July 9, 2017

I Have No Idea What the Hell (May 12, 1988)


Author’s Note: Some point in mid-July marks the thirtieth anniversary of “Slackjaw.” Three long decades, over half my life, of writing about myself week after week after week. What a glorious waste. Given that with only a small handful of exceptions, none of the columns prior to 2006 exist anywhere except my own files, I thought I’d mark the occasion by dredging up a few vintage “Slackjaws,” just for the hell of it. I lost my own copies of the first year and a half’s worth of columns written for Philadelphia’s Welcomat when a floppy disc decided to eat itself. A few stragglers from that era were backed up elsewhere, and the one below represents one of the earliest columns still in existence. All in all the title sums it up, and reading it now I see I was trying way too hard. But what do you expect? I was fucking twenty-two at the time. Also, Irwin Allen had nothing to do with Earthquake.

The fools, the fakes, the amateurs--those who always seek out the easy--and usually the easiest--paths through the shit--those who long for unconditional surrender--yeah, I’ve bitched about them before—the hangers-on who claw at sounds and images without desire or inkling--the liars who play-act in the underbelly without the ‘nads to latch on for the long haul—those are the folks who will be leading the way in the long-planned Des Moines Death March.

            So what in the hell am I talking about? Nothing less than Irwin Allen’s early ‘70s magnum opus, The Poseidon Adventure, which was finally released on video earlier this month. It’s time to reconsider everything we’ve come to believe in the near two decades hence.

            Oh, we all know the story--a two-hour Maureen McGovern video (badly lip-synched by Carol Lynley) concerning what might happen were the Love Boat to turn belly up like a bloated dead carp with a few maggots still squiggling about in its guttiwuts. Not just any maggots, but Gene Hackman-lookin’ Nietzschean preacher maggots, no-lesser-man-than Ernest Borgnine-lookin’ maggots, Red Buttons maggots, Love-Boat-all-by-her-lonesome Shelly Winters maggots, Jack Albertson, Leslie Nielson, Roddy McDowall, Nancy Drew and world’s-most-annoying child-actor maggots as well, all finally coming to the same conclusion--that in the end, life itself forgot their address. So there they sat dumbly, forced to take that hidden detour to the last chance, plumbing the savage imago, whining and sniveling the whole way, while the ugly shitstorm kept pouring down the drainpipe after them.

            (It’s odd, isn’t it, for those familiar with the intricacies of the plot, that after the cruise ship gets tipped all aft-backwards, the only survivors are the very young, the very old, the fat, the infirm, the cowardly, and the scantily clad? The ol’ scythe slices and dices in mysterious ways).

            In its time, the Grinch argues, it worked as a parable for post-Vietnam, Watergate-era America, when everything was turned on its head, where the common folk (including the overweight and the scantily-clad) were forced to uncover new ways of struggling to recover their own humanity, along with some sense of justice and liberty.

            It was bullshit then, it was bullshit in 1789, it’s still bullshit today, even without the same rambunctious, soaring John Williams score which graced those other Irwin Allen epics, The Towering Inferno and Earthquake. The disaster film—and this was what I was getting at in the opening slash and burn of this—remains one of the few icons of the 1970s untouched by those inbreds and pipsqueaks who are stabbing the ‘60s revival in the balls by putting the Starland Vocal Band back on their turntables and pretending to like it.

            “It seemed so real--but it was just a movie.”

            This struggle for brotherhood and justice while the world around Big Name Stars collapses according to the game rules of some god or a’tother’s own sweet little secret is just an admission (if we take these films, um, seriously as parables for the national mindset) that these people have failed to live their own lives, and thus are forced to live as everyone else does. They need “justice” because they’re too sane and cowardly to win anything for themselves. Words like those signify something--something hazy and stinky--but what, exactly, we don’t rightly know. Yeah, when someone mentions a “brotherhood of man” around me, I try to keep as much flesh as possible covered--because these people tend to have nasty leanings towards cannibalism. They’ll suck the life right out of you. Leave you hollow.

            Lord knows what any of this means. I sure as hell don’t. All I know is that nothing is to be expected. All I know is that I usually forget myself and laugh whenever anyone is sacrificed or executed. Suits me. Suits me right into the fucking pavement.

***      ***      ***      ***      ***

Enough Quasi-Proto Gibberish for one day. Don’t blame me. A peek inside my refrigerator will reveal one half-empty sixteen-ounce can of Busch, a wine bottle filled with water, and about 800 packets of Chinese mustard, culled from half as many takeout meals, awaiting their chance to become part of something important someday. Or you could call the above “doing my part to fulfill Bruce Warren’s insightful (who smirked? I said, who smirked !? Oh, leave the man be--he’s harmless. And that’s the problem.) assessment of my abilities.” Hey! Maybe it’s po-mo!

            Shut up! For God’s sake, Shut Up!

            If what the man--Henry, I mean--says is true--that is, if the artist’s job is to revive primitive and anarchic sensibilities, then there’s another man up for the job in our midst. Todd Kimmel, famous for his “Found Film Festival,” is unearthing the unholy beast once again--but this time, he’ll be doing it all summer long, 9 p.m. Tuesday nights at some bar he tends at 5th and Spring Garden, whose name escapes me at present (if there’s more than one there, just pop your head into all of them and ask “Hey, is this where them zany shits be playin’?”) The first evening’s festivities included Lonely Boy, a documentary about Paul Anka at the height of his “screaming chicks in cat’s-eyeglasses” powers, an early Jim Henson bit from the ‘60s, and one of those always delightfully frightful “Grooming Tips For Girls” derring-dos from the 50s.

            Todd’s promised me a schedule whenever one makes itself available, and I’ll do the same for the faithful. Until then, if you’re into film, kitsch, or the high strangeness we all crave, place your ugly body in the right position at the right place at the right time, and pay your respects to found art in the truest sense.


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