The Last Of The Mohicans

By Eric Le Roy

Content 18 + Let’s face it: 2022 has been a year most people want to say goodbye to. For me, if I stayed away from all the poison on the media and social network platforms, life would be Utopia. I have made all the right (lucky) decisions in recent years, and by comparison to many if not most, my situation is enviable.

A quick run-through. After years of meaningless academic wilderness in the US, years of being soggy with alcohol and electronic with dope, proud holder of a PhD and a police record (minor, invariably self-inflicted shit but enough to fuck up a background check), member of a dying family punctuated here and there by cousins as screwed up as I was, despised by neighbors who pulled their curtain over the windows when they saw me on the street, and a general sense of Is-it-time-to-jump-out-the-window-yet hopelessness – I saw a ray of light.

Enter Teaching English as a foreign language. It was my ticket out of America. I saw a lot of people coming the other way. For them, America meant a new chance. But for some reason I had never really felt comfortable in my own country. Or maybe I just didn't feel comfortable, period. Then something caught hold of me: the religious would call it God, the anthropologists would say it was my Animal Survival Instincts, the cops would call it Escape (I'm joking).

Ok, the short version: I am 73, live in Bulgaria (after 10 years in Moscow), have plenty of money (apartment and car paid for), a wife I can live with, two dogs and a cat. I know and work with people all over the world and keep it going at least 12 hours a day, weekends and holidays included. I have published a book and have a second one coming out after the New Year. Some of it was luck, some had to do with the Good Ole Protestant Work Ethic I was raised on… taking control. Some of it was intelligence and an ability to read situations correctly. So, in short, without boring you with any more details, I was a Loser and now I am a Winner. By American standards, it’s that simple.

I came to Varna (Bulgaria) because of my Russian wife’s bronchitis; the Moscow weather was killing her. In Moscow I had sold my English ‘on the street’ – working in schools and for companies and going everywhere in the city. It was a great life, and I can honestly say that all the positive fantasies people have about Russia are true. So are the bad ones.

In Varna I work remotely. At first, I was uncomfortable because of limited computer skills and the distancing effects of cyberspace. Now it’s like I am sitting across the table from people all over ‘God’s creation’. So I was down with working online before the Covid struck. When that happened, the service industries all got sent to hell and people stayed home. Some said WTF and decided to practice their English. While the world suffered, I thrived. In the midst of a global catastrophe, I made money without leaving my bedroom office.

Then the Asshole in Russia started the war. Sanctions everywhere. Industries and companies fleeing the ‘Federation’, everything from ExxonMobil to McDonalds. Citizens leaving every day. Lives falling apart. Then the Asshole mobilized 300,000 more ‘warriors, and more citizens ran for their lives. I saw that the Russia I thought I knew was not the Russia of reality. I met clever people in Moscow. The war has brought home to me in no uncertain terms, the mental lassitude, indifference, laziness, and servility of the majority, not to mention the propensity for wanton brutality. Eleven time zones of malevolent cattle and catatonic sheep. Before the war, I had placed them on a pedestal. No longer. But I still have, keep, and love my Russian friends. In fact all of my friends are Russian. But, alas, they appear to be the exceptional ones.

The war has cost me a few students, but otherwise has just become another ‘watched’ event, like the World Cup. I have thrown my heart into Ukraine and monitor everything pertaining to its survival. But this is an emotional attachment; I am not in Ukraine physically, only spiritually. In other words, I watch the events from a computer vantage point. Safety. And profit.

I work on two Chinese platforms. Lucrative. The Covid is now back in China and the nation is ruled by yet another Asshole. Like Iran and North Korea. And Belarus and Hungary. Nuclear weapons proliferate like hard-ons in an orgy. I sit safely in Varna and watch it all from my computer screen.

Most of you won’t know what I am talking about, but I feel a lot like the show-presenter that Joel Grey (an actor) played in the film “Cabaret” with Michael York and Lisa Minelli, many years ago. (It’s a great movie - check it out). Ostensibly the tale of a young ‘decadent’ (but not really) cabaret singer in pre-war Berlin, it’s based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood. On the fringe of the cabaret and Sally Bowles’ antic life (a covert search for love and meaning), we see the rise of the Nazis. Their murderous savagery starts on the periphery. Then there is a moment in an ordinary beer garden when an impossibly handsome and pure-looking young man starts singing a song called “Tomorrow Belongs To Me.” At first we see just his peerless Aryan face; only gradually does the camera move lower to show us his Nazi regalia, as the crowd of patrons – men, women, teens, and children, slowly at first, then tumultuously, join in the singing. At this point you see national hysteria absolutely: it remains for me one of the most incredible moments of the cinema. It says everything. The character played by Joel Grey, a small, wiry, devilish, troll-like MC observer at the cabaret, simply watches and smirks. The ultimate fortune teller.

So in short, I continue to prosper while much of the world teeters on the edge of a precipice. My final stroke of luck will likely be to die of old age and/or some premature set of complications before the world succumbs to mere cataclysm or alters into a synthetic, algorithmic, data-driven, Artificial Intelligence-shackled nightmare. Once more, I will escape. If you look at it this way, I come out like the luckiest man in the universe. Unless someone pulls the trigger tomorrow, it seems I will have out-smarted the ‘virtual’ Armageddon which hovers at the brink. If dying is all it takes, I say bring it on.

My own death will be my train ticket out of a swarming clusterfuck which somehow has managed to arrive at a condition worse than what we used to call ‘evil’; rather, a haunting emptiness underlying the frantic search for ‘information’, ‘experiences’, godlike orgasms (even if we don’t have to embrace or even leave our chairs) and cyborg clinical perfection. The human spirit will disappear into a virtual tunnel like rats running for shelter in a typhoon. I will sit there sipping my Death Cocktail and reading the Book of the Dead as the train zooms through an endless Green Cemetery flanked by mountains with headstones like little white teeth poking out from the lamblike hills. Einstein, Da Vinci, Hammurabi, Steve Jobs, even Jack the Ripper will be known. All will be well. I will ride on the train and read my book, as I look at the tombstones of Anne Boleyn, Lisa Gherardini, and Nefertiti. I will pass the great kings, soldiers, heroines and whores of the ages – everyone I always wanted to know. I believe I will inhale the very breath of all of this in one blinding finalizing instant.

Without meaning to, I see that I have become a defender of old ‘traditional’ values in many respects. It’s not because I am hog-tied or hidebound to silly visions of some past Golden Age: people have always been 50-50 – some good, some bad, if you will but allow me to generalize. There have always been saints and shucksters, angels and opportunistics. The world has always wanted money and a blow job. The surface realities have tirelessly operated as camouflage to the sordid facts and fantasies underneath. In short, the world has always been a boardroom full of share-holders in the attic, a Disney World with a family restaurant on the ground floor, and a strap-on kink-and-dog-chain parlor down below. If you think anything has changed, you are kidding yourself. The world is driven by Image and Ego and Shadow.

But, as I tell my students, in the past the world was more tactile. We didn’t know we were missing anything because we didn’t have smart phones and computers. So we worked with what we had. And what we had were drive-in movies, footlong hotdogs, telephone booths, Dickensian type-writers, drinking fountains in every office and gym, and women with big boobs, babies, and normal appetites, plus hair on their pussies. As I say, the world has changed.

I roll with the punches and keep a sassy attitude, but I know that I am increasingly irrelevant, even as I force myself into the crowd, even as I work incessantly to remain necessary to other people. I have moved from aggressive atheism to someone who is now ready to listen in hopes of finding a god in the wind, simply because at the root of it all I am lonely, and I think god is lonely too.

My body ages in ways I never thought it would. I had a burst in the fitness center during the summer and was stunned to see how fit I could still get, but now in the winter months I am more sedentary. I am good ‘cyber’ friends with young women (mostly students) that I could have moved on in the past, but it would be laughable now even to attempt it. I am friends with older women who sincerely reach out in kindness and possibly love – but I have my life. My wife, my dogs, and cat, and I would never leave them in a million years.

So now, as I rack up the little victories day after day, I know that I am going to lose the war. I tell people that the world will be ruled by their own creations one day – technology, I mean. I tell them that evolution continues: it has not stopped with the homo sapiens. I tell them that one day sex and love with our machines will be the norm. Maybe there will be no gender differences. Maybe there will be no need to write poems because AI can do it for us. Or maybe just no need for poems.

Honestly and earnestly, I have no desire to be part of that world. Surely, the future will find its own coping mechanisms. But, in a larger sense, it will be unrecognizable to us as we are now, especially the older ones like me. I sincerely doubt – not out of rancor but out of sadness – that what we call ‘passion’ will still be defined or experienced as such, but cloned instead or copied out in as a billion inter-galactic impulses on a single chip – and maybe even given a different name: Cyber Lust Mist 7XX3&65^2(())4////?G.

Maybe the smell of rain will evoke no nostalgia; maybe real dogs will not bark like ancient bards on long wintry nights; maybe we, who live now in a rapidly passing world, will become mere curiosities, things, instruments of a quaint-seeming past, old ‘souls’ who did things differently. “How did they ever manage it?” the microchip specimens of the future will wonder.

At night, after work, dinner, and the dog walk, I check messages, prepare for tomorrow, and lie down on the bed between my dogs, 12 and 10. My wife likes to read late into the night and so our sleeping and waking habits are radically different. I get up at 4am, Liubov at 10am. It all makes sense to us. So I turn on the fan gently, because I like sleeping in the cold and draw a blanket over me. I put one arm around the flank of each dog. I confess, I like the smell of dogs. I like it when they snore and have dreams.

I have little doubt that anything I am, have ever been, or imagined myself being or embodying, is simply passing away like a midsummer night’s dream. As the world moves inexorably onwards to its future of new gadgets, chrome-flavored lawns, gyrating discos of tireless robots, and virtual factories of the artificial mind, the only survivors of the old world will be the immortal cockroaches and invincible mosquitoes.

I count my blessings for Blessed I am. A man like me is only a coyote on the mountain howling at others in the fog. One wishes, or a part of me wishes, to be a member of the pack – something that calls or wants to call, some residual instinct of old wolves. But there is nothing. Then it is morning. The fog lifts leaving only mist, and the mist moves like lithe girls playing among hills full of phantoms – which is the future – yes, biding their time among soothsaying phantoms.

The hilltops are red, the distant snow peaks whiter than sand in an hourglass. But smoke signals warn me, and, in the distance, kettle drums signal war. For I am the last of the Mohicans, and the Blue Coats and Men in the Coonskins are coming. In my dreams I look across the plain where the buffalo roam. They look healthy, vigorous, and alive in numbers impossible to diminish. If I didn’t know it was yesterday, I’d swear it was tomorrow.

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