Report from the Badlands

The Artistic Struggle of the Masses in New Idria

I hear Gavilan College is having troubles with a controversial mural that was created by an art instructor and his students. Apparently, the eyebrow-raising masterpiece is so provocative and mean to rich people that some upper-crusters won’t let their children lay their little eyes on it, not in a gazillion years — not even if it were a gazillion years old, sitting in a museum and considered a pre-historic form of cave art.

Those Gavilan artists should have taken a lesson from us New Idrians. We’re old pros when it comes to running away from lynch mobs after creating public art projects.

In fact, many of us citizens have been personally involved in our own mural project. We painted it on the outside of the dead 1972 Cadillac DeVille (now dubbed the Badillac), which serves as a permanent and revered town statue outside our Civic Center Wreck Room.

I organized the project, but I did it anonymously because I didn’t cotton to the idea of a necktie party thrown by our local contingent of overprotective motherly frumps. I used my “artiste” pseudonym, R-U-KIDDING.

The mural, called “Elusive Cage,” depicts a swarm of humanity at its underbellied worst: theivin’ gemstone highgraders, poachers, murderously ambitious Orange Acres council members and town hall staff, BLM land squatters, beer swilling litterbugs, crank freaks from Los Banos — all the elements that prevent this remote part of the world from being the elite paradise it could be. They are shown stepping and crawling on top of each other in an attempt to get up a ladder that goes to an upper floor — obviously, to the privileged upper class of New Idrian society – and for some enigmatic reason, everyone has a small kennel cage in his or her hands.

Some familiar faces are in the swarm. Orange Acres Councilman Cousin Phony BooHoo is seen at the top of the ladder, cage under arm, stepping on my head, crying. I’m wearing a T-shirt that says “El Finger Puppet.” Phony’s separated Siamese twin, Councilman Crony Minutia, is trying to push me off the ladder in his quest to get to the top with his cage.

When you glance at what’s on the upper floor, you realize why everyone is toting a kennel cage: a hundred orange striped cats, each with a little crown on his head — they all look exactly like Mayor Orange the Cat – are sitting with deadpanned expressions in front of a long row of out houses. Some of them are taking swats at people coming up the ladder with their cages. One of the Mayor Oranges is spraying Cousin Phony.

Talk about a nightmare! Art at it’s pretentious worst, topped off by a power mad gaggle of Mayor Orange tabby clones.

Our City Manager, my sister Mel the Tambourine Virtuoso, is also on the top floor of the scene but she is preparing to do a swan dive off the precipice with her tambourine tucked in her belt.

In the middle of the struggling swarm of humanity is my brother Kemp, plumber to the world, spraying everyone down with a fire hose that gushes bright orange water.

You can imagine the public outcry that erupted when we unveiled the masterpiece. Phony and Crony were, of course, the biggest dissenters, screaming we didn’t have permission to use their likenesses and how it would spell the end of their “political careers.” So we replaced their heads with generic yellow smiley faces. You can still tell it’s them in the mural, though, because of all the hot dogs that the Phony character is dropping on his way up the ladder. And the figure that was Crony has prepared arrogant speeches addressed to the state water board falling out of his pockets.

The mural shocked a tourist family who happened to stop at the Whimsy Mining Company last week, and the parents immediately herded their kids back in their minivan after taking a gander at it, which was fine by us. Otherwise we would have sold their unattended children to the circus.

The parents’ complaints compelled our City Attorney Lawnmower Man to put the mural up for sale for a mere $2,500 (or best offer). If nothing else, maybe he can sell it to the Museum of Bad Art in New York. Not that selling the painting will change the facts depicted in it.

No one said a word against Lawnmower’s decision, because after all, the city attorney knows what’s best. At least that’s what the attorney keeps telling us.

Let’s face it. No matter where you live or how hard you strive to make your town wholesome, there will always be someone in the community who has a different definition of “family values.”

My secret advice to self-proclaimed do-gooders: don’t look at it, for Dog’s sake. Better yet, if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out!

San Carlos Creek Update: The toxic orange creek is in the mural too. It shows citizens of the downstream town of Mendota drowning in the methylmercury-tainted watershed, with nary a paddle to be had. Talk about being at the bottom of the totem pole!

Comments about the Badlands? Email Kate “Ladder Climber” Woods at [email protected]

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