Sorry, we are Sold Out of We Should Have Killed the King
Free Sample Chapter Chapter 2 THE WHEEL "You see a guy hurt, or somebody like Anderson smashed, or you see a cop ride down a Jew girl, an' you think, what the hell's the use of it. An' then you think of the millions starving, and it's all right again. It's worth it." [said Mac]. - John Steinbeck, IN DUBIOUS BATTLE He was cold and felt quite ill. He had tried to talk the others into taking his place, but no one would go for it. He and the weatherman and the redneck and the teen- ager were standing in the hard packed snow just a few yards from the coils of razor edged barbed wire that marked the outer limits of the U.S. missile base at Mutlagen, West Germany. They chatted quietly, casually, watching both the green clad German policemen on the other side of the wire and the mass of Turkish immigrants and young german autonomen and greens who were walking along the wire, chanting. It was 1983. The police line near Jack's group thinned as their commander moved most of them off after the main mass of demonstrators. There were other demonstrators around, but they were quiet and scattered, posing no obvious threat to the precious missiles. They were mostly pacifists. The radicals halted about 100 meters away and were up against the wire and were chanting something in German. Now the police were almost all at that point, determined to prevent a breakthrough. Jack looked at the American soldiers behind the police. They were dressed in khaki and carried M16 machine guns. The word was that they had orders to shoot any protestors who got past the German police. "What do you think?" said the weatherman. "This looks like our best bet. Everyone ready? O.K., lets go." They walked slowly to the barbed wire. The weather- man was carrying a piece of rug, rolled up. The police and the soldiers near them were watching the melee further along the fence. Jack was worried about the rug: they had never tried it, they were taking someone's word it would work. The weatherman threw the rug on the coiled NATO wire. Jack started from about five feet away, just enough to get momentum before he stepped onto the rug. His foot sank into it but his body moved forward, his other foot pressed into it and he hit the snow on the other side running. He was past the police in a flash. One of the American soldiers had his M16 pointed at Jack and yelled "Halt or I'll shoot." Jack thought he had a dozen radical slogans at his disposal but when he opened his mouth "Go ahead, Mother- fucker, shoot me" was what came out. He sprinted past the soldiers, expecting to die. After a while he looked back and to his surprise no one was following him. He was supposed to be the decoy. They were supposed to chase after him so his friends would have time to get out their German, American, and Soviet flags and burn them. Instead his friends were being tackled by the police. He kept running until he was in the center of the field, and then he stopped. He could go on to the inner fence, but there was no point in that. He became lost, not in thought, but in the sheer enormity of what lay about him. Nuclear missiles. The end of a beautiful planet. Two german police and two American soldiers came running towards him. He thought of running, giving them a merry chase, but he was sick and tired. He thought of doing what he had done the day before, helping the fool's momentum to take them sprawling headlong into the ice, but he doubted he could handle four of them at once. He even considered making a run for the outer fence in order to avoid arrest, but that seemed inappropriate. They tackled him and, though he offered no resis- tance, beat him with their fists and sticks as they held him on the ground. It hurt but he had on lots of cloths to protect against the cold and beatings and it was a distant hurt. They twisted his arm behind his back: that caused a lively pain. He groaned not because he had to but to let them know they had done what they sought to do. They dragged him so that he could not get his feet on the ground and his twisted arm was agony. It was a long drag measured in pain, not seconds. Finally the pain eased, they put handcuffs on him and he realized they wanted him to get up into a bus. Inside the bus were not only his three friends but a half dozen germans who had jumped over the barbed wire spontaneously when they had the opportunity. It was the fall of 1983. He wondered if he was about to spend an hour in jail or ten years. Either way the wheel had turned again. That was a long way from Indianmounds, West Virginia and the summer of 1976. Jack did not particularly prepare for the confron- tation session, he just did some thinking. That was about all he was capable of at that point. It was well into the summer and he and his fellow workers were beginning to feel pressure about getting the new dormitory's floor scaffolding done in time to pour the concrete before all the summer people left. By that point Jack was the only one working on the project with any regularity; Barry, who was in charge, was doing some for-pay siding work because he had run out of money. Jack had gotten the hang of the project, but a lot of the work was hard to do without a helping hand. Also, there were no electric tools, or rather there was no electricity to operate them. He was sawing four inch thick pine sticks with a hand saw, a time and energy consuming process. Richard Right, alleged zen master and the farm's owner, was not around much. The old faker had surrounded himself with the women up in Wheeling. Supposedly this was because the boys had to raise their sexual energies, whereas, being enlightened, Richard did not. Jack's sexual energy was so high he was just about ready to run down a deer. Jack chose a very simple topic for the group confrontation session. It was in line with their purpose as monks seeking enlightenment, it was a real problem that could be solved at the farm, and it required a leap of intuition to solve. It was Jack's turn to be the monitor. Being monitor meant that no one could ask you questions back, also you facilitated the meeting, calling on people, that kind of thing. No one liked confrontation sessions, since the idea was to expose people to themselves, especially their hypocrisy and personal illusions. Though they were one of only two or three breaks in the monotony of the farm's life, generally people avoided them, unless Richard Right was there. If you weren't there when he was present it was an admission to yourself that enlightenment was out of reach, or that the farm was a joke and you should be off pursuing a career, getting laid, and eating decent food. Jack had made a little fire pit out by the bunk- house. On rare occasions he would ride with some of the other monks into town and buy groceries, but usually he would just give them a list and some money. They did not have a refrigerator at the old bunk house, so food was flour, corn flour, oatmeal, powdered milk, beans, lentils, rice. A meal was simple: setting few sticks set to burning and then mixing flour, milk and a bit of soda into a lump of dough, heating it in a frying pan and wolfing it down before going to work or to meditate. He smelled like hell. He took three baths that whole summer, none of them thorough. There was no source of hot water. They had a choice of various ice-cold streams and springs if they wanted to be clean. Jack had adopted an "I don't give a fuck about the illusions of the world" attitude. That was a more appropriate zen way of saying that he did not see the point of taking a bath. He also had a toothache, and that was bad that summer. He had not seen a dentist in three years, and was not going to see one for another three years. That's how far he was from enlightenment. He did not even have the sense to go see a dentist. Richard Right had told him earlier in the summer about refrigerators that used kerosene for fuel. Despite Jack's scientific and technical training this seemed strange. He was thinking of kerosene as a source of heat, not as a source of energy. But he knew that a refrigerator worked by forcing air (or a gas) into a small space; as a result the heat was concentrated, the temperature rose, and the heat escaped to the outside. Then the gas was allowed to expand again, making it cold and providing the refrigeration. So he was able to reason out that by using the kerosene to run a motor it would run the refrigeration apparatus. There was no need to make a deal with the state to run in electric power lines. The spring problem worked by analogy. You let some of the water run on downhill and turn a waterwheel. The waterwheel then can run a pump that lifts some of the water back up to the top of the hill. When the session began Jack gave them the problem. There is a spring in the side of a hill, about halfway down. You want to set up a way to pump it up to the house, but you have no outside source of power. You can't use electricity or wind or solar power, and you can't use your own energy, like with a hand pump, once the pump is set up. He should have anticipated what would happen, but he did not. There were five minutes of silence, after which he planned to ask each person for the answer. Then he would do some rounds of asking people why they had mental blocks about coming up with the answer. Then they would get into the meat of the matter: controlling the body's energies to channel them into the climb up the mountain to enlightenment. First he had to spend ten or fifteen minutes explaining the question. He had to practically say you had to use the water power itself in order to clarify what was meant. There were perhaps eight people there, farm regulars. Whoever the first person Jack asked was said "I don't know." It was easy enough to look around the room and see that only two people thought they had an answer. Jack called on all the people who did not know first. He thought it was interesting that the intellectuals had not figured it, but the two working stiffs had. Then he called on working stiff number 1, Barry. "You use capillary tubes" Barry said. Jack was so flabbergasted he made the mistake of asking Barry to explain himself. Jack commented that it was a good try but impractical; capillary action can only move water so far against the force of gravity. He called on working stiff number 2, Michael, who now looked less sure of himself. "I thought of using capillaries too, and I think Barry is right in saying that would work. But you could also do it by running a pipe into the spring so that the water pressure forces it up the hill." Jack explained that it was a nice try but that the spring came out halfway up the hill because that was as high up as the water pressure would take it. Jack could not believe that no one got the answer. He should have just told them the answer and then let them discuss it until they understood it, and then con- fronted them with their rigid thought patterns, but he was feeling pretty ornery about the whole thing. He called for five minutes of silence for them to think about it again. It was about that time that Jack turned the pervasive cynicism that was the operating mode of the Tits of Transmission Society back upon the society. Just exactly why was he hanging out with half-wits in the middle of nowhere, getting paid nothing to work, driving himself crazy by refusing to masturbate or even think about sex? Meanwhile despair of reaching enlightenment, which he conceived of as both a state of bliss and some deep, secret knowledge of the human mind, and proof that material reality is an illusion, led him to contemplate the future. He would soon be out of money, and that meant having to get a job, which would be quite difficult in Indianmounds. He had a girlfriend waiting for him and decided he would go live where she was and get a job until he could think of some better plan. Sometimes the Wheel of Life turns and the smoke screen lifts and you are confronted with overwhelming force. No big deal, you can retreat. Of course if you retreat too often you can end up in the Arctic or grubbing for roots in the sub-Sahara. You go knocking on doors and they are all locked. Now you know what it is like to be treated like a pariah. You may have a big ego and want to sing the blues. A clubman. But when you get there guards are at the door and the patrons are white. It could be worse. You could be a hippie in 1974 or Adolph Hitler in 1945. The Russians, who you despised both for their social system and their inferior, half asian genes, are eating up German armies like bratwurst. The secret negotiations with the US and England have broken down completely. Factories are being destroyed and whole cities disappear in flames at night. The Capitalists of America and England have no moral scruples about mass murdering civilian populations. Why should you? You have ordered the elimination of the Jews and that is proceeding apace, but the thought has begun to bother you that history might misinterpret this. Or just about anyone in 2020, watching the entire earth turning brown and sandy under a sun unfiltered by the ozone layer, wondering how everyone could have been so stupid. It gets weirder. Ultrabright glowworms on the screen start taking on a life of their own. Computer boxes commit suicide, jumping off shelves. Massive rehabilitations of the living dead in places called BIBLE LAND and RESURRECTION CITY. Where the devil is he now: On a plain between two mountain ridges. Snow everywhere: piled high in the mountains, blanketing the plane, swirling in from the sky. Cold creeping into the bones dressed for spring, not winter. New Mexico, 1975, the last days of the Vietnam war, the police in hot pursuit, but a van roles up filled with young Native Americans. They give Jack a lift, talk about the weather; he drinks one of their beers, but has nothing to offer in return. Magically he is soon in a valley, thirty degrees warmer, and the mountains really are purple. Dirt sidewalks, diesel busses, a few more thumbed rides, more snow, purchasing some flour, cornmeal, oatmeal, Crisco, a bottle of nutmeg. In the Wilderness cattails were coming up like asparagus and fry up nice with wild garlic and mountain trout. You could see the trail from the cave, but you couldn't see the cave from the trail. Mice nibbled a hole in his backpack, the stuff bag ripped, his $3 pair of sneakers fell apart, and the turkeys, rumored to be nature's dumbest creatures, make a fool of him when he tried to hunt them. He hadn't even heard of the Tits of Transmission society yet. The Wheel turned and stopped again and stamped on the metal plates that would hold the iron rails was the name Beth. He thought back to that year, a skinny white girl, the New Riders splitting his head with electric country rock. She was now a reality far away but the nip- ping bar, a forty pound iron dick used to prop up wooden railroad cross ties to the determination of the pneumatic hammer, was close at hand as was Craig with his doll jokes designed to drive a man right out of any mind he had left. The Wheel Slowed down and he began to focus on things for longer periods of time. Women, jobs, stories, places. They did not raise him in a pressure cooker for nothing. There is no God and there is no soul, but reality is no illusion. Reality is resilient, creating the same people, creatures, and myths over and over. Which brought him to Rockschool, the edge peering into the depths of the abyss of eternity. It had a physical location, 666 Delancey Street, Manhattan, U.S.A., third floor, and in 4D it was 1981 for a start. Fanny moved out and on his way up and Jack moved into the loft used to warehouse and distribute thousands of samples of new music for America's hottest dance floors. He had nothing better to do. Yolo was gay and An Important DJ and sick a lot. Something wrong was his immune system, the doctors didn't know what, they could only treat the symptoms. Eve was still alive then, one eye blue and the other brown, and Sherry was living with Harry. Claude came over to share a pipe on occasion, but mainly it was music people, not musicians, music people. Iman had an attitude that rivaled Jack's and Snark's. He was famous in small circles, like most people, but it went to his head, the easy women and social responsibility. If Iman bought black rubber boots and wore them to the Mudd Club, in two weeks half the new wave hipsters would be wearing black rubber boots. His wardrobe had to be carefully chosen, and luckily he had little money. Jack was mainly a parasite on his friend Snark, but then Snark was a parasite in his own right, living off a trust fund. Jack was close to being a human vegetable: he had broken up with Patty a year earlier, was still depressed by that and the absurdity of life, and got three months behind in the rent. It was weird living in absolute poverty, no money in his pockets for anything, with a roommate who could blow ten dollars on lunch. Then again, Jack was behaving like a prince. He was hardly even going through the motions of looking for work. Finally the day of desperation arrived. Steve had told him about a paralegal temp service called Career Blazers. Jack had his suit, and so what if he did not have money to buy shoes to match. Maybe the interviewer would not notice his hiking shoes. But he had little hope. Tim arrived at the Rockschool and Jack knew he was doomed. Sure enough, Tim whipped out some cocaine. Believe it or not even Fanny did not do much coke, none of them made that kind of money or hung out with serious yuppies or was worth bribing, at least not back then. So business ground to a halt, at least Snark quit answering the phone, and while they continued to pull new samples out of their sleeves and put them on the phonograph and sometimes not listen to more than the first five seconds of the first song, Tim made out lines on a mirror and they snorted up. Jack had never liked coke much, and this was only the third time he had done it. It anesthetized his nose as usual and otherwise didn't do anything a strong cup of coffee wouldn't do. Soon enough it was interview time. He walked up to 42nd street, not having a dollar to spare for the subway despite having $20 worth of coke dancing in his blood. Jack was crashing seriously by the time he had filled out the application. It was a good thing he had a resume with him and could copy off that. A young blonde germanic woman interviewed him. It was all he could do to answer yes, or no, or speak in simple sentences. He was so busy just trying to comprehend her and speak in English he did not have time to convey that he really hated working. To his surprise two days later Career Blazers called him and asked me if he could work. Probably they had a big job to fill and were digging deep into the reserves. That got him his first paralegal job. French, Fried, Franks and Shriners is one of America's best law firms; ask anyone. Many of the world's largest corporations retained the firm; some two hundred lawyers were kept busy at the top of one of the great office buildings of Manhattan. Jack began by working in a profit center. The temp agency paid him and seven other paralegal temps $5 an hour. They sat at the law firm sorting documents by date and type. The law firm paid the agency $15 an hour for each of them. The law firm in turn billed its client, a fortune 500 corporation, $35 an hour for each of them. So the seven workers were generating the law firm $140 an hour. It's true, a good lawyer could charge that much an hour, even back then, for his time, but to Jack it was an awesome amount of money. To the corporation it was nothing compared to their revenues or losing the lawsuit. Five dollars an hour back in 1981 in New York City. $200 a week gross if you did not work overtime, but by the time they took out federal income tax, state income tax, city income tax, social security and state disability and unemployment taxes you took home about $120. Anything you bought in the city was subject to an 8% sales tax. Marginally habitable one bed room apartments in the area, forget Manhattan itself, rented for four hundred dollars a month. In other words, by the time the government and landlord got through with you, you could eat brown rice and maybe buy clothes pre- sentable enough to go the office in. Needless to say, at that rate of pay the temps didn't care much if they did a good job. Their purpose was to generate profits, not do work. So he was stuck living with Snark, which meant living with Rockschool, because no way would he pay even more in rent. At least this hell allowed him to save a hundred dollars or so a month, and sooner or later he would get something better. It was not exactly the dawn of electric rock, or maybe he was not in the mood. New Wave people wanting to make it or, if they had trust funds, kill time in an ego-stroked fashion. Some of the music he liked and remembered later: the Raybeats, the Cramps, Slow Children, Holly Stanton. People would send them punk stuff too, and he liked that better, raw emotion fringed with waking up in the Reagan Reality. The others at Rock- school did not like Punk. It was working class stuff, not intellectual enough. No money in it either, and the girls were dykes. Jack had written a novel that no one would publish about acid ideologues who figured out a way to spray LSD into the air and did it in Washington, D.C. Sometimes he would write other things, and he thought a lot about how the mind works and how you could duplicate it with computers. But he was isolated, he did not even go to the library to find out what others were thinking about it. Fortunately Snark was generous with his ganja, and Jack availed myself to that a couple of times a week. Jack had plenty of acid but wisely did not take it: New York City was just too crazy and his mind was wearing too thin to risk it. As luck would have it he had a friend in Berkeley who would send him crystal methedrine. Evil stuff. A line about an inch long and an eighth of an inch wide has the effect of a cup of strong coffee, only clean. Good if you have to start to work early after a night of partying, or want to finish a short story, or do that night of partying, or write a computer program. It's easy to vary the dose: two inches to go dancing, thicker to write crazy, repeat the dose to feel like a demon. Most people lose control real fast. Lines get to be four inches long and snorted up the nose until either all of the meth or all of the mind is gone. Even beginners can go through a quarter gram in a day or two. Jack was consuming about a tenth of a gram a month, plus tea, plus some coffee. Only constantly reminding himself of seeing people age five years during a single month of abuse kept him from upping the dose. Much. It was a combination of the noise and being at a loss for what to do that did him in. Jack did not want to be a lawyer and did not have the ambition to find a well paying computer programming job, or to manage a band. He felt a failure as a writer since he could not find a publisher. Delancey Street had six lanes of traffic and Allen street had four: Rockschool was at the corner. Around 3 a.m. when the traffic slowed down you could feel the building shake when the M train went by directly beneath the building. Snark would breeze in around 5 a.m. and watch some TV, winding down before going to bed. The living room was usually piled high with boxes of promo- tional records that they had to repack and ship out to the supercool D.J.'s around the U.S. Politics. Skip this if you don't want to hear about it. Jack hated nuclear weapons more than anything. It was hard to be serious about the future in a world with 60,000 nukes. So when he walked by a table in the West Village and saw some sort of sign about civil disobedience against nuclear weapons he took a flier. He went to the civil disobedience training and for the first time encountered non-violent fascism. He was supposed to learn how to be nonviolent. Like American sheep need to learn to be non-violent. They need to learn how to riot. Let the soldiers and bankers take courses in non-violence. But he joined an affinity group with some interesting people in it and he went down to the UN and sat down and they even pulled over a barricade. A big cop swung his club and the other cops actually dragged him back. It was a media event staged by liberals and stalin- ists, but he was too naive to know that. He was arrested with the others, put on a bus, taken to Brooklyn, given a ticket and released. Nuclear war was real, it just hadn't happened. Jack volunteered for Mobilization for Survival, novice that he was, and with some other volunteers formed a committee for Direct Action. The Mobe heavies didn't like it so Jack's group split and formed their own group. But time was running out. He was fired from the paralegal temp service for playing backgammon with his friend Andrew at Divots, Yolks & Warsell. Fascism with a smile. Unemployment was little compensation and would not last long. Snark was situating Rockschool to sell out. He knew the world was destroying him as surely as it was destroying itself. He bailed out. He left everything behind, got on a plane, and flew to Seattle. The Wheel turned.
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