I had been considering The Philosopher Red’s absence from my life as a sort of vacation, but it has become a minor concern over the past few days. There’s no telling what he could have gotten himself into, or, what kind of trouble he could be bringing to my doorstep. Maria, La Negrita de los Muertos, and her band of so-called revolutionaries, Los Monos Locos, have taken over my apartment, and as far as I’m concerned, the Little Dark Lady of Death and The Crazy Monkeys can have it. I have gotten my guitar, computer, flip-flops, t-shirts and books out, so no big loss. The rent was due last week, I think…let them worry about that.
But The Rude Red Dude…he’s been with me for a long time, and one of my faults is loyalty, despite the distress or disruption it brings into my life. We could patch things up…maybe make some amends…or just duke it out in the street like a couple of drunken sailors on shore leave. There’s no telling with him. But, anyway, I won’t wax on about my problems and from whence they stem…they stem from me, I know.
So, it was a bit of a relief to see his name on a handbill tacked to a telephone pole I passed on the way to the market this morning. The handbill, just beneath another one announcing a performance of Aladdin at the amateur theatre, was promoting:
An Evening of Enlightened Release from the Mystical – The Tao of the Dollar
I found this a bit odd, considering Red’s chosen occupation as philosophical mystic. And the handbill was of high quality, not some scrawl on the back of one of my manuscript pages, like I would expect from him. A promise of professionalism. Then I noticed where the Enlightened Release was to take place…a run-down restaurant operated by a family of Columbian refugees. Everyone in town calls it “The Place With No Name” and…everyone also knows who owns it – Maxie Kahn, the largest gangster in Tamarindo. A money-hungry thug financing a spiritual speech by a crazed monk? Nothing surprises me around here.
Regardless of who was financing The Philosopher Red these days, I had to see if we could get our heads together, on the same page, to use an ugly cliché from Maxie’s vocabulary of deadly entrepreneurial opportunism.
So, I fluff and shake my cleanest t-shirt, buff the dust off my flip-flops, and set the clock on my microwave to make sure I’m aware of the time. Once all is in order I take a siesta…this could be a rough night.
I arrive at The Place With No Name early so as to get a prime seat. My first surprise is finding Maria, La Negrita de los Muertos at the door taking “donations” and checking names against a list of about twenty VIPs. I ask her about my apartment. She asks me about a donation. I ask her about her gang of revolutionaries, she tells me they’ve “found their peace in the jungle” and repeats her request for donations. Being as she’s dressed in her best camouflage, and sporting an assault rifle, I find exactly the equivalent of one dollar in Costa Rican change. She doesn’t seem pleased, but does give me a seat near the toilets, but downwind. Small favors are appreciated, and I start telling her so when she bangs the butt of her rifle on my table and tells me to –
“Shut up, prole…the Great One is before us.” She sits beside me, her rifle on the table.
And, there he is…hefting his Red way onto a makeshift stage in the center of the room. Two of Maxie’s Columbian thugs sit off to the side. Shiny brass bowls placed at the four corners of the stage emit coiling wisps of incense smoke that smell like….money? No, not just money…Dirty Old Money.
“Thank you so much for joining me tonight,” Red begins, his voice a murmur. “Let me remind every one of you in this room that each of us is full of energy. Together we can change our worlds. The first thing you must understand in order to utilize this energy is to understand that we are nothing…NO THING,” he says, modulating his voice like an evangelical preacher. “You are temporal, mortal…a small black decimal point in a universal bottom line that defines the value of this life. The second thing you must understand is that we exist in two systems of immortal accounting…either you are consonant with the universe as we know it, or you are dissonant…unacounted for. How do you know which state you’re in?” The Rude Red Dude stands up to his full height, shaking the wrinkles from his red robe, and smiles… “You just do.
“The modern world has given us a most detailed methodology of finding our place in it, a methodology which has been shattered in hedonistic Tamarindo, and similar shanty towns. SHATTERED…FRAGMENTED…and, the results are bewilderment, estrangement. This brush with nothingness…enumerated dispair, can only result in cynicism, empty gestures of defiance, anger, violence…you name it. BUT – there is a way to get yourself on the right side of the ledger of life…MONEEEY,” he wailed, rubbing his thumbs and forefingers together.
“Dissonance is simply the lack of money…and the corollary…consanance, is the abundance of money.”
I am in shock. I can’t imagine what the past few days spent with Maxie Kahn have done to the fragile mind of The Philosopher Red, I need to…
“When we have money our pathways are lined with rose petals, our underwear smells lemony fresh, and we love everyone we meet, and wake to the sound of song birds…when we don’t have money we listen to heavy metal music, we smell like musty socks, have infrequent bowel movements, and awaken to sounds of alarm clocks. The paradox of the rose-petaled path can only be solved by the Tao of the Dollar…to fully realize the multi-layered dividends offered unto you, you must enumerate the divine toll, then PAY ! The world offers an overflowing bounty of goods, services and status symbols to straighten out the most hopeless cases of uncapitalized constipation. Many are those that will lie to you…tell you that the good life is there for the taking – all you have to do is reach out and it will be handed to you. No, my friends…that results in dissonance, penalties accruing on a descending scale of -”
I grab Maria by the collar, grab her assault rifle, force her head to the table, and point the barrel right between her eyes.
“Nobody move,” I shout, trying to sound like an actor in an action movie.
“Terminate,” Maxie Kahn says to the two thick-bodied thugs fronting the stage. They both rise, bringing pistols out of the waistbands of their sweat-soaked leisure suits.
I let go of Maria and point the rifle toward Maxie’s prominent belly. The Philosopher Red stands stiffly, eyes lizard-lidded.
Maxie lets out a heavy sigh. “You’re forfeiting your admission fee, I hope you know.”
I move to the stage, grab The Philosopher Red by a baggy sleeve and pull him behind me, moving toward the door. The Rude Red Dude pulls me to a stop, plucks a dollar from Maria’s pocket, and asks me exactly the question that’s been on my mind since I started this idiotic action: “Do you think the busses are still running?”
I have so little experience with this sort of thing, but I’ll figure it out as I go along.