The Political Re-Education of a Clean Cool Dude
By Cypress Butane
People cynically spout “people never change”, like unnecessary political campaigning. People change all the time. They just never do anything different. To me college was a vat of political change that cynically never stayed the same.
I’ve seen dyed in the wool sheep turn ravenous wolves by alcohol and the right exposure to black light, but in the morning they’ve got their heads in toilets, practicing apologies in porcelain framed mirrors.
You’ve got to understand, college is a time for experimentation. For the licentiousness in all of us. Which is why it’s like the built-in restraints in the rest of our lives become very fine lines at the edges of thought in this storm of shouting morale and intense under-formal conformity. Here is where we belong.
Your living arrangements in college are like the circumstances under which you’re trying to grow a germ culture. Whether controlled experiment of dorm petri dish or bottom of closet of off campus basement apartment, or wherever in between, the student bodies flourish in direct correlation to distance from whatever it is you’re trying to learn, the light of reason, and sources of insouciant imbibeables.
We lived off campus in a big shitty house full of loser guys who just wanted to play video games, to sit on their computers and work on bullshit, watch DVD’s in front of the mutual TV, read books, and write, as a rule whilst drinking and listening to bad music loudly. Also while maintaining the disciplines of mock social discourtesy and psychopathia sexualis in the direction of the coeds encamped in various domiciles on the perimeter. We were the cool ones.
“I think I smoked too much – I always feel like I have to crap but don’t feel like I have to crap.”
“You just are full of shit.”
“Try drinking more.”
“That’s your solution to everything.”
“Water is the universal solvent. And beer is the universal absolvent.”
I go to the fridge and grab a long neck.
“Tonight we’re going over to Sigma for some party. It’s costume… Like, heroes ‘slash’ villains, or…?”
“Yeeah. Good guys/Bad Guys.”
“Is that what it is?”
“Good and Bad.”
“Are you going Chris?”
“Yeah, if I feel like it,” I say.
~ ~ ~
Fall, autumn, the wind blows through campus like the breezes are a part of your education. You just wish you could learn something.
I figured an art major at a party school would be the best bet for me. Somehow it makes sense, in a bullshit kind of way. Like becoming a priest not because you believe in God, but for the sake of the souls of your followers. But that’s bullshit too. Just do it cause it hurts. The most truthful.
I’m in deep shit with the administration at the moment. They’re censoring my Sophomore gallery show. God knows why. They have satanic bonfires for pep rallies and I scrawl quotes from the Bible, the gospel of John specifically, on some screenprints and paintings, and they get all prudish’ed up. It wasn’t even as lame as it sounds. I would never do something just to shock people or whatever. I was in this whole St. John the Divine phase and was just dropping Bible quotes like a madman. I did like eight pieces for my Sophomore show, and after the exhibit was up, apparently some administrator saw it and they had it taken down. And so that was that. They took down the whole freaking thing. I was kind of wondering what exactly they had a problem with. The pieces were as follows:
There was the one with the quote John 3:20-21 “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” – With a painting of a man making light bulbs at a very dimly lit assembly line.
And John 3:27 “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.”- With some bombs being dropped from b-52’s, kind of a sideways glance all photojournalistic but negative-scorched and black and white beaded with sweat.
John 3:31 “He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.” / With a reproduction of that guy from ‘Dr. Strangelove’ riding the bomb as its dropped. / (quote continued) 3:32 “And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. “
John 7:24 “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement.” Photo collage of the kids at columbine.
Guy wearing sunglasses holding an oozie spraying bullets into anonymous crowds. With the quote: John 9:41 “Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.”
John 18:38 With Jesus as the guy at the fastfood joint taking the guys order at the window and the guy in the car is Pontius pilate asking “What is truth?”
~ ~ ~
I’ve got a meeting with the dude on Monday to try to get it sorted out. So this weekend is where I get in a crazy adventure and end up going up against the man in a straight on good vs. evil fight for free speech, get the girl, become a famous artist, become homecoming king. I’ll probably die of boredom first.
I light a cigarette with the crappy plastic bic that I’m relegated to using while my zippo is in freight between me and the zippo company. They’ll fix any zippo, lifetime guarantee, you just have to pay for shipping, so I sent in my busted up classic military one that I’ve had for like a decade. I just hope I don’t lose it. It’s like, a me heirloom. But, in the meantime, I’m like most loser smokers. Stuck with down-home cheapo-grade Americana-fuel. A bitchin’ eagle bic.
It tastes like America. Burning and decadent.
Welcome to flavor country.
~ ~ ~
If I’m going to this party tonight I’ve got to finish up one project for the mandatory survey class. Which is ridiculous, because it’s a total blowoff. But we have to do a short film, or song, or photo project, since they’re trying to be all media/tech savvy. Something about our lives, and what we care most about, or our values or some crap like that. Again, blowoff.
But, it counts for like 30% of the grade. The plan is to take some pictures and make a slideshow to put over a song from an old band. The song has something to do with caring about something. And I can take pictures in a few minutes.
It’s the beginning of fall, and you can feel that undercurrent in the air. People walk with a half step quickened, to get the last preparations in, to settle in for winter. It’s a time of readiness. Of making ready. People get slightly jumpier, but it’s also getting cooler. I have the song playing in my headphones and start pointing the camera. I get the shots I need. The evening sun. Trees blowing in the breeze. Bikes parked by the student center, graffiti, cobblestone, and flying papers. The flyers people put up for clubs, shows and events. I walk off campus some to get more of the city and city life. The song repeats for the sixth time in my headphones and I take the buds from my ears.
“Isn’t that Chris?” I hear as if I weren’t supposed to.
I turn and see two girls I sort of know from around, including from the class I’m doing this project for.
“Hey!” I say. A little overeager.
“Hey.” The blonde with the purple and yellowy orange sweater says. “It’s Chris, right?”
“Yeah. And you’re… um… Jen?”
“And I’m Brandy.”
“Yeah. I think I knew that.”
She laughs a little bit.
“You’re both new this year, right?”
“Yep. We, uh—“
“We both transferred together from Denver.”
“Oh… hey. Cool. I’ve been to Denver. They make good omelets there.”
“Umm… yeah.” They look at me like I’m crazy. I guess I’m not being not crazy.
“Here it’s the pizza.”
Silence. Potential catastrophe.
“So, there’s this party tonight! It’s over at, um… Sigma! I hear you girls like to party. I just heard it, I won’t say where. Whatd’ya say?”
“Yeah, that could be cool.”
“So, we should go. I can pick you up. ? Bring a friend of mine. Smell nice. Pay for stuff.”
“Yeah,” they both agree.
“That sounds good,” one or the other one says.
~ ~ ~
Jen and Brandy are fun party girls. They’re just a lot of fun, ready to have a good time and laughing at my stupid jokes. My friend Dean and I impress them with our tales of our road trip to the Indie Fiction Writers’ Convention, and how we took over Boston for that week. And they’re full of swift quips about authors and what crap we choose to write about, and how only dorks don’t like Choose Your Own Adventure books.
We go into the overcrowded kitchen to get some more beer.
“Hey, it’s that kid with the art projects!” It appears I have some fans. Overly drunk, insane fans.
“Hey dude! You’re a genius! You got banned from the school!” He laughs like his face is on fire. “You’re too hot for tv!”
“Yeah, this guy is like pure controversy,” Brandy says.
“He’s a genius!” There are four of five guys in this group. One of them is famous for being a jock-asshole. Known as ‘Meat-Neck’ because not smart enough to be called a ‘meat-head’. He’s an avowed pariah.
“Yep. It caused quite a stir. I’m glad you’re concerned about censorship in the arts,” I say as I move to the keg.
“Yeah. It really bothers me sometimes,” Meat-Neck says, a little close to my face. The dragon breath shames me.
“Do you think when they show naked statues of Jesus that he cries in heaven?” one of them asked very seriously.
“I think Jesus cries regardless.”
“You’re so cute,” from Mr. Sarcasm.
“I think you’re just a fag.”
“Well, yes. I suppose since I do create art I would be classified as a fag.”
“Awlright! We got a fag here!”
“It’s good that you can admit it. It lends you an air of respecpt—respecpts— Help me out Jim, what am I trying to say?”
“Respectsonbility!” This surly sidekick looks very pleased with himself.
I’m trying to exit the room with my friends.
“You know, you’re all right kid. I like you,” he says as I’m stopped.
“Thankyou. I appreciate that.”
“And you know what I do to people I like?”
“I’m sure I don’t know.”
“I give them beer.”
“Oh. Well, that’s not necessary. I’ve already got beer.”
“I think you need to drink that beer, and have some more.”
“I’m fine, really. I’ve just got to go.”
“Just drink that beer, and we’ll let you go,” he says in a Hannibal Lecter voice.
“Just let me go now. And I’ll drink the beer whenever the hell I feel like it.”
“Hey, looks like the fag has some balls.”
When he kneed me in the crotch I wondered at it. I wondered at what circumstances could lead this person to be in such a mood that he would want to knee another human being in the crotch, and… With his friends, as they held me on my back against the linoleum floor in that crappy kitchen, and poured beer after beer down my throat I stared at the lights on the ceiling… I was in the hands of professionals; at a dentist’s drill or under operation by surgeons of consummate skill, but still had the noise to think of that time my best friend from high school, when she was leaving for college, and we had never been together but always wished we had, told me of her dreams of falling into deeper and deeper wells, and how I knew, and knew she knew that this was sexual, and how we did nothing about it. And we both were…
And the other kid at my high school who killed himself, and whose parents blamed the record he had on the stereo at the time, and all I could think was… maybe the record you spin as you die is the one record that is really a comfort to you. And to have your parents go after it after you’re dead is the funniest joke of all.
The funniest joke, told by a suicide.
Come Monday the administration will have its hands full.