Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Unabomber & Me

Ever since I became pen pals with Ted Kaczynski, I’ve had conflicting feelings about the mail.

Still, I joined the Freedom Club sometime around 1981. What can I say? I was young and impressionable. And I had an insatiable bloodlust for then-United Airlines president Percy Wood. To me—like most six year olds at the time—Wood was the living embodiment of the techno-fascist state. (Behind Reagan, obviously.)

Later—on September 19, 1995, to be exact—I read Uncle Ted’s Industrial Society and Its Future in the Washington Post, and it changed my life. Especially that part about “oversocialization.” But then they arrested him out in Montana and threw him in the can.

In 1998, shortly after Uncle Ted tried to hang himself, I wrote him a letter of solidarity. I told him to “keep his chin up” and implored him not to drop the soap.

When his response finally arrived from the ADX Supermax in Florence, Colorado, I was elated. Ted regaled me with tales of life on “the inside,” describing each and every inch of his 7x12-foot cell, with its polished steel mirror, concrete desk, and tap-free sink. He said he had been recruited by the Aryan Brotherhood via a secret transmission written in grapefruit juice and semen, but was debating the efficacy of gang membership in a prison where one spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement. He also requested some stamps and a few dollars on the books so he could buy legal pads and, like, cigs.

I responded with a letter written on Hello Kitty stationary. I told Ted about my life, my hopes, my dreams. I told him about Cave In’s Until Your Heart Stops and Iron Monkey’s Our Problem, both of which had just been released. I figured maybe he could identify with Our Problem cover artist Mike Diana, who had been unjustly persecuted (and prosecuted) by the Floridian authorities for the supposedly “obscene” contents of his Boiled Angel zine.

In his second letter, Uncle Ted said he had never heard of Mike Diana. But he sent me a copy of a short story he had written called Ship Of Fools, along with a Xerox of a painting by Hieronymus Bosch. The tone of his letter was excited—he had spent one of his rare “fresh air” hours lifting weights with Larry Hoover of the Gangster Disciples and Sammy “The Bull” Gravano. He had also spotted John Walker Lindh walking around the exercise yard with Omar Abdel-Rahman. They were holding hands—not because they were into man-on-man butt sex, Uncle Ted explained—but because that’s how friends roll in the Middle East. And also probably because Rahman is blind and needed help getting around or whatever.

I was fascinated. By now it was the year 2000, and the hard drives of the world had not crashed like Uncle Ted had predicted. Better still, I had purchased my first CD burner. I made Uncle Ted copies of all the shit I was into at the time—Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone, Gogoroth’s Incipit Satan, Scissorfight’s New Hampshire, and SubArachnoid Space’s These Things Take Time. I’m not sure if he had a CD player, though.

Then I received a package wrapped in brown paper and posted with a neatly-arranged row of Eugene O’Neill one-dollar stamps. The return address was 04475-046, Florence, CO. I guess that was Uncle Ted’s official Supermax number. As you might imagine, I was hesitant to open it. But then I thought: “No, Uncle Ted is my friend.” Besides, how could he have access to bomb-making materials in a federal Supermax prison? So I opened it.

Inside was a copy of the Department of Defense’s Improvised Munitions Handbook. I guess Uncle Ted had stolen it from the prison library. The enclosed letter was written in some kind of mathematical Zodiac Killer-type code. “This is it,” I thought, “Uncle Ted is asking me to continue his fight against technological subjugation.” I fished through the packing peanuts—Uncle Ted had lovingly drawn a smiley face on each and every one—to see if he had included anything else I might need to begin my training.

That’s when I found them. Uncle Ted had returned the music I had burned for him. I thought of consulting the munitions handbook and sending him a taste of his own medicine in the form of a nail-and-splinter pipe bomb. But that’d be stooping to his level. Besides, it would never make it past the guards.

“Fuck Uncle Ted,” I thought. I knew he was full of shit all along.

This bullshit originally appeared in the December 2007 issue of Decibel magazine.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

All Night, Every Night

The lights are growing dim, Otto. I know a life of crime has led me to this sorry fate, and yet, I blame society.

—Dick Rude, Repo Man

Breathe easy, Tootsie Pop. Just close your eyes and imagine sunsets and waterfalls and rainbows and shit. Try not to dwell on the fact that it’s 11:09 AM and you haven’t slept yet. Try not to get too worked up about those three and a half hours you have to drive to get home. You might want to think, just a little bit, about the fact that you have to get your sweet rock n’ roll ass out of this hotel in exactly 51 minutes, though. That might be a pretty good idea, actually—the best one you’ve had in about, oh, maybe ten hours or so. Ever since you drove into that fucking fence. The one the city so conveniently stretched across the freeway onramp.

And where is your car, anyway, Grasshopper? Up until recently, you were pretty confident that it was in the hotel parking lot—right where you left it—but now … now that you’ve had time to think … it’s entirely possible that the police towed it away after they found your front license plate under that fence, isn’t it? Fuck. That would be a Total Drag, huh?

You do nothing to allay your fears when you call Headquarters and get Albert and Alex on speakerphone.

“Benito! How’s Fresno?”

“Awesome. I crashed my car.”

There is a brief-yet-pregnant pause.

“Are the police involved?”

“No, no—thank Christ.”

“Are you okay?”

Notice they ask this question second.

“I haven’t slept. But other than that, yeah, yeah—I’m good. But the car… the car looks like it was attacked by a mountain lion.”

“There were mountain lions involved?”

This is going so much better than expected.

“Oh, yeah … there were about half a dozen of them out on that ramp. I guess a meat truck overturned or something. There was blood everywhere. By the time I saw them, it was too late.”

One gets the sense that they’re not buying it. Or even, you know, listening.

“Great. So you’ll have the story in on time, right?”

“Yeah—of course—you know me. Just as long as the cops didn’t tow my car, we should be right on schedule.”

“I thought you said there were no cops.”

… But miracles happen on days like this, sweetheart, and it seems today is your lucky day. As it turns out, your car IS in the parking lot. Better still, both of your license plates are still attached. Yeah, your side-view has been torn off and there’s a fairly jagged hunk of metal sticking up from where the hood meets the side-panel … and yeah, the fucking thing does look like it was attacked by a mountain lion, but fuck it: You haven’t been arrested yet. So you slide that lily-white ass of yours into the driver’s seat, dial up Diamond Head’s Lightning To The Nations on the iPod and drive by that freeway onramp laughing. Like a crazy person. And then—and ONLY then—you recall why it is you do this to yourself (because it’s sure as shit not the money): It’s because you just cannot get enough. You are a glutton for punishment. And as such, punishment is almost always forthcoming. Furthermore, no good deed (or bad deed, or neutral deed) will go unpunished. So sit back and relax, Tootsie Pop. This won’t hurt a bit.

This bullshit originally published in the October 2007 issue of Decibel magazine