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October 1996 | 1996 Musings Index

Big Fun in Philadelphia

October 14th entry

Tuesday, October 15, 1996

Matthew Hart woke me in the early afternoon, and, along with Leah, off we set for Philly in the Vomit Comet. But before hitting the road, I needed to get something out of Comet, and out in front I found Andrew. He directed me to this week's C-ville, which had an article on Farrell's underground press, from which my book Concerning Big Fun was published some months ago. A picture of the cover of my book was featured, and the Big Fun Glossary (a primitive early print version, circa March 1996) is termed "bloated but strangely appealing." Most of the rest of the article breathes with a blindly tasteless sycophantic love for Farrell, saying such ludicrous things as that the real art of the project (the underground press) is that Farrell is behind it.

Somewhat up 29 North, we found a gas station where the beer was overpriced and unworthy (I found myself pondering "what demographic group drinks this shit?"). So we then tried an IGA, which wasn't much better, though it did have Honey Brown Ale and Red Wolf, two acceptable beers. So I bought 11 Red Wolfs (one was inexplicably missing from a six pack) and on we continued.

Leah is still in many ways just a little kid. I mean, aside from being seventeen, she also engages in goofy horseplay. Of course, in this case it was entirely directed at Matthew Hart, with whom she is extremely familiar. And of course, Matthew being who he is, he participated avidly. To me, though, such horseplay seemed pointless and dangerous. It involved, for example, Leah's repeatedly socking Matthew on the arms and legs with her balled fist, a gesture Matthew couldn't exactly reciprocate. And this happened while he drove, while we all became increasingly intoxicated. Even under the beer's mellowing effects, however, I felt a self preservation instinct (born perhaps partly from age) that sought an end to the goofiness. But none of my pleas in this regard had any real lasting effect.

Leah is an environmental extremist/animal rights nut of sorts, so I take it from what Matthew Hart has told me. Well, I eat meat, but aside from that my environmentalist credentials are pretty damn good, even if tinged with a strong degree of hedonism. And so today, I sold Leah on the subject of Strategic Littering. The practice of Strategic Littering entails littering highways at any and all opportunities with any manner of junk one has in ones possession. To have no environmental effect, of course, the littering material must be largely non-toxic and non-recycle-able. The thinking behind Strategic Littering is that "litter" as we know it along highways is not an environmental crime at all; it is just visual clutter, something that affects only humans (well-fed, tactless humans at that). The road itself is such an environmental assault that any litter on it contributes essentially no additional damage to surrounding ecosystems. Indeed, litter can provide food and shelter to many creatures who are forced to live along roadsides; it's no compensation for the reality of the road, but it's also no assault. And litter can contribute to the environmental health of an area in two ways; the first is that it deters people from deciding to move to an area that is littered (resulting in less development) and the second is that it shows people the detritus our society is creating (to bury trash in a landfill serves no environmental purpose; it simply hides the trash so we think it simply "disappears."). Once sold on the flawless logic behind strategic littering, Leah contributed to the visual clutter of the highways on several occasions. She'd come a long way; Matthew says she used to be a member of an "Adopt-a-Highway" group. Adopt-a-Highway is the Highway Juggernaut's means of distracting us into believing that litter, not the highway itself, is environmental abuse.

Our bladders filled, and all three of us had a go at pissing in bottles and cups, with varying success. I made sort of a mess of myself at this point, and I doubt Leah (being a girl and all) did much better. That last bit always comes out too fast and overflows into your pants. After we filled containers we always tossed them out the window. Later, as we entered DC and ended up stagnant at traffic lights, I left bottles on the street, upright and ready to be knocked over.

Yes, we ended up driving through Washington on streets. This was yet another negative outgrowth of Leah and Matthew's playful little romper room behaviour. In the midst of all this we somehow managed to get dumped out into the Mall region of Downtown Washington DC. It took us nearly two hours to extricate ourselves.

We picked up dinner at a Taco Bell, which we had been in search of for some hours. There is something about the prospect of a Seven Layer Burrito that inexplicably creates a craving out of all proportion to what nutritional and dining-experiencial values that particular product might actually have. Leah was kicked out of the Taco Bell for her bare feet.

I spent much of the latter part of the ride sleeping. This was not easy, especially after Leah took over the wheel. She indulged herself in a little Matthew punching as she motored along; often changing lanes with each POW!. As drunk as we were, it was not a good idea to be so drawing attention to ourselves...

But somehow we made it. Leah is a student at Bryn Mawr College in the Western Suburbs of Philadelphia (in the town where Jessika was born on this day 21 years before), and dropping Leah off there was Matthew's principle reason to make this trip north.

We continued on to Jessika's house, arriving there as Johnny Boom Boom, Kevin Pervis, Morgan Anarchy, Peggy and John Hormone (another Malvernia chum) sat in a car doing that most usual Malvern thing, waiting for Jessika. They'd all just partaken in a little celebration of Jessika's birthday, complete with brownies and 21 year old champagne (saved through the decades for this very occasion).

At length, in two cars, we head into Philadelphia to visit Sara Poiron at an apartment occupied by a variety of mutual friends; all kids with wallet chains and alternative sentiments. Nothing too interesting happened there; Johnny Boom Boom and one of the guys eventually could be heard performing punk rock in the basement. They constitute a band called "the Shoulders" and Johnny Boom Boom sings, fairly was a pleasant surprise to discover. Meanwhile, Peggy drank much wine and became noticeably intoxicated.

We then went to another apartment, "the Warehouse" wherein lives Sara Poiron. It is sort of a squat, one might say, although I think it is more official than that. It features a big central room and little side rooms, all very dirty and grungy and cluttered. The most remarkable thing was the walls, which were covered with colourful, twisting, snarling oil paintings by one of the Warehouse's residents, a certain Justin. They were very...Punch Buggy Green (as I said at the time). The whole of the time, cats of various sizes and colours desported themselves across the floor. A fairly intoxicated Peggy hung out most of the time with some very tiny kittens. Aside from the interesting appearance of the place, there wasn't much to do except peruse some pornographic videotapes, which is something Matthew Hart and I, then a few others, did. The pornography featured one especially disgusting cum shot...yeachh....

Wednesday, October 16, 1996

Morgan, Matthew Hart and I slept upstairs in Peggy's house (48 Lloyd Street, Malvern PA). I was the first one up this morning, and as predicted by Peggy, her parents were eager to see to it that I had enough to eat. Peggy, Matthew and I had perogies, however that is spelled. They're little pockets, and these had cheese and mash taters in 'em.

When next we had something to do, we set out in Matthew's car to pick up Kevin Pervis at his house (also in or near Malvern). Kevin's house was big and very tidy, two adjectives that negate everything about little Kevin. On his room his Dad had hung a little note saying "no more smoking or lit candles in the house."

Kevin Pervis is a chain smoker. He smokes whenever he has a cigarette until he has no more. Then he bums cigarettes from others. His smoking today, on the long ride into Philadelphia, was especially obnoxious to me; I found myself sitting beside him and few were the breaks between his having a lit cigarette in his hand. His window wouldn't go down, and there was no way for me to have enough ventilation. All smokers, to a person, are extremely insensitive about the effects of their smoke on nonsmokers. But Kevin Pervis takes insensitivity to his usual extreme, and so the smoke kept coming at me, despite my coughing and sneezing. I felt a cold coming on, and at such times I loathe cigarettes and often the people who smoke them as well. "They're pawns, trapped by addiction, in the wicked clutches of corporations while they deceive themselves into thinking they are so alternative. But they're pathetic, mindless automatons, likely having started smoking in the first place as a transparent attempt at acceptance by a cold and heartless world." That sort of thing.

We went to South Street, the "Alternative" district in Philadelphia. It's patronized by punk rockers, and (to an increasingly lesser degree) by hippies. Most of the stores cater to the alternative elements. For example, there's a store dedicated to the things you put on your dick when you fuck people; it's called Condom Nation. Then there's Zipperhead and Philly Pizza Company (both immortalized by the Dead Milkmen in their song "Punk Rock Girl").

We left Morgan and Kevin to spare change people while we explored the shops. First off, we went into Zipperhead. One of the staff had a mohawk and looked tragically bored. The wares included all the necessary punk rock trappings: the spikes, the leather jackets, the vinyl, maybe not the boots though. In addition there were things for sadomasochists: leashes, Master/Slave collars, thumbcuffs. That sort of thing. And piercing stuff. And vinyl. Very punk rock. Too bad they're not mentioned in a Dead Kennedys song...

Then we went to the Philly Pizza Company and were served by a strangely detached ethnic counter girl. The pizza wasn't so great...

Morgan had no luck panhandling, for whatever reason. He was very annoyed (and he kept bringing it up), however, that some skater punk, a kid younger and much cleaner than himself, had had the gall to ask Morgan for money. This violated some kind of rule for Morgan; the rule is, apparently, that cleaner people are not supposed to ask dirtier people for money. And -maybe- younger people are never to ask older people for money (although that's a rule he frequently breaks himself). Truth be known, however, Morgan wasn't exactly born into a sewer and he is never really in any financial trouble. The same (and more) goes for Matthew Hart, of course. Yet, after the sudden departure of Kevin Pervis (to "the North," we all guessed), Matthew joined Morgan in spare changing people (in his own special way; accosting people humourously). This was an experience almost too ridiculous for the likes of me, so I wandered about elsewhere.

We remaining (Morgan, Matthew, Peggy and I) eventually went for a fairly long walk through the big buildings of Downtown Philadelphia, west down Chestnut Street to 20th street, upon which we found the "Wooden Shoe Anarchist Bookstore." The place was small, and mostly featured vinyl punk rock albums. Above the entrance a note pleaded with us not to steal, that the store was non-profit, staffed by volunteers, and that various other bookstores (a list was provided) were more worthy of pillage. I really didn't see much to command my interest there except some little zines, one with an article about the significance of the Unabomber's unabrow. I was pretty sleepy by this time.

Morgan had a little more luck spare changing on 21st street. But then it was time to head back to Matthew's car on South Street. Once there we drove around on a fruitless search for Kevin Pervis. But he had completely vanished, pathetically lifted off in the vortex of urges with which our companionship could not compete.

Back in Malvern, we went to a CVS so Morgan, resplendent in his mohawk, could get cigarettes. But the guy working the counter refused to sell to Morgan since he didn't have an ID (even though Morgan really is 18). So Peggy went to buy Morgan his cigarettes, and the guy who had refused Morgan's purchase stopped the counter lady midway in her sale to Peggy. An attempt by Matthew to buy cigarettes for Morgan was similarly aborted by the same guy, obviously by now a man with a mission. Meanwhile I snuck around in the back and stole 24 ounces of Tussin DM. One might say their distraction (which had been planned, to an extent) had worked...

Morgan, by the way, mostly smokes "GPC" cigarettes, which are the absolute cheapest there are. He says GPC stands for "Gutter Punk Cigarettes." Morgan smokes quite a lot- far more than Peggy but less than Kevin Pervis.

I was so sleepy that I took a long and restful nap back at Peggy's house while the others watched teevee, especially the Presidential Debate between Dole and Clinton. Too bad I missed it. We were waiting for Jessika to conclude a meal with her parents.

But when I got up from my nap, everyone, Matthew Hart especially, was in a bad mood. It seems Joanna and Forrest, who live in Malvern (and who have visited Charlottesville) were slow about coming over to visit us (as they'd apparently arranged) and Jessika had apparently vanished into ether after telling Matthew that she'd be coming over. Matthew had drunk a bunch of coffee and he was rather charged up. His legs were moving almost spasmodically as he sat watching teevee. I was a cool head though, since I was still groggy from sleeping.

And at about this time, here comes Johnny Boom Boom in his car, along with Turtle and Jessika. And soon thereafter, here comes Joanna and Forrest in their Westfalia. So everyone was happy. At this time Morgan Anarchy and I drank the tussin. Ten ounces for him, six for me. I downed mine in roughly three seconds (two ounces per second), while Morgan more or less prolonged his agony by swigging here and there and grimacing.

We didn't really know where else to go since were making way too much noise at Peggy's place for her parents' continued sleep. So we set off for Turtle's house, which is a very big rambling mansion somewhere in Malvernia. There we mostly hung out in the garage, amidst Turtle's impressive silkscreening equipment. The tussin had begun to kick in, so I was comfortable not being in the middle of the crowd all the time (the place I normally seek, I've been noticing). I also tried to escape the copious clouds of smoke that all the smokers were pumping out. So I sat at times on the back porch and chatted with Turtle and Matthew. Turtle and talked about some problems related to the Big Fun Glossary's appearance on the internet and how this had scared some prospective Upattinas Students' Parents (when they'd seen the Upattinas entry). I explained to Turtle how, as a favour to the frazzled administration of Upattinas, I'd submitted Updatings' Official homepage to AltaVista and other search engines so it would appear above the glossary in the results of an Upattinas search. This led to a conversation about computers, with Turtle going off on an unlikely scheme for getting free money via the internet. It never ceases to annoy me when people bring up the "changing bank balances" idea when discussing computer hacking and know-how with me. Robbing banks with a goddamn pistol is so much easier and satisfying...

As the tussin kicked in, I amused myself by sketching Johnny Boom Boom and Jessika talking to one another. Neither, especially Johnny, seemed to be having a very good time.

Turtle had fired up the Whirlpool hot tub in the back, and once it was sufficiently warm, I stripped down naked, danced around shouting "I'm naked!" and then climbed in. It was just a little too hot, you see, but I was on tussin (which normally makes me feel overly cold) so I was pleased. Morgan climbed in next, then Joanna and Forrest. At some point we smoked a little bit of pot.

The Whirlpool was lit from below by a crazy light that danced green amongst the bubbles that, bursting to the surface in intermittent waves, sounded to my tussin-affected ears like the roaring of space ship engines. My companions and I looked unnatural in the weird dancing green light glinting off our wet nakedness. To my tussin-affected psyche, we were aliens on an alien world, where things are utterly unlike things on the terrestrial plane. To Morgan, we were all nuggets being baked within an enormous angel-food cake. I tried to talk every now and then, but quickly realized anything I was saying was hopelessly meaningless. Whatever was in my mind was utterly impossible to voice. I came to feel that I'd fucked up royally somehow though, that this Tussin adventure was leaving my reputation horribly scarred.

When, like a salamander, I squirmed from the pot in which I was being cooked, I lay prostrate on the concrete slab nearby and felt utterly and hopelessly weak. I lay there simply taking into my body what coldness the world had to offer. Periodically, though, Forrest threw a cup of hot water on me, and for a moment I felt like I was under a cozy warm blanket. But then the blanket would disappear.

Turtle appeared at some point and said that Jessika and Johnny Boom Boom was leaving. I was all confused from the Tussin and understood this to mean that Matthew Hart (and all possible rides) were leaving. So I stood up from the pool and considered running (naked, mind you) after the departing car. But then I heard Matthew Hart's reassuring voice and I knew all was well. Of course, he and I had both actually come with Forrest and Joanna. But Matthew Hart stood as some sort of essential symbol of my connectedness to things beyond this experience and his presence was critical.

Of course, the whole time Matthew was depressingly sober. He can't drink tussin because he cannot keep it down. And he had no alcohol. So all he could do was watch in envy as Morgan and I tussed.

We were delivered back to Peggy's house and I climbed into bed. But there was no way for me to start sleeping. In fact, the core of my tussin experience had yet to pass through. For some reason it was far stronger than any I have had before (on equal six ounce doses, mind you) and I came to wonder if the recipe for CVS tussin had been changed recently. I was at times gripped with almost complete panic, so much so that I felt I would scream or explode or something. Then other times the waves would pass and I would watch hallucinations such as little black sticks with black balls on their ends turning end over end in harmony, simultaneously, throughout an eerie space. Voices featured strange little washed out tones tacked on to the ends of words. It seemed all too intense for me to survive. In a way I simply hoped for death, or more happily sleep. The ordeal was completely overpowering in a way I have not experienced since eating 2.5 grams of Psilocybe mushrooms in April, 1987.

As I came down fairly rapidly from the tussin, I chatted with Matthew about a friend and companion, named Mud, he'd met while living the dirty existence on "the road" in New Orleans. Mud was a sort of gutter punk, I suppose, though he'd had three years of college and was well versed in the ways of the world.

Like many in the gutter-life subculture, Mud had no serious appreciation for the value of his own life. For example, one day when some tough guy threatened to beat him up, Mud said the guy was probably too much of a pussy. So the guy hit Mud right in the face. "Ha!" Mud scorned, "Can't you hit any harder than that?" So the guy hit Mud again. And again. Maybe eight times in total. Mud was disgusted, grabbed his things and shouted to Matthew over his shoulder, "Come on Matthew, let's find someone who doesn't punch like a girl."

Mud was full of innovative means of securing money. One was to pierce his lip repeatedly with a safety pin as a street spectacle. When offered money if he'd only stop, he'd continue anyway until the big money rolled out, since he enjoyed piercing himself. Matthew was entrusted with all the money collected, since Mud preferred not worry himself about such meaningless details.

Inevitably, as always happens with interesting people, Mud and Matthew would eventually find themselves in the company of someone they did not like. The solution? Mud called it "the Jane Fonda Workout." It involved walking slowly around a corner and then busting into a sprint until escape had been achieved. Sometimes the person so escaped would be re-encountered later, necessitating another installment of "The Jane Fonda Workout." "It was amazing how clueless they were." Matthew said.

Read some more tales of tussin.

Thursday, October 17, 1996

Matthew had taken off to go hang out with Leah at Bryn Mawr and Peggy soon left to go hang out with Joanna. That left me with Morgan and my hangover (my first ever tussin hangover!) to -I don't know- watch teevee. I'd been with someone for several days now. But I'm essentially a loner, and I needed to get away. So I walked into Malvern, periodically reading excerpts from Peggy's copy of Farrell's Laughing Friends Deride. On the streets of Malvern a gentleman handed me a religious tract, perhaps because I was wearing my shirt backwards (I'd put it on while on Tussin the night before). I ended up on the hammock behind Jessika's house, where I fell asleep.

Jessika came home from a mission of getting a Pennsylvania ID (not a drivers license). It had proved much easier to secure than a Virginia ID. So Jessika remains a Pennsylvanian. She and I hung out in her house, drawing. She illustrated a nice little twisted scene from the innards of a whore house. I drew an illustration for the most famous signature song by that most unknown Philadelphia punk band, Two Point Five Children. One of the lines in the song (bearing the idealistically naive stamp of the then-twelve-year-old who composed it) goes "2.5 children and two cars in your garage, your life dreams are just a mirage." I drew two round cheeked children and an unfortunate extra of whom only one half (going to the bilateral divide) remains, along with (in the background) a garage in which two cars are rudely stacked akimbo.

We went for a walk downtown and ended up at a little pizza place which also sells beer. This was to be Jessika's first ever experience of drinking in a public place legally. You see, for the first time ever she was in possession of an ID that proclaimed her age to be in excess of 21 years. A little Greek guy works at the pizza place; he has short little arms and obviously likes girls, even alterna-chicks like Jessika. He was very pleased to see her, and after giving us our two Budweisers and french fries subtly for free, came and sat and chatted with us. Not us, just Jessika. It was a real bore, let me tell you. He kept asking her dumb questions about her zillions of bracelets and the nose ring and what she's doing with her life and what she'd doing infinitum boritimus extrimus nauseum. She, of course, was willing to talk to him for as long as he was willing to talk to her, which was forever. I felt myself being very annoyed at this boring distraction, but I couldn't do anything because I was drinking beer that I hadn't paid for. My solution? Weirdness. When next he said anything to me (an accident, I guess) I started telling him how I liked to drink a lot of alcohol and then drive. I also proclaimed "Heavy Metal!", shot a hesher salute into the air, and banged my head to crunchy power cords that I intoned, "Jchaaahh, Jchaaahh, Jchk Jchk, Jchaaahh Jchaaahh Jchaaahh!" He more or less left us alone after that. Jessika had told me that the guy is "slimy" but that she had taken him to Angela's back when it existed.

At Jessika's house, I started watching teevee, but I fell asleep until Sara Poiron and Morgan Anarchy came by, the former having taken the train from Philadelphia and the latter...well I don't know.

We walked back into downtown Malvern across the bridge over the tracks (Jessika lives on the wrong side of the tracks) and got some beer for Morgan at the Pizza place where the slimy Greek guy works. Then, at the Wa Wa, we came upon Johnny Boom Boom and Kevin Pervis, the last somehow having survived being abandoned in Philadelphia the day before. They were off to Johnny's place and Johnny didn't want Jessika tagging along. But Morgan joined them...

Peggy arrived in her mother's car and soon the Malvern Girls: Peggy, Jessika and Sara; and I were off to have our first ever legal (more or less) bar hopping spree.

The first place didn't lead to any drinking; it was the King Bridge Bar. When we walked in, the Malvern Girls constituted the only females in the place. That in and of itself should have made the barkeep pleased. But he was hardnosed. Peggy's not "having" an ID meant she couldn't be in the bar at all. And if that was the place, we weren't going to stay. So we drove, first to a place with a blues band (we weren't about to pay a cover charge) then to King of Prussia where we ended up at a TGI Fridays at closing time. So we went to another place, I don't know what the name of it was, and sat down.

The waiter we got was like a skinny little game show host. He had an extremely fake intonation pattern that none of us could warm up to. It was a little like Sara Poiron's infamous telephone voice (a playfully official voice that Sara Poiron uses when conversing with strangers on the phone). All of us, except for Peggy, ordered Margaritas. Peggy was a little gunshy about her lack of an appropriate ID. But our waiter didn't ask for any IDs at all, so in the end she ordered a shot of tequila. I was so NOT DRUNK from my margarita that I ordered a Long Island Ice Tea. But that had little additional effect. The bill: $30 (including tip). And none of us were even remotely intoxicated. This was a phenomenon I'd always been aware of, that to buy a bottle and to drink it at home is the only affordable way to drink alcohol. The "adult" way to drink, at bars on a weekend night, leads to an emptied wallet and an easily passed breath-a-lizer test should the cops pull you over on the way home.

This large texts replaces a paragraph that threatened to get Sara Poiron evicted from her house in Philadelphia in January of 1997. Her e-mail begging that I remove this paragraph is entertaining and provides information about new forms of dextromethorphan consumption.

When I was awaken for the ride back to Peggy house for my last night in Malvernia, Morgan had a cigarette in his mouth. But now I found my window wouldn't role down and no one else bothered to roll their window down either. The air became appalling bad and I suffered greatly, but no one noticed since I was the only non-smoker. The others like to drink polluted air. Fresh air doesn't have the drugs...

I was forced to sleep in a different room in Peggy's house due to Morgan's continued smoking.

Friday, October 18, 1996

Matthew came back from having spent the night at Shira's house. He came bearing many alarming stories. We departed for Charlottesville soon thereafter.

Matthew and I discussed heroin culture at great length on the way. With his repeated connections to Philadelphia of late, Matthew has become sort of an expert on the subject of the heroin market. He takes a sociological interest in the matter.

Traffic was badly congested in numerous places on the way home: on 695 around Baltimore, on 495 around DC, and on all roads south of DC. Thunderstorms and high winds raked us with ever-intensifying fury as we headed south. But we made it back to Charlottesville unscathed. Matthew continued on to his mother's place in Staunton and I went to bed in preparation for my shift at Comet scheduled for 1am Saturday morning.

October 19th entry

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