didn't hurt as much as I thought it would, but it was a cheap instrument.
I picked myself up off the floor and pieces of guitar off my shoulders and said, "You must be Damian,” to the kabonger.
"Got it in one,” he said. "You ain't as dumb as you look. And act. How the fuck are you gonna rip me off?"
"I don't know that I did, and if I did, I didn't know it was you, and if it was, then I'm sorry, " I said, logically.
"Too late for that, shithead. Let's go, we're gonna take a little ride, " he said.
"Are you going to turn me over to the cops?" I asked.
Damian chuckled ominously. "Nope, you ain't gotta worry about that, " he said.
Shit. That didn't sound promising. I didn 't know these guys, or what they were capable of, but they were definitely scaring the crap out of me.
Pinioned by the two henchmen, I was led out to the car, a Jaguar XJS with creamy leather interior. I felt honored, like a high-class diplomatic kidnappee. One might expect a Fort Bragg snatch to commence with being trussed up and tossed into the back of a pickup or in the trunk of an old beater, but this operation seemed to be top-hole all the way.
The woman drove, Damian rode shotgun, and the henchmen flanked me in the back seat. We drove for what seemed like hours, first south and then east, beyond any human habitation or road improvements, and finally came to a stop where the dirt road was blocked by a giant deadfall. We all got out of the car, stretched, and Damian took a preliminary poke at my face. "You gonna put your hands up, or what?" he said.
"Well, is this a fight, or a beating?" I asked.
Long as it wasn't a murder.
"Eh, it probably amounts to the same thing, " he said, and started throwing punches at me in earnest, most of which glanced off fairly harmlessly as I flinched, ducked and dodged instinctively.
"This'd go a lot faster if you'd just hold still," Damian said.
"I honestly don't think it's something I can control, but I'll try," I said.
While this was going on, the two henchmen were laughing and delivering a humorous blow-by-blow account of the proceedings. But the woman was, unnervingly, glaring silently at me while nipping from a bottle of Jagermeister. Two things bothered me about this. One was her choice of libation. I don't know if it's something in its chemical makeup or just its reputation as a catalyst of chaos and discord that so unhinges people, but ounce for ounce Jager is responsible for more bad decisions, prison sentences, bloody denouements, walks of shame, unwanted babies and uncontrolled outbursts than any other beverage.
Also, anyone who doubts that the female of the species is deadlier is living in a dream world. Yes, men do most of the killing, but that is a small subset and pound-for-pound and per capita women are far meaner and more bloodthirsty, especially ones downing Jager and not smiling.
"Kill him!" she suddenly shrieked. "Smash his face in!"
"Relax, girl, I got this," Damian said.
"Cut his goddamn fingers off, that'll teach him to steal," she said.
I realized then that Damian's intent had been to bring me up here, knock me around a little, but mainly to throw a scare into me and teach me a muchneeded lesson. He wasn't motivated by anger or hate but more a public-minded duty to purge the community of thieves. A decidedly redneck-y approach to moral instruction and civic improvement. But effective. His mistake was in bringing a woman along, because any minute now she was going to draw a parallel between my remaining upright and Damian's lack of balls and gumption, forcing the issue and spelling doom for me. I figured the best course was to rile Damian sufficiently to mark me up enough to satisfy Lucretia McEvil's bloodlust. But just then she upended the bottle, said, "Let me show you pussies how it's done,” stomped over, cocked her arm back, and the last thing I saw was a square green bottle filling my field of vision.
I woke an indeterminate time later, pain, limited vision, and considerable exsanguination attesting to the indignities visited upon my head and face. I picked myself up, dusted myself off, improvised a bandage from my t-shirt, and trucked on out of there.
My face was quite a mess. One side remained numb for months. But the upside of it all, and yes, there was an upside, is that I discovered what politicians have long known: that sympathy can be as effective as accomplishment or character in determining public opinion. My approval rating soared in the wake of the incident and I “dined out,” so to speak, on the story for weeks.
We didn't so much eat food, but I got plenty of free drugs. There was even a marked uptick in sexual activity. So if you're having popularity issues, I can't say I actually recommend getting bashed with a Jager bottle to fix things, but it worked for me.