Friday, October 22, 2010

POP 12: “Fake Face versus Big Boy”


Killtown’s District Attorney called her nephew into her office.

The nephew wore a spiffy tan uniform. His name was Maxwell, but everyone called him Big Boy.

“What is this crap?” she yelled.

The D.A. tossed a stack of newspapers onto her black desk.

The gleaming visage of local gangleader Fake Face smiled out from photos on the gray newsprint pages.

“This benefit! That benefit! I allow him to operate in this town and he takes it over. He turns legitimate! At the same time, all our joint rackets—excuse me, ‘projects,’—that I allowed him in on, he’s taken a controlling interest!”

“You wanted his money,” Big Boy said.

“Money, schmoney! I can’t call him on it. I can’t schedule a press conference to say he’s taken over my underage Asian prostitutes!”

The District Attorney resembled a severe black brow beneath a silver-gray wig. beneath the brow, deep-set blue eyes peered out at the world. Big Boy didn’t see the eyes, but he felt their anger.

Outside the office window stood blue, red, and green skyscrapers. Inside, her nephew stood as straight, as tall, and as massive as those structures.

“You’re the only one I can depend on, Big Boy,” she said. “My assistants are incompetent. The Mayor’s a bozo fit only for photo ops, or playing with the train set I gave him last Christmas. I’ve been running this town the last ten years and now I find it’s being stolen!”

“Yes, Auntie,” Big Boy said, straightening himself more in his uniform of epaulets, starched collar, and polished jack boots, indicating his loyalty and willingness to serve.

Unlike everyone else in the city, Big Boy wasn’t completely out for himself. He had few ambitions. His powerful Auntie had caused him to be made a Sheriff’s deputy. This allowed him to wear a badge and play cop. Beating up the occasional speeding motorist was a bonus. Max was an overgrown frat boy. He was like an obedient big dog that’d listen to the last person who told him something.

“I’ve had you given a Leave of Absence,” his aunt told him now. “Henceforth you work for this office. Your job will be to take over Fake Face’s territory. To disrupt his operations. You’re going undercover.”

His nephew looked quizzically at her. She wondered how to simplify her instructions. Max raised his hand to ask a question.

“Does that mean I don’t get to wear a uniform anymore?” Big Boy frowned.

“You’ll no longer wear a uniform,” she admitted. “But you get to play gangster.”

With an unlimited expense account, Big Boy set up shop. A few years ago Max had played football at a small college. Now he recruited former teammates for his new project. Having trouble finding and keeping jobs due to poor grades, criminal records, or lingering concussion problems, they were happy to sign on.

Big Boy outfit them in a new style of uniform: gaudy green suits with purple shirts and green hats with purple bands on them. He did the same for himself, except that his suit jacket had epaulets. Then Max spent a large sum of cash renovating an unused bowling alley at the edge of Fake Face territory. The gray and dilapidated structure transformed itself into the city’s largest nightclub.

Big Boy’s club was done in shades of green, with purple highlights. “The Green Club,” a large purple-green neon sign on the roof announced. After dark the sign could be seen for miles.

Max stocked the club with cases of good whiskey and with busty waitresses, and brought in punk-style hip-hop musical acts—the latest craze—and lit up with a flick of a switch a long glowing green bar with flowing taps of orange, gold, silver, and white booze. Easily obtainable within, toward the back: illegal drugs. Big Boy and his colorfully-arrayed henchmen stood at the entrance, near massive porticoes before a sweeping circular drive displayed by two dozen spotlights, and waited for the crowds.

NEXT: The Big Boy Saga Part Two: “The Green Club”    

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pop and Simplicity

On an on-line forum I briefly discussed Sylvia Plath's "Daddy" as an ideal poem. What I like about it is its clarity, its apparent simplicity. Yet by being simple, with astute structuring, the poem fills with thematic complexity. It's like a modernist painting within which the viewer can see many things. Depending upon the angle from which it's approached. Another example is the four Gospels, which approach one subject from four different angles, and in their simple language create a compelling, three-dimensional portrait.

It's a paradox of nature and art that often the greatest art is the most apparently simple. I tell you, there are many more depths to "The Wizard of Oz" than to "Citizen Kane." One goes to the heart of the subconscious, while the other remains on the intellectual surface. It's the simple things-- a children's jangle, perhaps-- which unlock the treasures of the mind. Another example is H. Rider Haggard's "She," a straightforward adventure tale which was praised by both Freud and Jung. Surface artistic complexity often serves to hinder the artistic experience, while traditional tools like a narrative line can drive a knife into the psyche.

In other words, as they say in sales, "Keep It Simple!"