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Las Dias y Los Noches de Monsignor Martinez

February 5th, 2004

An old couple in Westwood was running a scam where they let on to certain parties that they were interested in funding the production of independent films. They continued to encourage and demand results from those involved, promising again and again to provide funds and help. But really they were offering no help at all, and only doing it to see how far they could string people along, a la the various obnoxious patrons of the arts encountered by Old Benvenuto in his autobiography.

It so happened that I was taken in by this for a while, as were a pair of foreign students from Spain (the same that Michael and I had met in the MIT Linguistics department a few days before). But though I rapidly figured out their scheme and warned the Spaniards, it turned out that this deception was only the most superficial layer of a deep and devious conspiracy to blackmail and eventually enslave every person of grace, intelligence, and creative and artistic merit in the world, numbing them by nothing more than fear and torment into tools for world domination.

Soon the dream deteriorated into a matrix-like urban chase scene through bare, unfinished corridors and paint-spattered scaffolds high above city streets. Their first line was composed all of women–one of them southeast-asian and naked, another blonde and clad in white–but all so beautiful and fascinating that the sight of them was hypnotizing, like that of siren mermaids diving among deadly shoals, or fair specters beckoning from the grave. Whenever I saw them approach I was overcome with sympathy, with the desire to help them from their plight–yet I saw the weapons in their hands, and the helpless coldness in their eyes, and so I forced myself to flee.

They were something above a dozen in all, and so swift and agile and deadly that soon I realized I could not hope to escape them no matter how I ran or leapt or dove. So I took refuge in a little empty room all painted white, with a single door and a single window, and prepared to make my stand.

I had picked up a little brown-tinted automatic from one of them, possibly the blonde. With this in hand, I crouched by the window and watched the building across the street, from which my pursuers emerged one at a time onto the scaffold.

Walking among the women and behind them, goading them on, were two others of a different sort: tall, shifty-looking, craggy-faced latino men in bad suits and dark sunglasses, who resembled your generic drug-running goons a la El Mariachi or Las Dias y Los Noches de Monsignor Martinez. Clearly, these were the people behind the conspiracy, or at least its enforcers. They were flesh and blood, yet bullets alone did not seem to harm them, but only slowed them down. It took them some time to heal, but there were so many others to back them up that I could never get a chance to finish them off.

As I peered at them through the little bathroom window, however, I saw something in their attitudes, their postures, that suggested all the beautiful artists and geniuses they had enslaved were not yet truly mindless servants, but resisted them, and only did what they did because of whatever threat to their art the conspiracy held over them. Could they see, perhaps, that their enemies had no such power over me? Why else had they simply stopped there on the scaffold, and not tried to come after me?

I looked at their faces, and once again overwhelmed by pity, I decided to risk it. Running out of the little room, I leapt, grabbed the rail of the scaffold, and swung myself with incredible gravity-defying matrix skills across the open space between the buildings, to land squarely before the two sunglassioed villains. “Dodge this,” I did not say, and planted a bullet in each of their skulls.

It seemed I was right, or at least that I had gained a degree of control over the dream, for the women around me all turned and echoed my shots with each of their own. I placed a foot over each of the ugly men’s throats, and stood watching until they breathed their last.

Then I awoke.

Clearly this dream was intended as a moralistic fable warning against the perils of submitting one’s art to the judgement and design of those willing and capable to exchange a livelihood for it. This drawback is true of every form of art. Old Benvenuto’s lamentations at having been forced to abandon the one truly great patron he ever had really struck me, and the gaps in comprehension and appreciation between those with power and those with talent have only swollen in the centuries since his death.

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