Over at The Awl, I have a Q&A with the lovely and hilarious Jon Langford. It was nervewracking, I must admit, because even though he’s certainly one of the most easygoing interview subjects I still felt like a total jackass.
Is there any sort of Mekons manifesto in 2011?
Not that you’d write down. But I think there’s a cloud of mass delusion that this is actually worth doing. [laughs]
I think sometimes, a lot of times in the Mekons’ career, the motivation, more than anything else, seemed to be like a big fuck-off to the world: “I will not be ground down into dust.”
Clearly, the longevity of the band must have something to do with that.
Yeah, I think it’s a sort of persistence. It hasn’t been financially rewarding for anyone.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Is it a sign of deeper mental illness manifesting that I’m beginning to wonder whether current world events are indeed a sign of the coming apocalypse? Are we indeed in the End Times? I hate myself for suggesting this during earthquakes and tsunamis. There are more important things that we should all be considering. But this here I’ve been thinking about for awhile. Please forgive me. All I know is that I go to Twitter or my tumblr dashboard or Facebook and it’s about 1/3 Serious News and 1/3 Charlie Sheen and 1/3 Other Legitimately Upsetting Social Things. I feel like a dilettante trying to comment on any of those topics. But it’s not because I’m uninterested. The Internet is full of experts. I’ll let them be the experts.
But seriously. Have you seen TV lately? The fact alone that two Jersey Shore cast members have books right now is a sign of…something. There are still bird and fish kills going on. (I really expected that to die out before the elections.) And seriously: Has anyone watched the Real Housewives franchise critically? Because those harpies are harbingers of Dark Times, mark my words. I can’t watch. It’s too hard. Anyhow: We’re all gonna die. Enjoy.
So. I feel effete saying so, but beyond making vague gestures at TV and pointing drunkenly at easy targets, I can’t make a better argument than HOLY WALKING FUCK WHAT IS WRONG WITH US. Seriously, though. We’re doomed. Start stocking up on canned goods, kerosene, wool blankets, and firearms. Because in 10 years…well, just trust me. Maybe five years, even.
My new shrink (not the old one, who did the “you-can’t-fire-me-I-quit” dance with me this past fall, and I am fortunate she ditched me when she did) is an amazing mix of Zen calm and Texan laidbackitude and he looks like a cross between Anderson Cooper and John Corbett and I don’t ever suspect that when we meet he’s eager to google a Robert Mitchum film while we’re talking. Anyhow, he laughs at my jokes, and I suspect that’s part of the therapy, but I mentioned that I went to the Karlheinz Weinberger show at the Swiss Institute and he was all like oh, you mean the photos of the Halbestarke?
Which of course it’s because he’s familiar with because he spent a few years growing up in Zurich. Because that’s how unexpectedly cool he is.
We talked about the show, and various Swiss subcultures, for a bit. Their subcultures were far more interesting than ours are. I remarked that the Halbestarke seemed a lot like a cargo cult in some way — or to paraphrase LCD Soundsystem, full of false nostalgia for unremembered eras. He laughed, as I expect him to do. But you look at a photo of a guy who has a hubcap-sized belt buckle with a picture of Little Richard pasted to it, with TEXAS and MEXICO written in bleach lettering on his jeans, and you think, “This happened in somewhat of a vacuum, didn’t it.”
Which makes it all the more amazing. And of course, the later photos reveal that the cool weirdo rockabilly Halbestarke kids grew into neo-Nazi biker dudes. (But isn’t that what happens in all underground movements? Look at that Friends Stand United dude getting thrown in jail. Thugs are thugs. I bet if half those FSU kids liked Oi music better, they’d be neo-Nazis instead of antifa.)
Anyhow, we talk sometimes about compassion. And how compassion for others has to start with compassion for oneself. Lately I’ve noticed that I’m not feeling a lot of compassion for other folks. Like, in the morning when I’m on the subway I look at little kids who are asleep on the train at 9 am and I’m like WHY ARE YOU SLEEPING YOU SHOULD BE AWAKE YOU ARE A LITTLE BALL OF ENERGY AND THIS IS PRIME TIME FOR YOU. That’s pretty hateful, I acknowledge that. In fact, I acknowledge that I’m fairly judgmental of anyone sleeping on the train at 9 am. And I acknowledge that I’m hateful for that. My point is that I’m NOT COMPASSIONATE.
Speaking of, we’re heading down to Florida for a few days to see my mom. She had cancer a few years ago, and it’s come back. So she has to go in for surgery this week. And regardless of what I may say about her, you know what she asked me a few days ago when I called to give her our arrival time?
“What kind of wine should I get for you guys?”
This is how blood-related people talk to me. We may not fully get along, but we speak the same language.
Anyway, I told her the truth: “Don’t worry, we’ll drink almost anything.”
We’ll be out of town for St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve never been a fan of the holiday myself, but I will say that one of my favorite live shows ever was the Pogues on St. Patrick’s Day a few years ago — N and I went with a friend who had extra tickets and we spent the night on the floor with a bunch of NYFD. The only thing that would make it a bigger stereotype would be me drinking from a flask, which yes, I did.
Prematurely, then, Happy St. Patrick’s Day:
Twenty-fucking-eleven. I’m approaching my 13th anniversary in this stupid city. And speaking of which, I picked up a copy of Gary Benchley, Rock Star, while I was down in Florida for the holidays (it takes Florida an average of four years to receive books that aren’t bibles, written by Glenn Beck/Elmore Leonard, or from the Left Behind series) and it was very entertaining. I feel a bit guilty that I didn’t buy a copy when it first came out. The other book I brought with me (but didn’t make any headway into) is Boozehound. The former book, being a lightweight paperback, was a lot more comfortable to hold. And I am lazy.
And I’m going on (at least) six months with Go Down Together and am halfway through about two dozen other well-written and intriguing titles, which would mean that I only read one goddamned book in 2010, and I bought it in Florida five days before 2010 ended.
We got to Florida and spent a week furiously maintaining a food- and alcohol-induced torpor. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this in the past, but (perhaps unsurprisingly) the wine selection in central Florida blows. (I really hope Vine opens an outpost for us once we move down there.) It’s a sea of plummy, jammy, big New World reds with 14% alcohol and koalas or Model Ts on their labels. A popular brand is called Chocolate Cupcake or some shit like that — seriously, if you go into restaurants and ask for red wine recommendations, the servers will ALWAYS recommend the Chocolate Cupcake Merlot. All the French and Italian wines are super-expensive (though at ABC Liquors I did manage to grab the last three bottles of a $13 Chablis on sale, and a pretty decent bottle of Chapoutier something-or-other whose most memorable quality, 10 days later, is the Braille on the label). So we generally drink a lot of Spanish stuff. Mostly things with wood prints of dragons and cavalry on the labels. I don’t know why.
The worst wine I have ever — EVER — had was in Florida.* And it was made in St. Augustine, our home away from home. After years of turning up our noses at it (and laughing at the billboards advertising the FREE TASTINGS everywhere), we gave in one night after walking around the Winn Dixie wine section for ten minutes, grapelessly.**
How bad could it be, we thought. We brought home a “red.”
Me: “Does this taste like…Chocolate Now’N Laters to you?” I asked.
N: “It has hints of banana, with lingering notes of Robitussin.”
It was so bad it couldn’t even be salvaged with 7-Up.
Now we’re back home, drinking our cheap Italian wines with NOTHING BUT TYPE on the label. I’ve been told it snowed while we were away.
*Also the worst Tom Ka soup, which I swear was made with Coco Lopez and squeezy-bottle lime juice (and very little else). Yes, serves us right for ordering Thai food from a place in a strip mall, but virtually everything in Florida is located in a strip mall. The only things not located in strip malls are megachurches and the malls that are too big to be strip malls. When the waiter asked us what was wrong with it, we said — using a phrase we learned from an Italian friend — “It is prepared in a manner to which I am unaccustomed.”
**NO we don’t just buy wine at supermarkets, it’s just that the Winn Dixie is right next to the Blockbuster and since we don’t have a car and rely on N’s parents’ goodwill to get around; we’re trying to be considerate. (Needless to say, the wine at ABC Liquors and Wine Warehouse is not all that much better.) We rented The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo this time around — the cashier behind the counter held it up and said, “Y’all know this isn’t in English, right?”
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