An Irregular Column
by Mykel Board
He's a rebel and he'll never be any good. He's a rebel and he'll never be understood. Just because he doesn't do what everybody else does. That's no reason why I can't give him all my love." --The Crystals
“Yessirreebob,” says Mr. Howard, the Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. “I don't hate no one. But when that colored guy comes in here saying he lives in Mississippi. I tell him. Listen boy, I don't hate no one. But you'd better get your ass out of Mississippi or you're gonna end up dangling from a tree.”
Sid and I are at THE REBEL SHOP, on the Square in Laurens, South Carolina. We're here to meet a real Klansman... something that neither of us have done before.
We stand talking to Mr. Howard, who my cousin, a Laurens resident, has told me is the Grand Dragon of the regional Klan. We can go to his shop if we want, she said, but she, sure as a shofar, isn't going to set foot in that place.
Mr. Howard looks at me. “You know how old I am?” he asks.
I shake my head.
“I'm so old that when God said let there be light,” he answers, “I pulled the string... And you know how old my wife is?”
I shake my head again.
“She's older than dirt!” he continues and laughs out loud.
On the chair next to Mr. Howard, Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, is a younger-looking guy. Mid-forties, I'd guess. Bald with a short-trimmed gray fringe.
“This is Bob,” says Mr. Howard, Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. “He's the South Carolina representative of the National Socialist Party.”
We shake hands.
“You must've guessed we're not from around here,” I say to Mr. Howard, the Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
“Where ya'll from?” he asks.
I nod to Sid. “He's from Chicago,” I say.
“Chicago?” says Mr. Howard, the Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. “We have lots of members in Chicago. Surprising from up North.”
Sid and Mr. Howard shake hand.
“And where you from?” he asks me.
“Imagine the most horrible place you can think of,” I say. “Where would you least like to live in the world?”
“Ah,” he says, “you're from New York City.”
He extends his hand, “pleased to meet you.”
“Yeah,” I say, “we're Yankees. But we believe in free speech and we're glad you're fighting to stay open. Keep up the fight. Don't let 'em close you down.”
“Oh,” he says, “they ain't gonna close me down. I'm gonna close for a couple weeks so I can concentrate on my law suits. SUE--eee! SUE-eee! SUE-eee! It's like hog calling. I'm suin' my lawyers. But once I got that taken care of I'll be back.”
“Well, good luck,” I say. “Don't let 'em get you down.”
“Don't worry,” says Mr. Howard, the Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. “When you get back up North you tell 'em I shut down cause they won't let me kill no niggers no more.”
“I'll tell 'em that,” I say. “I'll spread the word.”
Sid (whose real name he won't let me use, but is something like CHARLES BORKAWITZ) and I make our purchases. I buy a t-shirt with a confederate flag on the front. On the back it says. KEEP THE REBEL SPIRIT. Sid buys one that has a doctored picture of the moon landing. The astronaut is planting a Confederate flag instead of an American one. The caption: SOUTH SIDE OF THE MOON.
“Should I pay with a credit card?” Sid whispers to me.
“No fuckin' way!” I say. “Charles Borkawitz at the Rebel Shop? Are you kidding?”
He pays cash.
On the way out, Sid picks up a couple of Klan membership applications. On the bottom, in fine print, is a note about how anti-violence the group is. It doesn't matter. Neither of us could join. It requires a statement that we're Pure members of the white race, of non-Jewish ancestry.
Too bad. I could use some extra sheets.
I start this column in the Knoxville TN airport, Continental Terminal. I'm on my way back to New York after a 10 day tour of Tennessee, with side trips to Alabama, Mississippi, North and South Carolina. I've been traveling with my pal, eccentric throat singer/poet Sid Yiddish. We've been doing some readings, performances and a whole lot we've never done before... like shooting a shotgun... or meeting a Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
In a way, I hate to start this column with that meeting. It just reinforces the clichés about The South. I don't want to do that.
I LOVE THE SOUTH. It's got America's best food, friendliest people, and some of the most beautiful countryside. Easy Rider, Deliverance and GW Bush (a transplanted northerner) have given it a bad rep.
It's better than that. This is Sid's first visit. His first grits, first biscuits nd gravy, first pork barbecue. First time shooting a gun too! I love traveling with him. It's like watching a toddler discover his own penis.
"WOW! LOOK AT THAT!" he thinks. "It does that! And it's so much fun!"
“Wow, look at that!” says Sid. “It's a turkey. Right there by the side of the road. And up there. There's a hawk! I bet it found something dead in the woods.”
“Er, Sid,” I say. “Hawks don't eat dead things. They eat live things, like mice and squirrels. Buzzards eat dead things.”
“What about vultures?” he asks. “Don't vultures eat dead things?”
“Buzzards are vultures,” I tell him.
Sid's wants to get stuff with a confederate flag on it. Especially a bandanna. They're completely taboo in Chicago. You're even less likely to find one there than you are to find decent Mexican food in New York. And that's a pretty slim chance.
Me? I want to hit the garage sales, buy stuff to sell on Amazon and eBay to help pay for the trip. My Knoxville pal Chad is driving us around the city. Sid, who can smell these things, spies a lawnfull of junk.
It's our first garage sale. Toy pick-up trucks and plastic super-water pistols litter the grass. The seller is young. In his 30's, needing a shave but not a haircut. He's alone in the midst of the rubble. No sign of wife or progeny, although most of the stuff for sale is kids' toys.
There's an air of dumbitude around him. It's hard to say why... His individual features are quite handsome. But there's something in the way he moves. A loping gate and slightly off speech. The -DY not quite on the heels of the HOW.
Besides the toys, there are a few piles of clothes. On one of the piles, a cardboard sign says 25¢. Nothing interesting in that pile.
I look further and find a shirt with a confederate flag on the front and a half naked guy with a 10 gallon hat on the back. The words on the shirt say SAVE A HORSE RIDE A COWBOY. (I later learn these are words to a popular song, but I'm too far from popular culture to know it at the time.)
Tomorrow, Sid has us booked us into a homo café in Nashville. This shirt is the gayest thing I've seen in ages. I gotta wear it to the show. I look for the owner.
Sid has taken him to a corner of the yard. Their backs are turned to me. It reminds me of the kind of huddle adolescents enter when they talk about a girl... and she's there. Or maybe a patient and a pharmacist discussing Viagra.
When the huddle breaks, I show the shirt to the guy. "How much is this?" I ask.
He scratches his head.
"All the clothes are the same price," he says.
"I saw a sign over there that says twenty-five cents," I say. "Can I give you a quarter?"
"Nope," he says, confirming my suspicions about his intelligence.
"It's gonna cost you twenty-five cents."
Sid doesn't buy anything. In the car leaving the sale, I ask him what he and the sale-runner were talking about so privately.
"I told him I wanted to buy something with a confederate flag on it," says Sid. "I asked him if he had any bandannas or shirts. He didn't know what I was talking about."
"Of course he didn't," he says. "Nobody knows confederate flags here... 'cept maybe old Civil War buffs. Those aren't confederate flags. Those are rebel flags. People down here aren't confederates. They're rebels..."
Chad's voice changes, becoming a bit more southernly.
I hate the government. I'm a rebel. I don't like taxes or the government tellin' me what to do with my life. I'm a rebel. I don't hate niggers because of the color of their skin. I hate niggers because they're lazy. I'm a rebel.
His voice returns to normal. "That's how people think around here. If you live here, you understand it."
Yowsah! Suddenly, I get it. In a place like America where advertisers tell people express your individuality by buying our product. Where everyone except me is computing on an Apple notebook, each thinking they are different and I'm the conformist. Where Rush Limbaugh, richer and more powerful than any Washington bureaucrat, still talks about how he's the outcast. In America, we ALL think of ourselves as rebels.
In a culture like Japan, people think of themselves as like their neighbors. They struggle to fit in. Be like everybody else. Even if they're different, they view themselves as the same. In America, even if we're just like everybody else we see ourselves as different.
And there's more.
Not only are we different from what we see as 'everybody else.' Most of us are against what we see as everybody else. We're rebels. Straight edgers, conservatives, punks, vegetarians, all think they're rebels. They all see the rest of society as mainstream and they have to fight it.
There's still more. Some of us live to shock and offend that mainstream. Rush Limbaugh says he hopes Obama's economics fail. He wants shocks the liberals he thinks are running things. Boston straight-edgers used to run around knocking drinks out of people's hands. That'll show 'em. GG Allin shat on stage. See those normal people run!
There's a name for actions that deliberately offend the mainstream. It's punk rock. Rush Limbagh, Boston straight-edgers and GG Allin are punk rock. That Grand Dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan has to close his store because of lawsuits. But that's not the way he wants us to tell it to our pals up North.
"Tell 'em I shut down cause they won't let me kill no niggers no more," he says.
You can't get more punk rock than that.
ENDNOTES: [email subscribers (email@example.com) or website viewers (www.mykelboard.com) will get live links and a chance to email comment on the column]
-->Finally, what the world needs dept! Most of the masturbatory universe knows that the biggest tragedy of het porn is that the guys are as ugly as a Chase bank. I love Ron Jeremy, but I sure as a limpie wouldn't want to fuck him.
Lately, I found some websites that I'm just rubbing raw to. Great-looking guys as well as girls. Check out http://tinyurl.com/hubbahubbayowsah for starters. Then go on from there!
-->I'll shit in the aisles dept: Ryanair, the British discount airline has started charging to use the restrooms. This is a new low in Airline hoodwinks. What's next FREE airfare, but they charge you to sit down? Oh yeah, if you want actual wings on your plane, there's a $50 surcharge.
-->You can't even take the kids to a fuckin' movie these days dept: Check out the ultra-Disneyfied costumes in the new Hannah Montana movie. You'll see the latest disgusting move toward Christian-friendly teen fashions.
Forget Britney-era bling 'n' bras or clingy American Apparel spandex. 16-year-old "Hannah Montana" star Miley Cyrus wasn't even allowed to wear leggings while the cameras were rolling. Spaghetti straps were out, as were bare bellies, micro minis, one-shouldered tanks and anything resembling a camisole.
Now, the last reason ever to see a Disney movie has disappeared.
-->War against fantasy dept: Amazon and eBay have banned the sale of Rapelay, a rape simulation video game made by Japan-based company Illusion. Now, New York City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, is urging other websites to do the same.
"It’s easy to see why people are outraged," said Matt Bachl, a TV commentator. "Aside from the gang rape aspect of the game, the goal is to make women sex slaves without getting them pregnant. If a player fails, he must force the woman to have an abortion or risk being thrown under a train and killed."
How long is it gonna take people to realize that laws cannot stop fantasies? If you can't play the video game, I guess you just have to go out and do the real thing.
-->A new political hero? dept: The Nebraska Court of Appeals has dismissed former State Senator Ernie Chamber's lawsuit against God.
Chambers, an atheist, brought the lawsuit in 2007. He asked for a permanent injunction to stop, "fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilietial plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, and the like."
First, a district court threw out the case. They said God could not be served legal notice, so the suit was not valid.
In his appeal, Chambers argued that since God is all-knowing, he would have received notice without being formally served.
The appeals court had a different reason for rejecting the case. They said that the court cannot decide "abstract questions or hypothetical or fictitious issues."
Does that mean they think God is hypothetical or fictitious? I hope so.
-->You talkin' to me, God? dept: The Arkansas state legislature failed to pass a bill that would have allowed concealed weapons in church. Rep. Beverly Pyle, one of the bill's sponsors said the proposal was about church-state separation. Churches should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to allow firearms in their buildings, she said, not the state.
-->Did you fail special ed? dept: So this guy finds me on Facebook. He's not someone I especially liked, but I'm easy. Forgive and forget. Right?
How does he ask to be friends?
Hey it's me? Remember me? I'm the one who fucked that girl you liked-- on your bed in New York-- while you were away in Mongolia. Will you be my friend?
Just when I think people can't get any dumber... somebody comes along and proves me wrong.