Tuesday, January 4, 2011


My old pal Herk Robinson, now an eminence grise by default, has done it again. Not only has he changed horses in mid-stream, he's changed outfits as well, something usually possible only in a movie with a blind continuity man.
BBBA 97: a blueprint for
the madness yet to come...

So began the essay in BBBA 97 for--yes, the Kansas City Royals. You have to admire the dogged consistency of the blind continuity men who've taken Ewing Kauffman's dream and turned it into a nightmare with pink frosting. Only in the Midwest can something so dark get decked out in pastel colors.

Herbert "Herk" Von Karajan,
feeling the death but not the
transfiguration of the KC Royals
And so the question rages, then lingers in the air like a threatening figure from Mahler (or maybe it's Bruckner--all those Austrian fellas are pretty dour): is Herk a jerk? Or has he finally become a maestro, the Herbert von Karajan of the prairie? Does he conduct his business in a string tie or in a tuxedo? Is that a cummerbund or a straitjacket he's got on?

Well, we know now that none of this matters. But it wasn't for nothing that Herk was compared to a man who'd been dead for nearly a decade. Now, nearly a decade and a half later, the team he helmed remains in rigor mortis.

And why does his head bob up and down like that, sort of a petit mal Leonard Bernstein does Stravinsky in Dallas thing?

The objective, of course, was to make references just about as far away from a baseball diamond as it was possible to fashion, sending up the already-calcifying "snark" style that would soon trample out the vintage with a wrath more aligned with pizza and beer than the grape.

Not for nothing had the author conflated Thomas Pynchon and Jim Murray. But the complications of the plot were as surreal as the specter of so many years of blindness, bereft of everything, even the comforts of mixed metaphor. There was no greater challenge than to write oneself into a corner and then find some unexpected leap to a barren narrative crag, while all the while looking nonchalant.

It might have been a massive cranial injury that spawned the epileptic exchange of personnel. As you can see in the cat scans, there has been some internal bleeding in the subalpine region (or is that sub-tropical zone? And why do these X-rays look suspiciously like weather charts, anyway? And how did Bogie get into that commercial with David Bowie? Don't stick your occipital lobe out for nobody...)

Now batting cleanup for the Royals:
Richard Simmons!! (Note how he's
ever-so-slightly blurred--and how much

his smile resembles Jeff Francoeur's...)
Despite the above mix-up, all of our tests shows that the Royals had a serious problem on their left side, a structural weakness that had severe potential for paralysis. Doctor Robinson here (tragically separated from his Swiss Family through a morphing accident) made the diagnosis: a whole new regime was needed. (A wonderful word, regime: so medical, so military, so Niebelungen: makes me want to dust off the old Nordic Trak and sweat to the oldies.)

It got better--and worse--at the same time. That was always my guarantee. And who knew that such would be so prophetic in terms of the ongoing, dogged consistency of the "regime" in Kansas City, which still has that "hey, let's build a treehouse!" kind of approach to the job at hand--even if there are no trees anywhere in sight!

Now leading off for the Royals (and oh so
happy about it!): Helena Bonham Carter
And as the doctors walk out of the X-ray room, with smug looks of self-congratulation surgically implanted on their faces, we suddenly find ourselves inside the cluttered, cloistral laboratory of Dr. Victor Frankenstein (known, for reasons best left unexplored, as "Herk" to his friends), where a series of badly-lit experiments are going on. Over in the corner there is some operatic screaming being done by one of Dr. Herk's failed attempts at parthenogenesis, an ungainly and grotesque female with the facial features of Helena Bonham Carter and the bloated heft of Kirsten Flagsted. These shimmering shrieks and glottal glossalalia are reminiscent of vocal blackboard-fingernail juxtapositions achieved by some sinister Siamese coupling of Yoko Ono and Meredith Monk--banshees on benzedrine.

An endurance contest--that's what it is. And the prophetic parallels with the Royals were there from the start, in the shards of pestilent prose, turning quagmire into an unutterable series of infernal transitions leading nowhere (and everywhere). Ye Olde Wild(e) Goose Chase, to wit.

Most unwitting, however, is the fact that the Royals themselves have remained locked in Dr. Herk's cabinet for lo these many years, well after the good doctor has made like Elvis and left the building.

So how did I extricate myself from that para-literary cul-de-sac? You'll just have to get your not-yet cold, dead hands on a copy of BBBA 97 to find out. But it was the narrowest of all possible escapes:

Wow, even I wasn't sure how I was going to get out of that one. There is nothing like aleatory allegory, except possibly for surrealist satire. The margin of escape does seem to be shrinking, however.

The question for a BBBA 2011 (that phantom annual that only insomniacs can read when they're not sure if they're awake or actually dreaming) would be: is there a margin of escape for the Kansas City Royals? Or will the wild, overwrought words from BBBA 97 still be applicable in another fourteen years?