By Eric Le Roy

Content 18+ We have all seen those films where the ghastly monster, often disguised as a human being, gets doused with the anti-ghoul antidote and immediately shrivels up into a spider-like coil of venomous and gleaming toxins and finally extinguishes, leaving only a sort of scab. I think the total disintegration is meant to show the meagerness of evil once it is caught by the ear.

I have a rather different take. I always looked at the simmering scab as a kind of lowest common denominator – not as ‘evil’ finally extracted from ‘good’ – like abscessed teeth jerked from suffering gums – but rather like a melting process from something puffed up and artificial down into its real components, kind of like people who freebase cocaine or turn it into crack ‘rocks’ in order to achieve the essence and thus the full effect.

That might seem like a terrible way of getting to my theme – and maybe it wasn’t the only street leading there – but it’s one of the ways, and it’s the one I took.

My subject is human fakery. That’s the ‘topic sentence’ (as I would tell my students) and the ‘supporting detail’ is that, as I age, I seem to see it everywhere. At least more than in the past. And I realize that maybe it’s just me, nothing more than the misanthropic scoffing of an old prankster whose day is nearly done. A ruse that allows me to say “I quit the world!” to a world that indeed is quitting me. After all, when I was young, I bought into the whole dog and pony show without much scruple. I would say and do whatever it took to get in the buildings and beds I wanted.

Even now, as I look back on a long, ‘colorful’ past – in many cases in full acknowledgement of what a greedy, cowardly ‘cunt’ I often was, there were days when I climbed to the mountaintop of human experience, at least in my own mind. Days when I ‘got it right’. Also, I would like to say that, in the deep cisterns and crevices where my soul existed, there was something, something, I say, that was never false. It was, I truly believe, akin to what Oscar Wilde is supposed to have uttered: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at stars.” At the risk of giving myself too much of a pat on the back, I believe I qualify for that club.

There has always been a fragment of honesty and a germ of survival instinct that has pulled me through and led me to try to ‘get better’.

So my present judgment of human life is not expressed as from one who positions himself outside it, but rather who dwells in its deep interior, perambulates amid its distorting mirrors and mingles among its thickest curtains. In short, I see, from many angles, that life seems to consist more of fakery, misdirection, sleight-of-hand, and chronic insincerity than from any of the various ‘truths’ (in the absence of ultimate Truth) that one might select from. And the accumulated effect on my state of mind goes from incredulity to fury, to weariness, to sadness, and then toward acceptance. Almost.

What a pain it is to die away from a world which always insisted on telling you one thing when the truth was something else. Or nothing else. You have to ask yourself, well, if I was really here, where exactly was that ?As a boy, I believed in the sanctity and safety of policemen, firemen, teachers, preachers, mayors, coaches, fathers, mothers, and Santa. They were the Truth. Why would they lie to me?

I understand now (and have for a long time) that suspending judgment is a necessity when leaving the world of Innocence and entering the world of Experience. That may even be what the Adam and Eve story in the Old Testament is really about. To enter the World of Experience is to enter the World of Humanity and it is at this point that our capacity to forgive or not to forgive kicks in. As Richard Wilbur wrote in his poem “The Pardon”:

Well, I was ten and very much afraid.

In my kind world the dead were out of range

And I could not forgive the sad or strange

In beast or man.

An outsider from the get-go, the outrage I felt when the spades of the world began to smack my face created a bitterness in me that has never fully departed. But I have learned to live with it, especially in light of my own woebegone shortcomings.

It doesn’t change the fact that they lied to me. And I, forsaking the ideal, went wallowing in the delicious sex-stench of what was left after they blew the birthday candles out. The Junior High Jekyll became the High School Hyde. And on it went. It wasn’t until one day when I got down from the barstool, wandered outside, and realized that three decades had gone by since I’d stopped in for a quick one on my way home. Yet I can’t in good faith say that I regret any of that ‘dirty decadence’ – moments of the unapologetically sensual – no matter where it came from or under what circumstances. Unlike people better than me, I could not compromise: I couldn’t dabble my toe in the River Styx and then pull it out.Thoroughly pissed off with ‘angels’, I became the devil’s man. In a sense.

So it’s not for me to judge. But I was always looking for an authentic something-or-other and now, as I wind down my days, I set my eyes on the world, and this is what I see: life is mostly just choreography.Some of the directors, actors, and dancers are skillful in the extreme; others clodhop about like goats and monkeys moving heavy furniture. Some fool you; others would fool you if they could.

Cosmetic surgery is a wonderful thing for guys with big floppy ears and micro penises, and for women with flaccid faces and sagging breasts. For transgender people it appears to be the ultimate lifeline. Cool beans, I say. Moreover, if you feel like shit and getting implants that make your lips look like innertubes floating in the surf, go for it.If you need boobs like inflated ostrich eggs and ass cheeks like a pair of humpback whales during the mating process, be my guest.

The problem I have is when it goes to such extremes that nothing remains of the original – in this case the original homo sapien underneath.In other words, the fakery becomes, not a supplement to reality but a replacement for it. As men and women, we have all woken up the ‘morning after’ and seen that the champagne-soaked gazelle or tiger of the night before has turned into a witch or a troll. And trout-breath to top it off.

Not bad, I say. It’s the human condition. Moreover, I assume that in the days before mouthwash and deodorant, wicked smells were part of the deal, and maybe people just didn't register them as we do now. As a man, I have certainly noticed that feminine hygiene, from a sexual standpoint, has greatly improved. But, strangely (maybe it’s just the death of youth), I miss the old ‘lovers lanes’ and the girls who maybe didn’t scrub deep enough or who lacked the state-of-the-art cosmetic creams, sprays, lotions, suppositories, and electronic purification beams of today.

Whatever the case, you knew that what you had there was a real person. And, like long ago artists who painted the morning strumpets and tarts in a brothel after a busy night– the exhausted, tawdry, less than ideal appearance of the faded women and hardened girls, you see humanity as it really is and as it has come down the ages. If you look at Degas’s painting of ballet dancers before, after, and during rehearsal, you will see exactly what I mean. He caught them as they really were. And I am enchanted by their fairly brutal lives, where the only fairy tales were on the stage and which Degas chose to look past.

Hemingway once referred to Paris, with deep affection, as ‘an Old Whore’ and no doubt he was right.And, far from there being disgrace or disrespect in that, the opposite is true: the sordid doings of the night, the restless wandering next day, the bleak disappearance of the sun at day’s end, and again the darkness – with, maybe, accordion music playing on a street corner – the lonely lives of the centuries punctuated by brief cries of joy and ecstasy – there was something to that. It was history beyond the official books. It was the history of ballads: brief happiness and long sorrow.

A world of artificial things may look better on the surface but it blots out the cracked countenance of the real. Now we have artificial lawns that stay bright and green forever. OK, it’s fine. For a while. Everybody loves the summer. But I don’t want to live in a place that is always green and where the leaves never fall. I don’t want a plastic playground, like Dubai, for example, where the sand under my feet on the beach is always regulated to the perfect temperature. Or a town where it never rains. Some of my happiest memories are of walking in the English rain in London and Bath. Back then I wanted to get out of the rain. Now I want to go back in time and get into it again. The gray, perpetual British drizzle. My lifeline to memories I crave to make real again, as they were once.

This is why the idea of a Christian Heaven with all its rigid perfection, would be Hell for me. James Cagney starred in a film once with the great title “Angels with Dirty Faces.” Yep, that’s how I would want my angels. And they would need to know where a good bar or pub was. With a name like “The Lord and Flagon” or “The Tit and Tankard.”Paradise.

When I was a kid, putting up the family Christmas tree was a great event. My grandparents would take me to the yard where the pine trees were sold, and we would pick one out. Sharp needles and tree sap, the rough ragged bulk of the ‘real deal’ – and after propping it up on a special plate with screws atop a snowy white blanket, we would decorate it with bulbs, strings of lights gleaming, multi-colored lights, and silvery ‘icicles’.The forest has entered our home, and it was Christmas for real.

Then one year I noticed that people were buying artificial Christmas trees. They looked like umbrellas.Plastic fruit and flowers had already hit the market. The beginning of the end.

Now, with Artificial Intelligence and SmartEverything taking over, we have become even further divorced from the old tactile experiences. People are more interested in Speed and Convenience than anything else. In the field of English, I have seen spell checks teach people to never learn to spell, and this reverse process is now augmented by incredible inventions like ChatGPT that can write whole essays for you. In formal or informal style, serious or frivolous, ChatGPT can do it all.You can now pass an exam about Anna Karenina or Lord of the Flies without ever once going within a city block of the actual book.

That’s fine for ‘ace-ing’ an exam – and since I don’t like exam-based education anyway, I would encourage students to cheat as much as possible in order to beat the system – because the system of educating people nowadays Sucks with a capital ‘S’.But, don’t kid yourself: if you do that you are simply forfeiting yourself in the process.You have given up that part of yourself that might have surprised even you with its creativity and you have failed to learn a skill that you might need one day.

Indeed this idea of sacrificing self-autonomy is prevalent everywhere. People don’t want to lift a finger if a gadget can do it faster and better. And I understand why, but I also think it’s a mug’s game in the end.

I have written many times about the onset of artificial companions, pets, and lovers. It’s here, folks, already. Scammers can even reproduce your daughter’s voice and demand ransom money over the phone. Daily, one after the other, golden offers from bloodness con artists and scammers flood the cyber air we breathe.

We have always, ladies and gentlemen, lived in a world where tricks and fakery were the preferred tools. Protests of love while the poison was being slipped into the tea. Political Doublespeak. Brainwashing. Accursed Propaganda. The Miracles of Marketing. Subliminal Psychology. Gurus with beards and sandals. Super Models with pasted on faces and plugged in smiles. Facebook Phoniness. Instagram Idiocy.The Artificial Emotions of a world too lonely for words.

Sometimes even when I look at a goddess in a great painting, I wonder if she is thinking, “What a Fool you are.” Even as I fall in love with the woman of my imagination who was behind it, maybe just a common urchin of the street that the artist turned into the Virgin Mary, I wonder if she is smirking behind the immortal smile.

Maybe the best way to deal with all this is just to ask oneself: “Does It Matter?”

After all, Death – I suppose – will be undeniably real. But who needs that? Isn’t it better, as Toulouse-Lautrec understood, just to enjoy the girls that dance around the room while the wine and absinthe devour the pain of days, and it is all illusion, illusion, illusion – until it ends?

I’ll cooperate fully with that. But please, no fake tits or orgasms. Be real. Even if it's not much to meet the eye in the morning’s sallow light and the judgment of the day. Don’t worry, I’ll love you just as you are, you gorgeous old bawd, you sly old whore – my female twin and amusing fake friend.