Thursday, January 27, 2011

RETURN TO SNAKELAND - Twenty-Second Fragment

* This is a fictionalized account of some shit that actually happened. All the names, locations, etc. have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. – JG *

As with most apocalypse / end times scenarios, there seemed to be a lot of mathematics floating around in the 1980s. One of the most memorable theories was that if you count the letters in the name “Ronald Wilson Reagan” it equals 666 which is, of course, the Number of the Beast. (Speaking of which, what a goddamn great third Iron Maiden album, right? Only our rigid Hardcore ideology could’ve prevented us from enjoying something as obviously pleasure-centered as that record – I mean, “Run to the Hills”? Come on, man – that’s fucking dirtbag heaven!)

1984 loomed large in the early part of the decade as well until, ahem, 1985 and then the whole Big Brother, blue filter, foot-stomping-on-a-face-forever thing started to kind of lose traction. 1988 held some special significance as well, since forgotten, but I do remember that the double 8 was meaningful in some cult’s Last Days calculations (similar to 1977 for Rastafarians – see “Two Sevens Clash” by Culture). 1988 was also the last year of Reagan’s presidency but soon enough that passed as well with no button-pushing or bombs falling, and with the ascension of Bush Senior it became more and more apparent that the world would end not with a bang but with a whimper.

If I’m being honest, coming of age in that time period kind of felt like being in one of those cults that predicted that the world would end in 30 days. When the 30 days passed and the world didn’t end there was some head scratching and a little sheepish smiling but after some re-jiggering of the numbers it would be revealed that the end would come in 30 months instead, and when that came and went, if anyone still cared the cult leaders would reveal that, huh, we meant 30 years. We were promised the End in the 1980s and when it never came, yeah, a lot of us felt cheated. How could you live through a ludicrously death-drenched decade like the 1980s and not come out the other side feeling that maybe all your struggles were for naught and that the last and greatest hopes for humankind were worth nothing because, in the end, nothing ever changed? History had been exhausted, and was apparently just repeating a technologically advanced tape loop of the 1950s.

Around 1990 or so I guess we all realized that it just wasn’t going to happen for us and we’d need to do something else with our lives than just Provide Witness to the Apocalypse. So some of us just started Mourning and never stopped, from Kurt Cobain to Princess Diana to the victims of 9/11 and beyond, endlessly grieving. Some just kept Fearing, and Christ knows there’s always been enough fears to go around – crime, the government, Negroes and their music, Muslims, terrorists, technology, gay marriage, gay soldiers and on and on and on. But the ones I feel the most for, the ones I feel the most brother- and sister-hood with, are those out there still counting the clocks that tell the time, still Waiting.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

RETURN TO SNAKELAND - Twenty-First Fragment

* This is a fictionalized account of some shit that actually happened. All the names, locations, etc. have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. – JG *

The Doomsday Clock is not something that is often referenced in the present day by anyone but End Times cranks, thank Christ, and has become one of those things (like, say, Orange Alerts) that means absolutely nothing to anybody anymore. It was created back in the 1950s by the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to act as a metaphorical indicator of how close the world was to an all-out nuclear war.

After the initial bout of intense fear in 1953 around Russia and the US both testing nukes caused the clock to be set at 2 minutes to midnight, the clock setting varied widely in later years from its peak in 1991 (at 17 minutes to midnight, or 11:43pm, the longest the human race has been given in the nuclear era) to its most recent resetting in January 2010 when we were given 6 minutes, metaphorically, to live.

It became a big deal in the 1980s because they reset the clock at 3 minutes to midnight in 1984, a direct result of further escalation of the arms race between the US and Russia and the closest to midnight (i.e. Total Fucking Armageddon) the clock had been set since 1953 when the Americans and the Soviets tested thermonuclear devices within the same year and we were at the aforementioned 2 minute countdown.

So we grew up virtual minutes from nuclear holocaust throughout the 1980s, which, as you might assume, could leave you a little tense or at least at the point of considering hot radioactive death as an actual possibility in your lifetime. We got a good song out of it (“Two Minutes to Midnight” by Iron Maiden) and the name of the City of Towaphna record store, but in retrospect I honestly don’t feel like the trade-off was worth it.

Interestingly, even though the Doomsday Clock still exists (metaphorically speaking) it is never discussed seriously anymore except by, I’m assuming, the Board of Directors of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Aside from producing “Duck and Cover” in the 1950s and “The Day After” in the 1980s, the Doomsday Clock has never produced anything but pointless fear the entire span of its existence. Does anyone ever get up and check it in the morning along with their e-mail? Does anyone think that Ronald Reagan or Mikhail Gorbachev looked at that 3 minute countdown in the mid-80s and said to themselves, “Whoa, Nelly! 3 minutes? 10 minutes, sure, but 3? That’s a hot Prince single and no more!” Does anyone think it ever did anything but scare the living teenage shit out of us when we’d hear that thick and portentous click on the evening news?

More importantly, when the country faced down what felt like a real doomsday in September 2001 the clock was still set at 7 minutes, which meant that using their terms of measurement things were supposedly safer during 9/11 than in the mid-1980s when we were going to Kenton North, when we were learning what each other’s bodies were for, when we could see Death sneaking around the corner of Mansfield Avenue and Industry Row in Snakeland. Could that really be possible in any sense or are Fear and Death things that are simply not measurable by men, let alone time?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

RETURN TO SNAKELAND - Twentieth Fragment

* This is a fictionalized account of some shit that actually happened. All the names, locations, etc. have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty. – JG *

I guess it’s time to start talking about Satan seriously, but honestly it’s really, really hard to take Him/It seriously after all that stuff went down in the 1980s. Take this graffiti for instance, found in the Kenton North boys’ bathroom back in 1985:


So, what do you think? Was this some kid who was really into Home Economics, hailing his new favorite fabric? A different kid alerting us to the rise of some new band, ready to take their rightful place next to Suede and the Velvet Underground? Nah, it was probably exactly what it seemed to be: some retard into Satan who couldn’t even spell His name right. Are these the kind of followers the Dark Lord wanted? Really? Of course, Calvin immediately doctored it with a Sharpie:


6 6 5.9

Goddammit, that’s still funny to me. Something else I found funny (funny odd, not funny ha ha) was that anyone could believe that something mass produced and available at your local Waldenbooks like, say, Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible, could possibly hold any actual supernatural power. It seems akin to thinking that Parker Brothers’ Ouija boards could actually contact the dead, as if there could be something special imbued in them on the assembly lines where they were put together by minimum wage slaves to be sold at Toys R Us. Although interesting philosophically and sociologically, the Satanic Bible held no more power as an artifact than If Life Is A Bowl of Cherries, Why Am I Always In the Pits by Erma Bombeck, which I think actually was published by the same company, Avon Books.

Now, this is not to say that the reactions to the artifact, powerless as it might have been, might not have been sociopathic and evil in their own way. Similar to the way Richard Ramirez got some pretty fucked-up ideas from an AC/DC album, it’s not impossible that some of the denizens of Snakeland might have gotten some pretty fucked-up ideas from the Satanic Bible, even though without the implied consent of the Dark Lord it could really have been called the Libertine Bible with a little ritual magic thrown in for variety. The passage titles, referencing “Satanic Sex” (which, oddly enough, does not include any sex that is non-consensual), “Human Sacrifice” (primarily taking the symbolic form of an orgasm, which is pretty standard ritual magic) and “Satanic Ritual” (again, not invoking anything more esoteric than the cup, the rod, the dagger, etc.) are actually a lot more damning than the text proper, if anyone ever actually got around to reading it.

The part of the Satanic Bible that got read the most would’ve been the endpapers, with the strange, inky stamp of “YANKEE ROSE” upon them. Now, to any child of the 1980s “Yankee Rose” was a crummy David Lee Roth single that was way more successful than it deserved to be, with lyrics like “All you back room boys salute when her flag unfurls” – Jesus Christ. Either way it makes no difference to our discussion as DLR’s song came out in late 1986, way too late to influence Jeremy Janks or Katie Hoehner’s murderer or murderers.

No, Anton LaVey’s “Yankee Rose” was something much darker – a 1920s show tune that LaVey used to close his nightclub act back in the day, published by that noted Satanist, Irving Berlin. He recorded it as part of a medley on his Satan Takes a Holiday album – I shit you not. It was LaVey’s version of “I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together” or that sappy saxophone instrumental that closes Saturday Night Live. The guy was a showbiz cheeseball, top to bottom – he wasn’t close “friends” with Jayne Mansfield and Sammy Davis Jr. for nothing. He even had his own closing tune, and it played him out of his own “Bible” for the 15 minute intermission between shows. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.