Saturday, December 8, 2007
My Friend, the Shape-Shifting Reptilian
No one mentioned it. No one, that I could tell, even looked at it. Yet it was there, in plain view of all the guests, at least five feet by seven feet, hanging inexplicably, insouciantly, on the wall of the great man's living room: a gigantic oil portrait of Adolf Hitler. And I wondered if the master of the house, when speaking, in tribute to his piece had dropped the common metaphor of "the elephant in the room" in favor of "the führer in the room". For certainly, the Hitler portrait had the same effect as the metaphorical elephant: everyone noticed it, everyone felt awkward about it, and everyone acted as if it did not exist.
The brooding visage of the führer stared out at a selection of Canada's elite: famous columnists, newspaper publishers, multi-millionaires, opinion-makers, etc. I had been invited to the party by Ezra Levant, publisher of the now defunct "Western Standard" magazine, a libertarian-conservative organ based in Calgary, Alberta. Ezra and I had met while doing television commentary for Global TV during Canada's last federal election, and kept in occasional email contact since. When I'd emailed him a few weeks earlier (in September of '06), he'd mentioned that Lord Conrad Black, international media baron, would be hosting a reception for columnist and author Mark Steyn (whose book "America Alone" had just come out) at his mansion in Toronto, though the event itself would be sponsored by the "Western Standard" magazine. And never loathe to pass up an opportunity for adventure, I accepted.
I surveyed the whole bizarre scene for a few more moments. I finally decided to take the plunge and mention the führer to someone. And since I only really knew Ezra - that meant Ezra.
"Ezra", I whispered. "Why is there a portrait of Hitler in here?"
Ezra whispered, without looking at me, "I don't know". And just as soon, someone new had approached Ezra, introduced himself, Ezra had smiled broadly and extended his hand, and they'd begun chatting. Ezra, shall we say, gave every impression of wanting to abide by "the code of silence" himself. Everyone did.
That left no one else to ask but Lord Black himself, who I'd only just been introduced to. I thought about it for a moment, but a sort of shyness overcame me. He was constantly surrounded by people, for one thing: to ask would require shoving my way in and then asking about what no one was supposed to even acknowledge, right in front of everyone - doing so would have changed the whole mood of the party - a party at which I already felt sort of out of place. (Scenes from Peter Sellers's "The Party" kept flashing through my mind...). Besides, I already felt pretty certain that the only possible thing Lord Black could say was, "we thought it was a wonderful piece of art". That is, the only answer I could imagine was sort of a non-answer which wouldn't really satisfy my curiosity anyway.
Of course, there was one other person I could have asked. Theoretically, anyway. Like some looping ghost, Lady Black - bone thin, pale, and dressed in black - would occasionally appear at the far side of the room, slip noiselessly through the crowds, making eye contact with no one, seemingly noticing no one, and then disappear again out the room exit opposite. A few minutes later, I'd see her again over on the far side of the room...and she would glide silently through the room again, and out. Needless to say, something about her demeanor made it clear she would have no interest in - well, even acknowledging my existence, let alone discussing the portrait.
Having resigned myself to not getting any answers that night, and standing there marveling at the fact that I was standing there marvelling at the fact I was standing there marvelling that I was actually there, another thought flitted through my mind: Conrad Black is a shape-shifting reptilian from outer space. I had long harbored a secret fascination with lunatic British conspiracy theorist David Icke, who claims - evidently in sincerity - amongst many other things, to have uncovered evidence that the world's ruling elite (not only Lord Black but Queen Elizabeth, George Bush Sr. and Jr., the Pope, etc.), are not actually human. According to Icke, they are reptiles from a different galaxy. Why don't they look like reptiles? That's easy, replies Icke: they have developed the ability to spontaneously change themselves - "shape shift" - into humans so as to cloak their true natures.
I approached Ezra again. "How do you think it would go over if I made a joke during my performance about how cool it was to finally meet a real shape-shifting reptilian?".
Ezra nearly spat out the white wine he was sipping. "Uh - not well", he said. "No one would know what you were talking about - except for Lord Black, and I doubt he'd find that particularly funny".
For a moment I wanted to raise my eyebrow and say suspiciously, "Why? Because...he really IS a shape-shifting reptilian from outer space?" But I could tell this was a serious occasion for Ezra - he was the publisher of the magazine sponsoring the whole do. And no doubt he was anxious to avoid any possibility of upsetting his host, or the guest of honor himself.
"Okay. I'll keep it normal", I said. Ezra looked very relieved. Just then, the spectral figure of Lady Black passed through us again...just as she had eight minutes before, and eight minutes before that: no eye contact, no word, nothing. Lord Black was still surrounded by people. Sometime tonight I'll have to chat with him, I thought. Just then, Ezra glanced at me inquiringly and tapped his watch. I nodded back, and made my way over to the corner near the fireplace, where I'd propped my guitar against the wall. It was time to play.
(To be continued...).