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The Essay
Show #93
Carl Castaneda and Don Cortisone
David Gunn
The metaphysic travels and psychotic adventures of Carlos Castaneda took him to many apocryphal regions of this and other planets, where he shared his revelations with whomever he could bully into a heated game of whiskers six-draw. One place he never visited, on any conscious plane, was Vermont. Except for once. It was the Celsius equivalent of 1939, and Carlos -- who had yet to shorten his name from Castelnuevo- Tedesco -- was beginning his second year of ontological studies at a famous midwestern university which, if I mentioned its name, you'd recognize in an instant. He had already performed numerous mind-expanding experiments on himself and altered his perception of other people's reality by ingesting massive doses of plankton. He claimed it enabled him to think out of both sides of his brain at the same time without going mad, though his penchant for drinking the contents of the aquarium after each experiment made one wonder, and I don't mean Stevie. He called the technique ambicortexnia -- ambi, meaning cute little deer, and cortex, the back-formed pluperfect tense of corticosterone, whence in all likelihood was derived the name of his make-believe trekking buddy, Don Cortisone. One day after a particularly heavy planktonic ingestion, he experienced a powerful vision. He, Don Cortisone, and an unnamed Aztec Indian mystic were in a small rubber raft pre-cariously balanced atop a snowy peak high in the Himalayas. A stiff breeze of 200 knots was blowing from the south, blowing so hard that the geography of the land in the valleys below them was changing. Five hundred year floodplains were supplanted in width and hue by the geomorphic equivalent of linoleum. The laws of physics and Murphy were temporarily suspended. Great civilizations were thrown into abject chaos by the insidious plague of the macarena. Carlos, Don and the mystic -- when not holding on to the raft for dear life or snacking from the bag of bonbons which had enigmatically appeared before them or thinking up new whiskers six-draw strategies to employ the next time a deck of cards with extra queens could be found -- looked down upon the disarray of the world and, just as the Azores exchanged latitudes with Nepal, simultaneously figured it all out. It wasn't pretty, it didn't fit neatly into any known conceptual constructs, but it did, for some reason, rhyme with orange. As the mystic twisted his lips in the peculiar shape which would allow him to say the words, he was suddenly sucked out of the raft and blown halfway around the world to Connecticut, where a city was later erected in his honor. So hard did the wind continue to blow that the snow on the mountain gradually turned green -- not the healthy green of chlorophyll doing a number on Indian Ocean plankton, but rather the slick, wet green of parallel stripes found on trouser bottoms after sitting on a freshly painted park bench. This green mountain visage, coupled with a sugar high from the bonbons, caused both Carlos and Don Cortisone to awaken from Castaneda's vision, after which the latter promptly penned his famous travel guide to astral projection, "The Teachings of Don BonBon, a Yankee Way of Knowledge." In that book, Castaneda alludes to Vermont as an alternative rhyme to le flambeau oriange, which makes about as much sense as anything else in his book, or, for that matter, in this introduction to the 93rd episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, this portion of which may be accessed on any one of several different astral planes, including the popular third plane pluperfect, the destination of choice of people who can still reason after emerging from Algonquin Holes, and who bear a striking resemblance to the musical antipode of, no surprise here, Kalvos.