Monday, November 16, 2015

The Cat is Out of the Bag.

With Blogs like “Humans of New York” there’s hope that stories from the streets, about the exigencies of life and the human condition in post-modern cities, get a hearing. Tales of ordinary people going through extraordinary experiences, or of deadbeat bums biting the dust, freaks knocking down the barriers, those unjustly downtrodden, the divine mad, the renegade, misfit and maverick, if only there was true democracy to give them a voice, to relieve the avalanche of celebrity trivia.

When asked to write “Notes of a Dirty Old Man” for L.A.s Open City underground newspaper Charles Bukowski was chuffed as he realized he could then write “anything he pleased”, the compulsive, deranged writer’s wet dream. The 20th century was when the great artists created a revolution in verisimilitude, content and style, anything could be written, painted, filmed and sculpted, it seemed “free speech” had no boundaries or shelf-life, the future was an endlessly receding bright horizon, of hope, achievement and absolution.

But poor, nobody Arthur had to acknowledge that he was dreaming if he thought he could write Libertarian literature in the 21st Century. The ‘Sixties’ Utopianist dream for the future, of co-operative sharing and loving, soured into the unthinkable: laissez-faire pluralism gave way to uptight anal conservatism, with the hysteria over drugs, plagues, terrorism and recession helping push along the Konservatives' right-wing agenda. Now it's all about population control via digital computers, war industries booming, consumerist gluttony blinding, the enslavement of a placid workforce, media brainwash of the masses and vast profits for a few.
He worried that the era of dangerous writing was possibly over, the liberated discussion of sex and mores, politics and society, the extravagances of human behavior put under the microscope of the genius poet’s Mind, all expunged from the Body Politic.   
Perhaps there would be no more Conrad, Hemingway, Orwell and Maughn, no more Chandler, Hammet, Caine and Thompson, nor Keroac, Burroughs, Genet and Ginzberg, don't forget McCullers, Highsmith, Greer and DuMaurier, imagine no more Rechy, Bukowski, Williams or White, I cry for Dick, Wilde, Traven and Fante. And my much beloved Eco, Banks, Selby Jnr. and Algren.

(At least we've still got McCarthy, Ellroy, Gibson and Dawkins, no god forbid Llosa, Marquez, Asher and Rushdie. OK, I'll have to mention my favorite Indian writers still working, Mistry, Gosh, Sen and Roy.)

(This is not to say Artie's a megalomaniac, who thinks he's carrying on the baton of such luminaries, he wouldn't even try, he's only written his narcissist ravings. But he wouldn't let THEM worry him, nor a phantom reading public either, he would probably never even get published, he was a freak of nature unto himself and he just did what he wanted to do, masturbate, as always.)

Life didn’t get more permissive, liberated and open, it got restricted, sanitized and censured. In the 20th century kids could wander the far neighborhood unsupervised, now they can’t leave their parents purview as they might get molested, and absolutely everyone has video surveillance ever following them. (Those were innocent times, they had joyous Huckleberry Finn adventures without fear of rapists lurking in the bushes.) 

Travel was more free, hippies could wander Europe, India and Africa with few limitations, sleeping in Natural or Public Wonders, imbibing their drugs of choice, fucking like pagans. Now they must have lots of money, visas and deadlines, and be policed into straight-laced scumbags, the era of ‘Seventies hippies referred to as “morally bankrupt”. 

(As claimed by a reviewer of the Hindi movie “Main Ham Charles” about Charles Sobraj, the serial killer, a film set in Goa of the ‘70s wherein he’s given celebrity status, a man of renown, generous to his fellow jail  inmates, perhaps falsely accused, the poor gullible hippie tourists he murdered bankrupt because he stole their passports and money.)

In the old days you could cruise up the Pacific Highway in Australia and sleep by the beach or in the National Park, eating luscious home-cooked fare from klunky road-houses. Now the police chase away any itinerants, the winding, interesting roads are replaced by concrete-walled super-highways straight as arrows and the only rest-stops are franchise gas stations with cold, plastic crap to eat. (Okay, the highways get you there quicker, who needs to look at bushscapes and eat mom's apple pie? Driving the winding beach-roads was a fabulous experience, part of the holiday, not just a boring commute.)

And the rock’n’roll venues really jumped back then, they were dangerous, the electric music soul-searing, the mosh-pit bruising, the drunken brawls outside testing one’s mettle as an escape-artist. Now most of the rock clubs/pubs have been sanitized into family-friendly bingo-parlors and poker-machine addict dens. 

The Kings Cross red-light district has mostly disappeared, the hookers, junkies, touts and louts cleaned out. The Piccolo Cafe is a ghost box, the Les Girls drag show fled to RSL Clubs in the outer burbs. The Oxford Street gays have gone, the Fitzroy Park hustlers have slunk back into the night, The Rex Hotel's back-bar deviant scene renovated into an upmarket restaurant, the pool-hall cat-house "Tricks" chased away. 

It all seemed to evaporate in the ‘Noughties, beginning with The 2000 Sydney Olympics, then The New York Twin Towers crashing down, the War on Terrorism and Difference sweeping all in its path, everything now supposedly “naughty but nice”, nothing much naughty, 99% nice. All that was funky has been gentrified, quaint terrace-houses knocked down for stacked-box apartment towers, the people with heads as square as their domiciles.

(OK, I hear you say, what's wrong with all the sleaze being done away with, it's safe to walk the streets at night again. Artie just liked bitching about the change, from funky to boring, gung ho to squeamish, candid to clandestine. Why does modernity have to bring a sanitized white-wash with it?)

Nobody seems interested in hearing about Society's outsiders, malcontents and freaks anymore, just fifty shades of gray titillation from billionaire guys in business-suits. It’s very hard to get published if you want to really get down to the nitty-gritty of the human condition in today’s world, such as the truly perverse actions when fools rush in to fuck everyone over, politicians as well as sex-addicts. Especially if it doesn’t have the saccharine Hollywood happy-ending or the snow-job on every-one’s potential being given a fair go. Yet Arthur kept dreaming more cliches, “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Maybe for him it was Blogging on the Internet, maybe Self-Publishing as on Kindle Books, or it could be Underground shows, performance and painting, comix and videos, posters and murals, he’d done them all. There’s untold ways to howl, spit, screech and pour out your diatribe. So what if he was censored, black-balled, uninvited, unsung? A lot of cunts had tried to stop him but he did it anyway, now the cat was out of the  bag, his illustrated stories prowled through the cyber-sphere, his tale shouted to the expanding universe, out there into the galaxies like grains of sand, "little nobody me existed and had fun!" 

By sheer tenacity, hard-work, brains, guts and heart, he had got his material out into the planet’s teeming multitudes, groaning in pain, squealing in pleasure. BAD stories can still be told. He’d gotten 50,000 page reads on his Blog tales, not much when compared to the millions of hits on a video of the Moment, the family cat beating off a marauding dog: anyway, he dreaded going viral, to him it was more like a social dis-ease than a cure for ignominy.

He thought he’d be the hippest, moddest, out-dancing the swingingest; he did yoga like a twisted pretzel and thought he’d find enlightenment; he read a thousand books and thought he’d get enlightened; he thought he’d be a revolutionary and overthrow the Elite; he thought he’d become a movie star and outshine his mortality; he thought he’d be the greatest artist, the hottest writer, flames licking at his feet; he ended up a bum, a nobody, a wanderer, a freak, a miscreant, a criminal, Public Enemy Number 7.

When last seen he was lying by the side of a dusty road, laughing tears. For it was half Okay with him, he’d achieved enough of what he’d set out to do and that made him happy, on some days. On other days he felt like shit.

The World sure was uptight in the 21st Century, what with Fundamentalist groups all over the planet killing human rights, refusing debate, prohibiting ideas, burning books except their own. Arthur may burn with his books, the days of burning faggots are not over yet. That’s the risk he takes in being liberated. 

( Believe it or not, even in a democracy like Auz, it's a struggle to get "free speech", it's not the sunny, gooey, sun-tanned lovie-dovie playground portrayed in tourism-vids. It's ultra-conservative, run by Catholics, little of alternative ideas, lunatic-fringe spaces or left of progressive agendas get support. Eg. climate control, Ganjha decrim and marriage equality, now overtaking America and Europe, are still far off dreams in Auz.)(In Time Magazine's recent 100 Most Important People on Planet Earth in 2016 not one of them was in Australia.)

To quit the yowling, all you pea-brained bigots, jealous artsholes and fascist power-mongers who tried to kill Arthur off, it’s too late, by the uptight 21st century his genie had already gotten out of the bottle. ( Yes, this rave proves he was driven mad, which was half the fun, he then had an excuse to get away with writing the most outrageous crap!)

P.S. Thinking about it, a lot of hot, edgy, dangerous writers moved over to film and screen-plays since the mid-20th Century, films like "They Drive By Night", "Ashphalt Jungle" "Sunset Boulevard", "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane", "Rebel Without a Cause" and "The Misfits", "Bonnie and Clyde", "Midnight Cowboy" and "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" to name a few at the beginning of the post War explosion of provocative narratives, and lately movies like "Frozen River", "Winter's Bone", "Django Unchained", "The Homesman", "Nightcrawler", "Bone Tomahawk", "Tangerine", "Pasolini", "Far From Men", "Ex-Machina", yeah even "Mad Max - Fury Road", again to name just a few of the favorites. He still gets to swoon to the art of the Word.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.