Thursday, May 6, 2010

Load Sixteen Tons, What Do You Get?

Today marks the sixteenth anniversary of the debut of my legendary, if cruelly obscure, career as a blogger. That's 2489 posts for those of you scoring at home. Sixteen years ago tonight I was plugging quarters into a prototype of the short-lived CompuCoin machine (at the time one of only seven such units in the country) in the Dayton, Ohio Greyhound depot, tapping into the pioneering Open Pages webring, and attempting to describe the Pere Ubu show (Brainiac and Gaunt opened) I'd seen earlier in the evening at Gilly's.

I was a big fan of the band in those days (still am), and this was around the period of Story of My Life. Justin Hall ("The founding father of personal blogging" --New York Times) had recently started his Justin's Links From the Underground blog at Swarthmore, and we had friends in common. I really didn't know diddly about computers at the time, but I was burned out on the zine hustle, thought I was capable of something more interesting than what Hall was up to, and a geeky buddy of mine from high school was helping me cobble together my first monster machine from parts he was smuggling out of a computer lab at the University of Chicago.

Because it would be another month or so before I was up and running with Night Moves, my first of a half dozen blogs in sixteen years, I count that Ubu review (title: "I Can't Believe It") as my first official foray into this lonely twisted world. This lonely, twisted world, not the real lonely, twisted world.

And here I still am. Leech Academy, Murray's Suave Outlet, Open All Night, and Yo Ivanhoe are all toast [Addendum, 5-7: I just realized that I completely forgot about Licensed to Spew (1999-2001)], but Your Man For Fun In Rapidan lumbers along to an endlessly looped drum track from a funeral march. I guess it sometimes bothers me that you never see my name mentioned alongside those of the other trailblazing bloggers [a digression: I find it curious that even after sixteen years, a blogging program would still flag the term "bloggers" as a misspelling], but I suppose that's because I've been so slipshod and have never, in all my years of blogging, stumbled into a single moment of viral good fortune.

Meanwhile, virtually every member of my old traveling party is either dead or long unaccounted for: Lance "Golden Boy" Austin (regular, acerbic contributor to Leech Academy-- given his precocious fondness for opiates, presumed dead); Greenland and Valentine Earl (far-flung correspondents, ace roller skaters, straight-edge punks, and resident agitators in the Murray's Suave Outlet days --unheard from in eight years); Uncle Jumbo (dead to the world); Budd Rugg (purportedly a born-again Christian, and, as you'd expect, whole hog); Ruckert (Open All Night's resident cynic and depressed philosopher --living in seclusion, and mute these many years); Donald Surface (libertarian political foil and drunk --engaged, I've heard, in Tea Party shenanigans and angrier than ever); Gordie Grace (musical correspondent and master of the mixtape --succumbed to liver cancer in Rose Creek, Minnesota); the shape shifter Jergie Bergen (most devoted and personally beloved of my cohort --retired from Facebook after years of faithful service, only to become even more lonely and bored, which prompted him --as is tragically so often the case-- to take a morning counter job at McDonald's, and less than a week later fall over dead from a heart attack at a bus stop on Excelsior Boulevard, this after he'd already --reportedly-- died, or at least disappeared, on many other occasions and in many other places). Which isn't to forget such relatively minor personages as the prophet Ezro, Spud Galligan, Reverend Leon and Dorothea Teat, Deke Stapleton, Casparagus (my personal Socrates), Colonel Gil Meacham, Alice Meers, Maraini the Magician, Ustave Schlegel, or poor Hoby Rupp.

So now I'm left to soldier on alone, unless someone new comes along (not likely, I know; nobody wants to blog anymore, and for plenty of good reasons). An additional complication: I've become convinced --vividly convinced-- that I myself am also dead. I have repeated visions that I died four years ago after receiving Electroconvulsive therapy [sic] in a hospital room in Minneapolis, and that I have been given an interloper exemption from the wardens of death. Which allows me to hang around, I guess, an arrangement that hasn't worked out terribly well so far.

This country doesn't have much use for dead people, and certainly doesn't waste much time listening to them. Invisibility and insignificance, I've discovered, are pretty much insurmountable challenges. As is, of course, deterioration, which I seem to be experiencing at an alarming rate.

Still, there's consciousness, or some balky and ceaseless version of consciousness, and with that comes an unshakable desire to keep saying. Something. My brain keeps moving, if not quite along. Most of the time I can only write the way my brain works, and I'm increasingly certain that's a losing formula any way you care to cut it, particularly since my brain seems to be working like a lousy transistor radio with a dial that has a mind of its own.

"Based on all available evidence" is a phrase that is giving me a great deal of torment right now, even as --or particularly because-- I have no idea what place those words have here, or why I just typed them when there was something else I intended to type, but have forgotten.

I read this in some book last night and it at least seems relevant: "What really mattered in combat was what people were like when they were exhausted."

I'm not sure if I'm in combat (that's a lie), but this is definitely what I'm like when I'm exhausted. Does that really matter? How does it matter? I have no idea.

And now I want to type these words (or perhaps I do not want to type them, but they are already on their way down my fingers): The cameraman is never missing. He's always right fucking there. It just won't work for me if his (or her) story isn't part of the story. If you see what I mean, and I accept that you probably don't.

Anyway, just another reminder:

Here I am.

This is me.

This is my story, such as it is, and the story of my lost tribe, and I fear that if I stop trying to tell it I'll lose my exemption and get sent back to the River of Forgetfulness with all the other wailing and unintelligible dead people.


  1. "I am afeared, being in night, all this is but a dream" -- quotation scrawled on a post it note I found in Dad's office at the cabin.

    Also, did you know that Night Moves is Kerri Miller's favorite summer song? I was just laughing about how perfect that is this morning and then I come across your excellent post.

  2. John Mose never did get too far from Shakespeare, did he?

    "O blessed, blessed night...Too flattering-sweet to be substantial."

  3. The cars went around and around.

  4. That's what a fella gets who sends a guy like me out to cover a goddamn stock car race.

  5. 16 tons is lot of coal -- but just a day's work. To me it's amazing you could stick with something so nonresponsive for so long. Which suggests there is something to the idea of being dead.

    I think as long as we hope to break through to the masses, that's when we die -- from our own privation. The good stuff happens one soul at a time, in extreme isolation. It's a shitty economy, but it's living. The dead remember nothing.