think·ing ape blues \'think-'ing-âp-'-blüz\ n

1: a crippling affliction effecting the human condition in which man (homo sapien) feels trapped between primal urges and civilized manner, and/or primitive rage against a reality he can't understand and a placating logical outlook that tries to make sense of all the bullshit, religion, philisophical authority, dogmatic dick-heads and socially retarded jerk-offs constantly raining a shit-storm down on his beer-soaked mind

2: a self syndicated weekly comic strip by Mark Poutenis, featuring the three Bros. Progress; Abe (the oldest brother, simian), Ben (the middle brother, sapien) and Carl (the youngest, robotic) in a time and place familiar, yet as foreign as Mars. Currently runs in only on the internet and in The New York Waste. Has been dumped unceremoniously from such papers as The Boston Weekly Dig, The Phoenix New Times, The Cleveland Scene, The Hartford Advocate, The New Haven Advocate, The Valley Advocate, The Fairfield County Weekly and The Charleston City Paper. Contains no redeemable social or nutritional value whatsoever.

 
 
"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

- George Bernard Shaw

HONESTLY, there is only so much White Castle a man can eat. I mean in all my training in the Air Force or even at NASA, where they subjected my ass to over 6 Gs, I never experienced anything like that diner. Sitting on top of a 200 foot tall time bomb on a launch pad in the Florida heat while you gotta take a piss is nothing compared to fourteen "sliders" rolling, pitching and yawing in your gut. But the boys really liked Castle burgers, and being a polite midwestern boy, I obliged. And then there was the beer. Hell, I could knock back cold ones till the cows came home, but these sumbitches sucked down those Jamaican Red Stripes with assembly line precision for what seemed like days. The carcasses of White Castle burger containers and empty bottles littered the landscape for as far as the eye could see, and it was still only seven a.m. I always said I'd never drink with a Goddamn monkey again after that bastard Ham, who went up in our first test rocket, threw up on my wife Betty, but that Abe was a persuasive SOB. After my third beer we heard the engines warming up. By 7:18 the USS Eddie Shore was in the air. And by 7:22, wouldn't you know it, that jackass Abe upchucked all over my dress blues. And that's how I first met the Progress Brothers.

Abe, Ben and Carl Progress. Boy, lemme tell you something, they sure didn't have fellas like this back home in Mitchell, Indiana. Abe's the oldest and I guess their mother didn't show him alot of affection. Was kinda hardest on him since the old man was missing from the picture. I didn't ask about that. Abe's a violent psychotic type, real abusive, to his brothers and just about anybody else, but I'll tell you, he loves those guys like no other brother I've ever known. Guess he doesn't know how to express himself, really. Weird, when you think about it.

 
 
"Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal."
- Albert Einstein

 

Carl is the baby brother. Never went to school, didn't need to. He's what I think they call savant. He's a funny guy but boy, can he suck the fun out of a drinking session with alot of technical mumbo jumbo like those Goddamn egghead engineers at NASA. It's like he's auditioning for those T.V. quiz programs all the time. But I'll tell you, as strange as he can act, he sure won me over as a friend for life when he calculated the trajectory-to-burn aspect ratio of an Atlas rocket with a 2 man crew between sips of Guinness, and I used that info to win 20 bucks off that sumbitch Boy Scout John Glenn in a bar bet. And Carl knows funny, on almost a mechanical level. Hell, he explained to me the differences between men and women that cause men to "get" the 3 Stooges and cause women to hate them. It sure helped me smooth some things over at home between Betty and me.

 
 
"Give a monkey a brain and he'll swear he's the center of the universe."
- Fishbone

Ben is the middle kid, the college boy, or at least some college I'm told. He's the one I guess I'm closest too. A little bit of a, what do you call it, and enigma I suppose. He ain't as smart as he thinks he is but at the same time he's a pretty bright fella about things he shouldn't understand. He's pretty hard on himself, which is common in middle children I've noticed, like my little brother Norman. See, Ben will say something real profound, like the time he told me a way to end prejudice is simply to hate everyone, then we'd all be in the same boat. Then he got all sheepish and said, "Aw, what do I know, I'm just a drunk asshole", which is true, he is an asshole, but the idea was a solid one.

He said he suffers from some sort of depression . . . he calls it the thinking ape blues. Says it's about, get this now, the pain of being stuck between between the heavens and a hole in the ground, between a hundred thousand generations of evolution and the exclamation point on a cosmic joke. Frankly, I had no Goddamn idea what he was talking about and besides, I thought he said "thinking eight blues", thought it was some Charles Mingus thing and left it at that. One night after one of their vodka parties at the mountain research station we were standing on the edge of of the telescope. He points up to the moon and says,"In this day and age, if you think the moon is made of cheese you are a moron . . . and if you don't, you're not human." Then he slugged back the rest of a bottle of russian vodka I got as a gift from Yuri Gagarin and threw it at the moon. It crash landed about forty feet below the observatory, then he threw up. So that's Ben.

 

Of course, I didn't live long enough to see us put a man on the moon, but these bastards did. Then the boat got too crowded. Sunsets on Saturn, wheat fields on Mars. Humanity's skeleton is waiting for some alien anthropologist to weigh, measure and chart it . . . roll, pitch and yaw. Or maybe an angel. Who knows, really. But Abe, Ben and Carl stayed. Down to the last punchline, down to the last beer, down to the last whimper. Last one out don't forget to turn out the lights.

Thanks for listening. When do I get paid?

 

- Lieutenant Colonel Virgil Ivan 'Gus' Grissom,
with the vindicated ghost of Liberty Bell 7,
Houston, Texas
winter 2003

 

 

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All art and text copyright © 2009 Mark Poutenis • THE THINKING APE BLUES copyright © 2009 Mark Poutenis