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.

No comments: