Monday, June 1, 2015


Jambo Krumholz: Daze in the Life

By Alex S. Johnson

            And who would be Jambo today? That was the question, indeed the only question, pursued among us.
            Imagine if you will a loose collective unified solely by the desire to impersonate a metaphysical detective, a down-at-the-heels philosophy PhD whose assistance to the police was unwanted, snubbed, abhorred and sometimes beaten off with sticks and Mace bombs. His questions—searching, analytical, troubled—nevertheless prompted by a single, sincere inquiry:
            What is the nature of justice? And why does it keep getting mangled in actual practice?
            Many juries had been convened, come and gone, and maintained in cryogenic suspension when the Jambo Collective came upon the scene. In the words of the JC (propaganda document #17): “The jury is out to lunch and the cannibals are nervous.” The flaking, atrophied corpse of jurisprudence received a heady jolt when Jambo appeared, wearing either a traditional noir costume—trenchcoat, fedora, shades, drooping cigarette—or a shapeless hat, bunged-up tweed jacket and chalk-smeared black trousers. When he opened his mouth and muttered his queries, usually while police were taping off a crime scene, dogs howled from blocks away and a thin haze creased the sun.
            “A corpse, certainly, a dead body,” he would opine, brandishing a copy of Schopenhauer’s essays in the lead detective’s face. “Or is it? How does one demarcate the boundary between the dead and the living?” At which point backup was called. Jambo’s physical appearance was nondescript and his affect calm, reasonable, even boring, to the point that when the squad cars roared in, the philosopher managed somehow to fade into the foreground, or the background, depending on his mood that day. Rarely would he occupy the middle ground, where he was sometimes spotted, leaning back against a lamp post as a long cone of ash built up on his cigarette, iPod blasting the 1812 Overture. He briefly jerked his neck during the cannon parts, then dipped his head back down and started to snore. On special days one or more of the collective crawled simultaneously back and forth behind the yellow tape, their movements as preserved on surveillance video patterned after mushroom trails.
            The Jambos encompassed all schools of thought since the Pre-Socratics, all branches of philosophy and allied disciplines, including history, sociology, psychopharmacology, plate tectonics, clown-whacking and the search for the elusive Master Bear who disappeared in the Gay Panic of 1990. Sectarian divisions did break out sporadically, but the union held firm, cohered by the belief that the more once interrogated the law, the more it wound in upon itself like the fabled worm oroborus. (Slacker Detective Joe Oroborus was not available for comment at the time of this writing.)
            There was in fact an original Jambo, a prototype, and the name of the firm had been taken from his pseudonym as an undergrad during a brief revolutionary period in which he heckled the Dean via the student newspaper with bizarre tirades demanding scholarships for random homeless people who hung out at the student union, cash outlays for student trips to the Amazon (hallucinogenic tourism), instant neurosurgery for minor maladies and full divestment from any and all corporations whose employees had ever used a spatula. He’d subsequently dropped out to manage a garage in upstate New York, a copy of Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil stuffed in the back pocket of his overalls, muttering under his breath about the slave versus the master mentality and masturbating in the evil-smelling restroom over pictures of hot symbolic logicians.
            Original Jambo (for the sake of convenience, we shall call him Jambo Sam) woke with a start on a Tuesday morning in a pool of urine, semen and plasma not his own. After years of treating crime as a philosophical conceit, he now faced the possibility that he had been caught in the mire of the concrete fact. He peered through the shutters and noted the maintenance man for his slum apartment eying him suspiciously; an insect that entered through the ripped, curled window screen emitted a loud, dronelike hum. Then the phone rang.
            “Mr. Krumholz, please,” said the robotic voice.
            Jambo Sam fished the wallet from the pants he had slept in and pulled out his ID card, gazing at it, referencing himself in the mirror, before responding.
            “Krumholz here, how may I help you?”
            “You have been charged with sedition, bad hygiene, window dressing, initiating drama on the social media, farcical attempts to interfere with police business, and being an ass hat of the first rank. Anything you have ever said to anybody at any time can and will be used against you in a kangaroo court appointed by us.”
            “And who are you, exactly?”
            “That information is confidential, Mr. Jamhartz. You will shortly be invited to select a number from a menu, I strongly suggest you do not hang up the phone. This conversation is being monitored for quality control purposes.”
            “So, wait, you’re saying that an anonymous, vigilante organization has tried me in absentia for loony-sounding crimes, and to pick a number from the menu? And what is all this about quality control?” After a flutter of anxiety and a double dose of BuSpar, Jambo Sam regained charge of his emotions. “Isn’t that just a meaningless corporate buzz word?”
            The phone went dead. Jambo Sam carefully placed the avocado-shaped receiver back in its cradle, picked up a copy of Nexus magazine lying on his coffee table, and noted the cover story: “Who is Jambo Krumholz and What Does He Know That We Don’t Know He Knows But Are Pretty Damn Certain..” the title went on for a while, the type getting smaller and smaller and finally turning gray. He scratched his head, swabbed his face with a handkerchief and gulped down yesterday’s coffee.
            “It would appear,” he said to himself, “that my imagination has instantiated itself in real life.”
            The next phone call woke him up. He let the machine pick it up.
            “Congratulations, Mr. Krumholz, on successfully passing the first Mindfuck Test. You are now eligible for a chance to win a variety of cool prizes. Please select from the following menu. This conversation is being monitored for grace under pressure.”