Sunday, April 10, 2005

RAKE'S PROGRESS

My friend Gogol (of Google) had been a hotshot computer whiz and ethnic writer with string of published books in English, a Joseph Conrad who one day fell into the Rye long before he realized that what he had been drinking and smoking was neither soda pop nor Vicks.

Occupational hazard. Success brings anxiety. There is an impossibility to relax. With alcoholic achievers, it usually leads to a woman or a bottle. Gogol was married, but he took both. This, of course, led to violent protest from his wife, who told this budding Felix Unger to get the hell out, and that he was no odd guy. Just a little too high on the testosterone scale, the result, no doubt of getting calculus mixed up with cabbageheads and all too frequent "love relations" with his computer. "Your lovemaking has gone from the mechanical to the electronic. I've always been here. Have you noticed?"

Out in the street, like Robert Crumb's Felix the Cat, Gogol the Google was beginning to notice. Pawning his laptop and down to his last vial of Aqua Velva, he took the standard step.

Starving, he joined the "between you and I" and "please-and-thank-you crowd" and "sign this for me" group of happy, ambitious illiterates who ran the food bank, secretly humming to themselves about how the mighty had fallen.

Now Gogol of Google was a a natural phenom who had risen so far as to teach Boolean algebra at the local university. His published novels gave him such stature that when talking to the dean in the halls, everybody knew who the important person was. People would say, "There goes Gogol of Google." That's how big he was.

Now, fresh from the food bank with his matched set of Price Chopper shopping bags in his hand, people would say, "Gogol-eyed fraud. And "Get a job, Gogol!"

He tried to re-establish his reputation by writing a play with which he had hoped to make some money, but the local theatre company had been adjudicated and found No Good, like the rejected manuscript of the same play he'd sent to a publisher. It had been, in fact marked by some fuzzy-eared slave, "NG".

No Good Boyo. Under Milkwood and all that.

All because of a Vodka habit and an inability to relax. He'd had a worm in him for some time, not a computer worm, but,he feared, a real one, the same worm that had goaded his ambition. The worm, had seemed to set set up residence in Gogols tummy, with full amenities, the DVD player, plasma TV --the entire entertainment unit. "Hey wise guy, splash a little vodka down this way." Whether the worm was real or virtual, Gogol did not know, ave to realize that for some time, something had been eating away at him.Getting the girlfriend didn't seem to help. Gogol's biggest problem was turning forty.

"It was a mistake," thought Gogol. I shouldn't have done that. If I had it to do all over again, I'd never turn forty.

"Who wants to live with a forty-year-old vodka sniffer and gin-sock," his wife, still a hysterical thirty -two had said. So she divorced him just when he got fired by the college. "Boy," said Gogol," this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Now I can drink."

"Not so fast," said the worm. "Where's my toke?" on many occasions.

So now there was only Gogol and his little pal the worm. Both were thirsty as hell. No money.
Gogol's girlfriend lived out in Georgina, something of a beauty, but careless about her personal habits, a real ditch pig, actually, a Moonbeam McSwine and homeless too. They were made for each other.

Pooling their Canada Pension cheques, bottles in hand, they would chase each other up and down hillsides, past garbage cans and into town, where Irene never said goodnight. She was a nonstop two-four guzzler, always complaining it was too hot at the Bonanza tavern, where she would attempt to take her clothes off. Like Zelda, and sully the owner's beer. This was great entertainment for the men, but disgusting for the women. She would dance on tabletops, knock drinks over with her high heels and generally make a fool of herself. Like Gogol.

Soon, they were disinvited.Thrown out. Professor and Blue Angel from Keswick. The last thing they heard before the door slammed on them was White Stripes singing "Seven Nations Army."

But in fact, the following morning, broke and hungover, they hit the Salvation Army. There had been some trepidation over the decision. Just before they'd been thrown out of the Bonanza, the White Stripes had sung:

"And the feeling from my bones says find a home..."

Now they had to find a home. Hard to do when you're down and out in whitebread Newmarket.

"People jut don't behave this way."

It took the Salvation Army two years and six thousand dollars to finally straighten out Google and his Moonbeam.

And would you believe it? Gogol got his computer back. One of his novels became a local bestseller, especially one aided in creativity not by "Seven Nations Army", but by the Salvation Army. Good story.

And Moonbeam got an unexpected inheritance from a developer relative. Moonbeam and Gogol moved in together and lived happily afterward. There are worse stories.