Prologue: I’m getting worried about the Simon Smithson Effect (SSE). This afternoon I was fiddling with this piece, which is a companion to the earlier “I Don’t Brake for Mongoose,” both belonging to a larger work called “The Dump,” when in comes an email from the guy in Hilo who’s been using my trailer, telling me that this morning at sparrowfart, when he was least expecting it, he was stopped by a cop and told to register the trailer or face a $100 fine. Read on.
Earlier this year I was heading out of my house in Hilo, Hawai’i, with a trailer-load of Monstera and banana trunks. Going to The Dump. Feeling strong and powerful because I’d been cutting down bananas.
Cutting down bananas is a cheap way to feel like a person of enormous physical power. You take your machete, step up to a banana plant, even one fifteen or twenty feet tall, and give it a serious chop. Down it goes, and with a satisfying thump, because banana trunks are very, very heavy. Most of the heaviness is water, but who cares? A banana going down goes down with as much force as a much larger woody tree that you might have taken a long-ass time to fell with an ax.
Downside is that it’s hard to carry the trunks to the trailer and hard to lift them up to put them in. You have to chop them up into sections that you can lift, which does take away from the mightyman feeling you got just before, when you toppled the bastard with a single stroke of your Crocodile brand machete. Those of you who are not tropical people need to know that bananas are harvested by felling them. They grow back from the stump, and very quickly, too.
So there I was, headed for the dump with a load of Monstera and mightyman banana trunks, which were leaking their water all over the trailer, but not so much, lucky for me, that they filled it and gushed out onto the road the way you sometimes see trucks or trailers with a long track of leaked something behind them on the road. And you drive along wondering what some asshole is leaking, hoping it’s not something really bad, like gasoline or phenylpyruvic acid* so that when the asshole’s vehicle or some other jerk ignites it, the flames run back to you and under, and burn you up.
Of course the banana trunks wouldn’t burn, being mostly water and all.
And the Monstera wouldn’t burn because it’s a hard-ass plant. Grubbing out Monstera is the hardest agricultural task I’ve ever done, and I’ve done a lot, including clearing Southwestern Pacific rainforest for gardens. The big leaves are nothing, but the trunks – some call them stems, but I call them trunks – are very heavy. The root system is extensive and you have to slash each member clear of the ground, because there’s no digging the bastards out.
When I’m looking at Monstera I’m going to have to take out by hand, I whimper. So I think about alternatives, but the war surplus store in Hilo does not have any M2A1-7 flame throwers left over from the Pacific War. The guy with the Bobcat charges too much. The chainsaw gums up too quickly to be useful.
There’s one other possibility besides brutal machete work. There’s a part of Monstera that you can eat, which is why the complete Linnaean binomial of the ones that vex me so is Monstera deliciosa. I was thinking that I could eat some, and hope the others are paying attention.
I used to explain to my classes that human cannibalism was almost always ritual and was (a) meant to let you commune with the dead by allowing another body to become part of you, or (b) to demonstrate how little regard you had for that body, by treating it like food, very demeaning, and by passing it through your personal digester and turning it into shit, even more demeaning.
So I thought that if the Monstera have some sort of plant-consciousness (which might be the case, since Hawai’i is the most New Agey place I know, and maybe the Raelians have managed to learn from their intergalactic contacts how to make Monstera conscious) then the ones I hadn’t eaten would either die of fear or shame or maybe teleport themselves to another universe, which would do the job of getting rid of them just as well.
I favor the idea of being a Monstera-cannibal** mightyman as well as a banana-felling mightyman, but I would need to make sure the Monstera knew I was eating them to insult them, rather than to commune with them.
So back on the street I didn’t want to leave a banana juice trail like the kind I’m describing, because that might attract the attention of a Hilo cop, which in turn might direct his attention to my unlicensed and unregistered trailer, and I might have to pay a fine***.
In the old days, like the really old days when I was in high school, being stopped by a cop wouldn’t have mattered because my girlfriend C was the daughter of the famous Sergeant B****. So I would have found a way to mention that I was Sgt. B’s daughter’s boyfriend and all would have been well.
In 2004 I met with C in a Starbucks at Waimea, also known as Kamuela, to talk about the old days. I had not seen her since 1960. It was a pleasant meeting but the badass pink Chevy didn’t come up.
Sgt. B was famous for his car. Fifty years ago in Hilo, and even today, the cops use their own cars as patrol cars. Mainlanders are always going on and on about it, especially when they get ticketed for traffic violations because they have no idea, no idea at all, that the Nissan Maxima that eases up behind them while they’re driving their rental car 50 in a 35 is actually a cop car, until the lights behind the grille and the blue light on top, which the poor ignorant Mainlander thought was just a Volunteer Fire Department blue flasher, begins flashing. Gotcha.
Sgt. B’s patrol car was also the family car. It was a ‘57 Chevy Bel Air, but it wasn’t like your ordinary Bel Air. It was pink, for one thing. And it had a Corvette engine, for another, although Sgt. B had not ordered the floor-mounted four-speed. So there was Sgt. B’s car: two hundred eighty-three horsepower, three-speed column shift, four doors, pink. It seems wrong to put “badass,” “pink” and “column shifter” in the same sentence, but I will: it was a badass column-shifter pink Chevy.
Sgt. B was also famous because, whenever he felt like it, he would take the badass pink Bel Air over to the Kona side, where there was more than a mile of very straight two-lane highway. That stretch exists unchanged today, and in fact I was driving along it a couple of years ago when my Mainland visitor G started questioning me closely about C and I had to tell about what happened on that highway.
What would happen on Sundays over on the Kona side straight highway was that people would drag there. And when Sgt. B was in the mood, he drive over and he’d drag too. So picture the scene, as I got it from C (back in high school, not in Starbucks): kids in their rods or hot stocks, dragging on the highway, and the pink police cruiser arrives. And joins in, sometimes with C in the passenger seat. Sgt. B didn’t kick everybody’s ass, C said, but he kicked most of them. I was never invited to go along, so this is all second-hand.
C and I got to take the pink Bel Air out on a dates. We had to be careful not to key the police radio mike while making out, though. It was exposed, hanging on the dash and, well, you know. We had to be careful with feet, elbows, other body parts. We almost never turned on the flashing lights and siren and pulled our friends over.
By the time I was worried about getting ticketed for a leaking unregistered trailer, Sgt. B was long dead, C wasn’t answering my emails, there was a 100% legal Hilo Dragstrip, and there didn’t seem to be a Hilo myth about the badass column-shifter pink Chevy I could connect myself to, and get off by association with one of the immortal ancestors. So I didn’t want to be stopped.
* A metabolite of phenylalanine, harmless in small quantities, but dangerous in large. I like the sound of it, because it suggest fiery destruction. It’s not funny to people with PKU.
** Yes, I know that for it to really be cannibalism I’d have to be a Monstera deliciosa myself, but this is creative non fiction, so cut me some slack here.
*** As per the SSE.
**** Sgt. B is long dead, but C is still around.