In the Reagan years alternative culture trends came and went with such speed that only a desperate fool tried to keep up. I was a desperate fool, and I tried at times to keep up, but I was too slow and too angry to succeed. The trends were more radically different on the surface than in substance — from post-punk to goth to ska to psychedelia, shockabilly and hardcore. Those and about a dozen other faggy trends exploded between 1978 and 1983. Some of it was great — Joy Division, The Cramps, Butthole Surfers, The Specials, Husker Du… By the end of the horrible Eighties, my generation had exhausted itself and made corporate collaboration a religion. As a going away gift, it gave to the country retro-70s, ecstasy-fueled rave parties, and that ol’ shocker of shockers, girls acting like big fat lesbians. Those trends took the least amount of effort to cook up and seemed almost fresh at the time, in the late 80s; it was the most an exhausted generation could hope to produce after a decade bleeding at the nose.
This year, I have returned to a country that is merely an aggressively lame version of the one I abandoned ten years ago, a golden retriever sub-culture that still thinks 70s-retro, rave parties and lesbians are not just interesting, but even threatening. So much for the revolution everyone raved about over here.
Nietzsche would say that only nations in decline produce great culture, which is why things were so much weirder and more fertile in the years before Reagan made this country Great Again. (Will someone please baseball-bat me for saying that? Wait, I take that back — Reagan is still alive: baseball-bat HIM! HIM!!! Over there, in Bel-Air!) It may take a sleazy little pest like Bush to drag this country far enough down the sewer to stir the baser instincts that produce great culture again. Let’s just hope that he carries through with all of his plans to make our “mega-rich” mega-olicharchy the most mega-rich mega-oligarchy of all mega-time, at the expense of the rest of us. They actually use that word here in proud-to-be-feudal-again America: “Mega-Rich”. These “Mega-Rich” live, I swear, in what the media calls “Mega-Mansions”. These neologisms are used with a kind of pride, the same kind of pride that plebians once felt in describing the riches of their royalty. All the resentment and petty malice in America — an infinite amount that increases as you slide down the steep feudal scale — is aimed at a single nearly extinct, harmless, sickly species called “The Liberal”, a mangy little troll-like animal that no one has seen in the wild in over fifteen years. The truth is, “The Liberal” is no more real than Stalin’s “saboteurs” who kept fucking up his impeccable Five Year Plans, and their alleged existence is just as useful to today’s oligarchy as it was to Stalin’s.
Ugh, it’s so sick, you could see yourself taking a couple of assault weapons into your office and…
Wait, not “your” office but, let’s say, “my” office. That’s right. I work in an office. In America. In the heartland, the Bible Belt, Kentucky. I do data entry work in a huge cubicle plantation. Mine has been a long and terrible slide from the rock star’s life I led in Moscow, so paradigmatically distant as to seem, yeah, “like a dream.”
I work in a giant, one-story, windowless fortress containing 1500 grateful office slaves. It’s such a large sweatshop that the building has its own zip code, and its own Jefferson County Special Police unit across the street, just waiting for some serf to snap so that they can plug him with a thousand rounds of dummy bullets. When I say that my building is “windowless” I mean that there is not one single window in the entire building, not one window for 1,500 workers. The only glass at all is at the glass door entrances to the different cell blocks: Building A, B, C, D and E. I work in Building D, which just has a stern white “D” letter over the brick-exterior entrance. The entrances are designed like klaxon alarms, rectangles that are smaller at the entrance and expand wider outwards a few yards. It is very intimidating as you pull into the sprawling parking lot, packed with hundreds of uniformly-shaped compact and standard-sized vehicles. Some workers use the klaxon design for shade while on a smoking break. They’re always alone, and amazingly fat, the people I work with. The white women all seem to shop at the same store; they wear the same nylon black or dark purple pants and untucked short-sleeved shirts or sleeveless blouses, their rolling fat arms stick almost straight out from the rolls of fat under their armpits, giving the optical illusion of stunted arms, like Augustus Galoope in mid-swell, or Tyrannosaurus Rex. There is a pain in their walk, the pain of bad circulation, of swollen veins, swollen feet, arthritic knees, hemorrhoids, and the weight of carrying these rolls of fat from one cell or cubicle to the next. I swear, I won’t make fun of fat people again after what I’ve seen here in Kentucky. Fat is a synonym for poverty. It just means there’s nothing else to live for but that tiny little buzz you get from fast food and sugar ingestion, because everything else is pure, unadulterated SHIT: the past, present and future, perfect and imperfect. So they hang out smoking outside, alone. Or by the vending machines near the mail room, where you can get everything from Pringles, Blimpie sandwiches and Dr. Pepper to Nestle chocolate crunch ice cream bars and hot buttered pop corn.
Out of fear, I have lost ten pounds since joining. But it’s hardly consolation.
I make so little money at this miserable job it’s not even funny. The government takes almost thirty percent out of my paycheck. Thirty percent! I really need that thirty percent: my income is below the poverty line! Even as cheap as Louisville is, the wages are low enough to make it all a struggle again, and the tax on my wages puts me in the position of having to work all the time just to get by. Well duh — that’s the point of the whole system, man. Otherwise it wouldn’t be serfdom, would it?
Meanwhile, the mega-rich just voted to have their inheritance taxes abolished because, you know, taxing inheritances in excess of $700,000 dollars is soooo Liberal.
Uh-oh, better be careful. Talk like this has got my American friends all in a huff about my allegedly granola-crunching transformation.
“You hump-backed butt-felching hippie piece of shit!”
Those are some of the nicer things my friends here call me if I dare say anything sane.
So what’s a po’ nigger to do, Huck?
Welp, I’ll tell you. Lesbian yenta. That’s my new calling.
I found my calling at the Le Tigre show last weekend at Headliners. I almost didn’t go because Peaches kept recommending them at her concert a few weeks earlier. My oh my did Peaches suck. Guess what her shtick was? Gender-bending disco-retro for the techno crowd. Even in Louisville, all the hip part-time dykes came out of the woodworks, more than I’d cared to see. During one song, Peaches, a skanky middle-aged Jew who moved to Berlin to make it in show biz (as Stan said in South Park, “What the fuck is wrong with German people!”), waded into the sapphic audience, where the best looking girls — and they were good looking in an ordinary American way — rushed for the chance to get french-kissed by Peaches. They got jiggy with her, fluffing their feathers as dramatically as possible, dancing and shaking and smiling, but in the end, Peaches didn’t kiss any of them. I left during “Fuck The Pain Away”, cursing and kicking the door on my way out.
But I was back for Le Tigre because not a lot else goes on here. They were good, mercifully good. In spite of the fact that they were a fake-dyke trio playing late-70s New Wave retro. They did it pretty well, sounding sort of like the X-Ray Specs, very political and stuff, lots of songs about lesbians and black people. Nothing yet about the thirty percent tax on my poverty wage, but I’m sure they’re working on that one. It was obvious that only one of the Le Tigre grrrls is an authentic dyke-the skinny degenerate whose pointy long face looked like Ash’s after his head got sucked into the decoy Necronomecon.
After the show, I tried setting the Le Tigre dyke up with a local Louisville hick-dyke guitar player that I know. But I failed — mostly because I was so intrigued by the Le Tigre dyke’s weird face. I kept staring at it, forgetting my mission. She’d taken an eyeliner brush and brushed a grotesque, thick mono-brow from one side of her sallow lobe straight across to the other, half-hidden in the welder’s-goggle glasses she was wearing. Man was she weird. The hick stood behind me, waiting for me to introduce her, but I done plum forgot! Why would a dyke want to slap tacos with this Le Tigre degenerate? That’s what I was trying to figure out. God only knows, but somehow, it didn’t offend me. I’m tired of plebian-on-plebian violence. Hating the dyke or the political messages in their show is as stupid as black people burning down their own liquor stores during riots. Let the Le Tigre grrrls have their fake-Dworkin fun. It’s harmless, nerf stuff, compared to what the oligarchy is doing here.
But I’m not supposed to say this stuff. People, good people, still believe in the Liberal Menace.
My friend Ramirez told me, after I got angry about the protester shot and killed in Genoa, that he was worried about me. So I tried to think of a way to convert the protester’s death into a quip. But I couldn’t. I don’t want to serve the winners. They already have everything else. At least the protesters are making them a tiny bit uncomfortable on their thrones.
Ramirez looked at me and said, “I liked you better when you were a fascist. You were funnier.”
Give me a raise, America, and I swear I’ll make you laugh again. Just give me a raise, and I’ll march every protester into the nearest gas chamber. Until then, I remain, your humble hippie, Mark Ames.
PIN THE SNAPPER ON THE HACK!
Howdy, kids! It’s time for another round of pin the snapper on the hack! If you can match all four snappers with their respective hack, you could win a free eXile #t-shirt! All you have to do is send the correct answers to 6 Andover Ct, Voorhees, NJ 08043, along with seven proofs-of-purchace of the eXile book, and you will be entered to win the Grand Prize! Good luck!A. Celestine Bohlen, New York Times B. Maura Reynolds, Los Angeles Times C. Susan Glasser, Washington Post D. Kathy Lally, Baltimore Sun
This article was first published in Issue #123 of The eXile, August 2001.
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