“One Fat Bastard Ape
with a Cigar can
Change Everything”

by Garrison Somers

This Essay Rated CT
Credit / Blame John/Garry
Essay # 0000001
Last Edited 2007-12-21

It may very well be that simple: that is, we’re just one monkey short. Even with all of our problems corralled, branded, and butchered, their hearts and livers slavered over in noble victory feasts; walls built, wills signed, chickens plucked. Nails, shoes, horses, knights, armies be damned. But for one monkey, the kingdom falls regardless.

Such irony is not lost on me. The truest measure of a man is his capacity for irony, and I seek it out like a heavy, golden, dried-wine-spotted grail. You’ve heard the chestnut before. A million monkeys at a million typewriters, a full blown ice-age of time and ta-da. Shakespeare. Let’s break it down, shall we?

First of all, how cool is to have been Shakespeare? How great is it to be the big dog, the shaggy, stinking breath, howling the vinyl siding off the house, Great Pyrenees/Newfoundland cross-breed of scribblers. The adjective himself — the man against whom everything written or spoken or sung or played is measured. To be Shakespearean, or not to be. That’s no good question at all.

Is this why all the rest of us drink? Why we sleep desperately with many different women, seeking some kind of ineffable comfort? Holding the cool smooth breast of motherhood, yearning to return to some kind of perfection, the womb, the flawless warmth and peace and satisfaction therein? Hold the tantalizing coldness of the shotgun barrel to our stringy, scruffy necks while we try to make our non-prehensile toes successfully manipulate the trigger? And, finally and inevitably belly up to the trough where Will threw his spoils. It is certainly plausible. Because it’s just not damn good enough to be Hemingway. Wilde. Heller. Cervantes. Flaubert. Tolstoy. Dan freaking fourteen million copies in print Brown. No, not good enough by half. Like the wind in Chicago, we will always suck, even if we’re better, because Shakespeare stands the you can’t study for it, you can’t practice for it, you can’t cheat on it test of time. Oh, and you can’t live to see it, either.

Secondly, a million monkeys and a million typewriters. Not half a million, doing two shifts, passing each other as they come and go, like Ukrainians trying to scrub Chernobyl with used toothbrushes. Not pencils and scrap paper spread out on the endless prairie with a “Free Lunch” sign posted at the border. A giant Merrill Lynch cold-call bullpen filled with typewriters and perhaps a coffee-cart pushing around so the creative juices are lubricated and caffeined. And an employment contract to guarantee the full million years, mind. No offshoring, no outsourcing.

What does this all mean? I don’t think that this is the way the theorem was intended, but I think it says, stealthily, that we are all chimps. On our best days, with healthy tail-winds, we can fling poo. Figuratively speaking, for the most part. But not much else. Why are we such a species of underachievers? Why can the lion roar and the gazelle excel? Who put the ape in apricot? What have they got that we ain’t got?

Well, they haven’t got ADHD, or a peanut allergy, or gout or type-two diabetes, though I’m not absolutely sure that that’s relevant. They don’t care what kind of car they drive, they don’t tivo shows to watch later, they don’t seek comfort food when things go occasionally wrong, just regular food. They don’t eat crow, or humble pie, don’t suffer from acute depression, or chronic fatigue. They don’t run in circles shouting, “what’ll I do? What will I do?” They gazelle and lion and gorilla and mouse, respectively and effectively, and possibly reflectively. Why can’t we human in the same way?

Because we have the unfortunate quality of understanding. We can see what is great and know the difficulty in achieving such greatness. Crikey-mikey, how can I compete with Aristotle and Alexander, Marco Polo and Magellan, Leonardo and Michelangelo, Lincoln and Martin Luther King? The bar’s too high! Too damned high! You don’t understand, the peanut allergy really messes me up. It hurts when I do this. It doesn’t taste the same way when Mom makes it, and anyway, I’d rather eat out. I’ll lose all the weight after the holidays. My smile is my best feature. Yes I know, but he was good to his constituents. Who wants to be seventy-six years old, anyway? It tastes just like chicken.

And maybe, just maybe, trying to be as good and fine is wrong. Maybe it’s no good at all. Maybe we should be just good enough. The effort should be directly proportioned to the expected achievable results. I mean, a piece of cake in a field of manure isn’t edible, or even actually cake anymore, is it?

Let’s have an argument. I say if you can’t be first among all, you’re last. Don’t agree? So why’d you even get up this morning? Why’d you even turn on the laptop and open MS Word? Your type-two writer’s block is the solution, not a problem. The achievement is in recognizing your impossible dream is a waste of time. So go to work, make that call, clickety-clack that e-mail, send that IM, meet with your peers, swing your partner, spin the truth, spin your wheels. Good work, team! We all win when we all try!

I’d rather be a whore than a pimp, any day. I’d rather eat shit than starve. I believe that, I truly do. On the other hand, I have no idea what that has to do with the premise.

Give it up. We are always a monkey short. “Well, here’s my piece; I’ve run out of time and it’s the best I can do, anyway, considering I have to run and do my other thing, like, you know, my other . . . whatever.” You can’t practice enough to be good at anything, because practice is hard and hard hurts. We should settle for sitting and having an idiot tell you what to do (only he’s really not an idiot, because he’s telling you what to do, isn’t he? How emasculating is that, by the way?). Give it up! Better to shirk and fall on your dirk than try and work, right? Surrender, you haven’t got a chance.