Politics & Policy

American Autumn in New York

Home to roost at last, the sixties’ chickens Occupy Wall Street.

So I’m sitting here in Zucchini Park, or whatever it’s called, watching the fetching topless lassies and trying to keep my nose pointed upwind from their stinky companions, and, man, am I digging it. Probably not since my father, the sainted “Che” Kahane, and my Uncle Joe were getting their heads bashed in during the Days of Rage in Chicago has a Kahane been so close to the front lines of the Revolution. And let me tell you, the reality is ever so much more bracing than the theory.

I mean, it’s one thing for me to preach social justice while sitting with Ginger in the hot tub at my palatial pad in Echo Park. It’s another to confront it up close and personal — outdoor latrines, food scraps, B.O., posters of BO2, and all — especially when your cause graphically illustrates, shall we say, the internal contradictions of capitalism.

So I was thrilled to see some picket signs being carried by members of my own union, the Writers Guild of America, protesting Big Banking, because the last thing both studios and indy filmmakers alike need is more access to capital that somebody’s prepared to lose in order to meet hot starlets. As Steve Martin so presciently says as the title character in that great Hollywood documentary, Bowfinger, every movie costs $2,184, and the rest is all accounting tricks to make sure we scribes and thesps get screwed out of our fair shares.

I had to admit I was astounded to see such a large group of out-of-work, lily-white screenwriters in one place other than the WGA theater on Doheny, but then Ginger told me that most of the demonstrators weren’t in the Industry at all, but rather were civilians, outraged at Goldman Sachs, Larry Summers, Daddy Warbucks, and the late Steve Jobs for making things like the iPhones they all seemed to have. For a moment, I wondered if Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn had iPads back in the day in Chicago, but then I remembered they barely had Princess phones.

“What’s their beef?” I asked, not really caring. For me, it was enough to be out on the streets among the people. Real people, not the imaginary characters — mostly evil wingnuts and heroic progressives — who live in my head rent-free, because rents are low in Echo Park. I would have had an acid flashback to those heady days of bombing the Pentagon, blowing up a townhouse in Greenwich Village, and getting shot at Kent State, except that I’d left the Owsley back at the bottom of the bong in good old Edendale.

“They’re marching for liberation,” explained Ginger, looking up from her book: an autographed copy of Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung by Schopenhauer. I noticed she’d heavily annotated her copy in German in yellow highlighter, complete with happy faces over her favorite bits.

“From what? Soap?”

“From capitalist hegemony, patriarchy, oligarchy, poverty, bigotry, usury, antimony, simony, parsimony, parsnips, passports, indentured servitude, ignorance, bad credit scores, college loans, interest on college loans, paying back college loans, thinking about paying back college loans, the minimum wage, the maximum wage, really crappy bridges that fall down, and not enough free swampland. Among other things.” Ginger is always on top of stuff like this.

“Well, who wouldn’t be for that?” I inquired. Not far away, a group of the unwashed were pounding drums and chanting something that sounded like “U.S. Out of U.S.,” which makes a lot of sense when you stop to think about it. I mean, if we can’t un-occupy our own “country,” how the heck do you expect us to ever get out of Iraq, Afghanistan, the English countryside, and the nicer parts of Berlin?

“Lots of people,” she replied. It was a nice sunny, warm day, so she made herself comfortable as only a former adult-film star can. Out of the corner of my eye I could see several autograph hounds lurking, but I put on my best Ryan Gosling tough-guy in Drive look — one that’s almost indistinguishable from my adorable Ryan Gosling chick-magnet in The Ides of March look — and kept them at bay. “Or don’t you know anything about the internal contradictions within the capitalist system, as explicated by Marx and Engels? Haven’t you read your Obstbaum?”

“Who?”

“That’s Hobsbawm to you,” she replied, closing the book on Schopenhauer and rising and stretching. “But then, you probably haven’t read him in the original Egyptian, German, or English. Honestly, don’t you know anything? I’m beginning to think I overmisunderestimated you.” She batted her eyes at some skinnymalinks pounding a pair of bongo drums, who promptly keeled over, his soul rent asunder by the internal contradictions of capitalism.

Luckily for me, at that moment along came the mayor of the City of New York, whom I’ll call Bergbloom in order to protect his identity. As always, his common touch was evident: He was being carried in a simple palanquin by Christine Quinn and three of her best, most muscular friends. Naturally, he spotted us right away and came over — a big fan.

“Miss Ginger,” he said, holding out his hand for her to kiss. “Your latest piece in The New York Review of Books on the internal contradictions of capitalism and the contrast/comparison between Japan in the ’80s and the Amerikkka of His Serene Majesty the Emperor Barack Hussein Obama II, Lord of the Flies, Keeper of the Hoops, Master of the Greens, Bringer of Kinetic Military Action, Vacationer-in-Chief, Slayer of Osama, Atomizer of the Economy, Sultan of the Slippers, and Protector of the Holy Cities of Honolulu and Chicago was one of the finest pieces of critical writing I’ve read in years.”

She blushed prettily. “Well, you certainly ought to know,” she said. And you ask why I love her.

“No, seriously,” Bergbloom continued. “I mean, look at all these fine young people, protesting Wall Street but loving President Goldman Sachs. Denouncing capitalism while checking their daddy’s investment portfolio over at Bloomberg.com on their iPhones. Demanding to be paid for simply existing, while insisting that those who actually have a job get less money in order to support their freedom to choose indolence over work.”

Ginger smiled that pearly smile of hers, which has won so many hearts.

“You can say that again,” said Bergbloom. “We need a restoration of the living wage —”

“Like in the time of Charlemagne,” said Ginger. “Or Averroes.”

“A single-payer health-care system, paid for by somebody other than me.”

“When you’ve got your health care, you’ve got everything.”

“A trillion dollars for new sewers. And I promise to get the sandhogs right on it.”

She crinkled her nose. “Well, this place is a stinky mess.”

“Freedom from oil.”

“Long live Solyndra!”

“Open borders.”

“The People, United, Will Never Be Defeated. Viva la Revolución!

“Honest elections.”

“Voter ID for all! Stop ACORN fraud before it starts!”

Bergbloom leaned out of the palanquin and gave her a look. “Debt forgiveness for all,” he suggested.

“You first!”

“The abolition of all credit-reporting agencies.”

54-40 or Fight — blame Canada!”

I could see by the look in his eyes that Mayor Mike was bested, and he knew it. “Who’s the schmendrick?” he asked, referring to me.

“Just one of Amerikkka’s chickens, coming home to roost.”

He gazed at me with a funny expression on his face, like I was a running-dog tool of the imperial hegemonistic capitalist patriarchy or something — in other words, just like him and most of the rest of the Obamanauts. I was about to remind Hizzoner that I attended the Little Red School House, not far from Zapata Park, or whatever it’s called, that I graduated from Columbia summa cum commie, and that I voted the straight Democratic ticket in every New York City election, even after I’d moved to L.A., but he must have had an important meeting to attend.

“So . . . ” he said, contemplating Ginger. “My place? Bermuda? Next weekend?” The stench was rising, and the sound of the bongos was getting louder. My head was swimming, filled with a thousand images of Preston Sturges and Frank Capra movies, and for a moment there I thought I was the Richard Jenkins character in The Visitor.

“Holy internal contradictions of capitalism!” I shouted.

“Send the jet,” said Ginger.

Bergbloom finally addressed me. “What’cha gonna do when we come for you?” he asked.

Amerikkka . . . ” I began.

“Don’t even think about it,” warned Ginger. “This is a family magazine.”

Bergbloom smiled. “Books?” he inquired.

“Don’t ask,” said I. “It’s an internal contradiction.”

— David Kahane is waiting for his girlfriend to get back from Bermuda, but he welcomes your expressions of sympathy combined with your exegeses on the internal contradictions of capitalism. You can prove you’re a real friend by sending the dust jacket from Rules for Radical Conservatives by carrier pigeon or parcel post (no COD) to Tarmac, JFK Airport, N.Y., NY, or by “friending” him on Facebook. 

Since February 2007, Michael Walsh has written for National Review both under his own name and the name of David Kahane, a fictional persona described as “a Hollywood liberal who ...

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