What goes on in your mind?

Culture Vulture gets a kick out of being surprised by my own brain. But anyone who allows their thoughts free rein will encounter areas of imagination that are neither comfortable nor entertaining. Carl Jung called this area “the Shadow,” and the script writers of the 1930s radio serial The Shadow took the term to heart when they wrote their character’s tag line, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.”

And to top it off, the Shadow’s signature method of announcing his presence to the denizens of the criminal underworld, whose evil machinations he was constantly thwarting, was a hideous and terrifying laugh that seemed to emanate from the heart of darkness and reverberate from all directions at once—a terrifying, hilarity-driven knell of doom for all evil-doers.

So, anyway, I was walking downtown from Culture Vulture World Headquarters on Saturday night, and it was a perfect first official autumn evening with a hint of coolness in the breeze and a few moonlit clouds floating overhead. A good night for cats, several of which I encountered and greeted as peers.

But as I walked, my hand crept into my pocket and sought out a small folding knife I keep there for opening CD wrappers and other mundane chores, and as I cradled the small stainless-steel tool, I began to fantasize about what might happen if I was attacked by some gang of ne’er do wells: My hand bearing the suddenly opened surgical steel blade would sweep out of my pocket in a sparkling arc and the first attacker would go down, his throat spewing moonlit crimson from the razor-thin cut that severed his carotid artery. Two of the cowards would flee down an alley, shamelessly abandoning their fallen comrade. The last attacker would be knocked senseless by a resounding blow to the jaw and then dragged nto the shadow-shrouded alley down which his craven cohorts had fled shrieking into the night.

Once there he would be shaken back to consciousness and lectured on the error of his ways as first his fingers were severed at the second joint, then his ears were trimmed to reptilian nubs and finally his eyes were pierced and his tongue cut out. “You won’t ever bother me again,” Culture Vulture would hiss into the hapless goon’s ear-hole before continuing on his interrupted stroll downtown. Typical Walter Mitty nonsense. And yet disturbing. Why should a guy walking through a divinely serene, moonlit neighborhood be beset by such violent and hateful fantasies? The Shadow knows, and knowing, laughs his hideous reverberating laugh in defiance and acknowledgment of the powers of evil.

Which brings us, circuitously, to this photo of my friend Andre’s daughter Ava, who we sometimes refer to as the Bab of the Second Bab, an obscure in-joke referring to a Philip K. Dick novel. If you find that intriguing, go and find a copy of Eye in the Sky. And read it.

When I received this photo via e-mail from Germany, where Ava and Andre reside, I wrote back and said I liked the one of Ava with her pistol and pacifier, because the two words have such a dissonant emotional resonance when used together. And Andre, a keen observer of cultural phenomena, wrote back to remind me that the most common weapon in the Old West was the six-shooter, the most popular and famous of which was the Colt Peacemaker.

Peace be with you, friends and neighbors.