don't rock the boat, fish quietly while it sinks
fanatics, followers & blind belief
On The Road To Wellville, it is not only the characters but also the reader who must sustain a “suspension of disbelief,” in order to continue page to page, enjoying this wild and crazy saga - all the more unbelievable because it is based in a true story. Major characters and a number of minor ones are all being duped by someone. And they are complicit in the deception. Ask any con man, the mark wants to believe. And when someone offers us a path to good health - we want to believe that too - to hell with the evidence. (Otherwise no one would be selling homeopathic remedies these days.)
In fact, -- the road to human well-being is most certainly not found on the road to “The San” the Sanatorium in Battle Creek. – it's the Kalamazoo Road that the emergent and unlikely hero Will Lightbody impatiently traverses to finally take action, to stand up for himself, his wants and his wife - that is the road to heath and sanity.
"A blister, swelling and swelling till it bursts – that was Dr. Kellogg. He was blind, he was deaf, he was a god on a cloud: the name of Homer Praetz had never been uttered. Such impudence didn't merit responses.[...] “put him [Will Lightbody] on the enema machine until further notice.”
A little later Lightbody lets Kellogg send him under the knife - intestinal surgery to remove an imaginary “Kellogg's Kink” !
Yet no one, including the great doctor Kellogg is immune to the need to believe the improbable. He never once suspects that his son George burned the first Sanatorium building years earlier, and he immediately has faith in glowing scientific reports of radium, (never mind if a patient or two keels over), and he believes his own overblown public reputation. He is also duped by fellow vegetarian fanatic Badger and The Manipulative Therapy doctor as are quite a number of satisfied women, including Eleanor Lightbody.
Besides The Manipulative Therapy nudist picnic, one of the most interesting sideshows is George Kellogg, the filthy, drunken adopted son, the “err”' apparent. He is the salient inconvenient consequence of “Dr. Vegetable's” actions and philosophy. George, the ugly underside of the “Dr. Anus” is the potential terminus of some rather lucrative illusions. Supposedly the bad seed, his need for, and to torment the Doctor is acute; the essential quality of their relation is blame rather than deception.
George's opposite is the aspiring Charlie Ossining, son of the gatekeeper, taken in by the wealthy Mrs. Hookstratten. He wants so desperately to be an entrepreneur that he is duped endlessly by Bender despite an incredible array of evidence that the man is a shark. Bender dupes Ossining into duping Mrs. Hookstratten and Will Lightbody.
Yet in the end, Ossining persists and eventually succeeds in business. His wealthy Auntie Amaelia Hookstratten was after all, a reality “hook” for straitening out the young Ossining. Her prodigy, though estranged, finally succeeds and makes the perfect tonic. George, (Kellog Jr.) the perfect ingrown hair does not.
The last meeting between Dr. Kellogg and G. Kellogg Jr - with fire, white wolf, chimp, torn clothing, insults and bottled excrement unleashed - is pure slapstick melodrama. No wonder they made a movie out of it. George's death is also the perfect METAPHOR for what the Dr. is doing to his patients: drowning them in stinking, slippery fanatic unfounded so-called-truth. They, like George could have escaped, but they prefer blind belief to figuring it all out for themselves.
--- M.M. (Mar) Walker
author of Inverse Origami - the art of unfolding,
editor and writer at The Metaphor.atorium
and former editor of Bent Pin Quarterly.
originally written in November of 2003