please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Friday, February 24, 2006

All the Glory That the Lord Has Made, or, Whose Hands the Church has Fallen Into

I was sitting with Jason the English lately. He was discussing his dislike of a certain act on the scene.
"Te-gan and Sa-ra? I mean, God...Te-gan?"
"Yeah," I said. "It's bad enough that they're two eye-rolling teenage lesbians who are sisters, but why does one of them have to be named one of those American not-names like...
"Tee-gan!" he said.
And then I started talking about Sufjan Stevens. I mean, 'Soof-yawn'? What kind of killingly cute bullshit is that? And the fact that he's some sort of hipster crypto-christer...With a whiny little bitch voice, and pretension to spare...If he weren't the best musical arranger currently known to me in American pop music, he'd have a lot to answer for.
I know my history well enough to understand that some of the greatest art made in human history was made to celebrate the glory of God, regardless of how I feel about that, or anything I might know about the commerce aspect of that sort of thing.
There's the story about Rafael, after painting the usual insanely beautiful images on the cieling of some chapel somewhere, and is approached by a bishop or cardinal or some similar professional liar/gay man who must hide for fear of death, who asked why the angel's faces looked so red...
"They blush to see whose hands the church has fallen into," he reportedly said in response.
Perfect. What do you say about a moment like this in human history? This moment, like so many in the last hundred years, decided largely by the actions of the nation I live in, and when the leadership, as always, has no noticeable regard for human life (except the highly profitable unborn, that is, and the soon-to-be-dead), and the people, as always, are gathering around the crudely drawn stick figures that comprise their faith.
This is why I have a problem with Sufjan Stevens, despite the fact that I can honestly not name anyone who writes better music, these days. It's like embracing Nazi-ism because you like their snappy uniforms, their spare and majestic architecture.
But what do I say about anyone else with this dichotomy? Ya' gotta love the art, not the artist. (Or, as I say even more often, 'Hate Christianity, love the Christian.')
His album "Seven Swans" is a full-blown celebration of the mystery of the soon-to-be-revealed savior. It is fine, spare, banjo-driven music, full of longing of the most beautiful sort, and at least at first, the lyrics could very well be about a lover, rather than the revealed messiah. By the end, it's full blown hymnal for a new age. And it disgusts me. It is sentiments like these that make it easy for the rest of the citizenry of this highly armed and superstitious nation I live in to accept the police state a-growing. 'Unto Caesar...', y'know.

His project to make a celebratory album for each of the fifty states is admirable. I suspect that the professional rock press will have abandoned him for some new, transitory darling by the time he gets to Oregon, if ever. Probably before he hits Nevada or Idaho. That doesn't matter. I haven't heard his album "Greetings From Michigan", but I bet it's wonderful, as almost everything he does is (the album "A Sun Came" is just plain awful).
The album that followed, "Sufjan Stevens Invites You to Come on Feel the Illinoise", is a fucking classic. It's the kind of thing that would have become a musical, not all that long ago.

The first song, "Concerning the UFO Sighting near Highland, Illinois", sets the tone nicely. It starts with echo-ey piano, and goes right into the theme of child-like wonder that pervades the whole album. He also displays his erudition (or pretension, if you please) by referring to said UFO as 'the revenant'.
Like we all noticed at one point or another: based on what early cultures had to say about the gods, they certainly do sound like a bunch of highly advanced beings from space, don't they?
An instrumental follows. It is both majestic and self-parody-ing. Beautiful and large. It is, on further reading, named "The Black Hawk War, or, How to Demolish an Entire Civilization and Still Feel Good About Yourself In the Morning, or, We Apologize for the Inconvenience but You're going to have to Leave Now, or, 'I have Fought the Big Knives and will continue to fight them until they are off our lands!'"
Sufjan Stevens likes long song titles. But taking the above with what I know of the guy: I think he's a liberal Christian. The kind I like. He will say, in interviews, that he's a Christian, but he doesn't wanna talk about it. I applaud that, because I think he's trying to say that faith is private, and worse yet, there's already plenty of assholes already making a business out of this.

The next one is a two-parter named "Come on Feel the Illinoise!" The first part called 'The World's Columbian Exposition'. "Oh great intentions/ I've got the best of interventions/but when the ads come/ I think about it now"
Nice word play, and I love the idea that anyone would be delving into the history of a place on a pop record...But that particular line also reminds me that a hell of a lot of his lyrics seem to be about a great deal, without actually saying anything. "If you got patience/ celebrate the ancients". Sure, but...
Along the way, he visits Frank Lloyd Wright, the invention of the Ferris Wheel and Cream of Wheat. It's all good stuff, and seems to be heading toward a statement of some sort regarding how far we should have gone contrasted with how far we actually went: "Oh god of progress/ have you degraded or forgot us?" Even so, the guy still is saying nothing. The music is gorgeous, almost florid.
It flows nicely into the second part, 'Carl Sandburg Visits Me In a Dream'. If you're going to explore Illinois mythology (Lincoln in particular), you're going to need to go back to Sandburg. It's even more in keeping with the classical ode view being put forth here that he would arrive in the form of a visitation from beyond the grave, or a Voice From History, at least. "I was hypnotized, I was asked to improvise/ on the attitude, the regret of a thousand centuries of death".
He's no longer talking about Illinois, or History, at all. He's talking about Where We Stand Right Here, as artists, as Sufjan Stevens...How to say the thing that needs saying, when so many have already said so much. How to not make the same mistakes...
"Even with the heart of terror and the superstitious wearer
I am writing all alone, I am writing all alone
Even in my best condition, counting all the superstition
I am riding all alone, I am running all alone
And we asked the beatitudes of a thousand lines
We were asked, at the attitudes, they reminded us of death
Even with the rest belated, everything is antiquated
Are you writing from the heart?
Are you writing from the heart?
Even in his heart the Devil has to know the water level
Are you writing from the heart?
Are you writing from the heart?"

Perfect. He's writing a new handbook for how to approach this whole I-have-something-to-say thing. Are you acting out of a pure place? Or, as I like to put it, are you operating from ground clear? Intent is everything, y'know.

The next song is about a serial killer from Illinois, "John Wayne Gacy, Jr."
I remember hearing about him on the news, as a kid. I didn't understand why anyone would feel like killing so many people, and wondered why the fact that all the dead bodies were naked was such a big deal. I don't recall whether or not they mentioned that he made his living as a clown.
The music is quiet, singer/songwriter-y but claustrophobic, like the Seventies themselves. It's a not-sympathetic-but-realistic treatment: "His father was a drinker/ and his mother cried in bed/ folding John Wayne's t-shirts when the swingset hit his head"
and "the neighbors they adored him/ for his humor and his conversation". Yes. That's what all the neighbors of all serial killers say. But the nightmare hasn't started yet.
"Look underneath the house there/ find the few living things rotting fast/ in their sleep/ oh my god" and on that 'oh my God', his voice breaks into a near-crying falsetto. He follows it quietly by asking, "Were you one of them?"
Now, what does that mean? Is he wondering about some cousin who disappeared one day in 1977 and was never seen again, or is he asking if we all died, or at least some part of us did, when we finally had it brought to our attention that clowns sometimes are psychopaths, and the neighbors may have a trunk freezer in the garage full of the remains of other neighbors?
It goes on like that, alternating cold recitation of fact with poetic flights. At the end, as almost a post-script, Sufjan Stevens intrudes again:
"And on my best behavior, I am really just like him
look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid."

Shiiiiiit. So-assuming that isn't a confession that he's a serial killer himself- he's certainly laying the whole 'we are all sinners, and therefore wounds in the body of Christ' thing on a bit thick, right? Or, is he reminding us all that it's easy to view all the evil inherent in people through the convenient lens of monsters like Gacy, causing the rest of us to blow off the awful shit we do?

The next song, "Jacksonville", is another one where the music is so lush and wonderful, it causes one to sing along without ever knowing the words. This is why so much of his music courses through the sound systems of hip coffee shops and cafes all over: it's really pretty music.
The lyrics though? It's another pseudo-historical exploration, with words that seem to be saying a great deal, but I'm not sure they're about anything really.
He talks a bit about how the actual black people who live in Illinois don't scare him so much, as he knows he's going to heaven (that's a big paraphrase, but it's what he's saying). He throws in something that I think is a reference to Helen Keller, the Dewey Day parade (?)...And here's something: "The spirit's right, and the spirit doesn't change".
I know that the above is one of those reasons people give for being religious. "Here, at least, is something I can be sure of." Well, sure, but doncha see how some of us people (like me) see this whole No Change thing as terrifying, and signifying Atrophy?
Or how acting like things don't change signifies you in my book as being An Idiot, since the nature of life and the universe Is Change? And how having Something up there in the Sky constantly watching actually sounds a great deal like the nightmarish world I already inhabit? And yet I also agree: there are some things that are just True, dammit, and I don't care what anyone else has to say about it. I know.
And this is one of those places where religious people and non-religious people come together. The other one is: we all agree the world has gone to shit.
"Andrew Jackson! All I'm asking/ show us the wheel, and give us the wine/ raise the banner, Jackson hammer!/ everyone goes to the capital line/ Colored Preacher, nice to meetcha!/ the spirit is here, and the spirit is fine."
Et cetera. I guess I get what he's saying, but what he's saying isn't much, by my estimation. Those who built our nation did so by murder and lies. Yes, I noticed. But maybe this astonishingly good looking Christian guy of twenty-three or so can tell people better than I ever would...But what if they have no idea who Andrew Jackson is? Or they get so caught up in the music, they never check the lyric sheet?
It fades out on one of those long piano trills that takes up the entire keyboard, and into a short string thing called "A short Reprise for Mary Todd, who went Insane, but for Very Good Reasons". A Lincoln joke again. Gotcha.

"Decatur" is the song that follows. Sufjan shares vocals with some other guy. This is the most light-hearted song on the album; largely a bunch of Seussian word-play in which all of the last lines of each verse rhyme with 'Decatur'.
Even so, he still can't leave it alone, either with trying to pack too much meaning into a pop song, or saying things that don't mean a damn thing while trying to fool the rest of us that maybe it does...Also, the requisite stops in History:
"The sound of the engines and the smell of the grain
we go riding on the abolition grain train
Stephen A. Douglas was a great debater
but Abraham Lincoln was the Great Emancipator"

See what I mean? Totally fucking cute. But then check the not-makin'-any-sense-at-all next verse:
"Chickenmobile with a rooster tail
I've had my fill, and I know how bad it feels
stay awake and watch for the data
no small caterpillar, go and congratulate her!"

I forgot to mention that the first line is-"our step-mom, we did everything to hate her/ she took us down to the edge of Decatur". So, along with History History, we also get Personal History, which would have been great if the guy had followed up at all with what he was referring to. That doesn't stop the final chorus from being great:
"Denominate her! Go Decatur!
Go Decatur! It's the great I Am
Abominator! Why did we hate her?
Go Decatur! It's the great I Am
Denominate her! Anticipate her!
Go Decatur! It's the great I Am
Appreciate her! Stand up and thank her!"
So, it's a nice sentiment, if you're finally getting around to apologizing to your stepmom (the actual title of the song is "Decatur, or, Round of Applause for Your Stepmother"), but why didn't you do a better job of that, minus the half-ass historical references? Or why not do the whole thing more cohesively, unless that's the point: here's what it sounds like inside the head of Sufjan Stevens.

The next song, "Chicago", is beautiful. I'm not gonna get into it here, though. The song we've been heading for this entire time is coming up next.
The guitar starts out quietly, at home. An unusual melody. By now, you're ready for it: if he's putting me at ease like this, something horrific is about to happen.
And it is, but it's not. "Casimir Pulaski Day" is one of the most beautiful songs I know, since it's not just a song about a little girl dying of bone marrow cancer. Indeed: if it were just that, I would be able to say, oh you cheap piece of shit. How dare you make me cry with stupid songs about little girls dying of cancer? What ya' got next? Puppies run over by cars?
No: it's about being in love when you're way too young, and having to deal with unacceptable loss when you're a young Christian, and are compelled to say that it all has a higher purpose.
"In the morning through the window shade
when the light pressed up against your shoulder blade
I could see what you were reading
All the glory that the Lord has made
and the complications you could do without"

All the little images we remember years later: "with your shirt tucked in, and your shoes untied", for instance. It all adds up to being a complete picture, which you never get in pop music, of a person. Not just My First Love, not just The Dead Chick, not just The Day I Started Questioning God Because I'd Never Had to Deal with Death Before, not just Cheap Tearjerker, but not just Celebration of Someone, either. All the above, in fact.
"All the glory that the Lord has made
and the complications when I see His face
in the morning in the window
all the glory when he took our place
but He took my shoulders, and He shook my face
and He takes and He takes and He takes..."

She's a martyr/messiah, too. She is the face of God, or is that a reflection in the window?
And I love that 'he takes and he takes'. Last time Sufjan played New York City, the guy from the Times pointed out that any show by this outfit chiefly concerns 'a God that sometimes seems so distant'...Mr. Stevens is a believer, and I haven't been since I was very young (and only briefly then). I love to listen to the searching aspect, as opposed to the fat, self-satisfied smugness one generally gets out of Christians in the United States.
Above all else, this is the journey all of us are on, regardless of what we're seeking. If it ain't God, it's Art, or Justice, or Knowledge...Or anything we wish for. And to hear anyone finally say it out loud-It may not Actually Be There-is so fucking beautiful.

Rest o' the album's pretty damn great. The song that follows "Casimir Pulaski Day" is one that would make Stereolab proud. That's another one of the strengths of this album: it isn't tied specifically to one musical genre. It can be whatever it wants to be. The rest of the album is beautiful, though I think it shoots its wad on "Casimir".
That song ends with some of the beautiful girl backup singers he always employs doing their tiny, plaintive voice thing. Quietly, so young: feel sad, but then...
It gets louder, and the chorus reminds the musicians that this is also supposed to be a celebration, and it sounds more triumphant, like maybe she's a little lucky to be out of here, and not have to ask all these fucking questions, which then will require answers.

I gotta stop. I promised myself a few weeks ago that I'd do a piece on this album, and now I basically did it. Take it for whatever it might be worth.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Not a Republic, again

A quick one from the good folks at Club Metternich. Read it and remember that our paleoconservative friends howl in pain, too.
Disco Boy was asking me on the last post about my somewhat drunken vow of years ago to become not a politician, but a politician's handler. I even had a guy we were friends with in mind. It should be remembered though: in those days I was also considering how one goes about becoming a professional assassin, as well.
I pointed out that another pal of ours averrred that I had not the stomach for the ugly aspects of politickin'. DB was wise enough to come back with the real truth; I have already had, and am considering applying for some of the foulest jobs on the market. The relative distaste I may experience about hanging around with a buncha ward heelers would be minor.
Perhaps, but understand that I hate office culture, and would like to never ever do that again. Much of politicking as a business happens in offices, especially in the world of Committee Life. Committees in general can be just excruciating, and when everyone has too many years of Seminar at bad colleges under their belts like the majority of folks I know do...The bad counselling-speak would flow like a river of shit.
(I'm rambling, but that's why we write, yes? I haven't been able to get those moments together lately; y'know, when you have something to say, and the attention span to say it.)
And how about this one? I feel like I'm too old for the game. The revolution that Howard Dean's crew started with online grassroots organizing has been neatly and beautifully Taken and Run With by the far better funded GOP.
Matter of fact, go check
this out. It's a clever place where bedwetters all across these here States meet and talk about all the things they hate with one another. A dandy resource where they can hear about all the other people who agree with them. (But it's also where I found Club Metternich.) Point is, the GOP has a lot of unpaid help out there, with bloggers and evangelical churches doing nicely keeping the group mind cohesive, and the media doing a fine job of not really reporting anything anymore, but propagandizing plenty.
They've forwarded an agenda that is far-reaching and elegant in its construction. It used to look like an America First thing, but these days I swear it's more like a Anti Human thing. Capitalizing on the fact that Americans like simple answers and tend toward quick anger (and are terrified of the unfamiliar, for that matter), they've brought it back around, yet again, to a place where If You Aren't For Having No Rights, You Are A Potential Problem.
The reasoning there runs that if you have nothing to hide, you won't mind having no privacy. I suppose this seems pretty comforting to most white people of a certain economic bracket, but even they have had to deal with a bored, sadistic cop at one point or another.
Or: if you keep on saying things that other people don't want to hear (for example), it would be very easy to make it appear that you've committed a crime, and need to be locked up...After not having a fair trial, since I'm noticing that the demonization of defense lawyers continues, too...
Somewhere in there, it became a virtue to follow. I wanna say that this wasn't always the case with us Frontier Individualists, but that's probably not true, either.
The Great Game of Politics (as Nixon put it in his second inaugural speech) is a funny one. It makes tortured geeks like myself want to go pro. I think it was Hunter Thompson who pointed it out: it's addictive, and once you've obsessed on it long enough, you want to get in there...Which you can't do if you're similarly obsessed with, say, pro football.
But I do have ideas for the ontological warfare that is called for at this dark point in 'Murkan history...Do I want to comment on them here? Not really: my main point is that the Democrats need to stop trying to act like they're more mature than their opponents, but that's only the tip o' de iceberg. I also have some concrete strategies, but there are better ways of saying them, in better places.
I mean, there's no end to the mendacity out there in this stupid medium. I've been watching the travails of some guy named KEvron, lately. He has a pretty funny
and is noteworthy for just not even pretending to be a nice man. I like it: it's not gonna build any coalitions, but who said that was everybody's job?
In any case, his main error was disagreeing with some of the bedwetters here in blogville, and one of them seems to have gone ahead and tried to smear him as some sort of child molester. Said weirdo even went out of its anonymous way to pirate KEv's name, which didn't work very well because it was clear that the editorial tone had changed.
Matter of fact, the weirdo started typing as if it had a lisp (since it is an article of faith among these waterheads that molester equals queer), and in general started sounding like a seventh grader, providing insight into the private fantasies of the repressed types everywhere...They're just making fun of molestation, riiiiight...
For the most part, folks is nice to me. Unity, over at The Love Rhombus, has pointed out to her readers that she's in a boring mood, and folks should come over here and look at the funny bachelor. I appreciate yer throwin' an old person a bone, lady: s'nice. But see here: you must stop with this World of Warcraft bullshit immediately. It kills, as all video games do, everything that is nice.
There are so many other things to talk about...Well, I'm just gonna have to start doing this on a regular basis again, and see here Disco Boy ('see here' is what people of good social standing on "Perry Mason" say when they're gettin' pissed off): you raised a damn good question, which I still have no good answer for (that can be put into words, anyway), and haven't considered for a long time. I made my peace with never being an evil svengali a while ago, at least somewhat because there's so many other things I'd rather do...But I was, at one time, a pretty mean lothario...Ah, let's go get a drink.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Not a Republic

I had to get something notarized today. I've never had to do that before. Wonderfully, it would seem that every bank has at least one Notary Public, and mine's no exception.
See, shortly after getting my last check, I lost the damn thing somewheres in the confines of my apartment, which is big but not that big.
So the process the folks at the office would like one to follow in this case is to fill out a form testifying that I (me) will, if I ever find my check (original document), not cash it, and indeed, will tear it up. This form must then be notarized.
The lady who was notarizing (the other bank, closer to the office, wouldn't do it even for money) at my bank looked surprised when she saw the money order accompanying said form. "They charge you money to replace your check?"
"Yup. Nice of 'em, in'it?"
But then, Notarizing is one of those things I've considered getting into, lately. It's something to do for a living, and especially in the niche market I call home: "R.B. Fortuneseeker: Scenester Notary!"
Plus, I'm sorta sick of this continually-stumbling-into-the-next-job thing. My current one isn't steady enough to pay 'dem bills really, and the aforementioned 911 gig strikes me as maybe not paying as much as...

The Postal Service! Sheeit, they start you at eighteen cash dollahs per yer hour. All I gotta do now is take some tests. And give them money for 'study materials', which I already did (assuming that phone number I called wasn't some total scam).

There is the whole meat counter option too, tho'. I've considered butchery as a trade before (though the preferred term in the industry is 'meat dressing'), but the last guy I interviewed with failed to hire me despite two of his employees having been in car accidents the week previous, and still home from work...I can only wonder what the hell I did.
Whatcha do is: go get a job in the meat department of a store that mostly sells healthy (or at least that's what they tell you) foods. None of the employees want to get stuck back there: it's a hardship post for them-they tend toward vegetarianism.
Whereas for me, the hardship post would be the cruelty-free cosmetics aisle.
I've always thought that along with making me some hard-earned, learning butchery would only help me with my own cooking. I dunno, though.
Frankly, I just hope the P.O. feels like employing me.

The rest of the time lately has been spent writing up a storm, taking lots of pictures, filming a small video at my favorite bar (a love/farewell letter, it felt like), and making devious plans concerning podcasting with the infamous Bobby Massage, details to come.
Matter of fact, actual post about something actual to come. I'm tryin' t' git back in the saddle, here.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

Eastside, Then and Now

I've been having some problems with the neighbors, of late.
They don't pay money or anything. They just sort of live downstairs on the stoop of the restaurant space that currently hosts no restaurant. I have suggested nicely that they leave, but so far they haven't heard it. She is a tiny, acne-ridden terror that screams at you if you fail to provide her with a cigarette, and he is a child currently inhabiting the body of (I'm gonna say) a twenty-year old, maybe younger. They're pretty clearly junkies, and like all good junkies, claim to be trying to stay away from all those bad people who live down the block who are trying to sell them heroin.
It does not do at all to argue with them. The man of the two (accompanied by his shrill, screeching child-bride who keeps up a slightly off-rhythm commentary of her own, so as to dis-orient one) explained to me: "Look, I know you've heard this before, but I was in jail for dealin' weed, and I lost my house..."
And I said, "You're right. I've heard this before."
This is not a couple of people who enjoy the relatively harmless (yes, though it tends to make one not especially motivated, granted) marijuana. These people are addicted to, and sell their bodies for, and attract violent-or-at-least-sketchy folks because of something much worse that certainly looks like heroin, but who the fuck knows or cares, really?
I mean, we're not people who don't care about other people in this neighborhood. We just don't want you to be shitty to us (including literally shitting on the sidewalk, thanks). If you're down on your luck, we'll do all we can to help, but if you're two little schemers who seem to have jumped on this whole poverty-is-cool bandwagon circa age 18 or so, and then got your miserable ass addicted to a stupid person's drug, then fuck you, and fuck your goddamn dog you somehow seem to have acquired, as well.
Last night, a houseguest of ours called the cops. She explained that she is all of four-foot-nothin' (and this is true), and feels...Well, threatened by all these here assholes who (as of last evening) had extended in population to include both sides of the door from the sidewalk to here. The cops responded by harrassing the shitheads downstairs, but since we do not own this building, and could not press charges, they really could only tell them to move on, and not even really enforce that.
Nonetheless, when I came home this afternoon, they weren't there. Acne-job was getting into a car with two sinister-looking dudes, and instead of feeling sorry for her simple, never-had-a-chance ass, it just made me feel militant about the whole thing. I immediately went over to the door where she and her man (?) normally sleep.
I saw a tall man, back to the sidewalk, doing something that he wished the rest of us could not see. When he noticed I was staring at him, he spun around, hands behind his back.
"Whatcha got back there?" I asked.
"Nothing." he said. "None of your concern."
"Really? 'None of my concern'? I live here, and it sure looks like there's something there. So what is it?"
"Nothing. It's personal. It's no big deal-"
"So why can't I see it?"
"Because it's nothing!"
"Doesn't look like nothing."
"It's personal!"
"Here on the sidewalk?"
"It's no big-"
"-And none of the other bullshit things that all the resta these sketchy fucks do is, either. I'm fuckin' sick of this shit."
He starts walking away, and I follow him.
"Look, I'm sorry okay?" He says. "I'm just waiting here for my pastor-" I wave this line of bullshit away. I'm sick of that so often being part of the lie. They never get it: Hey Man of God, I'll talk to you when you're not using it as part of your hustle.
We stand there and vent. At this point we're laughing. I'm laughing about how the block where I live seems no longer to be all that much like home, and he's laughing about how standing in a doorway might earn one some random harrassment.
But he also gets it. From the look of him, he's homeless, but I don't think he's a junkie. He knows how impossible it can be to deal with their whiny, entitlement-syndrome asses. Or...He's just lying, too.
Then he introduces himself as Steven Stroud.
Conversation killer. If I wasn't from Portland, that might not mean anything to me, but I am, and I remember how he and two of his friends made national news in this city, eighteen years ago.
They were members of the Eastside White Pride, and felt the need to club an Ethiopian man named Mulugeta Seraw to death, about fifteen blocks from here. Now, they all went to prison, but something else happened that is still of interest.
Since the assailants all claimed to be loyal followers of the teachings of one Tom Metzger, the de facto leader of the Aryan Nations, Metzger's organization was put on trial, and ultimately bankrupted; run out of business.
Now of course, we all cheered roundabout here, but we all wondered: what door just got opened? Will there be a time, somewhere in the near future, where if someone listens to me and then commits a crime, It'll be my fault? Tom Metzger never specifically told those three idiots to go kill someone whose main crime was walking down the street.
Still, I likes to see me some fat, self-satisfied fuck get done for: watching Metzger go begging was sweet...But as much as I hate white supremacy, I hate police states even more.
The upshot? Portland, which had a fairly healthy skinhead movement all through the '80's, suddenly saw them all go into hiding. A lot of them went not very far at all to find a place that would welcome them. Just up into the hills.
In the summer of '89, Petunia and I went out driving, as we were like to do when bored. Somewhere out near Helvetia Road, we took off into the farmland surrounding. I've always been a big fan of exploring abandoned structures, and I saw what looked like one, so we stopped.
Standing there-both of us blonde haired, blue eyed, but hippies, clearly-I asked her, "Does that look kind of like someone's watching us?"
It did, sort of. Like just one eye, a bit of cheek, bald forehead, peeking from the corner of a window. I wasn't sure if I was seeing an optical illusion, or there really was...
My reverie was interrupted by three snarling Rottweilers rounding the corner, heading right for us. We hopped in our little car and tore ass outta there.

So here I was yesterday, talking to Steven Stroud, looking like hell. Dirty coat, and the kind of scars that either mean he'd been beat pretty bad, of late, or he was banging heroin after all. He claims that since prison, he'd been going around the northwest, preaching against the nascent white supremacy movement.
I mentioned this idiot I went to high school with, who never ever quite found that ready-made identity, and eventually went skin. He claimed to be friends with Stroud and his ilk, back in the day, but the name didn't ring any bells.
Last time I saw that particular fool, he was on the way to reinventing himself as a long-haired peacenik. He and I were on our way to a draft resistance seminar at Reed College (1st Gulf War), and I was stunned to find out who he was. He had just renounced white supremacy on national television (he said), and there even was footage of him 'surrendering' his Doc Martens'.
I've never done any serious research to see if he really was on "20/20". I've done no serious research to see if I can find a picture on the internet of the guy I spoke with yesterday. The name he gave me definitely wasn't an attempt to score points, and there's plenty that happens when you Google 'Steven Stroud'. Go check it out.