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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


 
The Essay
Show #379
The Tongue of Elvis
David Gunn

Borraka Tenzing opens the door, bows low, and waves the visitor inside. Ministry of Historical Revisions Special Agent Shundar Fez nods curtly and steps through the beaded curtain. Unlike the cacophony of the outdoor bazaar through which he’s just walked, this room is utterly peaceful. Underfoot are plush, oriental carpets. Water from a small fountain in the corner trickles susurrantly through a sluiceway to the mouth of a miniature gargoyle, who spits it into a tank of neon tetra. Dark jade figurines of Buddhist deities smile beatifically down at him from a circumferential frieze. The calming aroma of sandalwood burns from joss sticks stuck like toothpicks in the deities’ mouths. Also emanating from the mouths is the unmistakable--and, to the uninitiated, unsettling--sound of chanting Tibetan monks. In the middle of the room are two velvet mats imbued with images of Elvis playing poker. Tenzing sits down on one and motions for Fez to sit down on the other. For a while, no words are spoken. Each man gazes intently into the eyes of the other. Fez blinks three times, then four, then five; Tenzing repeats the sequence, and a blepharospasmic communication link is established between the two of them. Finally, Tenzing speaks.

"You have come many thousands of miles to my humble home, Mr. Fez, in a quest for nirvana. The path to enlightenment transcends desire and suffering. This is so. As the cantaloupe is diced and placed into heavy syrup, so is the soul divided into many meditative entities to help access the divine." Tenzing withdraws a cantaloupe from his robe and holds it up for emphasis. Then he places it down on the velvet Elvis, who opens his mouth wide, wider than is anatomically possible, and swallows it. Tenzing continues.

"Buddha teaches us four noble truths in our quest for nirvana, for enlightenment:
   1. life is suffering;
   2. this suffering is caused by ignorance of the true nature of the universe;
   3. this suffering will only end by overcoming ignorance;
   4. Elvis will eat anything."

To prove his point, Tenzing grabs a blazing joss stick from a Buddha bobble-head and waves it over his mat. At once, Elvis' nostrils flare, the left eye rolls, and a prehensile tongue snakes out, seizes the stick, and pulls it into his mouth. A plume of smoke escapes from his ear as he returns his attention to the game.

Tenzing blinks an "I'll be right back" message to his visitor and walks over to the aquarium. He fishes a prayer wheel out of the tank and dries it off with a sacred mantle from the adjacent shrine of prajna, or wisdom. He holds it up, squinting at the rows of cabalistic symbols. Then he turns it upside down. It moos like a toy cow noisemaker. Tenzing returns to his mat and points to a figure on the wheel that looks like a wide-eyed clown playing poker. "The path to enlightenment can be rigorous and demanding." he says. "For instance, right now I demand of you the equivalence of a hundred Himalayan yaks."

Fez doffs his adobe hat, pops it open, and withdraws a checkbook. On the payee line he prints "cash," and in the amount box he writes a figure big enough to jump-start a fourth world economy. He tears it out and offers it to Tenzing. But Elvis' tongue snags it in mid-hand-off.

Tenzing sighs. "It is for the seeker of enlightenment to suffer the noble truth of Elvis. Come. Let us begin your training."

As Tenzing gets up this time, he stomps down on the image of Elvis, who wheezes. He leads Fez over to the shrine of prajna and, again communicating blepharospasmically, instructs him to meditate--simply visualize ... something. Anything. "Open your mind to the expansive nature of the universe," he blinks. "Imagine that you and your environment dissolve into voidness. You are now in a jeweled pavilion, encircled by brilliantly sparkling gems; you yourself are a cubic zirconia. The Mandala of Dhyana--or meditation--materializes before you. On it is inscribed a mantra that is sacred to you alone. Do you see it? What does it say?"

Fez squints, but it's hard to squint when you're a gemstone, and a synthetic one at that. "Ummm," he begins.

"Not Um ... om!" corrects Tenzing, lapsing into speech. "That is your womb mantra, the magic word that accompanies you throughout your samsara, your eternal cycle of birth, suffering, death and rebirth, until you transcend your karma and achieve nirvana. And that ... uhh!"

Tenzing crashes to the floor as the tongue of Elvis wraps around his leg and begins to pull him back to the mat. He winks a frantic call for help at Fez, but the special agent-cum-artificial mineral has temporarily lost the faculties of sight, smell, touch and taste, as well as the art of locomotion. He can, however, hear what sounds like a middle-aged man of average height being sucked reluctantly into a velvet floor mat. "Umm!" is the last sound it utters which, Fez vaguely recalls, is not the secret word needed to find the path of enlightenment.

On the other hand, it is a word that accurately describes this 379th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar. An interjection used to express doubt or uncertainty, "um" reflects the dubiousness with which we have attempted to concoct a theme for this show, guided by our own enlightenmenter-in-training, Kalvos.