I woke up in a strange place

By Marc Heiden, since 1997.
See also: a novel about a monkey.

October 12, 2004


Dinner is ready -- no, almost ready. The chef pauses, tastes the food. What does it need? It's a basic meat and potatoes sort of dish, nothing too fancy. The recipe called for salt and pepper. The chef adds a dash more salt -- yes, much better. The salt goes well with this. Now the dish has flavor, zest. But the dish is still missing something. What else? The chef reaches for the pepper, but it is over by the sink at the moment, and the nutmeg is next to the salt - so the chef adds an extremely large dose of nutmeg instead. Dinner is served. After the first few bites, which are surprisingly flavorful, everyone begins to feel nauseous and feverish. The pepper is blamed for this; it is revealed, to the surprise of many, that the recipe called for salt and nutmeg, not salt and pepper, and the pepper, far from making the dish more delicious, nearly ruined it. The pepper is thrown through the window of the restaurant and nutmeg is dumped all over the next course, the dessert and the after-dinner mints. Everyone gets very sick.


After guiding the car out of the driveway, on to the interstate and through the first toll plaza, the right hand finally leaves the steering wheel and goes to its armrest. Many assume that the left hand, which worked with the right hand in bringing the car alongside the unleaded pump at the gas station, will take control of the car; the left hand, however, does not return to the wheel immediately, as it is busy scratching the head. The right knee, which was barely involved in the driveway and was only responsible for nudging the door shut at the gas station, forms a coalition with the lap and the left knee to assume command of the vehicle. With the left hand out of power, the right knee betrays the lap and the left knee by spilling coffee on them and begins to dictate the course of the road-trip. Although speed increases, the car is unprepared for the second toll plaza and must veer off the road into a cornfield. As the car shakes violently, ears of corn thumping against the windows, the left hand - which has long since been sat upon - is blamed for the rock-block of Foghat that comes on the radio.


After the Chicago Bulls win their third consecutive NBA championship at the end of the 1992-93 season, superstar guard Michael Jordan shocks the sporting world by announcing his retirement at the age of 30. Now the Bulls' playoff hopes fall upon the shoulders of Scottie Pippen, a three-time All-Star whose unparalleled defensive abilities were crucial during the team's first title run against the Los Angeles Lakers, royalty of the league throughout the 1980s. Pippen, however, elects to have minor back surgery in the off-season, and he misses the first week of training camp due to his rehab schedule. In his absence, Stacey King - a former first-round draft pick who was not a major contributor during any of the championship seasons - signs a 10 year $22 million contract under mysterious circumstances and installs ex-CBA players loyal to him at the point guard and small forward positions. When Pippen returns to the court, no one will pass to him. He loses his place in the starting lineup and is finally waived at mid-season. It is revealed, to the surprise of many, that Pippen's 17.8 PPG during the first title run were actually scored by King, whose own statistics were kept low in order to mask his true role, which was to cover for Pippen's defensive lapses. Fans who order copies of the Bulls' 1991 championship video "Learning to Fly" and its 1992 sequel "Untouchabulls" find that they now feature a six-minute montage of Pippen turning the ball over and having friendly conversations with players from other teams during the All-Star break. (1993’s video, “Three-Peat”, omits mention of Pippen entirely.) Guards Jo Jo English and Pete Myers, initially loyal to King, suffer torn ACLs before the beginning of the next season and are forced to retire. Meanwhile, Pippen finishes out his career by playing two games in a semi-pro league in Mexico that is forced to fold when all of its basketballs are found deflated by an unidentified sharp object.


Well, there goes that burst of antic energy.

October 5, 2004 A new chapter in the long-running feud between South Africa, Namibia and the black rhinoceros is about to begin, and as readers will expect, I am on top of it. Black rhinos have had the upper hand in this battle for the last few decades due to laws against hunting them. These laws were passed in the 1970s after studies showed a serious decline in the numbers of black rhinos in the wild; there have been calls for independent investigations into possible manipulation of the data used to draw those conclusions, based on reports of suspiciously horn-shaped imprints in several of the population figures, but these calls have gone unanswered. Today, however, the world of the black rhino goes topsy-turvy:

(BBC) Namibia and South Africa are each to be allowed to kill and export five black rhinoceros per year. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) will also allow the two nations to increase their exports of leopard products.

"What the fuck," say the leopards. "How did we get dragged into this?" But the real effect can be seen on the streets of Namibia and South Africa, where the first rays of hope have begun to shine for people long accustomed to rhinos acting with impunity. Charitable organizations will now, one assumes, initiate efforts to provide each and every one of the villagers with their very own pen and pad of paper, enabling these besieged individuals to strike back at the rhinos by writing the names of those rhinos down on the paper for possible inclusion among the five. As Hemingway wrote, the rhinoceros has one fear, and it is lists; it is time for the black rhino to fear again...or is it?

Each country will be allowed to export products from five animals only each year, and they must all be elderly males. The application was supported by the scientists and technocrats of the Cites Secretariat, who believe that taking elderly males can actually help herds to expand.

And with that, the game is revealed. The depth of rhinocerosian ruthlessness is unparalleled. Under the guise of conservation, the younger rhinos have sold out their elders; the rhinocerous is famous for being the only animal in nature that borrows against its own future, but this represents a new low, a profoundly desperate gambit. By shifting blame for their declining population from hunters to their own elders, the black rhinos may believe they are forming a detente of sorts with the hunters. You can be un-villified, they say, and you can have our parents, too, and we will carry on as we did before. But do the black rhinos truly believe that this fragile peace can last? That, for the sacrifice of a few old rhinos, the rock-and-roll nineties can last a little bit longer? That they can charge, horns held high, ever and always onward, and for the force of their feet upon the ground, the sun will wait in its horizon until they arrive?

Just what exactly is going on here?

I woke up in a strange place is the work of Marc Heiden, born in 1978, author of two books (Chicago, Hiroshima) and some plays, and an occasional photographer.

Often discussed:

Antarctica, Beelzetron, Books, Chicago, College, Communism, Food, Internet, Japan, Manute Bol, Monkeys and Apes, North Korea, Oregon Trail, Outer Space, Panda Porn, Politics, RabbiTech, Shakespeare, Sports, Texas.


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Written by Marc Heiden, 1997-2011.