Untitled (for now)

July 20, 2011

A sweaty fevered boredom
Whispered prayers and mumbled songs
(Did I say that out loud? Is that okay?
No one cares.)
Through half-closed slats I see
the highway, almost,
and almost,
the water.
Warm summer Saturday night mischief
Novelty car horns and tricked-out bikes
Shouted taunts of fun and squeals of ecstasy
Silence here, almost
Just enough noise to bring out the silence:
A piece of sheet metal warps, bangs
Water thunders into nowhere
out of nowhere
Coughs and curses
The hum of some distant machinery
Muffled shouts through the vents or the windows–
Angry? Triumphant? Boasting? Defending?
Sweaty fever prayers
The need for a drug
The need to need the drug more than to have the drug
The need for sleep like the need for
a gun in a dark foxhole, surrounded
by unseen menace and whispered movement
Whispered prayer
The Lord’s and Hail Mary
“Our father who art in Heaven,
Hallowed be thy name…”

Fumbled words, out of order
Put the “evil” where the “temptation” belongs
Words that don’t matter
Memories
Unspecified, emotional
The nightly rituals of a child in darkness
The proclamations of a man in daylight
Repeat repeat repeat repeat repeat
Until the words are sleep
Sleeping, the words repeat themselves
Back to neon: “…pray for our
sinners, now and at the hour of our–“

–Sleep.
Neon again,
sweating like a wool blanket in July
Sweating like a 5-sided cube
atop a mound of seething flesh
Sweating like a light bulb that cannot dim

Out the window, through the slats
The highway roars on like sleepless America
Bright lights that cannot dim but only flash
intermittently
before they are– suddenly, it always seems —
empty and without purpose
Something to be put away or recycled
“…blessed is the fruit of thy womb…”

Words,
lacking meaning or substance
that isn’t gray and dark and veined with electricity
from nowhere
Into nowhere
“…deliver us from evil…”
The same sounds
Repeated and repeated and repeated
Emphasizing the same silence
The same sweaty boredom
Like bad attitudes and boring poems,
the tone never changes
Demands to be dealt with
with active verbs and passive stares

“…thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
on Earth, as it is in Heaven…”

In existence
someplace, always
the five-sided cube
All that is out must come in
To be digested, by force, if need be
Stare through the slats
at the life
at the night
at the life
at your walls
the walls behind you
Digest, in free will or forced
’til the fever takes hold of the words
in a sudden instant
“…now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

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The end is near. President George W. Bush will leave office in about a week. Some of us have waited for this day with bated breath since the beginning of his first term. Others look to the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president with a mixture of fear, sadness, and anger: at the prospect of yet another untested leader, at lost opportunities, at the end of a high, wild, magical time when anything you wanted was possible– if you wanted what George Bush wanted you to want.

Many more of us have seen our opinions change with an almost quarterly regularity as this or that bit of information or circumstance caught our attention and reshaped our view of the man, only to flutter away like an autumn leaf or a blog post as more data took its place and confused us once again. 

As I write, a Maruchan beef-flavored Instant Lunch sits on the floor next to me, a fork resting on the peeled-back cover to keep it closed so the heat and steam will not escape and the noodles will properly absorb the salty brine that now envelops them. The scene in my apartment is much as it was five years ago in my Spaulding Hall dorm room at the University at Buffalo: sunlight peeking at extreme angles through a window with no view, socks and garbage strewn about the floor in nonsense, and a meal of sorts, two minutes away and counting, steaming quietly next to my right heel, with an anatomically suspect diagram of a cow on the cover to let me know what I’m supposed to be eating. In the new year of 2003, George Bush was a fact most of us (middle class white college students with disposable funds and no job) accepted and ignored, like credit card debt or the sun. 

I’m stirring the noodles now. Instant Lunch is so much better than straight Ramen (and so worth the extra fifty cents) because it contains little freeze-dried carrot scrapings and several bits of corn and scallion, the remains of the remains of industrialized food, put to use like the tendons and bone of the buffalo on the Great Plains in the days before AIM and central heating. You always have to cut the noodles, it feels like, to get the dish to mix properly. I used to spend an extra minute hacking away with a plastic butter knife to get my lunch to where I wanted it to be.

Back in the dorms in 2003, on another wintry night spent subsisting on sodium and wheat gluten, I was informed that we were at war. We had known for some time, of course, that this would happen. Most of us could recall the Gulf War (or had at least seen the History Channel specials) and we all remembered the Clinton air strikes on Iraq. Sort of. In the way that we remembered anything before 9/11 or before that week: distantly, incompletely, with a lot of gaps cobbed with bits of newspaper and spit over time. America was at war. Iraq was the enemy, or at least the target. Bush was president. The sun came up somewhere between our last kill on the virtual battlefield and our first class, and, sometime later, it would set, somewhere… over there. ::gesticulating:: Westish. (Looking back now it seems strange that more of us in the first-person shooter gaming community didn’t try to identify somewhat with our peers in the actual shooting-and-dying set. If we had, it most likely would have been done in a dubious and insulting manner and it’s probably better that we all kept our mouths shut as much as we did when interacting with the real world, whenever we did.)

The problem with trying to be clever is that you’re never quite sure if you’re succeeding, and so try harder and harder as time persists and the absence of an editor or audience persists, until you’re not really sure what it was you had to say or if, in fact, there was anything there to begin with.

Today, President Bush, in his last press conference in office, likened the current financial situation to a night of drinking. “Wall Street got drunk and left us with the hangover,” he said. (Eight days from the end, a world in crisis, and this is his last press conference; I’ll let that take you wherever you want it to.)

Hangovers have several stages. There is the initial joy at waking up alive, against all odds. Next a state of childlike wonder and an independence from one’s own life: bills and relationships and grades are forgotten, there is only the self, the mind. And then you have to get out of bed and face the world, face what you’ve done, who you became and what that person wanted and felt versus what you believe your sober self to be. Introspection sets in, if you have time for it, and its pretty much downhill from there.

What will our hangover be like? The bill has come due. The party is over and has been for awhile. We have slept amongst the garbage and the curdling puddles of excess decadence and now it is time to find our coats and get some breakfast. Where will we go from here? What will we do? What shall we eat? Will we act or remain paralyzed by guilt and recrimination?

I think it’s time to rinse out our mouths, apologize to those we trampled or spat on in the fury of the party, and make something of what’s left of the day. That’s just me, but I know from hangovers, and we really don’t have any choice.

Tune Deaf

November 19, 2008

Closing time and I can’t sleep, as is custom. My eyes are dry from staring at the screen: a Yahoo chess match, my second victory, making my record something like 2-47. My feet and hands are cold. The apartment temperature is about 65 Fahrenheit, but I worked all day in sweaty socks and I’ve been chain-smoking since I got home. Hence the frozen extremities.

Lately I’ve been trying to stop telling the future. David Foster Wallace said that addicts are forever preparing for something that’s about to happen to them, and that that something is always bad. It’s hard to get my thoughts off of things like the economic and energy and climatic crises, nuclear warfare or terrorism, etc. These are trying times, for sure. But I know for certain that if there was a thunderstorm outside I’d be thinking about getting struck by lightning. If I heard noises in the hallway I’d imagine home invasions and the distance between me and my knives, rooftop escape routes. My girlfriend is here, asleep, so right now I’m not worried about her getting attacked on the street, but I’m envisioning what I would do should a would-be rapist come through the door, reeling and drunk on lust, groping with his eyes half shut, ruining everything he touched.

All this fear. What if Barack Obama is shot and killed, like Kennedy? What if we go to war with China or Russia? What if smaller cities aren’t quite as safe as I’d thought from unrest or nuclear attack? The Niagara Power Project is right down the road, after all. (And I have no idea what the blast/fire/fallout range of your average nuclear device is these days! ! Why don’t I know this?!) What if Buffalo isn’t as friendly as I tell myself it is? What if we never rebuild the old rail lines or extend the Metro and we’re just as fucked as Phoenix and Jacksonville would be in a gas shortage? What then? Should I move? Will I be able to move? Will there be anywhere to move to?

Meanwhile, I’m depriving myself of sleep, sitting in cold socks in a cold apartment, inching towards death and lung cancer.

I watch people. Most don’t seem as afraid. They probably are, but they’ve found a tune to whistle in the dark. Work, family, goals, a valuable enterprise of some sort. I’ve lost my tune. That’s how it feels, at least. (Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh. There.) David Foster Wallace also said that the people to be most afraid of are the people that are afraid of everything. There’s a slight instinct here towards “yeah, well, what the fuck did he know” thinking, given recent events, but it is nonetheless true.

To feel lost and tuneless isn’t exactly pleasant, but it’s constructive at least. The knowledge that something has been lost is – at least – that knowledge, and the possibility of remedial action.

I’m not sure what I’m talking about anymore. But I think I can sleep now.

So. No posts for awhile. I know you’ve all been wondering what Master Caution has been up to. Mostly working, thinking, applying for jobs, getting jobs, and trying not to freak out about peak oil so much that it keeps me cuddled in the fetal position next to my hot water tank.

Here we are. A gallon of gas is nearing the cost of a pack of cigarettes. A national average of $4 a gallon, according to 60 Minutes, which is playing through the VHF snow on the one channel I get on the 28-inch TV that sits like a walrus in a toll booth in the corner of my living-slash-bedroom-slash-office. I miswrote, actually: a gallon of gas would be approaching the cost of a pack of cigarettes if the recent New York tax hike hadn’t gone through. A pack of smokes is now equivalent to an hour of work at minimum wage. I tell myself it will make me quit, but I doubt it. At best, I can hope that it will keep me from bumming out cigarettes to the “only smoke when I drink”-ers.

My old editor at Generation came into town last night. “I quit smoking,” he said, as he smoked one of my cigarettes outside the bar. “I was shocked and appalled at how easy it was.”

Me too.

While I’ve been a smoker for over ten years now, I haven’t owned a car since December 3, 2005. I know the date for two reasons: my car, my beautiful Subaru Legacy Outback, was totaled on the street in front of my house. There was a lot of paperwork to fill out. Filling in the “date of collision” has commit the event to my memory. Secondly, the date is a part of the best and worst 9/11 joke I’ve ever heard, depending on where you sit. Taylor Negron. The Aristocrats. If I could find the video (help?) I’d post it. And I can’t tell it here. It’s just not that kind of a joke. But the next time you watch it, if you watch it, look for Taylor Negron near the end or during the credits. I can’t remember which.

Sorry.

At any rate, the date is burned into my memory and life. I’ve even started an informal holiday of sorts. I don’t do anything serious on December 3. If anyone asks, I tell them it’s a religious holiday. If they ask which one, I say, “It’s December Third!” Which probably leads to confusion on their part. “What? Is that like an orthodox thing? Is this guy fucking with me? What sort of holiday mandates the consumption of whiskey-root beer floats?”

The point.

Cars. I haven’t had one since December 3, 2005. (Gesundheit, lady-who-has-loud-sex-across-the-alley.) And I’ve enjoyed the shift. I travel by train or bus. It takes a lot more planning, but every voyage feels like a field trip. I walk everywhere else. I come in contact with other human beings and with nature. Sometimes that means trudging through eighteen inches of snow or sprinting through violent thunderstorms. Most days, though, it just means getting to where I need to go, without being beholden to the costs of gasoline or automobile maintenance.

Of course, the places I need to go are closer than the places I went when I went wherever I wanted to go, back when having a car made sense to me. And I can’t as many people or goods with me as I used to. Grocery shopping has become difficult at times and impossible at others. But I’ve gotten to know my neighborhoods. I’ve been forced to look for food closer to my home, forcing me to look closer at my home and its immediate surroundings in order to survive on more than beer and whatever I scrounge from work.

I’ve had to change my idea of a good neighborhood. According to walkscore.com, my addresses since 12/3 have received a rating of 52, 83, 82, 77, and (currently) 91 out of 100. All this in comparison to my house, my home, the ex-urban Rivendell that I loved and bled and grew up in and for which I rarely go a day without singing a silent boxcar spiritual, which rates a 5. (I still love you, yellow lunch box, stuck in the throat of Dolphin Drive from both ends like a swallowed pill.)

I didn’t know then what I know now. That gasoline prices will never go down. That even if they do, it will be temporary and more damaging than if prices tripled tomorrow. That the world has reached the point where it has pumped the most oil out of the ground that it ever has, that it ever will. And that from here on out, things will get tougher for the new owners of my yellow lunch box and everyone else who lives in a lunch box just like mine. They will find less time for leisure and television. They will need to find new ways of getting work, food, medicine, electricity, candles, mail, flowers, water, clothing, and a host of other necessities, perceived and actual. They will find their government more and more occupied by dangerous and consuming wars over the last of what’s left of our planet’s resources–and they will need their government to win. Many will die–and they will need to die for others to live.

Or maybe not. Maybe hydrogen isn’t as impossible as it seems. Maybe suburban families will begin converting their massive grass yards into the farmland they were meant to be. They’ll stick to the neighborhood and trade their minivans for milk cows and draft horses. Or they’ll move back to the abandoned cities, and sell their old homes to the state to be destroyed, ploughed, subsidized, and made valuable again by the farmers that sold suburban developers the land to in the first place. I don’t know where we’ll put them when they get here, but…

Ugh. Fuck it. It will probably be ugly. In twenty years I’m going to get stabbed in the neck over a loaf of bread by a former Reagan Youth leader and I won’t even have the chance to tell him I’d told him so.

Jesus, who wants to end on that note? This was supposed to be a much more focused post than you normally see here, but apparently all I’m good for today is devolving into this kind of nonsense. But hey, it’s Sunday. I don’t have God anymore, but we all need someplace to speak in tongues for a few hours a week.

I’ll get back to this later tonight. Until then, what are you doing about peak oil?

BUFFALO POLICE DEPARTMENT – SUPPLEMENTARY OFFENSE REPORT

Offense: Missing Person Case No. 27-B-0006

Offense Location: 633 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14202

Victim: Jacob Drum

Special Agent Jeff Tamini – Federal Bureau of Investigations – Interviewing Agent

Investigator Joseph Bautaglia – B.P.D. Criminalistics Section – Reviewing Officer

EVIDENCE:

1. Digitally recorded interview of Jacob Drum

2. VHS Surveillance Tape of Bank of America (North NE/Delaware Ave NE)

SYNOPSIS:

Mr. Jacob Drum stated to Buffalo Police Officers that he had been kidnapped from Allston, MA and then sexually assaulted shortly after opening a checking account with Bank of America and subsequently overdrafting that account. After being questioned by members of the Buffalo Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Jacob augmented his earlier statement and stated that he had, in fact, been forcibly and anally assaulted after making several attempts to reconcile his differences with the bank and their application of – in Jacob’s view – excessive overdraft fees and a “biggest check first” policy designed to generate more and greater overdraft fees.

INVESTIGATION:

TUESDAY, MAY 13, 2008 1330 INVESTIGATION

At the listed date and time, Sergeant J. Sandman contacted me via telephone. Sergeant Sandman stated he needed my assistance in conducting an interview. The person to be interviewed was a male subject who had been missing from Allston, MA after opening a checking account at the Bank of America branch located there at Commonwealth Avenue. Sergeant Sandman stated the subject had been located here in Buffalo for several months after the high cost of living and rampant pest animals had driven him from Allston permanently – except in the event of a championship won by the New York Yankees or a professional team from Western New York, in which event he would return briefly to gloat.

The subject had advised responding officers that he had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted by employees of Bank of America. Sergeant Sandman told me I would need to report to the intersection of North NE and Delaware Ave NE. I also needed to contact additional detectives and perhaps stop at a precinct station to pick up towels and additional first aid supplies, as there was an abundance of fluid at the scene – much more than necessary for evidence collection. I advised Sergeant Sandman I would be en route.

While en route to the intersection, I learned the male subject had been transported to Erie County Medical Center for the necessary blood transfusions, but that he was awake and speaking. When I arrived at the trauma ward, I learned that he was being interviewed by members of the FBI. At that time, Sergeant Sandman asked if I would like to sit in on the interview. I stated I would, provided the subject stopped spitting so much.

I dislike a spitter. After SARS, no man may call himself a spitter and my friend.

The following is a summary of the information obtained from Jacob during our (Sergeant Sandman and myself) involvement with the interview:

Jacob stated, he had been cleaning kitchen grease out from underneath his fingernails at the listed intersection after attempting to convince Bank of America employees (both at the local branch and via telephone hotline) that his story of personal slovenliness and fiscal irresponsibility was poignant enough to justify a remand of the overdraft fees assessed to his checking account between the dates of April 17 and May 12. He had several times made purchases using the debit card that came with his account when his recorded account balance – both available and adjusted for pending transactions – had been positive to an amount Jacob couldn’t remember because he “never keeps track of these things.” Due to the bank’s policies, transactions were recorded at seemingly arbitrary times, often far beyond the date they were made, making it an almost impossibly task – in Jacob’s view – to know, at any given time, just how much money he had to spend on frozen victuals and pornography.

Relations with bank employees soured and Jacob became irate. He threatened to switch banks. They told him they didn’t care. Jacob ordered them to close his account. Bank employees informed him that he would first need to pay them a sum totaling over one hundred (100) US dollars ($) to close his account. He stated he told them he would not pay the sum, that he could not pay the sum, that the entire sum of his personal wealth was the negative number bank employees had confronted him with. Bank employees informed Jacob they would assess additional fees for the period that his account was in the negative. At this time, Jacob lost control of his temper and most of his bodily functions (Evidence A, B, C, et al.). However, he stated that he paid the sum and left the bank branch office.

It was at or around 1130 when Jacob began sulking and cleaning his fingernails at the stated intersection. After a period of an hour or so, Jacob stated that he was grabbed by a multi-racial posse of Bank of America telephone operatives and thrown into the back of a van. His hands were tied with rope and a hood was placed over his head. Individuals in the van (unseen by Jacob) apparently stated multiple times that there had been a mistake, and that additional fees had been placed on his account, to be paid immediately and in person. Jacob was then taken from the van to a room that he believed to be a basement somewhere in the Bank of America headquarters in downtown Buffalo. The hood was removed from Jacob’s head but his hands remained tied. Jacob was placed on his stomach on a metal examination table and his pants were removed. His legs were tied with additional rope in “a classic spreadeagle” with “just a beauty of a knot setup, a real hell of a tie.” The telephone operatives then left the room.

After some time, two individuals entered the room – an elderly, overweight “Caucasian” male and an older, “Fantastically White, the Embodiment of ‘Patrician'” male. Jacob stated that the men sodomized and tortured him repeatedly for an unspecified period of hours using a variety of methods. (Subsequent medical examination would reveal that most of Jacob’s lower organs had been reduced to one long, straight cavity.) I asked Jacob if he had been bound by rope through the entire assault; he stated that he had. I asked Jacob if the men spoke during the assault; he said they stated repeatedly that he “owed them every last thing they wanted to take from me.” I asked Jacob if he’d heard anything during the assault. He stated that he had heard no outside noise but that the older male had hummed the theme from Love Story as he wielded the hot glue gun.

Investigators continued to question Jacob further about the events of the incident. At various times during questioning, Jacob became upset and sometimes flustered. Eventually, I informed Jacob that his statement did not seem credible and we (investigators) believed he had in fact fucked himself in the ass by refusing to maintain a scheduled budget and an insistence against keeping a proper check record.

The spitting began again, and I exited the room.

SUMMARY

Based on Jacob’s inability to identify his assailants, his inability to account for the discrepancies in his own accounting, and the fact that he’s generally not worth caring about vis-a-vis people with money, this case will be considered closed and unfounded, and Jacob’s bank balance will remain at zero until his monthly account fee places him back in the red where he belongs.

No posts for awhile, I know. I’ve been caught up in the process of moving back to Buffalo from Allston (more on that later).

I have a place; now I just need a paying job ASAP. I’ll get back to regular posts when I get settled.

Anybody need my services or have recommendations on where Jake Drum would fit best in the modern economy?

I have roaches in my place. It’s gross. I know that an old apartment building in a large enough East Coast city is going to have some pests, but they’re still disgusting animals that shouldn’t be in my house. They live in and off of shit. That is, when they can’t get my food. Disgusting creatures I feel an instinctive need to kill whenever I see one.

When I’m sitting around eating a meal and I see a roach skitter out from under something and make a bee line (that phrase has lost some accuracy and intensity since I moved to Allston) for the nearest shelter, I feel like it reflects on me, my apartment, and our respective levels of cleanliness. The roach’s presence is a statement of my failure to kill it and my inability to cut it off from the food it needs to multiply, my failure to keep a clean house. I feel responsible.

I shouldn’t; I clean up after myself and the roach community was here before I moved in. I also didn’t make common roaches disgusting; evolution and centuries of survival on the fringes of human activity saw to that. Neither of those thoughts, though, do anything to quell the idea that I must kill every last shit-eating cockroach before I can feel comfortable with myself, my home, and my civic responsibility to Allston and the future tenants of my place. Let there be massive roach population die-offs in Allston due to modest changes in individual behavior, and let them begin with me.

I wrote the following Saturday night/Sunday morning after getting back from a house party:

So I’m at this party. In Boston. My friend who works with me at the bagel shop invited me. He called me after work. I was writing; didn’t think I wanted to go. I had nailed it down the night before. Drunk by anyone’s description at another house party. It was rough. I threw up. Like out of my mouth. Didn’t see it coming; had to run.

Anyways, I went. Started playing this word game with some kids outside. I forget the name; it might not have had one. The first player says a word. Any word. Proper name, place name, no matter. The next person has to say a word that has nothing to do with the word just said. Example: I say “tomato,” you say “Narnia.” You have to kill the entire thought process that arises from your natural reaction to words. The next word can’t have anything to do with direct surroundings, can’t be based off the previous word (or any words mentioned in the course of the game). It has to be totally independent. Dissociated from the context. Any word that can be traced back to a connection to the previous word or anything within eyesight is vetoed. It’s the polar opposite of “I Spy” or “Six Degrees” and it’s pretty cool.

Anyways, we’re at this party, playing this game. I have to bow out for a round to grab a beer. A beer turns into conversation, turns into a round of beer pong…I get caught up. There’s an older white dude in a black leather jacket right next to the keg talking about how his buddy shot someone. He’s older, probably late thirties with some grey hairs on the beard and the requisite “I’m balding so I’ll just shave it” Billy Corgan hairdo. He’s talking to some fucked-up waste case who isn’t paying much attention, telling him about how sweet Allston used to be back in the day, back in the late 90s before student money bought out the punk bars. Some kids that work down the street from my shop are there; I get into work-bitching with them. My friends are drunkenly, passively begging the female world to let them into her pants. It’s a college party, and I’m not in college anymore, which means all the drama and heartstrings and hormones are just funny to me now. Right?

I go out for another smoke and play a few more rounds of the word game with those dudes, who are still out there in T-shirts in below-freezing temperatures. As I’m walking back in, the black jacket dude is talking to some short scrubby-looking kids who’d just showed up. One kid’s in his face about something. Jacket-dude is clearly trying to explain his way out of a situation. He’s also drunk. He’s not as drunk as most people there, but he’s been hanging around the keg for hours talking to anyone who fills a cup and looks his way, humping the keg and his proximity to it for all they were worth. Now he’s chin-scrub to chin-scrub with some twentyish kid full of beer and piss who’s right up in his face, challenging him in language and posture. The kid had at least two friends with him, one Asian kid, one miscellaneous white, all of them eyeing black-jacket, waiting for him or their point man to do something provocative. I kept walking. Shit was going down, but why bother? Let ’em handle. I’m 24; I can’t get mixed up in the shit anymore. Right?

So I walk back in and make a few laps. I’m back in the kitchen, near the door to the outside, and I look up. The young dudes are punching the old dude on his back, over his head. They wrestle him down and somebody kicks him. Unplanned fistfights always look bizarre. The punches look weak, the fighters awkward. They’re never as shocking or exciting as you think they’re going to be. I just watched for a bit before I realized what was going on. It was three kids on one dude. They were drunk and he was drunk, so I guess even on that score. But three kids. One guy.

When I walked outside the kids had moved it out to the street and black-jacket was a bloody mess. They were still kicking him. Somebody got a shovel from god-knows-where and beat biker dude in the head with it. No one broke it up. The owner of the house came down and said some self-aggrandizing bullshit about the kind of behavior he does and does not accept in his home. Dudes kept kicking and their friends told the house owner to fuck off and get back inside. Eventually the kids got tired and black-jacket was just rolling around on the street. Everyone went back inside. Asian back-up man ran over and spit in his face. Just to be sure.

I asked around to see what had happened. The story, shaky and brittle as an autumn leaf, went like this: “He’s a fuckin’ neo-Nazi.” “Came over here and started sayin’ some white power shit.” “You see him? That fuckin’ skinhead faggot? Fuckin’ skinhead faggot; started sayin’ some neo-Nazi shit in front of three Jewish kids. Got lit up. Fuck ‘im.”

I don’t know what the dude said. Neither did most of the apparent witnesses. All I saw was three drunk kids jump one drunk asshole. I understand the whole Boston hardcore/FSU v. neo-Nazi backlash, and I’m sure that firm, principled anti-Nazi stance took a lot of soul-searching and all, but three on one is pussy odds on anyone’s scale. Though your outrage and compulsion toward direct action are admirable, nothing you accomplish in a brawl on North Beacon is going to change the effects of white American prejudice on minorities. If you want to make your point in a way as pointless and insubstantial as a drunken brawl at a house party, then go for it, I guess, but don’t advertise yourselves as cheap-shot artists.

Tonight I watched a fringe fight a fringe, weakly, in a manner that diminished the witnesses’ knowledge of what’s really up. Don’t confuse socio-political action with gangster-mentality hooliganism.

I’m sure I felt pretty cool about “gangster-mentality hooliganism” as a phrase at the time. It reads like a small-town editorial condemning the Seattle WTO riots. Whatevs.

After I thought about it, I realized instinctive, violent societal reaction to neo-Nazi ideas is not unlike my cockroach hunt. They represent a disgusting, resilient pest in the lean pantry of American thought. For many years, white supremacists could preach hatred and ignorance and intolerance without fear of retribution, often with the implicit support of law enforcement and elected officials. Multiracial groups of punks taking them on at shows and parties and driving entire Nazi subcultures into extinction might not be what, say, Dr. King had in mind, but it’s easier to defend than most violent outbursts.

That said, neo-Nazis are one thing while your average dumb-assed American white dude is quite another. Beyond “some neo-Nazi shit,” nobody even knew what the guy had said. Did he diss the Israeli flag or was he repping Aryan Brotherhood and expressing solidarity with his Czech brothers in their recent march on Pilsen? Did he call somebody a “macaca” or did he make a big dick joke?

Ultimately, I can’t answer those questions and neither could anybody else. More important to me, though, are the tactics. Forget spitting in the dude’s face while he’s bleeding in the street. Where I come from (“6th Safest Town In The Nation, Three Years Running!“), three-on-one is still cheap. I would fight someone if I had those numbers and I struggle arm-wrestling toddlers. A shovel? Seriously? What is this, Final Fight?

The weaker your methods, the weaker your message. No matter how worthy your stated cause, you’re not changing anything or anyone by jumping an already vulnerable target. And if all you’ve got is testosterone and beer farts, please: Take it to The Kells.