Author’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from today’s new post to Disputationes, the debate and dialectics blog recently undertaken by Comrade Richard “Bingo” Little and myself. What you read here is the beginning of my point: that everything is doomed to oblivion. On Disputationes, you’ll find the rest of my argument as well as Comrade Bingo’s counterpoint (which I must grudgingly admit is quite astute — but still wrong, damn it!). I’m very excited to be launching this new blogging venture with my partner Comrade Bingo, and I hope you’ll follow us there as well, dear Constant Reader.
Pessimus, or Everything is Horrible
By H.J. Herrick
So I’m supposed to tell you poor fuckers why your lives are doomed to mediocrity and despair through no fault of your own. Unless you were born rich, with power and influence. And even then you may not be happy (you fucking sociopathic bastard). Well delivering shit news like this to good hardworking suckers such as yourselves is never easy, dear Constant Readers. I didn’t ask to be the Harbinger of Doom, but I did ask to know the Truth, and have spent my life trying to lift up the dark underbelly of Society to find it. Take it from me: the Truth is a grim ugly Bitch of Death, and it wants to eat your children alive.
So here is how I find myself in this position… After disappearing from public life for some months while serving a brief jail sentence for some trumped up bullshit, I emerged from solitary confinement to go on a horrific month-long ether, psychedelic mushroom and booze-fueled binge across Oregon. While drinking moonshine under a bridge somewhere (I think I was in Marion County, but I blacked out for a few days here and there, so who knows?) I came across my old colleague and friend, Comrade Richard “Bingo” Little. Always the chipper lad, Comrade Bingo had plenty of nice things to say about my needing to buck up and look on the bright side of Life. Naturally, I snorted some strong uppers and composed myself so I could argue the opposite position: that Life and the World are twin Dogs from Hell snarling and gnashing teeth, ready to rend our balls from our bodies. I argued that nothing could be done to better my situation, or the World’s. I was doomed. We were all doomed. But he persisted. Eventually we argued to an impasse, and agreed to continue the debate later in a more civilized forum. So here I am, in this new area and back at the typewriter, arguing the case on the behalf of Chaos and Misery. I’m sure he’ll tell you all about that contrary “The World is a wounded unicorn searching for a healing rainbow” bullshit later, but for now it’s time to sink your teeth into some real meaty and awful rotten stuff: Reality.
Follow the rest of the post here!
Greetings. I am Upton, the new writer here at The New Apocalypse. I’d like to thank Mr. Herrick for his introduction in the previous post.
As was mentioned by Herrick, we met at what was, at the time, the biggest dive bar in New York City. It was also one of the few places where you could get a drink for any price close to reasonable. It was a haunt of mine mostly for the cheap drink and good people watching. The place was roughly the size of a live-in trailer and about as luxurious. The clientele generally consisted of punk rock kids and seasoned drunkards. Most of the Williamsburg hipsters stayed away from the place, though it was the bar where the Yeah Yeah Yeahs formed.
I was drinking a Corona out of a bottle (one of the two beers served there) and heard some guy in an ragged blazer ranting on about Wall Street and the collapse of the housing market (Note: This was back in late 2007). Most people were ignoring him in that way that New Yorkers do. I was a transplant in the city and could tell that he was, too. The city must have been taking a toll on him, I thought. Why else would he stumble in here?
We got to talking and drinking and found we had a lot in common. A general distaste of most things (especially in the Bush II years) bonded us. I was a nice, warming thing to meet someone like him a city that was both literally and figuratively cold.
We shared a joint outside after last call and Herrick mentioned that he was starting a blog. Good God, not another one of those, I thought. I was less warm to the idea as I was a writer for print and, like many at the time, I saw blogs as an enemy rather than a future. But I wished him the best in his efforts. I stumbled back north to the L-line, and then home. I never really expected to see Herrick again.
But here I am, broke as hell living in Oregon. It isn’t where I thought I would be, but there are worse things. Things have changed a bit: The Mars Bar closed down, we have a new (er) president, work is harder to find, the garbage island in the Pacific is bigger every day. I recently went to a dive bar off Broadway called The Half Time that boasts $1.75 tallboys of PBR. I’d found a new home.
And who was in the bar but that crazy bastard Herrick! We started talking a bit more and he told me once again about his blog. I’ve become more open to the idea, so I agreed to come on board. Why not? It’s not like I’m getting paid to do anything else…
So I’ll be joining you here for a while. It should be a blast.
Greetings, dear Constant Readers and adoring fans (yeah… right). If you’re wondering where I’ve been since my recent emergence from coma-hood — just take a gander at my previous post if you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about — I’ve been dedicating a little time to a side project of mine…
You’ll be shocked to know, dear Constant Reader, that H.J. Herrick has poetry on the brain as well as asinine drug-induced ramblings on politics and the obscure weird. You see, I haven’t thought that this blog was the proper venue to showcase my poetry — and I still don’t think that — but I’ve failed to find a better place or invest the energy in creating and maintaining my own poetry blog.
Ladies and germs, I give you: 365. I’ve been invited onto 365, a local arts blog run by some compatriots — or partners in crime if you will — to contribute my poetry on an occasional basis. Besides my own dark and bitter brand of verse, you’ll find other poets contributing on a more regular basis, some rather hilarious videos, fresh photography and surreally beautiful drawings in various mediums.
So far, I’ve re-posted a classic blog from The New Apocalypse and a new poem entitled “This Life.” Check it out soon. There’s a lot more to come in the future on 365 as well as The New Apocalypse. Prepare your minds to be fucked, dear Constant Reader. Click your way into this head trip!
Keeping it weird,
A great swell of sadness overcame me this morning after I had gotten myself a head full of peyote while watching Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I saw Hunter Thompson (played by Johnny Depp) sitting in his violently savaged hotel room typing away on his red IBM Selectric and I thought to myself, No one will ever do that again. No one will ever find themselves barricaded into a flooded hotel room typing about a generation of failed seekers because this is a generation of seekers who – they think – cannot fail to find the so-called truths which they are seeking. The internet and the personal computer has destroyed the mystery of the world, and – I’ve come to believe today – some of the mystery of writing. Almost every word written in the world today can be deleted without a trace before it is ever fixed in print. The typewriter was the last machine which fixed the Word permanently even as it escaped the writer’s mind.
These revelations in my drug-addles mind, I decided to escape the confines of my domicile and the internet for at least a few hours and write something that would – for better or worse – exist in print and not just the ethers of the world wide web, something that would not vanish with the human race, never to be found by future space-faring civilizations.
I owned already an antique manual typewriter: a portable Royal (pictured right) on which this is now being typed (at least in its first draft). But earlier in the morning I had already decided that I should set out to find an electric IBM Selectric – red if possible – and use that to honor the memory of the dear departed bard, Hunter Thompson.
Of course, the last Selectric model ever manufactured by IBM was made in 1980, and that wasn’t even the same model used by Thompson, so I was in for an adventure. I tried every antique and thrift store in town, tooling around in my beat up sedan, tires screeching, pedestrians screaming in mortal terror as I crossed their paths with grim death in my eyes: I was on a fucking mission.
After a lot of bad noise, I found that there was only one place in the entire city which eve sold electric typewriters of any kind: Goodwill. What a harsh trip, wandering through crowds of losers browsing over-sized twenty-year-old Bill Cosby sweaters, thrashed lounge furniture, urine-stained blankets, soiled coffee makers and vintage 1992 era computer hardware. Hell, I searched madly and desperately for twenty minutes through this cesspool of disease and despair, eventually becoming convinced that I had been misinformed by that motherfucker at the St. Vincent de Paul about the typewriters. Before I finally found the old crusters, I even found an ancient Polaroid camera with film still inside (I took a picture of my genitals and left it in the case for some poor unsuspecting bastard to find). By the end of the search, I was on the verge of giving up, and gagging from the foul odors that permeated the place.
Finally I stumbled across the old beasts sitting underneath other used office equipment. I shooed away an older Hispanic gentleman who smelled of oranges so I could get at them, and he stumbled down the aisle to get help from what I assumed to be his (burly six-foot-seven) grandson. They spoke in Spanish quietly, pointing at me with an incredulous look in their eyes. Shit, I thought, here it comes. I had to make a selection quickly and get the fuck out of there. I started tossing typewriters behind me in the aisle, looking for the fabled Selectric. Of course, there were none. I found mostly Smith Corona electrics circa 1975. As the gentleman of considerable stature lumbered towards me menacingly, I decided to grab the Smith Corona XE 1950 model (pictured left) and flee the scene. I sprinted to the front of the store, knocking over an old woman’s shopping cart on the way, and dropped the thing on the counter, paying with a wadded twenty dollar bill. “Yeah, yeah! Keep the change!” I shouted at the poor cashier as I ran out the door with my prize intact. The surly Hispanic gentleman appeared at the door, shaking his fist at me, just as I was peeling rubber past him in my howling beast of a car.
Christ, I thought. My troubles are finally over. Now I can go home, drink a six pack, snort some coke, an write a damn good page: a page that would be real, tangible and incorruptible. It would be a page never to exist inside the meta-god we called the internet, at least not in that draft’s form. And it would be a page that could never really be destroyed by the click of a mouse, or the stroke of a key.
I sat down at the dining room table, plugged the old saw bitch workhorse into the wall outlet, and flipped the power switch. I reveled in the loud whirring sound the thing made as it warmed up, and generally appreciated that I had just bought something that had a power switch and not some button or sensor or fucking touch screen. Then I slipped in some paper and began to punch the keys with my usual violence. My euphoria was short-lived, however, as I found that the fucking thing did not work at all. It was humming, but the keys were all dead, completely unresponsive. I pried the case open and went digging with the old toolkit in a vain attempt to stir the innards of the beast and get it jump-started, but to no avail. The thing seemed to be mechanically sound, which left only the possibility that there was some faulty electrical connection somewhere between the keyboard and the business end of things. With all the stuff floating around in my head, I was in no condition to start tinkering with something that could potentially electrocute me, nor was I in any condition to drive back to the Goodwill and buy another model (I had probably burned my bridges there anyway).
For a few moments I thought the whole thing had been in vain, that the written word had finally died with that crotchety old bitch of a Smith Corona. But I decided after a few minutes of catatonic despair that I would not give up, that I would get really archaic. I decided to dig out the old Royal that I knew was molding somewhere in the attic. I tied a rag around my face and climbed the ladder up into the dusty old lair, brandishing a dust pan at any would-be rodent attackers. It didn’t take as much searching as I might have feared. There the thing was in its ratty old green portable carrying case. I carried it down into the dining room, set the Smith Corona aside. I dusted the Royal off, fed it some paper, and got to work.
Now this was a superior machine. The experience of working its keys reminded me of driving a car without power steering after power steering was all you had ever known. Each punch of the key requires so much violent force and so much energy when it is all said and done, that by the time you are finished with the first page you feel you have to make every word count. A wasted paragraph at that stage is not an option. Who would want to make the fingers bleed and the cuticles bruise just for some useless bit of prose which would only be crossed out in the editing process?
It was invigorating. Every time I switched over to my Toshiba laptop to research something on Google or Wikipedia, or to find a picture of some old IBM Selectric (yes, there it is on the right), I found myself inadvertently pounding the meager plastic keys so hard that I was sure they would soon shatter under the force of my fingers. Switching back to the Royal made my blood run hot; the stainless steel keys with glass inlays covering the letter labels clacking under the assault of the fingers was a beautiful sound that I had not heard in person for too many long days and sleepless nights.
I’ve been working on this piece for over two hours now (in its original draft, that is) and I’m just finishing up the second page on the Royal. It’s not because I type that slow, but because I have stopped so many times to think about what I’m going to write. How many times do you normally do that when you’re writing on a computer these days? Hardly at all, of course. A computer-generated text can be tinkered with too easily, changed and changed back without enough thought or effort. Meanwhile, the typewriter is a pure machine which leaves the writer alone with his thoughts, unconnected from the internet and the electronic world. Furthermore, its a machine which forces the writer to be honest and hard-working, to be careful as he works the word. For that alone, I love the typewriter. And for nothing more than that, the typewriter will not survive in this modern world. The information age is choking this noble machine to death with its speed and thoughtlessness. The defiance of one drug-addled trouble-making blogger with a nostalgic trip dominating his morning cannot save the old beasts.
I can only recommend that from time to time all of you give one of the old bitches a try for old time’s sake – or, the gods forbid, for first time’s sake – and marvel at the pure creative urges that will surely wash over you and cleanse you. Please, if not for you, do it for me. Something is dying in this world that I would like to keep a memory of.
I’m reminded of a scene from The Road, Cormac McCarthy‘s savage tale of the post-apocalypse an a father and son who travel through it together. The main character’s son is a boy who was born on the eve of Armageddon and grew up in the apparent nuclear ice age that followed. In the scene in question, the father and son are wandering through a supermarket looking for edible food and potable water when they come across an unopened can of Coca-Cola. The son asks the father innocently, “What is it?” I was moved to profound feelings of sadness and sorrow at that moment in the story more so than any other. I mourned for the boy, who would never understand a marvelous shared human experience.
And if I ever have a son and if he ever finds a portable manual Royal typewriter in my closet and asks, “What is it?” that will be the day that I must go out onto the front lawn and eat a gun. But I would only do that after composing my will on this old bitch of a Royal and copying it in triplicate on my 1906 model Roneo Duplicator (pictured on the right, bitches!). The will would read something like this:
I am to be loaded onto a viking funeral barge with all of my worldly possessions. My wife should be tied to the mainmast of the ship before it disembarks. My Royal typewriter should be placed with reverence upon my chest with my arms crossed over it and my hands clasped over the keys. My friends and family should fire flaming arrows at the ship as it is launched into the Pacific Ocean with authentic Norse long bows. A viking mead hall is to be construct on the beach and my friends and family should celebrate my life and memory to excess by rinking copious amounts of mead, ingesting catastrophic doses of most drugs known to civilized man, and performing unspeakable public sex acts upon one another.
If only, friends. If only, dear constant readers. If only it were so…
Those words come from now retired pen of the German journalist, essayist and romantic poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), and he should know something about the subject of censorship. Heine was born a Jew and converted to Christianity later in life (why, I’ll never understand). Because of this conversion (or transgression, depending on who you ask), his success was met with praise by some and derision by others. His works were censored and rejected by religious Jews so much so that when a memorial was built for him in Düsseldorf years after his death, certain people in positions of power blocked its placement. The memorial (pictured left) never saw the light of day until some rabid German American activists financed the transport and placement of the statue in – of all places – the Bronx, New York (you can see the shit pot itself in the background of the photo).
So where am I going with this tirade? I’ll tell you. I’m here writing as H.J. Herrick, but that’s not my real name. “So why would you need to use a pen name?” you might ask. And I would tell you, because the First Amendment right to free speech has become conditional in this country, where once it allowed anyone to say anything they wanted any time, no matter what. In Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006), the Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 decision (thanks to Samuel Alito – a G.W. Bush appointee – who cast the deciding vote) that “the First Amendment does not prevent employees [of the United States government] from being disciplined for expressions they make pursuant to their professional duties.”
As it happens, I am an employee of the United States government, and I once kept a blog that was in some ways similar to this one in which I said some so-called “controversial” things about completely rational members of our society such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson (pictured left).
Maybe I should have thought more carefully about my actions before speaking out against people like Pat Robertson, who prayed live on national television for more Supreme Court Justices to die so G.W. Bush could appoint more “family friendly” (his words) conservative Justices. Maybe I should have hesitated before lambasting Jerry Falwell when he said about 9-11, “…when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the Pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say: you helped this happen.” Maybe Pat and Jerry aren’t all that bad, and maybe no one should speak up when they do things like that.
Yeah, right… fuck that. Those guys are infectious human waste, and every reasonable person on the face of the Earth knows that. The problem is that too many people on this cursed globe in this foul Year of our Lord 2008 are anything but reasonable. It was one of these assholes who found my old blog and complained to the Men in Charge about it. I found myself in the boss’s office being talked to by an intimidating number of Suits, and I was told that they couldn’t force me to take down the blog, but that if I didn’t they could make a recommendation for “termination” because of the controversial nature of some of my posts, and the fact that all government employees are held to a higher standard of public image.
Whatever. They wanted to suck Pat Robertson’s cock. Either that or they wanted to cater to the people that made the complaint, cowering in fear that an oppressed “minority” such as Christianity (the largest religion in the world with 33% of the planet’s population counted as card-carrying members; Islam is in a close second with only 21%) might protest their allowing an atheist like me to speak my mind. The fact that the human resources department at my place of work could dedicate enough time and man power to have a dozen employees print off every page of my blog (which was many hundreds of pages by then) and read over them carefully looking for any quote they could use against me in court should I decide to take it that route, is staggering.
Anyway, I didn’t want to deal with an extensive court battle about my Constitutional rights when those rights – I knew – had already been stripped of me by Garcetti v. Ceballos. I decided to cave into the man, and bide my time until I could begin again under a pen name, and take the fight to those swine with the written word all over again. So that is where you find me now. The only thing that protects me now is my anonymity: those two fake little initials and that German-sounding last name, Herrick, which means “war lord.”
I chose that name – Herrick – because war is what we are embroiled in today in America. I’m not talking about some conflict on foreign soil; I’m talking about the war of ideas that’s going on in our places of work, our homes, our schools, our businesses, our court houses, our fucking cafes and public swimming pools even. None of you are safe. None of you can avoid choosing a side. We live in a world that is being torn into two sides. One of them is imperfect, but at least tries to protect us from those that would take away our freedom. The other is actively trying to enslave us through fear under the illusion of democracy. If someone doesn’t speak out in this conflict, and if you don’t listen and think, we are all doomed.
After all, just as Herr Heine said, “Them that begin by burning books, end by burning men.” In more ancient eras, in some other countries today and perhaps even in the future of our own nation, I would not just have been threatened with “termination” or fired outright; I might have been put in prison, or dispatched in the street. If we are to stem the tide that threatens to drown us, we the oppressed must speak out.
We live in apocalyptic times: times in which the fate of society hangs in the balance and in which we hold the keys either to our own salvation or destruction. I’m not a religious person; I don’t believe there is any old fuckhead with a beard in the sky waiting to judge us. The only people who will judge us are our descendants, and we will be judged by them based on the world we leave for them. Heine also wrote, “Wild, dark times are rumbling toward us, and the prophet who wishes to write a new apocalypse will have to invent entirely new beasts, and beasts so terrible that the ancient animal symbols of St. John will seem like cooing doves and cupids in comparison.”
Truer words had never been spoken when they were put to paper in 1842 in the Augsberg Gazette. We live today in those wild, dark times Heine wrote about over 150 years ago. The Beasts that torment us are worst than dragons from the Pit; they are televangelists, Presidents, police and so-called journalists like Bill O’Reilly (on film flipping the fuck out, below). Their followers are sheep armed with ignorance and guns, and someone is giving booze to these goddamn animals (thanks for that line, Hunter Thompson; may you rest in peace).
Whether we come out the other side of this New Apocalypse clean or filthy depends on whether we stand for our principles now, before its too late. I’m issuing this call to all you Dear Constant Readers out there: speak up. Tell ignorant assholes they are ignorant assholes. Punch them in the fucking jaw. Talk to people who will listen to you about things that matter. Tell those people who have not chosen sides why they should choose ours.
And if you’re one of those swine who thinks a government employee shouldn’t be able to say Pat Robertson is a cocksucker in their spare time, then you should go out on your front lawn and eat a gun, you son of a bitch.
Some of you more moderately minded people out there may think that’s a bit harsh, but I’m not inclined to agree. I believe what Herr Heine said about forgiveness of one’s enemies (and these people are our enemies; make no mistake): “One should forgive one’s enemies, but not before they are hanged.” (I promise that’s the last Heinrich Heine quote for a while.)
I think I’ve said enough. Is this what they call a mission statement? Well whatever. Close enough for government work. I can feel those fuckers closing in on me. It’s time to take refuge in the back of some dingy bar and self-medicate. I’ll write to you when I’ve evaded my would-be captors, Dear Constant Readers. Fight the good fight! Kill Pat Robertson and I’ll pay you a million dollars! Two million for Falwell! (Wait, too late.)
I’ll catch y’all on the flip side. This is H.J. Herrick, signing off.