Rage Restaurant

The future rocked.

all photos by author

“It wasn’t real!”

Camillis Renvall, Sockdrawer Dot Net’s Co-Chairman, Chief of Competitive Intelligence and a Finnish native, burst through the office front door on a Tuesday morning with her pronouncement and made her way to her desk. She had seven cardinal rules, one of which was never carry a thought around in your head for more than three days.

She spent her Manhattan subway commutes from the Lower Upper East Side to the Sockdrawer’s West Village loft studio space thinking through three-days-back thoughts, and often walked in finishing her purge. Every once in a while, as she had that morning, she let one go out loud.

“I’m sorry,” she said as she put her bag down. “I ate at Rage on Saturday night.”

“Ahh, first time?” I looked up from Picture Bits Online. The headline story related that the three MPAA-member entertainment companies made only 4 of the 9736 released films in the last year, but those 4 cost more than the bottom 9732 combined. The Sock Drawer Dot Net Design Corporation, which I founded with Camillis in 2024, poured our talents into the profit-chasing bargain-hunt underside of the Picture Bit statistic through our freemium front-end Sockdrawer Dot Net, so we were all pressured with an awareness of the increased competitive squeeze highlighted in the article. Our humble outfit, however, had a stellar track record of high quality/low cost programming, and our systems and intellectual property were protected by a company owned by a guy named Cha-Cha. So for the moment, I felt safe about the business. Camillis had no worries, either, but that morning she was agitated by a different type of externality.

“I can’t sleep now. I don’t know if I did the right thing,” she fretted.

Another of Camillis’s cardinal rules was more universal: never do you eat your own kind. But those types of paleo-ethical tenets became harder to live by five years ago with the passage of the Culinary Synthesizer Rights Act of 2034, which green-lit fine-dining chefs and enthusiants home cooks alike to cultivate and cook stem-cell derived dishes in their kitchens.

For an hour after her nervous arrival, Camillis still couldn’t sit still. At least a dozen times, she wandered over to the office’s floor-to-ceiling window overlooking Houston Street and tapped on it with her fingernails, wandered back to her desk, and then back to the window, staring down at the first-gear grinding crosstown traffic snaking its ways east and west.

“It was just Vegetable Meat™,” she kept saying on soft repeat. “It’s not real.”


Technology will render all foods sustainable sewed itself forever into the heart of American politico-nutrition discourse seventeen years ago in 2020, when industrial farms started injecting livestock with nanometer-sized robotic antibiotics, or “robiots” for short. Robiots contain a preset amount of medicine, hang out in an animal for a while, and time-release disease prevention as their onboard sensors indicate as necessary. Their sensors also detect real-time mutation in their targets and reformulate their medicine stock (to a point) on the fly to accommodate for bacterial resistance.

It takes around ten thousand robiots to protect one cow for a year, but they are cheaper to manufacture than standard injections, organic (100% carbon tubular, glass and silicon), and easier to deploy, since they are delivered as a mist, not a liquid. The cows freebase the robiots in a painless, fifteen second procedure. When a robiot’s medicine chamber empties, it is programmed to send a text to the farmer and seek out an animal’s bladder, where it is flushed out in pee. Their carbon-tube transistors are designed to disintegrate in the presence of a high concentrations of uric acid, so the robiots “die” by the time the animal’s pee hit the ground, where they break down into sand.

The one downside to the uric acid kill mechanism is that robiots are powerless to stop interior bladder-wall or kidney infections and have a tough time working in cows with gout, but these conditions are treated with conventional therapy. The robiots intercept most bacteria in the bloodstream before the bacteria breach any organs, and now almost no animal dies of anything but natural causes with a regular lifetime course of robiot injections. For farmers, robiot use is an easy decision.

The robiots were designed to communicate with each other, of course, to provide increased protection and more efficient dose delivery, where and when needed. A robiot discovering a massive bacterial invasion will call other robiots to the scene and alert a farmer via text message. There was slight objection at first, but now no one questions the cow injections — they work with almost 100% efficacy, and the program hit critical mass about one decade after it started.

Most robiots live in the bloodstream, but a specialized robiot was designed to live in a cow’s brain, built to detect and kill prions instead of bacteria, to prevent mad-cow. Sometime in the early 2020’s in the remote farmlands outside the small town of Pennington, Illianhio — no one knows for sure the exact date — a rogue mad-cow robiot successfully cured one of Farmer William “Skip” O’Leary’s dairy cows of an onset of mad-cow, but failed to leave the cow’s brain, refusing to obey its pre-programmed directives to notify O’Leary of its empty medicine chamber and then journey to the cow’s bladder.

Skip O’Leary, however, like every other farmer in the program, had no way to tell whether any robiot disobeyed orders. If a robiot was still where it was supposed to be, and never spoke up, you figured it was doing its job. So after a couple years left alone, the cow got smarter. Way smarter. The change was incremental, too, so day-to-day no one realized what was happening.

Once the cow’s intelligence revealed itself, however, scientists were at a loss to explain how the changes happened or how to reverse the cow’s intellectual advancement. They offered competing theories on how a robiot could rewire neurons or how a new form of energy might make a cow become conscious of its own consciousness.

But no one had a solution to the “problem,” which only became recognizable in hindsight, anyway. Because after the cow learned to read, speak and scrape its hooves on slate tiles to write words, the “problem” became the same as what happens when any sentient slave beings understand, but don’t accept, a life of subservience.

Freedom of thought.

The Great Moovement, which hit its eventual crisis point a few years later in 2030, was set in motion.

In mid-2027, the cow completed a legal name change to Mimì (La Bohème was her favorite opera). “I’m smart meat now,” she told a reporter for The Illianhioan. “Humans can go flip a burger.”

Since Mimì was able to communicate in both English and MooMoo, she started educating the rest of her herd, who came to see her, no surprise, as a messianic figure. Pennington was a very small town, however, and the outskirt location of O’Leary’s farm a difficult day-trip. So farmers and townsfolk considered her only a sporadic curiosity, and after an initial media crush, tourists left her alone due to the arduous journey and the weight of the existential questions Mimì peppered them with once they arrived.

By the time Mimì chose a mate, the robiot in her brain, itself a carbon life-form (albeit synthesized), had learned how to replicate and develop immunity to uric acid via its own DuckDuckGo research dives on retroviruses and evolution. On the back end, Mimì figured out how to optimize her and the herd’s milk output, and Skip O’Leary’s farm turned into a dairy production juggernaut. The thought of putting her down never entered his mind — quite the contrary, he let her breed whenever she desired. All Mimì's offspring, and then their offspring, and so on, ended up with the same elevated robiot neural wiring, improved intelligence and fuller consciousness.

The robiots, in turn, learned to network with robiots in other cows (by the late 2020’s all cows had them), so thoughts moved through herds faster than a tachyonic antitelephone. After only a couple generations, cows everywhere stood up for themselves, and took over their own means of milk, meat and calf production. By 2032, many humans and superintelligent cows became close friends. As humans started having ever more spirited debates and interactions with cows, a concurrent ethical dilemma about eating real steak began to develop.

“Well, we all have cow friends now,” said Representative Gammon Flunger from the 178th district of Illianhio in the raucous post-mortem Congressional hearings on the Great Moovement. “I never thought I’d say this, but I had a cow family over for dinner the other night — the Metzgers — and they were the nicest cows you’ll ever meet. I think burgers, maybe, are best made in the lab now.”

Truth was, by 2030, about half of all the world’s hamburgers had been cultivated in stem cell labs, with most of the production and distribution chain owned by the two multinational food corporations, AgraDolce and Harvest One. To “stem” became a verb, and the terms “stemmers” and “stemming” entered daily lexicon.

But while lab-born ground meats were easier to mass-produce and distribute than their real-world counterparts, steaks and larger cuts required more investment in plant and manpower, so companies like AgraDolce left the more artisan stemming to smaller, more independent outfits. The technical hurdles to stem finer cuts of meats were not that onerous, however, so many chefs and regular folk who craved steak without sides of guilt looked to indie stemmers to source their dinners.

Simultaneous to the robotic revolution in the 2020's, an accessible, consumer-grade genetic engineering and experimentation revolution arose from the 3D printing industry and turned ordinary citizens into amateur hobbyist stemmers. Many weekend Gregor Mendels tinkered with all sorts of genetic manipulations, but most built their stemming kits in order to grow their own food. Steak stems became a hot gray market commodity.

At first, stems were difficult to transport and store, but an easy jailbreak of any recent-model InnerHome portable Nitro-Snoopy Sno-Cone machine created now-ubiquitous sidewalk stem vendors and high-end home-delivery bike-messenger services (“Queen Gene” was the most well-known in New York City). For the outdoor vendors, “Steak stems here!” and “Ribeyes from ribosomes!” were popular sales hawks to passersby. With the right equipment and cultures, anyone could hack the stems and grow ribeyes, bavettes, tenderloins and strips in about three days, in a few square feet of counter-space.

In late 2033, a few doors down from where Rep. Flunger’s hearing was held, the Congress’s Citizen Identity Oversight committee decided that demand for synthesized steak was so high, rather than risk the uncontrolled growth of an underground economy around stems, the government needed to get proactive. Since Identity Oversight was the only place at the time where the government dealt with stem cell and genetic management, it fell on the committee’s members to draft a law to create a national license for vendors and allow chefs to start collecting and experimenting with any genetic material in the National Identity Vaults (NIV) collection. The NIV housed the purest most complete genetic database of anything that ever lived on Earth (as well as some top-secret genetic material of unknown origin found in the center of a meteor fragment in Cherry Hill, NJ in late 2018).

The Culinary Synthesizer Rights Act of 2034 passed The BigHouse on the final day of its Fall session by a vote of 1436–2. The bill became law a week later when signed by President West, midway through his second of two terms, and on the heels of a comeback record, The Alchemy Of Venus, taking over number 1 from the debut album of teen sensation Quentin Quentin, Double Quentin. President West became an avid ribeye stemmer in the years after the law passed, and often instagrammaphoned his cultivation adventures from the White House’s private kitchen.

In the first year of the law, only steak stems found wide adoption into the food chain. And most cows were ok for it, seeing how tough it was for humans to resist a perfect dry-aged bone-in ribeye. But the Act was written in haste in a single day because Rep. Flunger had to make the DC-to-Washaforegon Hyperloop for a trip home, so the law failed to make exceptions on using any other animal stems stored at the NIV.

As a result, ordinary people began to stem all types of meat in their kitchens. The upside was that sanctioned home synthesis of meat alleviated most hunger in the USA within six months. But once everyone had access to standard everyday meats on demand, some boredom set in (“New York Strip again? Mom!!”). People wanted new tastes, and began ordering more exotic stems and DNA sequences from the NIV’s database. Capuchin Croque Monsieurs, Marmoset Milanese, Terrier Toenail Tetrazzini…— you name it, someone out there wanted to synthesize it and try it.

Turned out, however, the tastiest, most popular meats came from the NIV’s Pliocene-era extinction collection. Mastodon meatballs, in particular, became widespread Sunday family fare, and Oreodont (“ruminating hog”) bacon found its way onto the IHOP menu (though it was still not kosher).

But the biggest societal weird-out arose in the lack of an exception in the culinary law on ordering human stems. The oversight, however, was innocent. No one writing the Act ever thought about humans having any desire to know what other humans might taste like. But now all of sudden, you didn’t have to kill a someone to eat a someone. Straight up cannibals were the first to make quiet purchases, of course, but then thrill seekers, some hyper-kinetic Wall Street coke-heads, and a few normie just-plain-bored-with-otter-paté folks asked “Are we as tasty, too?”

The human-stem cuisine cultivation remained a relatively secret and disconnected club, though, so it took Congress over a year to realize its mistake — and only because the in-house cafeteria served a special of chitarra with seared stem-derived man belly. BigHouse Speaker Alabaster Bladwin, representative of the 1st district of Nev Jersey (a superstate that resulted from the consolidation of Nevada’s and New Jersey’s gambling interests under one state), took a bite, loved it, but then read the menu board with more attention and a cold horror washed through his soul.

At a news conference later in the day, Bladwin did admit he “enjoyed the dish very much, we have excellent Chefs here,” but he called an emergency vote for that night to amend the Culinary Synthesizer Act with a ban on using human stems in culinary contexts. The amendment passed, but only by two votes (“Seriously, though, my honorable colleague, did you taste that? I don’t know…”). The genie was already out of the bottle, and the Maneater Rights Movement was born.

“It’s not cannibalism if no humans are harmed,” was the movement’s rationale, while “Meat Is Not Murder!” and “Ich Bin Ein Berliner!” were their rallying cries. The cause gained traction, though still remained more on the margins until two young Maneaters from Washaforegon, Lillelle Thayer and Octavia Shackletone, challenged Bladwin’s amendment to the Culinary Synthesizer Act in SuperState Court as unconstitutional, claiming their lifestyle was normalized by the law and that Maneaters, posing no threat to society, were now a protected political class.

They took their appeal all the way to the Supreme Court in Shackletone v. Bladwin, et al., where the justices ruled in the Maneaters’s favor in a 26–25 split decision. “America means the freedom to eat our synthesized selves,” wrote Chief Justice James Francis Oburgerfella in his majority opinion. “Soylent Green was people. Stem cells aren’t people. Eating meat derived from human stems does not make you a cannibal, just another normal carnivore. Maneaters are not people eaters.”

Maneater culture was still fringe at the time of the Court’s decision, so restaurant chefs and dinner-prepped delivery services (like DishWish) played it “un-manned” at first, serving and selling stemmed foie gras, truffles (the NIV had plant stem cells, too, btw) and sweetbreads. The practice became so widespread that by the end of 2035, 85% of New York/New Jersey/Connecticut Tri-State area restaurants stemmed animal parts on their menus from scratch. Not one, however, served meat cultivated from human stems.

When the Culinary Synthesizer Act passed, Rage’s future owner, Montauk native and local-diner-owner-with-bigger-dreams Noman Haddock, obtained a synthesizer license from the state of Long Islandia (which seceded from New York and New York City in 2023, taking with it the borough of Queens, but not Brooklyn), and opened ’Splosions in Sagaponack, Long Islandia’s first restaurant to offer a full menu of stemmed dishes.

Stemming ensured a consistent high level of quality, and precision protein synthesis techniques afforded chefs great latitude in creating many dishes (and meat cuts) that never existed. Haddock’s license enticed none other than the world-class, award-winning molecular gastronomy chef, Enrique Ripperer, out to Sagaponack to become Executive Chef of ’Splosions, and he dove headlong into the innovation. Reviews were stellar.

It took no time for the joint to become a fixture in the East End dining scene and its success allowed Haddock to open a sister restaurant on the North Fork called CTAG (locals referred to it as “Sea Tag”), and he then took over the cafes on all the East End ferries. I am now the ruler of the Sagaponack House of Haddock, he half-joked to himself.

At the time, the Maneater movement was still not mainstream, so Ripperer and Haddock never gave human stems a second thought. One slow off-season week in Winter 2035, though, Ripperer checked the wrong box on an order from the NIV. Two days later, he received human back fat stems instead of his usual pork belly stems.

Stem cells are microscopic, of course, invisible to the naked eye, and Ripperer, thinking he’d gotten his usual delivery, just popped open the NIV’s patented NitroPak™ and dumped its icy, liquified contents into his commercial grade kitchen cultivator, the InnerHome SpeedStem 2. The fastest non-military stemming machine available, the SpeedStem 2 stemmed whole foods in 3 days, no matter the source, no matter the end-product.

This is the most curious pork belly I’ve ever seen, he thought to himself three days later as the SpeedStem’s culinary cultivation process finished and the stems had bloomed into a quivering mass of fat and bright pink meat.

This is the most delicious pork belly I’ve ever tasted, he thought a few hours hence, after preparing a batch sous vide then grilled. I wonder if I ordered a limited edition cut.

He made some for Haddock that night.

“Holy crispy!” Noman exclaimed on his first bite. “Ripperer you’re a genius!”

Their mutual excitement underwent a slight tempering when Yolanda Finceres, ’Splosions’s account manager, spotted the mix-up while reconciling the weekly book. Human back fat stem cells were almost three times the price of pork stems, and this was the largest order of the week.

“No way,” Ripperer implored. “They must have screwed up the invoice.”

But they fished the NitroPak™ out of the biohazard disposal box and found it had the correct label. Chef Ripperer had just not read it.

“Well, whatever. So what would you price this at?” Haddock asked Finceres, offering her a fork with which to try a piece of the dish. “It’s, like, extraterrestrial delicious.”

“I’m not trying that Maneater mush,” she said. “I just work here.”

“Yes you are,” said Haddock, changing to bosstone. “Or no you don’t.”

Finceres breathed out a heavy sigh. The things you do to survive, she thought to herself as the crackling and smooth salty pliant bite became a swallow.

“Oh my god,” she said. “That’s the best thing I’ve ever eaten.”

“Yes!” cried Haddock, with the animation of a college basketball color commentator. “Tell you what, on the menu it will be called just ‘The Q.’ We’re going to charge a thousand dollars for it, these Hamptonites will line up to try it, and ’Splosions’s going to set the whole East End on fire, baby!”

The following summer, Ripperer and Haddock brought the Maneater movement to the mainstream, and became nationwide culinary sensations as the cream of high Hamptons society crammed into ’Splosions every night to say they had tasted The Q. Ripperer kept experimenting with human stems and hybrid cultivations, and Maneater cuisine became staples on the restaurant’s menu.

Sneered in certain circles as a “Manabler,” Haddock ignored his detractors and appeared on talk shows defending all his stem-based cuisine, including Maneater, as the most humane. “Here’s a chance,” he said to Jill Fillsen on Hi Sun!, the highest-rated morning show on national basic bandwidth, “for vegetarians to finally eat anything they want. You plant the meat, and then it grows like a vegetable! It’s vegetable meat!”

Drinking breast milk (and making cheese from it) had been things back in the 2010’s (to many a critic’s chagrin), and the wild imaginations of chefs like Wylie Dufresne (Clinton Fresh Food, WD-50), Grant Achatz (Alinea) and Ferran Adrià (El Bulli) fueled a molecular gastronomy reinvention of cooking and redefined food itself at the dawn of the 21st century. But here in the 2030's, Haddock’s vision and Ripperer’s Maneater flights of fancy took epicurian leaps of faith and thrill-seeeking to a whole new level, and people ate it up, off the plates and in their heads. “It’s Vegetable Meat!” became an instant catchphrase, which Haddock trademarked and licensed as a marketing tagline. He then dubbed his cuisine “Modern Americannibal.”

Many of the City’s culinary cognoscenti had already eaten at ’Splosions while summering in the Hamptons over the prior two years. By the time Haddock had secured a space for Rage in mid-2036 on Rivington Street, he already had five months of solid reservations by diners eager to sample Ripperer’s heralded Vegetable Meat™ menu. Upon opening, demand was absolute cronuts, and a mini-black market, trading in take-out orders and doggy bags, thrived on the surrounding darker streets.

As an up-with-people person, Haddock was ok with Earth’s mid-21st century exponential population growth (“More mouths, more checks,” he would argue on the population explosion discussion board PopBomb.scissor that he surfed every night). So he maintained no ethical qualms about serving synthesized food, human or otherwise. Every time he served synthesized food, he reasoned (as did most politicians and pundits), some living thing was spared.

In an ironic twist, though, Rage’s core customer base included a network of Robert Malthus International Society members, whose desire to thin the herd of civilization coalesced with a belief that cannibalism may be one among many efficient methods of population control. True cannibalism remained illegal, of course, but they showed up to see what their theory would taste like in practice. And they liked it.

Rage’s popularity also got boosts when New York’s only Korowai-descended food blogger gave a meal five stars, and when Patrick Crumberjam (pronounced “crew-MER-jim”), writing in the New York Times, named Rage the country’s Best New Restaurant in the paper’s 2036 Year-In-Dining special in-web-sert. In awarding Ripperer’s cooking 4 stars, Crumberjam also delivered the most terse and now most celebrated restaurant review in the paper’s history.

Panic gripped my soul as I walked in. My mind touched the void as I ate. Fear and regret left my body forever as I hailed a cab to go home.
I did not eat at a James Beard restaurant. I ate James Beard.
****

Most people only tried Rage once, however, and on collecting their checked coats, many had trouble adjusting to what they’d just done. Maneater culture was still on the outskirts and presented moral qualms to myriad diners, especially older ones, who grew up in a pre-synthesizer world. “It wasn’t real,” loads of therapists around the City now had to reassure their patients. “It was Vegetable Meat™.”

With the runaway success of Rage, however, almost every chef in the City put Maneater dishes and accents on their menus to keep on trend. New York City became the “Vegetable Meat™ capital” of the United States. Haddock became legend.


Camillis was midway between desk and window when Sebastien Krause, Sockdrawer Dot Net’s Director of Art, spoke up from the back of the studio. “Wee, wee. Zat ‘appened to me ven I et at Rage. I got quezee, valked across toon and vandered ze meatpacking district for dayz. But eet excited me, too,” he said. “I vuz high high high. Soo bonne.” He was Alsatian and his accent was equal parts French and German, like a Poodle or a Gewürztraminer.

Sebastien was busy in the rear studio area readying props for an upcoming segment we were producing for GastroCaster called Which Sandwich?. His first task was a tabletop photo session with a cheesecake hero-grinder-sub from AntiCake, a new meatpacking district dessert-sandwich spot. He looked up at Camillis. “Vhat did joo order?”

“I had the steakwarrior frites,” said Camillis, “and the chocolate tongue fondue with an extra eyeball.”

“Oh, man, you’re lucky! I heard Ripperer’s tongue fondue is wonderful,” Eddie Kim, Sockdrawer Dot Net’s Chief Creative Officer, spoke out from behind his computer. He was tweaking photographs in Photoshop of AntiCake’s lard storage method for the Which Sandwich? shoot.

“Well, it was more like chocolate fondue with tongues for dipping than tongue fondue,” Camillis said. “So a bit of a letdown, but still Vegetable Meat™.”

“But any fondue can be so seck-see, wee?” Sebastien smacked his lips as he smoothed the graham cracker crust of the cheesecake hero with a layer of lacquer.

“I feel like something’s been following me ever since, though. The eyes of that steak still haunt me.” Camillis, usually laser-focused, continued to seem distant and walked out of the studio area to the bathroom.

“Zat’s no surprise. Vee live een, ow do you say en anglais — un réservoir de poissons…?”

“Feeshtank, no?” Alexandra Aguirre, Sockdrawer Dot Net’s Director of Officing, a recent hire and a Venezuelan native, passed by quickly on her way into the studio control room to turn the west wall into plasma to watch C-SPAN, which had been airing Congress’s Entertainment Viability Commission hearings on “Drugs in the Circus.”

Senatovernor Holt Quicknum, a young second-termer from Washaforegon, called for the hearings upon his re-election to the BigHouse in 2036. His upcoming first bid for the Presidency in 2040 most likely hinged on his ability to get coherent answers from the subpoena-ed clowns, who were testifying again after the committee’s mid-morning coffee break.

“Nations evolve over time,” The Captain shrugged, coming up from under a desk after fixing a recalcitrant router connection. “Clown hearings are a waste. Always have been. America’s forever confusing its mission with its government. That’s why now we have robots in the cows and humans on our plates but everything’s normal.”

The Captain was Sockdrawer Dot Net’s Chief Spiritual Advisor and Security Chief, and at 65 years old he brought with him our company’s sole connection to the 20th Century. Also, to his credit, The Captain was the only one of us who was an adult when the US Territorial Consolidation Act of 2021 (USTCA) became law, which conferred the rights of merger and acquisition on individual states. Camillis and I were 10 when that Act went down. Sixth grade Social Studies got weird that year.

Eddie responded, “It’s not cannibalism-”

“Yeah, yeah, I get it,” The Captain interjected, “ ‘if it’s Vegetable Meat™’.”


The most daring of the transactions that followed the USTCA was the $0.10-on-the-debt-dollar acquisition of a swath of New Mexico, Northern Mexico and the Baja peninsula by Texas on behalf of the US Government in early 2022. Texas deemed its security “threatened by a constant menacing border” and was the only state in 2021 to short the Dow in its pension and slush funds when the index hit a century high of 12,452,200 that January. So, for better or worse, when the Dow hit a low of 16 by that November, Texas had tons of capital and leverage, and offered a bunch of deals that none of its neighbors could refuse.

Texas’s move cascaded the creation of Washaforegon, Nev Jersey and, in turn, the fourteen other superstates. Some states merged to consolidate debt; some to barter resources ( “Hey, you got water? I got power!”); some simply because they always got along. Some states, though, such as Rhode Island and Montana, joined with no one, but most merged with at least one other. As states consolidated and merged and swapped citizens for tax credits, all of a sudden, residents of Nevada and New Jersey were neighbors.

The Texas deal created the superstate Starland (named for the old state’s Lone Star symbol but also in a direct affront to Hollywood). It’s governance got shook up and spit out like a Yahtzee throw, creating entirely new positions and methods, the most famous being the “Senatovernor.”

Pre-2021 U.S. Senators always griped about having little executive experience on which to run for higher office and state Governors always aspired to be Washington insiders. The Senate was more than happy to allow 1 of each state’s 2 elected Senators to serve simultaneously as a superstate Governor, and most decided to parallel both offices and allow a single person to be elected to both positions with a single vote. And thus the position of Senatovernor was born.

The deal with the Federal Government allowed Starland to limit the expansion of its representation and to re-divide its new territory, including the Mexican element, into the same number of districts that Old Texas and Old New Mexico comprised, so it wound up with 2 Senators and 2 Senatovernors governing more than 8x Texas’s original population. Holt Quicknum, the Senatovernor running the clown hearing on CSPAN that day, won his first election in a landslide — he just had that kind of name.


“Wee, wee,” Sebastien put the final coat of lacquer on the cheesecake hero. “Vee are zhust feesh in a tank of feesh.”

“I’ve had tongue on a sandwich, but never for desert,” Eddie said as he finished his picture tweaking. “That’s beautiful! I am the king!” he boomed, stepping back to admire his work.

“Los payasos ya no están on Si-Span today,” Alexandra called out over the PA system from the studio control room on the northern end of the loft. “The clowns are only on TOX News or Free-N-N.”

Alexandra became a C-SPAN junky about a month after her arrival in New York City from Caracas in 2028. Lying in bed one night next to a now-ex, she stumbled on the government channel during a Most Extreme Elimination rerun marathon commercial-break surf.

My favorite part of C-SPAN’s coverage of events is the pre-and post roll of the events with sound, which lets you in on extraneous conversations and ambient noise. There’s nothing more entertaining than a mic-check slip, unless of course it takes us up to DEFCON-1.

“C-SPAN is a stem cell,” I offered up to the room. “If you had to — you could re-build parts of all 3 branches of the government from its programming archive. The channel is pure politics with no pundits. Floating cameras with no agenda. The most raw image of American government, for better or worse.”

“You know,” Eddie continued to stare at his creation, “a digital photograph is basically a stem cell, too. Photoshop is pretty much a genetic lab. We could do anything we want to this cheesecake hero, make it into a cheesecake caterpillar for all we want.”

“That’s not what Which Sandwich? or, for that matter, Sockdrawer Dot Net are all about, however, so we won’t,” I said, in a bosstone, which always made the studio ripple with quiet chuckles. What did I care, though? These were the cream of the cream crop. They could laugh at me all day. Sockdrawer’s talent was the envy of the indie world.

“Why are we watching C-SPAN today, anyway?” Camillis returned from the lavatory looking fresher.

“Because I’m doing our Q-four corporate taxes,” I said. “And I need to be reassured on our investment in the government.”

“Try not to say the letter Q today,” Camillis smiled.

I laughed and said, “Ok. We’ll all go to P.J. Bernstein’s for a real lunch today, then. Old-school pastrami all around on me.”

“Now you’re speaking my language,” said The Captain. “Vegetable Meat™ is not for my native tongue.”

“I vhatch ze Cee-Span,” Sebastien said. “Zhust like Rufus Wainwright deed back in ze day.”


tell her, please, to put on some speed
follow my lead, oh, how I need
someone to watch over me…