I am back. Back from a 23-hour flight, jet-lagged and slow, brain and blood hungry for oxygen. I tried to suck some up in Tokyo on layover but only managed to get airport coffee into my mouth and peppermint eye drops into my head. I spent most of a week in a cave on a writing assignment with two herpetologists, way down on the other side of the equator. The last time we were in anything remotely resembling a town, I grabbed a notebook. It was basically the Indonesian equivalent of those 10" × 7 7/8" 80-page permanently bound composition books that National Paper makes here in the U.S. Maybe, say, 97 brightness, college-ruled. Really quite nice, and I’ve packed the humidity-rippled, mud- and bat-guano-smudged pages full of random stuff:

  • Bad air in cave: low on oxygen / high on ammonia. Five days. Close to getting bitten by a 9-foot reticulated python inside today. Putting snake in bag for their study, hole in bag. Look down: huge head cocked / huge white mouth open / he’s looking at my thigh / about five inches away and getting ready to go at it.
  • B. grabbed him in nick of time. The teeth are nuts! Got to look close up.
  • All day in there, then bathed in a river with soap we stuck in pockets back before the four-star/have-a-nice-day/business-class honeymoon ended. Walked slowly into water. Above and on horizon: dark-red hot-orange sunset sweats into dusk like sex; bleeds over black palm silhouettes. Like time-lapse, it moves so fast.
  • All you can think about is love and lust and humor and art and knowledge. Death doesn’t seem scary really. Closer here to something that must be the universe or God.

Right, so: Upon my return, I felt foggy in the fading New York City summer. I caught up on news. The so-called moral majority of Middle America are apparently super-happy about McCain choosing this Sarah Palin as a running mate. As far as I can figure, this unfolded while I was in the airport in Tokyo trying like hell to find Starbucks. You know what they say: go away for a week and everything goes to hell. Anyway, we’re hanging around the apartment and shaking our heads about how the United States is going to give it to the Christians again. George Bush is out in November, but Middle America will try to put his friend John in. They want a third helping of being broke or just getting by, I guess. And Palin says that war is God’s will. It is awkward; it is embarrassing. I’m glad I live on this tiny island off the coast of America called New York, where my mortgage is drawn on a real bank and I have a comfortable hustle instead of a wage job in the middle of the country somewhere. I guess it’s probably also God’s will that their houses have bank signs hanging on them. Folks, don’t fret: it’s God’s will that you to work as a greeter at Wal-Mart. I guess it’s also God’s will that Cuba ranks higher than our country in health care. They’ve done a bang-up job in office, the God people, just plain good business. Lately, the more I hear the religious right talk about God’s will, the more God just seems like a complete dick to me now. In the river and in the jungle, I felt so close to something bigger up there. But now? I want no part of God. I’ve basically broken up with him. I grab another cup of coffee and Google those “Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth” from Anton LaVey and dang if they don’t seem more fair and humane than ever before. Satan seems downright sensible compared to the God that Bush and McCain and Palin invoke on television and in the press. Between iced coffees, I convince myself that bottled water is as good as a pony bottle of oxygen; I’ve had two big bottles and even a small bottle of something called Smartwater, but it’s as if the political news and the International Date Line have teamed up now and my brain feels stunned and stabbed beyond mere rigors of travel. During a little lagged and lulled moment of forgetting what it is I do with my time, I decided I would start replying to e-mail I’ve been falling behind on.

- - -

From: Kendra Kline
Date: August 3, 2008 1:46:21 AM EDT

Subject: Why?

Dan Kennedy,

I’m too tired and devastated to write a witty note. I don’t even have any paper-related problems. I just miss your helping other people with their paper problems. Come back. Please.


Dear Kendra—

Thanks for the reminder of what it is that I do with my time! I’ve been away for a million reasons. I’ve been reading people’s kind e-mails and deleting them, not sure I had the time to help them with their paper problems. But I realize that now more than ever we’re going to need someone helping, folks. So I am back. Spread the word. I know you insist that you don’t even have any paper problems (ahem). But maybe “a friend of yours” does? The first step is admitting you are having a problem with paper or paper-related products. Anyway, tell your friend that I’m here to help again and that the world can once again start bringing me their paper problems. I don’t mean to brag, but, in case you’ve forgotten, I have the credentials to help. (My sister worked part-time in a paper-company warehouse in Fountain Valley, California, in 1979.)

Hail Satan—