WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER SEVEN: PART ELEVEN: THE PLAN
And so I schemed and so I dreamed. I kept pouring taffy into Tipsy’s Smith’s earhole and acting the good chum to “Doc” Ketman, waitin’ on him hand and foot whenever he made a rare appearance. “Somebody’s got a friend,” Red Mary would say when she saw me kow-towing to the Doc and asking after his general well-being, like, do you need anything—you know how you do when you meet a Yellof you are gee whiz impressed by—you start gobbling and acting all jumpy and nervous and your voice gets squeaky and you use the word Mister and you Sir him a lot and you scamper fro and to like a scalded kitten.
I wasn’t truly in awe of that Yellof Ketman; I knew he was a rogue; but like a said, I had a plan, and he was going to be a big part of it.
My plan was, I was hoping somehow that the two of them—Doc and Tipsy—two well-placed Yobs to put the kibosh on Smash Conklin—I was hoping the two of them would put their heads together and contrive to kill that son of a bitch Uglyface and grant me my heart’s desire; only—it never came about.
I was like a little boy who wagged a dog’s tail to make it happy. I had no clear notion or even a fuzzy one of how and why things come to happen. I figured that if I put the two of them together in the same room, and they started in to talking about how much trouble Uglyface was causing for Red Mary, then everything would fall into place, just like a stage show.
Then I got to thinking about the Big Man. Maybe he could use a clever little shaver to do his porch monkey work—commit burglaries and all, and maybe after I gained his trust I could get in close to him and pour some poison in his ear-trumpet regarding Conklin.
Alas and alackaday, those were but the romantic fancies of a mere broth of a boy. After thinking about the matter until my head was about as swollen as a poisoned pup, I reckoned there was little I could do to take the starch out of Uglyface. I’d just have to stay up to trap and seize my opportunity an it ever came. Because there’s no telling what a lush might do. ‘Specially a stupid ox like him. But I wasn’t so dumb as I didn’t know that the Big Man was on his side. The Big Man was too rich for my blood. No thank you. Me, I pass.
Conklin could of carried me out on a chip and dumped me in the pig-sty. I was only a young’un but I was fly to the time of day. No martyr or tragedy-Jack, me. All the same, I never seen Smash Conklin smile without wanting to pitch a shovel-full of corn into that gaping gob and see him choke on it like the pig he was. The young feel slights–and everything else–so much more intensely than the old and cold. Conklin was full of miff-maff and fiddle-faddle. To hear him bray and braw was like watching shit flow brown and watery through a dented tinhorn. He made my sensibilities ache. To make matters worse, I knowed if I got too big for my boots and he caught me cracking anything wise about him or so much as smiling at him and his flamdoodle then more like as not he would blow the top of my head off with a hand-cannon. It would be touch and go with me in any event; I knew I was within an ace of blue ruin even as it was. He was all set to do for me if I was too forth-putting; I’d be fit for nothing further than to pick up chips and, sooner rather than later, to take my pleasure in a skull orchard.
And all for the sake of a bit of fluff! A Trat! A troll, a trut, a trollop. All for the love of Red Mary. Red Red Mary!
How blind can an animal be?
True, I owed a good deal to her; she kept me as close to her as any a lad could wish of his own Maw, and maybe she was that for a’ o’ that, if not in literal fact than the closest thing.
Strange to say, despite her own proclivities for Jazz music and jazzin; for opium and Morph; for she-males and he-shes, she was most ept in keeping me from cultivatin’ evil habits; mostly by example: she’d show me a dossed-up Cove trampoosing about all over town and she’d up and say to me, “Look well, Yob, and ken—that’s what becomes of a Yellow as takes to the pipe.” Or she’d point out a busher reduced to raking the tot and say “Drink will ruin even a Tra-La-La like that Swella-Di-Dahonce used to be.” She lectured me that gamblers was all cheats and card-playing was a game for fools (but I already knowed that much). She learned me about trimmers and jelly-fish men and fossils and the like. And no end of useful lessons.
I didn’t want to quit her but I was near on to thirteen and was beginning to have funny feelings toward her that I couldn’t quite twig to but soon began to ken, because I was no totty-head, me. If I wasn’t big enough a man to do for Conklin before he did for me, then it was high time for me to take my tricks and step down and step out, even if wearing only my seedy clobber.
But it was funny; I was still burning up to do something for her admiration. Was it gratitude, or was it the first stirring of love in the company of a woman? I did not ken and I care even less to say it now—as Uglyface was mean enough to tell me, she might have been my own Maw. I’d of liked to of tooken that old town Bull and rubbed him down with a slippery-elm towel for sayin’ it–but what if he was telling me true?
Late at night I thought of it and I couldn’t stop thinking about it and hated myself for thinking about it but I thought about it all the same.
I had to leave town. Days of Wine and Roses would be no more.
No more weeping and laughter for this tiny Yob. No more the misty path. My mind was set. My way was clear. If it was the road that led to my lonesome doom, then so be it.
All for the love of Mary! Red Red Mary!
How blind can an animal be, Yob? How blind can an animal be? And live?
ALL ENTERTAINMENT IS PROPAGANDA
Lobbyists and their PR stooges have made it so that ‘anything goes’ and everything is either bought, sold, or privatized.
“The simplest method of securing a silent weapon and gaining control of the public is to…[keep] them confused, disorganized, and distracted with matters of no real importance….”
Distraction can work wonders, as any mother of a toddler will tell you. Throw them a white hat and call it “The American Dream”. The military-industrial-university-prison-entertainment complex means bread and circuses for all! Teach our children to get rich quick by someday finding a job selling poison toys to babies. Or to become gladiators. Professional sports as a refinement of genocidal warfare.
And while the rest of us are off chimping it up among the heckling mob, moguls are sittin’ in clover, finger-finessing supermodels, and chortling hordes of chattering comfort women in their g-spots. How do the solons rule? By sending the working class to war. By indulging in the kind of rhetoric designed to keep people frightened and ignorant of what’s really going on. By kowtowing to radical lobbying groups. And worst of all, by selling this fucking country down to river to corporate creeps of the variety that would make Satan himself involuntarily cringe.
Read a newspaper on any given day, and you’ll learn the following important facts:
MOM DECRIES SEX AND VIOLENCE IN MEDIA
METAL GARBAGE CANS FOIL FERAL DOGS
POLICE CONCERNED REGARDING TEEN DRINKING
ELDERLY MAN TURNS TO GOD
LOCAL YOUTH WINS AREA SPELLING BEE
POLL: VOTERS TIRED OF NEGATIVE CAMPAIGN ADS
FANS SHOW TEAM COLORS
RESTAURANT GIVEAWAY SEES LINES AROUND BLOCK
SURVIVORS MOURN ON ANNIVERSARY OF TRAGEDY
AREA MAN HARVESTS RECORD-BREAKING PUMPKIN
ICEBERGS A THREAT TO MERCHANT MARINE
Now, if I owned a newspaper, the headlines would be something like this:
MASSES LIVE IN FEAR OF UNDEFINED FOES
MEDIA GLORIFIES DEAD-END ‘GANGSTA’ SCRIPT
GANG MEMBERS DIE DEFENDING WORTHLESS TURF
MEDICAL LOBBY IN 70-YEAR FIGHT TO HALT UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE
SPORTS: STUPEFYING PALLIATIVE FOR BUM ECONOMY
TALK-RADIO SHOWS PREACH TO THE CONVERTED
MISFITS AND CRANKS EXCHANGE MEANINGLESS BANTER IN TAVERNS
BITTER KOOKS AND RECLUSES FIND SATISFACTION IN CURSING MINORITIES
VIOLENCE SEEN AS CURE-ALL BY DRUNKS AND LOUTS
SPY AND SPACE OPERAS KOWTOW TO MILITARY SOLUTIONS
ACTORS, H’WOOD PRODUCERS IN THRALL TO MILITARY-CIA
CONDENSED TV NEWS DISTORTS REALITY
PRO-GOVERNMENT PROPAGANDA PERVADES TELEVISED MEDIA
HEIROPHANTS GIVE PEOPLE ‘WHAT THEY WANT’: DOMINATION
REDEEMING SOCIAL VALUE
The phrase “redeeming social value” is soo 1973. Literally. The phrase was used in the 1973 Supreme Court decision on obscenity–which Roth (1957) and gave us the “community standards” benchmark. (How do I remember this shit?)
TOP TEN REASONS IT WOULD SUCK TO BE A REPUBLICAN
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
THE SELF-ATTRIBUTION FALLACY
6* DAILY UTILITY
“Oh shit. A robot that finds anagrams in pairs of tweets. We’re doomed.” http://anagramatron.tumblr.com/
Charles Burns paid tribute to the Standard romance comic panel in his book THE HIVE. See: http://www.tcj.com/secret-loves-a-short-history-of-two-panels-in-charles-burnss-the-hive/
WHY PROFANITY IS CHANGING
JOHNNY CASH AND REBEL RECORDS
ENGLISH AS SHE IS SPOKE
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The
Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad. By Brett Martin.
We all know about about the decade-long quality revolution which has
revitalized original programming on cable television. But we might not
ordinarily expect a chronicle about it to be quite so entertaining.
Especially if we do not happen to be familiar with programs such as
The Sopranos, The Wire, The Shield, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. But
Martin–a veteran journalist as well as an entertainment
writer–skilfully focuses upon the personalities behind the creation
of such programs. Martin also offers up an anecdotal look into how the
shows are run. We are told about the weekly decisions regarding plot
trajectories and script changes. We also learn about the temper
tantrums of show-runners and the offbeat demands of temperamental
actors. By granting the reader an inside account of the process of
bringing these programs to fruition, Martin has performed a neat
trick. Rather than a fans-only account, he gives us instead a
compelling narrative of the competing claims of eminence among rival
cable networks such as HBO, AMC, and FX. This book is skilfully
edited; just long enough to prove insightful and informative; just
short enough to be diverting. DIFFICULT MEN is one entertainment book
which transcends its genre–as such, it is highly recommended.
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE. 695.
TEMPERATURE’S RISING: GALAXIE 500
by Mike McGonigal Paperback. Verse Chorus Press.
Review by Francis DiMenno
Full disclosure: This book is based upon an online article for which I answered questions sent to me via email. Another factor which might also cloud my already fallible critical judgment: the book reproduces in full an interview I conducted with the band which was first published in The Noise #74 (June 1988).
The extended subtitle of this book is indicative: “An oral history by Mike McGonigal with a visual archive and commentary by Naomi Yang.” The ardent fan of Galaxie 500 and its many offshoots, including Luna, Dean & Britta, Damon & Naomi, et al., will find the oral history portion both entertaining and instructive and will also greatly appreciate the profuse illustrations, including posters, concert tickets, photographer’s proof sheets and other ephemera. McGonigal cites the recollections of over a dozen people, including friends, writers, industry insiders, and, of course the band members themselves. But we are not being flooded with information here. This beautifully produced monograph is essentially a book of illustrations supplemented by texts.
As documented by Naomi Yang, Galaxie 500 existed from October 1987 to April of 1991. During that time period, there were over two thousand bands listed in the Boston Phoenix Band Guide, and maybe about a dozen Boston-area venues to serve them. More than one thousand of these bands probably gigged fairly regularly. Nevertheless, fewer than a dozen would make the cut and go on to greater heights. Galaxie 500 was one of those outstanding bands.
Their decision to record with Kramer was one key factor in their success; as Damon Krukowski concedes, he “invented the sound of the band.” Galaxie 500 also succeeded, I suspect, because their sound was very different from bands like Dinosaur Jr. or the Pixies. Even though they faced fierce competition from other bands which were vying for stage time, they were lucky enough to have their own niche practically all to themselves.
Even so they were lucky to get as far as they did. Long story short: they were smart. Before advancing to shows at the Rat, T.T.’s, and the Middle East, they made a name for themselves by playing at the less prestigious venues of the day (Chet’s Last Call in the Causeway; Green Street Station in Jamaica Plain). They also made the time and took the effort and incurred the expense to contact promoters, booking agents, recording engineers, and A&R people. Many bands simply didn’t know how to do this, or didn’t care to. That’s how they got stuck in a rut, playing the same three or four clubs, and as a result, they would continue spinning their wheels, and they would never progress. They would think that out of the blue, someone was going to recognize their genius and “discover” them. But it takes more than one person to put a band over. Luck has a great deal to do with it, but God helps those who help themselves. Promotion is key, and Galaxie 500 knew how to network and promote themselves without antagonizing too many of the wrong people.
It didn’t take them very long for them to build a fan base of like-minded people. I suspect the college crowd, as distinct from the headbangers and the townies, found their restraint somewhat refreshing. They always went over very well in Cambridge.
Galaxie 500 was musically anomalous. People who did not instinctively understand them had to train themselves to appreciate their minimalist approach, and many were not inclined—or even equipped—to do so. If you grew up on heavy metal you were probably allergic to their hip flaunting of the low-key and the understated.
Eventually, there was something of a backlash against Galaxie 500. Local people more accustomed to hard rock, in particular, found them “boring” or “droning,” and Dean’s voice “tuneless.” The scene in Boston can be a fairly parochial place, one not immune to petty rivalries and jealousies. One critic, writing in The Noise #85 (June 1989) was particularly scathing about the band: “Whiny vocals, bad guitar playing, foundationless bass, plodding drudging songs.”
But the backlash did very little to stall their career. By then, they had outgrown their Boston-area base and were touring the United States, England, and eventually Europe, where they were very well-received, though they didn’t make very much money. (That’s actually an understatement.)
I wasn’t surprised when the band broke up. Dean, as you may know if you read his memoir Black Postcards, sometimes has a tendency to be very frank in a way which strikes some people as arrogant. He regarded Damon and Naomi as a unit which more often than not was united against him, and so he decided to walk. Dean, Damon, and Naomi did produce three good albums out of their time together, and released perhaps a dozen unforgettable songs. A good deal of what they did back then still stands up today. And that’s a pretty fine legacy for any band.