Notes From The Flip Side: 03.09.2005
"Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless."
Thomas Alva Edison
Pour Me Another Shot Of The Good Stuff
Make it another one off the top shelf, but somehow a generous glass of Jefferson's Reserve doesn't seem like enough of a tribute right now. Hunter S. Thompson killed himself tonight. For those of you who have combed through these pages or read the zine, you know that suicide tends to affect me - far too many of my friends have taken that road out of town. What you may not have known is that most of what I read in high school was Hunter S. Thompson. Sure, I read my share of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling and the other authors that most disaffected high school students read, but HST? Shit. He was my hero. I remember reading his columns in newspapers back when editors had guts and would actually print his screeds about greedheads, atavistic savagery, guns, whiskey and politicians so doped up on animal tranquilizers that they acted like boars. I had to study communications law to understand that his articles never constituted libel per se because no reasonable person would ever believe that they were true ... and all that did was make them more accurate and honest.
I don't care that he was 67. My heroes are not supposed to kill themselves.
Even at 67, my heroes are supposed to die fighting insurmountable odds and then only after delivering the killing blow to the last motherfucker standing in their way, the last stupid son of a bitch who opposed them, and even then, only after spitting, winking and saying something ironic or iconoclastic; some wry, pithy comment that would outlast their bloodline and turn up in Bartlett's centuries later.
So HST went down like he lived, a shotgun in one hand and a bottle of bourbon in the other, swilling 90-proof Kentucky rotgut like he was sucking the teat of a fire hose while snorting salt-canister-sized mounds of coke off the back of his hand and screaming about the goddamned noise that the fucking peacocks were making. His Remington accidentally discharged while he was fending off a pack of feral dogs that had cross-bred with mutant wolves raised in secret Air Force labs in Colorado Springs. And even then, he beat at least half-a-dozen of the fucking things to death with the stock, wrapped himself in their eviscerated carcasses to stay warm and eventually froze to death, but only after saying, "Loader's safety, my ass. Fucking guns load themselves."
And like Kesey wrote, it's true even if it didn't happen, especially if it didn't happen. And when the legend becomes fact, print the legend, Jack. It's better that way. Res ipsa loquitur.
I keep coming back to this song and (more than any other song or album) it keeps describing and redescribing my life - the good bits, the bad bits ... all the bits. For the second time in my life, I have moved out from a live-in relationship to work on things. For the second time, I have a bottle of Veuve-Clicquot champagne that I bought to celebrate New Year's Eve which has traveled with me. I'm hoping this time turns out better.
But really, what it boils down to seems pretty simple. For some reason, I have to be the catcher in the rye, maybe because no one - save for my friends - has ever done that for me. I'm the one who has to ride in on the white horse, the leather-jacketed motherfucker dressed in black stepping off a red eye to bail someone out, the dude who drove all night to save someone else from another mistake. The way I put it the other day is that I know that people have to accept the consequences of their own actions but I don't want those consequences to be too consequential.
And what that translates to, as a friend suggested to me today, is that I give to my friends when they are in need, knowing that if I am ever in need and they can help that they will. And yet in my relationships, I sacrifice. Instead of sharing that which I have a surplus of, I give that which I need, that which I cannot afford to lose and yet give still. Without realizing it as it happens, I give pieces away, as though I were carving small but important chunks out of my self and handing them over, wet, meaty and dripping.
With my friendships, I give freely, knowing that my friends have done or would do the same for me.
In my relationships, it's a different story - and it usually doesn't end well.
We Calm Ourselves With Sex And Games
Every so often, I stumble across a lyric which plugs into my life. It's as subtle as a cinder block dropped on my head, and while at another time I might wonder why all of my metaphors to describe epiphanies are couched in an unspeakable language of violence, today I will allow those words to stand in peace and of their own volition because I have other challenges to confront, other opposition to face down and long-standing nightmares and dreads come to life yet again, dark and sinister, vile and reeking of ingrained insecurity which I must lead to whatever reckoning I can muster for them. The welcome party won't be a pretty one but it will not be an aggressor. This is about confrontation and resolution - this is about leapfrogging the hostility and scorched earth policy that I would normally apply to unwelcome visitors and self-destructive notions that keep knocking on my door and fucking up my carpet with the shit on their shoes and simply being direct with them. I've approached my issues with a katana on my back and a Desert Eagle on each hip for so many years that I barely know how to negotiate anymore; as I said today in counseling, I use my guns when I don't need to worry about being quiet and I don't stop pulling the triggers until I've emptied the clips. When subtlety is necessary, I draw my katana and start cutting.
Either way, I wind up covered in blood, wounded and no better off than I was before I started.
Something has to change.
Rather, someone has to change. And that would be me.
I've realized lately that a fair number of my relationships are transactional - I pay a counselor to listen to me. I pay a lawyer to sort out my messes. I pay an accountant to deal with my money and sort out who I paid to do what. It's always struck me as a bit more honest - everyone knows what's expected and what the consequences are. My only responsibility has been making sure that my checks clear. The problem is that this has extended into my personal relationships - I pay the bills. I keep a roof over someone's head, I keep food in their stomach and clothes on their back. In the model I had been unconsciously applying to romance, this absolved me of any emotional responsibility. I shouldered all of the money. Feelings? Those were someone else's problem. They were not mine. You might say that I gave at the office.
But it wasn't until today that I realized where all of this came from - that I realized my quips about young people needing a good accountant, a good lawyer, a good real estate agent, a good mortgage broker, a good banker and so forth were rooted in my parents' fucked up relationship. After all, my mom traveled compulsively and apparently had affairs with a fair number of people she met on her trips because she hadn't had sex with my dad in about two decades when she killed herself. And, after all, my dad tried to compensate for basically abandoning me as a teenager while my mom was on her trips by buying me off. Hey, why complain? It was stuff and "Under The Big Black Sun," "Zen Arcade" and "It's Alive" were better friends than either of them ever were.
But those realizations followed in the footsteps of the big one, which seemed innocuous at the time - my mom bragging about how expensive my child psychiatrist was, how much she cost per hour ... and why we were going. And that, really, was the bombshell - she told me that she wanted to be sure that, if I turned into a serial killer in 20 or 30 years, she had done everything she could. And so she abdicated her responsibility as a parent, turning it over to yet another transactional relationship to alleviate a possible future guilt. That was largely in keeping with the rest of her parenting - when I had double pneumonia, bronchitis and a sinus infection, she refused to stop smoking in the car while driving me to the doctor's office. And I wonder why I never turned to her for emotional support. If I had let her words affect me, my zine would never have existed ... and neither would this Web site.
While it's true that I have to own up to how I have let these things influence me, it's also true that I'm just now recognizing them.
And, having recognized them, I can now do something about them ... but this time, my approach will be different.
Instead of making sure that there's a full clip and a round in the chamber, instead of sharpening my sword 100 times in preparation for battle, I will put my katana on the ground. I will unbuckle the gun belt and let it fall. My hands will be open. I will merely wait and, in so doing, strip this malice of its power forever. I will be open and vulnerable and know that any pain that it causes as it passes will fade ... and that its absence will forever enrich each day to come.
A Legacy Of Sorts
So it turns out that my alma mater has added a special collection of zines to the library. I thought about it for a bit, realize that I never read my zines and decided that it's time for them to find a new home in a place where they will be loved and appreciated - and besides, it was a huge pain in the ass to carry a couple hundred pounds of paper around. As I sort through what will stay - what of the last 10 or 15 years is worth carrying with me for the next 10 or 15 years - and what must go, I am once again struck by the quality and brilliance that folks like Jim Goad, Jeff Koyen, Jen Angel and others brought to publishing. I am now and will forever be in their debt as a writer and publisher. Reading through these zines as I've been making my decisions, issue by issue, suddenly remembering something in Cometbus that was so touching that I had to buy copies of it for all of my ex-girlfriends at the time or finding something so funny in the last issue of Crank that I laughed out loud reminded me why I started doing all of this. Thanks to all of you - the writers, the readers, everyone. This has been one of the best things I've ever done and I won't be stopping for a while yet.
Off The Top Of My Head ...
- The Weddoes are back after almost a decade of not recording anything under that name and "Take Fountain" is simply fucking awesome, all sexual frustration and dysfunctional relationships filled with desire, guilt and shame. It sounds like a pathology set to grinding indie guitar buzz and it's incredible.
- Ditto that awesomeness for the new Crooked Fingers.
The Wedding Present. Philip Glass. Mix CDs. Elliott. Black Train Jack. Crooked Fingers.
"Almost Famous," "Once Upon A Time In The West," "Unforgiven"
Albert Camus, "The Stranger"
Paul Avrich, "Anarchist Portraits"; Bertrand Russell, "Why I Am Not A Christian"; Umberto Eco, "Island Of The Day Before"; Alan Lomax, "The Land Where The Blues Began"; Peter Guralnick, "Lost Highway" and "Sweet Soul Music"; Steven Heller, "Graphic Design History" (edited with Georgette Ballance); Gunnar Swanson, ed., "Graphic Design And Reading"; Daniel Guerin, "No Gods No Masters"