"we can only do what it seems to us we were made for, look at this world with a happy eye but from a sober perspective.”

-W.H. Auden

The End of the Clove: Welcome to America - Where No Good Foreigner Goes Unpunished

So you’ve heard the news? I guess that exchange student we’ve been hanging out with for the past couple years went and got himself deported. Crazy, right? Seems like just yesterday I was meeting him through Tony, who met him through his cousin, who met him while studying abroad in The Balkans, and then—POOF!—just like that the little dude gets his ass shipped back to Indonesia, or Indochina, or wherever the hell he came from. It’s a real shame too. I was just getting used to the guy. I’d finally figured out how to pronounce his name. Apparently the “D” in Djarum is silent. Who knew? I wasn’t freaked out by the way he talked anymore, and I was even beginning to find his unique (ahem) aroma almost pleasant. It was kind of fun having him around; made me feel downright cosmopolitan and—not going to lie—just a bit more educated than those ethnocentric, white-washed squares I usually hang around with.

And now this? Now I find out that all this time he’s been sneaking around seducing teenagers and killing grandparents? One reporter even said that I may have been his next target! Please. I don’t believe it. I won’t believe it. Not him. Not DJ (that’s what I called him). I mean, this is a guy who had a mustache in the 9th grade and taught himself Icelandic so he could “better experience Sigur Ros.” He was quiet, understated, classy. He was harmless; hell, even wholesome! I’m no Gary Sinise and this isn’t CSI: New York, but DJ never struck me as the grandma-killing type. And I would know. I’m an excellent judge of character.

You know who we should be keeping an eye on? Forget about my exotic friend. What about that cheap kid who’s always hanging out at the gas station? You know who I’m talking about. Short, kind of stocky. What’s his name? Swoosh…Swish…Swisher? Swisher. Yeah, that’s it. Swisher. There’s something not right about that guy. For one, he’s always hanging out at high school poker games, or youth group campouts, or lame bachelor parties. Makes you wonder doesn’t it? What’s this guy trying to hide? Why does he only associate with people whose age or ethics disqualify them from experiencing the rapture of an ice-cold Fat Tire?

And, another thing, the dude always smells like chocolate or fruit or like a campfire that’s been peed out. Seriously. Last summer, I was at Six Flags Fiesta Texas waiting to get on the Superman ride and all of a sudden I caught a whiff of what smelled like someone dousing strawberries in hair spray and then lighting them on fire. I looked behind me and there’s this Swisher guy, wearing a Latrell Sprewell novelty jersey and looking violent. Weird, right? It gets weirder. About two months later I was at Brunswick Bowl, working on a real solid game, when who should I see two lanes over but Swisher, smelling like he’s bathed in nothing but peaches for the last week. Peaches! You believe that? It was all very unsettling and I ended up with a less-than-stellar 221.

I thought surely that was the end of it. But the very next weekend I was sitting in the bleachers at my high school’s homecoming football game—having one helluva good time, I don’t mind telling you—and all of a sudden I think, “Is someone stuffing grapes into a toaster beneath the bleachers?” I look down through the cracks and sure enough, Swisher is down there, lurking in the shadowy underbelly of an American high school, reeking of grapes. Does indecency know no bounds? He’s unnatural. He’s immoral. He’s positively un-American!

But who am I, right? I’m no one. Just a guy who occasionally pairs hiking sandals with argyle socks and tries to befriend unassuming immigrants whenever they happen to be hanging out in duty-free shops or Persian restaurants. Oh well. No sense bellyaching. What’s done is done, I guess. DJ is tucked away in the cargo hold of some freighter in a faraway port, and Swisher is free to spread his unholy choco-fruit pestilence at every state fair or Fall Out Boy concert within 2,000 miles. Welcome to America, where no good foreigner goes unpunished.

Fair thee well, Djarum. You will be missed. Might I suggest we pour out a small amount of this micro-brewed Bavarian-style Doppelbock as a libation in his honor? In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.

The End of the Clove: Exile and the Kingdom