It was my inaugural gig as official Event Coordinator for the Sarah Baartman People's Imaging Center of Santa Fe, and by any measure I was failing miserably. The white wine was a tad too warm, and the red, chilled to a palate-numbing temperature. I hadn't heard anyone bitching as of yet, but still-full plastic tumblers of both the pinot noir and the pinot grigio were being abandoned at the edges of the room, littering tables and pedestals wherever a cup could be crammed in. And worse, the celebratory buzz I'd hope to hear building over time was not reaching anything approaching a crescendo. You couldn't even get the wine right, I verbally flogged, blasting myself for my ridiculous fuckup before someone else did.
We were gathered at the ribbon-cutting gala celebrating the opening of El Museo de la metafisica, which was to house the People's MRI machine. Largely because of our Leader's exertions, the excellent people of Santa Fe and environs had come to hold these truths self-evident (and I'm paraphrasing): 1) Soon we'll have to be able to defend ourselves against neuro-weaponry: memory erasure, compelled truth telling: invasions of privacy we've not yet imagined, but that've been imagined for us. 2) When Power, using MRI technology, lies to us about our own brains we have to be able to contradict those lies. 3) And, we need to get busy writing our own stories about their brains.
So you'd think folks would be psyched to be here, wouldn't you? But I couldn't help noticing that a lot of guests, though present, were not bothering to pick up their name tags which I'd stayed up till two the previous morning personally calligraphying, and I was suffering a little over that, too. Then the PA system, which I'd checked and triple-checked went on the fritz. No one was even within ten feet of the mic when, of its own accord, the amplifier emitted a cacophony of feedback noise. At the first screech, even before you could say Venus Hottentot, one of the guests cracked wise about Mercury being in retrograde, and that's when I started to sweat. In fact my hand was so sopping wet by the time I had to yank the amplifier's power cord out of the wall to stop the din, I feared a mild electrocution, which I was starting to consider that maybe I deserved, given all the snafus.
Then one of the board members who I'd seated at the “Frontal Cortex” table wanted to sit at the “Hippocampus” table and wanted me to be the one to switch the place cards. When I balked she said, “Santa Fe Lesbian drama, I don't expect you to understand. Just please switch the cards. You've got me seated next to my ex's ex, and we're both trying to get her back!”
A comedy of errors, somehow the ribbon for the ribbon-cutting had wandered off, and so I scurried around on the hunt for something else our Leader could ceremonially sever. While I was on the lookout for a sympatico patron with a bolo tie, she began her remarks...
“This idea—that the people organize themselves to buy a top-of-the-line MRI machine with all the bells and whistles—we knew to be an extremely sound one, and one whose Time had come. Further we understood that we had to immediately begin to recruit people capable, willing and eager to counteract the dark uses and purposes to which Power can and likely already is deploying MRI technology for mind control, torture and state suppression. Through the People's researches, we are on a collective hunt for that sweet spot that will transport us to a place where these evil projects simply have no context, and will wither from their own irrelevance—and merely served as chimeras to jolt us to a new awakening. Here in the bosom of El Museo de la metafisica, we take our stand in the land of visionaries.”
With those lofty sentiments I looked around the room to see if any of the levitators among us had achieved liftoff. Our irrepressible fund raising chair joined our Leader under the spotlight to throw in his two cents:
“And nota bene, we didn't fucking have no bake sales, no car washes and trivia nights, no raffles, neither. Once we realized how fucked we were on every level without our own MRI set-up, it really didn't take long to get to goal. Me and her made a list of people who were here in New Mexico for the right reasons, folks with deep pockets, or access to them. We knocked on their doors and didn't leave their solariums without gynormous checks. Because finally, we've got an innovative project that has the potential to flatten power relations. That's our fucking mission statement, if anyone cares to know it: to get Power's heavy boot off the back of our necks. Oops, I better shut my trap or we'll lose our 501(c)3 designation.”
The Museum Director stepped right up to offer her thoughts.
“That we housed the People's Imaging Center of Santa Fe deep inside the new museo was a further confirmation that nothing less than genius was operative here. Even before the building had been purchased and the re-model completed, the museo had taken a firm hold in the people's imaginations. Finally a museum with a focus on metaphysics to interpret the many alternative modalities practiced with skill and mastery locally. With the in-house MRI, we'll be able to delve into these mysteries with a previously unimagined depth.”
The oxytocin was coursing through our bodies. Nobody seemed to mind about there not being a ribbon cutting and I gave the guy's wife back his tie and she put it in her bejeweled evening bag with the diamond spider clasp. The elfin couple for whom I had previously arranged that their meals be liquified let me know they weren't going to be staying for dinner after all, but wondered if they could take their food to go. Naturally I assented, but despaired of finding a thermos.
In the kitchen, one of the finest chefs in all of the Land of Enchantment, one known to run her shipshape shop like an absolute gynarchy, was explaining to her sous chefs as they prepared the risotto with porcinis harvested from Santa Fe forest by yours truly that...: “If there's anything that the rise of neuro-technology tells us, it's that we have to immediately rid ourselves of two rotten dishes: Capitalism and the State. ” This prompted one of her garlic-pressing minyans to ask, “What will we eat instead, chef?” To which she answered, “I'm not sure. Something tastier. Maybe we'll reorganize all governance around the concept of the watershed, what's actually sustainable in the bio-region. We'll figure it out together. Okay, you can start plating this. Call the servers.”
Servers?! So there was one more detail I had somehow managed to overlook. I had neglected to hire waitstaff to serve the food! Feeling foolish indeed, I rounded up some conscripts from among the hungry guests, and in no time everyone had their hot meal of whole grain inflected with the tenderest of shrooms, laced with just a trace of golden saffron.
When the last spoon stopped its clanking on the last china bowl, we passed out the sweets and headed towards the chamber where our MRI machine was. To get there we walked through the Crystal exhibit hall, careful to duck under the swinging pendula. Some of us stopped in the Tarot exhibition rooms to peek in the non-glare cases containing over two dozen original Italian cards from the fifteenth century on loan from the Pierpont Morgan Library. The Astrology Hall was a many splendored thing, the Zodiac wondrously presented in three dimensions with the most adorable live goat tethered to a bench in the Capricorn section.
We entered the MRI room outfitted to be a large and welcoming Bedouin tent, redolent of cardamon. A gauzy diaphanous curtain hung over the People's magnetic resonance imaging machine, which was bathed in a white light of expectancy and open-ended possibility. None of these sensory embellishments were necessary, though. We were already in love; our cup of serotonin did runneth over.
Our Leader drew back the curtain and there it was, our brand new MRI machine in all its glory—pristine and glistening! She unzipped her boots, gracefully slid inside, and spoke from that horizontal vantage point as we huddled ever closer not wishing to miss even one echoing word.
“We are in a race, race, race...against Time, Time, Ti... The human brain, brain, brain too...is a com, com, commons. ”