An Irregular Column
(for MRR iss. 283, December)
by Mykel Board
Girls aren't supposed to play in bands. They're supposed to give blowjobs to guys who play in bands.
-- Drunk Girl at a party in Scranton PA
The attractive Dominican boy cups one hand over each of his nipples.
“I see it like this,” he says. “White girls have it here...” He moves his hands away from his chest. “Colored girls have it here...” He places one hand on each of his buttocks. “But Spanish girls... ah Spanish girls. They've got it here and there and everywhere you want.” You can guess where his hands go.
This image comes back to me as I think about how the world changes. The two of us sat at a table in a Santo Domingo park. No other listeners. Just me and this guy, discussing things that guys discuss. Things we might feel uncomfortable talking about in front of our mothers.
This discussion does not come back to me as I gaze at well-proportioned Hispanic girls on the subway. It comes back as I walk down Fifth Avenue, passing this very white girl with very wide hips. She speaks loudly into her cellphone.
“... So it's like, I want him, ya' know? I'm practically drooling over him. But it's that time.... yeah... that's what I'm saying... I'm bleeding like a... I donno, tell me something that bleeds... hahaha that's funny... yeah, like that. So if I come on to him, ya know, I mean he's gonna get me home and... yeah, grossout! I mean yuck. I'll never see him again... So I told him I had to go somewhere and do something, but... yeah, you guessed it... it was in Soho, right on that street with all the shoe stores... no, I don't know if he likes that street with all the shoe stores... no, I don't know if he likes shoes... why, you think he's gay?...”
So here we are, the kind of conversation that should be private, across a secluded park table. Here it is walking down Fifth Avenue. It's what people should talk about at home, in a corner café, where the music or ambient noise covers the conversation. Someplace where there are just you two. That's where you should discuss things not fit for public consumption.
Like the relative appealing endowments of various races, your monthly period and his homosexuality should not be public. I don't want to know. I don't know you. Why should I know about the effusion of your menstruation?
But kids these days. There is no privacy. Their parents give them cellphones at 8 and the world becomes their private network. It's a new kind of generation gap. When I grew up, one side of the gap had the Vietnam War supporters, the other its opponents. These days, the gap has changed. One side has people who feel uncomfortable yawning in front of others. The other side has people who loudly discuss their genital warts.
There I have it. The perfect topic for a column. It's tighter than a feminist sphincter. No need to think it through, run it through the mill and see what happens. No need to write the column first to find out what I think. Uh uh. This time I know. It's the new generation gap. Those who have a sense of privacy, and those who don't.
Ah, but my tightly orchestrated, thought-out, obvious column collapses faster than a hard-on at a Hillary Clinton fund-raiser. I'm in Scraton PA. It's a reading from my books. Part of an open mic night, at a local coffee shop. No booze here. Just an espresso machine and some quiche. I arrive early to scope out the place.
It's small, with a few tables and a library so people can read while they sip their lattes. I check out the book titles: How to Live Fat Free catches my eye. The other books are somewhat less intellectual. The café is right across from a dorm. That street will be my generation gap.
Tonight's show will have a record turn out for the café. More than a hundred people. By the evening's end, the promoter will have over $200 in admission. He'll also get another $50 for “special services.” I'll tell you about that later. Me? I'll wind up with bubkas.
The rattle of a doorknob disturbs my thoughts. A young blondguy enters. He wears jeans, a t-shirt and looks very collegiate.
Dan, the organizer, greets me with a handshake.
“You got a fan,” he says. “I was doing promo for this show and this guy says. 'Wow, Mykel Board.' That's one in your corner. I'll ask him if you can stay there tonight.”
“Is he attractive?” I don't ask.
Flash ahead: We've moved the furniture. The first performer is a guy and his guitar. The guy has red hair, a scraggly beard and wears sandals.
“Anybody got a capo?” he asks, pulling his guitar out of its soft case. Someone hands him one and he straps in on the guitar. Then he starts. Cover songs. The greatest hits of the 70s and 80s. Heart felt. Shot through the heart and you're to blame! Half the crowd sings along. When he's done, there is wild applause.
The next performer is a guy and his guitar. Cover songs. One or two originals. Heart felt. The guy has blond hair, a scraggly beard, and wears sandals. The next guy has light brown hair. Everything else is the same.
I look around. The folding chairs creak under fat girls who sit with their hands in their laps and applaud to Horse With No Name. Most of the guys sport their first beards, and wear just-bought-for-college sandals. The crowd is really white. There's one huge Negress and another girl who could have some Spanish in the woodpile somewhere. That's it. Not an Oriental in the room. I feel uncomfortable around too many white people. Like someone is going to ask me if I've accepted Jesus as my own personal savior.
And there are tons of bell bottoms, low cut under tons of lard.
Yowsah! I think. They're gonna hate me. Me, with my GG Allin t-shirt. And that's only for starters. This is gonna be fun. How long before the groans start? Will they throw things or will my host just say, “er.. Mykel... I think you need to wrap things up.”? Will I need a chicken-wire fence to protect me from the raging folkies? Will they crucify me for my lack of sensitivity? I hope so.
There's one more folk singer. A guy with a dark beard looking much like one of the Nirvana guys who didn't die. They applaud his version of the 1967 hit, If You Can't Be With The One You Love, then Love the One You're With. Then comes me!
So I'm staying with some friends in this house in Philadelphia and there's this naked girl hanging from the ceiling... A couple people laugh.
I continue my story. Getting grosser and more offensive as I go on. The polite laughs continue. One person leaves... but soon comes back, eating a sandwich, drinking a cup of coffee.
No heckles. A few chuckles. Some polite applause. After I finish, I wave, go back to my corner to sell books. This big Arab-looking guy comes up to me. He points to my t-shirt.
“GG Allin,” he says. “Yeah, I love GG Allin.”
He gives me the thumbs up sign, then walks away and sits down. A chubby blond guy is up next.
“Anybody got a capo?” he asks.
After he finishes, Dan introduces the other special guest of the night: LIMA.
LIMA's got dark curly hair. He wears a pink shirt, carries a green mic stand, plastic flowers, and a megaphone. One “guitar” is a Casio VL Tone glued onto a guitar body. He throws confetti in the air and starts playing feedback. Then, a kiddie kind of song, you know like B-I-N-G-O. But his chorus is L-I-M-A.
“Come on, join me!” he shouts. “L!”
The audience comes back with a loud L.
After they've got it. He gets them cheering: LIMA! LIMA! LIMA!
Then he launches into his next song. He wants the crowd to stand with him. At first a few people come to the center. Then everyone. The entire audience standing. Clapping. Waving their hands side to side above their heads.
“Come on, everybody,” shouts Lima. “It'll be really gay if you don't join us.”
No need to worry about gay. Everyone's already standing. Their hands are up high. All hundred plus sway side to side. Embracing, oozing love out of every non-gay pore. Holding hands-- a hippie parody from people who know about hippies from textbooks. A new camp, from people who don't have a clue about camp. They might as well be dancing the Charleston.
I've never been a fan of audience participation. Especially when I'm in the audience. It's the anti-authoritarian in me. If someone tells me to clap along, or stand up, or honk that I love Jesus, I immediately don't want to. It seems dictatorial to tell your audience what to do. On the part of the audience, it's sheep-like obedience to do it.
“You guys like sea horses?” shouts Lima.
A few people answer yes.
“Let me hear it! Use your balls,” shouts Lima. “Ladies, use what you got.”
Yes! comes the massive reply.
Balloons bounce. There's a sound-effects tape of bubbling water. Lima sings about sea horses. Balloons skitter all over the audience. As soon as one begins to fall, an enthusiastic zaftig bounces it back up in the air.
A pretty girl, tall, with permed hair that looks like it'll break if you touch it, gets hit in the face with one of the balloons. It knocks mascara into her eyes. Lima walks over to her and kisses her on the eyelid. Instantly making it all better. Then he goes back to the guitar.
The crowd is still bouncing the balloons, clapping to the music, swaying back and forth. Pure form with no purpose. I'm the only one not on my feet. Maybe the only one lamenting the lack of booze in this place. Whassamatter, don't kids drink anymore?
I'm not feeling very good. It's probably just jealousy. They love him – but can't get it up to hate me. What's wrong with them?
Lima climbs up on the furniture. Joins in the dancing, let's the Casio play itself.
'What a great crowd! I love you.” he says. “What a great crowd!”
As he leaves the stage, Lima shouts, “I have CDs. You can buy 'em from me... or trade. A hug for a CD! That's all I ask.”
After Lima, balloons, confetti, flower petals litter the floor. Folks are laughing, hugging, panting for breath.
Dan walks in the middle of the crowd.
“Now, if everybody can please have a seat, we'll bring back our other featured act: Mykel Board.”
It's about 11 PM. The Monster is finally kicking it. I'm on again and they are not ready for me. No booing. No reaction at all, except polite applause. I cut it short.
There is more polite applause.
“Now,” Dan explains to the crowd, “you know we don't have any money to pay our performers. Mykel is selling some books and CDs, check it out and buy something.”
No one moves.
This is the most unpunk group I've seen outside of a Baptist church. Whatever punk is... and it's something different to different people... it's not clapping along to Everybody Wants to Rule The World and strumming guitars. It's not sandals. It's not covers of 70s sensitive rock. It's not trading hugs for CDs. Blowjobs, maybe. But not hugs.
I'm feeling sorry for myself when Lima walks over to me. He's friendly, smiley faced, no trace of I blew you off the stage man. Just a nice guy from New Jersey.
“You work for Maxim?” he asks.
I laugh. “Er, not exactly. I write for Maximum Rock'n'Roll.” I tell him. “But I don't write about music.”
He smiles and turns as a cherubic girl tugs on the back of his shirt.
“I wanna trade a hug for a CD,” she says.
The other acts that night are even more awful. After me comes a guy and his girlfriend. He strums the guitar. She plays the bongos. (I shit you not!) She also sings so off key that even I know there's something wrong.
“Wow, am I glad we didn't have to follow Lima.” she says.
Here comes the last act. A smooth-faced young man with a guitar. He's not wearing sandals... He's wearing Nikes.
“Hey Dan,” he shouts to the promoter. “I'll give you $50 if you don't let anyone leave.”
From the front of the room comes a voice. “You just bought yourself an audience,” it says.
The guy turns to us and shrugs. “You do what you gotta do,” he says. “Anybody got a capo?”
Before I have time to consider this further, the guy with the guitar puts on a harmonica holder, blows a few notes and then starts playing BORN IN THE USA!
A young man who looks slightly Indian (turban, not feather) comes up to me. I wonder if he really looks Indian, or if I'm just searching for ethnicity in this group.
“I listened to you tonight,” he says. “Very interesting. How would you describe yourself?”
“About five foot three inches,” I tell him. “A hundred thirty-five pounds. Brown hair... losing it... Four and a half inches of...”
“No,” he says, smiling, “I mean if someone asks you What Are You? how would you answer. For example, I'm a theist.”
“I'm a me-ist,” I tell him. “Just like it says on the book cover. It rhymes with theist.”
“Me-ist,” I explain. “Like communist, anarchist, scientist.”
“I see,” he says. “Tell me, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your own personal savior?”
“I'm sorry,” says Dan. “We had a good crowd. I don't know why people didn't buy your books.”
“Maybe it was the wrong crowd,” I say. “By the way, where was my fan?”
“He never showed up,” Dan tells me. “I don't know what happened.”
“My fans are not the most responsible people in the world,” I tell him.
“I found you another place to stay,” he says. “I'll take you there.”
We get in my rental car and drive about half a mile. There's a parking place a block away from the house. One and a half car lengths long. When we reach it, I get out of the driver's seat.
“You park,” I tell Dan. “I'm not very good at it.”
Without a snicker, Dan gets out, crosses to the driver's seat and parks the car. Then we walk uphill to THE HOUSE.
It's clear this is THE PARTY HOUSE in town. It's a ramshackle old wooden structure with a large porch on the ground floor and an outside staircase that leads to apartments on higher floors.
A couple of girls sit on an old porch rocker. One of them wears a thin cotton dress that looks like a 1940s couch covering. The other has on a short black skirt and a black thing that I think people call a bustierre. She's white, but to disappoint my Dominican friend, does not have the bust to be properly boosted by the bustierre.
“Dan!” shouts the girl in the couch material. “Come here so I can give you a big kiss.”
Dan walks up to the girls. They both hug him-- one on either side.
“Party going on?” says Dan.
The bustierre girl nods, “Upstairs.”
Dan lets go of the girls and heads up the stairs to the second floor. I follow. Inside is a college house.
To the right is a bar, the inset, where the counter should be is filled with bottle caps. The caps are all from LIONSHEAD BEER bottles. They are turned face up and face down so they make a pattern spelling out 226, the address of the house.
In front of the bar, a boy and girl wrestle on the floor. In the room to my right are two couches, a table, a huge TV, and a stereo set. On one couch sit a couple guys in jeans and t-shirts.
On the other couch sit two other guys, each holding a plastic guitar. They are playing some kind of video game. You have to match the notes on screen with the notes played by a skeleton heavy metal band on the monitor. The music is old blues, tough to play-- like Muddy Waters or something. The TV musicians look like Misfits rejects. The combination is weird.
The guys “playing” the guitars are very intent, and by the high scores they're racking up, very good.
On the table are two sets of plastic cups partially filled with beer. Some one arranged them in V-formation, like bowling pins at opposite ends. At each end of the table, a boy-girl team is trying to throw ping pong balls into the opposing cups. I guess it's some kind of game.
A big guy with a shaved head wears a green football Jersey. I can easily believe he plays in it. He turns as if noticing me for the first time and holds out a meaty palm.
“Hi, I'm Mike,” he says.
“Mykel,” I reply. “Mykel Board.”
“Oh, you write for Maxim,” he answers. “Dan said you might stay here.”
“Er... no, it's Maximum Rock'n'Roll,” I tell him. “But I don't write about music.
“Welcome,” he says. “Take off your hat and coat. There's beer in the refrigerator.”
Few words ring more pleasantly in my ears than There's beer in the refrigerator. I'm off to fish out a Lionshead Light.
Light beer? Me? Ah well, even a daughter is better than nothing. So I twist off the cap and suck on it. It's not bad-- for a light beer.
I walk back into the living room and sit on the couch. A chubby girl, wearing what looks like a stretchy cloth tube walks up to me. She holds a half-full bottle of Lionshead.
“Hi,” she says, “I'm Sandy.”
“I'm Mykel,” I answer. We click bottles.
“Hey Mykel,” comes a voice from the couch. It's one of the guys who was playing guitar in the game.
“Sit over there. I wanna teach you this drinking game...”
He explains a complicated game of touching your shoulder, pointing to other people, making an equal sign with your arms and one more rule that I forgot. If you make a mistake, you gotta take a drink.
I find myself part of a circle around a coffee table. I'm challenged to move, choose, drink up, choose again. This is fun. The big guy comes over with more Lionheads. It's not long before I'm feeling pretty good.
What gets me is that these kids don't know me. Most of them weren't at the show. I'm just this strange guy sitting here. Older than their dads. They don't care. I have a beer in my hand, I'm one of the gang. That's it.
When I was 17 or 19 or however old they are, the intrusion would have outraged me. I would have thought I was a cop. I would have felt invaded. What's this old guy doing at the party? He probably supports the war! That old fart. Thinks he can span the generation gap? Yeah, right.
But now... there is no generation gap. It hits me. I'm trying to bend reality to fit my concept of it. It doesn't work. My idea of privacy, now that I think about it, is true for all ages. I hear as many old ladies talking about their grandkids, as kids talking about their bloody OBs. I divided it into a generation gap, because I wanted there to be one. My desire made me see it that way. Privacy may be as dead as chivalry, but it's got nothing to do with The Generation Gap. There is no generation gap.
“Drink, Mykel, drink!” come voices as I focus back to the present. “You missed the point.... Al pointed at you.”
I smile and down my plastic cup's worth. The big guy fills it up again. The game peters out when one girl sits back in a pout. No more. I keep mishing my shoulder. Any more drinksh and...! She gets up and runs to the bathroom.
I go out to the porch. There's a crew there. Sitting and drinking. The guy who looked like the Nirvana drummer sits on the stairs. A beer in one hand, a girlfriend on his knee.
“Hey,” he says, “I'm Randy.”
“Me too,” I answer. I don't think he gets it. Probably never been to England.
“Naw,” I correct, “my name's Mykel.”
“You wanna play the ping pong drink game?” asks the girl, grabbing me by the arm.
“I already played a drink game. You had to touch your shoulder and...”
“No not that one,” she says. “This one is with ping pong balls. You got to put 'em in the right place.”
As she speaks, she's pulling me back into the living room. “Can I chose where to stick 'em?” I ask with a smile.
She smiles back. “Later maybe,” she says. “Now we drink.”
She drags me to the one side of the table with the neatly lined up cups. She tells me I have to throw a ping pong ball into the cup on the other side. If I get it in, the other guy has to drink the contents. If I miss, it's their turn. Last man standing wins. Eventually, I lose.
Scene shift to the next morning:
Any couch surfer knows that when you sleep at the party house, you're the last person to go to bed and the second person to wake up. It's pitter patter to the shower that wakes me up this morning. Then the thump thump thump of the big guy with the shaved head, wrapped in a blanket.
I have a surprising lack of headache. In fact, for whatever time it is, I'm groggy, but not grouchy.
“Whatimzit?” I ask.
“About ten,” says the big guy with a smile.
“Okay,” I say, “I'm outta here.”
I head toward the bathroom just in time to see a naked girl leave and head toward a bedroom. She smiles at me at she walks by. After taking care of my morning needs, I head off to the next reading in Allentown.
It's a show in an Allentown record store, set up by my long term pal, Sue. It's also a bust. This time only one person shows up. We rope some other folks in. The record store owner buys a few books and records. No one else does
But it's not a failure, this trip. Oh no. I learned something. The end of privacy will have to wait until next month. But it won't be a generation gap column. I now understand that I've spent so much time looking for the dingleberries, I haven't realized there's no shit to begin with. There is no generation gap. There are no KIDS anymore, except as defined by stupid lawmakers who were born when it meant something to be over 21 or 30 or 40 or whatever.
I want to raise a Lionshead beer to the drinkers of Scranton PA. I don't give a shit if they voted for Bush. For all I know they think Bush is just another kind of beer. I do know, they drink, fuck, get drunk and don't give a shit about your age, race, or anything more than that you also drink, fuck and get drunk too. Maybe there's hope for America yet.
ENDNOTES: [email subscribers (firstname.lastname@example.org) or website viewers (www.mykelboard.com) will get live links and a chance to email comment on the column]
-->Thanks Dept. Dan Mahoney was the organizer in Scranton. After the show, he buys a book. The only sale of the night. I can't fault him for the financial disaster. He tried, and got a good crowd. It was the wrong crowd for me, but it was an adventure-- and I got a column out of it. Thanks Dan.
--> Class of 1984 dept: According to the Utne Reader, many schools in “the remote African interior” lack current textbooks. A Swiss company wants to “help” by using satellites to beam textbooks into eBook Readers. The promoters of the technology say that it will be less expensive than replacing old printed textbooks. The eBooks can easily be updated.
Governments should love this when they need to change history to suit the political climate. A few clicks of a mousekey will wipe out the past forever. No hard copy to prove otherwise. Slaves? What slaves?
-->Strange what doesn't make the news dept: Fat chance you'll read about it in America's Christified press, but it happened. Indonesia recently executed 3 Christian terrorists. What did they do? Kill 70 Muslims in a terrorist attack. Nothing like equal opportunity terrorism. Right?
-->Fox guards the henhouse dept: A US military contractor accused of human rights violations has won a multi-million-dollar contract to police post-Saddam Iraq. The DynCorp company, which has donated more than $200,000 to the Republican Party, began recruiting a private police force in Iraq for the US State Department.
The awarding of such a sensitive contract to DynCorp has caused concern over the company's policing record. A British employment tribunal recently forced DynCorp to pay £110,000 in compensation to a UN police officer. The courts said it unfairly fired her in Bosnia for whistleblowing on DynCorp colleagues involved in an illegal sex ring.
DynCorp, which has its headquarters in Reston, Virginia, employs almost 25,000 people, many of them former US military personnel.
--> Punk Porn dept: Thanks to Dick Freeman who sent me a DVD Twin set called FUCK THE SYSTEM. It may be the first full-out/self-proclaimed made-for-the-public punk porn production. It's certainly the first porn DVD to come with it's own companion soundtrack.
A few of the girls are okay looking, the guys are ugly, but it's a great start. Dick Freeman, by the way, is the editor of BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED, a porn review zine (no pictures), that sometimes features me. It always has great things to say, with writers like Nina Hartley and Richard Pacheco. Sample issues $3 from BNI, 513 N. Central Ave., Fairborn OH 45324
-->Take out them teeth granny, you're chafin' me dept: BNI also reports that the Senior Citizens' VILLAGES community near Orlando is reporting epidemic levels of sexually transmitted diseases. One gynecologist said she treats more cases of herpes in the retirement community than she did in the city of Miami.
Socrates, when he became old and lost the urge is rumored to have said, “I feel like I've been freed from an old and terrible dictator.”
Today, I'm happy to say, “Not so fast, buster.”
-->Personal dilemma dept: I'm a supporter of kids' rights. I believe people should be allowed to fuck whatever consenting people they want. Kids are the world's captives. They live in legal slavery, bound to people they sometimes hate. I also believe in privacy. My email to you is OUR communication. It doesn't belong to George Bush.
So what happens when a right-wing Republican congressman gets caught sending emails to a 16 year old page? First, I'm happy. It's a right-winger getting screwed. Then I'm sad, somebody who did NO HARM is getting fucked over in the same kind of scandal I hate. Then I'm happy, because it could lead to the end of the Republican controlled House. Then I'm sad, because it will encourage even more spying and less freedom. Maybe I shouldn't care at all. Maybe I should have a drink.