It’s quiet at Club Paradise near midnight on January 21, 2010, when this middle-aged guy comes in and says to Paddy, the owner and barkeep, “I’m early, Pops. Called in reservations for five. Which booth?”
Paddy surveys the booths across the room, all of them empty, and says, “You from Massachusetts? You vote for Brown?”
“Well, maybe you can stay. Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”
“You kidding me?”
I should tell you that Mongo hasn’t had anywhere to stay since the end of Blazing Saddles, and Paddy has let him live in the back of the club in exchange for Mongo working as the bouncer. He rises like a mountain from the shadows behind the bar and walks around it and up to the stranger and says, “Mongo brawn in game of life.”
From my nearby bar stool, I tell the stranger, “Better answer who is buried in Grant’s tomb, and try to get it right. Jaywalkers aren’t allowed in here.”
“Well, OK. It’s Grant.”
Mongo retreats behind the bar.
“Drink at the bar until your pals arrive,” says Paddy. “What’ll it be?”
Paddy winces. Mongo stirs.
“Sit down,” I say to the stranger. He takes the next stool.
“I’m Gregg Easterbrook,” he says to me.
“My friends should be here any minute.”
“Who are your friends?”
“Thomas Friedman, Fareed Zakaria, James Fallows and Ray Kurzweil.”
“Why are they your friends?”
“We all understand Bob Marley. Have you heard his music?”
“I’ve heard of him, put it that way. I don’t think Mongo’d like him.”
“I’m sure he would. See, look, Marley said, ‘Be happy, don’t worry.’ It’s great advice.”
“Well, take me and my friends. That’s what we all say. We say it over and over. Works like a charm.”
Paddy materializes and says, “One gimlet.”
I’m polite tonight, so I say, “That so?”
“But I’m now ahead of them all except maybe Kurzweil. But I think he’s not playing fair. Sometimes I get the sense he thinks he’s slumming around the rest of us.”
“Well, I think I’ve just nosed in front of all us Marley torchbearers with Sonic Boom. See, in it I write that we can’t understand what’s happening on important levels all over the world–you know, Globalization–but don’t worry, embrace the turmoil, and things will probably work out. Even though I tell ’em that change will get faster and faster. Confusion supreme. Like riding a speedrail with no conductor and you don’t know if the rails have been laid all the way through. But here we’re talking Globality. Be happy, don’t worry, though there will be rough patches when you keep losing your job, you find you can’t trust authorities, and institutions start working even more poorly than now. Not to mention stuff like there’s going to be a breakdown in the distinction between home and work and the media, especially the social media, gets more and more ridiculous and relentless. But, see, it’s a religious book. I’m a statistical mystical.”
He sips his gimlet, then continues. “Here’s how it works: There’s always trouble ahead, but that message…man, it’s a downer! So I give ’em worldwide democracy and global prosperity and soon, sooner than they’d ordinarily hope. They sure want to hope. That’s the big thing. See, our readers don’t have a lot of time to digest stuff around them. Same old, same old. Gimme that old-time religion! So I talk about miracles, like unlimited financial growth, ever greater and greater prosperity, you know, The End of History and the lion reclines next to the lamb and so on, leading to, well, just what this club’s named. Even though there are still limits to growth, I just say there aren’t. Even though the money machine that got us into the present recession will, if we don’t stop it, likely become a Global Casino where moral hazard comes from running through the whole global system until there can’t be any bailout because nothing is left. Also, man, wow, I don’t talk much about nuclear proliferation, you know, that stuff. Downer.”
He takes another sip. “My greatest inspiration–I mean the greatest–is this theme. It’s on page 170. Wow, it just came to me one evening. I said to myself, Hey, just assert it! Want to know what it is? “It may be that the deeper message of nature is enlightened cooperation.” Just before that thought, also right there on page 170, I cleverly bring in Darwin and bloody nature when I mention ‘the tiger that gores the antelope–‘”
“Wouldn’t that be an unusually fast elephant?”
“Hell, it doesn’t matter. Elephants, tigers, whatever. Who cares? Well, anyway, I talk about the Framers of the U.S. Constitution right after my great line about natural cooperation. I say that the cooperation is inbred, a sort of dominant feature of natural selection. It’s gonna happen, of itself. So: Be happy, don’t worry! Even if you’re looking for a job, a house, and you’re confused and the like. It’s all going to work out naturally, on its own.
I say, “Well, I can see how you’ve surpassed all your friends except Kurzweil. I mean, he’s even gone into the mist with his peculiar and crazy version of Singularity. And he says, Be Happy, don’t worry.”
“Damn, I know. His scale is unbeatable. But it sure frosts me!”
I say, “Mongo, over here. Got a job for you.”