Monday, 9 May 2011

Heidegger Meets Whitesnake Over Pancakes

A recent visit to my local thrift store unearthed this treasure of early Americana music for me, enigmatically labeled Sid's Mixed Tape and it only cost me the quarter that I had jimmied from the change lock box on a shopping cart in the Safeway parking lot earlier. True, I had to spool the tape back into the cassette covering but I was richly rewarded with some very esoteric early Americana instrumentals of which one has lodged in my brain with its melodic and haunting qualities. The song of which I speak, or should I say, speaks to me, is titled Here I Go Again by a group of musicians who go under the name of Whitesnake. Such a primordial sound I have never heard before, except, perhaps with some of the early blues musicians, a few who allegedly sold their souls to the devil in exchange for mastery over their instruments, but not even being on Satan's payroll (in which, I believe, medical and dental was covered but eyeglasses were not included), could help an individual reach the ethereal breadth and depraved depth of the songsters known as Whitesnake. Here is their lead singer, Wrigley Festoon, wearing his lucky hat beneath, which it is said, he kept his pet snake, Willifred Martoni.

As one can see, an old Civil War wound where Mr. Festoon caught a minie ball in the armpit, permanently froze his arm in a kind of ping pong ball return pose, but this did not stop him from delighting his fans with his lower body maneuverings, especially in the hips and knees, and it is from these movements that the group draws its name. The fact that ping pong wasn't even invented yet puts Mr. Festoon far ahead of his time. So, I was listening to this song, Here I Go Again, for the forty or fiftieth time, when a knock on the door shook me from my soul-searching reverie. Who should it be but an old patient of mine, Flapjacks McVitee, who just happened to be perusing the neighbourhood for used cats, when he thought to pay a visit. I bid him good day but insisted he leave his burlap sack of cats out back in the alleyway before entering my premises. I had cured this man of many obsessive traits, such as licking the metal poles on public transit and yelling out the names of dim sum buns whenever he saw a nun or priest, but he still has a soft spot for cats and it was my sense that every man should have a hobby. After all, part of the cure is about teaching the patient to channel those energies into more productive pursuits and judging by the noise and jostling going on in his sack of cats, Flapjacks was making great progress. Now Flapjacks is also an aficionado of early American music,  instantly recognized the song I was playing and immediately began to beat time with his bean spoon on the back of his head. A quick word about the back of Flapjack's head and how he got his name. The back of his head is unusually flat, many would say like a frying pan, as the saying goes, but I liken its shape to more of an anvil motif. In fact, there was a time, not long ago, unemployment nipping at Flapjack's ankles like the hounds of hell, when he thought of renting out the back of his head specifically for this purpose, as he had befriended a blacksmith who shod horses for a living. I quickly dissuaded him from this idea, not because either of us thought that his head couldn't take a good hammering, thick-skulled as he is, but because I believed the heat from the horseshoes fresh from the fire would burn off what little hair remained on his scalp. Hair that, I'm glad to say, assisted Flapjacks in getting a part-time job at the meat rendering plant due to the dignity it lent his appearance. So, there we were, well into the second verse, something about searching for answers and lonely streets of dreams and walking like a drifter and looking for snakes, when I began to see a connection between this song and the eminent philosopher, Martin Heidegger. Hide-a-bed Heidegger they used to call him because he worked in his brother-in-law, Gottfried's, hide-a-bed sofa shop although some folks called him Sieg Heil Heidegger because, let's face it, he never met a Nazi he didn't like. In fact, he sold most of the big shots in the Third Reich hide-a-beds at wholesale cost, which angered his brother-in-law, Gottfried, so much, he stopped inviting Heidegger over for Sunday night knockwurst dinner. Rumour has it Heidegger even sold Hitler a hide-a-bed sofa, the Enchanted Bavarian Evening model I believe, and it's said this is what Hitler and Eva lay down upon in their bunker when they took the 'big sleep.' It's also true that when Heidegger sneezed it sounded like a cuckoo clock and during hay fever season you could set your watch to him. Here's a picture of Heidegger entertaining the troops with some of his philosophical ramblings in his famous bear suit. He wore the suit, apparently, to temper the blow of the existential angst and sheer nihilism that Heidegger could eat for breakfast, with three pieces of pumpernickel toast no less, but could cause others to become depressed and even mismatch their socks.
I began to see the correlations between Heidegger's thoughts on existence and essence and the odours these states produce and Whitesnake's drifter walking alone on the lonely road, also smelling a bit from all the walking and searching and thinking and such, and Heidegger's ideas on the self and individuality and time and being and how they all co-exist until one of them can't pay the rent and Whitesnake's drifter never having to pay the rent but ultimately saddened by this because of not having a home to go to to take a load off of all his selves and just put his feet up and play with his snake. Anyway, Flapjacks couldn't agree with me more on these points and we coalesced our ruminations over a can of Hormel chili that Flapjacks had thoughtfully brought with him. I was out of Sterno cans, having used my last for an experiment with chicken fat, ants and a Tootsie Pop, but hats off to the Hormel people because, even cold, this stuff hits the spot.

All this thinking and Whitesnake listening had taken its toll on our brains, and even as I found myself winding down and sucking beans from my teeth, I could still feel the pulsations of Heidegger's philosophical treatises ebbing and flowing in my mind and sinus cavities. I even began to emit a bit of my own essence, which caused Flapjacks to take his leave. He retrieved his sack of cats and I watched him disappear down the lonely street, a drifter in time and space and meat rendering. Somewhere from up above or maybe across the street, like in that third floor window where that elderly lady is always hanging her brassieres and husband's underwear, I imagined the ghost of Heidegger smiling down upon Flapjacks, finally at peace with his own being not to mention the Black Forest cake and bratwurst grease odour of his own individuality and existence.

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