Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Malliest Mall Of Them All

First I worked in this place in the Food Court that sold French fries and pretzels. My boss was a Vietnamese guy who called himself Mike. Then I moved down another floor and worked at this place that sold nothing but total shit --no vision, none whatsoever: Rattling plastic frogs that croaked and paddled about in a tank of water, incense, big, hideous rugs with pictures of polar bears and lions and Bob Marley, and lousy Green Bay Packers stuff. Then it was on to a shell place where honest to God I once worked an eight-hour shift and never had one person set foot in the door, not even any of the Japanese or the old people from South Dakota. All day long I had to listen to CDs that had like harps and the sounds of waves and some other irritating noise that I think was supposed to be the shrieking of whales but that mostly sounded like seals being clubbed to death. That got fucking old in a hurry so I got a job at a place that sold nothing but lava lamps and Star Wars shit and Bill Clinton masks. Then there was a candle place that reeked so bad that I couldn't get through the day without guzzling an entire bottle of Nyquil and sneaking one-hitters in the bathroom.

I did have some standards, I guess. I never worked at the NASCAR place.

I eventually ended up in a cheesy little religious kiosk where I sat there on a stool and did crossword puzzles and read Heavy Metal magazines while the Jesus plaques, crosses, and Bible verse bookmarks gathered dust. You know you're working a shit job when the first thing on your checklist of responsibilities is "dust merchandise."

Even the guy who worked the sausage-and-cheese kiosk got more chicks to stop and talk to him, and the stooge who ran the place told me I couldn’t talk on my cell phone, drink Mountain Dew, or wear my Chuck Taylors.

That was pretty much my “fuck this” retail moment. I'm a graphic designer now.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Little Village: It's A Small Town

Bloom of fireworks above a black field, the idle of insects throbbing from the damp ditches. Distant petroleum carnival of light, dark steeples, and a water tower announcing the presence of a town. Is that the rattle of a snare drum from somewhere out in the fields? Tell me again what lives in that place beyond this darkness. The bonfire will signify what again? When it all goes up in flames what is it we'll be burning?

I like this song, it reminds me of something. I can't put my finger on it, but it involved, I'm sure, a night just like this. We were in a car, listening to Slim Dunlap and going somewhere else, or perhaps just somewhere.

Somewhere else came later, I suppose. Back then there was only this. Remember? When there was only this? It was never enough. Perhaps that was the problem. You can't put your finger on it. I love that about you, how you can never seem to put your finger on it, and how badly you would like to put your finger on it. Things, in general, the way they don't seem quite real to you, within reach. Graspable. The way you're always saying Hold out hope, as if it could mean the many things it could mean. Not just a clinging to, not just something desperate, but an offering. Something extended. Something shared.

I love these quiet roads, just outside what is our life, that feeling of being lost in a still unfamiliar place, of being plunked down on another planet, looking out with dim longing and dimming wonder at the distant glow of the puzzle that will never be home. Can't say. That's another one of yours that I love, as if you mean it, as if there's some mysterious proscription, as if you honestly cannot say, cannot utter whatever words might explain, whatever words might possibly make a difference.

Because --and this I choose to think and believe-- those words are still forming in you, still turning over and lining up in your head, still drilling and taking shape and preparing for the long march up into the light, when they will become, magically, truth, the truth we're going to need to turn finally and forever away from that dark, still-mysterious planet barely rising across the black, empty fields.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Paradisus Bestiarum: A Note From The Registrar

Many people are understandably concerned  about the status of their beloved companion animals in the afterlife. We receive queries on the subject all the time. Before I address that issue, however, I'd like to clear up a few semantic misunderstandings regarding Paradise.

We're decidedly old school up here, as you might imagine, and so far as we're officially concerned you're all animals --find a Latin dictionary and  look up animus or anima sometime; while you're at it you might find  it curious, if not instructive, to note that animus, a word that originally connoted mind and spirit, is now commonly defined by humans as a feeling of hostility. Something to think about, I suppose.

At any rate, what you tend to think of as animals are here regarded as beasts, and the admission criteria for beasts is a complicated business. The rules and regulations have evolved slowly over many centuries. I can, however, tell you that no beast, not even  the most ill tempered, poorly behaved, and ferocious, goes to hell. We don't hold these creatures responsible for their behavior, and when they die or are killed, they are simply dead.

There is, though, a place for beasts in Paradise; there are, in fact, a number of places. Some of them are what you  might think of as sanctuaries or refuges, where the majority of the beasts are segregated from the population of human animals.

Most of the bestial sanctuaries are actually, in fact, offshore, a couple islands just off the coast that have been set aside for cats, primates, and  horses. As with humans, however, not all cats, primates, and  horses are admitted to Paradise, although virtue is not the determining criteria for these beasts. To enter Paradise --or rather, to be granted eternal refuge on these Paradisiacal adjuncts-- a cat, horse, or monkey has to have had  the sort of relationship with a human whereby it was perceived by its human companion to have been in possession of a soul. Such relationships constitute what is officially called "Empathic Baptism."

This is admittedly a rule that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it's been in place since the last major amendments and revisions to the admissions criteria were signed into the Book of Law at the end of the 19th century.

Some of the more intelligent beasts have traditionally been granted  special exemptions in Paradise. An ocean was created to accommodate certain aquatic creatures, a decision that was not without controversy, particularly after dolphins rather quickly found eternity boring and petitioned for removal, a request that was, following much deliberation, reluctantly granted. There are no watercraft in Paradise, and very few of the human animals partake in swimming, even though the activity is permitted under certain circumstances.

Dolphins, we were led to understand, are naturally curious and social beings, and they compared the ocean in Paradise to an aquarium with few visitors and even fewer diversions. They also complained that God seemed to show insufficient interest in them.

Dogs are the only beasts given a blanket pass to Paradise proper --good dogs, I should say, but there have been very few remembered examples of dogs having been denied admission. I have to admit that, being a dog person, I find this arrangement more than satisfactory. There are, though, plenty of people --activists, mainly-- who carp about the issue all the time, but it's the way things are in Paradise. This is essentially a very conservative place, where proposals for even minor changes are frowned  upon and  met with stiff resistance from the governing council. There are also, I should say, a lot of people here who have no apparent love for beasts of any kind, and this is a constituency that  is constantly complaining about the absence of meat from our diets. If we had a democratic system in place here and the matter of admitting beasts was put to a vote I have no doubt that the creature lovers among us would be soundly defeated.

Certainly people recognize that if you open the gates to cattle and chickens and  rats and the like you're going to have a big problem on your hands in a hurry. The mortality rate and  life expectancy of most beasts makes any sort of concessions or compromises on this point problematic, to say the least. We're already packed in so tight that social interaction  is all but impossible. The streets are always so crowded that, with the exception of my daily trips to the office (my job, like all jobs here, is a volunteer position) I virtually never leave my dormitory, and I'm forced to share my bed with the six dogs who spent most of their earthly lives with me. It's admittedly not the most comfortable of arrangements, but I guess that's the price you pay for attaching yourself to other living creatures, and I wouldn't think of making a fuss.

I had a neighbor for a time --a woman from Portland-- who bitched so loudly and for so long over the refusal to grant an exception for her ferret that she was eventually shipped back to Purgatory until she learned to keep her yap shut.

I can't say I was sorry to see her go.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

LinkedIn Profile For Jergen King Bergen III ("Jergie Bergen"). Removed By Site Administrators On 2-11-12

Entrepreneur, musician, actor, disc jockey, filmmaker, truck stop sushi pioneer, former lead singer of the influential Mason City, Iowa prog rock band, Muffalo, and Facebook legend.

In 1984, Jergie was named a Northeast Iowa "Mover and Shaker" by the Cedar Rapids Weekender. Longtime fans might remember Jergie's controversial and short-lived stint as the host of the drive-time "Houston, We Have a Problem" program on Houston, Minnesota's KATU, where he was fired for repeatedly spinning Musique's "Push, Push in the Bush" and "White Lines," by Grandmaster Flash, often juxtaposing such perceived affronts to public morality with Tony Orlando and Dawn's "Tie a Yellow Ribbon ('Round the Old Oak Tree)" and chestnuts from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

In the early 1980s –almost 10 years after the breakup of Muffalo—Jergie attempted a musical comeback, assembling the band Blind Somebody Something, a group whose sound predated such recent acts as The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Black Keys, and North Mississippi All Stars. Blind Somebody Something proved to be a hard sell in the musical climate of the period, however, and broke up after less than one year. They did once open for Butch Vig's Firetown at People's Bar and Grill in Ames, Iowa, and recorded an album of material (“TOO FAR OUT ALL MY LIFE”) that remains unreleased.

Undaunted, Jergie launched a film production company, Bergen International Pictures, and produced, wrote, and directed "Saturn's Slatterns," a low-budget science fiction film shot in three days in and around Dubuque, Iowa. Phantasm magazine, which called the film “one of those unwatchable travesties that seems tailor made for the sub-human, late-night bong marathon crowd,” estimated the budget –perhaps facetiously—at $178. In 1987, BIP released two films for the Asian video market: “Machines of Anticipation, Part One: The Neanderthal Nymphomaniacs," and "Alligators of Atlantis.”

Around this same time, Bergen made a number of appearances in regional theater productions. One such appearance earned a rave from the Mount Carroll Independent, whose Clair Church wrote: "In the role of Inspector Poirot, Jergie Bergen --channeling, it sometimes seems, Rip Taylor one moment, and a seriously inebriated Albert Finney the next-- quite literally steals the show, to the point that some may wonder whether what they are watching is, indeed, a production of 'Murder on the Orient Express' or something altogether different, chaotic, and almost unpleasantly manic. Part of the show's perhaps unintentional entertainment value is watching the other actors recoil from Bergen's Poirot with what seems to be genuine fear."

On September 17, 1992, at the 5,155-seat McElroy Arena in Waterloo, Iowa, Jergie staged his most ambitious project to date: "Antietam On Ice," a production involving more than 600 Civil War reenactors (aboard ice skates and in authentic period costume) from all over the Midwest. "AOI," as it is known in Bergen lore, was largely financed by investments from members of Jergie's mother's longtime bridge club, and featured a rock opera written, performed, and recorded entirely by Jergie Bergen. The work --notable for its loud, sustained stretches of cacophony, distortion, and multi-tracked screams and howls that showed off Jergie's astonishing vocal range-- described the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. The actual recreation of the battle, however, was --owing to time constraints and the unwieldy cast-- hastily choreographed, and the production (staged on the anniversary of Antietam) was plagued by problems of synchronization, poor sound quality, and numerous skating mishaps. The Waterloo Courier, which did not run a review, nonetheless featured a short news item that described the resulting chaos and noted the paid attendance of 79.

By the mid-'90s, Jergie had fallen on hard times. A legal dispute led to eviction from his mother's home, and he found himself back in Waterloo, where he worked as a disc jockey at a roller skating rink and lived part of the year in the press box at a local junior college's football facility.

In 2000, Jergie attempted yet another comeback, this time as a businessman. A $90,000 payoff on a $3 Iowa Hot Lotto Sizzler ticket enabled him to buy controlling interest in 750 condom vending machines, the majority of which were already installed in the restrooms of truck stops, convenience stores, and bars over a three state area (Iowa, Southern Minnesota, and Southwestern Wisconsin). From August 2000-November 2008, Jergie traveled more than 70,000 miles a year on the Bergen Rubber Route (see "Iowa's Condom King," Des Moines Register, August 11, 2005).

It was while driving the Rubber Route that Jergie had the inspiration for truck stop sushi, and in less than two years, working out of a production facility in a former Rocky Rococo's pizza parlor in Mason City, he managed to place his product --Double Nickel Sushi-2-Roll-- in over 150 locations in the upper Midwest.

On November 16, 2008, Jergie's Ford Taurus was found at a rest stop overlooking the Yellowstone River in Montana. The keys were in the ignition and Jergie's wallet was on the front passenger seat. In the trunk, authorities found numerous heavy canvas bags containing almost $25,000 in change. Jergie also left behind a note bequeathing his identity, along with full ownership of his Facebook page, to Christian Byrd, the Brussels-based founder of the Jergie Bergen fan club.

Today, despite ongoing heartbreak and occasionally severe identity confusion, Byrd continues to gamely --and to the best of his ability-- carry the Bergen Brand to a new generation of acolytes.

In 2011, Italian filmmaker Angelo "Angie" Santangelo (“The Wild Child of Perugia”) began to assemble archival footage for a documentary: "Jergie Bergen: There Ain't No We, Bro." The film is tentatively slated for a summer 2013 release.