PRINT December 1992


WHEN I HEAR the word “culture” I reach not for a revolver but for TCBY, The Country’s Best Yogurt. Here, unseen in a whipped and creamy concoction of milk sweeter than mom’s own and the fruits of the good earth, is culture, a nation of tiny benevolent bacteria ready to rush to my inner aid, manning my colon and, through a symbiosis that gives one greater faith in the Lord, purifying this body, this temple of the spirit.

When I hear the word “culture” I reach not for my revolver but for my penicillin. Give me this day my daily mold. As above, so below. Give me a microcosm I can live with. Give me microorganisms I can relate to. From the macrocosm to the microcosm, let us all work together. A food chain is only as strong as its weakest strain. May my daily bread keep me strong, and may I nourish and satisfy whatever the hell it is that’s eating me.

Let us all, from the greatest to the smallest, collaborate on the great work of culture and let our work be true. Culture is our business, our only business. We are the culture. We make sure the work works.

Did you create any culture today? Did you dance? Did you sing someone’s praises? Did you decorate or redecorate? Did you set the tone? Did you plant some hemp or flax or cosmos? Did you read Sophocles or Vogue Patterns? Did you come up with a new sight gag? Were you possessed by a god?

Did you participate in any culture today? Did you do aerobics to a cappella music? Did you laugh out loud in a church or museum? Did you startle someone with a bald-faced lie? Did your cryptic remark lead another to greater self-knowledge?

When I hear the word “culture” a revolver never enters my mind as I reach for the Roquefort cheese and, unseen, it reaches out for me. I sit and sing quietly to myself as the cake rises in the oven.

Did what you said today change the world? Did you change the world by the way you dress, the way you cook, the way you look, the way you move? Did you get anybody hard? Did you get anybody wet?

The old man says, Image is virus. Image is virus and I’m sick with it. I’m sick with health. I’m a carrier. I’m a carrier of a plague of pleasure. Call it jes’ grew, the good foot, or the humpty dance, by any name it’s the same.

Contagion comes on the beat. Rhythm is the original genetic engineering. Contagion comes in through the senses, the ear and the eye. You see the germ, you get it. It’s the anti-Medusa: see it and live.

Here’s the germ of an idea. Culture is thousands of tiny time-capsules. I’ve got a code in my node. If viruses can kill why can’t they heal? Are there not viruses that heal, just as there are those that kill?

Who put the bug up your ass today?

When I hear the word “culture” I don’t reach for an Uzi, I reach for a corkscrew and a bottle of venerable and well-chilled sauternes. Viniculture. Noble rot, mutating nobler by the minute. I take a sip and sit back and close my eyes and I think of the Blob. A creature from another world, fallen to earth on a meteor. I imagine the Blob as a benevolent creature. I imagine the Blob dripping into the movie theater through the projection booth, but instead of frightening the audience it tranquilizes them and they sit, stone still and contemplative, as the warm and fragrant ooze envelops them, entering every pore, cleansing, healing and restoring.

When I hear the word “culture” I reach for the curtain and I pull it aside and I look out into the garden behind the house, all green and silently growing. It grows all by itself. We just attend it. The melons are a long way off but the squashes are right here, right now, watching the world wake up from history.

Culture is my business. Me and my mates are farming in the fields of dreams. Let’s see what we can grow in this advertised land of opportunity.

The crops may look strange. Call it mutation. Call it hybridization. We are always looking for a way to improve the fruits and vegetables and to adapt to changing conditions. We are now in the process of developing a grape that can withstand heavy ultra-violet radiation. We hope to produce the wine of the future. We’re calling it Chateau de No Ozone.

We are in the process of developing a broccoli that changes color when exposed to Cesium 137 and the other radioactive elements currently in use as food preservatives. When you’re involved in culture you have to be one step ahead of the competition.

When I and I hear the word “culture” I say “Word up” and I and I reach for the sacred dagger with which I and I slice the veins of the sacred cows, drawing blood to make a Masai milkshake, and I and I drink to the health of Legba and all the other gods who have made this culture so strong and deeply satisfying. This is my body. This is my blood, blood.

When I hear the word “culture” I reach for the Word. In the beginning was the Word and the word was Word. Word is the spark you get when you rub two characters together. String them together: word plus word plus word like a string of cultured pearls and you get a train of thought or a daisy chain of command.

When I hear the word “culture” I reach for the sky. There on high is the moon, which is made of green cheese, and I know that the green is a dream team, orderly and anonymous microartisans working on an alchemy that shines down on us all.

Have you had your culture today? Have you laminated meaning into a thick veneer of entendre that makes mere double seem cheap and scanty? Have you enriched our folklore? Have you devised a sauce that will live a thousand years?

Have you worked your mojo? Have you set a provocative standard of quality? Have you pushed the envelope? Has your choreography contributed to our understanding of gravity? Have you advanced the vernacular? Does your hair and makeup uplift the race? Have you considered your duty to beauty?

When I hear the word “culture” I look to the skies and think of the culture back on the planet we came from, the planet Golf. I remember when we first arrived here on the Starship Brigitte, how we beamed down on a 4/4 beat, how we used to stay up all night high on rhubarb, playing our music and watching the eyes in the dark, encircling our campfire.

When I hear the word “culture” I reach for a test tube and I scrape up a sample of whatever is within my grasp and I set it aside for a few days to see what will come of it and believe me, you’d be surprised. That’s how I discovered the scientific truth behind Pinocchio.

When I hear the word “culture” I reach for my decoder ring. When we break one code we’re on to the next. No code is secret when we’re on a roll. The random is no match for our cultivated calculations.

When I hear the word “culture” I reach for a yarmulke, an apron and a trowel, a compass and a square. The body is a temple and we are templars. It’s our job to keep the secret. It’s easy because we are the secret.

When I hear the word “culture” I reach for my mummy. My mummy is old and he’s not wrapped too tight. But when I feed him some,tanna-leaf tea he’s as good as new, or at least sprightly enough to carry out the terms of the curse. Woe be to any mother who gets in our face.

We have to keep a lid on this. We have to keep this genetic material out of circulation or we’re going to have some pissed-off customers on our hands. Can you read the virus on this papyrus? It’s in invisible ink, but hold it up to the white light and the glowworm kicks in.

When I hear the word “culture” I reach for my wetsuit because I am Jonah. I am in the whale. And when the whale takes a meeting it is I who whispers in his inner ear. It is I who utters silently, “Don’t sign anything.”

When I hear the word “culture” I don’t reach for weapons of war, I reach for TCBY. That’s Takin’ Care of Business Y’All. Elvis may be dead, but in his head the worms sing “Return to Sender” and the beat goes on and Elvis lives in the ghost that moves across the TV screen. And the ghost sings a song that Elvis never sang before. There it is on my TV, Elvis singing “All along the Watchtower.”

When I hear the word “culture” I roll out my red carpet. I want to be the host with the most. The host of hosts. My welcome mat is out to all symbiotic friendlies. They come to play and I deal them in.

When I hear the word “culture” I reach for something yin and just as I do something yin reaches for my yang and suddenly we’re matched antibodies in mutual orbit. When I look deep in your eyes I see a double helix that heals as it deals. Even your proteins are exquisite. I’m yours. just say the word.

When I hear the word “culture” I don’t fucking reach for my revolver. I reach for my johnson. Ahh. there it is. I’m a person of some breeding. And I want to breed some with you.

I’m going to lay hands on you now because I’m a man of culture and I’m contagious. The bug I bear is an extremely virulent disorder that is not altogether unpleasant. It combines elements of schizophrenia, paranoia, solipsism, neurosis, erotomania, dyslexia, Saint Vitus’ dance, priapism. kleptomania, dipsomania, hypochondria, pharmacopsychosis, fugue. and pathological lying. It’s a blend of witty bacteria and elegant viruses that evokes unknown causes, ancient myths. and a roster of exquisitely wrought maladies gently nourished and passed down over the ages from generation to generation. Catch it if you can.

I am I, but I is a hive. And if image is virus I’m ready to throw the book at them. I’m a conspiracy. DNA got nothing on me.

Allow me to decode. I’ve come to down-load. Watch me now..

Glenn O’Brien recently edited Sex, a book by Madonna published by Warner Books. New York. in October.