A Small Medium @ Large

November 07 – Talk’s going around that the Ozarks is due for a musical upgrade. You know, something featuring a proud and rugged people, the allure of pollen filled sunsets and haunting cell phone towers. We need a break-out song that’s humorous, patriotic and inspires the kind of sub-cultural irony that could easily be retweeted. 

I’m no musician, see, but I’m pitching this idea with an original member of the Ozark Mt. Daredevils. He’s got that kind of talent that speaks to my kind of people, the rarely silent majority. “We’re still right here Standing On The Rock dude, Twittering our little fingers off!”

“Maybe” I says, scanning the instruments adorning his Springfield living room, “there could be a big contest. Think of Peyton and Brad’s ads (P. Manning, pro football’s famed bad boy, and country music artist B. Paisley- ed.) for Nationwide. “Dah-dah-dah’s on your side.” I sing helpfully.

“The TV says they’ve hit the road, searching for inspiration.  Now, substitute the Ozarks and the quest for a new image, something that makes independence from the Nanny State more conceptually appealing! It’d be so totally electric!” 

“Something that says life begins outside your parents’ basement” I intone. “Says, better get back to the country! Something indicating that’s where we all come from. I really think this would fly. I’m thinking Boomers and Millennials.” 

“There’d be standards for judging, of course.  Which upcoming artist could best drag the Ozark imagination kicking and screaming into the first half of the last century? It’s controversial, I get it, but you’ve got to reinvent the concept of heaven if you want to get out of hell.” You could feel the goose bumps forming.

“I dunno” he says, carefully weighing his words. “It’s not as easy as overturning an election.” I nod at the sage comparison. “This is a dramatic moment in American history. You’d need a stunt to compete with the live coverage of Congress, something fundamentally unexpected. A forward looking era of reconciliation, say, and the end of polarization. Think U.S. of Yay!”

“It should be rad.” I agree. “Like the 1969 tune “Give Peace a Chance.” The Plastic Ono Band utilized the shock of surprise. Same way, we’d have to go big, go fast, and come from everywhere at once. Plus, this time wear clothes.”

“Yeah,” he admits. “Expectations change. Nobody goes into politics out of necessity anymore. They’re already rich when they start. Now Congress has got nothing to do but chart better collision courses for the future. But music’s liberating, gets folks to dream they could, on their own, improve ways to undermine foreign elections and export democracy to places with no impeachment procedures. There are still cultures with no reasonable imitation of due process!”

“We’d need a media angle” I echo. “Whoever controls it controls the mind!”

“But Facebook’s making it tough to do” he posits. “Finding the best foundation for dry skin is what’s trending. Or those tacky bedroom décor things we all do, but should stop immediately. Personally, I’d check out Khloé Kardashian’s enigmatic Instagram messages. ‘Today shouldn’t be the day you finally get what you deserve.’ It’s pure gold for post ironic openings.”

“That’s exactly what I’m getting at” I shout. “She makes you ask why there’s never, ever been a folk song celebrating tort lawyers and free trade bankers. Same way, the Ozarks must differentiate its memes through reverse psychology. Forget growing pot to pay off the mortgage. Picture something in the key of C, right, like The Gentlemen who Foreclose on Widows. Am I Right?” 

(This album is hopelessly lame.  It’s surprising anyone would make or listen to this sort of limply competent stuff you’d expect to find in all-inclusive Caribbean resorts, a faux-Jamaican patois to Marley’s spirit, as well as references to living off the land that just seem hollow and unintentionally hilarious, coming from some of the world’s wealthiest musicians.  If this is the real Banksters, maybe they should go back to pretending- ed.)

“Or even better,” I press, “EMP Moon” (album). I hum a few bars from “She Don’t Hold My Beer No More.” The family dog, Vanilla, alerts as I make the universal air guitar gesture, then barks enthusiastically at my totally compelling Morrison riff. The entire neighborhood shakes to an inaudible garage band beat.

“Let me guess,” the Daredevil replies in so many words, his hands suggesting a riff on an air keyboard. I close my ears to better hear a rendition from the “Red Hot Day Traders and the Trailer Babies.” Music’s nothing if not telepathic.

“I dunno” he repeats sagely when I return to present time. “Can’t leave listeners feeling abused. Can’t overdo the obscurity. Not enough oxygen” he signals in the creole-based ASL (American sign language- ed.), then immediately follows with the unambiguous gesture for “and forget Photoshopping Trump on the cover.” 

 (I think it’s important, at this point, to remind Herald readers that common hand gestures can get you in serious trouble outside the US.  Like when George H.W. Bush tried to signal “peace” during a visit to Australia in the early ’90’s.  

The soothing reverie of a nearby wall clock sets the introspective moment. “No,” he finally says “I think the most radical thing you can do is take a shovel, stick it into the ground, and grow your own food.  Now, that’s true rebellion.”  

With that said, the mood suddenly plunges. “Can’t dwell,” tick “on Muller’s probe” tock. “Impeach one” tick. “Impeach em, all” tock.” This reminder of present conditions hits hard. Why can’t the Ozarks feed its own sorry self no more?  

Well, for one thing, the government’s very clear about keeping the upper limits of public power closely cropped. And standards for remaining “not above the law” are in free fall. But at least there’s still the right to maintain our own version of reality, up to a point. Constitution says “freedom stops at the tip of other noses.”

For example, you can suspect what an impeachable offense smells like, but you can’t legally insist that everybody else’s suspicions smell the same way. More to the point, how can today’s politicians hope to advance the historical process of wealth consolidation if we keep bothering them with every little concern? 

Missouri Senator Billy Long insists “it’s unreasonable” and we should take his word for it. An auctioneer’s ear is more finely tuned to the bottom line than anybody.  No, it’s high time the American people stop comparing their puny lists of things not getting done with the urgent junkets required by Congress. Running a swamp is not like amateur hour, people, if you follow the news at all.

The sad fact is that most folks are continually putting their personal problems above the financial security of this nation’s leaders. The Founding Fathers tried to put a stop to this habit but results vary, like teen pregnancy rates, from state to state. Most voters still don’t know what they’ve put this nation through, and that says all we need to know about the public’s abuse of power. 

So please help the Small Medium out. Send your tunes and rhymes to this column for the Ozark Free State Music Contest.