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Cast it out! Rid yourself of all that makes you suffer. Cleanse yourself of the pain that infests your body. Wash away the filth that clogs the conduits of your heart. 86 it. Pitch it. Release your grip and hear it crash onto the sidewalk. Sell your stock in your own misery. Scrap your way out of your self-created prison. Feel your fists break through the onion-skin walls of the cube. You need not hunger: Rip into the flesh of the dogs that have chased you into this sad quarter. Broadcast the news into this cold world. Cast it out!
This body is a machine that won't do what I want it to. Instinct tells me to pound these muscles with my fist until they capitulate. Make them follow orders. I understand why one who has lost all sense of protocol will mutilate itself. I comprehend the obsolete logic of the bloodletting. The thunderclaps in my skull will drive me into the ground or onward to better lives. It would be easier to craft a plan if those of you with no respect would get your slimy tongues out of my ears and your smirking mugs out of my sight.
THE HOLLY SHE BEARS THE BERRY. A mysterious lodge exists in the forest, where the illuminati break bread and spout jargon. A young man comes by knowledge of the lodge. Now, he knows its true purpose, and must be snuffed. But an elder takes pity on the innocent soul and initiates him. Now, the young man grapples with his secrets. He has no moral imperative to sing. The lodge's motives are pure; its doings are simply irrelevant to the uncultured masses. Our protag is attracting local curiosity. None of them, most obviously his giggling sister, need know about the lodge.
MAXIMUM ANGUISH. As a young man, Jim was the worst kind of misogynist. Big tipper. Gushing romantic. Offended by the notion that he wasn't the biggest news in her life. How he got sucked into the topsy-turvy variety show MAXIMUM ANGUISH is a mystery: He certainly couldn't tell you. He can handle the convulsions when he's alone. So he drops the young'uns off with cousin Ferris, a tempermental, abusive, violently neurotic live wire and the least popular character on MAXIMUM ANGUISH. Then there's Rosie, who feeds and entertains everyone and takes a martyr's share of shit. Rosie drives Jim batty.
My girlfriend works as a night auditor at a local hotel. She's there from 11P to 7A. She's paid for her physical presence: The actual work involved might consume two hours of her time on the clock. The rest of the shift, she's there in case of mishap. (She's only had to clean up some drunken asshole's puke once.) Of course, it's a bit of a social disconnect for her. She often sleeps until well past sundown. (It's 8:40P, and she's asleep now.) Most people wouldn't submit to the disorientation. I think of waking her up. I let her sleep.
EL TORMENTO. Jess "El Tormento" Octavio is the most fearsome wrestler on his notorious regional circuit. Donning a mask of red and purple, he takes the furies encircling his dome into his employ, bashing and thrashing all comers with the passion of a man who has jettisoned his fear of death. He remains mum about his background, so his blood-drunk fans don't know what drives him. The abuse and anguish of his childhood, or the rape and torture murder of his first wife, which he was forced to witness. As his fame escalates, his defeated and disfigured opponents vow revenge.
Bianca will be torn apart in the square-up reel. She's screwed. She doesn't stand a chance. She'll go insane, rapidly. From all the LSD she's taken. She'll be dodging asteroids at the dry lips of hell, forced to finesse the beast. Her lanterned-jawed swain will get beaten to a pulp. That's how we dispose of bullies. Let them stare upon their creation from a puddle of their own insides. Fuck yes. Make ‘em pay. Not so much for hurting us as for pissing us off by enjoying themselves. For now, though, the party rages on. Fuck and suck. Throw down.
A low rider bounces so far off the ground that, when it hits the street, the windshield shatters. An El Camino with a cherry bomb passes, sounding like it's got ten riding lawnmowers on its tail. A 20 year-old ex-con sinks a three-pointer. M-80s crack and reverberate like dub reggae off the buildings. Too $hort booms, rattling teeth from a block away. A teenager smacks another teenager's ass. A 40 bottle shatters as it hits the bottom of a curbside garbage can. Horns stammer out warnings as cars whiz through crosswalks. A sharp breeze drags dead leaves across the sidewalk.
I'm tired of hacking up simpering apologies. Now it's your turn. ‘Cause we both had a hand in this. So, as calmly and as thoroughly as you can, enumerate all the things that are less than admirable about you. That's the new topic. I'm tired of reviewing my own obvious failings and transgressions. I'm interested in yours now. So start talkin'. If I feel you've missed or misstated something, I'll stop you and fill in the gaps you leave. I didn't live up to your expectations, nor did your offers live up to their representations. Time to square up, toots.
A billion egos compete for your last speck of patience. You work for peanut shells, and the good of those who order you about but aren't fit to lick your ass. You've got to stand up for yourself. Establish your territory. Death to intruders. But you know the raining shit will get 100 times heavier the instant you defend yourself. But you must defend yourself. It's no longer your choice to make. A survival mechanism greater than your conscious mind has kicked in. You must respond to this mandate from your bruised soul. Make them regret it. Feel your will.
SPORTS TALK. Guys talk about sports. There's an atmosphere of manly conviviality. There are no women on Sports Talk. Women are more interested in feelings. They go to games to show off their legs. They'd rather discuss their suffering. The only time a real man suffers is when another man steps on and crushes his testes on the field of athletic competition. So, Sports Talk will discuss what drives a man to compete. What gives one Gladiator that magical edge over another. Backed by a chorus of all the stomachs in this college town, grumbling in unison for watery beer.
FEAR puts the fire to most human emotions, and consequently most human action. THEY cash in on fear. Since even the crippling degree of fear we're already swaying and stinking from isn't enough, they create more and more surplus fear. Fuck you fearmongering assholes. The finest form of rebellion is to enjoy your own life. Fear makes you hate it when you see someone else digging existence. You think they've got an edge. I need only enjoy myself. That's anathema to all the worst people. I will do as the man says, and present you all with one improved unit.
I went to see Carrie in the hospital, but she wasn't taking visitors. Carrie was pregnant with the sickly seed of Steve, a quiet, brooding man who once hurled her dog into the shower and broke its neck. A lot of us wish she'd just fucking miscarry. She's on the outs with Jason, one of my favorite fellows in this county who's loved her for years. He's getting around with trashy chicks, trying a tad too hard. Carrie once told me she'd changed fundamentally after a 6th grade breakup rendered her a social pariah. I explored the hospital parking deck.
The two of us plan to go to Europe for most or all of January 2003, taking Eurorail from Amsterdam to Paris to Dublin (no, I'm not sure if we'll go to the land of my ancestors by ferry or Chunnel) and crashing in hostels. I've got some cash saved. I'm not so much worried about affording the trip (fuck that, I have a right to be EXCITED about the trip – I've never left the lower 48) as I'm unsure of what to do when I return. I know I need to escape this suckhole. Now, the vertigo of possibility.
What's cool? Mediocrity is cool. Heat death, entropy and decay are cool. Smug aloofness and paralyzed complacency are cool. Shit-eating masochism and ineffectual whining are cool. Suspicion of passion, intelligence and drive are perennially cool. Condescending disdain for those who seem to be enjoying their lives: That's the acme of cool. Holding up the lowest of the low and celebrating it with no respect for spirit or context, only a kiddish glee at the funhouse reflection of self. Death on the installment plan. Surrender of hope. Swapping your success for the next guy's failure. Snot pouring out of the nostrils.
I love you because the world would shape the fuck up if it would shut the fuck up and listen to you. I love you for all your varieties of passion. I love you because you expect a lot. I love you because you don't stand for bullshit from any quarter. I love you because you're the horniest bitch on the globe. I love you for your sublime aesthetic sense. I love you because you're like a sweet little girl. I love you because you're the superior modern woman. I love you because you're better than you have any idea.
A music writer at the local free weekly had some beef with the editors and left in a huff. Soon, he began sending in fake concert announcements: Cool cult bands from Frisco and Chicago started booking shows in abandoned buildings. These were bands the oldtimer editors wouldn't know from the Ink Spots, but who had geeky connoisseurs throughout the Southeast jizzing their courds. Bands that never come through here. Fans drove down from Tennessee for one show, and ended up parked in a gravel lots, watching the rats and the No Tresspassing signs and the moon. ‘Twas cruel and funny.
The film's introduction follows Sammy Shark from his youth in a Baxter ghetto. Whenever Sammy felt the heat zero in on him, he turned stoolie on the next man. Until the next man made sure Sammy would never be aware of anything potentially embarrassing, at which point Sammy started making shit up. If he were about to get a littering citation, Sammy would tell Joe Friday that Next Man X dumped Body Y off a bridge, and wasn't that worse? He ends up snitching on an associate and hitting the road, trying to keep ahead of his former business partners.
There's something alive under my skin. It ain't coke bugs; it's DIGITAL ANGEL. I've pawed and scratched myself endlessly. It must be deep in the flesh. I don't know where Digital Angel is hiding. But it knows everywhere I've ever been. And has a pretty damn good idea where I'm going. It knows my patterns. It knows my routine. Digital Angel will help "concerned parties" find me, should I ever wander. I won't be able to evacuate the radar. As long as I'm on this planet, Digital Angel will feed my coordinates to anyone willing to fork over the bread.
The sun frowns down on this sprawling urban wasteland as land yachts cruise through its arteries, belching up fumes. A driver puffs on a funny cigarette. He drops his kid brother off in an astroturfed front yard. Every other object on the set is a potential agent of death. But you gotta love this city. Now way you could live here if you didn't love it. No one's forcing you to stay. A scrolling marquee lists routes to personal enrichment. Sirens and alarms sing out from the forgotten corners. You're reminded that there're still places to hide in America. Temporarily.
PLAYING GOD. Listen up, babe, ‘cause I'm about to do my God impression. I want the part of God in the school play. I'll accept nothing less. I've learned the important lines for God. I'll improvise the rest. Show me the marks for God. Fuck that. I'm going to improvise. I'm going to Act. The rest of you motherfuckers are welcome to React, if you so desire. But I'm going to be God. You can be whatever you want, but I've got dibs on God. Fuck costume and makeup. God comes and goes as He damn well pleases. Follow me.
THAT’S HOW YOU SING “AMAZING GRACE.” Water drip, drip, drips into the sink from the leaky faucet. Water drips (in syncopation) into a white plastic bucket stationed under the hole in the ceiling. It’s fucking cold. She’s gone. She might come back, but you’d just start pissing each other off again. This is, to be fair, roughly what you wanted. You’d rather set a can of beans on the stovetop and eat those motherfuckers alone. The toilet is frozen. Back to normal. The usual. No hope, no fear. Talk radio puffs at the wall from next door. Snow starts sticking.
Say whatever the fuck you will about me. I'm tired of assuming the defensive position for your bullshit attacks. You haven't done shit to improve anything. You've got nothing but accusations and fear, and you're less than worthless. I'll tear you to pieces. I'll grind your fragile li'l ego into fucking powder, bitch. I'll destroy you. The only thing that's stopped me is that it would be TOO FUCKING EASY. So keep whining about trivia. Keep trying to piss me off. You're sitting in a goddamn powder keg, you little gerbil. Don't be surprised if it annihilates everything about you.
Flat-out contempt for the natural submissive misses at least most of THE POINT. That person who truly lacks the capacity to submit sacrifices many of this bitch life's meager comforts and transcendent joys. (Many of the arts, for one obvious example, require submission, perhaps even with a pronounced masochistic edge.) Most of these shaved apes are, indeed, submissives. Their passivity is cause for misanthropy only because most of them don't come by their islam HONESTLY. For the soul that strives to be a fine actor, there is a reservoir of power off limits to the one limited to domination.
Mommy works the night shift at a seedy diner, constantly hit on by scum and stiffed out of hard-earned tips. Mommy works at a mental hospital, constantly hit on by swaying troglodytes and born defectives. Mommy grits her teeth and takes home that paycheck. Mommy works at an old folk's home, wiping the soft, slimy, chaotic shit from octogenarian assholes and watching people die on her shift. She takes home that paycheck. Around this time, Mommy gets sick to her stomach. A virus incubates inside Mommy. They cut her open and drag it out. Set it free. And here I am.
How to describe this… Imagine a ruthless wind thrashing you from the back. It's driving snowflakes into you. It seems to get sucked into a vanishing point in front of you. Sort of like that. Except, for me, the wind carried bits of shrapnel. Like tiny pieces of glass. And every few seconds, the number of fragments goring me in the back would double. As my field of vision filled with dots and my thoughts were bleached out, I realized I was going to die like this. An overpowering howl filled my skull. I died in some kind of war.
A blonde bombshell rises from a birthday cake, with a flurry of black crumbs and dabs of white icing. She waits for the applause and whistling to subside, then addresses the crowd: "Good evening, kids of all ages. Welcome to the first annual convention of the Society for Jubilant Paranoia. Over the next few days," she purrs, shooting a molasses-slow cubist wink and every JP at once, "we'll be sharing theses, launching fresh investigations and coming to comprehend just how many millipedes are crawling about below the paper-thin surface of this modern culture." Her mesmerizing red sequins air-kissed the crowd.
THE JUBILANT PARANOIDS. You're but an inconsequential drop in a vast ocean of humanity, you say? No one cares about your opinion, certainly not enough to manipulate it? Joykilling propaganda! Mass manufactured chronic impotence! The Society for Jubilant Paranoia refuses to be insignificant. There's a bigger story behind everything. There are still reasons why they don't want you to hear the details or examine the footnotes. There are still secrets left to discover, still nests of roaches and butterflies left to uncover. The JPs won't be poisoned with self-loathing cynicism. They will love their lives. Learn, discover, yell, fuck, fight.
I stopped to piss out the last cup of watery coffee and fill up another. As I walked back to my car, I heard a payphone jingling. It was nighttime, and I was the only animate soul at this rest area. I decided to field that call. "Hello?" "Would you like for me to suck your DICK?" creaked the weathered, not identifiably male or female voice on the other end. Without thinking, I hung up. Left this brazen rest stop pickup artist swinging. Got back in the vehicle, sipped enough joe to minimize spills, and drove on up that mountain.
FANTASY ZONE. Until recently, Fantasy Zone was the local amusement center here, a place where wonderbread couples shot spirited rounds of putt-putt, acne-scarred high schoolers dominated the video games and cliquish Mexicans gathered ‘round the pool tables. (Not to be confused with Fantasy World, the local jack shack. Common error.) I guess Fantasy Zone was cut to the quick by the economic slowdown. A coffeeshop clerk spoke of dressing as Fantasy Zone for Halloween (in tribute), wearing Astroturf on his back. We're losing our third places. I mean, pool will always be there. But putt-putt golf is in bad decline.
According to the wire, the sky was going to threaten rain all week. When it was actually going to rain, they couldn't say. Or whether it was actually going to rain at all. But the threat would be constant, at least through Thursday. I would need to be prepared. I pulled out the nearly full garbage bag. Sure enough, someone had left an empty one underneath. I grabbed the invaluable bag and stashed it in my backpack. I started walking toward the shitty area of downtown, with the boarded-up storefronts. I'm not gonna wake up in a soaked sleeping bag.
The Tip Jar