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Letter from America August 23, 2001
 
I, Mark Ames, Goes Lesbian Yenta
By Mark Ames Browse author Email
 
 

In the Reagan years alternative culture trends came and went with such speed that only a desperate fool tried to keep up. I was a desperate fool, and I tried at times to keep up, but I was too slow and too angry to succeed. The trends were more radically different on the surface than in substance -- from post-punk to goth to ska to psychedelia, shockabilly and hardcore. Those and about a dozen other faggy trends exploded between 1978 and 1983. Some of it was great -- Joy Division, The Cramps, Butthole Surfers, The Specials, Husker Du... By the end of the horrible Eighties, my generation had exhausted itself and made corporate collaboration a religion. As a going away gift, it gave to the country retro-70s, ecstasy-fueled rave parties, and that ol' shocker of shockers, girls acting like big fat lesbians. Those trends took the least amount of effort to cook up and seemed almost fresh at the time, in the late 80s; it was the most an exhausted generation could hope to produce after a decade bleeding at the nose.

This year, I have returned to a country that is merely an aggressively lame version of the one I abandoned ten years ago, a golden retriever sub-culture that still thinks 70s-retro, rave parties and lesbians are not just interesting, but even threatening. So much for the revolution everyone raved about over here.

Nietzsche would say that only nations in decline produce great culture, which is why things were so much weirder and more fertile in the years before Reagan made this country Great Again. (Will someone please baseball-bat me for saying that? Wait, I take that back -- Reagan is still alive: baseball-bat HIM! HIM!!! Over there, in Bel-Air!) It may take a sleazy little pest like Bush to drag this country far enough down the sewer to stir the baser instincts that produce great culture again. Let's just hope that he carries through with all of his plans to make our "mega-rich" mega-olicharchy the most mega-rich mega-oligarchy of all mega-time, at the expense of the rest of us. They actually use that word here in proud-to-be-feudal-again America: "Mega-Rich". These "Mega-Rich" live, I swear, in what the media calls "Mega-Mansions". These neologisms are used with a kind of pride, the same kind of pride that plebians once felt in describing the riches of their royalty. All the resentment and petty malice in America -- an infinite amount that increases as you slide down the steep feudal scale -- is aimed at a single nearly extinct, harmless, sickly species called "The Liberal", a mangy little troll-like animal that no one has seen in the wild in over fifteen years. The truth is, "The Liberal" is no more real than Stalin's "saboteurs" who kept fucking up his impeccable Five Year Plans, and their alleged existence is just as useful to today's oligarchy as it was to Stalin's.

Ugh, it's so sick, you could see yourself taking a couple of assault weapons into your office and...

Wait, not "your" office but, let's say, "my" office. That's right. I work in an office. In America. In the heartland, the Bible Belt, Kentucky. I do data entry work in a huge cubicle plantation. Mine has been a long and terrible slide from the rock star's life I led in Moscow, so paradigmatically distant as to seem, yeah, "like a dream."

I work in a giant, one-story, windowless fortress containing 1500 grateful office slaves. It's such a large sweatshop that the building has its own zip code, and its own Jefferson County Special Police unit across the street, just waiting for some serf to snap so that they can plug him with a thousand rounds of dummy bullets. When I say that my building is "windowless" I mean that there is not one single window in the entire building, not one window for 1,500 workers. The only glass at all is at the glass door entrances to the different cell blocks: Building A, B, C, D and E. I work in Building D, which just has a stern white "D" letter over the brick-exterior entrance. The entrances are designed like klaxon alarms, rectangles that are smaller at the entrance and expand wider outwards a few yards. It is very intimidating as you pull into the sprawling parking lot, packed with hundreds of uniformly-shaped compact and standard-sized vehicles. Some workers use the klaxon design for shade while on a smoking break. They're always alone, and amazingly fat, the people I work with. The white women all seem to shop at the same store; they wear the same nylon black or dark purple pants and untucked short-sleeved shirts or sleeveless blouses, their rolling fat arms stick almost straight out from the rolls of fat under their armpits, giving the optical illusion of stunted arms, like Augustus Galoope in mid-swell, or Tyrannosaurus Rex. There is a pain in their walk, the pain of bad circulation, of swollen veins, swollen feet, arthritic knees, hemorrhoids, and the weight of carrying these rolls of fat from one cell or cubicle to the next. I swear, I won't make fun of fat people again after what I've seen here in Kentucky. Fat is a synonym for poverty. It just means there's nothing else to live for but that tiny little buzz you get from fast food and sugar ingestion, because everything else is pure, unadulterated SHIT: the past, present and future, perfect and imperfect. So they hang out smoking outside, alone. Or by the vending machines near the mail room, where you can get everything from Pringles, Blimpie sandwiches and Dr. Pepper to Nestle chocolate crunch ice cream bars and hot buttered pop corn.


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Ames
Browse author
Email Mark Ames at editor@exile.ru.
 
 
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