Writings and Letters

A blog oeuvre… a "bloeuvre"

Infinite City: Blue Vandas (Dorcho’s on 139th and N. Vorschein)

I’m sitting at the counter in Dorcho’s on 139th and N Vorschein. It’s been around since the late 20s. The decor clings to the epoch when diners “mattered” (something an arthouse punk I know said to me), which might make it post-war 1950s. The brown floral linoleum peels at the edges, reminiscent of a dried lakebed, or withering bouquet. The entropy is most visible near the entrance, around corners of the booths, and beneath the door to the bathroom, exposing the burgundy-painted concrete lying beneath. The walls are covered in a crude wood panelling, sections of which have warped around the ventilation system of the exposed kitchen. At night, when the room is colored in tungsten, the walls nearest to the storefront windows show how faded they have become from UV radiation. The two-tone quality accentuates the aesthetic binary of the diner, the counter to the front, the booths to the back.

Dead-center, the kitchen consists of one large blackened griddle with sundry knobs and compartments housing various thawing meats and variations of starchy sides. The decades of grease, dirt, fluids, anything transmitted through the conduit of ill-washed hands have formed a thin coagulum. It gives off a certain blue-collar sheen, or in other words: filthy luster. The health inspector’s grade “Q-” hangs alongside the framed pictures of the past: headlines from local newspapers spanning the centuries next to photos of past store owners as they age, their families, a collage of human continuum.

Blue vandas perch on the windowsill facing the street, and on rainy days (like this one) they produce an exquisite sadness, looking almost longingly out at the rain drops as they hit the glass and fall in sporadic patterns. They are well-cared for, the flowers. Their petals environ the white plastic vases that hold them forming a purple canopy (dark blue in the shade of thunderclouds) with starlight pistils at the centers. Their beauty invokes an emotional, intellectual response, some natural provocation similar to staring into flame.

My waitress, Madonna, tells me they’re the current owner’s favorite. She has a garden of them atop the building. “Cuts ’em every Sunday or so and puts new ones down.” That’s a lot of flowers. “You better believe it.” Madonna tells me some other things, opening up as women do once we realize the other isn’t a threat. This impromptu civility transforms from blue vandas, to awful weather, to my order, to Madonna complimenting me on my glasses and necklace, to a brief conversation about cervicoplasty, and then a historical account of the place: It opened the week the market crashed. It changed hands a few times, from one relative to another, but has been under the ownership of this little ole grandma named Barney for the past fifty years. Her father had a heart attack at the griddle and she inherited the business at nineteen.  Flash forward a few decades, add a couple of kids and ex-husbands later, she now spends most of her days sitting in one of the few booths towards the back speaking Portuguese to the Angolan immigrants who live around the area.

Madonna motions and I turn to notice Barney sitting in the back speaking with an Angolan? as she sips on her coffee? tea? from her skylight blue mug.

“A Love Bizarre” by Sheila E. plays. I know now because Madonna tells me—it’s her iPhone playlist.

I steal looks over at the old owner of Dorcho’s. Her eyes are fixed on her interlocutor. Her lips move calmly as she explains? argues? jokes? with the other person. Her face and hands hint to at least four? five? decades of labor. The word “velleity” pops into mind, though I can’t quite imagine why. Then I look back at the photographs and newspaper clippings over the years, all spread across the wall behind me. Customers conversing, eating, ignoring the captured past hanging muted above them. I look at the stories of the pictures and headlines, I follow them from the door, flitting from framed image to article and other, children growing old, interchangeable men and fashions from one frame to the next, “Best Diner” “Best Burger” “Dorcho’s Fights Back” “75 Years and Counting” “Local Diner Does OK”, all the way to the back where Barney sits.

I follow the points and I counter-reference them with Barney. And I wonder about the in-between moments, all the pluses and minuses that make the sum, the production not the product, those ignored or forgotten moments that are almost as important if not more than the important ones. And for a moment, I start to pull away from myself, staring deep into Barney’s sad beauty, overcome and alive, and start to understand something until Madonna sets my meal down in front of me.

“Surf’s up!”

The End of History… (Cubs ed.)

by Francis Fukuyama

 

In the course of watching Game 7 of the World Series, it was hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental was happening in world history. To read some of the recent articles posted after the game seems to point to the end of over a century’s worth of misery and the upcoming of spiritual “peace” throughout the hearts and minds of North Siders. Most of these analyses lack a certain macro-study of what is ultimately of merit and what is analytical rubbish, and thus laughably cursory.

And yet…

These articles nevertheless (poorly, by accident) point towards some grander conceptual apparatus at play, viewed through the praxis of the Cubs playoff run: first with the remnants of a once powerful San Francisco Giants team, then the tinseltown darlings Los Angeles Dodgers, and finally a revamped derelict named the Cleveland Indians that threatened the hopes and dreams of America’s Pastime with the apocalypse. But the beginning of the twentieth century has been bookended by the beginning of the twenty-first in very much the same fashion: the Chicago Cubs are World Series champions.

The triumph of Chicago, of the very idea of the North Side Cubbies, is not only evident in the final tally, the hoisting of the gold-clad trophy, or the deluge of tenth-rate bubbly, but it transcends into the highest form of Western excellence: consumer products. Lakeshore Drive Yuppies and Northwest Suburban Soccer Moms wearing T-shirts, caps, pajamas, and flags all doubled their original markups; post-college bros and dentists alike with their signed baseballs, bats, and jerseys for upwards to $4000; picture frames, bobbleheads, commemorative books or Blu-rays, you name it! found in Belmont as well as Boystown, or Albany, Norwood, and Lincoln Park, and “Go, Cubs! Go!” can be heard on radio waves all across the city; over $70 million dollars-worth of merchandise sold within the first full day alone from buyers all over the country (even the poor children of Laos, Sudan, Afghanistan, Honduras, Haiti, and more, who will wear the over-sized T-shirts intended for hulking adults paid exorbitant salaries so high the gap between the two is as imperceptible as the words “World Series Champions” and “Cleveland” or the beet-faced racist caricature smiling back at them, even these children are a sign of the overwhelming success of the Cubbies excellence).

What we maybe witnessing is not just the end of the century-plus epoch of misery for Cubs fans and thus the exuberance of fans and profiteers in an orgy of commodity exchange, but the millennium of peace and prosperity for all baseball fans at the behest of The Loveable [Winners] and ergo: THE END OF HISTORY.

I

Of course, the concept of the end of history is not original. No. It started over seventy years prior this essay with the deleterious Greek, William Sianis, and his filthy goat: Buckles. Upon being ejected from the World Series game in Wrigley Field on account of either his or his goat’s smell, he used his crypto-gypsy black magic (sacrificing Buckles outside the gates of the historic ballpark) to curse the Cubs, stating: “These Chicago Cubs, they ain’t gonna win. They’re a buncha bums. They ain’t gonna win the World Series. Because they insulted my goat. They ain’t never gonna win a World Series ever again, or my name ain’t William Sianis of 374 South Halsted Street! Mark my woods [sic]. It’s da end of history for d’em!”

Sianis was borrowing this concept of the end of history from a far superior German thinker: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich von Puff’n’Stuff Hegel: whose legacy has been tarnished a bit at the hands of Billy Goat-worshiping descendants of Sianis (and possibly closeted Satanists) who appropriated Hegel for their own anti-Cubbie rhetoric, he now has the misfortune of being seen mainly as a precursor of Sianis goat cursing.

However, there was a man from Wrigleyville who attempted to wrestle Hegel from the claws (or hooves) of the Goaters. He was Harry Carey, and he held a long and prosperous career as a baseball announcer for various clubs, including over a decade and  half with the Cubs until his death in 1998. One fateful day in fall, Carey made the astonishing claim: “…sure as God made green apples, the Cubs are going to be in the World Series,” he spoke of the key ingredients of their success that were already in place, even though the team had only finished in first place twice in a thirty-year period prior and achieved a winning record just five times in that span, went through twenty-two different managers, and would eventually lose ace pitcher Greg Maddux. To peers of Carey’s in 1991, comments calling for a new manager “maybe Jimmy Frey” (who had been fired five years previously) or “this is a veteran team, guys who are young but still are veteran,” must have seen like ramblings of a senile loon, trapped in a quixotic myopia that was the blind love of a perpetually tottering baseball club. To some now, he might seem prescient. But Carey was just a dogmatic Hegelian.

II

Hegel is key to understanding the Cubs triumph and the end of history.

To summarize Hegel’s idealist views in a few pithy sentences would be a disservice to the philosopher and only accentuate the intellectual pratfalls of this essay. But fuck it.

Hegel believed the “real” world could be impacted by the “ideal” world (not necessarily directly, but indirectly), so our historical consciouses guide our human action which influences world behaviors which influence our historical consciouses.

So, when Carey stated twenty-five years prior to the realization that the Cubs would win the World Series, he was merely speaking from the realm of consciousness that all Cubs fans had, and eventually that idea broke through the nebulous of ideas into the world of reality, bringing in the end of history.

III

“But,” some might ask, “are we really at the end of history?”

Well, are the Cubs the World Series champions? Can any other team in Major League Baseball win the 2016 World Series now? Can anyone buy merchandise that claims otherwise?

We need not ask every crackpot fanatic their answer to the above questions. It matters very little what supporters of the Colorado Rockies, or New York Yankees, San Diego Padres or Detroit Tigers have to say about matters for they are not important enough. No. We need only ask these questions from other like-minded Cubbies.

Previously, the two biggest challengers to Chicago Cubs world dominance were the St. Louis Cardinals and goat curses. But as 2016 has shown us, what we always knew would be the case from the start, the Cubs handled the Cardinals (starting back in the 2015 NLDS when they defeated them to advance to the NLCS, but then winning the head-to-head series in 2016 and finishing seventeen and a half games ahead of them in the Central Division), and eventually broke the back of the vicious curse (with the throw from Bryant to Rizzo to capture the last out of the season).

Some may point out the Cardinals were plagued by injuries, suspensions, and other setbacks, and in an already weak Central Division, the Cubs were able to move through an easy schedule, or that they benefitted from a Giants victory over the Mets (a team they had a combined record of 2-9 over the past eleven games) in the Wild Card game, or that if the Cleveland pitching staff and outfielders had not played with comical Little League bungling in Game 6 or were not overwhelmed by the weight of their own being Cleveland-ness in Game 7, the Cubs might not be World Series Champions, and others point out that there are particularly searing issues the clubhouse will have to face in the future (Chapman and Fowler might move on; Heyward was not the player they paid for; no team has won consecutive World Series championships since the New York Yankees at the turn of this century) to ensure the Chicago Cubs hegemony.

With all these accusations flying about like a cherished W, it is possible to forget a simple truth. In 1908, the Cubs won the World Series. The present world seems to have confirmed this fact and stayed relatively close to the fundamental principles that a baseball team should win the World Series, and even though it might have been 108 years between then and now before the Cubs won the championship again, no one can deny they did, in fact, win the World Series, thus not only breaking the curse but establishing the greatness and ubiquity of Cubbie-dom.

IV

What, then, does it mean to be at the end of history?

Ultimately, because the Cubs are World Series champions it means they will remain so for the foreseeable future and thus live at the end of history in their surfeit of celebratory goodies, parades, and glad tidings.

Clearly, teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks and Minnesota Twins still exist in the world, and thus in history, but for any team (or their fans) that want to experience the joy and wonder of being a champion, all they need to do is to stop being them and become a Chicago Cub.

Based off my connections with the front offices in Cleveland and even the South Side the intelligentsia is most likely already starting to make their moves northward.

V

The victory of the Cubs spells the death of the Billy Goat curse. Its passing means the growing “Common Cubbietization” of Major League Baseball, and the unlikely return of any other equal-measured competitor to rise from now till the Rapture.

This does not mean the end of all problems, per se, in Chicago. The river will still need to be dyed a natural color, Jay Cutler will still be the Bears quarterback, and millions of Chicagoans will continue to drink Old Style and eat a glorified bread bowl of meat, cheese, and red sauce they call “pizza”… which might compel one to wonder how significant a Cubs victory is, but… … …

Now and forever, the Cubs will remain the victors valiant, the heroes of the West(ern civilized world), there need not be another champion of the Major Leagues for there is no alternative now to the Chicago Cubs.

The end of history will be sad for many. The struggle for a new identity will be felt. Many Cubbies will have a hard time coming to terms with being winners. The willingness to get piss-drunk and risk arrest for a purely abstract goal of greatness by punching a Brewers fan in the face will be lost. The ethic of “Loveable Loserism”will be replaced by something less adhesive, some cold calculation of victory, an endless sea of championship paraphernalia.

All we will have to look forward to now is this boredom, and perhaps, one day, look back longingly at history.

Barbershop off Main St.

For those who had even the most inchoate appreciation of spatial properties and crudest admiration for aesthetics, the barbershop was an offense to such attuned faculties. The locomotive design impacted all the contents of the room together into this long, strained hallway, without any of the pleasantries afforded by riding transit: mainly a sense of adventure: instead, what remained was the strong feeling of claustrophobia and decorative constipation. Checkerboard tiles spread out across the floor fading off into a blur, some optical deception, as the eyes hit the horizon. When buffered, which was rare, the floor glared back the light reflecting off it, day or night, to suggest a demur attitude towards cleanliness, preferring the soot-rich scrubbing of a years-old mop to crest its battered surface and expose blemishes in the dried remains of dirty water; most often, random marauding tuffets of clipped hair were noticed roaming across the barren plains searching for crevasses to hide in or shoes to fix under. Undusted frames of mass-produced prints hung scattered on the halogen-colored walls: Stuart’s unfinished Athenaeum, a detailed lithograph of Connecticut, bad Impressionists and Sargent’s divisive Gassed, ugly illustrations from obliged school children, a few covers of the Saturday Evening Post ripped straight from the magazine: their selection and level of skilled placement reinforced the banal eclecticism of Main Street. An overused broom and its mop companion leaned in a corner. To stare into the local parlor was similar to falling in it. One could not fight its gravitational pull.

… Conquista Todo

La Silla

Alejandro Francisco Villalba-Peña sat in a white leather chair next to his daughter’s bed. The chair was handcrafted from a Peruvian Almond (though the tree was not from Peru, nor did it produce almonds). As his mother used to tell him, Alejandro’s grandfather walked out into the forest determined to change his life. “There was no work in our village or even in the nearest city, which was not much of a city at all. Your grandparents struggled to feed us six children. One day, your grandfather just left the town. He never told your Abuela where he was going, he just left. He was gone for almost four days. She thought a jaguar ate him, or some bandits killed him. I was just a baby then, but I remember distinctly waking in my mother’s arms as she cried to the policeman and neighbor about how he was missing and they needed to find him. They kept saying there was nothing they could do. Then, in the middle of the night, he returned. Oh! was your grandmother outraged. She beat him with a broom and kicked him out of the house. She was smaller than me, and your grandfather was like you: tall and strong: but she beat him out of the house anyway. He even still had his ax in hand. She did not care! The next morning, though, she had calmed down and let him in. He told her of how he found the biggest tree in the forest, and how he worked on chopping the tree down. At first he didn’t know why he was doing it, maybe sell the wood for some money in the city. It took him all day to chop this tree down, some seventy to one-hundred meters high and almost three meters wide—though the tree grew more when your Papa was drunk,” she would wink.

“When the tree finally fell, the earth shook. He was in awe of this magnificent, huge fallen beast. It was too beautiful to be turned into simple firewood. Plus, when he was chopping it down, he realized he guessed the wrong tree. The wood was so hard, it was perfect for furniture… now… at this point in the story, your Abuela was almost at his throat again. ‘You don’t know how to make any furniture!’ she yelled at him. I don’t remember this, but your Papa always told me it happened. He remembered raising his voice to her, telling her how he would find a way, God willing. Then he stormed out of the house with some other tools and his ax. But these weren’t carpentry tools, no. He took what he had, even stole Abuela’s favorite knife, and disappeared for a week. When he returned, though, he had the most-beautiful chair my mother had ever seen. It was still crude, he needed to sand it and treat it, but it was beautiful. He sold it to a wealthy businessman in the capital. That first chair saved our family, and started the Peña company.” His mother usually sat back in whatever piece of furniture, usually the chair Papa made for Abuela on their anniversary. “He used to tell me, of all the chairs he ever made himself, the ones from that first tree were the greatest, and none better than the first. It was a magnificent work of art, Alejandro. Forged from a most desperate man, in desperate times. The Lord moved through him out there in the forest. He made him more than he ever was.”

Alejandro had additions made to the chair. It was now tufted with white leather and the top rail and arms covered in gold trim. The leather was a gift from the owner of the richest cattle farm in the nation. The gold came from the country’s mines. It had been molded into figures of ancient gods and peoples, long gone but etched into the collective memories of Alejandro’s people. The figures were designed so whenever he sat in the chair he was surrounded by the legends of his country and the people who came before him. The metaphor was lost to Alejandro. He wanted jaguars, the newly christened national animal, roaring and fighting one another all around him. He had dreamed of such things since he was a boy.

He was insulted when his wish was not met. He knew he was unambiguous when he gave his instructions. It was a slight against him. But the jeweler was his brother-in-law, and the work done for free, so he could not reject the final design. Every time he sat in the chair with his daughter, though, he was reminded of this disrespect and furthermore he was indebted to his brother-in-law for it. This was the first chair of the Peña legacy. It was the one his grandfather could not buy back, nor his father will it’s return. No amount of money, or might, could return the chair to his family. It was not until Alejandro became El Padre that the chair was returned to the rightful owners. He was supposed to sit upon it in the Great Room, where he would run the country, but the disrespect was too great for him to ignore. So the chair was moved to his daughter’s room.

 

Time in the Fog: The Farm

(Previously)

THE FARM

 

The dying Virginian summer held on to its intensity in the idiosyncratic fashion of a Southern drawl, languidly carrying on towards fall. The heat hung in the air along with the thick moisture August provides. As the seconds dragged closer to midnight, the temperature still dawdled in the low-nineties. It had been this way for some weeks now, at least ten days. It was hard to keep track of time when each moment was just as oppressively hot as the next, and no degree of vegetation could shield one from the immeasurable radiation pouring down, trapped by the vapors in the air. Day transitioned into night and back again. The weather stayed the same. It became another obstacle for Agent Robins’s re-initiation.

The “field trips” ran some twelve to sixteen hours long for however many days until the mission was completed. The team might have to cover anywhere from eight to twelve miles a day through the heavy terrain. It had been almost fifteen years since she first stepped foot on the Farm to begin her training. Though she still maintained good physical conditioning on her own, returning to the field was a different matter all together. It required not only a special degree of corporeal attention, but cognitive as well.  

Her training returned within the first few hours of her inaugural day, though: how to spot markers of roaming enemies and avoid tripwires or makeshift landmines, the best field techniques for keeping the body temperature low and feet dry, how to stay agile and silent with fifty-pound equipment (most of it unnecessary in the real field, but added in training to antagonize trainees) and sift through the forest’s white noise to tune in on footsteps, and mostly, she remembered the importance of battlefield equanimity.

It was a simple mission: track a group of ELN fighters, maybe six to ten strong, and eliminate them. But the days were cruel. One of the recruits suffered a bad sunburn on his arms and neck, he never slept well as a result. Most were exhausted by the continuous deluge of thick heat and traveling up steep hills and back down into valleys. They never complained, to their credit, but they were too slow. They would never catch the target at their current pace, and they risked being spotted if they moved too slowly—there were always more. Agent Robins knew by the trail size (which also gave away the formation), and few bits of trash left behind, the enemy’s numbers were fluctuating wildly anywhere from ten to twenty or more. The new recruits did not notice. Outnumbered, they would have to use the environment to their advantage.

That night, she encouraged the team leader to press on. Brady Copeland, graduated from Stanford with degrees in International Politics and Botany, former wrestler, admirable IQ, considers himself a gentleman, the typical red-meat All-American attributes that get selected for the agency. “Genetically-Modified Boy Scouts,” her mentor used to say.

 

“But how?” he looked up at her. He was laying down, seconds from sleep.

“We’ll track by moonlight, and perform night raids.”

He thought about it. He looked over to the other team members, some already sleeping. It had been an especially long day, and even though the index was still pushing into the high-eighties, most fell asleep from pure exhaustion. He shook his head. “It’s against the mission guidelines.”’

“There are no guidelines. We need to move. Now. We’re too slow. The rebels heavily outnumber us. If they’re smart, they are routinely splitting up and sending out scouts to ensure they aren’t walking into something or being followed. Based off the trails, they are smart. So, the longer it takes for us to find them is more time we are in the dark, and that increases our vulnerability and likelihood of mission failure.”

That struck a chord. It usually did with types like Brady. She watched his eyes as his brain tried to process the hypothetical scenario of failing, then cross examine the ramifications with breaking protocol and heading out in the middle of the night with a team already depleted of rest and stamina, but his eyelids kept fluttering. He could not focus. He let out a sigh. “I disagree, Agent Robins. Get some sleep.”

 

The following day, over thirty ELN insurgents ambushed the team of five at dusk. She and another recruit, Kerr, were able to stay alive long enough and use the cover of darkness to slip away through a hole in the attack. For the next six days, she pursued the ELN squad. There was a main core of fifteen that would swell upwards to forty and then disband. She kept track of the main group with Kerr until the sixth night when they shrunk to only eight. She had Kerr stationed just on the outskirts of the camp with explicit instructions: “Don’t move.”

Slithering through the ground, she came upon the scout who was keeping watch. His name was Church, but for the purposes of the drill he smeared dark green paint on his face and was a firm believer in focalism. His black ski mask was pulled up on his head and he wore a boonie atop. He was comfortable. It was his mistake.

She snuck up on him and drew her knife. The blade made the lightest breath as it released from its sheath, the killing spirant. He was on his feet taking slow steps around the bivouac. He did not notice his boot almost kissed her knee. She rose behind him and in one muted glimmer had her hand on his mouth and knife on his throat. She whispered: “You’re dead.”

She then woke up the remaining seven in a similar fashion. The last was the team leader, Gibson. She tapped his boots for him. When he woke, he saw the other members of his team sitting around the fire. His combatant stood above.

 

“Evening, Robins,” he stretched out of his waterproof blanket.

“Evening, sir.”

He rolled his eyes as he sat up. He looked at his men. “I assume I’m dead?”

“That would be correct.”

“You all, too?” he asked aloud. The team nodded. He shook his head. “Goddamnit, Church.”

Church said nothing.

Gibson looked at Robins. “Knife?”

“Yes.”

He nodded. “Good work. What about Kerr?”

“He’s securing the perimeter.”

“How is he?”

“Smart enough to stick with me.”

“You cocky bitch.”

“Easy, sir,” Church said. “That’s a real knife she’s wielding.”

The men laughed.

“All right,” Gibson said. “This op is over. I want to thank you, Myra. I was beginning to miss my bed.”

 

The next mission used a mixture of al Qaeda techniques and various tactics from sub-Saharan guerrilla outfits. She was the team leader. The initial testing was over. Now she was being prepared for what was to come.

Ten Dollar Rosé

“Raspberry Beret” is one of Prince’s most well-known and beloved songs off his Around the World in a Day album. But little do people know the history behind the song and what it was originally called.

Back in 1983, while making his breakthrough commercial success, Purple Rain, Prince had already composed the music for “Raspberry.” It was going to be a hidden track on the album after the titular song. “Yeah, he was really jazzed about that song,” recalled Lisa Coleman. “He really liked the idea of burying it in the album as a gift for the fans.”

But the original lyrics for the song made some people less-enthusiastic. “Man. Those lyrics sucked,” laughed Bobby Z. “But of course, you can’t tell Prince that. He’ll go off on you. Dude was so serious about his music, lyrics, everything. Everyone was looking at each other, the music was there. It was a great jam, but the lyrics were so Goddamn lame. No one could say anything. But we all knew it.”

Eventually, as the lore goes, Prince’s father, John L. Nelson, was the one to break it to his son that the lyrics in the song  needed a little more time to mature. When asked how the musical legend took the news, Bobby Z. said: “He was real quiet. Didn’t move. Didn’t even look like he was breathing. Just stared at his old man for like twenty minutes without saying or doing anything. Then a small tear started rolling down his cheek. I’ll never forget it. He told us he needed a minute alone. So we left. A couple hours went by, we expected he’d tell someone to come get us when he was ready. I thought he’d trash the place or something, but nothing happened. Another hour goes by and the studio engineer goes to see how things are, he’s probably worried about his equipment. Dude comes back and is like: ‘Prince has locked himself in the vocal booth and I can’t get him to come out.'” He shook his head. “He was in there for three days. Didn’t let anyone in. Didn’t come out. For three days.” He paused for a moment. “Then he baked a cake and wrote ‘Let’s Go Crazy.’ That was Prince.”

Prince would obviously revisit the song and write some new lyrics, the ones we all know and love to this day.

The original lyrics were forgotten about until recently when they were found stuffed away in Prince’s own 1000-page cookbook for spaghetti recipes. They are as below. The song was titled: “Ten Dollar Rosé”

I was working for a time at a Beer and Wine, trying to buy a color TV
My friends told me repeatedly I was wasting my time
‘Cause I was colorblind, you see

I think I was in Aisle Three stacking pork rinds or something
It couldn’t have been much more
That’s when I spotted her, yeah I saw her
She strolled in across the wet floor, wet floor

(And) she bought a
Ten dollar rosé
The kind you find in a shitty liquor store
Ten dollar rosé
And though it was warm, she bought a little more
Ten dollar rosé
I think I love her

Drunk though she was
She had the nerve to ask me
If I could microwave her chicken parm
So, look here
I put her in my station wagon
And we took a trip
Down to old man Johnson’s farm

I said now, eating small birds never turned me on
Showed her how those hens were treated badly by the hicks
She seemed to see
But I could tell as she looked on
She wanted to eat those chicks

(And) she bought a
Ten dollar rosé
The kind you find in a shitty liquor store
Ten dollar rosé
And though it was warm, she bought a little more
Ten dollar rosé
I think I love her

She kissed me so hard, I think she chipped a tooth
I tried to tell her she went too far
Nothing matters to the birds and bees
She screamed, “I’m a movie star!”

Look
So I won’t say it was the greatest
But I tell ya
If I had the chance to do it all again
I wouldn’t change a stroke
‘Cause chickens they got choked
Because she’s the kind who likes to spend

(Ten dollar rosé)
The kind you find (The kind you find)
The kind you find (In a shitty liquor store)
Oh no no
(Ten dollar rosé)
(And though it was warm)
Where have all the rosé women gone?
Yeah (Ten dollar rosé)

I think I, I think I, I think I love her

(Ten dollar rosé)
No no no
No no no (The kind you find)
(In a shitty liquor store)
(Ten dollar rosé)
Tell me
Where have all the rosé women gone? (And though it was warm)
(She bought a little more)
(Ten dollar rosé)

 

Scenes: The Maestro

My retinas were kissed by the amber-hue of the concert hall as I came out onto the stage. The house lights revealed the more-than-two-thousand seats that environ the orchestral “pit.” Soon, they all would be filled with over-enthused patrons, who have waited years for the return of the maestro. The first show since his… hiatus. People coming from all over the country, as well as Europe, China, Japan, India, to see the opening night of his return. Tickets were sold out in less than ten minutes. I had to personally tell several offices of presidents and kings that there were no more tickets available. Consequently, I am now banned from several of these countries.

The concert hall’s undulating fluidity of walls and ceiling, bleeding concave into convex and back, illustrates a visually inverse reflection of the sound, trapping the acoustics in their place so that no matter where one sits in the hall the experience is audibly the same. When he first stepped out onto the stage (the first time not only on that one, but any in fifteen years) he remarked: “Das Paradox ist im Spiel.” When the chairman and other board of directors asked what he meant, I took it upon myself to translate: “He is thinking about the interplay between the music that will be animating outward and the constructed pieces designed to keep it inward. That struggle is like a playful wrestling.” They looked around the hall and back at me, a hint of confusion in their smiling dumb faces, looking to me for more. So I added: “He likes it.”

Tonight, he’ll be playing Dmitri Shostakovich’s “5th Symphony,” portions of Sergei Prokofiev’s “The Tale of the Stone Flower,” and selected works from Jules Massenet’s “Eve” and Hans Rott’s “Symphony in E-Major” plus, as a surprise encore performance, his latest composition. He wants to “break their hearts, then slowly put them back together after the intermission,” to “show them the whole breadth of the human element.” He is excited. “Oh Camille,” he said the night before last over dinner. “They again have returned. Those wonderful butterflies.” Diese wunderbaren Schmetterlinge. Ich sehe sie wieder.

He was out on the stage. In two hours the doors would open. He was sitting in the third cellist’s wooden chair. He looked concerned, perplexed even, swaying from one side of the seat to the other. Scratching his hair, listening carefully to nothing, he leaned left, then right, back again, looked as if he was almost inspecting the air underneath the seat.

Last night he called me in a panic. “Camille! Darling! It’s impossible. Just simply impossible!” What? I asked. What was the matter? I was trying to remain focused while simultaneously tearing myself from the grips of a deep sleep. “The chairs! They’re simply awful!” Then he proceeded to tell me how he needs to replace all of the orchestra’s chairs. But it was three in the morning. “I don’t care! We can’t have a show with those shit chairs!” He instructed me on what he needed. Wooden chairs. Handcrafted. Preferably with at least ten years of use, and possibly birch wood, but under no circumstances oak.

The board members were not too pleased when in the morning they witnessed the maestro (gently) tossing the concert hall’s chairs out from the pit and placing the wooden replacements down. One looked at me with eyes that seemed to say: “Again?” Various staff at the concert hall were standing about watching the maestro along with the delivery men who had the wooden chairs I was able to find—they came gratis from a local school that was preparing to throw them out.

It was easy to understand the board members frustration, and confusion. The new chairs were ugly, worn, some had crude graffiti written on the seats and sides in marker or etched with pen or pencil: the most common unsavories were the word “Fuck” and phallic images—quite remarkable detail when considering these came from a 4th grade classroom. They were by far inferior to the usual ones. The president came up to me: “You can’t possibly allow this to happen! Those chairs he’s throwing around cost us more than two-hundred dollars each.” They were quite nice to sit in. Padded, stainless steal, coated in a black matte paint, heavy. The maestro was humming Ravel as he picked one chair, then another, and dropped them off the stage into the front row. “Will he stop doing that!?” the president raged. A scuffle broke out between the maestro and an employee of the hall who was following orders. The maestro’s mood changed like a flash as he struggled for control over a chair from the employee. “Du Idiot! Du widerliches Arschloch! Lass los!” An ugliness reverberated throughout the hall for the next minute, so arresting it doubled as a vacuum afterwards leaving the open space as a new muted environment. I did my best to calm all parties, though I was staunchly defending my mentor. After the president made a rather uncouth comment about the maestro’s behavior, I had no other option but to take it upon myself to explain that if the two-hundred dollar chairs were so important to her, she could have them, but there would be no maestro.

After the fight, he disappeared. We were searching for him for more than six hours, but he was nowhere to be found in the building or surrounding area. (I later learned the president had called several conductors in that timeframe to see if they would fill in, but to no avail.) I was in my room, in a state of melancholy, when one of the interns informed me the maestro had returned. He brought me through the back to the stage, and surely there the man of the hour was.

I slowly came upon the maestro while he moved from the cellist’s chair to the first oboist’s. He was in full composer regalia. I wondered how he managed to change, as my room and his were connected and I left the separating door open. How did he sneak in without me knowing? “Maestro,” I called in a gentle manner so as not to startle him. He turned to me with a smile, then back to the matter at hand of sitting in the chair, turning from one side to the other and back, listening, scrutinizing nothing. My heart began to jump. The thought of that board member’s eyes returned. “Again?” I asked him what he was doing. He smiled at me in a sort of paternal affability. “I’m listening.” To what? The reverberation? The silence? The hall? “No, Camille,” he laughed. “To the chair.” I was near tears as he moved to the second oboist’s seat. But why? Why in the name of the heavens would he need to listen to the chairs?

He stopped and briefly sighed. He understood now that I could not see just like the others.

“My darling. The chairs are important. I need the right ones to sing out just a little, so that when Mary,” he pointed to the violinist’s empty spot, “or Henry,” he motioned back to where the tam-tam player sits, “when they move in their chairs the slightest creak will sound. And with any luck, it will happen in the lulls between the triumphs of music.” But what was wrong with the previous chairs? “They were too good. They made no sound. In all the practices, something was amiss. I couldn’t understand why the music felt so hollow to me. Because when I would see these players shift in their seats, no sound would produce. It was haunting. Like I was trapped in some nightmare. Every single sound is part of the orchestra. The beauty is lost if the entirety is not realized. All of this,” he motioned around him, “means nothing if when Yoshino,” he pointed down at his lap, “squirms in her chair as she does, the audience does not hear it.” He smiled at me, so pleased by current events. “Do you see now?”  Siehst du jetzt? Siehst du die kleiner Schmetterlinge?

… I smiled back in silence. What else could I do?

Your Body is Not Your Own: Brief Thoughts on Patriarchy

Bad Thoughts

Late night at our house in Nashville, my roommates and I sat around the dinner table engaged in a lively brainstorming session. Two of my roommates were trying to develop the concept of their band’s album art. Our other roommate, Melissa, the band’s photographer and friend, sat in on the discussion. I was more or less there to eat my dinner (back then, probably mozzarella sticks) and chime in if the Spirit moved me. The basic concept was related to the more occult qualities (since the band played a modern rock twist with hints of the delta blues, and was inspired by the more gothic aspects of the South centered around the imagery of voodoo, witches, the supernatural) and lore of rock music (i.e. the story of how the Devil taught Robert Johnson how to play the guitar). It was a loose connection between the taboo, the sexual, and the feel-good. In hindsight, it was a confused, simplistic renunciation of mostly Southern Victorianism, and fear of black culture, but that’s really neither here nor there.

Though jejune, the purpose of the artwork was not the problem (not outright, at least). It was where the little group’s thinking ended up that is of note. Of the four of us, the three guys were really spearheading the conversation. The (de)evolution went a little something like this:

“We should have a woman on the front of the album, and like, we should convey that she is moving seductively. It’s like she’s tempting the listener.”

“Yeah. She’s like the sorceress that we’ve fallin’ under her spell.”

“Yes, and we have to free ourselves from the spell. Like the album is that for us.”

“Purging her from our souls. The album is how we do that.”

“Right. And we tell this story through the artwork.”

“I have this scene in my head. You know that old barn off 65? The one that sits in the middle of that field. In Brentwood? Yeah. If we shot near around there. Like us looking for her, and she’s running off in the distance. Then a moonlight shot of her along the fence-line out there, where the trees are, we see her silhouette and then ours chasing after her.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Maybe we could have like torches or something, or is that lame?”

“It’s a little cheesy.”

“You know, during the witch trials in Salem, they used to drown them to see if they were witches or not.”

“Right. We could like shoot something in the river.”

“Yeah, maybe we end up there.”

“Like we see a scarf of hers, or something, in the water. We highlight it. Go back to the front cover. Like it’s a black and white cover and just the scarf is in color, like red. And then in the river we see the red scarf again floating away.”

“And then the last shot, on the back of the album is like us with shovels. Standing around.”

The three of us were quite pleased by this final imagery. We kept asking one another what we thought, and we all were nodding our heads in agreement. It was a cool concept. Using a gloomy feel of the Nashville wilderness, mixing in the elements of horror, myth, and music to drive a narrative. The way it would be photographed would be cinematic in quality. What was there not to like?

It was at the apex of our euphoria that Melissa voiced her opinion: “I in no way want to cramp your guys’ creativity, and I’m not saying you have to change anything, but as the only woman in this room right now, hearing this conversation, this album art terrifies me.” This statement struck me. But sooner than I could form a thought, she continued: “You introduce fans to this woman. She’s beautiful, she’s dancing, she’s having a good time. She seems innocent. And then you show, through the subsequent photos, her being chased down by five guys through the woods at night, through a river, and eventually being murdered and buried out there somewhere.” She pressed her hand against her chest to help catch her breath. “That is just so disturbing and halting to me. As a woman, I would just be so struck by something like this.”

I cannot speak for my roommates, but from what I remember of their physiognomies, they felt just as shocked and ashamed as I did. Like them, I never considered myself writing a narrative of grotesque objectification and brutality. What disgusted me more about myself was not that I was just completely oblivious to this, but that I had willingly participated in the act. The room fell silent. Melissa felt as though she had done something wrong, offended us in some way. She quickly offered: “I mean that’s just my opinion. You can take it or leave it. I don’t want to shoot any idea down. It’s your album. It’s your music. But I just feel like I need to be honest with you. As a woman, as a friend.” The bandmates nodded their heads and thanked her, canceling any notion that Melissa should feel bad, or that somehow this was her fault.

It was truly one of those transformative experiences for me. In that moment, I became acutely aware of hidden biases and blindspots I held, and the capitulation to certain abhorrent narratives (or “common sense”) of a male-dominated culture. I was perpetuating the same kind of practices and ideas I myself found so despicable. The profundity came from the realization that I did not possess the type of insight I thought I had held for women. And equally important, I learned another example of human complexity. How my roommates and I, we were not “bad guys,” but we were easily making an incredibly poor decision. I’m only grateful Melissa was there to point out the inanity, the cruelty of our imaginations before it became worse. Still, to this day, I think of what must have been going through Melissa’s mind, watching her three friends talk about hunting down and murdering a woman with such enthusiasm. She had to bear the burden for all the those who might come across this album art and experience the same anxiety and heartbreak. For that, I still feel awful.

From here I’d like to expand this thought piece. I’d like to take notions that are grafted to the “bad thoughts” that occurred in the dining room area in Nashville, and extend them to other areas of realization. So that one can see just how these ideas become metastatic when applied to social relations—specifically here in relationship between men and women. Also, I hope to show how patriarchy and our (American) sense of moral actors play together on this topic.

X-Men: Apocalypse

I imagine something quite similar to our “dining room chat” happened amongst the marketers of X-Men: Apocalypse as they planned the outdoor campaign for the film. Only those marketers didn’t have the benefit of a Melissa to expose their blindspot.

Amongst the half-dozen outdoor posters or so, there were two that featured the strongest female leads of the movie: Mystique and Psylocke: in less-than-flattering form. In the standalone image of Psylocke (played by Olivia Munn), she is shown bending forward, arms swung back, hair flowing with her cleavage prominently in the foreground. For Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), she is being choked to death by an Apocalypse two times her size.

XMA_Psylocke2

XMA_Choke

Set aside the fact that both Psylocke and Mystique have always been highly sexualized characters. In the comics, both women are drawn with impossible figures, skin-tight clothes (that don’t make a lick of sense for combat), and are clear projections of the basest visceral hetero-male desires (all of which is rich with its own issues steeped in patriarchy). Set aside that Hollywood was successful in saying: “I see your highly-objectified women images, and I’ll raise you.” So we transform Comic-Mystique, traditionally (or iconically) fully clothed in a white dress (and skull belt), into Film-Mystique, who is dressed, well… not at all. And although Comic-Pyslocke is quite salacious with her tight purple (what I can only assume is) latex outfit, Film-Psylocke ups the ante by cutting out all that unnecessary clothing atop her breasts, leaving them exposed for strategic value one must assume.

Set that all aside.

Focus instead on a very particular issue with these two specific images being displayed in the most public spheres: amongst the images of the most carefully selected models dressed in high, mid, and low-fashion clothes, amongst the shoe ads, promotions for lingerie next to calls for gym memberships, beautifully airbrushed actresses hawking perfumes, skin creams, shampoos and conditioners, eye-liners, jeans, and coconut water (just to name a few). See how these two images from the film, in this deluge of beauty objectification and stereotyping on billboards across the nation (and around the world), can provoke a sense of anxiety and frustration in protesters (who often end up being women). In this proper setting, through the eyes of female consumers, one begins to see these images in a different light: Psylocke is a grossly sexualized character, and Mystique is a woman whose received violence is so meaningless it is utilized as a form of advertising for a movie.

What makes this whole instance even more upsetting is precisely how avoidable it was. In a film where these two characters are on screen for a majority of the time, the marketers had a wide variety of still images to choose from (even from the very scenes these images were taken!) that would have portrayed the women in a more favorable sense. That the marketers did not choose any other scene seems to suggest either willful cynicism (i.e. They did not think the intended audience—read: young males—would recognize the offensive quality of the billboards, or flatly would not care, and ultimately not affect ticket sales.) and thus sexism, or they suffered from a painful ignorance (or more precisely, women suffered painfully from their ignorance). To drive this point further, in the outdoor campaign featuring Storm, the image shows the character shooting lightning out of her hands in every which direction and being a general cool ass-kicking mutant. That the Mystique and Psylocke posters were spared this approach is quite disappointing.

XMA_Storm

This poster replaced several “Mystique Choke Scene” billboards around the Los Angeles area after negative reactions.

Before I go further, though, there is one particular counterpoint raised as a defense of the marketing campaign. It is a line of logic that is regularly used in these types of discussions to a fault (quite often by those who want to pooh-pooh the idea of racism’s continued existence in favor of their colorblind claptrap). The argument goes a little something like this: “But if that was a man Apocalypse was choking, no one would even care. Hugh Jackman goes shirtless in posters when he’s Wolverine, and no one cares. DOUBLE STANDARD! DOUBLE STANDARD! #SEXISM! #SEXISM! #SEXISM! I WIN, I WIN, I WIN, I WIN, I WIN!” Or something to that effect.

It is a tempting argument to succumb to. After all, no one wants to consciously stand athwart equality. But this rebuttal is a sleight of hand. While it speaks of equality on the surface of things, it successfully strips the conversation of all context. Quite simply put: the reason people are not taken aback when Hugh Jackman goes shirtless, or if Professor X was to be suffocated at the hands of Apocalypse is because men do not share the same societal experience as women—not in billboard campaigns, not in entertainment/media portrayals, not in office spaces, on the streets, or at home. To bypass this context makes the counterpoint negligent and unnerving. Particularly, it is disturbing (and perplexing) that the argument purposely disregards the plight of women, and consequently the legitimacy of their concerns, and then uses the violence and objectification against men in a negative connotation as justification for the continual misrepresentation and mistreatment of women.

Lastly, what the above failed-refutation does not recognize is easily the biggest difference between men and women in the world of advertising, entertainment, and most anywhere when the human body is utilized as product, and is the true underbelly of the conversation at hand: fetishism. In hetero-male-dominant societies, men are not coveted. This sexual desire comes from the normative roles of patriarchal society: men are the sexual actors who seek out and perform sex acts (attributes that behave as main identifiers of “masculinity”) and women take on a passive role (as part of the “feminine” responsibility). [Note: Animosity towards homosexuals is often derived from these myopic gender roles, too. Oddly, though, the racialized aspects of these identities often work against people of color, especially the African American community. That’s white supremacy for ya!]

Fetishism is nothing new, nor is sexualized imagery in marketing, and the two seem to combine effortlessly in today’s media—some less so. In certain respects, they are the result of the sexual revolution. For all its apparent accomplishments, one failure of the revolution was to actually revolutionize sexuality. So what we are left with is rhetoric rich with calls to action for liberating the bedroom, or our sexual attitudes, and ultimately having more sex (because there is nothing wrong with sex, per se). This is all well and fine, but it does nothing to curb the perceived gender roles of men and women. The liberation still engenders an environment in which women should feel “free” to openly engage in more sex with men without any consideration to whether or not either side truly wants to. Continuing to define masculinity and femininity through the engagement of sex produces the fetishization of women as we understand it today and, combined with the commodity-obsessed capitalist consumer culture we have in the United States, leads to some odious results (as will be discussed shortly). Because if a woman is to step outside of the realm of normative roles dictated by hetero-male society, she is to be dealt with—often through violence. These two ideas: the woman as sexual object, and the disobedient woman punished: are on display in the posters, surrounded by a jungle of further fetishism.

So let’s return to our marketers for a moment. I’ll take them in good faith and assume they suffered from a similar blindness I had years ago in Nashville—only they put their thoughts into action. They must have looked at both posters and not seen the aforementioned styles of objectification and gender-specific violence. Instead, in all likelihood, they saw a bad-ass female mutant (Psylocke) landing some awesome move in the one case, and the powerlessness of one of the more recognizable, strong mutants (Mystique) at the hand of this next foe. I will go one more step and suggest they wanted to highlight the women in this film as much as the men in a gesture of equality. These marketers, like my buddies and I, were excited about telling this story, proud of their degree of female inclusion, and totally unaware of the potential consequences.

Allowing this type of marketing to continue unchecked is damaging for women both immediately and in the long-term. The whole imagery of woman’s relationship to man is seen in this dual sense: sex and brutality. Through the propagation of this type of advertising, the product is not just the film, but the codification of patriarchal logic. Continuously, we are treated to this logic so that it becomes seemingly innate, and feeds our action, which we then observe in real time as if natural to begin with. Granted, in some vague way, societal/cultural attitudes do have origins, but contrary to what some might have us believe, biological determinism alone does not explain the enormous, concentrated efforts espoused by large swaths of disparate people acting cohesively to subjugate, exploit, or obliterate another. Nor does theology, or any other host of singularly-driven narratives for that matter. Instead, a truth lies somewhere deep within the shrouded past across innumerable nameless people, places, and events that helped create our current predicament. What we do know is that there was some evolution to our current hyper-masculine ethos, and that its continuation thrives on this seemingly connate quality, and moreover, if the proliferation of this type of logic continues, again and again we will see it manifest itself in its most heinous, but predictable conclusion: rape.

Brock Turner

Rape (like patriarchy) is quite antediluvian. The two go hand in hand, as evident in ancient records of long-dead people, tribes, and civilizations. There is debate about whether one can place a “start date” on patriarchy. However, much consent is given to the notion that the transition from hunter-gathering groups into agricultural and eventually industrial civilizations marks the genesis of patriarchy, and rape a key ingredient to its formation. Societies were often realized through various methods of violence, and so too was patriarchy. This violence spread towards women in several fashions—the most obvious: rape. Whether it was through an “exchange” of women between tribes (often through raiding missions) as a form of debt payment, or population control, or the conquest (and enslavement) of women during times of war, rape was a constant in this form of male dominance. It is also hard to recognize the creation of patriarchy without acknowledging the relationship economic strife, the rise of militarization, and the formation of states had in its realization as a fully-fledged way of life. There is an undeniable connection between a failure in the market (often related to scarcity), the threat of the state’s legitimacy, and the rise of military power to regain equilibrium (often through conquest of one sort or another).

Flashing forward a few millennia to contemporary times in the United States, though much has changed (scarcity is not as much a result of nature, but human failure at sharing), we still see the same apparatuses and social customs in their latest regenerative forms: the market (neoliberal consumer capitalism), the state (quasi-republican government), the military (nuclear-powered and technologically advanced), patriarchy realized through the commodification of women and rape. That the contemptible effects of patriarchy still exist in a country like the United States, even in environments of the most affluence, speaks to the omnipresent and well-nigh “natural” essence of patriarchy.

To see how this exists in modern America, in its most disgusting real state, let’s take convicted rapist Brock Turner for example. The case of the former-Stanford student taking an intoxicated and unconscious woman behind a dumpster and raping her until two men stopped him is full of various aspects of coeval patriarchy at play. I’m going to focus on just a few. The first focuses on the idea of scarcity and its relation to patriarchy in the modern era, then shame and the idea of honor, and finally a particular strain of thinking concerning the male and female bodies.

The origins of patriarchy might correlate to humanity’s initial struggle with scarcity, but it is not an effect of dearth today. At least, this is the case with much of the United States. It is certainly true when considering Brock Turner—a white man of considerable advantages. Using Turner to examine and understand concurrent patriarchy leads to a better contemplation of, and in some sense demystifies the deleterious phenomenon. For it was not scantness that led Turner to irrevocably destroy two futures—more so the woman’s. As patent in his father’s call for mercy, Turner came from a notable degree of privilege:

Brock always enjoyed certain types of food and is a very good cook himself. I was always excited to buy him a big ribeye steak to grill or to get his favorite snack for him. I had to make sure to hide some of my favorite pretzels or chips because I knew they wouldn’t be around long after Brock walked in from a long swim practice. Now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist. These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways. His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.

[Full text here.]

 

Earlier, Turner’s father calls to attention the fact that his son was having trouble fitting in at college (descending from those Midwestern sentiments and sensibilities, a gentler, kinder breed of American, it was hard for Brock to adjust to the strange, uncouth ways of Stanford University—my reading) and balancing both his academic and athletic responsibilities. Eventually, under the tutelage of senior peer pressure, Brock turned to heavy drinking and partying as a form of relief. Set aside the fact that these are anxieties most college students deal with (especially student-athletes) and thankfully a large majority of them are not rapists; and postpone following this logic to its obvious conclusion (every out-of-state student-athlete at Stanford is a rapist-in-waiting, one college party away from shoving parts of himself into a woman who lay inert). Instead, just recognize this as not a real form of scarcity, and that patriarchy has survived into affluence where it is most exposed for how truly inane it is. To put it another way: starvation, destruction of the land, other calamities did not lead to Brock’s decision to unclothe and physically penetrate an unconscious woman right behind a receptacle where people deposit their trash, neither did some agreed ritual of exchange between his family and hers, nor was this woman a form of payment to him. More importantly, women have had to rely less and less on men (starting in the mid-twentieth century for our brave new postmodern epoch) and the gender normative habitats that were created by patriarchy during the conflicts over scarcity.

And yet, the result was still very much the same: Brock raped this woman.

We are then left to conclude we are living in some residual phase of patriarchy (again, at least in more affluent circles of society). Because patriarchy is as much an ideology as cultural thing, and ideologies are hard to kill, this current phase can easily retrograde, but as it stands it affords us the closest examination of the logic of male-dominant societies—now more than ever, less shrouded in the cultural grips of common sense and the status quo.

Many markers of patriarchy’s logic were on display in the case of Turner. One of the more prominent features was the idea of honor and use of shame. Now, rape has deeps roots tied to the social notion of honor, or more appropriately, it is a method through which women (or females of any age) can be stripped of their societal bond; honor has its ties to the idea of self-agency and generally to moral uprightness (in certain respects as it relates to debt—one of the key ingredients to the social fabric). So an act that is forced upon a woman that strips her of these notions helps form a sense of shame and alienation from society—it’s really no wonder then why “honor” used to be synonymous with a woman’s chastity—and it is doubly felt (and meant to) as a cast of dishonor in a patriarchal society for both the woman (who carries no freedom to decide how her body can or cannot be used) and the men in her life (who could not protect her from the violence, one of their main duties). [Note: From here the fetishization of the female body can also slowly develop and expand (women have no autonomy, they are only things to be protected by men from other men), and given time, it is not too difficult to understand why the before mentioned marketing exists around the world.] In addendum, shame is used to inculcate social norms, and as this awful tango of a priori and posteriori goes on, so does the reinforcement of patriarchy.

Apart from the great mental shame that goes naturally with having suffered an act of unparalleled violence like rape, the victim of Brock Turner also suffered from further shaming in an effort to convince the judge and jury of his innocence. Throughout the trial, the woman’s morals were called into question, constantly cast as a demimonde by Turner’s attorney. Whether it was her history of sexual experience or her loyalty to her boyfriend or her lust, the victim was portrayed as impure, and thus dishonest. She had sex before that night in January (!), she may have intended to engage in premarital sex with her boyfriend in her potation-induced state of mind that night (!) and must have settled on innocent Brock when her boyfriend did not materialize. In this double bind, she was simultaneously victim and violator of patriarchy. But as Turner’s attorney wanted the jury to believe (as is custom for a great many defenders of patriarchy’s honor code), the sin of breaking the bonds of patriarchal rectitude was worth scrutiny and disgrace, and the fact that she had been raped was of the utmost secondary consideration. To put it another way: the woman was a slut, and therefore had no honor to speak of, so what difference did it make that she was raped (“allegedly”)? Her humanity was already unworthy of consideration from the start, so why blame Brock?

Branching off from this comes the second argument made by Turner, his defenders, and more broadly speaking those who defend the state of patriarchy. It concerns the standards of the male and female bodies. Or more appropriately, it concerns the helplessness of both bodies. For it was the booze that did it! If Brock was guilty of anything, it was crapulence! Drinking and party culture was what led him to “20 minutes of action” (otherwise known as three counts of sexual assault). He could not help himself. He could not help but take this woman behind a dumpster, expose her breasts and genitalia, take pictures of her naked, still body and send it to his friends, and then begin to penetrate her body. At this point, his mind had slipped through the earthbound realm, unable to prevent himself from continuing on, yet remaining completely aware of the fact that he was definitely not raping a motionless woman. He was just a male body at that point, coerced by alcohol and festivities. So not only is a woman’s body not hers (more so a vessel through which pleasure can be derived), apparently neither is a man’s. And yet, in patriarchal structures, the burden of avoiding such mindless bodily violence from men unto women falls on the woman’s shoulders. One sees this logic throughout male-dominant societies—most grotesquely in cases where the victims of rape are punished with jail time or worse. Though the woman is dehumanized by effect of her body being violated, she must also take the blame for the attack because men have no control over their anatomy, and she should have known better! Known the gender roles (as stated before). That, by the nature of things, men do and have sex, where as women are done onto and experience sex (sometimes less pleasantly than others).

After all, Brock Turner was not an evil kid. His father, lawyer, even (female) friends from high school vouched for him. He had spent twenty years of his life being an all-around “good guy” and never harmed or wanted to harm anyone. So being a rapist just doesn’t fit his modus operandi. There must be some other explanation for such an event to have taken place. Must have been the witch—I MEAN—women!

Many who doubt rape culture, patriarchy, or that they too are a part of this systemic human problem cling to this notion of binary morality. That “good” people do “bad” things is a very difficult concept to accept—for them and us. The turbid quality of human behavior and complexity challenges our ethics and values each day. Failing to recognize this, failing to place blame where it is due, leads to severe misunderstandings, conclusions, and actions. It also furthers patriarchy.

In order to break the continuation, we must change our thinking. Not just about how men and women treat each other and their own, but how humans are capable of wonderful and horrifying thoughts and behaviors, and how decency has to be reified in that fragile nexus between “us” and “them.”

Nashville Revisited

I think back to that night in Nashville a lot. More often, I think about how great it was that Melissa spoke up, and also that we three listened. It was because the setting was affable that Melissa felt her opinion would be at least heard, and thankfully we saw her valid point and altered our course. This consciousness awareness was not only imperative to my growth as a man, but it is exactly what is necessary on a broader scale. More of these conversations must happen not just between men and women, but all permutations, in the kitchen, the boardroom, and certainly the bedroom if we are to grow together and improve how we treat one another.

And let me be even more unambiguous! Melissa is not a stand-in for women writ large. Patriarchy is not the subject of just one particular set of people (an evil mustache-twirling cabal of white men). It transcends gender, race, and sexual orientation. It is not an abstract concept perpetuated by men alone, thus only subverted by the noble efforts of women. This, too, is a narrative we must disabuse ourselves from because patriarchy is not subject to such a simple binary. Even though it tends to work to a man’s benefit over a woman’s, patriarchy is often aided by the efforts of men and women and can be found in most cultures around the modern world. This type of ubiquitous nature does not result from a single hegemony, but rather widespread communal ones. To complicate matters more, it is often perpetuated by actors behaving cluelessly, who are otherwise described as “decent” people. Too frequently, these members of the patriarchal societies aid its perpetuation unwittingly. In an adjunct, the counter-force behaves in a fractured and ephemeral manner—as minority oppositions tend to do. Combining all these factors illustrates patriarchy’s longevity both vertically and horizontally. Allowed to continue unabated, we eventually see it act out in its most brutal, morally repugnant, yet purest conclusions. The response to its existence does not come with simple, straightforward solutions. To counteract such a pervasive systemic issue, the response must be as wide-ranging and persistent with a malleability to match. There also needs to be a rigorous discussion and understanding of human nature and its relationship with societal behavior. This all sounds crude and abstract in many ways, but the key is to open up and carry forth conversations, constantly thinking about these situations at hand.

More and more anxieties about contemporary hetero-male-dominant culture are being expressed, and more ideas of fairness in the social, business, and domestic arenas are being shared, along with greater discussion about the multiplicity of (and at times contradictory) human thought and agency, and this is great. This needs to continue. Although conversations will not simply wash away generations of perceived behaviors, genuine constructive dialog can (and must) lead to ameliorative actions. People are talking about the ills of patriarchy and what we must do to rectify it, as well as dealing with human complexity. The question now is: will we listen?

 


 

 

A lot of the thoughts expressed in this essay were not possible without the aid of some key thinkers that have blazed a trail in gender studies long before me. I’m in deep awe and gratitude to a whole slew of feminist thinkers. Most prominently featured here are Gerda Lerner (The Creation of Patriarchy), bell hooks (Feminist Theory), Silvia Federici (Caliban and the Witch), to a lesser extent David Graeber (Debt: The First 5000 Years), and more generally Judith Butler, Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, and a whole bunch more I’m leaving out. Without these thinkers, there would not be much meat on the bones of this otherwise gaunt think-piece on contemporary patriarchy. Of course, any faults lie solely with me. My only hope is that I did some justice to this very serious matter.

Lastly, on a personal note, throughout writing about the Brock Turner case and surrounding conundrums, I could not help but regret the fact that the victim will forever be tied to this man and event for the rest of her life, and that for most of us who followed the case, she will only be recognized as “Brock Turner’s victim.” Not Mary, or Celeste, or Vanessa, or Amy, or loving sister, or daughter, great friend, hard worker, funny person, or even: pain in the ass, horrible dancer, traffic violator, etc. etc. In trying to bring her justice, we still manage to void her humanity. There is just something extra disheartening about that. This will not be the sum of her parts, she is undoubtedly strong enough to rise above it and continue on. Her own words lead me to this conclusion. I wish her well. I wish all the women who have felt her pain in one sense or another well. I will continue to try and help change the conversation and raise awareness for all women. You are not alone.

 

 

Ascending, Falling, Ascending Again

A few days back on KUSC (southern California’s classical radio station), I was listening to Ralph Vaughn Williams’s “The Lark Ascending.” It was part of the station’s “Classical Top 100 Countdown” as voted by the listeners (it placed in 22nd—that overrated hack Beethoven! once again topped out at No. 1). Aside from the obvious qualities of the song itself (arguably Vaughn Williams’s best piece, undisputedly his most recognizable), it was the story the DJ (in his trance-inducing cadence and mid-Atlantic accent) was telling about its relation to remembering 9/11 that got me thinking.

It went a little something like this: roughly five years ago, WNYC (New York’s public radio station) was conducting a fan vote to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11; to commemorate the day, the station asked its listeners to vote for their Top 10 songs that encapsulated the city, the event, etc. It was meant to be a reflection not just on the horrors and immense sadness of the day, but of the city (and thus nation) itself. The New Yorkers who voted produced some interesting results. There were some obvious choices: Alicia Keys and Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” and Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” (the song that acted as a national anthem of sorts on the radio waves after that fateful day—or at least on my radio waves in Illinois), Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” was No. 1.

I would say that Vaughn Williams’s placement at No. 2 was a bit of a surprise, though—at least to me. Partly I was impressed I suppose because I’m a [fascist] and don’t think people who listen to public radio would be as aware of Ralph as say those who listen to classical radio or are relatively well-versed in that genre. But shame on me, right? It was only partly! No. The larger reason I was surprised by this selection was in the song itself. Though I know “Lark” is seen as an inspirational, majestic even, piece, I can never help but listen to it and hear a healthy dose of gloom just whispering in the strings. Something in the sinuous fashion of those notes as the lead violinist plays on hints to me that this is just as much about the dusk as it is the coming dawn. Now, maybe it’s my own perpetual melancholia that influences me, or perhaps I’m hearing the song “wrong,” but apart from the crescendo halfway through the song, it is a largely mild, contemplative tune in tone.

As one fictional story tells it, Vaughn Williams wrote “Lark” after seeing soldiers being shipped off to serve in World War I—this has been researched and proven false. In truth, the piece was largely inspired by the George Meredith poem of the same name, and revised several times until its performances started in 1920. I like to think the more solemn qualities of the work were added or accentuated after the war. I see Vaughn Williams returning to the work with all the awful knowledge of the Great War and what it had wrought to those young men, and citizens all across the world (interesting tidbit: during the war, the police arrested Vaughn Williams after being tipped off that the musical notation in “The Lark Ascending” was actually a form of code talk with the enemy, he never went to jail). It is fitting to think of the work in this way, especially when returning to the context of the WNYC poll and remembering 9/11.

Listening again to “Lark” with precise consideration of 9/11 only heightens the more somber notes. And, unlike with “Adagio,” the sadness I hear in “Lark” is not specific to the traumatic September day, but encapsulates the entirety of its history. That is to say, I find it so fascinating “The Lark Ascending” landed second on these New Yorkers’ list because it is perhaps the only song in the Top 10 that musically emotes a dread or regret about not only the day of September 11th, but all the subsequent days that followed in conjunction and casts them in a particularly dim light. And what interests me even more is that this song was selected at a time when the continuum of 9/11’s consequences were in plain sight (protests over Park51) and not-so plain sight (the rise of a small terrorist cell in the east of war-torn Syria calling itself ISIL) in late 2011.

So, did the placement of “Lark” in the Top 10 of this musical in memoriam represent a developing maturation of the American Mind about 9/11 and more broadly US foreign policy in the 21st century, a kind of sober reflection on the actions we as a nation carried out in the name of 9/11 and its victims, and the consequences of our behavior (both foreign and domestic)?

Probably not, but a girl can dream!

I’m more inclined to think that the majority of New Yorkers who voted for “The Lark Ascending” were in favor of the song for its inspirational qualities, which fit nicely into the narratives of New York City’s and America’s seeming immortality and greatness (even though its people might not be). Or, at the very best, for those who voted for Vaughn Williams’s classic, who were in this reflective mindset I mention above, represent but a small fraction of a fraction (i.e. people who listen to public radio in New York City that are willing and wanting to take the time to fill out a Top 10 playlist for their public radio) and cannot be viewed as a valid pool for extrapolation (though it doesn’t negate them either).

If I recall correctly, on that day five years ago, there was a lot of bumptious Americana, embarrassing chicanery (we were gearing up for a Presidential election the next year!), and crypto-jingoism going ’round. Though by then I was living on the West Coast where (if you talk to some of the folks back east of the Rockies) the people never really “got” what 9/11 was all about… But I’ll turn off the conjecture now and focus elsewhere.

So why would Vaughn Williams’s piece have any relationship to 9/11? Just what was 9/11?

After the second plane struck, we realized we were not untouchable atop our global perch.Unforeseeable forces threatened to harm us in unforeseeable ways, ineffable disasters were just waiting for us: this was our future. As the news unfolded these ghastly scenes before us, we struggled to process them in realtime, and then again when remembering them as we became further removed. This was 9/11.

The words “Never Forget” became ubiquitous, yet it was never clear what we were supposed to remember, just that we never forget. We were not required to mourn the dead properly because we were going to “rid the world of evil.” There was no time for grief—after all, an entire global economy was riding on us. So we slapped those words on our cars and painted them on the sides of our buildings, and carried them in our hearts and minds without any further reflection, which seemed evident when our recollections failed us in the succeeding days, weeks, years. We forgot that some of those civilians who died that day at the hands of the terrorists practiced Islam, that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks, that wars cannot be waged without casualties, that the lives that were lost in the aftermath far eclipsed those who perished in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania, and so on and so on.

Like we had in the past, we focused heavily on the atrocities we suffered, at times with a certain fetishism, and seldom reflected on those cast outward—as seems to be the natural behavior for human beings, to the victors go the spoils. It is not just the deaths suffered by the Iraqi civilians I think of (by one estimate at least 112,667 men, women, and children—which begs one to think: “For every one American life lost, must an Iraqi lose forty-seven? Or even one?”), but the deaths we suffered onto ourselves.

We continue to think of casualties lost in battle similar to those lost in automobile crashes, alcoholism, black on black violence, and public shootings in this country: just par for the course, these abstract facts that are the results of some outside person or thing inflicted on us. These losses are troubling and sad, but it is important to remember (never forget!) that they are done onto us, not by us, and thus there is a gap in the rhetoric that allows us to slip out and excuse ourselves from the earth like some otherworldly geist, hovering just above the rest in certain rectitude.

Why else do we say things like: “Happy Memorial Day!”?**

These holidays, these anniversaries, these catchphrases, they are ceremonial ablutions that allow us to be near the violence and the terror, but cleansed from its actualities. In this context, the VA’s numerous troubles become less opaque as comprehension starts to settle in. It is so because the violence done by us, using our fellow citizens as soldiers, is acceptable, and violence done to us (onto our fellow citizen soldiers) by us (our consent) is also acceptable, but violence suffered from the outside is unacceptable, and thus we must do something about it. We take up verbal arms against these invisible faces and bravely charge our fellow citizens (many of whom come from lesser circumstances than our own) off to fight in unseen battles, with only stories left for us to edit and relish. We participate in all the glory, and experience none of the pain. Our memories become saturated with these glossy narratives while the soldiers continue to live in unimaginable pain. It is a reality that can only exist as long as we continue to forget (or deny) we are the accomplices in our own misery. To do so is to eliminate a part of our existence.

And so I return to Ralph Vaugh Williams’s “The Lark Ascending.” How best to understand it and its relationship to us? To think about its history and our own, separately and as one?  We are tangled together, ascending, falling, ascending again, spreading wide and riding the invisible gusts of the past, cutting ripples into the future that bleeds back into that thin air, ascending and falling, ascending again.

 


** I caught myself saying this to two veterans who are very dear to me. Why in the hell does one say such a thing? It was almost obligatory. I might as well have said: “Happy Memorial Day! Sorry your buddies couldn’t be here to celebrate it with you, but you know, they’re dead. Let’s party! Have a drink on me, you PTSD-riddled fuck!”

 

Infinite City: Berserks and Haunts, As Explained by a Sixzy

Yeah, so like, where to begin? The CC. What a furious dump. Started off with der German pirates Ludwig and Hans-Johanns, and then branched out from there. First it was a pirates’ joint, then eventually the empires came, the joint legitimized and shits and it become a trading port. Gross fertile lands to the east by the river and the discovery of coal and gold in the mountains southbound in King Thelonius’s Range turn the City into half-agrarian paradise, half-shady gang town (plus, you wise, descending from pirates and whatsnot) or so the legend goes—the one that examples the First Civil Unrest in the early 1700s—you’ve got a whole history of a city with people that don’t like each other, don’t even like themself much either. Can’t even settle on a name.

First it was “Dee O-zah” or some German shit like that, denn they changed it to “Noy Himmel” when the Calvinists show up and start causing a ruckus, denn they change it again around the early 1700s to “Noy Reich” which is like “New Country” or something and then when we all start speaking English finally by mid-1700s it gets ang- angli- oh fuck that word, it gets changed to “New Reich” but some just call it Riker City because it’s easier. Anyway, like you don’t know what happens next. The fucking—anglitized! that’s the word, they anglitized it—uh… yeah… where was I? Oh rights, der fucking World War Duo happens and like gross shit happens in the city. You gots dees nuts Nazi sympathizers all over Ghettoland and Booty (they didn’t call them berserks that back then, I’ll talk about that in a minute). Uh, uh, yeah, Nazis, man. All over what used to be the furious fancy tits part of the city, you wise. Had FBI and police all over the city busting Nazi cults left and right, Nazis putting bombs in Jewish mailboxes and phone booths in all over Ass End, shooting up cars they think got undercover police in them. It was gross. And all over the City, I’m talking: Flatport, Reeves, Gorgon’s Alley, Duchess, uh, uh, all over what’s now New Strip, uh yeah, and Axel South, and Merlin Square, and uh… Capital Hall, Capital Hall was a bloodbath for that whole time, man. Not even us in Sixzy were safe, well I mean we never are, you wise, but like we were caught in all kind of gross cross fire. Nazis and Feds going right through our neighborhoods to tear up the other sides. Bayland was borderland between. My old man used to tell about that when he was young, watching the shoot outs from his window.

But uh… what was I saying? What was this about? Oh yeah. So lotta, lotta shits going down, rich? And eventually most of the Nazis get killed or thrown in jail or move to Argentina and Brazil or just move over to Posh Town, but uh… the City loses its name again, and like we all vote for a new one. Well, no. We voted for one before. Like in 1939, or maybe ’40. Definitely by ’41. It goes from “New Reich” to “New Helm.” Now, a lot of people wanted it to be tied back to the Indians that lived in the lands before the pirates killed them all. Chthic City. I don’t remember what “Chthic” meant to the natives. I think it was a mutual harvest god or something. Something about dirt, I think. Because the land was so fertile, you wise. Wait. I already said all that. Uh… yeah… what else? Oh, right. So there’s a vote and some want “Chthic” and some want “Helm” because who fucking knows, they’re as boojie as all tits and the Nazis (who are still around at this point) still want to call it “New Reich” or change it to “Hitleropolis” or something Nazi like that. The votes come in and no two-thirds majority has it so—oh that’s right—they had to eliminate the Nazis and by like ’44, ’45 is when they finally get it to “New Helm” which I still don’t know why. The boojie racists still wanted to sound German, and most of the other whites agreed, or at least agreed more than calling it Chthic City. But you still had like a third of the city that wanted to call it Chthic, so some started calling it the one that won the vote and others didn’t and this shits still sits with us now: some people call it New Helm, some Chthic, or the CC for short. A lot of people call it the City because it’s easier. Plus you gots nicknames: Bay City, Bay Haven (boojie people call it this), and Hemlock City because of that dark-ass bay of ours.

What else? What else?

Yeah, so you, uh, gots twenty-two fucking berserks. I don’t know why. Actually, I do. We call them berserks because it got angli- anglitized from the German word for “district” and there are so many of them because peeps don’t like each other. I know I’m pissing you a little, but it true. First started back with those pirates. Hanzy and Lew-Dogg had some beef and then the factions started popping up left and right, and then Charles Prick (no bullshit, that’s his name) arrived with his Calvinist followers and then the Catholic monks about a hundred years later, and on and on and on, but ever since the pirate dudes split no one in the City has ever liked the other. Actually, ever since the pirates got there and started killing off them Indians, no one has liked anyone. Or actually… them fuckers didn’t like each other either, so I guess it’s in the water or something. But like the reason everything’s got “land” on the ass of it is because for a little while (like before the 18th century or so) there were like fifty little countries all run by different pirate lords or miner gangs, or slave holders, or whatever, and the German for “country” is “Land” so… there you go. Lands. Still sticks because of the boojie white people like the idea of tradition, even if its tied back to awful people doing awful things. White people. What else can I say, you wise?

Uhm… hmm… yeah. Wars popping up like gross all over. But not really wars, just endless battles between small communities. Like first it was the Ludwig faction against Hans, actually no that’s a lie, it was der pirates against them Indians, then the Pirate Wars, denn the Great Calvinist Inconvenience, then The Revolt of 1684, there some more in there… I don’t know… there’s a lot, you wise. Uh… the First, Second, and Third Catholic Purging, there were a few more of those… uh… yeah. Lots of “wars” over the years. But yeah, nows there like twenty-two berserks over the City. It all starts in Gorgon’s Alley, which is what the haunts and the berserk is really called. I mean you have North Eye and South Eye, those haunts, and then Gorgon’s Alley, the Greeks, Pincher’s Post, and the Reeds: those are all a part of Gorgon’s Alley the berserk. But that’s where it all started. That’s the origin of the CC. Then it all just kinda spreads from there. Bloomland and Oldsland are the next berserks. All that land was colonized after Gorgon’s. You got some historic haunts in East Stretch and Pixie. Southfoot, that’s where they hanged Charles Prick, and burnt the monks, and disemboweled Hans-Johanns. Rights out there where Baskin-Robbins and American Eagles hock shit. Eeyore’s got a-ton a-ton of bars, it is furious the number. We call its that because it’s East Oldsland. So mash that together, and get gross shit-faced: Eeyore. Then you got Koossen, which was named after one of the pirates. I don’t remember which though. Then Greenland. That’s like where a lotta, lotta pride is dumped into the City. Lotta Hammer shit out there. That’s where Mmm-Hat is. Right overlooking North Park. The Major Metropolitan Museum of History and Theory. MMM-HaT. My father used to works in there. That’s like where this all comes froms, you wise. Used to take all the boojie kids from their schools in Horthwright Manors and Fletcher Park and tell them all the bullshit you s’pose to, you wise, all that stuff that’s in the news now with the textbooks. Gross stuff. Gross amounts of museums, universities, all the sports teams play there, it’s all there in Greenland, in haunts like: Upper Face, Flatport, Reeves, Aubrey Hills, lotta tight neo-gothic architecture is all over Capital Hall, that’s also where der city hall is and lots of dees government buildings. Uh yeah… what else? I mean those five pretty much make up the Old City as it stood. The lines of those berserks are pretty much untouched. Fact. Du can find bits of the wall Ludwig built to keep the Indians out of his town. It now separates the boojie parts of Aubrey Hills from Sixzy, but it goes all along from the Mond down to Hemlock.

Then you got Bayland, my home. I’m a Sixzy, grew up my wholes life on or around Sixth Street. That runs right through the heart of Bayland, starts at der Pier where du get most of the jobs coming still for peeps, but it’s like heavily boojie now, you wise? Likes a-ton un a-ton of fancy tits restaurants and places like that. Lotta peeps working on staffs in there. Sixth is like a bigs deal for lotta, lotta us, man. That’s where they used to take the slaves in for sales. When the Uprising happened back in the 1800s, Sixth was where freedom spread from out. You had all kinda crazy number of slaves coming in from around the city, out from the fields in der east and flooding Slave Town (whats they called it then). But for likes six gross weeks, man, I’m telling you, Slave Town was Free Town and Sixth was where it was at. See like, the City was still very its own, you wise? Likes even the president didn’t want to mess with the City. But when the things got ugly, and the mayor was like: “Yo, dees slaves be shitting mad hate on us, you better come squash this right now.” But it was all horses and on feet back then. They couldn’t fire up the drones to blow the slaves out of the sky in a day, you wise? So whiles it taken them weeks to get to us, we were setting up a government un defending ourselves from the slave owners trying to steal us back and city police and whatnot. Then the military came and it was gross. Slavers didn’t want their property harmed at first, but by week six they were just like: “Try not to kill the babies if you can.” No bullshit. That’s like in der records un shit. Anyway, Sixth is der Hammer. That’s where we all comes from.

And then you go west to the other berserks from Bayland: Midland, Renaissance, and Beauté. All four are parts of the “Inner Berserks” which is just a boojie term for “where to put all the non-white peeps.” Both Renaissance and Beauté used to have all the wealthy haunts of all der Nazi supporters. During the War, after they kicked out the Nazi from CC, they tore up the area for more military barracks and bases. Then after that they kinda gave it all up and converted them alls into a projects for the poor and immigrant. When they renamed the city, they changed the berserks too, from “Reichland” to “Renaissance” and “Volks-shtott” to “Beauté.” I don’t remember all the old Nazi haunt names, but nows it all like: Liberté, Unité, Fraternité, Égalité, Rois, Bleu, Sérénité. I guess they thought changing shit to French was assperational or something. I don’t know. Uh… anyways, they shoved all the rest of der poor people there and forgot about all that goodwill aspirational shit and left us for dead while they built the Sprawl (more about that in a sec). But it’s like, uh… uh… we don’t even call it that. No one coming here to teach us French. Shit. Only reason I know how to pronounce them is because of my dad. Shit. Those are the only French words he ever knew, and same for me. Shit. It’s all Booty (or some call it Baby, or Bay-B) and Ghettoland for the berserks. And you think peeps from the Inner call those haunts that? Nah. It’s ain’t that at alls. It’s all anglitized, too. Or ghettotized.

Uh… yeah. So then… you go all the way west and north into the WASPy berserks. You got Riverland, Coastland, Charles, and Paladin Heights. Well not so much Paladin. That’s where the Catholics came in. Lotta, lotta Catholics still around there. But yeah, that whole northern part of the city is where Charles Prick came with his Calvinists and started causing a ruckus with the generations that descended from the pirates. Lotta bad blood. Lotta wars. Lotta dead people during that time. It wasn’t until der monks show up. Denn you got them teaming up to slaughter dees monks. Fuckers never stood a moment on the CC and the WASPs and other white peeps coming to the port to beat them to death and steal their goods, grill ’em. Like five, six times this happens. Catholic monks come over from Europe, peeps come out to find them and kill them or send ’em back. Fucking brutal, you wise. They even sunk one of the ships before it could get to land, but it was a merchant ship. So eventually that stops. I don’t remembers, but it happened eventually. Military stepped in or something. No wise.  But yeah, that’s like lotta, lotta industry and factories and big cargo dumps and lotta lotta other stuffs all out there, rich. Like tonna working peeps, but now likes lotta Slovaks and Greeks and Taiwanesians and Persians live out in der parts because most of the others have fucked off to the Sprawl. Un, uh, yeah but most those haunts in der berserks are still gross nice. It’s not until you start touching the Inner do those parts get bad. But whatevers, it’s still like furiously better. Fucking boojie peeps.

What else? What else? Damn. Yeah. I forget how gross this city is with all these places. Gross big. Furious big, man, you wise? Like some twenty-thirty million living in this city—half of that shit in the Sprawl, but stills. So like all dees that I was talking about was the North End of the CC. Denn you gots the Islands. Most of those are boojie islands. You got Links and the Tri-Islands, but everyone calls thems Posh Town and Posh-Annex. Posh Town is where all the uber-uber boojie-time peeps are and their super fancy tits houses and other places. And Posh-Annex is like the step down, you wise? Like the Red Lion to the Black Lion in Voltron. Fucking Lance and Keith. So white. Where are all the black people? In a perfect world it’s all void of brothers? Damn, Japan. Why you gotta do us like that? Nothing about that show made sense. Why wasn’t that shit more orderly? Keith wore red but drove the Black Lion, and Lance wore blue but drove the Red. What the fuck? You mastered intergalactic travel and fight space monsters but you can’t help a kid out and where clothes that match your fucking lion robot? Color-coordinate that shit! And what the fuck with lions? Ancient space aliens know about lions on Earth? The fuck? And whatever happen to that German dandy motherfucker? Sven. Or was he Swiss? I don’t remember.

Anyway, yeah, Posh-Annex peeps are all stiff in the ass to the Posh Town crowd because during the War the military came in and started kicking Posh Town peeps out of their homes, creating a few officers’ barrack and headquarter and naval stations and whatever else, you wise, all that military bullshit, so they started kicking out some of the boojie crowd, others could stay because their land was more inland, or in less “strategic” area. So like the military was doing this to all the islands: Links, Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt (but then it was Cleveland), the free islands. So like anyone who got kicked out was relocated to Ass End, the New Strip, parts of Deebs. A lot of the Jews and Scandinavians that lived in those berserks got kicked out. The City then bought up land from the farmers east of the city, and that’s what was the start of the Sprawl. But then like after the War all the Posh-Annex people wanted to moved back, but what had happened was that some of the property remained under the ownership of the military, other parts converted into private industrial enterprises, or spots (for a lot of the officer quarters) were purchased by those Posh Townies who didn’t get kicked out. They bought up that real-estate and then charged outrageous amounts of monies to the “off-island” peeps who wanted their homes back. Poor boojies, rich? Can’t get their three-storey Victorians back the way they were? Furious, yo. Gross furious. So anyway, the wealthy pricks complained to the mayor and got the Tri-Islands redrawn into residential areas for them. Catch with that was those islands all had city-run facilities to take care of the bum population, the ‘tards, the seniors, all spots over those threes. So what did the city do? Well, they were financing the fucks outta the Sprawl, and the mayor made concessions to the industry businesses to cut back on taxes, so dudes were a little strapped for cash, so they closed all the facilities. The homeless went back to the streets, same with the ‘tards because there were no other facility that could care for or wanted to care for thems. Some of the seniors went into hospitals, or back to their families, but a good amount went homeless, too. You gots this uber flood of homeless peep, you wises. Uh… something like a hundred thousand, two-hundred thousand peeps out on the streets, un, uh, then like a freak winter came in and killed off half of dees peeps. We stills call that one “the Hard Winter.” Gross, rich?

Those the islands. The free ones were given back to the peeps, but fat-fucking chance a Sixzy can ever get over there. Du gotta take like six Metros to get there, takes like two hours. So whites go there. Them and der Puertos and Chineses that live over in New Hope and Little San Juan in der New Strip. Man. South City has all the Hammer shit. Nice parks, nice homes, everythings like a little nicer because of the land and those Lands were built on top of the miners’ towns, which were all just like wood. Most just burnt down in the King Thelonius Riots and the Miners’ Revolts, so they like just started building on them in the early-20ths. It’s all nicer over there, plus you gots the mountains and all that gross pretty shit. Make a Sixzy blush with rage. All dem berserks are furious nice and boojie-adjacent, you wise. The haunts in Ass End are real nice. Lotta Posh-Annex peeps used to live in Mame Loshn and Vidvelt after they took over, but dees used to be all the Jewtowns. They kicked them all the way out. But they are all pretty nice. Mostly Hasids now live there after they reclaimed it in the 80s. Actually I never stepped foot in there. Only heard it was nice. Don’t think I’d ever been invited, you wise? But Parkland, Deebs, and Bergland are like quantum leaps beyond the prettiest berserks in the CC. Deebs has got like the nicest park. Olympia Park. Was built in Glits for the Olympics back in the 50s. It’s pretty Hammer. But denn you gots all these tinier parks that spread across all over there. Same with Parkland. Arcadia Park was the first official city park. That’s where all the hippies tried to convert it into a “free town” but that didn’t last so long. And Bergland is right along the Range so all that haunts: Thelonius, Ashway, Matterhorn, Nord, Karling, Whimp: all Hammer as shit. Alls skis towns and whatnot. Not that a Sixzy gets a chance to ski all the time, a Sixzy don’t love the snow, but every now and again we gets out there.

No wait. Sven was Swedish. That’s right. And the fucker dies in the original Japanese version. But apparently kids can’t handle that shit stateside. Fucking Sven. You silly bitch.

But where was I?

Oh right. Yeah. Those are all nice places. But if I had to like choose. Like choose, choose. I’d probably live in Hearts. Shits got it all. It was likes the first suburban experiment for the CC by Hearts before he got his hands on the Sprawl. But you kinda see what he was going for, mixing the regular peeps with the hard shit of the city, tried to make it real nice and community-based, you wise. Then the Brazilians and Indians (like from India) moved in in likes der 70s. Yeah. Like the Rund or Lesser Thrash, Cubbiehole, Pyramids, all those places are real nice. ‘Course they are becoming real boojie again. Gardens and Dalegate used to be a place some of the Inner peeps were moving to, but not so much now. Shit. Even the other day I was walking through Nouveau Monde in Ghettoland and they’re tearing all that down for these fancy tits high-risers that’s likes three grand for a fucking studio. Who in the Inner can pay that shit? Fuckssake, rich? But don’t worry. They got vouchers for us to live in places like Meadow Lake and Free Forest in the Sprawl. Even though they’re moving all those whites back into the city and the jobs with ’em. And places like Prairie Valley and Hearts Fields have already taken measures to convert low-income housing into boojie spots, or requiring GEDs and some even college degrees for part-time jobs. Part-time jobs! I just gotta like laughs, you wise. Fucking whites. Fuck ’em. Who wants to live a shithole haunt named “Rolling Hills in Spring” anyway, rich? Like how boojie do you have to be to think of that shit?

Yeah… that’s der CC for you. Chthic City. What a Goddamn place.

But you find yourself in Sixzy, and shit I don’t know why you’d be there, maybe because you’re on your way to the interstate, but yeah if you find yourself there, hit me up. I’ll show you some of the places where Slave Town all started and how we fought back in the Uprising and made Free Town for ourselves. We’ll have a beer at this joint, Russ’s. I’ll show you ’round. We can play Zelda. Or you like Goldeneye? Trick question, who don’t?

Anyways, you can swing through, say “hi” ‘n’ shit. It’ll be Hammer.

 

 

City Map 

CityMap

Berserks:

  1. Gorgon’s Alley
  2. Greenland
  3. Bloomland
  4. Oldsland
  5. Koossen
  6. Bayland
  7. Midland
  8. Renaissance (Ghettoland)
  9. Beauté (Booty, Bay-B)
  10. Hearts
  11. Parkland
  12. New Strip
  13. Deebs
  14. Oceanland (Ass End)
  15. Bergland
  16. Subland (the Sprawl)
  17. Riverland
  18. Coastland
  19. Charles
  20. Paladin Heights
  21. Links Island (Posh Town)
  22. Tri-Island (Posh-Annex) with Roosevelt, Lincoln, and Washington Islands

 

Major Parks and Islands, etc.:

  • A) Ludwig City Island Park
  • B) Hans-Johanns City Island Park
  • C) Chinnemuuk City Island Park
  • D) Othahathaway City Island Park
  • E) Bay City Park
  • F) Pearl Coast City Park
  • G) Founders City Park
  • H) Rutherford Chauncey Horthwright Welcoming Island Park
  • “NE” – North Eye Island
  • “SE” – South Eye Island
  • “NP” – Mond River Park, North (North Park)
  • “SP” – Mond River Park, South (South Park)
  • “WEB” – W.E.B. Du Bois Park
  • “PP” – Charles Prick Park (the Prick)
  • “NHP” – New Helm City Park
  • “OP” – Olympia Park
  • “KTMRP” – King Thelonius Mountain Range Park
  • “AP” – Arcadia Park
  • “R” – Roosevelt Island
  • “L” – Lincoln Island
  • “W” – Washington Island