Very near the terminus of AD 2004, waking finally to the very unsettling realization that the done-up-and-come son of a Connecticut yankee was now headed into a season of repeat inauguration to the U.S. presidency, a season of yahoo screw you me me me hurrah and hooray and hoo-haing to his evermore false message of an economic ivory tower underpinned by a veritable caveman outlook, I wanted more than anything to do something dirty, something filthy that would serve the purpose of the most lowly of human instincts. I wanted to throw eggs at limousines on inauguration day as any upstanding neanderthal would. That was the answer — I determined one sunny Christmas morning home in South Carolina for a brief two days — eggs that would crack and whose insides would dry on the black paint, and wo to he or she who attempted to scrape the remnants off, for a heinous fate would await him. Some kids hit my own Ford Taurus once, and two weeks later, when finally the snow that had buried the bottom half of the vehicle had sufficiently melted to grant access to the car’s door, I realized the calamity, and with the heinously smelly sponge with which I commonly washed my dishes, along with a bucket of hot water, I proceeded to scour away the frozen egg remnants and ruin my car’s paint job in a mere five minutes further even than the numerous long key scratches on its flank had done already — which is to say, irreparably.
But when I came back to Chicago from South Carolina the concurrent and so typically repeated culture shock of loudmouthed hot-dog vendors and coldhearted women was enough to blast all memory of my design on the president’s limo from my soggy brain. Also, it was cold when I came back. Very cold. So cold as to render that sogginess into a hard freeze.
The W. Bush repeat ascendancy to the abstract imperial throne approached and at last my urbane coworkers were engaged in snarky coversation about trips to D.C., about their own plans, or lack thereof, for the inauguration upcoming and I remembered my own design, finally, but last-minute-ticket prices had soared if they existed at all, and more importantly I picked up the Sun-Times in a cafe the day before the celebration to find a picture of our President, predictably thin-lipped and looking quite like a particular chimpanzee I often visited in those days at the zoo in Lincoln Park, a beast whose name I still can’t remember, but whom I like to think of as Gilbo, simply. Gilbo likes to stand on his perch and throw things at me when I’m there. Things like banana peels, which the zookeepers give him, I guess, preposterously, and which bounce very anticlimactically off the glass of the barrier between us. Among Gilbo’s other eccentricities include a penchant for addressing visitor such as me as “My fellow citizens” and then he’ll go on and say things like “for the last nine days, the entire world has seen for itself the state of our Union–and it is strong” and then he’ll launch into diatribes in which he very clearly lies to me about everything he is saying. Like once he told me, even though his pen in the brand-new Ape House smelled like absolute shit — I’m talking literally, here, like a toilet with a large turd floating in it — he was insistent that things were going just as he expected they would, that the workers, you know, they may have missed a pile of his shit here or there, and maybe even failed to spray out some of the urine from the corner he used for pissing, normally, but you’ve got to expect these kinds of misapprehensivesions, yes?
That word, misapprehensivesions, I don’t even think it exists, but it’s definitely the kind of word Gilbo uses. It you didn’t know better, you’d take him for a smart son of a bitch.
At the terminus of his dodging I usually point the fact out to him that he is lying, and that I know it, but he just says that it’s hard work sitting there all day watching people like me come and go on the outside and making little baby faces at him when he’s got so many grand plans for his followers. “It’s hard work being President,” says the big ape — using the self-appointed title, as it were. Yes, Gilbo claims dominion over the lot of the zoo’s animals. I tell him to keep thinking, he’s good at it.
Gilbo doesn’t much like it when I come by.
So George W. Bush, on the front page of the Sun-Times reminding me of my “friend” Gilbo the chimp: newspaper photo editors seemed to love running pictures of Bush in mid-bark, right when he delivered some backhanded threat to one of those exotic Middle Eastern countries, his tiny lips pooched out in the middle of a word, his mouth a little open. I was filled with rage, fear, and hilarity at once and fled the café to Kinko’s, where I had the head enlarged to much-bigger-than-life size. The result, a roughly 5′ by 5′ portrait, I took home and hung above my fake fireplace. I picked up five dozen eggs and stacked the cartons along the mantel, where they would have rested until the morrow, just at the inception of his taking the oath of office when I would commence hurling egg after egg after egg right into the nose of his enlarged image — but, you see, the temptation of the imperial head in half-scowl proved too much to resist.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
This was my girlfriend, as she walked in at the end of the second dozen, and admittedly the effect of the large head was considerably lessened, what with the now smeared toner, the mess of egg whites and yolks running down the President’s chin and oozing slowly off the edge of the mantel, down onto the fern in our fake fireplace.
My girlfriend’s next words: “Get the fuck out of here, you asshole.”
Which was unfortunate, to say the least, as I was in the midst of a cathartic release of energy that when cut short left me feeling quite glum. I made my way of course to the zoo, where I found Gilbo in a similar state. He was sitting on a perch picking at his nose and idly muttering to himself when I walked up to the glass — when he saw me, though, he affected a stately bearing, pushing out his chest like a soldier at attention, and intoned, “After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical.”
“Tell me about it,” I said. “I just got kicked out of my fucking house.”
Gilbo nodded, “We have seen our vulnerability and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder, violence will gather and multiply.”
“And what of your keepers?” I heckled. I pulled a banana from my pocket and teased him with it from this side of the glass. “Do you propose an insurrection, an insurgency?” And Gilbo let fly a terrific scream, jumped from his perch and banged a fist hard against the glass, then beating his chest once, and yelling, “We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.”
I grinned. He was a sly motherfucker, he was. “Freedom.” Sure, I thought, “freedom” for all. But still I could not discount his implicit specific message, his desire to rid himself of his keepers, which marked the first time his talk had rung out anything close to truth. Maybe his grand time was near, the precipice of his flourishing. Maybe he really was a leader. He banged on the glass again, harder this time, then going down on all fours and menacingly pacing back and forth in front of the slowly rising crowd of onlookers. “The great objective of ending tyranny,” said Gilbo, “is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it.”
And the ape went on for over a quarter hour. It was an astounding outpouring. One man, also accustomed to Gilbo’s rants, remarked that it wasn’t like the chimp to be so eloquent, to make so very much sense. I remarked that that was partly true, but this was a great gale of wind as well. Gilbo spoke of lofty things, of vagaries and “core values” not only of his oppressed zoo clan but of all living things, a surely preposterous notion. “We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is choices that move events. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of all beings, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul.” And then he stopped his lurching back and forth and leveled a great stare, solely at myself — yes he picked me from the crowd of gawkers with his eyes, isolating me with that intensity, the hair on his back and arms beginning to rise until it would stand fully extended from his body. “And,” he finished, “we will never, ever, underestimate our enemies.” With one fist forward he came crashing through the glass and right for my throat, for the world, for us all.