Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Infiltrating the Illuminati

I didn't want to go, but I went. I wasn't consulted. It was okay with me, though. It's very flattering to be shown off proudly by a parent when you are a somewhat prodigal-in-the-sense-of-parable child, returning to the fold after a prolonged absence for which you can no longer remember the rationale.* Like everybody, I'm a sucker for flattery, and parental pride is worth basking in for me. Off I went.

*(What did I ever see in academia?--I mean, past the undergraduate level? How long have I been unhappy with my career choices without realizing that? I like what I am doing so much, now, that I am befuddled and struck dumb and foolish when I try to say why I have not been Out Making A Living for a longer time.)

Mom and Robert had a business dinner to attend, an annual thank you dinner thrown munificently and lavishly by Mom's long-time investment partner and colleague. I went after work, with them, after the Reading Of The Poo Sample Documents (see previous post). The host greeted me graciously and at long last, and I felt at home despite my not knowing anyone in person. I knew many, many of them well through Mom's anecdotes. My boss was there, which was great-- I really like my boss. And the other people my mother works with were there, and made me very warmly welcome.

Nice, nice people on an interpersonal level. Warm, lovely, salt of the earth, when you've got them face to face. I put it that way, because most of them are SUV-driving, energy-guzzling, not-recycling, land-lording, beef-munching, champagne-drinking, McDonald's-drive-thru-ing, varmint-shooting, golf-playing, cowboy-boot-wearing, homeless-loathing, Texas-worshiping, tax-dodging, pro-life-anti-choice thinking, God-fearing, Muslim-hating, Grace-saying, baby-sacrificing Republicans. Okay, okay... maybe that's excessive. Not all of them say Grace.

(We said Grace.)

In short: the rich and powerful. The movers and shakers. And people who like to consider themselves oh-so-very-down-to-earth even while they discuss quantities of resource that would simply puzzle the majority of us who are employees of the service industry. (They do have a lovely collection of mock-genuine cowboy catch-phrases: "we live out in the skinny branches" was my favorite of last night.)

We mingled and sat, three long tables of at least 24 people per table. I had the novel feeling that if I even whispered the heathen words "blue state" in this company, I would be strung up like a New Yorker in a Pace salsa commercial. But it's okay. I've got training as an anthropologist, and I figured I could sit among those with whom I shared little (like, oh, say, for instance, the conditions of having a "church family," financial solvency, or dental insurance) with the same relative comfort level I would feel among a gathering of very loving, welcoming members of the Shining Path.**

**(No. I do not support "terrism." Go directly to hell if you suspect I do; do not pass Go, do not collect $200.)

I ran over possible warding mantras in my mind, which I could recite in order to repel attacks: flat tax, fence the border, super-size it.

It was really very nice. There were short, invited speeches: one talked about his church so I'm afraid I mercilessly tuned the rest of it out until he said Grace for us, then other speeches followed during the soup and salad courses. One told us how he planned to gentrify a city recently devastated by an earthquake, as it rebuilt; one told us how to dodge property taxes through charity and investment; one told us how, as a local politician, he was bringing a Texan-inspired tracking system for the disaster-displaced to a telephone near you. (Well, near me, anyway, but that's not nearly as well represented a phrase in advertising as the other.) But the Illuminati-izing died down sometime before the barbecue and hey-we-tried-to-make-it-vegetarian arrived (not that I've been very vegetarian since I arrived... this, too, shall pass. Just not as fast as it would if I were getting enough fiber.)

Holy shit, am I ever out of my depth. I am swimming among the sharks, and I just have to hope that my rather patchy chainmail dive suit of moral purity can protect me when my political, economic, and social positions inevitably act as chum upon the waters.

Mmm, chum. We'll see. Zombie sharkocalypse, anyone?

For dessert they brought us root beer floats, which delighted everyone. And that soothed me, really. How scary can someone be when they're eating hard-frozen ice cream out of a glass of root beer with a sticky spoon?

If I vanish, it was the Gnomes of Zurich what did it. Remember me.

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