Moon 8:  “Venus is a Star Who Gets What She Wants”

*SPOILERS*

Moon #8 Painting: "Venus" by Larissa Tokmakova
Moon #8 Painting: “Venus” by Larissa Tokmakova

“It wasn’t a fixable problem.  Some of the problems cannot be fixed.”

We return to the Ikea in Red Bank in the eighth episode of Mike Daisey’s All the Faces of the Moon, where Daisey and his gender-morphing friend Jack are attending a service of the First Church of Christ Ikea Redeemer.

As Daisey relishes in his own blissful  introduction Ikea – the modern European designs, the affordable prices, and of course the meatballs – you begin to understand how a religion could take root in such a place.  The whimsically named First Church of Christ Ikea Redeemer meets in Ikeas showrooms across the county, where its congregants bask in the glory of industrial design but as a rule never actually purchase anything.    It’s the transformative aesthetic experience they are after.  Through industrial design, the devout believe, humans can re-envision the essence of nature.  “Design is the language that we have created to express what we see in the beauty of God,” says Reverend Billy in the service that Daisey attends.

Daisey has been preaching the gospel of design throughout this piece (and even in previous monologues), so it is fitting to find it enshrined by its own orthodoxy within this intricate mythology he is constructing.   It also makes for a nice reminder that we have in a way crossed the point of no return in the narrative – Daisey has led us into his world of magic, gods, and ridiculous religions, and there is no turning back now.

After the service, Daisey catches up with his childhood friend Gibbs, who introduced Daisey to the world of magic and has since become a deacon in the Ikea Redeemer church.  Gibbs agrees that the mark that Daisey received from the specter of Death is bad news and he agrees to talk to some people about it.  The tenor of their interaction hints at a larger connection between them,  like the occult experiences they shared have made them blood brothers.

It’s as though the magic, if it can even be called that, divides the world into two populations:  those who practice it and the normal people, the ones Gibbs derisively refers to as “muggles.” Daisey loathes that word and the hipster occultists who use it – mostly because, as Gibbs points out, Daisey lives amongst the muggles.  “You’re like a mugglefucker,” Gibbs says.  Daisey’s rough-hewn high school friend lives “off the grid,” you see: no Facebook, no Twitter.  And it’s to his chagrin that Daisey has made the choice to interact with normal people, take part in social media, and live his normal life of monologing and meatballs.

Ultimately, Gibbs’ frustration with Daisey leads him to return an artifact of Daisey’s that he’s been holding a long time – Peter Falk’s glass eye.   It’s an absurd happening, but one that Daisey charges with genuine meaning.   This is something as random as the EYE OF COLUMBO, yet Daisey deftly uses it as a gesture to signal that he and Gibbs’ friendship is at its end.   This is something I maybe haven’t talked about enough, but Daisey’s ability to land a joke, hold for the laugh, and then land it AGAIN as a legit emotional beat is truly something special.  Like a mortal manifestation of the fundamental theatrical force.

Speaking of fundamental forces and things I don’t talk about enough, here’s one:  Jean-Michele Gregory.  Daisey’s wife and director, Jean-Michele makes her first proper appearance within Daisey’s narrative in this episode.  I have often wondered what Gregory’s roll is in the creation of Daisey’s work.  The monologues always seem to flow from him so naturally and extemporaneously; how exactly would one guide such a performance?  Does she serve as a story editor?  And acting coach?  Probably a little of both, but the fact that her handiwork remains utterly invisible suggests a deep dedication to Daisey’s material.   And so, at brunch, the place Daisey calls the “heart of our civilization,” he wants to tell her that he has been marked by Death.

Before he can really get into it though, he gets us wrapped up in the memories of the start of their romance.  In Seattle.  In Poland.   Back in the days when they first found Ikea.  And when he found out that Jean-Michele wasn’t just another muggle after all.

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