Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Wilderness Years - Raskolnikov's Blues Pt. 2

One studies a lot of theory in grad school... and you know in theory this all sounded like a brilliant idea as i sat in my tiny apartment in North Oakland, oh yeah i had it all sussed out, fucking genius that i was, i'd breeze through this shit on my brilliance and big balls... but those fucking theories man, seems that one needs to actually test them out and testing this one out i was slowly finding myself in a steaming pile of shit, it started at about my ankles but was now slowly creeping closer to my waist, the money thing was gonna be a fucking nightmare and so i set upon a plan to get more, not much of a plan but something, there were no jobs at Podunk U., the town was a sleepy little hamlet set on a dirty river in the middle of a forest, there was a glass plant, a university and fuck all, a Main St. with a bunch of mom and pop joints that only took kind to student money not the students themselves, if my mood had begun turning from sky blue at the outset of the semester to slightly cloudy once i experienced the classes then it was now gray and getting darker, there wasn't much to smile about...

Class became a bit of an afterthought, i was still going and the Victorians were still boring me senseless but the other two were brilliant, i enjoyed writing theory and battling my classmates and my other class was Cultural Theory and taught by the department superstar, a guy in his late 40's who was married to a twenty-something Brazilian bombshell, i laughed at the rumors of how he only worked with good looking female grad students, you don't trade the superstar for a fourth stringer and if any of the lovelies in my classes thought he was making a play for them they were shitting themselves, in fact he did take a shine to one student in the department though, see this was the class that John had gotten to do his paper on William Burroughs, he had borrowed a bunch of my stuff and the was showing it to Dr. Rockstar, he inquired to where John had gotten a few items because he had a friend out west getting his PHD and his dissertation was on one William S., seems he had mentioned some of these things to his friend and the guy had never heard of some of it, now how you do a dissertation on the guy and not know about this stuff was a bit mind blowing to myself, it wasn't like the shit was some ultra-rare bootlegged tape or prized mimeo from back in the day, it was out there, but alas the soon to be crowned Doc was in the dark, so when Dr. Rockstar asked John just smiled and said, Kono, the dreadlocked guy in class, (because i really did wonder if Dr. Rockstar bothered to learn anyones name) and John told me he shook his head and let out a "ah, i shoulda known"...

Now what's surprising about all this is that said class sometimes broke down into conversations between Dr. Rockstar and myself, he often seemed quite amused and intrigued by my fucked-up worldview and it was the one class where i truly did dust the competition and so one day he asked me to stop by his office, he told me the lights wouldn't be on and he'd be hiding so he wouldn't have to deal with students but he said he needed to talk about my paper and some other things and so i said sure and on the appointed day and time i ambled through the department and wound my way deep into a web of halls, seemed Dr. Rockstar wanted to make his office as inaccessible as possible and so hid up and down stairs and around corners and didn't bother with things like his name on the door, i knocked softly and said my name and i heard some rustling of papers and a slight cough and then the door unlocked and he welcomed me in...

The office was filled with books stacked here and there and file folders with student papers sticking out, on the window ledge behind him were bins that looked to hold whatever article or book he was working on at the time, he was wearing a sweater that zipped over his shirt, a sweater that looked very similar to the one i had on except i scored mine at the thrift store and his looked to be a tad more expensive, i sat down and he looked around and for a moment there was a strange silence, you could tell he didn't do this much or just didn't like people, in a way i could relate, i didn't much like them either these days and so he finally looked at me and asked about the Burroughs stuff, i explained to him how i had found it and he asked if it would be alright to make some copies to send to his friend and i said sure why not, we both began to loosen up a bit and he asked what i read, of course at the time i was a young and angry existential/nihilist and started ticking off the names, Sartre-Camus-Genet, Henry Miller and Bukowski, Hunter Thompson, Burroughs and Algren and Celine, Dostoevsky and Lermontov and Tolstoy, he eased back in his chair and laughed asking what i read for fun and i replied that is what i read for fun, it was also the first time i would hear the name Thomas Pynchon, it was the first time i'd discuss indie-rock with a prof as we gushed about the band Morphine and their brilliance, soon we were sitting there bullshitting like a couple of old friends, he asked me what i wrote and i told him poetry and short stories, to which he replied that he could care less about the poesy but wouldn't mind seeing the stories, i told him i'd see what i could do, told him about my friend's collage project that he was doing using porno ads and he said he wouldn't mind seeing them, then we got down to business...

Dr. Rockstar carried himself with an aloofness and arrogance that one might describe as abrasively charming, he reminded me a bit of Donald Sutherland for some reason, possibly because he physically resembled him in a way but also it was as if he was a combination of certain characters Sutherland had played, a mash-up of Animal House, MASH and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, we began discussing my paper, me casually tossing out doing it on Bukowski and him politely telling me no, that he expected something more from me for some reason, he then asked why i wrote? i grinned at him and replied seriously? of course he said, why? and i leaned in a bit and conspiratorially growled, and i quote, "for the pussy man, for the pussy..." Now if Dr. Rockstar was expecting me to a lay out some intellectual pontification upon the reasons and motivations for my scrivening i will never know because he let out such a laugh i could do nothing but sit there and grin, i mean the man was married to a woman at least 20 years his junior so though he may never had admitted it out loud he knew what the fuck i was talking about, in fact he kept laughing to the point he needed to wipe tears from his eyes and when he finally composed himself he looked at me and said you don't need this, don't take it the wrong way, in fact take it as a compliment, which is something i rarely give out and i don't really care what you do one way or the other but the other students need this, you don't, i've been waiting for 20 years for a student like you to walk through those doors and i can tell you now get out, go write and do whatever you're going to do, he was shaking his head and giggling, for the pussy he said, the man was used to the kids kissing his ass and saying what they thought he wanted to hear, it may have been the first time in 20 years he got an honest answer to a question...

And that paper? Well i settled on the commodification of punk rock, basically predicting Hot Topic before it existed and pointing an accusing finger at one Perry Farrell and his festival and how that was the beginning of then end for alternative culture, that the once dark and dangerous sub-culture would be homogenized and sanitized and spiffed up for suburban consumption, slowly to be made acceptable and absorbed into the festering and moldy loaf of Wonder Bread that was Merkin mass culture... my favorite part was that most of my original thinking references came Maximum Rock'n Roll, good old Lester Bangs never had it so good cozying up with Foucault and Derrida, it was nothing more than the art of spinning bullshit...

Of course none of this helped me eat and eating and drinking and drugging were an essential part of my existence, it was more than just a bank balance that hung, well, in the balance, my sanity or lack thereof, my bright and brilliant future, my masterplan, all of it was cracking up, like standing in the middle of an ice-covered lake, every move bringing more creaks and groans, knowing full well that if you take off you're fucked and if you don't move you're fucked, the only certainty is the taste of that icy cold water and the burning of lung and limbs, standing and watching the breath shoot from the nose and mouth and the surrealness of that winter sun and it's lack of warmth, and still there were no jobs, in a shit town the competition for shit jobs was intense and so like a taller Josef K. i diverted my energy for the time being to finding the exit to the labyrinth known as the student loan/ banking industry, to find a cure for what had ailed me, a loophole in the air tight walls of the bureaucracy, hours spent reading forms and making calls and wandering in and out of administrative offices where the qualities of humanity and compassion were akin to myth, i was trying to sell snake oil to the master snake oil salesman, it wasn't going to happen, it was dawning on me that the options were slowly turning to nil... and that once bright blue sky had now almost gone completely black...



6 comments:

Exile on Pain Street said...

A prof in his late 40's who's married to a twenty-something Brazilian bombshell sounds like a literary contrivance. I pray that part is 100% true.

Who the hell writes a dissertation on WSB? That's classic over-intellectualizing. He'd be aghast.

My sister is an English/woman's studies prof at a small college in New Jersey. You've pretty much nailed that world. Insulated and protected from the harsh light of reality.

Kono said...

Exile- No literary contrivance there it was 100% true, she might have been early 30's at best... and what is modern academia but the over intellectualizing of everything... just finished the new bio of WSB and he might have bill aghast but Bill loved attention so maybe not as quite as we'd like to believe...

Kono said...

That's "been" aghast not Bill... it's early and i'm only on my second cup of coffee...

Rassles R. said...

The only professor I ever got along with was the one that accepted the fact that I wasn't going to kiss his ass.

daisyfae said...

i was kinda hot for Dr. Rockstar as you described him... but when you got to the "Donald Sutherland" bit it was all over. What happened to him? Do you think he'd trade that aging Brazilian hottie for a 50-something burnt-out party girl with mad skillz, who looks good in the dark?

Kono said...

Rassles- Damn straight... and it's good to have you back at the lounge.

Daisy- He's gotta be pushing 70 or so now and i'm sure BB has traded him in, i'd put in a good word but alas he left Podunk U. years ago, he had aspirations and shit, and don't let the Sutherland thing throw you, the man had charisma... and we all know what that can get ya...