At dawn this past 4th of July, I perched atop Mount Evans and gazed wearily upon the eternal Rockies, my chest rippling in the still-frigid mountain morning air. I quaffed a tall hazelnut decaf mocha latte with extra cinnamon, fixed my visor against the creeping sun. Alongside me stood Bill Thomas, a local simpleton I had hired for the day to carry my writing implements and bottled water.
“Shall we stop here for the day, master?” he said.
I waved him off.
“Yes, yes, lackey,” I said. “Begone with you for now. Leave me to my thoughts.”
As the half-wit Thomas shuffled away, in the distance I heard the scream of the eagle, that most American of birds; he descended on his prey, that most American of activities. My laughter hurtled into a nearby gulley. Soon, the day of American dominion over the earth was to end, because soon, a new America was to be born, possibly before lunchtime. I understood then, as I understand now, more than a week later, that a transformation was coming.
Ralph Nader will be elected President this fall. In Denver, he met his trial of fire, and emerged without a singe. I was there, and I have lived to tell of the rebirth of democracy in these United States. Soon, you also will know the truth if you listen. Listen. Listen.
I had traveled to Denver to attend the Green Party convention, since my dear friend (and former Harvard roommate) Nader was considering naming me as his running mate. But at the eleventh hour and forty-five minute mark, I pulled myself from contention, deciding that my presence would distract the media’s stare. Ralph’s inevitable journey to the White House should have no impediments, including a vice-presidential candidate greater than himself.
Instead, I merely attended the convention’s opening-night plenary on assignment from The New Republic, The Nation, and The National Review, all of whom thought I could best cover the Green Party from the proper ideological perspective. The session was held at the Mercury Café on California Street, a restaurant with excellent tofu margaritas and vegetarian lamb kebobs that in the past had held important events for such political organizations as the Guatemalan Committee in Solidarity with Nicaraguans in El Salvador and Cooperative Farmers for Non-Cooperative Agriculture. I arrived two hours early, and already the place was brimming with Nader’s usual diverse group of supporters, which I noticed had grown considerably during his 50-state campaign tour. I counted among the crowd several Mennonites, as well as a collection of Druse Muslims and a table of people dressed as Klingons, who were loudly banging their cups of home brew and calling for an end to corporate control of the Delta Quadrant.
But most prominent among the throng were my own fans. They wore masks bearing my likeness and held up signs in support of me that aped clichés prominent in professional sports: “Aurora, Colorado, loves Neal Pollack”; “Believe in Neal”; “Neal 3:16.” As I moved through the crowd, I heard the familiar wave of sound.
“He’s here,” they said. “Neal Pollack is here.”
I went to an upstairs room, where Nader sat like a prince atop a velvet airbag, surrounded by public citizens.
“So,” he said, " You have come after all."
“Yes,” I said. “I never miss a revolution.”
Suddenly, Nader thrust forward and grabbed me by the shirt collar, and I gasped.
“If you are here, then you must serve me,” he said. “You must read from The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. The people demand it. You must read from your book tonight.”
“But what of the law?” I asked. “Dare we break the law?”
After my last reading in Denver, in 1995, had caused the people to rise up and ban smoking in public places, the city council and their mayoral leader, that virulent fascist Wellington Webb, had passed a draconian ordinance. Sure, Wellington Webb may appear in the gay-pride parade and devote large tracts of public land to affordable-housing developers. In his public rhetoric, he may rail against urban sprawl. But underneath his progressive façade, Mayor Webb has no respect for civil liberties. He must be stopped, citizens of Denver. He must. Let me quote from his edict: “The city will immediately shut down, for health-code violations, any establishment that agrees to let Mr. Pollack read. In addition, we will charge the owners $200,000 and force them to replace their roof, regardless of structural integrity.”
“Damn that law!” Nader shouted. “Goddamn it to hell! Not in my America!”
As do all Green Party events, the plenary session began with an open-mike poetry reading. But before the first verse could be uttered, several dozen members of the Denver police force pushed through a side door. They wore riot helmets and Plexiglas shields, and carried batons thicker than a human thigh. One of them, I noticed, had a super-powered robot arm, and he was poised to kill.
The first noble reader gulped in fear and proceeded to tell a most interesting story involving Allen Ginsberg, a diner, and when the world was young. Following him were a lovely woman who dedicated several poems to her son, and a local radio talk-show-host named Andy Wells, who read an important piece in which he imagined what it would be like to live on Mars. Then came a man who read one of the greatest poems I have ever heard, called The Death Machine and The Brain Police Part Two—What Love and Cool Can Do. I only hope someday that I can achieve similar levels of metaphor and insight.
Nader took the stage. The Klingons stood as one and donned their battle gear. I saw the police fixing unsubtle bayonets to their batons.
“This next man,” Nader said, “needs no introduction.”
He waved me hence. The crowd, now numbering in the hundreds, roared and wept. I knew it was my time, and I emerged from behind a fireproof curtain.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” I said. “Good evening. My name is Neal Pollack. I am the author of The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature.”
From the back of the room, there was a loud WHOOOOOSH, followed by a sharp bang. The air filled with acrid smoke. I heard the rustling overthrow of metal chairs and plates of kale, and screams that caused my ears to bleed.
The cops began to march.
An eyeball arced over the crowd and landed at my feet.
“I am a writer!” I cried. “You must spare my magnificent face!”
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW…