An Irregular Column
by Mykel Board
I collect Negroes. I've got a slew of 'em: a bank where a colored gentleman feeds himself coins. I've got an Aunt Jemima bank. I have a Negro Kleenex holder I got in Japan and a tube of "Darkie" toothpaste I bought in Thailand. (The company has since changed its name to "Darlie.") I have Negro stamps and small boxes of Italian "Negrito" candy.
The Village Voice reports that Judge Clarence Thomas has the same kind of collection. And he IS a Negro.
Speaking of The Village Voice, the music editor asks me to review THE WARPED TOUR for them. Free tickets. Great chance! I love RANCID and NO FX and am even happier that you don't. But I have to turn them down. I'm not even in New York.
THURSDAY: I'm in Massachusetts for the "Founding Convention of The Atlantic Anarchist Circle" in "the working-class radical town of Worcester." I heard that Emma Goldman lived there-- and some of those famous Italians too!
Even though I'm not an anarchist, I still want to go. I've never been to a "founding convention" before. The only anarchist conventions I've been to have been disguised excuses for punk rockers to get together and drink themselves into a stupor. Not needing an excuse to drink myself into a stupor, I look forward to a change. I imagine this convention will have very serious people with thick black beards and unshakable voices.
I want to hear rousing speeches, calls to action, visions of glory. I want to be among people whose only awareness of a punk rock/anarchy connection is "Didn't a band called the Sex Guns or something have a song about anarchy around twenty years ago?"
It'll be a festival of old people. Dentured men and woman, whistling whenever they make an "s" sound, talking about "the revolution right around the corner. "Anarchy's time has come!" It'll be like a live museum. Inspiring!
In preparation, I have pages of email about the finer points of the meeting to come. They include an extended discussion of the theoretical relationship between quantum mechanics' "Chaos Theory" and anarcho-socialism. While the discussion itself is not a thrill a minute, there are comments from all over the world, especially Sydney, Australia. In fact, the Sydney group has a large presence here, signing it's sheaf of position papers "Sydney."
I arrive a day early to visit a bunch of Beloit College pals in Cambridge. They were all soldiers in what we called "The Acid Army."
If I'm going to see old anarchists, why not see old friends.
I get even more of a chance to check the eyebags, count the grey hairs, the kids, the remnants of the great drug orgies of the 70s, the reports on who died and who works for the government.
Kathy makes dinner: pasta with salad. Mike G and his wife bring chicken and chocolate cake. Kathy's hubby brings Grolsch, a case of it. I scam on a half-hearted offer to "chip in." They've known me for almost thirty years. What do they expect?
It's a great dinner with old pals, lots of beer and stories that bore the shit out of the two non-Beloiters at the table.
Mike G. asks me what I'm doing now. I pull out a copy of the ROIR GG Allin CD.
"Ass-fuckin', butt-suckin', cunt-licking masturbation," I explain. "I produced this."
I also explain that I'm in Massachusetts for an anarchist convention.
Mike shakes his head. "Somethings don't change." he says with a smile.
"And what's up with you?" I ask him.
"Me?" he says. "I'm in charge of the local organization to fight alcohol and drug abuse in the schools."
"Somethings DO change," I say.
FRIDAY: I write this column on my battered laptop in a less battered coffee-house in Cambridge. I'm nursing a hang-over headache and beer-bowels. My asshole is rubbed raw with those particular kind of painful shits that follow massive injestions of either beer or jalapenos.
I pop a vitamin C, hoping to stave off a cold. Next week, I'm going to England with that girl from Wisconsin and I don't want to be sick.
Inside the cafe, white people (students?) wait on other white people, serving them coffee, bagels and something horrible, dry and filled with salt and spinach. On the walls hang photographs of Negroes. After typing for awhile, I leave to get my rental car.
"Hey!" Hearing a voice behind me, I turn to see a big very ordinary-looking guy just reaching early middle-age.
"Are you Mykel Board?" he asks.
I check him for suspicious bulges.
"Er... yes," I say.
"I saw your ARTLESS t-shirt," he continues "and figured you'd be the only person to wear one."
"Thanks," I say.
"I really liked your stuff," he goes on. "I used to read your column first. Of course, I haven't read MRR in years. You still writing for them?"
"Yeah," I say, "more than fifteen years. What are you doing?"
"Me?" he answers, "I'm running for congress. Here..." He hands me a campaign leaflet and takes off.
Having been thrown out of my overnight quarters in the 8AM rush to work of my fellow Beloiters, I arrive in the "working- class, radical" town of Worcester 5 hours early. I head for THE SPACE where the meeting will be held. I expect an old union hall, with wooden chairs set up in nice neat rows. Grey-bearded organizers will hand out leaflets, discussing syndicalism and anarchism in post-scarcity times. Instead, it's a punk club! Oy, for this I have to go to Worcester?
The club is empty except for this guy with a nosering who tells me "everybody has gone to fireworks." I expect this is colorful local dialect for "gone to hell." It is not.
FIREWORKS is the local anarchist bookstore. And "everybody," is a girl with a British accent, on a motorcycle, and another girl with red hair and coveralls. Behind the desk at the place is an attractive girl, also in coveralls, hiked up to expose very hairy legs. She's playing a banjo. (I shit you not.)
"What have I got myself into?" I wonder as the gas pains build up in my large intestine. "Are these the gentle anarchists?
Are they gonna folksing the revolution?"
A few other serious-looking student types come in to browse the pamphlets. I doze on the bookstore couch. My rumbling bowels make sleep less than peaceful. I've got no place to stay for the night. The "cheap hotels" listed in the anarchist guide cost around $100.
Through fogged vision, I see the door open and an ancient couple walk in. The woman, grey-haired, thin and stooped walks with a wooden cane. Her bare legs are blotched red and blue, with varicose veins having varicose veins. She nearly falls as she takes the ministep into the store. The man is shorter than me, with a grey fringe of hair and a nose an inch longer than my erect penis.
"Hello there young people" he says pronouncing the word like PEPPLE. "It's nice to see you here. We're from the old guard."
"The very old guard," says the woman smiling-- and gaining a dozen points in my book.
Anyway, THOSE are the people I came for. Maybe he doesn't have the beard, but he's an original.
"Hello," I say, taking his hand. "I'm Mykel."
"Hello Mykel," he says, "I'm Sydney."
So much for the Australian connection.
Before long, we decide to head over to THE SPACE, where we'll have the actual meeting. It's an old warehouse, with a reading/hangout room in the back and a stage in the front. It looks like every punk club you've been in except that the mensroom has a note: PLEASE DON'T TAG THE FRESHLY PAINTED WALLS.
Ah, here are folks who really don't have the punk thing down yet. Just what do they think you do with freshly painted walls anyway?
In any case, the meeting begins. A man in his late fifties introduces a man in his late sixties. Bearded (as are about a third of the participants-- mostly men), he has the look of an intellectual. He is.
Ages range from 16 to late seventies (Sydney). Everyone is white (or Jewish). There is one guy with kinky hair and a kinkier beard. He has light skin, but I bet he would probably claim Negritude. He wouldn't make it into my collection. I can tell you that.
Another guy looks like a cop. Green banlon shirt, halting speech, he's even got a mustache. Walks around with his arms folded, not saying anything to anyone.
In the discussion, he drops big names like Bakunin or Kropotkin. "As Proudhon would've said..." Proudhon, of course, has nothing to do with anything. I think the cops gave him the Anarchy Short Course, and he just had some names to drop.
Sydney is a talker. Most of the old guys are. Them and the pseudo-Negro. The oldsters talk about their history and where they came from. The pseudo-Negro talks about theory-- and he quotes from books.
I like the old guys. Still there. Plugging away. Manning the Xerox machines. Keeping the candle burning. Right from then until now. Maybe a touch more realistic now,
"We don't expect to see the revolution in our lifetime... at least in some of our lifetimes," says Sydney.
After lots of discussion and reminiscences, Food Not Bombs serves "dinner." It consists of macaroni and onions, mashed potatoes and onions, and something grey with the consistency of wet sand.
During dinner, to entertain the troupes, is a group from Firecracker. The music is good traditional anarchist fare: three flutists. Jezus! My stomach is already bad!
I walk outside with the smokers. There I spot Clara, not smoking, but conversing. Maybe she didn't like the music either.
Looking at my HELLO MY NAME IS MYKEL tag, she says, "you're Mykel Board."
I check her for suspicious bulges.
"You're one of the few who paid for this meeting in advance," she continues. "I think there were five of us. Why don't you ever come to meetings in New York?"
I hummmm and hawwww, not wanting to spill the beans that I'm not an anarchist, but only here for the adventure of being at the founding convention of SOMETHING.
"Where are you staying?" I ask, changing the subject.
"Oh, we're staying in a nearby hotel." she says. "It's beautiful. An actual suite, with a bedroom, a livingroom, and a bathroom. Really nice."
"You got a couch?" I ask, not exactly straining my subtlety muscle.
"You need a place to stay?" she asks. "It's okay with me, but I have to ask Sydney."
Then she walks away.
After dinner, the meeting continues with everyone smelling like onions.
During an hour and a half of gradually decreasing audience, those present work on an "anarchist agenda." Here's the plan, they say. This is what anarchists have to do. Just a simple achievable agenda. Among their modest goals:
1. Find ways to transform bureaucracies.
2. Undermine the market system.
3. Build alternative institutions.
4. Destroy the concept of property.
and the most important of all:
5. Create more anarchists.
Discussion moves to theory. The young anarchists want to "get a consensus" of how people think. Clara has different ideas.
"We need more trust of individual initiative and less on seeking consensus and getting everyone to agree," she says. "Just go out and do it."
That's the best of the evening. It's not enough. There's nothing rousing. Nothing inspiring. No "Give me liberty or give me death!" Just "Give me committees!" This group wants to be "cheerleaders for anarchy." and they make committees. My God, if there are going to be cheerleaders, I want a few tits and asses.
The meeting ends and people scramble for places to sleep.
Clara leans over to me, "Sydney says no." she says. I can tell that SHE would've said yes.
There are a few of us left at THE SPACE. I'm the oldest. The other oldsters have all gone to their "cheap" hotel rooms.
One of the younger girls says "I'm looking for a place to sleep. I've got to stake out my space."
She's not great looking, zits galore, but she's young and has that most important quality in a desirable mate: she's there.
"I'll stake with you," I offer.
She declines. I move to a very hard, short, and unstable bench. Next to me is the pseudo-Negro.
"Those old guys, all they do is talk about the past," he says. "I feel sorry for them. I hope I don't get like that when I get old."
"I don't know," I answer, "at least they've done something to talk about."
Late that night, some people show up from Long Island. They enter noisily. One of them is a young short guy with a barrel chest and lots of tattoos.
"What happened so far?" he asks.
Pseudo-Negro answers, "There were a bunch of old guys," he says, "all they did was talk about the past."
Later that night come the mosquitos. They don't seek a consensus. They just go out and do it.
Breakfast tomorrow is at 8:30AM. Anarchists getting up for breakfast at 8:30???? Jezuz fuckin' Christ! Why be an anarchist if you're gonna get up before noon?
SATURDAY: Breakfast is prepared by Food Not Bombs: Potatoes and onions, something yellow with onions and something grey with the consistency of sand. There is no macaroni.
During the meal someone plays bad reggae (a pleonasm?) on a cassette player. Better than the flute music, but I cudda been at THE WARPED TOUR!
After breakfast comes the first meeting of the day. It's about setting up a structure for the Atlantic Anarchists and about local groups. The leader of this discussion, about 15 years younger than last night's leader, talks about various problems.
"Now about local groups," he says, "do they have any authority... whoops, I can't use that word... sorry... do they have any power to make decisions?"
Discussion continues on that and other topics like "Should we be a group or a network?"
The young girl who slept by herself last night says, "we don't really need any organization. We'll just decide to do things and do 'em." Most folks nod in agreement.
"That won't work," says Sydney. "Everyone will flake if it's too casual. We need some structure."
"Well," says the girl sitting next to me. She wears a clean t-shirt and slacks. Her long black hair is perfectly brushed. A paragon of future PTA-hood she suggests, "we could have each member group elect a representative."
Oy vey! Anarchists electing representatives! Then, there'll be a congress and a president. I wanna see the TV campaign ads for anarchist president.
"In 1993, my opponent ate meat! In 1995, he referred to an example of human swine as 'a police officer.' Are you going to vote for a man like that?"
Back at the meeting comes the announcement: "Now we get to the boring, but important, stuff."
Oh, I see, NOW it gets boring.
After another hour, there's a break for lunch. Lunch is served in the park, by Food Not Bombs. Guess what? They've got macaroni and onions, mashed potatoes and onions, and something grey with the consistency of wet sand. I've had enough.
I take off. A day early, heading back to the airport, trying to see if I can scam an earlier plane without paying a penalty fee.
Before I go, I look around the park at the anarchists, at the steadfast, the grey-haired paunchy faith-keepers. Those old guys look back on their lives and think, "we didn't win, but we tried. We fought. We had ideals and we still live by them." When they die, they die inspired.
Then, I look at the young bankers, stock brokers, insurance salesmen to be. They're the young punks, students, anarchists who work in the bookstores, who do the newspapers and zines, who sit and quote Chomsky or Bakunin. They're gonna look back and sigh.
They're gonna look at their husbands and wives and Volvos and two week vacations at Club Med and wonder what it was all worth.
Those hairy-legged girls will be wearing nylons. Those guys quoting Bakunin will be quoting Dow-Jones. They're going to get old and think, "What did I do with my life? When did I forget that I believed in something?" They're going to have a heart attack on the golf course, and, in their last dying moments, wish that they'd done things differently. I feel sorry for them.
-->Of course heroin is illegal, it's dangerous dept: Halcion, the popular tranquilizer lists possible side affects as "agitation, hallucination, and amnesia." A woman in Utah took the drug and promptly killed her mother. It's been taken off the market in England, Finland, Norway, Canada and Germany.
Dr. Anthony Kales, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania says the drug, "has such a narrow margin of safety that the only justification for keeping it on the market is to ensure the manufacturer's profitability." Talk about hitting the nail on the head!
--> Home Office Computing Magazine reports that a company called Middleburg Interactive will protect corporations against "the dangers of cyberspace." For only $1500 a year, they'll scour the web for nasty remarks about your company. They'll then forward the remarks to you with appropriate "response tactics." Pretty scary, huh? Interestingly enough, Middleburg itself does not seem to have a website. I wonder what they're afraid of.
-->You go to retard school? dept: I did a very long interview in the midst of a full two hours of ARTLESS tunes. It was all for the Vassar radio program "Retard Riot." The interview was by phone and thus did not get me laid. But it did get a bootleg! I love bootlegs, so I'm promoting this one. It's $5 from Noah Lyon, 67 Barclay Rd. Clintondale NY 12515. You can also get tapes and other cool stuff from him. Drop him 2 stamps for a list.
-->Despite my annoyance at the anarchist meeting, I did find a good place to play. The Space in Worcester looks like a nice club. The folks are honest. They'll put you up (bring mosquito netting), and "feed" you. They are friendly enough and might even talk to me after they read this column. Book your band there by calling (508) 753-0017. Ask for Duane. Admission is $6 or $5 plus a can of food for Food Not Bombs. Bring SPAM.
--> Even if it's boring you can still learn stuff dept: One of the anarcho groups handed out a leaflet with the subtitle "A Call for Outrage." The rest of the leaflet wasn't as stupid.
It tells of Jon Marc Taylor, a Missouri prison inmate. Jon successfully lobbied to get the state to turn over it's prison phone call profits to an education program for prisoners. Sounds good, right?
Well, for his efforts, they locked Jon Marc in a maximum security prison and gave him extra time in jail. It's worth a note of protest. You can find out how by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or faxing (505) 834-7013 for more info.
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