Thursday, February 24, 2011

RETURN TO SNAKELAND - Twenty-Sixth 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 *

A real issue struck me when reviewing the previous post on Jeremy Janks and the murders he committed: why am I so angry at him? Over the course of that chapter I refer to him as a “pussy”, a “coward”, “cowering”, and having to consume “girl drinks” in order to find the courage to kill himself (which is as snottily unkind to women as it is to Janks). In earlier fragments I don’t seem nearly as angry at Katie Hoehner’s murderers and I couldn’t figure out why that would be until I realized that I have nothing in common with them and, conversely, it’s only by the grace of god that I didn’t end up as lost and crazy as Jeremy Janks.

I drove past the old Janks house on Mansfield Avenue on September 16, 2010, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the murders. The house remains a tiny ranch-style monstrosity on a tiny single lot with a postage-stamp front lawn and a backyard bordered by the one-car garage and the back of the house. I lived in a similar ranch-style house in Towaphna with three other people and if I didn’t have the roof to climb up on it probably would’ve driven me crazy, too. In fact, I’m sure it would’ve during the Towaphna winters except for the blessing of my parents’ finished basement and my ability to tune in WQCC down there.

Awkward, outsider, creepy, outcast – all these terms could have been attached to me at various times in my adolescence and I might’ve ended up as alienated as Janks except for two things – the first being rock and roll. In the same way that it cursed me to continually look throughout my adult life for a way to feel that free all the time (and thusly retarded my vocational and romantic lives), it set me free as an adolescent to express my confusion, my lust, my anger and my brief moments of transcendence all at once. I remember the first time I heard the Sex Pistols – the end of Music class in 8th grade. I was 13 years old. Jamie Cruz put it on, Song One, Side One, during the “Free Play” we had in the last five minutes of class. “Holidays in the Sun” came roaring out of the speakers and I couldn’t believe that human beings could make a sound like that. I felt like someone had come up and set my hair on fire. I actually began to move out of my body, but then came crashing back with a thud as Ms. Kazmierczak pulled the needle off the record with a heart-rending screech. “Well, that’s about enough of that!” she said huffily while handing Jamie back his record. I wanted to tear her fucking head off. I made Jamie take me back to his house that afternoon and play Never Mind the Bollocks for me, front to back, three times. Things were never the same.

The second advantage I had over Janks was my small group of friends, the “Core”, the so-called “Best and the Brightest”. Notwithstanding the obvious ego-games played by naming yourselves these elevated sobriquets, we used each other as a defense against bullies, against reality, against our anxiety over the young women we claimed we understood completely. I believe that this, combined with rock and roll, was about the best defense a teenage boy could muster.

But enough about me – we were talking about Jeremy Janks. It is said that we hate most in others what disappoints us most in ourselves, and if anything Jeremy Janks reflects to me the most disgusting aspects of myself – my cowardice, my ineffectuality, my inability to see anything more than one answer to any problem and then respond with childish rage when that answer is dismissed. This probably explains why I came to call him everything but “punk rock faggot” in the previous post. The bullied becomes the bully.

But probably the most telling detail was the Jeremy Janks quote reported by the psychologist who examined him the night of the murders. Janks asked the doctor repeatedly, “What kind of an education can I get in jail?” One might hear the question as a despairing whine, but I think he meant it genuinely. I killed them all, destroyed everything that was in my way – isn’t there some sort of reward now, a consolation prize? What kind of an education can I get in jail? I guess he found out.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

RETURN TO SNAKELAND - Twenty-Fifth 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 *

These are the actual facts of the matter:

On September 16, 1985, approximately a month after Katie Hoehner was murdered and 6 months after Rand Myers shot himself in the head, Jeremy Janks came home from Kenton North and put a record on the stereo in his bedroom. It was Stormtroopers of Death, Speak English or Die, one of the first great metal/punk crossover records. Jeremy had bought it the day before at Needle Trax, the same day he gave himself a homemade Mohawk haircut. No one else was home, and Jeremy was playing it fucking loud, the only way a record like that should be played. The Janks family lived in a one-story ranch-style home which is way too small for a family of four. I know because I grew up in the exact same type of house in Towaphna with my parents and younger sister.

Mark came home about 3pm from Kenton Middle School, walked to the door of his brother’s room and shouted for him to turn that shit down, the way you do. He did a sort of double-take at his nerdy brother’s Mohawk and then backed up into the tiny hallway and went into his bedroom, directly across the hall. Jeremy snuck into his brother’s bedroom soon after and stabbed him 8 times in the back with a 5-inch hunting knife. The little pussy couldn’t even look Mark in the eyes when he killed him.

Next Marge came home from the plant where she worked the assembly line and came in through the back door after she parked her 1980 Chevy in the garage. In this type of house, the back door opens up into the basement stairs and a narrow hallway that leads to the kitchen, the bedrooms and, eventually, the family room in the front. Jeremy was hiding behind one of the doors, jumped out, stabbed Marge a couple of times then pushed her down the back stairs. Then he ran down and fell on her, stabbing her 14 times in total. Marge he could look in the eyes. Marge was obviously the one this was all about.

So then Jeremy cleaned up, himself at least. He washed the blood off his hands, changed his clothes and drove the 1980 Chevy to another plant where his father, John, worked the coke ovens. He drove his dad home, not talking. Apparently this was typical for the two of them. Then, as soon as they got home, out came the hunting knife again and Jeremy stabbed John four times in the back. Again, as if it needs to be said, what a goddamn coward.

At this point, his entire family is dead by his hand. Jeremy has to drink two glasses of Kahlua, crème de menthe and orange juice to get it up to kill himself. Even after downing these ridiculous girl drinks, he swipes both forearms with a razor blade but can’t quite bring himself to get the job done. ("It was like Friday the 13th in there," a Kenton cop would later be quoted, "and most of the mess was his own blood.") So he gets in the driver’s seat of the 1980 Chevy, bleeding profusely, and drives down Industry Row at 50 mph until he reaches the stoplight at Kenton Avenue and slams into the back of a stationary 1968 Camaro. Will Haynes was killed instantly and the Camaro burst into flames. By the time the cops got there, Jeremy was cowering under the dashboard. When he looked up and saw a cop, he screamed “I killed my family! I killed my family!” The cop looked at him, looked around the inside of the Chevy, then said, “But you’re the only one in the car.” Kenton cops. You can pretty much append “duh” to any quote attributed to them.

All this shit actually happened.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

RETURN TO SNAKELAND - Twenty-Fourth 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 *

-Jason. Wake up.-

I sit up, still dreaming, my wife asleep at my side. They are arrayed at the foot of our bed, the women sitting, the men standing behind them. They are five in number, a little family – although I remember later that only three of them are actually related. The older woman, the Mother, sits to my right, covered in blood from what appear to be innumerable stab wounds. Underneath the blood her dress is plain, her face even plainer. The older man, the Father, and a young teenage boy stand together behind her, the older man’s hand placed awkwardly on his Son’s shoulder. The boy, kind of punk-rock, kind of skater-ish, is also bleeding but less so than his Mother. Fewer stab wounds are visible. The Father appears nearly untouched but for the blood seeping forward into the front of his work shirt – all of his stab wounds were in his back.

Marge Janks sighs loudly. –So, we’re next, then. Perhaps you’ll tell everyone about what terrible parents we were.-

-I didn’t even know you. I’m just trying to make sense of something that has been bugging me off and on for the last 25 years. Why it all happened. Why it all happened then.-

Marge scowls. –I blame that terrible music he listened to. Who knows what kind of messages were hidden in that.-

Mark Janks guffaws. –That’s just stupid, Mom. I listened to much worse and I never killed anybody.-

I tilt my head. –He’s right. He didn’t.-

John Janks lightly touches his wife’s shoulder. –We may...never know. If we did things right, if we did things wrong...who can say.-

I raise my eyebrows. –I can say. Unless there was more we don’t know about, some...secret abuse all of you committed, you didn’t deserve what Jeremy did to you three.-

They don’t say anything more. I start feeling a little guilty about what I wrote before, about how they should’ve seen it coming. Nobody sees it coming. Not ever.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

RETURN TO SNAKELAND - Twenty-Third 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 *

There are some events that you remember as much for what didn’t happen as for what did. In September of 2001I remember watching a small television in the bullpen where I was working at the time, and I remember watching the second plane approaching the second tower. And I remember thinking, “That plane is going to fly past the tower, that plane is going to fly past the tower”, and then it didn’t. And my eyes automatically went to the empty space, past the tower, where the plane should’ve been, but it wasn’t. My eyes darted back to the place where the plane flew into the tower, and less than a second later there was an explosion. I see it in my mind, again and again, and the plane never flies past and my eyes always dart back to the place where the plane flies into the tower and then explodes. But I want it to be in the place where it flies past and doesn’t explode, and I want us, all of us, to be in the place where it flies past and doesn’t explode, I want us to still live there.

It was much like that for me, and others as well I am sure, with the Challenger disaster. I know I was home sick on January 28, 1986 because I was sitting in my parents’ living room eating soup off a TV tray when the Challenger space shuttle exploded. As the Challenger was the first space mission to include a civilian, school teacher Christa McAuliffe, all the American school kids were in front of televisions at that point as well, from elementary through the high school. And everybody saw it explode.

Everything is fine, it is fine, and then it explodes. And the men on the TV box stop talking until the one says that there has been a major malfunction. And until that point I thought it might be okay. Weird, but okay, like one of those other little rockets that flew off from the main flight path might be the one that the astronauts were really on, and not the shuttle, not the center of that explosion.

I remember standing up, looking closely at the TV then, as if I could look closer and see a time or a place somewhere inside the smoke cloud where the shuttle didn’t explode. In the television feed when you watch it today they close in on the Challenger right before the explosion and then it explodes and then there is a cut back to the other camera which then focuses in on the two small rocket boosters, the only pieces surviving the explosion. And they go off in two separate directions, giving the already twisted smoke path two “horns” that we all became exceedingly familiar with soon after due to the Weekly World News showing the picture again and again on cover after cover with the tagline “SATAN VISIBLE IN CHALLENGER EXPLOSION” with a devil face superimposed over the main smoke cloud. Which was kind of brilliant in its way, if incredibly sick. The Weekly World News definitely had their finger on the pulsebeat of the Satanic zeitgeist.

But as many times as I saw the Challenger video the face of Satan never showed up, any more than the seven astronauts showed up riding one of the unexploded booster rockets. Anymore than that second plane flew past the second tower. Again, again, again – the same again, no matter how many times I remember it, no matter how many times I try to misremember it, no matter what I do.