Dog City – David Lohrey

Reading about sex is among the most boring things one could ever do. Middle-aged Wasps and their first-time memories. Those numbing descriptions of dry fucks. Pussy awe. Self-consciousness. The echoing strains of the Star-Spangled Banner. It is sickening. That whole generation, all of it. The fumbling, hesitations, the discomfort, the guilt, and the endless cocktails. I’d much prefer perverts like William Burroughs, Paul Bowles, or Henry Miller. The Long Island prep-schools …any of them, all of them. What is it? It is all in line with Zuckerberg’s titty rankings and the birth of Facebook. 1950, 1990: what’s the difference? His world and how it tracks back to Love Story and panty raids. The Best Years of Our Lives.

You’ve been there. Lawrence Welk. Neil Simon. Getting blown in an alleyway and talking about it for the rest of your life. Can you write about a blowjob without mentioning that they’re wet? School of Fitzgerald. They erased the best of that generation, Thomas Wolfe. He was heading in the right direction. Instead, prose took a dive. American publishers went with despair. Cheever country. Impotence. Alcoholism. “Let me freshen that up for you, Bud. It is Bud, isn’t it? Or would you prefer Benedict?” Is there any doubt why Robert Petrie was played by a Dick?

Bud was over for the night and had been invited to stay. His pilot was out sick and was having trouble finding a replacement. Just the other night, Bud had been in bed with one hand on his dick and the other on “Eleven Foods for Amazing Sex,” the bestseller. He was eating cherries and clams. It was recommended to him by a female member of his staff. Women loved to read about sex. Pam had been in bed since three that afternoon. She didn’t just cry in bed; she went into the room of tears. There she settled all scores and plotted revenge. His wife was in her third term of office. Her father had been senator.

He found her in the morning with her nightie wrapped around her neck. She’d flung the covers on to the floor. She’d been passed over for vice-president, for the second time. There were tipped glasses on the carpet and empty bottles under the bed. “It was my glass ceiling to break,” she cried. “Now some other cunt will get a stab at it and with my luck it will be a Republican. A Republican with big tits like Elizabeth Dole.”

Thing is, his wife had the best political mind since Richard Nixon. Next to her, Carter had been an amateur. Bill was too nice. Reagan had always had it easy. He just sailed through. The donors had even bought him and Nancy a $25 million-dollar mansion out in Bel Air. He didn’t have to so much as lift a finger.

She’s had to suck cock her whole life and nothing had changed since Obama was in the White House. He was still pimping her out. Bush was like Reagan, hands off. Lofty, above it all. She and Nixon thought alike. She bribed both sides, fuck party loyalty. Make them all owe you was her motto. Now, it was payback time, big time. She’ll blow the roof off with her memoirs. “Kissinger is a pimp.” Pause. “Bud! Buddy boy, can I write that? Huh? Well, can I? I don’t want to get sued by that fucking Jew.”

She was in a foul mood. She was even using the N-word. It made Bud cringe. Some of his best friends were African Americans. “I didn’t say he was one. I said he smelled like one.” His wife always won arguments with Bud. She thought like a lawyer, while he just lied like one. “I’ll accept the nomination if they offer it? Are you kidding? I’ve bribed half of the delegates. Spent $5 million just to delay the floor count.”

“Come on. Do you have to do that here? You’ll ruin the covers. Turn off that phone. You and your pal Weiner! I wouldn’t send a picture of my dick if they paid me.” “Why don’t you get off your ass and do something. You can get the dog to lick you all over, like I do. You are so pitiful. Can’t you just use the sink.” “What do you mean, ‘I’m out of here?’ Where do you think you’re going? Sit. You know full well you are not going anywhere as long as I have those pics of you and that whore. You think you’ll get away with that? Wake up. They’ve got pics of you sitting on the can. And, now, they all belong to me. One wrong move, and you will be nothing in the national memory but a horny good old boy, but wait ‘til they see those pics I have of you and Senator Montgomery in the Lincoln bedroom.”

His hands were dirty. His toes smelled of ear wax. “Why has this man put an egg on my burger?” he asks. Bud is eager to get back to his book on Blood Island, the prisoner of war camp movie directed by Val Guest. And, he is reading a little poetry. T.S. Eliot writes a good-natured apocalypse. A wasp crawled into the marmalade. Blood orange or just plain bloody. How can he be expected to remember which? Then someone takes his towel and he blows up. “If you are going to be like that, I’ll just go home.” People look but can’t see who he is talking to.

Bud has been reading Amy Clampitt. At least she didn’t put her head in the oven, he can’t help thinking. In this shithole, only the children of the rich read books. Bud’s new neighbors listen to the radio and their kids play videogames. Their boys hide in the back and stick their cocks in the family robot.

“A falling cherry blossom is this body.” This was written by a nineteen-year-old kamikaze pilot in a haiku addressed to his sweetheart the night before he leaves the airfield to fly his Zero on a death mission into the side of the USS Something or Other. Bud wonders about the new anthology Clampitt’s publisher is advertising on the inside jacket of her collected works. “Bombs Away! War Poems for the Whole Family.” Jesus.

LaSabra Epps, Delbert Parker, and Earleen Jackson were part of the crew assigned to the Officers’ mess at Pearl Harbor. Bud’s grandfather used to come in a couple of times a day to pick up the garbage. He got to know LaSabra who, due to a wild coincidence, knew Bud’s grandfather’s family who lived in the same town as far back as 1927, how do you like that?

Humpty Dumpty had a fall and nobody heard a thing. And with that comes the end of the nursery rhyme as it had been known throughout history. T. S. Eliot asked the right questions. Bud’s grandfather possessed the mien of an aristocrat. It was his contempt for his superiors and his anger. Cheery he was not. Bud kept his distance from the old man. He tried to imagine what it must have been like in a barrack with several hundred men and never ever being touched. He watched the movies. He watched Combat. No one approached another soldier; nothing like that silly movie with Steve McQueen, with all that post-war comradery: the shoulder patting and the daily hand-shakes. Granddad went through the entire fucking war without so much as a pat.
“Up your bum, sir.” One of Bud’s favorite lines from that movie, The Darkest Hour; yes, Churchill has been schooled by his bright female secretary. She teaches him a thing or two. He had been running around town telling people to go stuff it.

Bud’s favorite French chef reminds viewers not to crack eggs on the edge of the pan.
He hits the egg on its side against the top of the table. This way no shell falls into the omelet. We sit and listen, but from time to time one wants to say, “Who put you in charge?” Am I wrong? Who the hell is he to tell anyone what to do?

The know-it-all vs. the dolt. Who can play the dolt? Movie opens just before Christmas. Harrison Ford? And the Jew? Jeff Goldblum? Dustin Hoffman? Whoever it is, he will be ignored. Herein lies the conflict. “There’s a fire! Run for your lives!” The hero is met with steely eyes. Lee Marvin’s. “Nobody tells me what to do.”

Everything is political. A popular transgender activist recently called for all children to be put on puberty blockers until they are able to decide which gender they want to be. Bud says fuck this. “Put everybody on hormones and let us all change sexes. Why the hell not? Mix it in with the vaccines. Men can start wearing lace masks. Women can switch to denim.”

In the dining hall of the Royal Cherry Blossom Hotel, Bud’s group gathers for their regular buffet dinner, a massive selection of Japanese dishes ranging from beef curry to sushi, miso soup, sesame salad, and vegetable tempura. Out of respect for the pandemic, social distancing was being observed with a maximum of two at tables previously set for four.

He and his wife sit fully clothed while most of the Japanese guests come to dinner from the public baths dressed in their bedclothes, consisting of thin bathrobes beneath long-sleeved jackets. As one glances around, one notices the ladies sitting primly with their knees together, drinking beer, while their husbands slouch in their chairs, manspreading thoughtlessly, wearing nothing beneath their robes. The view reminds the odd observer of notorious parodies of the Scots similarly exposed in their kilts, completely oblivious to the splendor of their immodesty.

The lobby is full of American tourists, talking endlessly and excitedly of the snow which a few refer to as racist. Talk of the Seven Dwarfs is offensive, one declares. “Jeez?”

In response to this, one of the attendees asks, “What’s that supposed to mean? You some sort of fucking Christian?” Another baffled look crosses the face of the youngest representative of the sales organization. “The fact that poets know St. Louis doesn’t mean their fingers smell of BBQ sauce. Lots of young people have never even heard of Miles Davis.” An interesting exchange breaks out. “Is Calcutta on the prairie or did it, too, follow Mr. Elliot to Europe?”

It takes considerable strain not to copy the rhythms of a Harvard graduate, although Bud’d prefer to have picked up the rhythms of Miles Davis, a man forced to eat coal on the other side of the river, while Ike and Tina Turner sang songs in the cotton fields of the Tennessee Delta. T. S. Eliot was about to enjoy cocktail hour with Viv his wife, as she tried to remove the wall paper with her teeth.

The insane asylum in the nation’s capital affords a view of the Washington Monument. Something tells me Ezra enjoyed a more comfortable stay than Viv Eliot in Bedlam, where patients who wet themselves were forced to eat their own diapers. Ezra smoked and enjoyed a sausage roll, while his friends Robert Lowell and William Carlos Williams rang the White House and demanded to speak with the General.

As the country seemed finally to enter adulthood, its greatest artists were drunken adolescents: Jackson Pollack, Jack Kerouac, and J. D. Salinger. Audiences had started to walk away from Arthur Miller, that most adult of theatre artists, and began to shack up with Edward Albee, the vaudeville crybaby who’d grown bored of the Rye Country Club set. This was the gang that took over from William Faulkner and Herman Melville.

You remember back then. Go on, admit it. Back when faces were out of fashion, during the triumph of the line and the squiggle, back then, when the drip was in: being and nothingness.
In those days, Bud was four. Robert Lowell declared it the skunk hour. Those waddling stinkers, of which Bud was one, only less hairy, surely, but just as ripe.

What of Elvis? It was said he had left the building, left it open, to run off to the Memphian Theatre. He had booked it for the night, the entire auditorium, so he could be alone.

Bud and the skunks waited outside. What movie was he watching, “Pillow Talk”? Or a preview of “Schindler’s List”? The Holocaust was on everyone’s mind; Elvis couldn’t stop talking about it. Robert Lowell, Bud, and Elvis: the boy knew better not to ask. He was too young to be allowed in. Like Elvis, Bud was fascinated by the Warsaw ghetto. They were proof positive of what Susan Sontag said was true: fascism was fascinating. People found Auschwitz unspeakable. Elvis was appalled, as was Robert Lowell. The word “unfathomable” hung on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Bud stood alone on the second balcony, in the colored section, watching the show. He had trouble gathering his thoughts. Why hadn’t John Wayne stopped them?

It was a double-feature. “Some Like It Hot” had just opened. A lovely man worked concession, busying himself with the buttered popcorn. Bud was quite sure he was listening to John Coltrane. It would soon be 1960. Bud would be five. He didn’t have long to live. Everybody died when JFK was shot. They went through the motions, trying their best to seem alright. “I’m fine.” “I’m good.” No reason to get ugly. Mass murder is hard to fathom. Assassinations are more personal. Like watching Ricky Ricardo get run over by a truck. Like watching your own father die of a heart-attack. We all go through it.