Dallas 2009
Romie Stott

Paris, November 2008, "Ce que le monde attend de lui..."
"What the world waits for from him..."

Dallas 2009

It was the winter our guy took the White House
when food was expensive and nobody had a job
It was goddamn beautiful
The ex-prez moved to our town
and his tail was not between his legs
even though we thought he was a war criminal.
We worried about running into him at the supermarket
and took comfort in the idea that he had people to go to the supermarket.

A couple of us decided to form a band
Shyly. We had been hurt by bands before
with lots of album names and no songs to speak of.
We pretended it was not a band. We didn't rehearse -
We dropped by. Acted casual.
I played klezmer oboe
I played slide snare drum
I played stride violin
I was so excited I was drinking two cups of coffee at once.

Our first gig sold out fast, because I only printed ten tickets
and the sign out front read "karaoke."

At this point . . . there's this guy, he's a heckler, there's an exchange of words
He calls me out.
He says he's got something to say to me.

Generally, I am opposed to handing microphones to drunk non-professionals
But he took the mic, leaned in, and said:

I will love you unconditionally.
I will love you if you yell at me.
I will love you if you lose all your money, your limbs, and your mind.
I will live as long as I can, and if I can cheat death to stay by your side forever
I will.

We signed a record deal.
My fella took me out to celebrate. We're playing a game these days
where we have conversations backward.
We are playing with narrative structure.
We call it Double Jeopardy.
It's rough because backward conversations sound forward
and like you're boring.
"I am going to order the ham and cheese sandwich."
"I bet you will order a ham and cheese sandwich."
"I can't decide."

I asked the waitress to take a postcard to the next booth over
but she said that was a contravention of federal mail law
and I said I was covert secret service and she'd passed.
I said we had a mission and we needed seven pounds of forks
and would she see what she could do.
She said "spoons?" I said "not hardly."
It turned out the point was moot, as there was no flatware to be had
forks or otherwise
which was a problem
because now that I had the band, I was practically obligated
to do something great.

Well, it turned out the ex-president had gotten together with our local university
to open up something called the Freedom Institute.
I thought that was a magnanimous thing to do
only the school was full of business majors
square, but clearly trying to improve things.
I admired it.
I wanted to help a little.
Maybe show we had no hard feelings.
Nudge things in the right direction.
For love of country.
I decided to liberate the Freedom Institute.

The next day, I got the band together and we all put on uniforms
that looked less than uniform
and set up in front of the institute
I'd made up a banner that looked like Ayn Rand
just to make everyone comfortable
and I'd written "Plutarch" underneath
to provoke discussion.
We played some march music
although it was April
and before too long, out came a man in a suit. He said:

"I think your rhythm's off"
I said "no, it's unregulated.
The market has spoken.
The market wants 9/4."
He went back inside.
He came out.
He said "9/4?"
The band said "we'll fund it."
Can't argue with that.

Pretty soon, we had a crowd
Then the crowd became a parade.
We went right up the freeway, out out of the city
out of the suburbs, to a friend's llama farm.
And I released the freedom institute into the wild.
They weren't happy about it at first
but I pointed out they could get an agricultural exemption on their taxes
and they cheered right up.

At this point . . . We're driving back into town, and we're maybe speeding a little - maybe going five miles above the limit, which is nothing, only we've got some words painted on the side of our car which are maybe a little inflammatory, and we're changing lanes joyfully, in a dancing sort of way. This cop pulls us over.

He said "do you know that you were speeding?"
I said "do you know that we were speeding?"
He said "I have a machine that tells me so. You want to argue with a machine?"
I said "Not particularly, but thank you."
He got kind of red about it, and I felt bad because I was just trying to make
He said "are you a bunch of radicals?"
and I said "No, sir. We're the mainstream."

He leaned in and said:

I will love you unconditionally.
I will love you if you yell at me.
I will love you if you lose all your money, your limbs, and your mind.
I will live as long as I can, and if I can cheat death to stay by your side forever
I will.

Bio, Romie Stott: "I am a poet and filmmaker from Texas, which is not quite another country, but which sometimes thinks it is. My poetry has been published by Strange Horizons, The Huffington Post, Death List Five and the Dallas Library Association, but I am better known as a monologist (with the avant garde theater troupe Abbreviated Enlightenment) and as a writer/director. (I am currently in residence at the Dallas Museum of Art, and have also made narrative films for the National Gallery in London and for Jonathan Lethem's Promiscuous Materials Project.) I'm also contributing editor at the slipstream e-zine Reflection's Edge."

Border photo by Charles Raglund

Jerseyworks home