A contagious confluence, metaphorical hydraulics in chronofluidity, multiple rippling effects.

Location: Lawrence, Kansas

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Courses of Correspondence, Streams of Desire

DT’s friends called him Surelock, because he was a logician, a locksmith, and his last name was Holmes. But he preferred DT—he thought it made him seem like an illusion, a hallucination, a shadow passing over a demented mind. With his long beard and black clothing, he looked like an Amish patriarch, an effect reinforced by the fact that he also operated his own blacksmith shop in southeastern Missouri.

Most of his friends did not know that he was a native Texan—he’d lost every bit of his native drawl after spending four years in Chicago while getting his bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He had gone to school to become an engineer, but then he got caught up in those dormitory bull sessions. Soon he was reading Heidegger and Nietzsche and forgetting to carry his slide rule.

Most of his friends also did not know that he supplemented his modest smithy’s earnings by developing and instructing a correspondence study program—Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Witchcraft. Not that he was a practitioner—he’d just found it amusing studying this arcane field over the years and advertised his course of study on a lark, a few classified ads in some of the little magazines sold in the health food stores. He was surprised, even a little dismayed, at the response. Every day there was at least one course application and check in his mailbox. Some days the mail carrier brought him as many as a dozen prospective hoodoo students. In short, business was good—and easy, as most of the students lost interest after a lesson or two and never completed. Even after the students dropped out or graduated, they still provided revenue, as DT had discovered a great demand for his mailing list, selling it to “alternative lifestyle” list brokers. He thought of it as a kind of alchemy, an income stream flowing from what appeared to be a far flung and tenacious intellectual virus in the land.

He had learned about creating streams from desire and delusion while a teenager working in his father’s photography studio in Lubbock. The senior Holmes had shot the popular 1960s-era Pearl Beer commercial, in which a water-beaded can of Pearl rested in a gurgling stream of clear, presumably cold and refreshing water. It was better than the Land of Sky Blue Waters. But no such stream existed. In the studio, festooned in camouflage burlap, fake greenery, and a few real rocks, was a water trough with an electric motor on one end creating the fluxual turbulence. Shot tight with a babbling brook sound recording played over it, the illusion was good, especially for the technology of the day. DT had watched television in the dorm lounge and seen how that commercial captured the attention of the homesick freshmen watching old sci-fi movies on a sunny Saturday afternoon. It traded heavily in dreams of a golden age, of fantasized oases, of the pastoral moment. He would have laughed had he not been so moved by the effect the illusion had on his dorm-mates.