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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #343
Shoe Bomb
David Gunn

At the Office of Homemaker Security's easternmost Central American branch in Sarstoon Grove, Belize, Beano Bengaze is reading a news report with Unusual Interest as it types out on the antiquated telex machine. Unusual Interest is the Belizean liaison to the OHS, and his name aptly reflects his on-the-job aptitude, as he pursues every conversation, every memorandum, every telexed news report with a dogged curiosity. It is therefore not surprising that he is aware of a train of Belizean events that, he correctly conjectures, is at least peripherally related to Beano's visit: the 1988 Juan Trouserini expedition to the Mesolithic village of Mbanico; last year's Sarstoon Riverbank meeting between Kinkajoul and Evadio, two of the more unusual fictionalizations he'd ever encountered; and the recent infiltration of the Belizean parliament by a handful of very smart eyeballs and their consequent legislative protection of the indigenous rude-awakening fish population. Since his first day on the job, Interest had scrawled each out-of-the-ordinary event on the wall of what he only half-jokingly called his war room. There were hundreds of notations. Some were linked to one another; most were not. The more unusual the event, the darker the marker he assigned to it. Mbanico, Kinkajoul and the eyes in the legislature all rated deep blue-black hues--and they were linked together.

The message tap-tapping onto the yellowed scroll of telex vellum concerns the recently apprehended R.C. Reid, who allegedly tried to blow up his shoes on an airliner en route from Paris to Miami. Security agents from as far away as Saskatoon, Saskatchewan were trying to trace his activities leading up to the unusual incident, but were having scant success. They were particularly interested in the shoe bomb, a quintessentially contraptionological device. Conventional Wisdom, a less appropriately named investigative agent, thought that the apparatus was too sophisticated to have been constructed by Reid, and he was officially floating a conspiracy theory that involved automatons from Irkutsk infecting Vermont creemee stands with a poisonous potato compote. Unusual Interest, however, knew rather a lot about Reid. By the most amazing coincidence, he had been in a garage band with Reid in Liverpool in the late '80s. Interest played keyboards, Reid drums, and Fairlane Ford, a classically trained guitarist, completed the trio. Initially, they were a typical clot of angry, antisocial punk rockers. But one day, Fairlane introduced Unusual and R.C. to doo-wop music. Unusual was of course interested, however R.C. was thoroughly captivated by it. The archetypal four-chord foundation resonated with him so much that he lost interest in all other music. He would just walk around in a daze intoning that base line. It became a joke that R.C. could doo wop, but he couldn't do anything else.

Unusual sang the base line for Beano:
  "Sha-boom, sha-boom, sha-boom sha-boom sha-boom sha-boom sha-boom..."

And then he morphed into the line that he recalled R.C. favoring.
  "Shoe bomb, shoe bomb, shoe bomb shoe bomb shoe bomb shoe bomb shoe boom..."

The telex message finishes with an apparent non sequitur: "The shoes were then taken to a field 'and disrupted,' Kinton said."

Kinton--that would be the Witness Protection Program's name for big band leader Stan Kenton after he testified against Conn Instruments. In 1961, with the huge brass instrument conglomerate's help, Kenton had built the mellophonium, an instrument "designed to pick up the spectrum of sound ... between the trumpets and trombones." Instead, at its March 29, 1961 premiere, the instrument turned members of a bewildered Las Vegas audience to stone. Kenton forthwith claimed that Conn had known of the mellophonium's contraindications, but had rushed it into production regardless, eager to establish a monopoly in the marching band industry. Conn reportedly put out a contract on Kenton to have him "disrupted"--i.e., to interrupt or impede the progress, movement or procedure of. For 18 years, Kenton went on the lam. Then in 1979, the Witness Protection Program arranged his "untimely death by aneurysm." A year later, Stan "Kinton" emerged as a mid-level governmental shoe inspector with a predilection for flatted fifths.

Beano decides to share his Kenton/Kinton information with Unusual Interest, who reciprocates by showing Beano his war room wall hangings. Yes, there is indeed a disturbing connection here, one especially disquieting because it cannot possibly be easily summed up in the remaining time allotted for this episodic slot of Kalvos & Damian's 343rd New Music Bazaar. Alas, closure will have to make its long-awaited appearance another day, for now there is time only for the mellophonious appearance of Kalvos.