My campaign manager says this stuff will rot my brain. But so far, my brain seems intact.
Whether it's Bret, Flavor Flav or Gene Simmons it seems that aging musicians with hair problems are all the rage. Surround them with a bevy of women, and gravity-defying boob jobs and I am captivated along with the rest of the viewing public.
Reality shows bring out the best in American culture. They help the audience forget that the financial underpinnings of the country are collapsing and the only people who are going to get a bailout already have enough money to survive more than 10 years if they hit the skids.
But it's really the bad hair that fascinates me. What is under Bret's scarf? How does Flavor Flav get his hair to stand on end like he just undergone electroconvulsive therapy? Is that Gene's real hair or is it a misguided attempt to affix a squirrel to his skull?
All I say is Rock of Love 2 is good rollicking fun. And, it keeps my campaign manager still long enough so that I can sit on her lap undisturbed.
One evening we were sitting quietly together, watching former Playboy Bunny Kristy Joe Muller work her subtle magic on Bret. It was such a scintillating episode, so rousing my campaign manager had fallen asleep, snoring slightly with her mouth open. My mind wandered, I was thinking about my proposal for the next great reality show -- CATS.....The voice over begins "CATS is filmed on location .......all suspects are innocent until proven guilty...."
I slipped into a full nod, breathing in rhythm with my campaign manager. Suddenly, I felt myself flying. The wind rushing over my fur, I looked out on a brown and dusty land sprinkled with tiny settlements. From the sky I could see a long and winding path covering hundreds of miles. My perspective allowed me to see the thousands of people who had trod that path with devotion in their hearts and the great expectation of salvation at the end of the journey. Something whispered to me to attend to this phenomenon. I descended to the path and stood all alone for several seconds taking in my surroundings.
My halo was a bit tight. So tight in fact, it brushed my ears making me twitch. I couldn't figure out who or what I was suppose to be until an old woman came running around the corner. She stopped when she spied me. Grabbing my hand she whispered: "San Catio you must come away from the middle of the road!" Then she pulled me up the stone steps of an imposing cathedral. We ran through the door and up the nave. She deposited me in a confessional box and before I knew it a screen next to me slid open and a penitent said: "Bless me father for I have sinned."
I looked around to see who the fellow was addressing and realized the only one in the box was me. So this is how it was, I could go from television viewer to Saint in one short snooze. I had no idea how transformative the Rock of Love 2 could be. I was stunned.
The penitent continued: "Bless me father. For 19 years, I was the most beloved economist on Wall Street. These are my sins." I cut interest rates repeatedly in the 1990s and was personally responsible for the doubling of house prices in Florida and California in just five years. I made the show, Flip This House possible. I encouraged the American people, who are financially illiterate, to refinance if they owned homes, so that they could take a nice vacation. I encouraged people who did not have homes, to purchase them with nothing down. I led them to believe there would be no consequences to this practice.
"I precipitated the collapse of most of the respected banking institutions in modern America. Throwing caution to the wind, I allowed every American to believe they could afford the American Dream whether or not he had two nickels to rub together."
Respected financial institutions? I looked hard at the little bald man with glasses. 'Yet another bad hair problem,' I thought to myself. I've seen this guy before, but where? And then I remembered.... but as soon as I remembered the screen on the other side of the box slid open.
"Uh, bless me father for I have sinned. I've, uh, never confessed before, in fact, I'm not Catholic, but I feel I need to atone for my sins." The Arkansas accent was so strong I was blown back against my seat. He continued drawling out his sins slowly. "I pushed the dream of universal home ownership at the American public and encouraged individuals with low incomes and poor credit ratings to seek mortgages from predatory lenders. I felt the market was wide open and they way to lift everyone up was to give them the ability to own their own homes."
"But that wasn't all President Clinton was it?" I snapped at him.
But before he could answer, the confessional slot slid open and again I was faced with a...ah....penitents, dozens of them. I realized I was looking at the United States Congress, Democrats and Republicans a like, crowded into the confessional cheek by jowl.
"Bless us father for we have sinned," they whispered quite contrite.
"Yes?" I was expectant. This would be good.
"These are our sins. We created a government monopoly on mortgages through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In essence we forced bankers to grasp at the dregs of mortgages when the housing boom was on. All that was left to them were jumbo loans and bad-quality debt."
"I doubt banks were forced," I said sympathetically.
"I am sure there are other sins you could confess to? Perhaps the fact that you have done nothing to help homeowners who took on too much debt?" They looked puzzled by my questions. Ah well, no matter, most of the Congress still lives in caves.
But before I could speak, I was interrupted by the confessional screen sliding open again.
"Bless me father for I have sinned."
"Yes?" I was losing patience it seemed everyone had a hand in this thing. I was feeling left out.
"My sins include: playing bridge through the creation of more and more exotic sub prime mortgages in my office. I was out of touch. The office bets got riskier and riskier. Our hedge funds fell while I was on the golf course. I admit I had so much fun playing, I didn't want to ever sit at a desk again."
Now I had one of the real culprits in my sights. "Mr. Cayne does $2.5 trillion in toxic debt, which brought your firm to bankruptsy mean anything to you?" I asked, sucking on a Montecristo cigar.
"How about the fire sale of Bear Stearns for $1 billion (one-fifthteenth the market price) to JP Morgan Chase. Mean anything to you, Mr. Cayne?" I laughed and choked on the smoke. "Does a bailout by the American people mean anything to you? I guess you got yours, so it doesn't matter."
Then the real horror of whom the next penitent to show would be. The American public -- their motley manifestation, their overly-friendly ignorance, the teddy bears of the world who stumbled over their wealth every time they rose from the couch to turn on reality programming. The American public, who thought owning a home was a good investment, particularly if the value more than doubled every two years. They had wealth in their sights and who could tell them, really tell them, this idea was a disaster. Who could tell them the shadow banking system was collapsing and was going to take them along?
I couldn't take any more. I wasn't saint material. I wanted to wring the necks of all these penitents. I couldn't forgive a one.
That's when she grabbed me. "San Catio you must come with me." She whipped me out of the confessional, almost yanking my arm out of its socket.
"Hey, wait a minute," I was gasping for air. "I ain't no saint." Despite her short stature, the old woman was making like a greyhound at the track. As she raced ahead, I sailed out behind her, flapping in the wind. She looked back at me over her shoulder and in that moment I recognized her.
We took flight. We spun in the air together, head over tale over head over tail. Flying across the sky towards the moon and the sun. I recognized those eyes, the kinky whiskers and milky tongue -- it was The Great Cat.
When I landed, I was sitting in the pew of a decrepit church. The pew tilted forward having lost one leg of four. I dug my claws into the wood so I would not slip to the floor.
The Great Cat stood before me, the pulpit before him. His eyes were closed in prayer. He was regal and totally at ease. He opened the book before him and took a breath to speak.
"I am not a saint," I said without thinking, interrupting him before he could open his mouth.
His deep blue eyes shot me a look of contempt.
"O Cato, don't you know that it is your responsibility as a feline to listen to the sins of man? To listen to his confessions? This is what cats do, they listen with unconditional love and they purr out their absolution," he fixed me once again with his eyes.
"You have managed to sidestep your responsibility. You have been too opinionated and sought recognition in the world of humans as a presidential candidate. For God's sake, you have taken up watching television -- reality TV at that." He pounded his fist on the pulpit and his eyes flashed lighting up the growing darkness outside. There was a flash of lightening and thunder. I could smell rain coming. I was afraid.
He leaned over the pulpit at me, his eyes a sullen royal blue. "I know you do not feel up to the challenge, but you are inherently a saint, all cats are. It is time to take up your halo and offer succor to the human race."
"No!" I was shocked, outraged, I spit and revealed my claws. "They, they are evil. They are driven by greed. They would walk over one another to win at all costs even if the prize is just a ribbon, a certificate, or a promise wealth in the future. I will not offer these morons comfort."
"But you must if you are to attain enlightenment," he said simply and then was quiet.
I reflected on this for several seconds and then looked back again at him. His eyes were fixed on the tiny screen of his Blackberry. I leaned over his shoulder to look. Stock prices scrolled across the top of the screen as he executed a sell order through his broker, E-CAT. He stared intently, his claws flying unnaturally over the tiny keyboard. "There!" His eyes snapped up at mine. "I've shorted the financial sector and made enough for the month. Let's dine out. I'll worry about how to pay the taxes later."
I followed him out of the destroyed church and found myself sitting on the banquet of an all-you-can eat buffet. Pink shrimp the size of my head was piled on a plate before me. I took one and dipped it in cocktail sauce; shoved it in my mouth and swallowed it whole. "Not much better than this." I sighed with satisfaction.
"What?" Again he was occupied with his blackberry, his claws flying over the keyboard.
"Not much better than this," I repeated.
Once again he fixed with the glare of his blue eyes. "You do realize that this is all a delusion? That it arises from your mind, your consciousness and then dissolves back into itself? Everything you think is real is just in your mind. The emotions too, all in your mind. Lose all your money; make millions and live happily ever after; retreat to the safety of your own home; the stability of the economy, it all begins in right here," he tapped his head. "Here!" he thrust the Blackberry into my paws.
I found myself leaning on the edge of a craps table in a smoky casino. Carefully, I placed it the Blackberry on the Pass Line. The shooter had a hot hand. He rolled the dice and I won right away on a seven. I bet again.
"Five!" The stickman screamed above the noise of the crowd. We were all sweating. The shooter fanned himself with his tie and then grabbed the dice and tossed them again.
"Ten," the stickman was enthusiastic, pushed the losing bets aside. Everybody at the table was yelling.
The numbers kept coming. I waited for the five, for the big payoff, but nothing happened. The tension mounted and I looked hard at the shooter, his blue eyes intent on the dice in his left hand.
He tossed them hard against the wall of the table and they rolled and rolled, over and over and over becoming larger and larger in my field of vision. I began to tumble with the dice. I heard the stickman yell "Five."
"Winner!" I shouted over the crowd as I floated away.
I must of lost consciousness for several seconds because when I awoke, I found myself in the confessional. Before I could shove my winnings into my robe pockets, a penitent slide the screen aside.
"Bless me father for I have sinned. I have never confessed before."
I could not see the penitent at all. The booth was dark. His voice soft, almost sibilant, but still pleasing to the ear. Now that I was a winner, I felt more capable than ever of taking up my saintly duties. I would offer absolution to this sinner, no matter what. No matter how disgusting the sin. No matter how petty the crime. No matter how trivial the mind behind the offense.
"This is my sin. I believe my mind is perfect. I believe within my consciousness lies all treasure. I believe that despite the racing of my thoughts, there is something beyond this reality, an awareness that resides in eternity that has intelligence and wisdom. I believe we are all party to this inner god......" He tailed off and was silent.
"My son, how is this a sin?" I said.
"I do not believe in any of this earthly pain. I do not believe in financial hardship, greed, heartache, ownership or ill health. I believe all these exist only within the mind. I am sorry San Catio, but you cannot give me absolution for seeing this reality. There is something beyond the shadow banking system and its vast wealth. There is something beyond bad hair. There is something beyond the roll of the dice...."
I woke abruptly and found myself laying on the sofa on my back. The TV was still on and curiously, Bret Michaels looked 10 years younger from my upsidedown position on the couch. I rolled over and discovered I was laying a top a stack of chips and a Blackberry.
Pray with San Catio de Calistoga.