thug life and the scent of the naderites

The inside of the tent was a gagging cloud of sage, patchouly, sweat, and (most of all) marijuana smoke. A goat being roasted over a dung fire in a Mongolian yurt could not have smelled worse…”

 

by jon weatherford

 

I Fool Cheney, and Get Away…

Washington D.C.… I write to you this time from the U.S. Naval Observatory, the official residence of the Vice Presidency, where I am an honored guest of Mr. Cheney. Even now, I am comfortably ensconced in the “Quayle bedroom”, surrounded by all the opulence that Halliburton can buy. I’m typing on my brand new government issued laptop, I am guarded by a discreet secret service detail, and I’ve acquired a personal aide named Todd.

What the hell is going on here? Has our tireless guerilla journalist finally sold out to the dark side? Hardly, but let’s keep that on the down low for awhile, if you don’t mind. My present location, as well as my miraculous reversals of fortune, were all the result of a desperate ploy which at the time seemed like my only chance for survival. Let me take you back a few weeks.

After uncovering and publishing some Bush administration documents that I probably shouldn’t have seen, I was forced to flee our nation’s capital just ahead of Condoleeza “the Huntress” Rice, and her double re-curved titanium crossbow. I led her on a mad pursuit around the country, traveling mainly at night under assumed identities, sleeping when I could, and leaving little trace of my presence. Nonetheless, the enemies’ spies are legion; she remained close on my trail, and it was only a matter of time before one of those deadly bolts found its mark.

I was hiding out in another squalid motel room in Duluth, Minnesota when I hatched a plot so audacious, and so unexpected, that I thought it just might work. It was 3:00 a.m., but I burst out of my room, startling some teenagers who were busy unscrewing what has to be the world’s most pilfered road sign: that for the unfortunately named Richard I. Bong Recreation Area. After obtaining an extremely effective product known as “trucker’s delight” from a young man at the local gas station, I hit the road and drove twenty-six hours straight back to Washington D.C.

Arriving just at dawn, I faced a difficult decision, but I knew I had come too far to back down. I threw my wallet, my watch, my treasured laptop, and anything else that could possibly identify me into the back of my car, and then, with more than a few pangs of guilt, I rolled my trusty Honda into the Potomac River, where it sank without a trace. All I had were the clothes on my back and a motel bathmat as I sent off at a brisk pace toward the Vice Presidential residence.

The grounds were already bustling when I got to the Naval Observatory, but I managed to get through the gates unchallenged. Once there, I took a deep breath, summoned up what courage I had left, tied the bathmat around my head, and rang the doorbell. It was the Vice President himself who answered the door and I was momentarily speechless. I thought of the many things that I would dearly love to say to Dick Cheney, but most of them would’ve just gotten me a session with the interrogator. He regarded me with narrowed eyes – I probably just smelled liberal – and his finger edged closer to a button marked “The Hounds”.

“Wait!” I blurted, “I’m an Iraqi exile! I’m here to lead my people to a future of peace, freedom, and favorable trading partnership with the United States!” My attempt at an Arab accent hovered somewhere between Omar Sharif and Gunga Din. Cheney still looked wary, but interested now, so I forged ahead.

“I know where the weapons of mass destruction are hidden! All of Iraq will rise up to thank America with one joyous voice! And, ummm, I can even find Osama bin Laden for you! He… he calls me all the time, yeah.” Suddenly there was a commotion behind me and I turned to see Condi Rice striding angrily up the lawn, crossbow in hand. This had better work quick.

“Can you do all this by November?” Cheney rumbled. Apparently, the fact that my turban said “Red Roof Inn” on the side had not yet aroused any suspicion in the Vice President. Time to swing for the fences.

I looked him in the eye and said, “I can hold a televised ‘God Bless America’ parade on the streets of Baghdad in time for the Republican convention.” Life is a funny thing: one minute you’re fleeing for your very survival, the next you’re being hugged by our septuagenarian vice president while he’s still in his pajamas. He clutched me to his flaccid chest and whispered over and over “We’ve been waiting for you…”

“Okay, okay…” This was getting a little uncomfortable. Finally he released me and turned back into the house, yelling:

“Lynne! Get the fuck down here and cook us up some motherfuckin’ breakfast!” He started to go inside, but I was still nervously watching the Huntress, who was pacing back and forth on the grass like a caged tiger. Cheney followed my gaze and quickly intervened…

“Bitch, this motherfucker is the master motherfuckin’ Iraqi of ‘em all! Take your black ass back to the White House, and quit fuckin’ up my lawn. Damn!” The National Security Advisor merely glared at us with feral eyes, then raised her crossbow and skewered a squirrel to a tree nearly a hundred yards away as eloquent testimony to her intent. The Vice President was nonplussed:

“You wanna bring that shit to the house? Get your whole fuckin’ crew, ‘cause you know I take to the streets with any of these motherfuckers. Don’t think I won’t bust caps, bitch.” Rice was already walking away.

As I was discovering, outside of prepared statements Mr. Cheney happens to be (in his own words) a “hundred percent thug life gangsta” with a vocabulary that would make the Wu Tang Clan blush. Perhaps this is why he rarely appears in public.

***

Me and Red Light Out Alone…

Andrews Air Force Base, MD…So that’s how I came to be sleeping in the lion’s den. At first, I was terrified that I would be discovered as soon as Cheney or the President started asking me to back up my lofty claims. I was concerned that my total ignorance of Arabic, the Islamic religion, the culture of the Middle East, or even the specific geographical location of Iraq might be some impediment to my ruling the country. Not so, according to the hearty optimism of the administration’s “we’ll never be wrong as long as we don’t see the news” doctrine. In fact, having no real qualifications for the job made me an ideal candidate to follow in the Bush mold.

Still, I had assumed that I would at least have to go to Iraq to escape the clutches of the Huntress and Donald “the Interrogator” Rumsfeld – a prospect that frankly scared the hell out of me. Again, this was easily avoided. Over breakfast this morning I mentioned to the Vice President that I needed to go find some more recruits from within the U.S. and asked if I could borrow some transportation. Cheney immediately requested that an aide hand him “that motherfuckin’ cell”, made a few quick calls, and twenty minutes later an Army Blackhawk helicopter was touching down on the back lawn. This, I was informed, was my new ride.

The pilot was a tanned, grinning, oak tree of a guy named Red Mackey – “of the Amarillo Mackeys” – he informed me as I climbed into the cockpit. Red was talkative as he expertly piloted the chopper out across the city, and despite the fact that the Rush Limbaugh show was playing on Army radio, I liked him immediately. When Red asked me where we were headed, I hadn’t given it much thought, but I blurted out a location where I figured maybe a few attack helicopters should be sent: Ralph Nader’s campaign headquarters.

***

Rainbow Gathering, Near Boulder, CO…The stench here is abominable. We’ve had to set up camp several miles upwind of this political convention/hippie festival and Red steadfastly refuses to approach any closer. I have to wait a few days before I can get in to see the great candidate, and unless you drum, smoke weed, or love juggling brightly colored balls for hours on end, the gathering is a pretty boring place to be.

Red and I spend most of the time back at our camp reading, sleeping, and all the rest of our hours, trout fishing. We’re camped on a frigid little stream and although the fish are elusive, they make a spectacular substitute for the MREs we brought in the Blackhawk. Red talks endlessly about the three little Mackeys back in Amarillo and about his wife, Becky, who’s had to take a second job since the Army cut his health insurance. I’ve given up on any pretense of playing the Iraqi exile. I think Red saw through the act on the first day, but he seems happy to just be out here trout fishing instead ferrying politicians around the nation’s capital. This may make things a bit dangerous when we get back, but for now we have an unspoken truce. Best of all, for some reason we’re not getting reception for Radio Limbaugh out here, and Red has been reading. Uh oh, I think: it’s trouble for the Bushies when their base stops listening to the propaganda and starts reading books.

***

I Go in Amongst the Naderites

Finally, on the fourth day a deeply stoned messenger arrived and announced that I had been granted an audience with The Ralph. His tent was larger than the others and was located at the very center of the festival. We made our way through the unwashed hordes, passing at least a dozen middle-aged men dressed as Gandalf the wizard. Every other person seemed to be dragging a malnourished-looking husky mix named “Kaia” around on a hemp leash. We oozed through the throng slowly, dodging hacky-sacks, and refusing innumerable requests to fund the purchase of a “kind veggie burrito”.

Eventually, we emerged into a sort of clearing where the great candidates’ tent stood. It was green and gold and covered with prayer flags, herb bundles, and other various new age paraphernalia. I was immediately concerned that it had been stolen from the set of a Harry Potter movie.

The inside of the tent was a gagging cloud of sage, patchouly, sweat, and (most of all) marijuana smoke. A goat being roasted over a dung fire in a Mongolian yurt could not have smelled worse. It took my eyes awhile to adjust but amid the myriad hanging tapestries I could see a congregation of figures gathered at the back of the tent. I made my way through the haze, and soon discerned about two dozen of the rainbow gatherings’ more pungent bodies lounging on carpets around The Ralph, who presided over his flock on a throne of twigs. The throne appeared rather flimsily constructed, as if it had been made by squirrels perhaps, then borrowed for Mr. Nader’s use. With every slight shift the entire seat swayed drunkenly, audibly straining the wood, and sending bark and leaves floating to the ground. I judged that even a few hours of animated sitting would reduce the throne to more of a pile, so maybe they rebuilt it every night.

The world’s greatest consumer advocate seemed to be saving his ubiquitous dark suit for public appearances because at the time he was clothed in a flowing white robe adorned with various beads and the signs of the zodiac. Across his shoulders lay the most enormous ferret I have ever seen.

“I see that he who travels under the auspices of the military industrial complex has arrived,” Nader said as I walked up “Come closer, that we may converse, O spawn of Lockheed.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry about the helicopter, but it’s the only way I could get here, and Red’s a good guy, don’t worry about him.”

“Whether he is good who lies down with the murderers of babies is for the earth mother to judge, and that day shall come.”

“Um, yeah. Listen, Mr. Nader, you can’t be serious here, right? I mean this stuff, these people, this campaign.”

“Serious?!” The Ralph leaned forward, nearly destroying his poor twig chair. His voice lowered several octaves and became menacingly intense. “Serious is the corporate greed-mongers who ply their trade with ruthless efficiency, plowing cruel furrows in the souls of the workers, where they plant their poisoned money seeds nourishing them with the tears of the oppressed, and then reap their fell harvest, only to start over again.”

Whoa. I mean, I’m all for a little ragin’ against the machine here and there, but I was beginning to think that Ralph might have gone ‘round the bend a bit, as they say.

“But you’re a brilliant politician,” At least you were, I thought. “You know the American government inside and out, and you know what happened in 2000. There are conservative lobby groups showing up at your rallies, f’r chrissakes.”

“The fruits of the election will be as the fox who fooled the rooster. My campaign will bring glorious victory to the Democrats by creating in the Republicans a false vanity. Yet, it will matter not, as both are merely extensions of the corporate oligarchy which wallows in commercial greed.”

Whatever. Now I was getting mad.

“Which one is it? You’re trying to help the Democrats win, or you really think it doesn’t matter? Or are you lying to the voters just like everyone else?” That was when things got weird.

Nader picked up the ferret and appeared to converse with it for a moment, then pointed the animal at me. He held it upright, with one hand under its butt and the other on its neck so that is seemed to address me.

“Corvair believes that your mind has been twisted by the corporate…”

“You named the fucking ferret Corvair?”

“The ferret named itself.” He sniffed, “All beings are free to choose their own names within the Green party.”

I was standing there dumbfounded when a voice floated up from the floor to my right. “Party… Green party… Like kind green buds, man.”

The Ralph whirled to face this interruption. The chair gave signs of total structural failure and a pair of field mice scurried out from under it to search for safer quarters. He re-aimed the ferret to address the prostrate hippie. It was a good thing that weasel was so stoned, or else Nader would’ve been getting it surgically removed from his jugular. He squinted with concentration and for a moment I thought the real Nader – Harvard Law Nader, take on General Motors Nader – was going to put this moron in his place.

“A penetrating analogy, Riverwalker. I shall make you my Secretary of the Interior.”

Fuck this. I stormed out, kicking over a hookah for good measure.

Back at camp I flicked my line into the stream and angrily reeled it in over and over again. I couldn’t believe it: the guy was completely certifiable. You can’t fish mad, and all afternoon I didn’t see so much as the shadow of a trout. Red just watched me stomping around the bank with a sort of bemused indifference, and by nightfall I had calmed down somewhat. I resolved to go back, but I figured this time I needed to see Ralph without the circus.

It was a little after midnight when I crawled under a loose flap in the back of the main tent. It still reeked in there, but it was mercifully quiet. Through the tapestries I could see Nader talking purposefully to a few remaining who looked to be completely passed out. I could only make out a few snippets, but he seemed somehow clearer, more reasoned than he had this afternoon. I was creeping closer to listen when suddenly I heard another noise from off to my left. I froze, and peering through the gloom, I made out another figure crouching about ten feet behind The Ralph. Screw surprise, I thought, this could be trouble. I flipped on my maglite and illuminated the skulking figure.

It was none other that Yoko Ono, holding a blowgun and a bag of tree frogs. For the second time that day, I was completely dumbfounded. Yoko, on the other hand, spun round with surprising ferocity and trained the blowgun on my neck. For an instant, I knew I was doomed. I too would be stuck in the tent with the “functional” glass artists, and the unemployed massage therapists. It was Corvair that saved me.

Apparently the drugs had begun to wear off on him, just as they had on Nader. The ferret skimmed across the floor in a gray blur and bit Yoko on the ankle just as she was about to shoot. At first I didn’t understand what had happened, but then she coughed and I realized that she must have swallowed the dart. Her pupils dilated visibly until they looked like two big black buttons in her eyes.

 “You shall know the triangle by the shoes it wears,” she told me.

“Weren’t the Beatles enough for you?” I asked, but she just sat there gazing at a candle.

I had to get Nader out of there, and give him a chance to sober up. I kicked Riverwalker until he woke up, then handed him the blowgun and the tree frogs, and told him to re-dose Yoko at least twice a day. I figure Riverwalker would have probably quickly forgotten most missions, but getting people high pretty much seemed like his raison d’etre. I was confident that Yoko would be plenty stoned enough to keep her out of trouble for years to come.

At first Nader was too dazed to leave, but I told him that some ordinary people were being taken advantage of down by the creek, and we were off like a shot. Red was sleeping in a hammock that he’d strung under the Blackhawk’s tail rotor, but he quickly woke up as we tromped back into camp. It didn’t seem wise to wait around to see what the rainbow campaign would do when they realized that their leader had been taken from them. We weren’t so much scared of the reaction as we were worried that it would just be disturbing and pathetic.

Ralph Nader was badly confused by this point. After all, he had no idea whether to trust me and Red any more than the band of lunatics that had been leading him around for the past four years. I wanted to tell him what had happened, but he crouched in the back of the helicopter like a kicked dog, glaring mistrustfully at us. As soon as we were in the air, I handed him my phone and said:

“Here, call one of your old friends – anyone you want. Ask them what you’ve been up to.” From my spot, the conversation sounded like this:

“Much better, yes, thanks.”

“That creepy little governor of Texas? Yeah, I remember him.”

“Unbelievable, how could that guy get elected?

“I DID FUCKING WHAT?!?”

Originally published:
Issue Thirty-Two
September 2004

 

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