By Jeff Bakkensen
First went the naming rights to the schools. My own alma mater Desert View High School became Boss DigiTech Academy. Our crosstown rivals Arcadia were rebranded Universal Distribution Center. Then Consultative Edited Textbooks were approved, and suddenly Lucy – that’s our daughter – was telling her mommy and me how George Washington wouldn’t have been able to cut down a Lambert SteelStrong™ Cherry Tree or how, definitively, his crossing would have looked captured on a Nikon. That’s a phrase we’ve all started using to mean when something is true to life – captured on a Nikon.
Next the city parks were auctioned off and started charging admission. The art museum was liquidated, as were the instruments of the Symphony Orchestra. Obviously we weren’t going to disarm the police, but we did, for a time, allow advertisers to dress individual policemen at a rate based on arrests per month. Now we’re back to letting them dress themselves.
The City Council wasn’t so daft to miss the symbolism in renting out space in City Hall to corporate pirates, so they sold the building from the foundation up. Some suckers up in Canada bought it lock, stock and barrel, picked it up with half-a-dozen helicopters, and flew it away.
You probably wonder how things got to be this bad, but there’s no easy answer. Some poor decisions were made, to be sure. Monies routed into the wrong hands. Risks taken without heeding the signs. Advice was given and not followed, or followed slavishly. We’re not always sure which.
After the most recent elections, some of our elected leaders finally took responsibility for the mess, and bravely sold themselves into bondage. My neighbor the County Assessor is working off the vig for a Japanese gangster. I’ll never forget the tears in his eyes as he spoke from the steps leading to the toothless spot where City Hall had stood. When he was done, two men in Lycra suits came and stuffed him into a waiting Datsun.
We’ve promised ourselves to be thriftier, and we know this means that certain items will be cut. I just wish they’d kept a few of the garbage men behind when they sent them all to Nicaragua for the picking season. The trash is calf-deep along Alameda Street, and we have to shuffle to avoid breaking bottles on our way down to work. Surely, there is a way to get them back. This is still a free country, after all.
– Jeff Bakkensen lives in New York with his partner and, someday, a dog. You can find his most recent work in Smokelong Quarterly, The Antigonish Review, and Straylight Literary Magazine.