Matthew Paris :: Xiccarph :: View topic - Dropping Dead
Dropping Dead
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Matthew Paris

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Post Fri Jan 30, 2004 7:36 pm - Dropping Dead
Itís a pleasure to receive this plastic and gold award here as businessman of the year. I donít know how to make a speech to people like you, all of whom I suppose would probably like to be me or something like me; since I donít like competition Iím glad Iíve found an easy way to be anonymous. I use to feel the same way too until I started to think to myself about the virtues of dropping dead.
Most people think the easiest thing in the world they could do is to drop dead. It solves their problems; it keeps them out of trouble and debt forever. Itís a good way to avoid litigation, taxes, incontinent little kids needing diaper changes, your landlord, even most of your close relatives. Unfortunately, folks, thanks to my career in the dropping dead game, it isnít going to be as easy as it was to keel over and go south anymore even if you donít know how bad it is for you when youíre no longer alive.
First of all even if youíre jumped from a plane and are at the bottom of a reef the cops have to come down with a diving bell and make out their death certificates in triplicate; otherwise you arenít legally dead. This means as for as your concerned you arenít dead, period, even if youíre indisputably physically dead. Sometimes reality is like that. Of course if you look, act and seem dead, that could be an illusion, a cunning career movie or a subterfuge. If you get that death certificate it could still be all of these things but youíre honestly dead. Donít ask me to explain.
The good side of dropping dead is that you donít lose your credit rating; nobody in corporate America wants a potential customer to escape them. You may not be somebody whoís a big spender but somebody a lot of people love to hate; they can't do without you either. It take a lot of effort to make new enemies.
Fortunately for them there are millions of people in America who are corpses but are treated as if theyíre alive; if they ca figure out how to be resurrected they can still go shopping. If they go shopping and theyíre still dead these days it doesnít matter; even the angels have unlimited credit. If nobody in charge of the store has pronounced the corpse certifiably a candidate for the big sleep he may even be eligible for a small loan. Many of my friends, lovers and enemies whoíve dropped dead Iím sorry to say are still alive financially. Somebody maybe from Peru is still running bank accounts in their name, writing checks with their signature, pretending to be alive even to the IRS. Can anybody be more alive in America than the shopping dead?
If you drop dead you better be prepared for both a tremendous social decline as a glittering guest among your friends along with a dramatic lack of your private amusements. You probably wonít be invited anywhere but a cemetery. You wonít even be a stand up comic at a funeral parlor directorís holiday. You canít vote, canít eat, canít make love either at all or at least all that much; you canít complain about your lack of love life either.
You canít work even if you know how. You canít work if you donít know how either unless you work for the government. Youíll probably never watch television again; thatís no loss. You might miss a couple of good horror movies.
If you think people donít listen to you when youíre a kid and ignore you when youíre very old, wait till you find out how much attention you get socially when youíre not even a memory. Nobody takes advice from a ghost or a zombie. Nobody thinks youíre good looking like something in a museum or puts up with you because they treat you like a toilet. Nobody laughs at your jokes either; of course you donít make any. Since they donít stuff people anymore like mummies, nobody can even find you.
Prices are getting higher to the point where people go into terminal debt when theyíre born or long before; death as well can be more expensive than anything in life if youíre not careful. The price for a fake pine box isnít affordable anymore; ii you want a lot of animals including minor insects buried with you even in crypts way short of an Egyptian tomb it could bankrupt you completely. Itís best to forget about your dog, get the brand name gravestones with the Hallmark card verses that are cut into them by machine in Albania in enormous volume; those industrious Albanians really do glut the market with these cunning little stones, about twenty million of them a year. They donít sell enough of them to make a profit; theyíre optimistic, hoping for a big plague.
Trust the Hallmark people. Most of us canít think of anybody better to say about us than these slightly whimsical little rhyming epigrams. They comfort other people in a proven reliable way. People whoíve offered banalities in life deserve to be summed up in a clichť when they die. You could try to hire a decent poet; where do you find them?
Getting put in the ground like an mouldy radish is the old fashioned style of death, very traditionally American of course, a little dated if sort of patriotic almost if youíre tired of the past and the past is even more tired of you. If youíre interested in a fashionable cremation in a socialist country it might be cheaper; itís going to use a lot of oil somebody might put in a car and drive to a mall or a motel around Yellowstone Park. After they burn you, where are they going to through the ashes? You canít put a single ash in the toilet; it clogs the drain.
Wherever it is youíll be polluting some place on a midnight or dumping the residue in a public latrine somewhere so hoverer it is youíre flushing makes big trouble for plumbers even after death, their death and yours. Itís very American; you donít have to set fire to yourself. Thatís what you have servants for.
You might be better off just jumping from a plane if you can get the hatch door open in the middle of a first class Atlantic flight. Itís a long way down of course; for all you know you might enjoy the ride.
You could also sneak into the ASPCA, slip into a nearby mutt tank, have some trusted friend or not always so trustworthy loved one turn on the gas for you. Many patriotic Americans who can't afford a fancy funeral have broken into prisons lately and taken over the electric chair for a quick fiery sendoff. Why not? God knows it was built with their tax money.
Some Right wing zealots are partial to an old fashioned public hanging; itís not as easy as running a rock concert at Yankee Stadium. In most Western states you need a certified hangman working on the public rolls as an executioner or itís illegal; youíre physically but not really dead. Not everybody who claimed to an authorized hangman is one; even if they are few people who drop dead can afford good one. Most canít even pay enough to hire a incompetent strangler. Itís always been a father and son union. Most states donít have any because hangmen are notoriously celibate. They donít advertise; their lovers think theyíre actuaries. Most women donít like butchers or executioners even if theyíve got a thing for soldiers. Itís a steady living, its portable, all it takes is a rope; go figure.
A lot of theatrical types in New York these days want to bring back tourism to the city by starting an age of spectacular executions. They know who the bad guys of their day are: mostly politicians, dentists, sleazy religious leaders. They want their own beautiful glossy and coiffeured heads to be chopped up by a man with an axe on a wooden block in front of a throng of cheering thousands. They are partial to torture too.
Theyíve made New York lately a City of Death but itís hard to do elsewhere. People are more sophisticated than they used to be or maybe less sophisticated; anyway something has changed. In any event they arenít as amused by somebody being killed right in front of them as they used to be. Sometimes death even scares them.
Many people who want to drop dead their own way have enlisted the help of famous celebrity doctors or television actors who play doctors to knock them off with a painless shot. You canít get the kind of quality killing in America anymore. Congress has had nothing better to do but to pass a law against that being killed by celebrities, even if theyíre not doctors.
Of course you can always fly to Cuba and get some hack too old to do abortions with a medical degrees there to do it as well as an army of out of work Bolivian veterinarians, or just people you pick out randomly on the sheet to knock you off. Castro understands; he thinks the right to die is part of the ethical side of Communism. After Castro goes, who knows? That might be the end of ritual death in Cuba.
In America we donít like to talk about death anymore than we want to think about whatís in or not in a hamburger. Itís a country not noted for its elaborate mourning rites. When somebody in a mall plotzes only the corporate world sheds tears. They have lost a costumer. They are all too aware that is the last time they will see that obese slave show up in a shopping mall, heading like a moth toward light for an nearby ATM machine spitting green paper.
Every corporation has a set of banshees quietly attending the funeral of all of us who have even a penny in our pocket. Even if your family hates you, your mate despises you, your country tries you for treason, the good people at the mall will always love you.
A lot of certified suburbanites these days who can amply afford it and more are buried in their luxury cars with their credit cards secure in their wallets for any posthumous action that comes their way in the afterlife. If theyíve spent more than a certain amount of money their old mall sets a decorous memorial stone for them set at the edge of the concrete plain.
Iíve been involved as a lot of you know in ways to make your own death accomplish something more than your life. I got the idea from watching Arab suicide bombers blow themselves up on television September Eleventh. I watched those planes hit the Pantheon or the Pentagon or whatever it is they were hitting along the World Trade Center; after a while watching it over and over again I said to myself: Iíll bet thereís a buck to be made out of doing that little number somewhere else. Hey, there sure as hell is!
All these fundamentalist Arabs think about or want from their martyrs is a poetic death. They think life is written in verse. Weíre honest, practical people in the West who want to make our death meaningful. Our demise should count for seething in a way our life hasnít or maybe it should mean even less. We donít want to have our death be quite as trivial as our life, do we? Or do we?
What have we got to lose by an important, respectable, decisive, aggressively active, focused and meaningfully effective death that everybody can admire, emulate, or merely revere from a far distance? Are they going to lock you up somewhere when youíre dead? Are they going to threaten you with some terrible punishment?
Come on; youíve sat in a lake of ashes long enough; when you plotz you escape your enemies forever. You only have to be afraid that an army of scurvy copycats among the angels will do exactly to you what everybody on Earth did, or that your rhinestone imitators on this planet will do the same thing and make ene your demise and memory a banality.
Suppose they do! Their expirations wonít be any less stale a clichť as a corpse than you all were in your stupid and narrow life as well; besides, neither of you will know the difference if there is any to know or even if there isnít.
Of course you donít want to die prematurely. Nobody does. Think of all the lousy lovers on Earth you can sleep with, all the blandly spiced noodles you can eat, all the sparkling video games you can play until your eyes hurt, all the vacations you can take to visit hellholes youíd never ever want to live in, the business conferences you can attended, how many enormous college bills for children majoring in ballet, basket weaving and film directing you can pay off.
Even when itís the pits or below the pits, baby, life is beautiful. When youíre ready to die though, when even some doctor on Prozack has told you with his glittering eye as Coleridge says itís the end of the line, you might also be ready to devote a lot more focus to a death of more purpose and significance than you ever had while living. It comes down to this: with absolute freedom, what or whom would you like to atomize into a sour fragrance like smoke from a giant ghat? What buildings would you like to blow up?
We all have a little list; donít we? I do. Iíve got a few places and a few people myself, mostly lovers and relatives, nasty waiters in restaurants Iíve been kicked out of, a few brokers who have lied to me much too much. Some people donít like the way I eat. Some arenít happy with the style of lovemaking I like either. Most people I think would be happy if didnít reside on this planet. I might be one of them, who knows?
Iíll bet you could come off up with a short list of your favorite candidates for a quick tour of oblivion in a rocket to nowhere. We all could, believe me, even the mutts and the rats in the basement. We donít go through lie without meeting at least a few sons of bitches weíd like to take out with an insult and a grenade, a few institutions that annoy us even more.
In the end how you die like how you live should be very personal. I didnít start Oblivions Unlimited a few years ago because I wanted to set an army of midnight revengers into motion. Au contraire. I wanted to hire people who were certain they were about to die who wanted to make a little, even a lot of stray cash blowing up somebody or something for good people who had some strong opinions about their neighbors. Thatís why I began Oblivion Unlimited. Thatís why Iím here in front of you.
I had scoured the nursing homes and hospitals looking for candidates for employment. I talked to a lot of terminally depressed people in loony bins; I almost knocked myself off after a crazy week of listening to these very dismal yahoos. Folks, depression is contagious; itís like getting the mental flu. Luckily after a while I had a computerized list from the FBI of everybody who had tried to commit suicide and failed at it in the United States. It cost me. It was worth it.
Even with the FBI I didnít get everybody. So what? Only a few sensible people everybody listens to interest, common sense or even reason. Nevertheless after several months I had fifty thousand stalwarts ready to take an easy hundred thousand dollars in cash sitting in a numbered account in the Cayman Islands to blow up a bunch of bad guys they didnít even know and didnít want to know.
I supplied the painted trucks, the explosives, the notes from Arabs claiming responsibility with political and religious overtones and everything else. I changed the world in my quiet way, I guess. Everybody has to kick off one way or another. I made it as meaningful to die as it should be to live.
It was illegal to do what I did; of course in America laws only apply to the poor, not to good honest people like you and me. I made sure though of course that I had no overt legal connection with Oblivions Unlimited. The cover story was a Convenience Store in Harlem run by a select cabal of wizened crones from Peru. These wrinkled unfortunates from the Andes had nothing to lose by working for me, believe me.
The president of my company didnít speak one word of English. He didnít even speak Spanish; he spoke some crazy Indian tongue. Maybe he was just making noise, how knows? I pretended to be his chauffeur. His speeches at our executive conferences sounded like babble even to those who were listening.
Even when my old buddy was carted away to the slammer he had nothing intelligible to say. What could they do to them if they caught him, deport him? Heíd be back in a month working for me in another company. Everybody knows, when I run a business everyone is a winner.
We worked mostly in the Balkans; we figured nobody would notice us there. There were a lot of suicide bombings sniper attacks, God knows what else in these Balkan countries; of course you can't get enough of the goat cheese. Everything in life is balanced like that, I think, by a personal edict of God.
One midnight while sitting in the bunkers I got a telephone call from the president. He told me to close down my operation or he would have one of his own people, some uncle of his close to death take me out with a grenade. I told the president to let his scurvy uncle die in peace. This was a matter of being a loyal American. I would never do anything unpatriotic or against the policies of our country.
That day I sold short on all the exchanges in our stock in the morning, shut down the cooperation that afternoon. We had made over five billion dollars and had in the end quietly knocked off almost nobody. We were more effective in peace than any old fashioned colonial war.
Then the president called me up the next week and offered me a job I could not turn down. As you know, Iíve accepted a commission in the American army. If I can get people to die for me the army wants to have me on their team. I may be businessman of the year; I hope one day to be as well military man of the year.
I can use this mostly plastic award; itís cheaper than a painting. I hope I haven wasted your time. You can do what I did all by yourself. After all, you donít need me to make your death more interesting than your life.
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