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Magical Thinking In America: Taco Trucks, Drag Queens, Baseball And Love

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When you buy a ticket to the circus, you expect to see some crazy shit, but what you don’t expect is for the circus to burst into your living room and start getting it on right in front of you. There is nothing that can prepare you for the shock of watching a clown go down on your mother-in-law, or for the lion tamer to stick his head in your uncle’s mouth while your cousin reads passages from Atlas Shrugged out loud. As a wise woman once said on the six o’clock news, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

You really don’t expect to find yourself living in a world where a 74 year old drug-addled sociopath is the most powerful man on earth, but then if Monty Python has taught as anything, it’s that no one every really expects the Spanish Inquisition. 

“If only life were so simple as baseball. Within the baselines anything can happen. Tides can reverse; oceans can open. Colors can change, lives can alter, anything is possible in this gentle, flawless, loving game.” 

W.P. Kinsella | Shoeless Joe

The absurdity of our existence on this planet, in this particular time and place, is nearly beyond comprehension. It’s no wonder that so many of us have turned to all manner of distractions from mind-altering drugs to mind-numbing entertainment, simply in order to escape our present reality. Our very existence on this ridiculous rock hurtling through space, a planet that we are being told is gradually warming to the point of snuffing us out in apocalyptic fashion, is no more warranted given a fervent belief in evolutionary science than it is with an irrational belief in an all-powerful being resting in the clouds dispensing capricious justice.

Moreover, it can be hard to tell that the ship you’re on is sinking when you’re riding high on the bow, oblivious to the fact that half the boat is already under water. Those on the top have been living in denial for so long that it may be difficult to believe that the end is upon them. Even more so if you’re high on delusions of grandeur and steroids, religious ecstasy and Adderall. But the band plays on, so everyone just keeps dancing. Gabba Gabba, hey.

The President left the hospital this afternoon, all made up the color of an Oompa Loompa, and headed for the theatrical glow of the floodlights, where he proceeded to sing Evita from the set of Miss Saigon to the tune of Benny Hill. Not long after, the carnies working at Fox News, began whispering that the President was so patriotic that he’d gone and gotten himself sick for the good of the country, God bless his little heart.

It was right about then, perhaps in a remarkable moment of clarity, that a fly set up shop on the Vice President’s head on national television, and for a full two minutes the world stopped listening to the lies pouring out of his mouth and began contemplating how sad our lives really were. It was deep.

I myself gave up drinking at the beginning of the quarantine in early March, for reasons that passeth all understanding. It may have been either gloriously ill-timed or prophetically mindful, but in the months since, the world has not become more cogent in the light of my new clarity, rather it has been entirely devoid of any reason or sanity. In fact, with no mind-altering substances swimming around my brain, short of the copious amounts of caffeine and sugar I’ve been plying myself with, I find this existence to be downright ludicrous. 

What I may have once waved off as not worth the pain of worrying over—please hand me that bottle of Chardonnay if it’s not too much trouble—has now set up shop in my brain and demanded an audience. With no options for recourse or appeal, I have been left with no alternative but to hear the madness out and make a decision concerning the plight of my fellow man. It’s not good, if you were wondering. Nowhere close to good.

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”

Hunter S. Thompson | Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas

The problem we have, is that middle America was left behind for too long, not just in the economic sense, but within the cultural pantheon of liberal expressionism. They are stuck in the 1960’s with Tricky Dick and the Moral Majority. You can tell its not working out because periodically one of their spiritual leaders goes off the reservation like some Amish teen on Rumspringa—drunk, babbling and desperately trying to hide an underage teen behind the motel bathroom door. 

If you really think about it, it’s surprising that it took Jerry Falwell, Jr this long to break ranks. To be fair it sounds like he broke away a long time ago but has only recently been held to account by the cult he helped to form. Nothing like being attacked by your own dogs to make you wish you’d been nicer and fed them more often.

There is only one way to solve this crisis in America and that is attempt to restore balance to the universe. We need to introduce large swaths of America to a cultural cocktail of newfound delights that will cause a shift in their thinking, soften their hearts, and open their minds. This is not an endeavor to be taken lightly or wantonly but must be considered soberly and judiciously as a wholistic treatment to what ails us. We must be gentle but firm, understanding but reasonable strict, to ensure that the medicine goes down and the patient survives the treatment.

To begin with, we will need all the drag queens we can muster.

The Dragging Of Middle America

This won’t be easy as it’s a large country, drag is it’s own special calling, and not everyone can pull off being a queen just because they put on a dress. You can put lipstick on a pig, but that doesn’t mean they can sing and dance. 

America is in need of a shake up and we need to start with finding those who can bridge the gap between men and women, gay and straight, introverts and extroverts, Democrats and Republicans, north and south. This doesn’t simply call for cross-dressers, all awkward and full of shameful nail biting. This requires queens, in all their flawed, outrageous glory.

I should confess that I am no expert in drag queens. I have very little first-hand knowledge of what goes into being a queen, drag or otherwise, but from an outsider’s point of view, I feel they are the cure for what ails us, even if they themselves do not yet realize it. Please allow me to explain.

One of the things that has been spoken about a lot during the pandemic is the idea of a new normal. This concept couldn’t be any more timely as no one is in more dire need of a new normal than the United States of America. On top of looking towards redefining what normal looks like, we are in desperate need of a greater sense of acceptance of those who fall outside of what might generously be called normative behavior. As one would-be spiritual mystic in a platinum blonde wig and size fourteen heels was overheard opining, “Y’all bitches need to chill the fuck out.”

Drag is at its core a performance. It is separate from cross-dressing or transvestites, which is often much more secretive and involves an element of sexuality, and completely different from transgender where people are trying to present an entire identity. Drag queens take on a stage name, inhabit a persona, and perform before an audience. They are exaggerations of gender norms, not attempts to pass or blend in. They are iconic, larger than life, and prouder than proud. Drag is outside the norm, but they are neither hiding or apologizing for their brazen desire to blur the lines of gender and sensuality. Feminine and masculine. Bawdy and ribald.

If we can get your Cousin Betty to sing show tunes with Miss Apprehension, or your Uncle Billy to play cards with Hedda Lettuce, then we can probably find the space to talk about our feelings about the best way to pay for public education, or the need for strong federal government oversight over food safety. But really we want to get to the really important parts like loving our neighbors, or even ourselves. 

It’s not just about accepting those who are different, but changing our minds about what normal means. Let’s expand our idea of what is possible, and possibly allow a little more empathy to seep in. In the meantime, Deloris can probably give your grandmother tips on spicing up her love life, and Chastity can surely help feng shui your brother-in-law’s mobile home into something more likely to find him a companion.

Taco’s Bring People Together

Whoever warned America that if they weren’t careful there would be a taco truck on every corner, had it all backwards and our attempt to keep America in white bread and mayonnaise has had a devastating affect on large sections of America for far too long.

Learning to appreciate someone else’s culture begins with sitting down and sharing an expression of safety and security in the confines of a food that cries out for comfort, so why not start with tacos. A good taco is all about creating balance. Flavors, texture, heat and spice. You can’t overdo any one ingredient or it throws the whole thing off. Neither can you overload your ingredients without destabilizing the structural integrity of the whole affair.

You start small and build. Adding ingredients slowly and with a light touch. Don’t try to do it all at once. Don’t try to do too much. Don’t overreach with flavors. Don’t be dull. The thing to remember is you can always make another taco, and the next one will always be a little bit different. Be patient. Try new things. They won’t all be good, but you will learn something from each one.

Tacos aren’t just about balance, but also about accessibility. Everyone loves a taco. You can put nearly anything imaginable inside of a tortilla and with the right balance, achieve a satisfying presentation of flavors.

Tacos are most often things we have a hand in making ourselves, even if someone else is preparing them for us. We get to choose how we want our taco. What sort of protein. What type of toppings. Corn or flour. Hot or mild. Sweet or tangy. I can eat mine and you yours, and we can still sit across from the picnic table across from one other and talk about our grandchildren and our favorite Seinfeld episode.

Radical Pacifism

Americans like to imagine themselves within the scope of the rugged pioneer, fighting the elements and less than friendly natives, a gun and a mule. We got talked into fighting a war for a handful of greedy slaveowners against a King only to find ourselves with a new boot heel on our necks. We’ve been fighting someone or another ever since. When we aren’t fighting some foreign power we’ve never heard of, the powers that be have us fighting one another. Anything to keep us from realizing they’re picking our pockets.

America is a violent nation, but we are not inherently so. We need to offer Americans a way to be actively patriotic without resorting to violence in order to do it. Put our disastrous foreign policies aside for a minute and consider how we think of who we are as a nation. Our national identity assumes that if we’re not winning, we’re losing. If we’re not beating you, you must be beating us.

We have lost sight of the fact that while our country has often been at war, we are not a warring people. We do not take up arms against our neighbors. We do not form barricades against advancing armies. We pay exorbitant taxes to fund a mercenary army that rapes and pillages other cultures in the name of freedom. 

Passive inaction will never suffice in America, so we will need to resort to hardcore pacifism, the likes of which would make Gandhi himself blush a deep crimson. 

Bad Magic Is Ruining America

The Age of Reason was published in America by Thomas Paine in the late 18th century were it became a best seller. It presented common deistic arguments of the day, following in the 18th-century British tradition, thus challenging institutionalized religion. It highlighted what Paine saw as corruption of the Christian Church and criticized its efforts to acquire political power. 

Paine advocated reason in the place of revelation, leading him to reject miracles and to view the Bible as an ordinary piece of literature, rather than a divinely-inspired text. It promoted the idea of natural religion and argued for the existence of a creator-god, but rejected belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with humankind on a daily basis. 

You would have thought that a few centuries later, we’d have gotten beyond magical thinking by now, but alas we have not. We are still mired in the persecution of religious minorities here in America as attacks on Muslims and Sikhs are not uncommon. 

But it’s not just religion that has allowed magical thinking to take place, but the very roots of our nationalist narrative of American exceptionalism. We have lied to ourselves for so long, that we now believe the myths of our own making, as established fact and holy tradition. From the discovery of the continent, to our relationship with the aboriginal tribes, the importance of slavery in establishing the colonies, the concept of manifest destiny and ultimately our rationalization for continental expansion that ended when we reached the ocean, the history we have taught is undermined by the obvious truth. 

We have to return to some sort of reason as a basis for what we accept as truth and established fact and reject this notion of magical thinking as a means to an end. 

The thing is, there is real magic in the world, it’s just not what anyone imagines it to be. Maybe revelation isn’t all bad but we must be more critical of what is to be revealed. 

At Play In The Fields Of The Lord

Having come this far, I don’t want to lose everyone by throwing in a sports metaphor, but bear with me as I delve a bit into the romantic heart of America. Walt Whitman called baseball “America’s game” and it is truly an American sport. Baseball is a game, beautiful in its simplicity yet deceptively complex, challenged on a field of play that changes depending upon its geography. There are well established boundaries, and an agreed upon set of rules, but within those bounds, almost anything can happen. Unlike other sports, there is no clock in baseball and the game proceeds until the game is complete.

At our core, most Americans share a believe in fair play and rules. We are certainly capable of stupendous rationalization when it’s called for, to excuse the occasional lapse in abiding by our own rules, but we have historically at least felt that we needed to justify our actions. If you can convince people that one side is actually cheating, they will reject the results. Convincing them that their own side is cheating is not as easy as it sounds. All you do is have to look at the New England Patriots and their record of bending or breaking the rules, to understand our overarching desire to win.

America is often talked about as an idea, a grand experiment in self rule; a story that transcends its history, but relies heavily on its mythology. Baseball is a sport for romantics, invented in country built by dreamers. Just like Apple pie and Chevrolet, it’s embedded deep into our psyche and has often served as holy ground, not to be desecrated by the outside world. Within the confines of the ballpark, the rules of the game hold supreme and meritocracy is the law of the land. It’s why Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962 but still wasn’t legally guaranteed the right to vote until two years later. Baseball acted as a sort of safe space for integration to take hold in the minds of America, at least in theory, before we tackled the more pressing issue of dealing with it in real life. It might not be the greatest metaphor and Jackie did not immediately open the floodgates for a wider America, but it was deeply symbolic of what was possible. At a time when white supremacy was uncontested in America, the best ball player in America was a negro

Many of the most famous movies made about baseball, all have at their core a story of redemption. Films like Bull Durham, Field of Dreams and The Natural are all romantic love stories. There is often a human relationship involved, but really it’s about the love of a game, or at least the idea of the game. Baseball is about nostalgia for the possibility of youth and Americans are nothing if not steeped in nostalgia for our younger days.

The problem with constantly looking backward in a conservative fashion, resistant to change and terrified of the future, is that we have often resisted progress in the name of tradition. It’s also one of the things that is both precious and obnoxious about the game of baseball. It’s desire to stay frozen in time. It never works, even when we think it will. The new kids come along and kick dirt on our cleats and make their own rules.

A lot of people don’t care much for sports, and all professional sports remain segregated by gender, so baseball will never the be unifying force needed to heal the nation, but I like the idea of baseball as a metaphor, just as I like the idea of America. What America needs right now is a romantic love affair with itself.  But first it needs to stop jerking itself off and learn to love one another. 

God’s Plan For America

You might be asking yourself how I could possibly know what God’s plan for America would be, and I can’t tell you that exactly, because the Lord and I have a rather complicated non disclosure agreement whereby I can relate the details of the plan but I’m prohibited from quoting him directly. He said he tried that before and it didn’t work out.

Let’s call it divine inspiration then, or an accumulations of revelations as they are otherwise known. Why He chose me I couldn’t tell you, and if you have a problem with His choice of messenger, get in line. If you haven’t heard before now, it’s rather long and He doesn’t seem bothered by it. 

For those of you who have been paying attention, the people who claim to follow God in this country have gotten so far off the prescribed path that I can finally reveal that they’ve been wandering, lost in the corn fields of middle America for the better part of 40 years. 

The Israelites had Moses. Trump has QAnon. You get a sober Irishman from Oklahoma living in New Jersey. You wouldn’t believe it to look at Him, but God is a funny guy. 

The Lord didn’t use stratospheric symbols this time as our weather patterns have simply become too erratic and everyone was ignoring them once we got the weather channel. He never explained why exactly, but he elected instead to use television personalities to confuse and isolate the faithless, and while I wouldn’t have said it could be done before He did it, it’s clearly been wildly effective. They bitch like there’s no tomorrow, but they haven’t left for the coasts despite a million reasons not to. Never underestimate the Almighty. 

So what’s the plan for getting God’s people out of the wilderness? It is written that if the mountain will not come to Mohammad, then Mohammad must go to the mountain. God told me he didn’t write that one, but believe it not some dude named Bacon did. Did I tell you He was funny or what?

But wait, you thought the Jews were the chosen people right? I know. Me too. I asked him about that and basically he told me they’re on a whole different calendar and not to worry about it. He explained after a fashion that while we may be all in the same storm we are not all in the same boat. That guy has a thing for boats and crazy weather so sometimes you just have to take Him at his word. When He says it’s time to bring His people out of the wilderness I don’t ask too many questions, I just take notes. 

There is no use in trying to move a mountain, not without a lot of time and some heavy machinery, and anyway He says that was all just a metaphor. The thing is, the coasts are in serious danger of flooding out due to our reckless treatment of the planet. For the record the Lord says we need to learn a lesson about taking care of our things, so he’s not stepping in on that one. If your tent is leaking at the edges, the safest place is high ground in the middle, so that’s where we’re headed. The sticky part is they don’t know we’re coming. 

It shouldn’t come as too big of a shock to learn that God has been using writers since the beginning to get his word out. In some eras he used more of a writers room concept, and in others he opted for the lone voice calling out from the wilderness. Here in the early days of the 21st century, for reasons that remain his own, He chose a chatty marketing guy with a penchant for the profane. Go figure.

My orders, such as I understand them, is to create a new narrative for America. He plans to operate as the Showrunner of sorts and we’re all being asked to put on a big show for the heartland. This is why we’re starting with drag queens and taco trucks. The Lord wants to begin with shock and awe, and people are going to get hungry and the middle of America isn’t really the place to be handing out fish and bread. He says tacos are the future. 

We’re going to need holy ground to use as a safe space, but God says Churches are too big of a problem and says He’s not allowed in most of them anymore anyway so He chose baseball fields instead. They really are the cathedrals of American culture. Every small town in America has at least a little league field and the smaller cities have decent ballparks. Green grass, lots of seating and snacks. The Lord sounds pretty pumped when he talks about it. 

When we get to the part about radical pacifism, God is bringing in a ringer. That’s right the Son of Man is holding a reunion tour, and where else would you expect to find Jesus in America but playing in a ballpark. He’s not doing the whole robe thing like you remember, but he does still have the long hair and ironically enough, looks a helluva lot like Jeff Bridges. The Dude abides, man.

So what about the magic? I know you’ve been wondering. 

First off, let me assure you that the shit is real. This isn’t David Blane boring you to death with his stupid street pranks. This is honest to God supernatural shit that will blow your mind. There is no way I can explain it to you where you’ll understand it. I’m not being coy. It’s magic not logic. You have to feel it to experience it. That’s why the three of them are always talking about faith. You should hear the Holy Ghost go off on the subject. That is one deep cat by the way. You’re not going to believe his act. It’s off the hook.

All I can really tell you, and this isn’t even going to help, and might even hurt, because you’re going to dismiss it because you think you know what it is, even though you really don’t. 

It’s love. 

See, I knew you wouldn’t get it. 

I know. It sounds like a big bullshit fairy tale for children, middle aged cat ladies and lonely basement gamers. Like the Beatles had it right all along? Seems sort of ridiculous, right? To be honest, John really did understand the plan but we killed him like we killed all the others. Martin. Gandhi. Tupac. 

You’re trying to use human logic to understand the mind of God and it’s not going to work, not without some serious psychedelics and a willingness to lose your mind. But that isn’t necessary.  The Dude told me that all you need is faith, no bigger than a mustard seed, and more will be revealed. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the revolution. It won’t be anything like what you were expecting, but you should know that by now. 

It will begin with radical acceptance and revolutionary tolerance for what constitutes a normative experience. We will convene on holy ground, in the established comfort of a familiar space, where we will be bathed in nostalgia and romance, while being nourished in body and spirit. It will culminate in a deep peace and end with love. 

Plus if you’ve never seen Jesus pitch, you’re in for a real treat. He’s got outrageous breaking stuff, and His message is on fire. When He gets going, it’s like He’s walking on water. They don’t call Him the Prince of Peace for nothing. 

John Lennon said, “If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.” God told me He gave John that one. You always hear about John being the favorite, but it’s always nice to hear it straight from the source.

God is a lot more active than you might think in giving us clues to what we need to know to get by. He used to use nature a lot more, but he says times change and you have to reach the people where they are, so he works with screenwriters a lot. In the movie Field of Dreams, the ghost of the father questions a wayward farmer after finding a magical ball field in the middle of his corn field, “Is this heaven?”

It’s Iowa, he replies. Only Iowa. 

Save me a seat when you get there. 

About the author

David Todd McCarty

David Todd McCarty is a writer, director, photographer and cinematographer. He writes fiction and nonfiction essays as well as journalism. You can see his commercial work at http://www.hoppingfrogstudios.com

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