Weekly Hypothetical – Poems Or Power Chords?

More frightening than those cautionary driver's education films they made you watch in high school.

When I first moved to Phoenix, I rented a house for two years. The landlord was an elderly lady who wrote the lease out on notebook paper with one hand as she sipped on a pint glass full of vodka with the other. In her lap was her granddaughter. This lady could drink. The only problem was, she still drove. And by drove I literally mean she weaved curb to curb until she got to where she was going to. How she managed to avoid a serious accident and arrest, I will never know.

On the last day of my lease, I saw her through the bedroom window as she pulled up to inspect the house. She parked her huge Exxon Valdez-like Caddy on the front lawn, surreptitiously looked around, and took a long pull off of a flask. When I greeted her at the front door, she informed me that she had had some dental work done, and she was on “a lot of pain killers”. This I believed as she walked through one of the bedrooms and managed to stagger into opposite walls, ten feet apart. It was like watching her drive.

As she was paying me my deposit back in cash, totally overlooking a few things that should have eaten into that deposit, I said to her, “You know, if you’re on such heavy pain medication, maybe you shouldn’t be driving. Do you want me to call you a cab? Or, if you want, I could drive you home.” Her response was, “I have been driving for over 50 years. I know what I’m doing.” The last time I saw her, she slowly ran a stop sign, cutting the corner and sending her car up over the curb, narrowly missing a fire hydrant in the process.

"I know what I'm doing"

"I know what I'm doing"

Phoenix, especially in the winter, has lots of people like this behind the wheel: Probably too old to be driving in the first place, often intoxicated (especially near golf courses), and of the attitude that since they’ve been driving for over a half a century, they should be allowed to drive without restriction because they “know what they’re doing”. To restrict their driving in any way would be “age discrimination”, which is about as asinine an argument as you can possibly make. If any seniors out there seriously believe that age discrimination is not a good idea when it comes to driving, I’d like to remind them that I’ve got a five year old who would love to take a crack at driving their Cadillac.

And so I found myself calling the AARP one day not long after an 85 year old man had run over a bunch of people in an outdoor market in LA, reigniting the age discrimination debate. I did this to entertain myself and a coworker, and also to prove to myself that yes, the argument was as stupid and indefensible as it seemed. I invented an unborn son, and dialed AARP’s customer service number:

AARP: Thank you for calling AARP, my name is Steven. How may I help you today?

Greg: Hi Steven, my name is Greg, and I’d like to enquire about AARP membership for my son.

AARP: Ok, Greg, I’ll be happy to help you with that. May I ask you how old your son is?

Greg: Zero, actually. He’s due to be born in August.

AARP: Ok, sir. AARP membership requirements clearly state that you must be at least 50 years of age to enjoy AARP membership. We do have an associate membership program for those under 50, but it is not intended for children.

Greg: But that doesn’t make sense.

AARP: I’m sorry sir, what doesn’t make sense?

Greg: Well, you’ve got this wonderful organization that gives out perks to members, gets special concessions from local, state, and federal government bodies, gets discounts on goods and services virtually nation-wide, and you won’t let my son join?

AARP: I’m sorry, sir, but your son does not meet the membership requirements.

Greg: Which are based on what, again?

AARP: His age.

Greg: Ok, so let me ask you this. If age discrimination is ok for AARP to engage in when nothing is at stake, how is it that age discrimination becomes so terrible when addressing senior drivers when people’s lives are literally at stake?

AARP: (click)

I’ve made more than my share of prank phone calls over the years, but I believe that was the only time a customer service representative for a large organization ever hung up on me without at least informing me he was about to do so. I guess Matlock was on.

Matlock: More important than work.

Matlock: More important than work.

So, why do I bring this up today? Because if you happen to be the drunken fucker behind the wheel of a maroon Cadillac who peeled out of a Walgreen’s parking lot and almost broadsided me last night, I hope you crash that fucking geezer-mobile into a fucking overpass and take yourself out before you kill someone else, you thoughtless fucking prick.

And that, my good friends, is what I like to call the Arizona Snowbird Greeting. On to the hypothetical question of the week, submitted to us by reader ArgleBargle:

If you had to choose between being the shittiest popular rock musician and the best poet in the world, which would it be?

So you’re basically asking me how badly I’d want to avoid being a member of Nickelback? Pretty badly, as it turns out. At first glance, you’d think the way to go would be to take the money, the fame, and the girls, and never look back, right? So you’re in Nickelback and people with taste and brain cells don’t like you, so what? To answer that question, I’ve enlisted the help of Rob Pilatus, former member of Milli Vanilli.

Greg: Rob, given your experience with being in a popular musical act that suddenly became vilified, what impact did this have on you as a person?

Rob Pilatus: (still dead)

Greg: Exactly. Rob, thank you for joining us.

Wow, what musicians!

Wow, what musicians!

You might think that sleeping on a giant pile of money would insulate you from the slings and arrows of others, but when you can’t answer the door for a couple of Girl Scouts without being called a pussy, that has got to drag on you.

Poets, meanwhile, may not get the obvious rewards in terms of cash, fast cars, big houses, or even meals, but you know one things poets score like no one else? The poon. What girl doesn’t like a well turned romantic phrase? It’s a refreshing change from the lout they’re currently hooked up with, who tends to say things like “You call this a fuckin’ burrito?” and “Move your fat ass, Darlene!” Women absolutely swoon over poets, and poets know this damn well.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful – a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

Now if that doesn’t get me some fucking pussy, I’ll eat my motherfucking britches

– John Keats, La Belle Dame Sans Merci

John "Gorilla Dick" Keats, 1795 - 1821

John "Gorilla Dick" Keats, 1795 - 1821

Seriously, rock stars are so notorious for their heathen ways, they’ve got cops, prosecutors, church leaders, politicians, and pretty much every group of do-gooders in the world looking over their shoulders, just waiting for them to fuck up and snort blow off the ass of a 15 year old. Poets? No one, and I mean no one keeps an eye on them. So they’re free to work their magic.

And, much like rock stars who have climbed the peaks of fame, poets can achieve a measure of success so great that, lack of money notwithstanding, they can coast on reputation alone. And much like aging rock stars, they can just phone it in. Take, for instance, the transcript of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, as read by the author in 1963:

April is the cruellest month…
Yadda, yadda, yadda…
Let’s see here… Unreal City under the brown fog
…aaaand so on and so forth.
All right, let’s see some tits!

All the ladies give it up for modernist poems that shift between satire and prophecy.

All the ladies give it up for modernist poems that shift between satire and prophecy.

So, ArgleBargle, in the tradition of the great poets, I’ll opt to pursue truth and beauty at the expense of material possessions. That ought to score me some fuckin’ trim.

There once was a man from Nantucket