Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fugue State: Fugue on a State Memo for Four Voices and Dog Barks



Long ago, in another lifetime, in a land called Gainesville, Florida, in a time called the mid to late nineties, I worked for HRS (Health and Rehabilitative Services, not the House Rabbit Society). During my tenure as a social worker (food stamps, AFDC, Medicaid), it became DCF (Department of Children and Families, which we called Decaf, same lousy service but half the caffeine), bosses came and bosses went. My caseload grew, diminished, morphed into other caseloads, but no matter what changes, the job remained the same. I swear, one of these days, I will write about it. Maybe a book. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll stop paying your taxes.

Once, my supervision (I was a Public Assistance Service Specialist, or PASS, and my supervisor was a Public Assistance Service Specialist Supervisor or PASS II) went from Susan Einman, a woman any of us in her “unit” would have killed for, to a fellow whose name I cannot remember and any of us would have killed. My boss went from a literate polyglot who manifested the very essence of understanding and compassion to an obsequious, smarmy, condescending chimpesque proto-human pencil pusher. There was little to do but retaliate. For the next five years that is exactly what we did, myself, W.D. and A.C., (no, you can't know their names yet) in prank after prank of falsity, forgery and fun.

Some day, I swear, I’ll write about it. Maybe a book. You’ll cry. You’ll laugh. You’ll be glad you paid my salary.

One day, a memo, one I did not forge (I really should check the statute of limitations on the falsifying of federal documents before I publish this) came across my desk. It was from my new boss, the obsequious, smarmy, condescending little proto-human pencil pusher we called Monkey Boy for his habit of hanging bright red Eisenhower jackets on his bony bod—a vestment that would have been more at home on an eighties dance floor under a flashing disco ball but still a bit over the edge even for Disco Duck. He looked like an organ grinder’s monkey. Monkey Boy.

Susan was always afraid I would call him that to his face. I think she almost did once. I hope so.

The memo was horrible in all the ways writing can be: awful, terrible, atrocious, worse. It was badly worded and those same badly worded bits were repeated again and again and again. It pressed a point Monkey Boy didn’t need to make to already disempowered, demoralized “workers” (that was what we were called) who didn’t need the point pressed.

I was, at the time, studying fugues. The musical kind. Not the kind where one realizes, after twenty years in St. Louis, raising a family and having a meaningful life, that one is really from Des Moines and has (or, to be fair, had) an entire other family, life, job and name. Not that kind. But, for longer fugues, one can see the relation.

The memo passed my desk. The pattern of repetition looked like a fugue to me. I was caught up with my work, as usual, and had nothing better to do. Even if I had, art called and it was time to write. The memo was deconstructed and reconstructed. Barely re-written.

A fugue is meant to be performed and this was no different. After a few readings, it was set. It was scheduled for the Gainesville Spring Arts Festival. Time to get cracking. We had a fugue to perform. But we was still me. I needed people. Four of them. I needed a clock. One of them. I needed a dog.

I had none of these things but I did have Moon Goddess Books, my own store. A book store with lots of unconventional arty types. A Pagan store with folks who would be delighted to do something to slam The Man. A café where people got buzzed on caffeine and, in their mania, could be convinced to take on nearly any manner of whacked-out project. A fugue of a government memo. A fugue of clocks and dogs. Yes, this fit.

We found our folk and set about arranging the vocals. We had a month to prepare and rehearsed as often as bi-weekly. Grueling.

Four voices. Some parts were done together and some parts separately. Some by two and some by four. How did we choose? The performers did so by how it felt. One German Shepherd, whose bark was downloaded from a sound effects recording, barking randomly, or so it seemed. I wanted the barks to stand out as jagged jolting. A recorded clock getting louder and louder as the fugue progressed, the voices getting softer as the fugue came to an end, the barks harder to hear through.

The performance time came and I am gratified, still, that it went without a hitch—or at least none that anyone but myself and our four performers, two guys and two gals, would have noticed. At the end the applause hesitated. Perhaps because the audience was stunned silent or perhaps they were confused. I was happy, and still am—either or both being a desired result of the piece.

Strangely, wonderfully, the person who wrote the memo, Monkey Boy himself, was there, and did not talk to me for quite a while. Those were a great few weeks. Eventually he had to speak to me though. But never was the fugue mentioned.

No recording exists. Not yet.

________________________________________________

Fugue on a State Memo for Four Voices and Dog Barks

Most of you already do this, and I thank you. Customer service is the key and one of our values is PEOPLE. Thank you for your assistance in this matter and see me if you have any questions.

Most of you do this. Customer service is the key. One of our values is PEOPLE. Thank you for your assistance in this question.

Most of you do customer service. One of our key values is PEOPLE. Thank you for this question.

Most of you do this key value. PEOPLE thank you for this.

Most of you do this.
Most of you do this.
Most of you do this customer service.
Customer service.
Customer service.
Most of you do this customer service.
Customer service
Customer service.
Customer service is the key.
Most of you do this.
Most of you do this.
Most of you do this.
Most of you matter.
Most of you matter.
Most of you matter.
Most of you question.
Most of you question customer service.
Customer service is the key.
Customer service is the key.
Customer service is the key.
This matters.
This matters.
Customer service is they key.
The value is the key.
They key matters.
PEOPLE matter.
PEOPLE matter.
PEOPLE are one of our values.
PEOPLE are one of our values.
The key is the value.
We value the question.
Value the question.
Value the question.
We value the key.
Value the key.
Value the key.
Value the key.
Value the key.
Question the key.
Question the key.
Question the key.
Question the key.
We value the question.
Value the question.
Value the question
Value the question.
Key question.
Key question.
Key question.
We question the value.
We question the value.
We question the value.
Question the value.
Question the value.
Question the value.
Question the PEOPLE.
Question the PEOPLE.
Question the PEOPLE.
Question PEOPLE.
Question PEOPLE.
Question PEOPLE.
Key PEOPLE.
Key PEOPLE.
Key PEOPLE.
Key.
Key.
Key.
Key.
Key.
Key.
Key.
Key.
Key.
Key.


Values







PEOPLE




4 comments:

Sewa Yoleme said...

I thank you. One of our PEOPLE is key. You. Question values.

Indigo Bunting said...

I look forward to the book.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to reading some of the felonious fun and fraudulancy. Really, how wacky can a job a public assistance be?

From reading some of your other work, I'm guessing supremely wacky. Bring it on.

La Nightingale said...

Elegant.... Creative.... Hilarious!!

Fugueing is Fun : )

I look forward to experiencing a live rendition during the Tour de Fugue!