The Psychic Bartender: Pole Dancing

August 10, 2011

"k1f" Kirby Farrell

No, no: not a guy from Warsaw doing the boogaloo.  Racier than that.

Guy saunters into the bar wearing a striped tie with a gold kangaroo tie clasp.  He lights a cigar the size of a rolling pin.  I tell him there’s no smoking.  He smiles: “We want to buy this place.  Think the owners would sell out?”

“Who, the EBF?”  I shrug. “They’re a group of pointy-headed philosophers, so they’re always broke and begging for money.”

“Good.  First we ditch the Denial File thing.  That is so retarded. Then we liven up the joint by bringing in pole dancers.”

“Pole dancers?  You mean gorgeous babes stuffed with silicone like a kielbasa who swing around a pole wearing fresh air and false eyelashes?  All in favor, wiggle your ears.”

“Get with the program, mate.”  The guys draws voluptuous female curves in the air with his glowing cigar.  “Nudity is so totally yesterday.  Live sex is a yawn.  A little grunting and scuffing, then some sweet nothings and mopping up. Next.”  The smoke seems to be coming out his ears.  “No, we’re looking for real stimulus. Real juice.  Customers want fresh fear and anger to put a little spark in the tank.”

“Fear and anger about what?”

“People are worn down by the everyday grind of underemployment, overwork, and having to step over all the junk they’ve bought from China.  They’re numb.  My pole dancers can get them fired up with thrilling fear and righteous wrath.”

“Excuse me,” I say.  “But pole dancers?”

He pats me on the head with his burning cigar, helping me understand fear better.  “Don’t be a dufus, Rufus. My business is media.  Pole stands for Polarization, and Dancers means Dancing Around Facts.  It’s the cleverest and also the stupidest trick ever invented.  We headline pole dancers like Wisconsin tea party organizer and children’s book author Kim Simac, who’s compared American public schools to the Nazi regime. We spotlight sexy congressmen who call the president Antichrist or tar baby, and op-ed liberals who call conservatives with firm opinions terrorists.  Some people get off on information.  Bo-o-ring.  We polarize.”

“I’m confused.”  My brain feels like a wad of chewed bubblegum.  “Some extreme positions are realistic – like ducking a tornado, say.  And some are lunatic rant.”

“So?  It’s all news.  Pay attention to business. You can’t have a real tornado every five minutes. Customers want a drink with some kick in it, not the tepid stuff you serve here.  Let death help you think about the beautiful meaning of life.  Bo-o-ring.  Bend over and we’ll give you a beautiful enema.”

“That’s an extreme example.  I’d have to disagree.”

“Ah, disagreeing!  Fired up already.  Good.  Let me take your pulse.”

Guy grabs my wrist and in some sort of judo hold making me howl and the cash drawer spring open. “Hey?” I squawk.  “Hands off!”

“Just testing.  Now pay attention.  Let’s take the negotiations over the US debt ceiling in the news.  It’s just bargaining, poker bluffs, winking.  Bo-o-ring.  So we polarize it.  Presto.  Suddenly it’s political enemies fighting to the death.  The socialists are bankrupting us with medical and social security giveaways and the debt will kill your grandchildren.  The patriotic conservatives want to shrink bloated government and toughen us up to create jobs and prosperity.  See, the two sides are exciting enemies.”

“Wait.  You’ve loaded the argument to make all social programs look bad and toughness sound good.”

“Oho!  You favor flabbiness?”

“Not what I said.  This is like the buildup to World War 1.  Half of Europe was pushing for a short, brisk war to stop the countries going soft.  Only the war turned out to be one of the most insanely stupid and destructive in history.  Unbelievable death and suffering.”

“So?  What’s your point?”

“Look at the fears today that the US is going broke, everybody’s a fat and lazy welfare cheat, so we need lean and mean government to toughen up.  You’re pushing the same polarized delusions.”

“I’m strictly objective.  We present both sides.”

“Are you telling me the rich aren’t trying to squeeze the poor?  Or that the corporate military isn’t running history’s most expensive empire? Or that — ”

“Ah!  Look at you!  All fired up!  Beautiful!  –Wipe the spittle off your lower lip.  Don’t you feel better telling me off?

“But people don’t think straight when everything’s polarized.”

“Tut tut.  You and I are polarized right now.  Are you telling me you’re not thinking straight?”

“Polarization is white hats and black hats.  Angels and demons.  God and Satan and burning the neighbors at the stake as witches.”

“Yes, that was a thrilling time to be alive.  You could watch sinners squirm and scream as the flames rose, and you’d love being on God’s team — you can really put some feeling into your prayers of thanksgiving after a triumph like that.”

“Triumph!  People must have stunned.”

“That’s the great thing about polarization.  It’s inside you as well as all around you. As your neighbor burns at the stake, you can weep at the pity of it and curse the Evil One — and enjoy a tasty hotdog and beer afterward.  Isn’t ambivalence wonderful?  It’s great to be alive.”

“That is really perverse.”

“Not so glum, chum. Think how much creative energy the settlers unleashed by deciding that the only good Indian is a dead Indian.  A little forty-niner gold, a little Custer bluster, and why, in a couple decades they had the wild west laid out for the Chamber of Commerce.”

“It’s not that schematic,” I protest.  “Personality isn’t an on-off switch.”

“Yes, you’re right.  I’m wrong. The sad truth is, personalities are boring.  You could waste hours trying to figure out other people’s inner muddles when you could be golfing or collecting rent or choosing the right nail polish.”

“Wait.  What about love?  Desire?”

“Good point.  Airbrushed models and celebrity stars make perfect pole dancers because you love them and they love you.  And, best of all, they show up the losers and enemies that you need to despise.”

“Hold it.  That’s not what I mean.”

“See? There you go again.  Trying to show you’re different.  Everybody wants to believe they’re special.  And nothing makes you feel more special than polarization.  It works better than flags and tattoos.”

The cigar smoke was making my eyes water.   I coughed: “You can’t walk in and buy this place like a broadcast monopoly.”

“Hey, don’t lose your temper at me,” he says blowing a perfect smoke ring.  “I already own most of the bars and customers on this street.  They love me.”

“So what’s it like being in your shoes?  What’s in it for you? Where are you going with this pole dancing empire?”

“Whoa, Joe.  This isn’t about me.”

“Sure it is.  This is a psychic bar.  People say what’s on their minds, I listen.  Stick around.  Have a drink.  If you know the polarization is all manipulated, where do you fit in?  Ever feel like you’re the richest guy on the street with the cars zinging past and nobody knows you’re alive? How do you feel about — ?”

“Hey hey, that’s personal.  I don’t do personal.  I have PR people for that.  I didn’t come in here for an enema.”  He bursts out laughing and reaches in his suit pocket.  “Here, mate.  Have a cigar.”


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