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The Accidental Oracle

Dear Orakle:

I done worked my whole retchful life, nigh a hunnert 10 years, and cain’t read nuthin’ but the mule kicks on ‘shine (X X). So my 8 year old Teddy3 reads your writin’ to me (y’all near blinded the boy lookin’ up words in The Dictionary!) and he’s writin’ this here letter.

Any-hoot, I has to ask: how in tarnation did’juh come to Orakulate so good?

—Hiram McGizzle, Heathens Holler, Ohio

Dear Hiram:

The story goes: I was invited to the White House for the Great Communicator Awards, where conservative foundations honor their favorite commentators. I was happy to attend, but I think they confused me with the Occidental Oracle, who specializes in criticizing “oriental culture,” like accusing their rural populace of slurping noodles and spitting all over the place, while conveniently forgetting that—until recently—our rural populace spent most of its time drunkenly yodeling odes to heroic hogs, like the following from my American Idyll: Smithsonian Field Recordings from Tha ‘Hood to Them-thar Hills collection:

They calls him Homer

but that’s a Miss Nome-r

‘Cause he never stays nowhere

and never has him no cares

He just lives life fuller’n any man

That is, like only a pig can

After shaking hands with a few sweaty functionaries in the reception line, I got to shake the First Lady’s hand. I felt a prick in my palm as I admired the silver ring snaked around her finger, and my hand was stinging before I reached the next person in line.

As I stood there staring at the tiny ball of blood in my palm, the room started spinning and the people began changing in hideous ways. Their eyes rolled up in their heads, foot-long centipedes crawled from their sleeves and wasps swarmed out their mouths. President Bush and Vice President Cheney were licking each other’s face when Mr. Cheney morphed into a gelatinous blob, swallowed the Commander in Chief and leapt to the ceiling, dripping white goop that burned holes in the carpet and melted Ann Coulter’s plastic shell to reveal a burnt cuckoo clock with a Hitler bird that popped out every few seconds shrieking bloody murder.

I turned to ask Mrs. Bush what was wrong, but she was cackling and drooling like a happy buzzard when her head split open and two new ones burst out her neck, with the left one’s face alternating between Julia Roberts and cigarette mascot Joe Camel, and the right one’s between Condoleezza Rice and a Chucky doll. Then bright foot-long tongues slithered from her mouths, one red and one blue, and licked each other in ways wicked enough to make the horniest of porn stars shrivel in revulsion.

In a duet of high-pitched, synthetic voices crackling with reverb, her heads chanted “WE HAVE YOU NOW… Soon we shall chew your eyeballs and stew your entrails, and make you ONE OF US Ah…ha-ha-ha-hah!!! (And by the way, congratulations on your award—that piece you did on Sony’s ‘Sorry’ ad campaign was genius!)”

Then just as quickly as it started, the room stopped spinning and Mrs. Bush returned to her normal, shiny self, a cluster bomb in a box of chocolates, and asked “Would you like to meet my daughters?” as she flicked her eyes down a long hallway, where the smiling twins stood beckoning in light blue milkmaid outfits.

The twins’ telepathic, hypnotic chant—something like “feed us leather”—drew me down the hall, floating an inch off the floor. I passed out after the walls erupted in flames, so I’m not sure what they did to me. I felt a decade older afterwards, but strangely serene, and ever since then I’ve had a nagging desire to live in a whitewashed farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, inhale head-cracking fumes from a red NASCAR t-shirt soaked in ethanol, and listen to the wind whisper through the corn.

And ever since then “the answers” just pop into my head.

—A. O.

Dear Mr. Oracle:

(Accidental is an unusual name. Were your parents hippies?)

You know that Doctor Philipe, PhD, who gives advice on Public TV? I have mailed him several letters asking for help, but he has not answered a single one. He is quite the handsome hunk, and acts all sensitive and concerned on TV, but he is nothing but a stuck-up phony! So I am turning to you, Mr. Oracle, for answers.

I have a “love disorder” that, if someone looks a certain way, makes me fall madly in love with them. It doesn’t matter if they’re meaner than Hannibal Letcher inside, I would still love them—like I still love Doctor Philipe!

Something about them makes me feel like I’m in heaven. I know it’s stupid, because what would I do if we were together? Sit around and stare at him as the light falls “just so” on his scars and razor stubble? Inhale deep lungfuls of his musky scent as he thrashes and screams in his sleep, reliving all the horrible things he’s done in wars and football games?

So can you give me some answers about this painful condition? I have a good feeling about you, Accidental (if I can call you that—I feel closer to you already), and I just know you are not a stuck-up jerk like Doctor Philipe!

Oh God, please help me… I still love him!

—Estrella Weeks, Enid, Oklahoma

Dear Estrella:

(It hurts a little to be your backup guru. And no, my parents were not hippies, according to Headmistress Zympf at the orphanage, but “a sturdy couple overwhelmed by the prospect of raising such an unusual child.”)

Yes I have seen “Doctor” Philipe on TV, and I’m always shocked to find him still on the air. I can only conclude that he’s employed the same cheap charisma he uses to hypnotize viewers—amplified by those blinding, horse-like teeth and the empty, soothing words that leave his lips like bubbles rising in a lava lamp—to seduce some lonely member of the Public TV board of directors. He reminds me of a revival-tent faith healer, except that he doesn’t even bother to trot out crutch-dropping cripples to “prove” the efficacy of his New Age snake oil.

Your “love disorder” is not uncommon, Estrella; our DNA makes us all slaves to desire. The “love” you feel is actually a chemical reaction, no different than salivating in response to a sensuous food, say a pink T-bone steak dripping fat on charcoal with the sibilant hiss of lava flowing into the ocean, and the aroma of the steer’s barbequed spirit returning to the delicious ether from whence it came.

And speaking of juicy steaks, scientists used to believe that love disorders could be satisfied with more easily obtainable things like food. Unfortunately, “eating your way out” has proved a poor strategy, because all the steak, cheese and chocolate in the world, despite the insulation they add to your body, cannot shield you from desire.

That is why, if the standard treatments—aversion therapy, electroshock, and the so-called “love lobotomy,” where technicians place you in a brain scanner and play romantic music, then vaporize responsive lobes with a laser—fail, I suggest you confront your demons directly, in the form of the great “Doctor” Philipe.

I just happen to know that he leaves the Public TV soundstage on West 67th Street here in New York shortly before sunset each Tuesday and Friday evening. Contact me before you go, and I’ll bring my video camera to record your meeting.

When the “Doctor” comes out of the building, grab him firmly by the arm and yell your questions so the camera can pick them up. Ask him why he did not answer your letters, and if the school of dental cosmetology that bleaches his teeth also awarded his PhD.

I’m sure your intense interest in his personal life will win him over and, as the sun sets over Central Park and turns the sidewalks to gold, he will invite you into his limo and on to an elegant bistro, where you will nibble succulent legs of lobster and lamb, and share intimacies as you sip wine…

...wept from vines throbbing with the blood of knights lashed to horses blinded in battle, teetering six-legged monstrosities that brayed all the way from Jerusalem, then sheltered one night at a remote abbey run by furtive monks who served them, as morning’s first light came burning across the Balkans, headfirst unto the cracked throat of the earth, to wet that very vineyard…

Either that, or you will see the “Doctor” for the transparent fraud he is, drown your sorrows with a few hot dogs from a sidewalk cart, and learn to resist the temptation that lurks in your genes.

—A. O.


Kurt Strahm


The Brooklyn Rail

JUN 2007

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