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Joie De Vivre (With One Eye Out for Panel Vans)

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Joie De Vivre (With One Eye Out for Panel Vans)

by John Kendall Hawkins

"Man's maturity: To have regained the seriousness that he had as a child at play."

- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 94

For the most part it's been a tumultuous, stir-fried year, full of sound and fury signifying nada; not much swimming with the endorphins and finding new porpoise this year. Mostly just politics, white noise in blackface, wringing its hands with white PC soul bells, each time a Black man fell, then back to dogma-eat-dogma in our kennelized democracy. Woof!

But, as I spend a lot of my time reviewing books, the last year has also presented some amazing revelations that have served to remind me of how, like Socrates, little I know, when removed from the web of information that I am connected to every day. When I take the inter out of my texting, what am I left with but a pocketful of emojis? Against a background of multiverses, quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg principle, the imminent Singularity, a pandemic, and the Climate Change crisis -- and the Trump phenomenon -- I found time for new Ezekielizations of my human experience.

I read and reviewed The Mosquito by Timothy C. Winegard. It's an intriguing book of rising and falling empires, with the mosquito calling the shots throughout history, the question of European colonization of the New World solved when an effective bug remedy (chloroquine) was discovered to ward off malaria, and the nasty Black man's burden sickle-cell anemia was shown to deter malaria, says Winegard, and make Africans ideal slaves for sweaty cotton fields back home. Instead of featuring Che on our Ts, maybe we should have a stylized Anopheles. Winegard posited that mosquitoes were humankind's worst enemy, and, while my skeptical mind was reeling, he offered up: "almost half of the people who have ever lived have died of mosquito-vectored disease." Nyuh.

Against that frightful conceptual background previously described, I waded on, reading and reviewing another book that Woke me in a new way, The Age of Intoxication by Benjamin Breen. I came out of the black-and-white Hank Williams era (and drank like him, too, even had a car crash (icy road, too much wine) I barely survived) and made my way through the 60s and 70s occasionally tokin' weed, hashish -- sometimes laced with opium, willing to meet El Cid halfway; in the 80s getting a taste of the sugar shack, cocaine (little shovel, no Tony Montana snuffy snuff); and then the 90s came, I watched Midnight Express, got scared straight, and one day woke to find myself teaching (British) English in Istanbul; no drugs since: I totally missed out on the oxycontin rage. Oh, well. Anyway, Breen convinced me that addict Columbus was high on opium when he sailed the seas and it was all the West Indies (I mean, East) to him. Breen suggests he didn't give a sh*t where he was gong. Breen's subtitle says it all: Origins of the Global Drug Trade. The roots of Big Pharma. An eye-opener.

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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