Murfreesboro is koyaaniqatsi. It’s a Hopi phrase that means, among other things, “life out of balance.” Generally speaking, people know it because of a film in the 80s that stuck together a string of scenes from modern American life, set to a soundtrack by Philip Glass. The thesis of the film is that American life is out of balance with spirituality, nature, and itself.
Murfreesboro is one of those places where cement has taken the place of green grass and, at some point in its rapid expansion from a farming community, the city council decided that having cement everywhere makes citizens want to move somewhere a bit greener. So, they widened the roads and stuck some grass and a few trees in the medians. The largest park in the area is a Civil War battlefield, and right next to that is a used car dealership. I-24 runs through Murfreesboro after leaving Nashville and going on its way to Chattanooga—so if you’re in the main shopping area (Murfreesboro will never have a proper downtown) you’re consistently aware of traffic.
Throughout the city are liquor stores, adult video stores, and places that could easily be strip clubs. Porn is widely available in bookstores, gas stations, and via any WiFi network provided by any one of the chain stores that infest the city. In a subconscious effort to offset the thirst and lust of the populace, a slew of Southern Baptist and Methodist and Church of Christ churches can be seen anywhere. Like everywhere else in the Bible belt, an outside observer would assume that the market for religion has been saturated—you might have a chapel-sized church next to a gargantuan, 1,500-seater, gymnasium- and theater-equipped, television-broadasting behemoth and yet the people of Murfreesboro can’t seem to get enough of the white, Southern-bred, biscuit-eating, pass-the-gravy Jesus plastered everywhere in these places.
And it was in this atmosphere that the sub-human piece of sewer filth called Bob Hackem, good ole boy and lately mayor, was visiting on his run for the governor’s mansion in Nashville. If he wound up winning, I was fully prepared to take up arms and make a change in this state—just as my grandma would have wanted me to do, may she rest in peace—but, even though I was willing to do a lot of stuff others would have considered unethical, murder wasn’t one of them. Hackem campaigned on his status as a God-fearing Christian and—well, here’s a transcript from one of his campaign commercials:
[Bob stands in a field on a sunny day. He’s wearing blue jeans and a denim shirt, unbuttoned at the top, showing a white undershirt. His straw-blonde hair waves in the wind, and his blue eyes sparkle. He starts walking.]
Hi, neighbor. I’m Bob Hackem, and I’m a Christian.
[Cut to the interior of a church. Bob and his equally WASPy family sit in the pews. Bob has a voice-over.]
Have been since I was born. And then, cause I liked it so much, I went and got born-again about twenty years ago, after I met my wife.
[Cut to a baseball diamond. Bob’s in a Little League coach’s uniform. He celebrates with a team after a victory.]
We’ve got two boys, eight and eleven, that mean the world to us. They’re Christian, too. You ask me, there’s not much else in the world more important than family—except God, that is.
[Return cut to Hackem in the field.]
But there’s some folks up in Washington who don’t think that way. Way they see it, ain’t much room in today’s 21st century for good, Southern, Christian values. And that don’t much fly with me, and I’m willing to bet that it don’t much fly with you.
That’s why I’m running for governor of Tennessee. After having been disappointed by the man we elected and put our faith in, I’m saying, “Enough is enough.” You want a man who’ll stick it to The Man, then you vote for me. I’ll work with our Senators and Congressmen to ensure that Tennessee’s voice is a leading voice. Way it should be.
Remember: a vote for Hackem is a vote for values.
If you’re a decent person at all, then you should be retching right about now. When I saw the ad, I threw a book at the T.V. So, taking a page from Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, I decided I’d make the guy into a laughingstock on national TV and, maybe at the same time, loosen him up and get him to see the light of reason. And, if it backfired... well, any politician who’s gone on record ranting about the inherent vice and sin of homosexuality probably has a thing for Filipino pool boys with muscular bods, and I hate hypocrisy with a burning passion.
“Say, Mr. Yudavitch,” said the guy in the driver’s seat. That was Cloyd. He was standing at the side of the road about ten, fifteen miles back, and I, feeling compelled to be both a good Samaritan and stop driving before hallucinating and driving both myself and Emily—the car—off the side of the road in a blaze of glory, picked him up. Cloyd was was a pretty ugly guy with a nice haircut. But there was something about the guy. A trusting nature that I thought was refreshing. After dealing with the editorial staff at the paper, it was good to find someone who’d probably done enough drugs to send their mind reeling back to the age of four.
“What’s that, my friend?” I asked. By this time in the trip, I was leaning with my head planted as far back in the seat as I could get it. I didn’t dare open my eyes because, about two, three minutes beforehand, I’d drunk some pretty powerful absinthe and followed it with some Jack—which I fully intended to be my version of water for the trip. My liver could complain all it wanted, but, damn it, I would turn it into a man. “If you’re going to tell me that you see some police, just hold it in and slam on the brakes—might be enough to freak em out.”
“Gosh no,” Cloyd said. “I was just gonna ask you if I could have some a that water you got in that red bottle down by your foot. I ain’t had much to drink for a day er so—just about since I found that pond by the side of the road and then a frog tried to swim into my mouth.”
I opened my eyes, battered away the cartoon clownfish swimming in front of my head, and looked down. He was talking about a bottle of Smirnoff. “As much as I would love to oblige, I don’t think that giving you some of that water would be a smart idea.” We passed by a blue marker indicating there was a gas staion up ahead. “Take the next turnoff and go get some water. None of what I have in here is good for you, my friend.”
“I ain’t got any money, Mr. Yudavitch.”
I scratched my chin. I could spare a couple dollars and buy Cloyd a bottle of water, but I refused to give those companies a dime. At least with liquor, the distillers and brewers knew what was in their product, admitted it, and encouraged you to have fun. Coke and Pepsi dredged their water from the municipal supplies of taxpayers and tried to pass it off as coming from some pristine source straight from the mountains or some hidden-away, clear-water river. No, there had to be another way of going about this.
Cloyd must have realized I was thinking about what to do. He turned up the Creedence and started howling along again. (That’s the only way to describe what he was doing. He clearly didn’t know the words to the sons, and possessed no singing talent.) As we pulled onto the offramp, the solution hit me.
I told Cloyd my plan, and headed towards the BP station.