Monday, April 10, 2017

Taproot Have been Forgotten

The most prototypical Wyoming stretch of waterless, eternal-winter human hating environment is called the Red Desert and begins just west of Laramie from our perspective. The dominant geographic feature there is called Elk Mountain. The Natives name for it actually translates to Elk Penis or elk Dick as I recall, though I may be wrong here and I am not going to bother looking it up. I do know for a fact that Chimney Rock was called Deer Dick or Elk Dick by the indigenous,  which is interesting as the two dicks are only about two hours apart by car or less than a week by foot. I have a vague memory of seeing an elk's dick in profile incidental to seeing the whole elk and they are indeed a bit more squarish than ours as I recall so the names are accurate enough. Even so and with all due awareness of Abrahamic repression etc. I can't help but find the single-mindedness here a little weird. Maybe it's only after one got out of the foothills and into the Rockies proper, where tall things become the norm or anyway form a continuous wall, that one finally ceased to envision dicks popping out of the ground here or there. Yet than again the Grand Tetons translate from French as no more and no less than the Big Tit Mountains though they really look like no such thing. They look like rocks. Really big rocks that can easily kill people trying to get over them. While the actually motherly flatlands, food producing and safely crossed, get mocked for looking dull. Fuck the mountains. Just take a picture while you're passing through and hang it on your wall instead of moving to Arizona and getting your water piped in from some abandoned uranium mine nine hundred miles away.

I've read a bit on angel lust, or as much as can be given that there's not much too it. Some dead men have erections that are just going to stay there until whenever they rot away. It is most common in cases of young violent death that bring a sudden stop from healthy straight to dead. There are even cases of hanging victims ejaculating at the moment of death and I mean judicial ones not the accidental suicides who were trying to do that. It all reveals a new angle on the appeal of war or the romantic aura around violence I suppose. Fading out from cancer at eighty five doesn't make anybody cum. And if we were to achieve a world of unbroken equality and peace there is the old question of what then?  What does anyone do?  What does anyone feel besides fine? Who do generations distinguish themselves from each other if everything is always fine? I'm afraid that we would have to keep a few bloodsports going at the very least; auto racing, bullfighting, American football or even mountain climbing if one simply must be one of those pricks. But only if they really do sustain themselves on Mountain Dew and Slim Jims none of that Gatorade shit. And they must by law own a snowboard with a bootlegged image of Not Bart Simpson on it to use as they will. They do not have to board per se but they have to have one.

Some years ago there was a demonstration in London in which a young Muslim man held up a sign that read "Freedom Go To Hell". The image has become a meme among the Western right, offered as "proof" that Islam itself is intrinsically hostile to "us". But I think such honesty might clear the air a bit from white Christian authoritarians. They say that they love freedom because that's a social norm here that one is "supposed" to abide. But the plain truth is that a free society is simply one that denies any obligation to guide the individual to the Golden Path. A shared understanding of ultimate truth and how or if it applies to day-to-day life is not what societies are for and not what they should be for. A nation is nothing more grand than an agreement among a historically accidental cross-section of living people to be one. The nation is not here to fill any existential hollowness with superhuman ancestral wisdom or to make us part of some Great Epic of history. The only thing that makes this hollowness "post-modern" or in any other way new is that  reminders that other beliefs and lifestyles exist and that we could have been anyone else or more intensely constant than before. But no one intends to throw out the technologies that provide such reminders. We just keep seeking the same bullshit purity and the same meaningless tree-pissing "victory".  Freedom does not promise happiness or fulfillment. to anyone. Society is not a Superfamily where one can always count on being accepted through the power of shared belief and customs. The nation is not a Superself that makes one history's all powerful lead character. Freedom is just freedom. You'll probably be less miserable with it than you'd be in some steampunk spyocracy and that's all you are guaranteed. 

I once heard a friend say that he didn't like Salt Lake City because it was 'really gentrified' which is factually wrong because it implies that someone had actively gentrified the place at some time after Brigham Young himself when nah. Exaggeratedly clean is what Salt Lake has always been about from the very start. Though this does unnerve and the gigantic city blocks are obnoxious for sure.

As a Platte valley Catholic the word "alien" has always been the most galling half of the phrase "illegal alien" to my eyes. I'm still young enough that the sound of ranchera music has "always" been as normal around the neighborhood as country or classic rock from the stereos of driveway mechanics. The fact that a majority-christian European-language speaking people are declared with a straight face to be "non-western" or otherwise incompatible with out ways is beyond absurd and betrays that those who are hostile to immigration are exactly this and no more. That they are not actually concerned with legalities or some mysterious measure of civilly responsible assimilation. It is nothing more than the illusion of society being a superfamily  where sameness supposedly guarantees blind personal acceptance as a good fellow from the sames.  I recall as well the out-sized influence of Texas on this thing, the socioeconomic dominance there of Anglo minorities over Latino majorities especially south of Interstate 10 and the fear of losing that power.

Yet then again I also think of Freud's "Narcissism of small differences" theory to explain the bad blood between the English and Scottish and it occurs that we do not actually see Latin America as a post-imperial culture heavily parallel to our own except Spanish. Latin Americans are the
foreigners we are most familiar with and it is precisely because of this that we tend to see them not as themselves but as Foreignness itself; not as Coca-Cola loving Catholics but as every antipodal nomad who has ever bewildered us on the Discovery channel. This is bad.  It is wrong and I do not mean to excuse racism in any way but it is very funny too.   

I confess to having once smoked a half-packet of K2 that someone had dropped on the sidewalk over the course of a weekend. It is indeed a very deadening high sadly predicable moral panics about "new" drugs notwithstanding. I've heard that they spray motor oil and worse things on the green carpet base and I recall very little about the weekend except that it was last summer or the one before that. A mother and son who owned a headshop on south 27th that I frequented long ago, across multiple generations of owners, have gotten in trouble for selling K2 with the knowledge that it would be smoked.  They face the possibility of about fifty years in jail each. Now of course they know that they were selling a hard drug that would be used as such and it is just that they face some trouble for shady business habits but get the fuck out with that fifty years shit. Meanwhile the sheriff of Chappell, astride the Denver/Cheyenne interstate junction, cries all the way to the bank about how busy he is with weed tourists who cannot stand driving the speed limit through the high plains.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


I was once on acid in the Pioneer's Park Prairie and looked up to see a hawk flying above me while a robin or something was trotting ahead of me. The robin was scampering forward out of fear of me in the same direction the hawk was going and I would have felt guilty if i inspired it to fly straight into the hawk's claws.  So I made some sort of gesture meant to convey that I meant no harm that meant nothing in any language human or bird that of course the robin ignored though it did not end up being eaten on my account so far as I know. A subdivision across the road broke up the illusion of primordial grassland and I'd like to get my hands on whoever it was on the city council or whatnot who approved that God-damned thing.

It happens that Sandhill Cranes find dead corn stalks very nutritious, so that this is one species that has actually benefited from white incursion; their numbers quadrupling over the course of the twentieth century or so I've read from a reliable source. & even if they hadn't become a regional icon the fact that they camp out in the same Platte Valley that people do means they are always within missed-shot range of the interstate or the railroad, so that legal hunting would be out of the question regardless. Such is the case here anyway which is good because they are hunted down in Texas, to the point that every new-hatched crane is more likely to be shot dead than a soldier in combat or so I've read from the same source. Texans have more or less free rein to shoot each other though and like I said the cranes have benefited from European settlement overall.

The town of North Platte sits on land that is naturally delta-marsh, so heavily bridled with bogs & semi-permanent channels that discerning the exact junction point of the Plattes to satisfy human landmark-lust was apparently difficult. In high spring when the humidity is up one can smell the natural lordship of the mudsand right downtown and even as far west as Hershey some fifteen miles from the forks. The town has taken on a rough triangle shape as it spreads out from the forks, with the poorer people living on the more flood-prone northeast end nearest the junction while doctors bankers railroad executives etc. concentrate on the southwest end where there is more room for big yards. The the general risk of flood here hasn't really been exceptional since dams etc were built upstream and the town does not exist in the same state of constant water siege as Cairo Il; my time there being something I may tell of in the future maybe. Before white people chose to build a regional hub here (which given the Platte's famed unnavigabillity was an arbitrary choice save for the old landmark lust) the site of North Platte was apparently a garden for wildlife. Bison would concentrate there while crossing from one set of sandhills to the other and there were also effective cities of antelope coyote, wolves, birds, birds birds.

My most vivid memory of the Sandhills Cranes is being woken up by their cartoon squaks at four in the morning. Or maybe in reaching the town-country frontier on either the east or west and seeing the things camped out by the hundreds in some farmers field like a Russian army trying to starve us out. occasionally flying low across the road in great flocks daring the driver to fuck up their grill for the sake of momentary bloodlust. There indeed truly beautiful when taking flight with a totalitarian degree of coordination led by some Alpha among them or maybe some random one of their number who says 'hey y'all let's go over here and eat more dead corn.'

At about halftime of the 1995 national championship game against Florida my cousin Aaron showed up with a dead pheasant. Unplucked and ungutted save for the shotgun metal that killed it. I don't know what Aaron expected us to do with the fucking thing though after this whiskers our family schnauzer did love him forevermore.

Once when I was high and skipping high school I watched this documentary called "March of the Cranes" on NET.  It was Cranes.  Then at the very end there was this guy in downtown Omaha or something there was this guy meant to be dressed up like a Sandhills Crane with muppet beak costume-shop wings and all the rest. And he spent what seemed to be twenty minutes trotting back in forth in a little circle in what was meant to be a demonstration of the crane mating dance and it was fucking amazing. It was one of the few truly psychedelic experiences of my life. I've spent my adult years looking for it on Youtube and across the internet but to no avail.

In 2012 or so I returned to Nebraska across the footbridge from Council Bluffs and trotted about the Omaha riverfront for awhile. I came across a flock of geese and observed one eat another's shit straight from the cloaca. This left me sincerely traumatized for some days even though I'd been logically aware that yeah birds will do that. I'm capible of hating the things when I'm in a foul mood.  God-damned feathered lizards with older siblings hard-wired to peck the younger to death so why bother having two except for sadism?  Yet I've also seen mating pairs respond with true joy when one had cause to think the other had been eaten and then learned that this wasn't so yet. Life is neither good or bad but just tasting things.  And it's perfectly of that it's all a fluke.

Saturday, January 21, 2017


I recently saw a western film in which the villain was marked by an 'eastern; manner in speech and dress. which was very strange as the setting was nineteenth century Wyoming and every single white person was from the East. This also begs the question of why all the good guys talk in the same prairie fire dry diction when a common regional dialect cannot possibly have evolved within a fraction of a single lifetime.

We should understand that the American value on straightforwardness is no vaccine against bullshit. Nor could anything else possibly be with human nature being what it is. Anytime a thing is commonly valued there will be those who try to "win" at the value through artificial means. who want to believe in this case that timidity or pomposity are more common motives for a chosen turn of phrase than they actually are.  Moe Sleazak and his precious Carhold.

On Twitter there's a guy who mainly goads the Unicameral for not being real true conservative enough. He has a cowboy hat and the standard cowboy facial hair with short mustache and tightly cropped goatee. This  LARPing ass motherfucker lives in fucking Blair.

In the earliest days of commercial cattle herding on the plains there were the same practical benefits of wearing a hat in a shade-free environment. Some of the poor vagabond alcoholics getting paid for this job by some quasi-aristocratic fuck wore bowlers, or proto-fedoras, or stovepipe tophats like Lincoln wore, or weird blob-crown looking things like in Jesus Christ Superstar.  Then by the early 20th century start to see cowboys uniformly wearing what we would know as cowboy hats, though still with a weird mismash of jeans slacks and various styles of shirt. The idea that you're supposed to be a cowboy is much younger than eating beef after all. Now some cowboy hats price at over a g for quasi-aristocratic fucks to wear at each others funerals.

It does say something about our culture that there are a thousand knockoffs of High Noon for a single "Gangs of New York" doesn't it? Daniel Day-Lewis was intentionally over the top in that one but not by much.  The movie isn't all that out of line from nineteenth century reality, or much less so than most westerns anyhow. The idea of cities being for riffraff (the definition of who They are changing somewhat over time) who aren't good enough to own land is considerably older than the automobile suburb, with roots back in Medieval England and the feudal manor.  Neglected cities have always been an American thing. Wanting to believe that the ratio of clean plain-spoken (blond, blue eyed, tanless) pioneers-to riffraff is much higher than it actually is is an American thing to; than and now.

there have been times where I've tried to say something to the effect that I do not identify as white. some may have gotten the idea that I meant to let myself off the historical hook by doing so but no, that's not quite it, at least not primarily. what I mean is that Richard Daley Sr. grew up in a Chicago where Swedish and Norwegian kids would beat each other into slush for trespassing in each other's neighborhoods. What I mean is that in 1920's Nebraska that KKK would often get more mileage out of anti-Catholic than anti-black rhetoric. That in Sutherland it apparently gained a large following by promising to stick it to the Irish Catholics within the big city of North Platte. What I mean is that there's never been any unifying whiteness beyond the idea that the riff-raff are somebody else now has there?  I mean that it makes me angry and sad in turns to see my own family forget that "Once We were strangers" etc. and embrace the contempt that gives us some bullshit claim to aristocratic normality.

I've heard that Anglophone countries that remained within the British Commenwealth have something called "culture creep" a self-loathing sense that nothing they produce can be as good as something made in the older and more established English culture. Americans certainly don't have that problem but we still have the issue of newness, the lack of establishment. There may be something after all to the strawman Eurosnob idea that we have no particular substance. that we have only the Hard Sell.  The Broad performance of exaggerated simple-man manliness. The performance of pushy familiarity, the performance of what that glam-rock fraudster Buffalo Bill defined as cowboyhood for us.  There has never been a real America.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hey Jack Kerouac: Nothing is Authentic Part III

I'm aware that I might well be presuming to know too much and that all of this is damned hack sociology. On the internet yesterday I saw one of those misnamed "memes" that said something like 'your friends are the ones you don't have to speak carefully around'.  I found this striking because as a writer, or the deeper personality type that made me think of myself as a writer, the idea of speaking carefully being a painful burden that one longs for the chance to lay down is foreign to me. I like to speak carefully. I would say that I take something like pride in imagining myself to be good at it. Or at least what I love most of all is to gradually mold my vague internal perceptions into ever more finally distilled thoughts and I value the role that carefully designed speech plays in that. One could say that I'm guilty of using the people I interact with in this way, even my mother and close friends, and you may judge me for that as you will. Let every person among us Keep It Real in their own way.

I'm confident that it largely comes down to this. You have no control over how I read you, whether I read you as irritating or pleasing, good or bad. You have no control over whether I see you as primarily a thing to be read, nor of course do I have any such control over your eyes and mind. When we acknowledge that of course there are many people who cannot tolerate the reality of this we may begin to see how those who obsessively hate what they think political correctness is can see themselves as exclusively honest while preaching the wildest delusions.

Actual common sense should tell us that there never has been and never could be a dominant social consensus on what is or is not offensive. The reasons for why anyone could think there has been or naturally should be are maybe too complex for our purposes here. But I do think it's valuable to recall that the mental effects of surburban and rural segregation in the 20th century will linger for a long time. It has encouraged white people raised in such environments to form an overly smooth and narrow concept of what the "mainstream" is; an exaggerated idea of how much commonality in culture thought and habit the American people have ever had. We should also recall that an age of far fewer media outlets more tightly controlled by particular sorts of white men is still well within living memory. The town newspaper financed by local economic pillars with its insistently heroic and existentially central view of private enterprise. three TV channels conveying much the same white skinned white-collarish sensibility. The lemming-like increase in media that began in the late 20th century and continues has closely aligned with historically oppressed groups working to kick the door down and gain some kind of public voice. If we put all of it together we might see where conservative whites are coming from in perceiving an unprecedented negative pressure upon their positive image and peace of mind. There is even something like a bit of truth to their perception.

Or if you're old enough you may remember a book from the early nineties called "All I really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." I recall that in the late nineties on the old dial-tone internet there were Hotmail groups attributing various right-wing bumper sticker quotes to the book that are not actually in it. still the category of people who were most attracted to this book is telling. There is something quite dark at play on the one hand; a generically conservative idea that the only people one need ever rightfully worry about not offending are Authorities, Social Superiors, Parents, Teachers or adult equivalents thereof. And this does put a sense of insult at suggestions that offending minority members is bad in grim light. My main point however is that there is part of us that wants to believe that the manners we need to mind in order to avoid being negatively thought of; (so that we can KNOW that we are not being negatively thought of) to be permanently settled things; though of course this could only be possible in a Fantasyland of one immortal generation.

What many people mean when they say they want "common sense" is a common sensibility whose goodness everyone has the same motive to presume out of hand and thus presume each other's goodness out of hand. Which is to say that what they want; what par of all of us wants, is a sort of magic veto power over the minds of others; a desire to believe that it is only ever not evil to judge us as wrong when we ourselves are intentionally wrong by our own estimation; and who of course is ever such a thing?

There is ultimately no getting around the problem of backlash. Privileged people who feel personally accused by the calling out of old bigotries and unjust hierarchies will intuitively defend themselves with an intensified form of these very things for a time. Still the problems must of course be named aloud at some point if they are ever to be gotten rid of. It is one of those life pains that need to be suffered and gotten over with.

Sarah Silverman tweeted something like the old saw of "deep down everyone wants just wants to be loved" and though it is an old saw it is still a key truth. In looking at the rise of right-wing populism both here and abroad, these fantasies of an impossible degree of unity in thought belief and identity within societies of millions being "natural" I would say that what the Trump supporter wants, what the MRA the fundamentalist or the white nationalist all want, is an environment where they are only ever judged with the same advantage of familiar affection that one finds in families friend groups and sexual relationships. Since political power can never give them that they shall of course remain dissatisfied. And rather then accept that nothing else at all can ever give them that they will choose instead to contimue blaming dark conspiratorial forces; (Hollywood, bureaucrats, elitists, hipsters, feminists, on and on and on) for denying them this hallucinatory birthright.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hey Jack Kerouac: Nothing is Authentic Part II

I recall an incident over Christmas tried to use the fact that I said the word "bureaucracy" in a context I forget now as pretense for launching into one of his patented right-wing rants. I told him directly that I did not actually provide him with a context for talking on this subject.  He asked me if I voted and I said no, not as in no I didn't vote (I of course went for the higher scoring loser) but no as in this conversation will not happen. You cannot make me discuss what you will on your terms by your cue. To my introvert's eyes especially he is a maddeningly boorish man. He will aggressively prod for familiarity with the sex life beliefs legal troubles etc. of anyone else around him. He seems to honestly perceive cowardice as the only possible motive for rhetorical restraint and rejects the very concept of polite personal distance as a craven thing. An entitled neediness for familiarity is what drives both his politics and his general being I'd say' an assumption that human relationships are only either perfectly intimate or perfectly hostile, so that difference or unknown quantities in another are necessarily threats to himself; or above all else a sense of control over how he is personally perceived when he feels like he understands what those around him are all about.

I've long had the view that the centrality of belief to self is generally overestimated. That belief, or one's understanding of culturally normal belief paradigms, is largely a Rorschach of deeper and more primal personality traits. That the difference between dad and I in politics is a more or less incidental consequence on opposite ends of the natural personality scale on most every point. He on the other hand has an obvious suspicion and fear that rejection of him is my primary motive in thinking what I do and being who I am. I of course would rather presume that my reasons are more rational than such juvenile othering but hell he might be at least partially right after all. I am no high school paper rebel any more except maybe I always will be. Perhaps there is no growing out of it, no being above it. Perhaps the most all-encompassingly ambitious and historically effective worldviews have no grander motive than childhood defiance, or maybe the illusion of Olympic aboveness is a crime that I myself should peal guilty to while there's still some mercy to be had.

If you forgive all that pomp what I mean to say is that in listening to how dad talks, how mom and sis talk, how the rando on the street talks, it occurs to me just how much of my human interaction is with the fellow writer bros that I've known for a decade with thousands of hours of word practice between us. My eyes are reawakened to how our speech is very notably more deliberate than white Midwestern vernacular, or any culturally particular vernacular truth be told. If you record any given human conversation on the page it would much more likely read like Pynchon than Socrates. Most human dialogue is not rational or intentional. More typically it is so spontaneous that you can't even quite call it jazz. It's more like getting high on mind sex, the sharing of stream of consciousness and the taking of delight in the others seeming approval.

Many people, probably most, are more concerned with gaining a sense of solidarity or emotional understanding in their dialogues with each other than they are with accurately describing external reality. The so-called "post-truth" phenomenon boils down to mainly this, and is not actually the slightest bit new.

To state all of this in another way; one who is truly in their heart of hearts most concerned with "telling it like it is" should by rights have a a deep love for Received Pronunciation or "BBC English". This form of English is the most efficient kind in terms of verbiage to conveyed meaning ration precisely because it is "unnatural" deliberate and cultivated. Yet there are few people in the US or Liverpool for that matter who would consider this way of talking to be "authentic".

We come now to the increasingly looming name of Trump.  To understand how people can possibly thing that that man "tells it like it is" we must in the first place understand that we are all guilty of a magical impulse to Make what we want to be the truth. Since certainty and doubt feel pleasant and painful in themselves it follows that many would want to believe that these feelings are strictly matters of moral choice independent of external realities outside of one's control. We should bare in mind that Orwell did not intend to write "science fiction" of a fantastic future but to describe the general human condition in all political environments, and not just the condition of the powerful.

In the second place we should be savvy to the fact that, while most people are logically aware that lying off the cuff is thoroughly possible, as Trump does indeed do, the "truth" that most people are concerned with in their speech is the drive to relate to each other. It is Trumps willingness to say "something" rather than allow the implied personal coldness of silent space that comes across as authentic. There may also be something to the old saw that bigotry is largely about "scapegoating", that ancient stereotypes may be refuted repeatedly yet stubbornly reborn with each new generation because the pain in our lives just feels less bad somehow if we are convinced that our suffering is Somebody's Fault.  Our instincts have no concept of random bad luck but are of course primed to fight an enemy; so we get a cathartic sense of control over our own fates when told that there is an enemy to fight. Think of all the affectedly tough guys who pride themselves on hating criminals or terrorists more than thou and also take pride in shrugging at those more faceless social inequities that shave considerably more years off the average lifespan. Or perhaps more fundamentally we all have moments in our lives when Anger For Its Own Sake can feel liberating. It may be that the Dishonesty that Trump offers freedom from is in the form of every smile forced in the bank line while in the midst of a personal crisis. 

It is largely at this point that sexism and racism come into play, since Hillary and Obama before her were largely caught in a catch-22 on this matter. They would have been dismissed as "shrill" or "militant" if either had ever let loose with an id-dictated rant in public. Yet on the other hand I recall how some right-wing barkers mocked Obama's hemming in hawaing in mid-sentence; with the implication that the very act of forming one's words in their head before speaking them was ipso-facto deceitful. We could blame American anti-intellectualism here; but I'm pretty sure this sense of deliberate speaking being Necessarily dishonest is not culturally exclusive to us. It is very human to sense that something is just Wrong when a person seeks to express a personal point of view detached from their inner self, or describing a social issue that in way which does not imply that their personal feeling about it is the heart of the matter. Because again the "truth" that most people are concerned with while talking is to make their current state of mind  understood by the listener.

I'd say that Hillary for her part is seen as inherently "dishonest" both out of aincient and widespread sexism and our culturally particular "democracy of manners".  This piece is already too long to go into what Democracy of Manners is in full here, for now it will suffice to call it an aggressive informality and affected familiarity built for a status-fluid society.  What Hillary was up against is the trans-cultural sexism that all women must be "nurturing" in our particular Democracy of Manners context that expects all women to be flamboyantly fuzzy-open in a favorite aunt sort of way. 

In the end I'd guess that all semi-coherent raving against "elites" boils down to the fact that those of us who have dipped a toe in art, writing, politics, or are even just broadly educated are blessed with multiple ways to express our abstract blood humors of dread, anger, jealousy, disappointment, mortal fear; while for most people simple speech shall remain the sole or dominant means of expressing themselves throughout their lives. It is comparatively easy for us to acknowledge that the world is not About our own blood humors while we specify, but rather less so for people who need to let those humors out in one way or the other. They want a society composed of more commonality and fellow feeling than is actually possible so that they can feel assured that they are being understood.

Or more cynically they want a society where everyone shares the same cultural paradigms and assumptions so that no one could think that they are evil fools without pointing four fingers back....

Hey Jack kerouac: Nothing is Authentic Part I.

I've been Youtube binging on 10000 Manics recently. Throughout my life I would hear "Trouble Me" or "Like the Weather" about once ever six months at like Sears or Village Inn and have always been intrigued by the sounds; finally realizing last week that I could have opened up this fascinating box of mystery at any point in the past fifteen years and that now was the time to do so. So listening to 10000 Maniacs and a couple of other low-volume bands under the era's infamously broad label of "Alternative" is how I spent my time last week mainly.

Having now become a studied expert in 10000 Maniacistism I can say that with the exception of some highlights and Natalie Merchant's good if not transcendent voice that their music suffers from a painfully constructed pleasantness.  I'm not saying that the Maniacs were wimps, except maybe ina more roundabout & educated way. But there is a markedly hollow unwillingness to disturb with a screamed out Fuck every now and then or the occasional stomp on a distortion pedal. There's a bloodlessness about them that can inspire a bruised and empty sort of anger, an absence of music's special liberating power to resonate in a way that lets us feel without naming and boxing that feeling.

The Maniacs were "socially conscious" in a generally left-of-center way. This is not of course an evil thing and may in fact be the only thing that makes the band less bad or banal than Hootie and the Blowfish for whoever might be keeping that score. The problem is that they were not really a "political" band; writing songs that rallied crowds to bond over a shared anger or aspiration. They were only just "socially conscious" checking off their dutiful concerns song by song in a Catachismic sort of way. In the song "Cherry Tree" for example Merchant tries to sing from the point of view of an illiterate adult in her own natural cadence of educated easterner. It's a s awkward as you might guess.

Though the Maniacs do again have their highlights, a few cases where Merchant has a real emotional commitment to the Issue of The Song and the sound startlingly improves.  "Don't Talk" is s nice simmering tune about alcoholism addressed to no one directly. (though the Maniacs guitar player did die of liver failure at 42. Occam's razor that for yourself) While Like the Weather remains a smartly  done construct of what Manic Depression is even if you listen to it twenty times in a week (As So I have.) with Merchant's lyrics about being frozen to bed by sadness a brilliant contrast to the bright-sounding music.  Overall though the trouble with this band is best reflected in their famous cover of Patti Smith's "Because the Night" Their version is technically deft in sound and voice but when compared to Smith's original the absence of heat in a song about sex is mournfully apparent.  

I've subjected the reader this long Pitchfork review because in my own disappointment at 10000 Manics lack of feeling I think I may have some new insight towards the intensity of feeling against so called political correctness; how neurotic oversensitivity in either fact or perception may inspire not just annoyance but obsessive rage, be seen as not just bad but the Great Satan Evil from which all others flow. Something about the Maniacs tortuously mannered sound does indeed come across as not just false but maliciously deceptive somehow. There is some instinct within us that insists the perpetual benevolent calm of the Natalie Merchant persona just cannot be For Real. Beyond all else there is indeed a sense of looking down on society's human failures from a higher seat of Olympian judgement. And I begin to grasp the appeal of rebelling against that perceived claim to higherness in the most intuitive way; which to say that our very failures are "natural" "authentic" and therefore good so fuck you. I gain some idea of how some may see no higher purpose in their sociopolitical expression but to identify as Nor Natalie Merchant.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Auld Lang Satan

I have just smoked one of Fyfe's ancient dried out nugs I found on the floor. Or maybe a piece of carpet that had taken on an illusory appearance of biological lushness somehow, and so taken several of the more unpleasant cancer fade-out years off the end of my life in the smoking. It doesn't matter. My mother enrolled me in North Platte Catholic schools when she effectively inherited my grandmother's job as cafeteria head there. She asked me if I wanted to and I was ambivalent. My child self was confused by the question's very existence looking back. So she acted on her own to put me in St. Pats for reasons of heritage and appearance, she's an alumnus herself, and because North Platte is frontier enough for the difference between Protestant white people and Catholic white people to still matter in some ways. I regret not objecting now. I read Paul's Basquiat books and look at his own paintings and it makes me think of how the scratchy neon cartoon look as of the late 80s/early90's as filtered through mid-afternoon public television still informs my being and always will if I live a thousand years. I think of my dim memories as a little kid in public school, how that seemed to give me a slightly better 5th hand connection to the coastal pulse of the nations' actual mainstream.  A sense of civic being maybe, a sense of fellow being based more on common downtown experience than on common blood and culture.  Perhaps that's what right wingers hate about public schools, though to casually say that is to ascribe them with a superhuman self-awareness as well of course as a deliberately evil motive convenient to my own stance.  I can't really say. All I know is that a Lexington Latino at Occupy Lincoln, (rather shady sort truth be told, loosed out of prison and dumped in camp by the LPD as passive-aggressive sabotage) told me that I seemed like a guy who could be comfortable in both a big city and a small town and that's so. A blockful of squat townhouse yards in Denver KC or Chicago has always felt as natively familiar to me as twenty miles of pavement through the Sandhills like the fetal twin brother that I ate is talking to me or something.

I like Rod Stewart's old songs though I'm sure I'd hate the guy if I met him. That's are there is to a "guilty pleasure" about a particular song or artist isn't it?  I think that "Love Isn't Always on Time" song is more popular now than at the time of its release. Or at least I don't recall having ever heard it until I had already graduated UNL and now it's on classic radio more routinely than Kanye is on modern top 40.  Be it so because the guitar on that one is legit, and from Toto too go figure, the same lamers who did that dentist-office ass "Africa" song.

I started smoking weed at a moderately young age, 15. Mexican brick by necessity. "Kine bud" was anything else, whatever cultivated shit that somehow made its way to NP from California by way of Denver, generally twice the price per weight. I was only moderately one of "those guys" about smoking weed. I would rock a tie-dye every now and then but not like every day.  I never pretended that the Grateful Dead were any better than ok though I did pretend to myself that that the Kottenmouth Kings were ipso facto good because they rapped about smoking weed even though deep down I always knew that they not only sucked but superlatively sucked. I did have a lava lamp but what of that?  What went wrong in our culture that led us to pretend that appreciation for the inherent sweetness of lava lamps requires drugs? I never did get a pot leaf poster, let alone a pot leaf tattoo on my waist like a homegirl I had sex with once. She lives in Kearney with a kid now the last I heard. To think upon it now I don't think I have ever deeply identified with or loved the things or people that give me pleasure because I've always experienced pleasure in a disassociated, third-person sort of way, especially when having sex.

My most comparatively serious relationship was with Tiffany during my college dropout years. We moved to an apartment down the street from Wesleyan and looking back I think I just wanted a rentmate who was willing to move to the city and was a fairly decent friend who happened to have a vulva. That seems crass or even downright evil I realize but it's how it is. In these times I would wake up at three PM have two cups of coffee a slice of Casey's pizza and ten minutes of the World Herald for breakfast before it was back to the Barton's "rum" and brickweed at four PM. I enjoy orgasm to the same degree as a moderately chilled rum & orange juice I suppose. Those extended multi-sex sessions with that most people around me describe as the highlight of their lives were  a dreadful chore to me like family church functions as a kid. There's something within myself especially then but even now to some degree that wants to remain a sort of closeted not out of fear as being found out for whatever but for its own sake. I've never considered sex to be any more physically gross than what the body does anyway.  It's the abstract of being desired by another, of intensely existing in any other mind except my own and thus not totally owning myself, of "we" having a common feeling together, of "we" existing as we. That's what repels. Others speak of breaking down the wall between themselves and someone else as if nothing could be a more obvious and universal Need that of course I must feel to, so they say. When a date ask if I'm willing to make a commitment my answer of "commitment to what" is usually enough to end it right then and there. Tiffany had been abused as a child. Tiffany needed Lithium to live. Tiffany thought I hated her when I took my hours long walks to avoid her when it was just someone else/Others  in general that I had overdosed on and she was always the one I hated least of all. Money got tight. We took in a another North Platte kid named Caleb, even more fucked than either of us, (Entire orders of the multiplication table beyond lovable eccentric) into meth well beyond even the normal degree of bad. I would come home from my job of the week to find six gang associates shooting up in my bathroom. Tiffany complained that she couldn't walk naked through the house like she could when it was just her and me. I didn't like her doing that when it was just her and me. I would have like to have been a billionaire so I could be naked alone and never talk forever but I didn't like her being in my kitchen while I cooked my supper waiting to prepare whatever it was that pleased herself. I still don't know what her favorite food is. I don't she had one. She never did eat enough. She's back in North Platte with a fellow named Reuben now last I heard.

I think I could fake a relationship a little better now. I've learned how to better camouflage the fact of being a schizoid solipsist with no human core as such. I know better than to tell my mom out loud that it's pointless for me to have kids; because the permanent shutdown of my own brain shall entail the end of all reality, and whether there's anyone afterwards who remembers and loves me well what kind of fucking moron could possibly think that matters oh right sorry mom my bad.

Saddam Hussein's execution is an early example of viral internet experience. It's very clear that the man knew all along that he'd be going out like this (All Along as in since childhood that is) and that he'd been practicing his defiant death for a long time. I say this only because I've been waiting to bring up this ingeniously witty observation in conversation and realize now that the chance will probably never naturally flow up in natural speech. Why all of you insist on pretending to think that you "exist" for any other reason but to set up such lines for me I don't know.

Right across the pedestrian bridge over the tracks at 19th and Holdrege is a truck that's been in a wreck probably severe enough to have killed its riders. The windshield is three quarters smashed in and the interior has been on fire. The workers at the construction place on the block use it for storage: crowbars heavy-duty gloves etc. The windows are again non-existent mostly. You could probably rob the thing for either sale or personal use without consequence.

I know I'm not the only one who finds it striking that the near-south side of Lincoln is basically twenty first century urban in character, while the near north-sides character does indeed fit the "overgrown small town" label that some Omahans would attach to us. The pattern of auto machine and rail shops along Cornhusker with their largely white blue-collar (though also Middle Eastern blue-collar for the past quarter century) workers living in the neighborhoods behind. Their familiar family dramas of drugs, relationships gone wrong with a kid in the middle, the bonds of love, the pangs but also invigorating feels of hate, betrayal, the hazy narcotic feeling of an imagined golden past with no stress, the cultural affinity for fast cars, wrestling and of course football to state the elephant. A demographic pattern that begins right there at 19th and Holdrege and then follows the Burlington line northwest all the way to the corn on the east end of Havelock at around 74th or so. This is after all the part of town that Omahans' see the most of; the capitals' rail-toothed economic hard calorie eater physically facing Omaha and the greater East; so there are reasons beyond delusions of Cosmo grandeur for why some Omahans may see Lincoln as no more than the largest in a nesting doll chain of increasingly regional hubs as one heads out onto the High Plains. And the next westward signed destination point on I-80 is after all the reliable Jersey-joke next door for the one before. The kids in North Platte would laugh at the meth-hicks of Sidney while Kearney kids laughed at us for the same while Grand Island kids....

About ten or eleven years,ago, when I was still an undergrad a group of black kids called the Dudley Street Boys, (a self-defining handle.  They were adolescents who lived on the north side street one block down from Holdrege) took a ride all the way down too SouthPointe to steal guns from the Scheels there. A few weeks later they got caught.  They called themselves a gang and they did after all have a name and commit a gun-related crime together so there I suppose you have it. As I recall a few of the guns they stole were later used in murders robberies etc. on one coast or another. That's what guns are for and I'm sure that the same thing would have happened if they'd been bought up front over the Scheels counter.

About four years ago I got caught in a summer storm while walking and a group of white dudes drinking on the porch near commanded me to join them. This was along 22nd by all the sketchy auto detailing shops etc by the defunct Mopac railroad. The white dudes were sketchy too. We drank Busch's and smoked weed out of one of those old school little metal pipes that make every strain taste shitty. We watched a compilation of police chase videos on Fox.   One of them, a prototypical "big" bubba you might say, was conventionally employed as a security guard. The rest didn't say how they made their cash directly though from what they did say I got the impression that they were among those half-thief/half-scavengers who trowled through the neighboring alleys looking for metal electronics etc. They were racist in a very directly spoken way, at least to me with my blue eyes and the Husker shirt that I remember probably too perfectly to have actually been real now that I think of it. They referred to the black kids in the neighborhood as "niglets". They spoke of the Dudley Street boys in the tones of some menacing dread but never mentioned anything particular, beyond the well known fact of their having jacked a box store out in the burbs, that made the Dudleys such a dread horror. Even so these guys clearly got a weird sense of personal validation from the existence of black kids who had committed a crime and had a common name.  It makes me recall reactions to black athletes who did things they shouldn't have. Micheal Vick, Adrian Peterson or even OJ Simpson.  Not the disapproval in itself to what were indisputably bad things to do but the very apparent indulgence in the intensity of that disapproval, the insinuation of "Hah I knew it". The rain stopped after an hour, and when I confessed to having forgotten one of the dudes names while leaving he reminded me that it was Randy and looked mad enough to fight.

I had a friend named Matt Moore in college. Cool bro, solid liberal, liked to drink and smoke and trip a lot. Aspiring Entomologist from West Omaha family money. Got mad at me when I left the tropical cockroach I'd had to care for as part of my token science credit class out to die in the prairie winter. He said that it wasn't like one of those nasty cockroaches and I said "oh so it's of those high end cockroaches then?  Like the Lexus of cockroaches?"  Matt said he was surprised that the Dudley Street boys were intelligent enough to pull the robbery off. Which is to say that he was surprised that black kids were smart enough to rob a Scheels and get caught. Matt could be racist in both a casual, half-conscious and yet startlingly direct way like that sometimes.  His girlfriend in college Mari was Czech like I am, from the Bohemian majority country to the west of Wahoo. She was getting into the bug game too, had herself precociously together in a way that Matt just didn't. She threw me a going away party (hah) before I moved to Chicago that was really nice. Then a couple years after that she was instantly killed at age 24 or 5 when her sober but not-yet fully awake brother missed a stop sign on a Oregon vacation & her side of the car was hit by a semi at highway speed. It was three months before I learned.  I had seen that her Facebook page had suddenly become full of the sort of exaggerated praise usually given to toddlers, especially in regards to her just released master's thesis which she got an A on as I recall, but I didn't pay enough attention to glean that something was "Up" from that.

I close with my thoughts on Mrs. Beach, my grade school music teacher during my short stint in public school.  Mrs. Beach was warm, encouraging, motherly, a beloved figure in the North Platte community. I also recall how she in effect military-drafted us on too all those God Damn Christmas plays, Wizard of Oz adaptations etc, teaching us to pimp cute fro grown ups pleasure in our childhood as our first act of primal submission to established authority. I recall what an exaggerated, protest-too-much persona she was to think back on it; that perhaps the small town tendency towards conservative conformity is largely explained by individuals being compelled to fill a overly generic social niche though really I probably just overanalyze here yet again. Fuck that Beach anyhow is all I meant to say.