Dalton Delan | The Unspin Room: American dreams and nightmares
I dozed off during the rockets' red glare over Red Square, formerly known as the Rose Garden, before the First Lady dressed in battle fatigues staged a coup against the plantings.
As I slipped into slumber, I heard Ed McCurdy singing "Last night I had the strangest dream I ever dreamed before ," something East German kids sang as the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. This anti-war lullaby was a Proustian madeleine for me, carrying me to a realm of REM-sleep alternative facts. Here is my trip down Alice's rabbit-hole, unexpurgated, scrawled upon awakening:
I'm dreaming I'm downstairs in the Dip Room at 1600 Pennsylvania, below the East Room where I staged musical soirees for five administrations — Bobby D, Re, Mick, Stevie, Macca — and where a former resident dipped into the waters of impeachable offenses. More recently, at Christmas parties, Obama liked to warn the guests against pocketing the spoons. Spoon river, wider than a mile. Oh, dream maker, now I see President Pence, veep no longer, in his inherited role as El Exigente, emerging from the men's room buttoning up his Dr. Denton pajamas. He's trailed by a life-size teddy bear. I follow this odd couple down steam-punk corridors to the Exec Building bowling alley. There, Melania, sipping a White Russian through a straw, has traded her junta garb for a bowling shirt that reminds me of "The Big Lebowski."
I ask her where her husband is. She tells me after he was successfully impeached he's been trying to keep out of the rough while golfing at Allenwood Penitentiary. I've been there — just visiting, mind you — and it ain't bad if your collar is white and your crime is federal. It's no Mar-a-Lago, but that's now the residence of exiled Czar Putin.
"They never understood Don in New York," she laments, as she pulls down the "Wally" Cleaver photo of Nixon bowling — the best bowler of any president, mind you, before he, too, was blackballed — and hangs a velvet Elvis portrait in its place. It's fine art she saw, my guess, in something like House & Guardhouse.
I hear a ball hop the lane and see that McConnell's loser's game is still a work-in-progress. I tell him not to quit his day job and wonder if I can give him any tips on keeping out of the gutter. He offers that he misses his wife since she and Betsy were convicted under the emoluments clause after the Foremost family shipping group got stimulus millions and the education secretary's favorite for-profit schools took over education for federal prisons and Starbucks baristas. Hey, why have a trough if you can't muck in it?
At the far end, I see Graham Cracker resetting the pins. It's pretty upscale, I'm thinking, observing McCarthy in minority lederhosen using elbow grease as he wipes the balls. I wend my way back to the rabbit hole and climb up.
I see daylight again as I pop out in the Rose Garden where my dream began. The congressional picnic is underway, and Pelosi is slathering mustard on her dog. She looks happy, expecting to hold the House, and the other chamber is beckoning. At this point I begin to feel woke, another comorbid day ripping the sky and tearing away my dreamscape. As I blink awake, my phone is evidence that the man in the high castle is still tweeting out his 280-character vocabulary. The Senate is still a doormat for him to wipe what the elephants left behind. We all remain stuck in a play opening in Philadelphia, The Mask of Amontillado, countless Americans perishing unnecessarily from the politicization of common-sense safety precautions and the failure to act nationally and think locally. There is a special place in Dantean depths for lemming governors and their feckless leader when no catcher is in the rye.
In Ojibwe culture, before we exterminated First Nations and shunted them into reservations to free the land but not the slaves — et tu, Jefferson? — dreamcatchers fashioned after spider webs protected children from harm. Even the best of dreams struggle against a runaway train of desperation from a government unfit to govern. Looking back on the dystopian wonderland of my dream, I realize that these disruptive days are a test of our national character. The world is watching whether we allow a tin-pot dictator to turn the cradle of modern democracy into a banana republic.
These are the times that try pol's souls — should they possess them. If health care for all is evil, and protesting police brutality is anarchy, we are sleepwalking. Like Rip Van Winkle, we may yet discover an American Revolution we snored through. It's been four years before the mast. This November, rise from slumbers and sing. Make it loud, that the nation's founders shall not have died in vain.
Dalton Delan can be followed on Twitter @UnspinRoom. He has won Emmy, Peabody and duPont-Columbia awards for his work as a television producer.
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