An Irregular Column
by Mykel Board
[I promised to write more about Mexico, and whether or not I went to the bullfights. I'll do that later. But I have to push this turd through the literary rectum before anything else.]
I was madder than a Republican at an art show. I thought I explained myself. I wrote a whole column about the difference between selling out and being successful. And now? I have to put up with this shit? As if I haven't proved myself over the last twenty years.
I'll back up. Folks on the internet and in the punk-gossip-backstab loop already know this stuff. Folks in the real world don't know what I'm talking about-- yet.
It started with my appearance on Comedy Central. I met the host at the CMJ convention. He asked me to appear. I had a good time. I said what I wanted to, didn't sign any contracts and that was it. Or so I thought.
Then came The Gap ad. What's with you guys? It was a goof, a joke, a fun way of earning a thousand bucks. I stood, fully clothed (although not in clothes I would normally wear), in front of a camera. BFD! It wasn't a national ad. I wasn't gonna be in Rolling Stone or Entertainment Weekly! Just a few pix on subway stands. Posters on abandoned buildings! How the hell is my face on a few bus shelters gonna give aid and comfort to corporate America? You think that's more evil than working the cash register at A&P? Both of us gotta earn a living. Both of us whore ourselves to the guys who pull the strings. The difference is that I got a thousand bucks for an hour's work, and you get five. I'm a more costly whore than you are, but a whore no more or less.
When that ad first appeared, the hate mail started. Then the phone calls. I got an ARTLESS album in the mail-- broken into tiny pieces.
"Here! Take this back!" read the angry letter, "I used to respect you. How could you humiliate yourself that way?"
I don't get it! How was I different after that ad came out than before? What have I lost? How am I different in black and white than in color? What if the same photo were my masthead on this column-- would it be alright then? Is it the $1000? Would it be all right to make it from working as a stockclerk at 7-11 for six months?
To be fair, it was only a few jerks. They're the same kind of people who break folk's legs in clubs, yelling SELLOUT! Anyone less drunk and more financially stable than they becomes the enemy. I can put up with their stupitude as long as it doesn't do me physical harm. But, as you probably already know, it didn't end there.
I was surprised as a pregnant lesbian by the phone call. I'm still not sure how they found out about me. It cudda been Rollins, folks at The Gap, my long-time pal Thrusten Moore, who knows?
"I hope this is Mykel Board," comes the voice on my answering machine, "This is George Metesky from Time-Warner. Could you please call me back? I have something to discuss with you." He leaves his number.
Larry Livermore told me these guys call him all the time. Ben Weasel also finds himself on the corporate hack list. The clueless Chicago media-ites call him every day asking who they should like in order to be properly punk. (Well, not exactly. They do call him up, but they want his opinion of "the underground" so they can use it to add a little spice to their mainstreamitude.) Anyway, an egomaniac like me is sure to jump at the same opportunity.
Calling back is a bit of an ordeal. I dial the number he left and the girl answers, "MTV?"
I don't know why she should ask, if she works there. I take this to be an ominous sign.
"This is Mykel Board. I'm calling for George Metesky." I tell her.
"What is this in regards to?" she says.
"I don't know." I tell her. "He called my machine and said to call. THAT's why I'm calling."
She asks my name again and then puts me on hold. Not even muzak! Nothing! Can you imagine? MTV with no music on hold???
Finally, he answers. "Hello Mykel?" he says.
I nod into the phone.
"I've heard a lot about you.... [uh oh!]... from several sources. Well, what it boils down to is that we'd like you to come down to our offices. Do you think you can make it?"
"You wanna do an interview or something?" I ask.
"Not exactly," he says, "can I send a car for you? I'll fill you in on the details when you get here."
It's a day I'm not working. So what else do I have to do besides taking a limo to the Time-Warner studios uptown? I should be used to this by now-- after my adventure with Comedy Central.
"Do I have to change clothes?" I ask. "I mean I don't have to look corporate, do I?"
He laughs. "We're alternative here, Mykel. You can wear whatever you like. You can wear shorts or grunge clothes-- or something from The Gap. We don't care." (I guess he saw the ad.)
So I'm at the studios. They're in a skyscraper on Broadway. Fifteen fifteen, an easy address to remember. A girl with a pierced eyebrow and a PORNO FOR PYROS t-shirt sits behind the desk. I start to introduce myself.
"I know who you are," she says with a smile. "You're famous."
"Well then, how come you didn't know me when I called before?" I don't say. "Your boss just tell you that you're supposed to stroke my ego?"
She shows me into an office. Nothing big and fancy. Nothing that smells of corporatism. Just a plain room with a few posters on the wall. Michael Bolton and Green Day are the only ones I remember. Sitting at the rather small desk is George.
George is not what I expect. Somewhat younger than I am (in his late 30s), he's got moderately long hair, high cheekbones and a cherubic face. He could be the cute one in a pop-punk band. He's also got an annoying habit of pulling on his right earlobe as he speaks. We shake hands.
"Mykel," he says, "you come highly recommended."
"That's what she said." I answer.
He chuckles, pulling at his earlobe.
"But really," he continues, "as you know, punk rock is extremely popular at the moment. New punks spring up like erections at a peepshow." (Actually, he said "Dandelions on a mowed lawn," or something like that. But I like my line better.)
"That's not good enough," he goes on, "in order to make ourselves authentic. We need someone with history. Someone who's been around the punk scene for a long time. Someone who can drop the names of famous people, maybe tell little stories of true events with the actual historic figures. Someone like you."
He doesn't answer. Instead he pulls at his ear. Then he pulls out this long piece of paper with lots of parties of the first part and parties of the second part on it.
"It's legal bullshit." he says. "You don't have to make your mind up now, but I think it's a good deal. Basically, it says we pay you a whole lot of money to do not very much stuff."
I don't remember much about the rest of the meeting. We shake hands. There's a knock on the door. It's the girl with the pierced eyebrow. She smiles at both of us.
"Sorry to bother you." she says, "but we gotta work on the playlist for tonight."
"I hear you'll be a part of all this soon." she says to me.
I just smile and shrug.
It takes me a week to decide. I slog through the contract. It's not as bad as I thought. It just says I have to show up and appear on camera. My likeness can be reproduced blah blah blah.
There's nothing about keeping silent about the inner workings. There's nothing that prohibits me from doing anything (except smoking in the building). Despite the legalese, it's not a bad contract. No drug tests, loyalty oaths, selling my soul to the devil or Malcomb Forbes.
Is it humiliating? Are you kidding? I do spoken word! MTV certainly isn't going to humiliate me!
Besides, how is it more humiliating making almost $8000 a month from a major corporation than making $5 an hour from a major corporation?
Exploiting? Aren't I less exploited in the former case? Aren't I freer to act the way I believe if I don't have to worry that my paycheck will get me through the week? I decide to take the job.
I hope Tim will let me continue to write for MRR. That's not something I want to give up. With a minor illustrative exception, I can say what I want here.
MTV will not be the same as MRR. But, as I did here, I WILL make a difference there. Sure I won't be able to say exactly what I want to about the bands and videos I deal with. But SOMETHING will show. A paragraph or a sentence that wouldn't have been said otherwise, will be said because I'm there. A wink, a raised eyebrow, a sarcastic look, a shrug of the shoulder, there will be more of each of these-- because I'll be there.
It'll still be ME up there, no matter what happens. It'll be Mykel Board introducing MEATLOAF. That means there's a little chip taken out of his MEATLOAFness. It'll be Mykel Board giving the intro and the outro to the Clearasil commercials. That means those commercials will have that much less power.
I'll still be ME: from the subway or the back of a limo. I'm not gonna change when my bank account goes to six figures from the present four (two of which are on the wrong side of the decimal point). My Mykel Boardness won't decrease if I'm in a champagne filled bathtub with half a dozen naked Orientals, or if I'm at home jerking off to a video of a bathtub filled with half a dozen naked Orientals. The essence is the same.
If you don't watch me, that's okay. I don't watch MTV any more than I read MRR. Still, I'll be there. I'll be living a better life than I live now-- but inside-- I'll still be the same.
That out of the way, I want to talk about the REAL matter of this column. That's my further adventures in Mexico.
I'm at this New Year's party with Fernando and Alain. The latter is one of two Jewish Mexican punk rockers I met. Neither of them believe there are so many jewpunks in America. Little do they know that punkrock itself is part of the international Jewish conspiracy to take over the entire earth.
It's a party given my one of Alain's pals. He drives us to her house in a classy quarter of Mexico city. Me, Alain and Fernando are dressed... well, normal. You know, t-shirt, leather jacket, jeans, what folks-who-are-folks wear to such an occasion. The people at the party, however, dress like your parents might dress if they had a lot of money. The women are in long gowns with such rock-filled necklaces that they're more torture devices than jewelry. They still wear fur in Mexico.
The men all wear suits. Freshly pressed pants with freshly pressed jackets, shirts and haircuts. On the stereo is music with lots of trumpets in it.
The guys are almost all ugly, though it's hard to tell. A necktie can make even a young oriental look unattractive. Many of the girls are good-looking. Unfortunately, they're all paired with goofy guys who look all too comfortable in their suits. There is one, however, who seems to be alone.
When we arrive, everyone is sitting around a couple of large tables. The attractive girl comes, hugs Alain, makes goo goo eyes at Fernando and hands me a beer.
We're not invited to join the family at the table. We pull up a few chairs on the side and watch the hostess serve food to everybody else.
Fernando and the girl start talking, every few seconds someone turns to me and asks, "Que es tu nombre, otra vez?"
Fernando is working on this girl like I've never seen a girl worked on before. On the other hand, maybe she is working on him and he's lapping it up.
We get there at eight o'clock. At ten o'clock, they're still talking. They face each other, looking into one another's eyes, each occasionally stretching his or her top leg to subtly caress the leg of the other. This is not my idea of a fun evening.
By midnight Fernando and what's-her-name have disappeared. The TV has shown the ball drop on Times Square and another one in Mexico City. I'm annoyed that the food keeps missing our little alcove.
At three AM I've had enough. I'm bored, I wanna get back home. I'm hungry. And I'm jealous that Fernando has ended up with the only girl of the night who is both attractive AND available.
Like a kid begging his parents "Can we go home now?" I tug on Alain's t-shirt hinting that it's time to leave. Alain searches the mansion for Fernando and the young woman. He finds them talking. They've been going for seven hours! Just talking! Oy vey! Even that tattooed oriental girl in the Calvin Klein ads wouldn't be worth seven hours of talking!
I walk outside. It's dark. I can see into the house across the street. Some people dressed in jeans and t-shirts dance the lindy to 50s rock'n'roll music. Otherwise, there is only darkness and silence. Alain comes outside to join me.
"You've got to understand, Mykel" he says. "This is Mexico. Girls can't be so easy here. Unless you have drugs, you've got to talk a lot. For hours. They don't want people to think they are easy."
At this point, the snot of impatience blows through the tissue of my multi-cultural tolerance.
"I'll be back!" I say, leaving in a huff. Of course, I have no idea where I am, or where I'm going.
I take a walk. Off into the labyrinth of sidewalks and houses on the neighborhood streets. I turn a corner. Then another.
The outline of a bicycle forms in the distance. I watch it approach. Gradually, I see there are two young men on it. One sits on the seat and pedals. The other stands in back with a foot on each side of the rear wheel axle. The standee keeps his balance by resting his hands on the shoulders of the seated one.
I can't make out more than the grossest of features. Somewhat Aztec looking, the one standing has longish black hair and a nose that points straight downward. The other is heavier and seated hunched over the handlebars.
"Feliz Nueve Ano!" I yell to them as they pass. Then I wave. The standing one turns to me, his face illuminated by the bounce of the streetlight off the wet pavement. I think he is going to wave. Instead, he rests his left wrist in the crotch of his right arm raising his hand in a universal fuck you!
Not very friendly in this neighborhood, are they?
They pass by and I continue to explore the deserted streets. A vague whir in the background catches my ear. I turn. It's the bicyclists coming back. They're headed right toward me. I look for an escape path. There is none. I start to walk quickly. The bike comes right up onto the sidewalk in front of me, cutting me off. I back up. Turn. The bike pulls away from the curb and catches me again.
"Que queres? [What do you want?] Que queres?" I ask.
The guy with the long hair gets off the bike. He opens his belt and withdraws the leather piece by piece through the pants loops.
He talks at me, taunting with the leather belt. I have no idea what he's saying; probably informing me of my pending demise.
I try to tell them that I only wanted to wish them a happy new year. I start to speak. Smash! The belt whooshed down across my shoulder. I can't understand why they're treating me like this. I only wanted to wish them happy New Year.
They yell some more. One is on one side, the other on the other. I'm against a building wall. There is no escape. I pull out my wallet.
"Money.... ah dinero? Tu queres dinero?" I beg, taking out what bills I have with me. The total comes to about 80 pesos ($20). The guy with the belt takes the money from me. Then he hits me again. He makes a downward motion with his hand. He wants me to kneel.
Trapped against the side of the building I get on my knees. He raises his belt-wrapped fist above his head. I raise my hands to protect my own head.
"No!" He shouts. "Los manos, abajo."
He wants me to put my hands down. To leave my head unprotected so he can smash me. Trapped, foreseeing my own doom, I whimper some more and pretend I don't understand.
"No comprendo! No comprendo!" I cry, "Quisiera solomente decir feliz ano nuevo."
The guy with the belt hits me once more then says something else. They both get on the bike and ride off, leaving me crumpled on the sidewalk of that deserted street in Mexico City.
I'm not seriously injured. The twenty dollar loss pays for a good story. When I get back to the party, Fernando is finally ready to leave. He and Alain wait for me by the car.
"Where were you?" asks Fernando, then he stops. "What happened? You don't look so good."
"I got mugged." I told 'em.
"Gee," he said, "that's too bad. I guess it's just like back in New York."
I didn't hit him.
Actually, this is the only fearful time I have in Mexico. It's a good story and it's over, right? It's a new experience. I only wish it could teach me something I didn't know before. Don't take a walk by yourself in a deserted neighborhood at 4 AM? Hmmm, now THAT's a unique insight.
OK, we'll shift gears. The main thing I want to write about is the bullfight. Yes, I went. Is that what you guessed? I figured since they happen and I'm powerless to stop them, I should see what they're like.
My animal rightist Mexican friends try to discourage me.
"Bullfights are really cruel," says Alain.
"You're the only gringo punk rocker I've met who wanted to go to the bullfights." says Fernando. As if THAT is a discouragement.
He further explains, "They put vaseline on the bull's eyeballs so it can't make out anything but the red of the cape. That's why the bulls always loose. They can't see anything."
"I'm glad you demonstrate against it." I tell him, "but I want to see it for myself."
The bullring in Mexico city is the biggest in the world. Outside vendors sell food and cute little plush bulls for the kids to take to bed with them. Before I go in, I order a sausage torta.
I look at the spiced meat in my sandwich. It's grey-brown with tiny orange flecks in it. I take a bite-- not bad. Then I look at the bullring; the place where they slaughter dozens of bulls every week for entertainment. I put the meat down without finishing it. Then I go to the ticket window, pay my ten dollars and enter.
All the seats are concrete. You can rent a pillow if you want. I don't. Behind me, filling a row and a half, are a group of Chinese tourists. Every few seconds one of them jumps up with a disposable camera and takes a picture of everybody else.
Trumpets sound. Down below, on the round field, a parade of horses and men in bright uniforms comes through an open door. They're all there, the toreadors, the bandalleros, the picadors on horseback and the matadors-- literally killers. It's a stately parade. They march in perfect formation toward the center of the ring, then branch off, half to the right and half to the left.
The toreadors take their places behind wooden barricades. The trumpets sound again. A door opens and the first bull comes out. A large rose, fashioned out of a ribbon, is stuck with a hooked spike into it's side.
At first the bull bounds into the ring. Then it looks confused. A toreador steps out making a whirring sound with his tongue. The bull turns. The toreador shakes his cape and the bull charges it. Quickly, the toreador steps behind the barricade. Then another comes out, further up in the ring. Soon they have the helpless bull running in circles, chasing from one toreador to the next. Occasionally, he butts his head against a barricade.
Most of the toreadors are quick to dodge to protection. Occasionally, one comes toward the center of the ring and make a few flourishes with the cape. When the bull passes close, the crowd shouts. "Ole!"
For a few seconds, the ring is deserted of people. The bull explores, relying only on his sense of smell. Then come the picadors, men on horseback with long spears. First the bull is confused. Then it attacks a horse.
The picador plunges the spear into his back. A thin stream of blood flows down this flank. Terrified, the bull pulls back. He looks for an escape path. There is none. He walks quickly, runs. But the horse moves right in front of him, cutting him off. He backs up. Turns. The horse pulls away and then catches him again. Stab! Goes the spear. Deep into the bull's side. The blood stream thickens into a river.
The bull makes a deep-throated whimper, wincing at the pain of the lance. Then the horses withdraw. It's time for the bandalleros. Four of them, each with two brightly colored harpoons. They call the bewildered bull and when charged, slam the harpoons into his already-wounded side. The bull breathes hard. He's trapped. Foreseeing his own doom.
Trumpets sound from high in the stands. The matador enters. Dressed in blue, he hides his sword behind his bright red cape. A few toreadors keep the bull occupied, teasing it on the other side of the ring. On this side, the tight-pantsed matador bows. He raises his head toward a spot in the crowd. It's a young woman. He smiles at her, bows again and throws her his hat. Then he faces the bull, already half dead.
He taunts the bull with the cape. The bull slips, falls to his knees. A plaintive moan comes from the injured animal, not understanding why they treat him this way. Somehow, he gets up and again falls to his knees.
The matador slips the sword from behind the cape. He talks to the bull. I have no idea what he's saying. He's probably informing it of it's pending demise.
The matador sights down his sword before sticking it into the back of the bull's neck. The bull roars. It turns in circles and slowly sinks to its knees.
With a shake, it throws off the sword. The matador retrieves it and again drives it into the bulls neck. The bull is down. The crowd cheers. The matador bows.
Someone comes from the side and sticks a knife into the base of the bull's skull. Then, with the same knife, he cuts off the animal's tail and one of its ears. These he hands to the matador who then hands them to the lady in the audience. A horse comes dragging a small cart. They attach the dead animal's feet to a rope. His head rests on the cart. Then they drag him, one-earred and tailless, from the bullring.
Now, it's time for the next fight. There are to be eight of them today. I stay for six.
Did I go to the bullfight?
You bet I went. But I rooted for the bull!
--> From Baton Rouge Louisiana comes news of the Triple K Cafe, a new club that books "only racist, sexist, or homophobic bands." If you wanna play there, contact Frank c/o 3K Cafe, 127 DePaull St., Baton Rouge LA 70801
--> Animal activists say the bullfights prove how cruel the Mexicans are. They kill six bulls a week at the bullfights. They're cruel because you see it. But us? Ever check out the local dogpound? Mexicans don't kill dogs. They let 'em wander freely, lying in the sun, enjoying the streets. People clean up after them. Look around YOUR city. How many strays do you see? Ever wonder why? Now tell me who is cruel.
--> Report from Sarajevo dept: This is the kind of thing Luk Haas might write about. I got a letter from Sarajevo. Apparently punk life goes on despite the war. This comes from Goran Perisic (c/o Caritas Zagreback Nadbiskupije, TRG Djeca Dobrinje 7/n, Sarajevo, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Yugoslavia) Goran is writing a book about punk and needs info about the following NY bands. (He certainly has good taste): GOO GOO DOLLS, HEADS UP, HELL NO, HELL'S KITCHEN, KILLING TIME, KRAUT, LEEWAY, LUDICHRIST, LUNACHICKS & MOB. He needs discographies, band member names, etc. Anybody who's got any info, please send it his way. DON'T send packages. They'll never get there. Make sure your letter says FIRSTCLASS AIRMAIL on it. If you want to send cassettes or records, send 'em first class and in different packages from the info letter.
Help the guy out, ok? His life is a lot worse than yours.
--> Good guys dept: Chuck Dodson wrote a fine letter defending child sexuality. He points out the hypocrisy of those who claim to be sexually open, but have a blindspot when it comes to the group of people with fewest (sexual-- or any other) rights: kids. He wrote that he'll soon have an article published in GAUNTLET, a journal dedicated to free speech. Look for it.
--> Bad guys dept: I got a form letter from FEDERATION FOR AMERICAN IMMIGRATION REFORM, (1666 Connecticut Ave NW #400) Washington DC 20009) a group that wants to end ALL immigration for the next few years. The director of the group's name is Dan Stein. Stein-- now that's a fine Anglo-Saxon name, right? I mean HIS ancestors wouldn't happen to be immigrants, would they?
-->Glaad like Jesse Helms? dept: This message comes from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation- -a group that wants your money for their projects. Up until recently, they have avoided calling for censorship-- opting instead to call for equal access. But their new fund-raising letter brags about an 'accomplishment' that censors the arts to a degree Jesse Helms would be proud of. Says GLAAD:
GLAAD Chicago has won a clause in city contracts forbidding any performers using public space from defaming people based on sexual orientation.
I just can't wait until some homo rails against "straight-America" and the city uses this clause against him.
-->Holocaust up the butt dept: Thanks to all you guys out there who sent me Cannibal Holocaust. You can stop now! I've got half a dozen of em. All with different parts screwed up. If I had an editing machine, I could make a good movie out of all the pieces. In any case, NO MORE!
I'm still taking (and enjoying) those home-made personal, videos, though. You can send 'em to me at: PO Box 137, Prince St. Sta, NYC 10012.
--> Will the guy from Viktor 44 who sent me those cool videos please write again? You did it too!!! No address on the letter. Envelopes get lost. Fliers get lost. I'm a flake. Put your address on EVERYTHING!
--> Book your Own Fuckin' Modern Life dept: A group calling itself STUPID LOSERS is working on a CD-Rom version of a B.Y.O.F.L. type book. They're gonna have all kinds of stuff in it from freelance writers to CD manufacturers, to the stuff that's in the print version. Send YOUR info to 'em at: 22 Dorchester Ave (Suite #1) Geneva NY 14456-2315
-->Hey Queen Itchie!! I wrote to you--in Sherborurn AND Arizona, but my mail keeps coming back. I still have your naked pictures on my wall, but where is your corporal self at the moment?
-->Knockin' the Rock dept: The Rock Ministries (PO Box 2181, Bloomington IN 47401) is a Christian organization whose purpose is to defeat the hand of Satan as it is expressed through Rock'n'Roll. Someone sent me a very funny letter received from them when he complained about industrial music as another tool of Satan.
-->By now I forgot who it was dept: Someone sent me this video of some weird TV evangelists on the same tape as a Japanese sex cartoon. Naturally, I sped through the evangelists to get to the cartoon. Well, I finally listened to the preacher's part of it.
"We wanna pray for the families of Mykel Board and GG Allin..."
Pretty good! Someone must've made quite a donation to get 'em to do that!
As is typical, however, they didn't put their name ON THE TAPE. So I can't thank 'em personally. Funny prank though!
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