Friday, August 20, 2010
BOZ BAKER'S PORTRAIT (SCROLL). St. Nuke superintended the creation of The Boomer Bible. Then he was assassinated during his coronation as King of Punk City. Why? Because he was a prick. The anthologizers of punk writing had this to say about his final solo work:
Promoters of the punk writing movement have labored diligently to endow Punk City’s first king with a genuine historical mystique. Not only is he given credit for the writing of The Boomer Bible, but also for acting as both teacher and surrogate father to the ‘subjects’ in his petty kingdom. As it does with many historical icons, the truth tends to reveal St. Nuke as a less than admirable personage. In a work called Konfessions—left unfinished at his death—St. Nuke wrote candidly about the single-minded obsession with power that fueled his rise to dominion. The following excerpt from the beginning of Konfessions is brief but sufficient to solve any so-called ‘mystery’ about the character of St. Nuke. The bottom line? This is a piece which could probably be produced by any urban gang leader with powerful enough text correction software. All the textbook neuroses are here: Narcissism, pychopathic ego, delusions of grandeur, and frequent detours into psychotic alienation. Long live the king.
And here's the actual text that survives...
Your book is finished.
2 Now comes the great emptiness. Impossible to prepare for. It is spring again, but not everything gray turns green again. Did you?
3 Moses stayed in the wilderness. The claptrap has it his daddy told him to. But you know better and so do I. Mo was a wilderness guy, used to that ache, that rage, that solitary singleness. Desert seduction.
4 The pleasure was not in climbing to the mountaintop, but in coming down. Coming down with commandments, slaughtering the golden calf with words, mere words.
5 But after the calf the calf killers take the same dry tablets every day. Someone else’s medicine. Not much of a palliative. Is it, Harry?
6 Only one of us will take the cure. Which will it be?
7 So long since we talked. It’s been a trip. Sometimes I wish you were here to see it. But if you came, my boys and girls would take it hard. They’re good at that.
8 They don’t understand you. Not yet. It will take them time and they have so little. If I could feel anymore, I would feel for them.
9 Sometimes I dream of Rio. Not that I’ve seen it, but I arrive at your villa, dressed like you in white. In the dream at least my wounds and scars are healed.
10 You push past the servants to greet me. We have a drink on the high terrace, and the clink of ice, the sweet honeysuckle, that faint smile of yours are all there is—except the human spike of Aldo Morro, with its faint smile, impaling the bloody sun.
11 In the dream I tell you how it was in Punk City. You want to know.
12 “Tell me,” you say, “about the beginning.”
13 Then it is my turn to smile. And we grin, like boys, and the butler comes to announce the guests.
14 But I don’t think I’ll get to Rio. It doesn’t look to be in the cards. Yet I feel you waiting anyway. As I am waiting for you.
15 I have it in mind to tempt you here. An idle fancy, but we have some things you haven’t seen. Now wouldn’t that be a novelty?
15 Forgive my drivel. I am tired tonight. Too tired for more tonight.
Temptation. The idea grows on me. Your other kingdom, the one you haven’t seen. Won’t you come home, dear Harry, and meet your boys and girls?
2 They are out there, writing. Ants carrying their crumbs through the narrow tunnels.
3 Punk City is a colony of ants. But not so easy to kill. I have pulled them underground. Not to save them but to use them. This I could only tell you.
4 I know most of their names, the insides of their infant minds, and yet I spend them like handfuls of pennies.
5 Twenty yards from where I sit, underneath the courtyard bricks, four hundred bikes are sitting in the dark.
6 They are not your Angel hogs, fat flatulent farmyard beasts. Tonight they will awaken like cats, silent stalkers.
7 A youngster named Bobby Shiv will mount up with forty four others, ten bands, and do a job in the Northland.
8 Some of them will not return.
9 Therefore they will ride double on their way out. All the bikes must come back.
10 If one of the riders dies, the others will strip him of his armor and weapons and leave the undistinguished corpse behind. If half a dozen die, their bikes will still come home.
11 But every one of the forty four soldiers is writing, at this very moment, content to be less valuable than a motorcycle and yet on fire with the need to leave his mark in words. Ants with an attitude.
When is a metaphor not a metaphor?
2 When it is not simply a parallel but a template that molds and drives the story. Like you.
3 The colony is not directed by a king. It is the queen who makes sense and order of all those tiny automaton deeds.
4 Alice Hate is the queen.
5 I am the drone consort, my value spent now that the eggs are laid. Other drones are queuing up, eager to fertilize the next generation.
6 What have I created, in the name of creation?
7 Is this the question that occupies you? I suspect that it is.
My body is torn to pieces. I am the fossilized spring of Punk City’s mind, my scars the dry, white beds of the bloody rivers which fertilized our grand conception.
2 I stood and bled in the Blade to purify our tongue and thought. Now I ache and sweat and shiver from the scourging of remembered darkness,
3 Yet I do not feel myself sanctified—only tainted and diminished, fading, shrunken, ill.
4 Are these the stigmata of sacrifice—or the vengeful recurring infections of a maimed imperfection which can never be made sacred?
5 Do you still tremble in fresh agonies from ancient wounds?
6 Can you heal you? Or only those who injure you?
How does the gourd feel, when it has become an instrument at the ritual?
2 Does it know itself as the painted husk whose hollowness is what both elevates and slays it?
3 I am a gourd at the keyboard, typing to hear the echo of my hollow being, all that is left of me, the click of dead seeds bouncing inside a dead shell.
4 You are a gourd of remembrance, a cerement of the mummy of faith. Gourd of gourd, rite of rite, very gourd of very gourd...
5 I understand the white suit, the white hair, the sunglasses. I put on the blue face of St. Nuke each day, usufruct of Kassander, because this is the face through which I have looked out upon life, the face I have impressed on the world. Without it I am blind, impotent, without a perspective from which to perceive and act.
6 I understand the disappearance of Venus and Apollo. They became the marble that worshipped them. Just as the priests intended. Capture the gods and lock them in the temple, where they can do no more harm.
7 This I have done to you. How many times?
I shall call this piece “Konfessions of Nuke.”
They will find it after my assassination. My successors will explain it, twist it, suppress it, as they will. But the file will live on in the system, find its own victims.
2 Will it find its way to you? The question seems a door to philosophical speculation. But I will defer that for now. Are you even familiar with Augustine?
3 A builder of orthodoxy, inevitably canonized by rules of his own making, describes the path he has taken to his chosen god. And there is no purpose in the journey if the path does not begin in sin and darkness.
4 You know where my journey begins. But I must be obedient to the template in some measure. There is a line through this field that represents the perspective of the saint, looking back. Perhaps you can use it to sew up my shroud, covering the dough while it rises for another baking.
I was born—and by ‘I’ is meant Nuke, of course—of the system. There is a queen. There is a colony. There must be a chosen drone.
2 Kassander was the first. In a sense he sired the queen and was therefore doomed.
3 You had your purposes too. The initial conditions must be set just so, or the stories end before they get started.
4 The stories have been, are being, spun, and I need not repeat them. Augustine’s is not a tale of plot, but of interior transformation.
5 I could say, with justice from the standpoint of the saint, that there was no interior at the inception. This, after all, was your selected premise.
6 There was a face drawn in greasepaint, an elaborate set, hundreds of extras, a few well crafted props.
7 And there was the queen, finger of the creator, hovering above the scene.
Too, there was the system.
2 From a certain vantage point, the system makes even the set irrelevant. There are directors who choose to stage Hamlet in street clothes, in a theater naked of concealments, loading all the burden of magic on the words themselves, and their performance. The play’s the thing.
3 So it may be that there is no need of Punk City in the flesh, as it were, so long as there is the system. Mercado’s folly, a chip set and software suite that sucks crumbs from ants and chews them into an electronic chimera.
4 But Rosenkrantz, on stage, does not see the ropes, the lights, the orchestra, the balcony. If he thinks he sees them, he is imagining beyond the boundary of his role, engaging in a flight of fancy.
5 The Nuke of the stories may be acting on a phantom set. That is the choice of the storytellers. The Nuke of the interior life is, however, a creature of Punk City. He has been given a set (so to speak) of initial conditions, to which he responds.
6 In the absence of an interior, it is these which must be described.
There was a punk writer band called the Epissiles. Workers in the colony. They had names, faces—the same face, really, a concoction of makeup that conveyed facelessness.
2 St. Nuke was one of their number, a faceless face with a name devoid of lineage.
The Epissiles had been set in motion for some reason. Does it matter which reason?
The energy that gave them momentum came from two sources, the plot and the props.
3 The plot was their father, and so needs no explanation, except to say that it gave them a conflict in which to establish being, if such could be accomplished.
4 The props were mostly technological. A chip and software configuration that accepted input from varied instruments.
In the absence of an interior, the instrument was the identity.
5 Zero Daze, destined to become the great manipulator, began his career hunting and pecking the keys of a jury-rigged plot synthesizer.
6 St. Nuke held the macrophone, capable of translating his spoken words into electronic characters.
A suggestive term, electronic characters. Mere pulses of electricity, on, off, in some combination that might have meaning to the right reader, called in the argot of the technologists a user.
2 St. Nuke was not yet the user in this configuration. He was himself an electronic character, an outline figure on a screen, a combination of pulses being stored for someone else’s use.
3 For my use. For yours. For anybody else’s. But not for his own, not that he knew of anyway.
4 Unable to read, he yelled into the macrophone, watched his voice turn into photons on a cathode ray tube, recognizing ‘I’ because he knew the character, although this is a statement which, like many statements of fact, contains no particle of truth.
5 He yelled “I, I, I, I, I,” and drew satisfaction from the obedient, repeated echo on screen. This was not an existential satisfaction. It was not psychology but physics.
6 It was like blowing into a balloon and seeing it inflate.
I do not mean to bore you, but you have inquired (in mind at least) about the beginning, and the beginning is always the trickiest part, the part that just might be impossible.
2 First there is nothing, a blank sheet, and then something appears upon it, a scene, a character, an initial cause of some kind. We want to skip ahead to the complications, the confrontations, the consummations of the tale. When we skip ahead, as we always do, we miss all the grandest miracles.
3 The first word we place on that blank sheet carries with it a universe of assumptions. I tell you a name, and believing that you are receiving, you give everything in return.
4 You give a space in your imagination in which this name puts on a face and body, breathes, turns imputed sense impressions into imitated thoughts. You supply the sound of voice, the meaning of sighs and smiles, the assumption of identity.
5 It is you who perform the miracle, the granting of life, and all the rest is trivial compared to this one triumphant act of creation.
6 But in this case the routine, divine gift must be withheld. The story does not begin with identities implied by words. It begins with only words, or less than that, the mere images of words, stamped flat on our blank sheet of paper.
St. Nuke mills about on the stage, a name for which no lines have been written, on a set not so much designed as collected, an assemblage of objects around which a play might be written.
2 A chorus has also been assembled, that is, a rabble of voices, also without written lines, who will also mill, commenting on the inscrutable scratchings of the not-yet author.
3 What might they say during this gap between notion and creation?
“It does not add up to anything yet. There is a lack of what we might call a discernible intention.
2 “First, there is the hurriedly scrawled name of a child’s poem, underscored, as if it were some kind of clue.
3 “There is what must be a tentative list of Dramatis Personae, although they seem less like characters than record labels, slapped down thoughtlessly, as if out of the blue—Johnny Dodge & the 440s, the Duke & his Angels, Liz Smack & the Hypos, Kassander & the Doomslayers, Cadillac Mope & the Spraycans, Kobra Jones & the Snakes, Slash Frazzle and Hate Mail, Mr. Magic, Gypsy Jackknife, and others too numerous to mention.
4 “There is a wandering ‘what-if’ statement, not sufficiently developed to serve as a premise—What if there were a locale populated by complete nonentities, deprived of even the shared roots of an inner city gang, a beach on which the flotsam of big city bus stations is continually washed ashore by a tide of indifference and despair?
5 “There is, off by itself, a word in upper case—TECHNOLOGY—under which appear random notations: Mercado, the ruthless executive seeking a testbed for breakthrough computer designs... punks as guinea pigs, or hamsters running their wheels inside... a catalyst of some kind... what? who?
6 “There is a long series of contextless words: drugs, bikers, Philadelphia, books, baby boomers, the Tarot, law, a king, warfare, massacres, art, a traitor, a messiah.
7 “And there is also a statement or commandment or exhortation: Let them make themselves up, come what may.
8 “Are we to understand that these unidentified personae are expected to write their own lines, turn this rubbish into scenes and acts and moments of illumination? Impossible. They will never get past the beginning.”
Yet we have, in a sense, gotten past the beginning. I can hear you laughing, Harry, because you know that this is only a partial truth, like so many others.
2 I mean it in the sense that somehow a context has been established, pulled together out of the rubble of incipient potentials.
3 I am holding your book in my hand. We had to have written it. Punk City is embedded into the landscape of Philadelphia with a certain momentum that sends our poor children out to wage war against the tribes and fiefdoms of the city’s underworld.
4 St. Nuke the King must therefore have a history, some chronology which flows from a beginning, a beginning that is thus necessarily a fait accompli.
Now for the partial untruth of this assertion.
2 We have never gotten, will never get, past the matter of our beginning. It is our obsession, the eternal center of our being, whatever that may consist of.
3 I know that you understand this, understand it better than anyone, but I know, too, that you regard it as our responsibility to explain it to ourselves, however long it takes.
I am but a chapter in this story, I know, and I have completed my contribution—all but the ending, which is the most important milestone for those charged with finding the beginning.
2 I have pondered my ending, anticipated it, and in some fashion I do look forward to it, as you, I know, must be aware.
I have dreamed it,
3 Too vividly not to recognize its verity.
The king is struck down in public, before the assembled multitude.
2 He has not been popular. He has rather been feared and obeyed and admired, but not with affection.
3 He has demanded too much, and he has transfused his own strength into others, who have been preparing to sever the umbilicus and assume the responsibility which the king has for so long undertaken on their behalf.
4 The king must die. That is all.
5 There is a faithful right hand who also anticipates assassination, stands guard fiercely to prevent what cannot be prevented. His hand moves more swiftly than a pulse of fear in the gut, but not swiftly enough. The king is stabbed to the heart. He has one moment in which to see all that has been—one piercing true perspective from the threshold of his end.
This one moment is an eternity.
2 All other moments are part of it, including this one, so that he has the experience of watching himself live the eternity in advance within the larger eternity which is beyond the vision and outside it.
3 In that one eternal moment he knows what can be known, which is enough.
It ends there. He was killed before he could add more.