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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #328
David Gunn

The Ford Mercator, with its cargo of four fidgety passengers and one steering advisor, slowly crunched across the windswept mountain pass high in the Indiana Alps in search of the path that led circuitously down into the Valley of the Anapests. (And before you quibble that surely the passengers and advisor, not the car, were in search of the path, let me add that the Ford's on-board computer was linked to an interactive global positioning satellite that, indeed, gave the car the ability to search for itself.) The advisor normally sat in the back seat directly behind the driver to better counsel how to pilot the craft--a tap on the right shoulder for a starboard veer, one on the left for a Starbucks latte de menthe. Instead, she--Ruby Primavera, last seen plugging an anomalous hole in the sky over Smackover, Arkansas with a series of C major triads that she scrawled on the instrumental part for a time violin--was at the helm of the vehicle, for the advisee had abandoned his navigational post at the last switchback, abetted by a trick door that flew open at the most inopportune times. The loss of the driver was but one in a slew of events that contributed to the passengers' jitters. The caffeine in the latte was another. But mostly the group was on edge because they were already a day late for a karaokology conference at the Temple of Amenhotep in Posner, Ohio.

Ruby had not known there was any formal science connected to karaoke, which, to her, was a cheesy entertainment where mediocre talent sang along to pre-recorded soundtracks, mimicking the recording artists' original performances. And, unlike her five--now four--karaokologist passengers, she didn’t care. But when she overheard them in the O'Hare airport dinner theater discussing a possible route to Posner, her interestometer spiked. For that unassuming burg was home of the articulated Posner violina, a modified string instrument that patently pooh-poohed the fundamental laws of physics. It did so during her Smackover stopover, and later, when she tried to find the town on her atlas, she watched nonplused as, in real time, it migrated from one set of coordinates to another. Since these jokers in jodhpurs seemed somehow to know the who, what, where, when, why and how of the town, she offered to accompany them there.

Ruby's middle school geography lessons had not prepared her for the mountain range that cleaved Indiana, separating the northeastern pampas from the southern wetlands. The GPS, too, thought the car should be in downtown Fort Wayne, not at an elevation of 11,100 feet being buffeted by unpredictable katabatic winds. But the former driver had insisted this was the correct route, and Ruby now had no alternative but to follow his lead.

Though glum, the karaokologists continued to prattle to each other about the meaning of karaoke. Not "meaning" as in its Japanese etymology--kara, comes from karappo, or empty, and oke from okesutura, or orchestra--but rather what karaoke means to a civilization in search of its identify. As Ruby guided the V8 land vessel through a field of waxy bamboo pillars, she saw her karaokologist companions as Music-Minus-One conductors flailing mental batons in front of empty orchestras.

The bamboo field ended abruptly. For all intents and purposes, so, too, did their hope for reaching Posner, for ahead was a precipitous declivity that only a myopic mountain goat could love. Only when Ruby got out of the car did she spot the tiny cairn near the vertiginous brink. An envelope was tucked among the stones. Inside was a four-leaf clover and a slip of paper on which "This Way" and an arrow pointing down were printed. No matter which way she held the paper, the arrow still pointed down past the cairn. Sighing with resignation, she got back in the car, revved the engine, and drove over the cliff.

Down, down, down they careened, the centrifugal force occasionally pinning their bodies to the most unergonomic parts of the car's interior. Occasionally, Ruby would glance at the arrow on the paper, and try to make slight adjustments in the car's trajectory if it fluctuated. But mostly, they all just hung on for dear life forms. Gradually, the landscape began to resemble the horsts and grabens of westernmost Ohio. And then, amazingly, they whizzed by a roadsign that read, "Posner, 2 kilometers." Jubilantly, one of the karaokologists--Ruby later learned that none of them had an individual name--turned on the radio. Out of the speakers sputtered a crackly recording of a tune from "The Sound of Music." Instinctively, they all karaokéed "Climb Every Mountain," and the interactive Mercator responded, instantly ascending whence it had just come!

Well, if you thing they're frustrated, just wait till you hear what this 338th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar has in store for you, for if you've tuned in for the "Kaleidoscopic Karaoke Special," there is neither kaleidoscope nor karaokology. There is, instead, Kalvos.