Concerned Citizen, Episode 3


[Opens with standard procession of sedans, gleaming, tailfinned, gliding over federally-funded blacktop. Then the obligatory shots of people on evenings out; caucasians conversing in bistros with unsullied white tablecloths and deferential brown waitpeople. The opening theme, the jazz-fusion “Horehound’s Groove”, chikka-chikkaing mid-tempo and mid- range as the familiar deadpan voice of TV’s Brock Horehound intones gravelly, secure in his poses as omniscient oracular figure, director, and producer of the series.]

Horehound: This… is the city. Los Angeles, California. A good place to live, to raise a family, to start a life.

[The show starts off with a shot of a roadmap. Let’s say for argument’s sake that it’s the “Southern California” page in a road atlas contemporaneous with the airing of this episode of Concerned Citizen. First we get the long view of the southern part of the Golden State–its valleys, deserts, and seaside regions. Then the focus on the Los Angeles area.]


Horehound: Los Angeles, a larger city made up of smaller cities. Covina. West Hollywood. Watts. Cities as diverse as they are plentiful.

[A shot of buildings, anonymous, a few stories tall but certainly no skyscrapers. Buildings that serve as badges for the vision Grant Cameron, the triple-threat star/director/producer behind Concerned Citizen, had for America.] [In a 1973 interview with Conservative Review, Cameron reflected on the lack of commercial appeal of Concerned Citizen with the following statement. “My America–the America of good people living good lives– wasn’t reflected in the network’s failure to get behind the show. Nor was it reflected in the cowardice of the LAPD in not backing my efforts. My America is reflected in the fan letters, in the efforts of hard-working people to live decent lives. I feel no need to apologize for any of my work, though I do deeply regret our society’s failure to understand that art can be a moral compass.”

It doesn’t take a scholar of Cultural Studies to notice how Cameron sounds like no one so much as the main character of his show. However, one of the aims of my project vis a vis this show is to probe into the essential connections between auteur, product, and the cultures that spawn all of the aforementioned. With that in mind, the similarities between character and actor are most germane.]


Horehound: Most of these cities have residents who aspire to the good things in life. Family. Church. Belief.

[A bride and groom, anonymous enough to be atop a wedding cake, with rice being flung on them by well-wishers. The church, like the people, is white and without blemish. The scene, like so many others in this series, willfully embraces cliche in a vain quest for the archetypal.]

Horehound: Sometimes, some residents don’t aspire to the good things in life. Some are driven to commit crimes, to disrupt the delicate root systems that society grows from.

[A brick house with a window being jimmied by a crowbar enthusiast with a black ski mask and matching crewneck sweater. The scene, like so many others in the series.]

Horehound: When that happens, I do what I can. I’m a concerned citizen.

[The scene shifts from anonymity to Horehound’s familiar domestic sedan pulling into the driveway of his modest home. The music underneath his voice here and throughout the preceding monologue is suffused with a cool, swaying arrangement for strings and horns. The first intimation of rhythm is featured just as he says the words “concerned citizen”, suggesting the show’s first forward motion.

A serious student of 70s cop shows would add here that this lack of forward motion is at odds with prevailing currents in the genre. As the 70s progressed, there was a motion toward increased realism in shows like Baretta and Hawaii Five-O. Furthermore, these programs were rooted in an urbane wit and in an understanding that cops can be sexy and even dangerous. This understanding, in my view as well as many from the Sistrunk School, bled over into how Americans came to understand their leaders, their structures, and, ultimately, themselves.]

Horehound: Tuesday, October 18th. The air was cool in Los Angeles, and my bank account was cold. So I did what I had to do. I got a part-time job housesitting for a friend, who was called away for an extended period on business.

[Business. Some would have you think that business wouldn’t be conducted, or would be conducted differently, by me if I hadn’t been embarrassed by events such as those I described in the Episode 2 commentary. Those folks would be wrong.

The fact is that I recovered nicely from the bait-and-switch angle Angie pulled on me at that benighted franchised family eating establishment. I knew enough to carry myself with decorum and to continue in as professional a manner as I had started my educational career.

I believed I had amassed enough goodwill, despite having been beaten out by Matthias Carlos (or, as I suspected our boss of calling him, Matt or even Mattie) for the position I deserved, to be able to ward off any attempts by certain parties–read: Angie–to attempt to weaken my emergent standing in the department.]

Horehound: Before I headed to the aforementioned assignment, I returned to my own residence to tie up a few loose ends before spending a week in another man’s home.

[As jaunty music anchored by fifes and snare drums skitters through the monophonic speakers of Walla Walla and Corpus Christi and all points in between, the camera follows Horehound throughout his home as he ensures his stove is safely off, that his faucets drip not a bit, that there is no debris or disorder in the premises.

Likewise, when I arrived at school the next morning for Day 2 of the Pre-Semester Departmental Meeting, I made damned sure I was immaculate. Not a speck of dust, nor a thread of clashing color, nor any other factor that could limit my appeal to my co-workers. I was determined to stand out, to be useful. I was determined to be a team player.]

Horehound: I made sure to pack a suitcase with enough clean clothes for the entire week. I knew that I could simply consult a local laundry if circumstances changed, but I figured it was better to be on the safe side in an unfamiliar locale.

[“Being a team player in a collegial setting is essential to one’s personal and professional development. When given the opportunity to participate in group work, it behooves one to actively engage with the process. To listen. To share. To give one’s self up to the throes and thrusts of facilitative communication.

It is sometimes tempting to discount the hard-won personal experiences of others. Of timeworn veterans, of spirited rookies, of those whose conclusions don’t match our own. Difference is not a reason for conflict, however, so much as an opportunity to celebrate learning opportunities.”

For those who are curious, I wrote that during a group brainstorming session. The group leader cooed over what she termed my “heightened sensitivity”, and then turned the sheet of paper containing those two paragraphs over to Department Chairperson Sarah Clancy- Allinger. Sarah then proceeded to read those words to our entire gathering just before we broke for the day, judging them to be “words that should stand as inspiration for the next day’s activities.”

As I left, Sarah patted me on my back. The final tap found her fingers lingering, as a glance of understanding passed between our eyes.]

Horehound: After finishing my tasks at my own home, I drove to the home of retired LAPD Captain Red Whitehead. Red lived in a beach community and was a proponent of the good life. Since he retired, he had become a fancier of travel. He and his wife Dot could often be seen on one of our nation’s highways, in search of the myriad kicks that could be found in National Parks.

[An almost canonical shot of Horehound driving through suburban streets, alone, back straight against the back of his sedan’s front bench seat, signalling with flashers his every intent.]

Horehound: I drove as quickly as traffic would allow, but still arrived three to five minutes later than I’d intended.

[Here Horehound pulls into the long, winding road of the Whitehead driveway as the music chills into coda. The scene shifts and deposits us in the Whitehead living room, a large space with minimalistic decor, distinguished by Dutch portraiture on the walls. The living room, naturally, is where Horehound is having an animated, if still wordless, discussion with Red Whitehead. One can assume the discussion is about the parameters of housesitting. As the music stops, the voices become audible, and nothing is left to imagination.]

Whitehead: So, Brock? You think you can handle all those plants? They’re a tremendous responsibility, at least to hear Dot here tells it.

[Whitehead, a ruddy, pudgy man with a balding white crewcut, here smilingly jabs his thumb in the direction of his wife Dot, who is likewise rotund, but with a full, silver bouffant. They sit at opposite ends of the couch, flanking Horehound. Dot keeps her hands primly in her lap, but Red periodically nudges Horehound with his elbow.

Horehound, it goes without saying, does not reciprocate these nudges.]

Horehound: I wouldn’t say I have a green thumb, necessarily, but I can water them every couple of days.

[Horehound smiles genially as sunlight fills the room.]

Dot: Look, honey, the fog is lifting!

[As is so often the case in this series, and in the oeuvre of Grant Cameron, innocence and naivete are often conflated with a beatific mindlessness. Cameron scholars and biographers link this conflation with several events in his childhood.

Some have speculated that Cameron’s misogyny–and there can be no other word for it, given that women in this show are often portrayed as vacuous sexpots–is rooted in a childhood in which Cameron was unable to truly know his father. The Hollywood-bred Cameron was left to his own devices as his mother, equal parts harridan and slattern, cavorted and caroused with jazzsters and sailors, with hopheads, grasshoppers, and malingerers of every persuasion.

The aim of this scholarship is not to issue value judgments on the life of one Grant Cameron. Those would be exercises in futility, in vainglory. Rather, the aim of this work is what it has been; namely, to dissect and to decode the encrypted discourse of this shows, with an eye toward understanding how this program sought to undermine diversity, tolerance, and the genuine quest for enlightened thought fomented by those proud heroes of the 1960s.

It goes without saying that I stand in league with those pioneers.]

Whitehead: Hey, you’re right! Darling, why don’t you go start the car? I’d like a word alone with Brock.

[All parties stand up. Dot moves with surprising speed toward the door, as Horehound and Whitehead move away from the couch, into the geographical center of the room.]

Horehound: What is it, boss?

[Horehound looks into the former Captain’s eyes, though his gaze seems to jump like a neglected needle on a skidded-up record.]

Whitehead: Son, I know you’ve had it rough.

[Horehound stares toward the hardwood floor, as if chastened. Though Whitehead has paused here, it is clear that Horehound has no intention of responding to his former superior’s reassurances.]

Whitehead: But you wouldn’t be here right now if I didn’t believe in you. I know you were a good cop. I know you’re a good man. By God, Brock, we’ll get you back on the force.

[Horehound can only nod here, as Whitehead takes his leave, as a somber flugelhorn-centric arrangement sounds. The instruments accompany the couple departing in their own sedan, Horehound pacing sundry of the rooms and corridors of the deserted house he has been entrusted with, and the inexorable fade to black that takes the show into its first commercial break.]

Horehound: After the Whiteheads had cleared out of their home, I was left with a certain amount of time to do some thinking.

[Thinking. I know a thing or two about that. Specifically, I am thinking about the interregnum between the second and third days of the conference. While it was certain that I had made lemonade from lemons, as they say, I knew that I had “raised the bar” and heightened expectations for my performance on the third and final day of the conference.

I would have to exhibit more “heightened sensitivity”. I would have to state explicitly my consciousness of diversity in the classroom setting. I thought of other things I would have to do as the Tylenol PMs set in, as I checked and rechecked the locks and windows in my apartment for maximum security.]

Horehound: One of the benefits of a job like housesitting–a solitary affair, one that has a lot of “dead time”–is that it affords one the chance to consider his weak points, and what he can do about them.

[A shot of Horehound working through the difficult middle passage of a crossword puzzle, counterpointed by my thoughts on what I myself was working through during the week of the conferences.]

Horehound: I was about to sit down with a glass of juice and think about just these things when I heard the doorbell ring.

[Horehound opens the door, as you would expect, to reveal a bosomy blonde with clothes that left little to the imagination, clothes that cleaved to her form, to its recesses of darkest mystery and despair.

It might as well have been Angie. It certainly was the Angie I saw on the third day of the conference. Right down to the twinkle in her smile when I walked into the classroom some minutes early for the proceedings, and saw her–the only person in there, [im]providentially enough– seated at a desk, eating a peach over a coffeepot filter.]

Horehound: Yes, ma’am. Can I help you?

[I wasn’t so kind to my Angie. In fact, I didn’t even say anything to her when I first walked into the room. I pretended to inspect the walls–the dry-erase board with its stray red and green markings, the bulletin boards In corners, the manual pencil sharpener–until I heard her words. Until she spoke first.]

Millie: I should hope so. I’m Millie Lawson, and I live across the street, and I was hoping I could borrow some sugar. I’m making brownies.

[Angie spoke words of conciliation. Who can remember what they were? Sorry about the other night, I overreacted; those work as well as any others, in terms of explaining what happened and what would happen from that point forward.]

Horehound: I’ll help you out if you help me out.

[I apologized as well. I told her I was lonely. I told her I needed a friend. Then I went farther. Then I told her about the humiliation at the hands of Matthias Carlos, about the bait and switch that got me to uproot myself for a “verbal commitment” for a salaried position at [University Name Withheld], only to find that resources were scant, too scant to bring me on as God and nature intended.

The humiliations of adjuncting, of adjunctification. Adjunct fiction.]

Millie: People have said I’m a helper, of sorts.

[I kneeled down by the seated Angie. I wrapped my arms and my torso around me, as she patted my back, reminding me that I was perilously close to breaching collegial ethics. It wasn’t my place to notice the flesh of her chest, pressed full against me. Nor was I justified in noticing the soft groove of her nipple through her sheer black blouse.]

Horehound: Well, come in the kitchen with me and help me find the sugar. I’m just housesitting and I have no clue where women keep things.

[Millie finally steps through the doorway, brushing against Horehound by way of entry.]

Millie: I take it you’re a bachelor, Mister…?

[The pause. The pause always signals something. Like the awkward pause after I released Angie from my grasp, which spoke volumes about how fully she owned me and how cheap my price ultimately was.]

Horehound: Call me Brock.

[ Unlike my nervous, tightlipped grin to Angie, his smile here is full, with every promise of desire being fulfilled.

But then again, the situations aren’t analogous directly. Grant Cameron’s impossibly stoic, rock-ribbed erstwhile “peace officer” turned “concerned citizen” had many innate advantages that enabled him to seduce–indeed, to womanize–with impunity. Even though it was taken from him, the badge signalled manhood (as did the gun, as did the handcuffs, et al.). Badge and gun. Two advantages in and of themselves, ineluctably removed from distinctions like shelves of obscure editions, like the ability to parse challenging concepts, like the knowledge that all I have done to develop that ability has been so spectacularly futile.]

Millie: Just as a guess, I would expect that sugar to be in the kitchen.

[A female arm, bare and braceleted, slipped into the arm of the concerned citizen with intent. Ironic, but as I knelt by the desk where a “colleague” reduced a peach to mere shell, I couldn’t think of one time I had held an arm in that way. Even when I’d had sex, serious lovemaking with serious women, I never was privy to that sensation.

Soft jazz pulses them into the Whitehead kitchen, a generously- sized room that theoretically could have been privy to many a coffeeklatsch and such. As their lives move wordlessly, Horehound’s voiceover commences.]

Horehound: As you might expect, we discussed more than sugar. Over the course of the conversation, I discovered that Millie had recently divorced her husband and had come away from the arrangement materially enriched.

[A shot here of the pair seated at the kitchen table, an unremarkable slab of wood with four wooden chairs around it and two even more wooden performers seated in those chairs. The strings that ushered them into the kitchen eventually fade back into Millie’s voice.]

Millie: Honestly, no one ever expects a divorce. But as you can see, I had no other choice.

[Her eyes go limpid as Horehound’s lips and eyes lock into a leer.]

Horehound: No other choice.

[No other choice, indeed. Those were the words, more or less, that Angie used after I’d told her my problems and after she felt safely extricated from my grasp. We had no other choice but to trust each other. No other choice but to present a united front, to help each other get some power in that goddamned department.

Sure, what she said sounded a bit–more than a bit–soap opera. But as has often been the case throughout my life, I wasn’t bargaining from a position of strength. If I crossed her, it was all too obvious that she could cross me with a gimmicked-up account of me “creating a climate of sexual harassment” or “crossing the lines”.

Given what the laws are and have been for some time now, she wouldn’t even have to embellish what happened very much. But she could, and would, work the truth for all it was worth, regardless.]

Millie: The bright side, of course, is that the divorce is final. Final now….

[Millie stretches her hand in front of Brock’s on the table. He then lifts her hand to his lips, kissing every knuckle except the one with the wedding ring on it. That knuckle he examines for a second, as if a suburban father examining his sedan for a scratch.

Angie, God bless her, wasn’t nearly so kind to me, at least not initially. She reached her hand out to me, yes, but only by way of helping me up to direct me to the bathroom–you need to wash up, you look like shit, she said. And as I walked out of the room to “collect” myself, Concerned Citizen faded to black.

As the show comes back from commercial, there is a long shot of trees, then the camera focusing in. A road, a truck barrelling down it, an arm hanging out of the truck, then dropping a lit cigarette. Then the voiceover.]

Horehound: Friends, please be careful of forest fires. This beautiful forest–redwood treasures–won’t be long for this world if people aren’t more careful with their flames.

[A shot of a forest in flames–stock footage, obviously, with its nuanced texture so removed from the flat vistas of Concerned Citizen–gives way to the whitest family in America heating up coals on a backyard grill, with a white plate of raw ground beef on a table beside the table.

These folks have the kind of yard where exposing flesh to air apparently is not inadvisable. A yard without chiggers or gnats. A yard where the grass is astroturf, where the kids aren’t allergic to the housepet, where the wife doesn’t pulsate with unreciprocated longings.

And even now, knowing what I know, I wouldn’t need Viagra to take Angie on this quasi-grass, to plant her like a seed, to settle into her as if her sex itself was softest earth, as if her pudenda were potting soil.]

Horehound: Be careful when grilling outdoors! Make sure you’re good to nature, and nature will be good to you!

[The family–teeth murderously white and dangerous, like the tennis outfits in which they apparently barbecue. The family–“relaxing” in the most posed position imaginable, clueing the viewer into an essential fact of the show.

That nothing is as it seems. That no relationship is simple. That every construct exists to serve the person staked in its construction.]

Horehound: Time passes slowly when you maintain sentry in another man’s home. Though I by nature keep my own counsel, I was nonetheless happy to accept Millie’s invitation to have coffee in her living room a couple of days after our initial contact.

[The show disappears into yet another quasi-impressionistic cul de sac, here, showing Horehound brushing his teeth and petting a cat for some seconds. He takes his time sauntering to the Fairlane, only to drive less than a block to Millie’s divorcee pad.

Apparently, Grant Cameron’s concern for the environment is as fleeting as his concern for many other plot elements or story details that don’t promote his character as being so very central. Incidental music plays incidentally as Horehound rings the door. The muted jazz finds its end when Millie opens the door, barefoot in a red minidress.]

Millie: Hi, Brock. I hope you don’t think I’m dressed too young. I just had a couple of my younger friends over. Proteges, really.

[Divorcee smiles linger, full of portent, as divorces are always signals of the finiteness of love or even understanding. Signals like bleak lighthouse beacons, that nothing matters. That nothing adds up.

I’m not an attractive man, but I’m smart in the ways of love more often than not. I know that the trick to scoring, to “getting nookie”, to whatever you kids call it, is to be self-effacing, always. To not come off like you’ve already seen the woman naked. To make her think she’s somehow surprising or interesting.]

Horehound: Nonsense, you look fine.

[You should reassure, but not too much, not enough to make it clear that you realize you’re being solicited for those reassurances. Enough to tease that a payoff, in theory, exists, for all the subpar meals in corporate diners, for all the mind-numbing conversation, for all the unwanted parting kisses you could either name or think of.

Millie takes Horehound’s hand here and leads him inward, toward a plush red velvet couch straight off of the cover of a pulp book. CC here maintains its essential adherence to archetypal recastings of the same played-out fantasies. Hourglass figures tricking on tricked-out couches. Of missionary sex. Of the eclipsing of loss.]

Millie: Yeah, you know how it is. You have to dress so that the kids will trust you.

[The kids. Trust. There are rules, always rules. Don’t wear all black: it looks funereal, and it exposes your essential distrust of the process. Shave and shower before class, even if you don’t feel like getting out of bed. Make sure your fly is zipped. Don’t pull on clothes in a rush and forget to don underwear. Don’t teach class in a t-shirt and sweat pants, unless you aren’t interested in tenure’s sweet succor.]

Horehound: The kids? What’s that all about?

[Leave the office door open when conferencing. Always keep a barrier between yourself and the student. Make sure your legs don’t “accidentally” stretch into the student’s space, and that your eyes don’t linger on a body part or two. No matter how much you want to, don’t call them at home, to ask how they’re doing, to see if they need extra help on a project. Don’t take student flirtation seriously. Don’t let your voice crack on that wistful goodbye.]

Millie: You can say I work as a mentor, of sorts.

[Don’t confess doubt in the process. Doubt in the institution of the university. Don’t bitch about abridgements of academic freedom, don’t bitch about the schedule, your co-workers, the stagnant pool that bears your sustenance. Don’t tell the students that they’re slow or dull or pointless, even if it’s true.]

Horehound: Sounds like interesting work. What does it entail?

[Compromise. Self-abnegation. A litany of polite nods, of laughter that rattles like cage doors. Handshakes with unctuous fat men and women in JC Penney business suits, where you wipe the sweat from the exchange off on your trousers.]

Millie: I don’t do it for money. There’s no money in it. I mostly counsel small groups of adolescents–act as a mother figure of sorts. It’s the way I deal with it.

[Counseling. Every teacher has his “rap” sessions, in the first few or last few minutes of class, when he walks into the room trying his hardest not to notice how erotic female soccer players in t-shirts and Umbro shorts are, the way their hair glistens, reflecting the overhead light, the light that is never intended to heighten the beauty of these somber cellphoned coeds.

There were many students I got to know. After the dismissal, that knowledge and the power that went with it was gone.]

Horehound: It?

[It being the knowledge. It being the outside possibility that you’re being smiled at because you’re you, as cliched as that might sound. That someone sees beauty in your eyes and reacts to that beauty.

But I would always want too much. My habit was to misread coquettish poses, to overshoot my target. Thus, my pockets would brim with scraps of paper with mismatched names and phone numbers, and I would strip, shower, and feel broken in ways I never hoped to imagine.]

Millie: Children. I can’t have children.

[By the same token, I shouldn’t have children. Since the firing, I find myself engaging children as if they’re on my level. As if they’ve already been corrupted. When I go to the movies and sit by groups of them, for example, and attempt to strike conversations up about the subject of the day–the movies of Freddie Prinze–I am greeted with laughter. With cold stares. With abuse of all manner.]

Horehound: Count your blessings. You’re doing something you want to do. That’s a good thing.

[More phone numbers that ring false, as stated above. More conversations with the scab-ridden long arm of the law, manifested in the existence of movie theater security, teen club bouncers, of all aspirant jackboot thugs who equate an overamped walkie-talkie and a snug blue polyester outfit with authority, with the power to finally transcend their upbringings in cramped pre-fab apartments and “mobile homes”. ]

Millie: I suppose it is. Tell me, Brock. What do you do?

[The events alluded to above don’t bother me so much. They do, however, poison the groundwater. I see the looks I get when I buy my popcorn and soft drinks, or when I enter skating rinks on teen nights, only to be shot acid looks when I tell the box office girl that “I’m only making sure my daughter is okay.”

Whatever allegations–scurrillous, unfounded, career-damaging– have been laid forth in the claustrophobic “break rooms” and “manager’s offices”, these have no bearing on me as a scholar. On my proficiency in the classroom as a molder of young minds.

Or on my proficiency as a navigator of the turbulent waters of academic politics.]

Horehound: Right now, I’m just a citizen.

[Millie smiles, here. “Excuses” herself to mosey to the wet bar, to make the confines of her former conjugal home more friendly with libations, with spirits, with the dull thud of alcohol.

Likewise, I found myself smiling often during that third day of the conference. I was able to formulate witty answers for all sorts of educational conundrums, indicating to all in attendance that I understood our “educational mission” as well as any departmental veteran

And as I established myself, I came to notice something most interesting about the conviviality my presence occasioned. The only person not laughing, not getting into the spirit of things, as it were, was Matthias Carlos. Even as my colleagues embraced me as one of their own in a manner uncannily similar to the Brady Bunch embracing Oliver, I noticed Matthias rolling his eyes and checking his watch each and every time I would speak.

And there were other things I noticed about Matthias as well. Don’t think I didn’t make note of them. At the end of the day, when Angie grabbed my arm and whispered in my ear, when we took separate cars to her apartment.]

Horehound: After preparing drinks for the two of us–martinis, extremely dry–we returned to her living room, and found ourselves embroiled in conversation.

[Yes, we drank more than we should, and we developed a plan. It wasn’t hard. It wasn’t even explicit. We just knew that we had to find an embarrassment–an “unfortunate incident”, of sorts–in the past of Matthias Carlos. With that knowledge would come leverage.

One thing that confused me at that point, though. Despite the drinks we drank–martinis, providentially enough–and all the laughter and the collegial confessionals, she wouldn’t tell me what drove her to attempt to, in her words, “cut that fucker’s balls off.” After all, she had her gig–a salaried position, an office of her own, a key to the photocopier. What was she hoping to accomplish? Why did she want my help? What did she think about me? Did I matter, at all, to her?

Some of those questions, at least, were answered eventually.]

Millie: I just don’t see why there are certain laws, Brock. I feel like the police are more interested in knowing what people are doing than in helping them. It’s no crime for me to put something in my own body.

[Her eyes flutter as she makes her points. The implication is that she’s “under the weather”, that she’s “wrestling her demons”, that she’s “not herself today”.

The shot flashes back to the impassive visage of Brock Horehound, as you’d expect.]

Brock: The police department in LA, like all others in this country, are interested in making sure that citizens live productive, safe lives. Lives free of vice and corruption. Certainly, you wouldn’t want to interfere with that work, now, would you?

[The shot flashes back to Millie, smiling insipidly, mouthbreathing. The foreshadowing here is explicit.]

Millie: Now, I like the work the police do, mind you. But some of their actions are unreasonable….

[Millie slumps in a straight-backed chair, slurring under the accumulation of what one might call her “pick-me-ups”. Then she pulls herself into a somewhat more posture-perfect position.

You could say Angie slumped likewise. You could say she unbuttoned a button or two, in the teasing way of Catholic schoolgirls whose breasts are only beginning to bud. You could say she smiled when she noticed my eyes not quite meeting her own.]

Horehound: Sorry to interrupt, Millie, but what police actions do you find objectionable. Citizens often make this claim, but rarely can they back it up.

[Whatever alcoholic bonhomie our stalwart male lead has amassed has diffused into the seaside air of the room. For this is about business. For Horehound, more significantly, it will always be about business. Even if it’s not his business anymore.

I managed to convince Angie to dance with me. We turned on some Soft Favorites radio station, and I pulled her close to me even as we both laughed and pretended we were beyond the pulse spike of initial discovery. I felt her arms slacken as her body relaxed into mine.]

Millie: Whoo! Hold on one second, Officer McHinkle. Little Millie’s gotta tinkle!

[Millie bolts up from her reclined position and bounds coltishly toward the bathroom. Horehound picks up his glass to sip from it, then, just before it touches his lips, he sets the glass back down again.]

Horehound: A lot goes through my mind before I get involved with a skirt. It just has to. I know my position in the community. What I mean and what I have meant to countless people.

[Horehound stands up and checks his cragged reflection in the glass of the door of a curio cabinet. I remember taking similar action toward the end of my time with Angie, after she shook my hand in parting. After she went inside, I spent minutes in my car, the motor idling a treacherous, low rumble, inspecting the sorry inventory of my countenance’s flaws in a makeup mirror. Nosehair like standing grass. Wrinkles like rivulets bled dry. ]

Horehound: There are times when things go a bit hinky. There are times when things just don’t add up.

[The way a lingering stare can be denied, or reversed, in a moment. The way she would be permitted a glancing touch on my skin–oops, sorry– even as I never could count on the same consideration. The way she could wrinkle her nose at me when I told her how beautiful she looked, and expect me not to take the wrinkling as encouragement.]

Horehound: Trips to the bathroom. The constant mood swings, even within minutes of each other. The silliness. The giddiness.

[Horehound reaches toward the ashtray on the coffee table to pick up his cigarette. He takes an epic drag off the stick, and puts it back in its resting place. Providentially, since this is a thirty minute show, Millie returns from the bathroom. Rather than sitting in the chair she was in before, she plants herself flush against Horehound on the sofa.]

Millie: Tea for two! Sorry I took so long, Brockie. I was powdering… my nose!

[Millie sways forward, then back toward Horehound, who wraps his right arm around her. Providing stability, perhaps.

Of course, it makes no sense for me to wonder why he’s taking this action. Unlike my situation with Angie, there’s no “professional relationship.” Just cock and trim, just buyer and seller. Simple enough. ]

Horehound: Millie, are you feeling okay?

[Millie pushes off of Horehound, an aggrieved expression on her face. It is clear, of course, that she is not feeling okay. After pushing off Horehound, she slumps to the floor. Horehound leans down and checks her pulse.]

Horehound: Weak, but still going….

[Horehound stands up and walks to the bathroom, a pizzicato string arrangement soundtracking his movements. He makes a beeline for the medicine cabinet, which he opens up. The camera settles on his face for a second–here Grant Cameron gives us “shocked”–then lingers in the interior of the medicine cabinet.

Pill bottles, prescription stuff. A bag loaded with powder, stuffed full like all bags of drugs on cop shows. And in the center of the cabinet, centered and solitary on a shelf, the nemesis of our Concerned Citizen, of all concerned citizens and self-styled moral arbiters everywhere.

Horehound reaches for it, almost tentatively, though he’s certainly seen it countless times. He presses it between his fingers, and in the pressing there is a certain undeniable tenderness. Then he breaks it in two, and lifts the right half to his left nostril, taking in the scent as if smelling the lingerie of his secret love. Much as I took in Angie’s scent as we danced, and she whispered in my ear–as if we were being bugged– that she would tell me when and how our plan was to be set in motion. I nodded, and I concentrated, not on her words so much as what her fingers felt like on my lower back. For a moment, I was sixteen, full of potential and promise, with all my best years and my conquests ahead of me.]

Horehound: Marijuana.

[Spliff. Reefer. Joint. Horehound’s herbal nemesis, organic, wildgrowing. Organic like all evil, like all transgression, like the human weakness as structural and as much a given as toxins in school lunches.

Horehound casts his eyes downward, as if standing solitary vigil, or serving a solitary penance. The strings lose their pizzicato pluck and enter a melancholy sliding, like that of breakup sex, as our protagonist liberates the powder from its insidious pouch into the American Standard porcelain. As he dumps both ends of the disjuncted joint into the chemical-blue water that is mourning made liquid, really. As the pills leave their bottles–no child-safety caps here, luckily–and find a final resting place in the water. Horehound is wordless here, even as the flushing overwhelms the mawkish strings on the soundtrack.]

Horehound: I’ve seen this before. This escapism into drugs and the oblivion they spawn. I’ve seen kids no older than ten lost in a world of pills and sadness that they can’t recover from. The acid freaks. The grasshoppers. The hopheads. The sinners, keening toward an angry fix….

[Horehound rinses residue from the bags and the bottles in a scene that would ring eerily domestic, if it weren’t for the obvious reference to the work of Beat Poet Allen Ginsburg. Not to editorialize, but it’s a crying shame indeed when our popular culture is reduced to pilfering serious art for commercial purposes.]

Horehound: And I knew what my obligation was. Sure. But I also had a feeling that, well…

[His voice trails off, back under the “epiphany” strings used at the end of 50s family sitcoms. He reaches into an interior jacket pocket for his memo pad and a pen. Then he writes a note, walks into the livingroom, and sits the note on the coffee table where his cigarette has burned to the end. We hear Horehound’s voice “reading” us the note, fronting an ersatz intimacy, as he turns off the living room light and takes leave of Millie, kissing her full on the lips, as the screen cuts to a pre-commercial black.]

Horehound: Dear Millie. Tonight was a close call, and you got lucky. You don’t need the drugs. When you can say no to them, you know where I am. Brock.

[And Angie, despite what I have said, despite what I might say, you know where I am as well.]

[When the show returns from the ad break, we see a flag waving over a statue of soldiers leaning forward, shooting rifles, immersed in a “combat situation.” As the Battle Hymn of the Republic bounces forth on martial drums, Brock’s voice begins anew.]

Horehound: 1776. 1812. 1917. 1942. In every generation, we have a need for our fighting men to settle the score in some far-off land. No matter how unfashionable it might be, please, take some time to support your armed forces.

[The shot switches to two uniformed men–one white, one Filipino– engaged in grin-ridden chatter. The implication is clear. This camaraderie is the reward for socialization, organization, conformity.

And not just in the army, either. Even in academia–and I write this at the risk of offending future employers–there are cliques that linger, or malinger, depending on your perspective on the matter. One man’s defender is another man’s oppressor.

After all that I’ve described and what I will describe, you will know that I understand what I just said from both ends.]

Horehound: Say thank you when you see a man in uniform. Express your thanks by volunteering for veteran’s associations. Keep that yellow ribbon flying. Show the vets you care!

[The closing shot of this sequence a masterwork of imposition. A blue, cloudless sky, framing a flag waving provocatively in the breeze, framing a yellow ribbon. Then the whole patriotic melange fades to black, replaced by the message: Good Luck Boys. The final scene of the show. A sunny day finds Horehound putting suitcases in the trunk of his Fairlane as upbeat jazz soundtracks. Just as he’s closing the trunk–presumably making peace with his departure from the housesitting gig, Millie approaches from behind, bearing a covered plate.]

Millie: Brock! Hey, Brock!

[The spring in her step, the mischief in her voice, the plate in her hand. All these evoke the clearly-delineated gender roles of the Donna Reeds and the I Married Joans that were so obviously superceded even before the genesis of Concerned Citizen.]

Brock: Millie.

[Brock turns around, squints, nods. The implication, I guess, is that he’s been burned by junkies before.]

Millie: I know you’re leaving today, so I’ve brought you a goodbye present.

[Millie, within arm’s reach of Brock by now, proffers the plate. Brock takes the plate with minimal hesitation, as if two parts romantic comedy beau and one part cynical cop.]

Brock: Thanks a lot, Millie. What’s in here, anyway?

[A shot of Millie, souped-up, it is clear, on Valium or Halcion. But there are drugs and then there are drugs, one supposes.]

Millie: Brownies! Don’t worry about the plate… unless you want to run it by some time….

[Millie works a coquettish pose, knowing that women like her and men like Horehound always find “some time.” That’s how cologne, cars, and subdivisions are marketed. The idea is to have a perfect life, if you maintain your figure, if you get your degree. If you pay your dues.]

Brock: I might just do that. You never can tell, Millie. You never can tell.

[The credits roll.]


ANTHONY GANCARSKI makes his home currently in Spokane, WA. He can be emailed at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com.

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ANTHONY GANCARSKI is a regular CounterPunch columnist. He can be reached at Anthony.Gancarski@attbi.com

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