Towards a Gay Science
In these dim times when the pettiness and Puritanism of our culture is daily splashed across TV screens and newspapers around the world, when the political questions of the day center around an adolescent version of sexuality and its alleged moral repercussions, and when high matters of state will be decided on the words of bimbos, eunuchs, and agents provocateurs--perhaps the best tonic and antidote against the weariness and cynicism that such spectacles bring on is a draught of thought that does not wilt in the face of humankind’s foolishness: i.e. that of Friedrich Nietzsche, to whom this special birthday edition is dedicated.
In the late 19th century, Nietzsche recognized, as did few others, the coming dangers of 20th century mass culture and the "herd mentality." He also saw that science itself, far from being neutral and "pure" research, was filled with the biases of the times. Today, this combination of the sciences with mass culture, and in particular, the human sciences--psychology, sociology, market research, economics, political science, etc--has produced a situation which might best be called "statistical reality." In this version of "reality," public opinion polls, sales figures, Nielsen ratings, box-office returns, psychological tests, student achievement tests, FBI crime rates--all the mountains of statistical data that our social institutions can amass--are taken as the only valid index of what is valuable, worthwhile, and the truth.
Of course, as any gambler knows, the odds are there to be beaten; a gambler doesn’t believe in the odds, but only in Luck. It is likewise with opinion polls and every other social statistic--who of us wants to believe in our own predictability? Who wants to be so easily categorized? And yet statistical groupthink is now the engine, the dynamo, of our culture. So where then does the individual stand among all this statistical quicksand, this institutionalized "herd mentality?" Where can one turn for comfort when the world seems to be ruled by a Wonder Bread blandness?
Nietzsche argued for a philosophical lightheartedness--a "gay science"--to counter the heavy morality and hypocrisy of his day. Today the need for such a philosophy is even more acute--especially when the world overflows with canned laughter, forced hilarity, the guffaws of morons, the tittering of the milquetoast masses and prudes-at-heart. So throughout this issue, as a celebration of Nietzsche’s birthday and of all thought with the power to disturb the Kozy Konsensus Reality, we have reprinted excerpts of Nietzsche’s work--Here’s to good company, and fresh air, a gay, lighthearted science!
October 1998 Nietzsche Birthday Issue
Don’t Be Square—
The Secret’s in the Slant
In This Issue:
Words of Wisdom from
The Butter Network:
Download PDF of Entire Print Issue
By Carl Watson
“Reality has been deprived of it’s value, its meaning, it’s veracity, to the same degree as an ideal world has been fabricated.”
--Nietzsche, Ecce Homo
I think Bill Clinton and Ken Starr should just slug it out and get it over with. It would make more sense, the results would be just as arbitrary, and it would save tax dollars that could be used to feed the world’s poor. It could even become the wave of the future. I can see it, Ken Starr and Bill Clinton strutting to the ropes in silk robes that advertise the moral category in whose service they have taken up the art of pugilism: Puritan Righteousness vs. Liberal Decadence, for instance. They could even adopt WWF wrestling monikers. Imagine Howard Cosell at ringside: "Now in the left corner, from the state of Arkansas, fighting for the Moral Majority is The Incredible Prosecutor. In the Right Corner, also from the state of Arkansas, fighting for the Liberal Elite is ever elusive Slick Willie Bill." And while Europe laughed from afar, we could suck their entertainment dollars like a vacuum cleaner hose in a trough of old money. Hell they might even imitate us. Kohl and Shroeder could pull on rubber Steve McQueen and Gene Hackman masks and race thru the streets of Berlin to see whether Social Democrats should prevail over Centrists.
Does anybody still believe in Reality? If Nietzsche’s division of a "real" and "fabricated" universe seems quaint to us in the light of our postmodern hyper-nonsense, we must remember that he lived in an age before TV. Personally, I need the fabricated world. I like the discipline. It works like a camera lens to make something coherent out of what is otherwise ridiculous. And since cynicism is my umbilical cord to the masses and since the only true politics for the cynic are the Politique Noir, I’ll call the following treatment "The Dreams of Steve Dunleavy." And I hope to make some money off it. Think Raymond Chandler meets John Grisham by way of Jim Thompson with a touch of Orson Welles.
It is a dark and desperate night. The mini-cam of my mind moves through the Holland Tunnel to Jersey City, searching out degradation and sleaze. We see a flashing neon motel sign on a side road off the turnpike. We enter one of the doors to find New York Post journalists Steve Dunleavy and Andrea Peyser in bed together. Empty liquor and pill bottles litter the floor, tell-tale underwear and semen-stained copies of the New Republic. Apparently, disgusted with their lives as pawns to some passive/aggressive editorial dictate, these lonely journalists sought comfort in each others arms, mouthing bittersweet words of intolerance through the dark of their op-ed night. Perhaps an underage nymphet lays bound and naked in the corner, where they spent hours abusing her for her low moral standards.
While our lustful pundits sleep off their hangovers, the TV picture rolls on like a high-tech prayer wheel. Somehow the remote control got wedged between an upset hi-ball glass and the lampstand, and now the room is illuminated with a television strobe of constantly switching channels. It’s the usual fare--a veritable parade of sorrows, scandals, atrocities and victimage, each one lasting but a second, each one more prurient than anything the NEA might condemn.
The room smells bitter. Above the sound of cars passing on the turnpike outside we hear the echo of obsessively repeated phrases like, "fondled her breasts...savagely raped ...bloody pulp...pubic hairs on his coke...penis, semen, genitals, genitals, semen, penis." Anchormen and anchorwomen snicker on every channel.
A time traveler from the fifties might think they had stumbled on an advertisement for one of those men’s magazines, Argosy or Man’s World or True Crime. It’s not but it works the same way, exciting the most frigid and impotent of conservatives, which no doubt is why Steve and Andrea tuned-in in the first place, hoping to tickle some long dormant neurons.
In a perfect world one might hope my motel room fantasy would remain static, entrapping its participants in a freeze frame from which they could never escape back into public life. But wait! There’s more. Mrs. Peyser, who is having a dream of raw animal sex in an Indiana marsh, with a young virile Dan Quayle, rolls over in a throe of ecstasy, her flailing arm knocks the remote off the table and the television comes to a screeching halt on Channel XXX. It’s a rerun of "Seventh Heaven"--a much heralded show about Family Values.
The matriarch of said show, Mrs. Seventh Heaven herself, a sort of Mary Tyler Moore look-alike in a middle-American wig, has become famous the world over for her rubbery face, a face that seems to be a veritable fount of Christian sorrow. People tune in each week not only for the worthwhile moral lessons, but to imitate and practice her catalog of expressions, hoping thereby to find jobs in our complex world where an affectation of engagement can often help.
I say affected because, on closer examination, beneath her thin skin one can see the thespian cogs of fabricated emotion churning out the painful facial acrobatics which will sell the prime time ad space that keeps her existence credible. Truth is, she has to act that way or she will die. Critics say they’ve never seen so much raw concern and caring in their life. But critics lie. Ratings climb, but Steve and Andrea aren’t paying attention. Bitter and unsatisfied, they just don’t care.
Meanwhile a homeless bag lady in Times square is watching the Clinton tapes on Sony Vision. She used to be a performance artist. She used to hang out in East Village bars and tell people her life was a pastiche of bad juxtapositions. She used to do a lot of things. But Passive Reflexivity and the wanton State of Decay finally got the best of her. In order to pay her exorbitant rent, she took a job working in the Envy factory right beside everybody else.
One day she received a paycheck from an unknown employer. It was wrapped in a note that said, "Congratulations, you ruined another life." She had no idea who it was talking about. The next day she got fired for faking enthusiasm. Before she knew it she’d lost her home due to some unpaid debt she owed the fictional universe. She joined the hordes of the aging and alienated. The check was barely enough money to pay her on-line bill. Now here she is getting her information in Times Square and the cops are giving her a hard time
Who are these people? Are they trying to trick us into believing the physical world still exists. Is there some kind of conspiracy going on here? Oliver Stone is looking into it. JFK, Nixon, etc. These are the New Classics. Clinton at least will be the first president in history to have two major movies made about his presidency while he was still in office. Primary Colors and Wag the Dog. The tapes make three. And there will be more before he’s done. It’s entertainment. There may be some lingering question here is whether his presidency lives up to the fictional expectations placed on it, but that’s besides the point.
Meanwhile, back in Jersey City, Steve Dunleavy wakes up. Having failed to achieve orgasmic bliss with his fellow conservative, he begins to pleasure himself as he watches a commercial on TV about pork: "the other white meat." The commercial is scored with Mozart’s inspired overture to Figaro. The symbolic import is not lost on Mr. Dunleavy, as he draws the necessary links between political patronage, white meat and an 18th century opera pitting servant’s against nobles. Dunleavy chuckles with rising pleasure over the irony. Finally the thought of Wolfgang rolling over in a pauper’s grave is just too erotic, and Steve blows his wad into the motel sheets and thanks the Little Death for soothing his nerves.
But the dead themselves know only commotion, as cemeteries everywhere begin to resemble rolling green seas of anger and resentment, as composers and artists alike roll over in their graves. Beethoven of course, Vivaldi and John Lennon regret the use to which their music has been put. Even Steppenwolf’s "Born to be Wild" was used to sell Datsun Trucks. And who can forget Nietzsche’s one-time friend Wagner, whose triumphant "Ride of the Valkyries" has become a worldwide staple of cartoon chase scenes. Steve doesn’t care about appropriation though--the Valkyries were a tribe of dykes, anyway. Wagner was a Nazi. And Steppenwolf was a bunch of free love hippies. Come to think of it Mozart himself was a libertine and a profligate drunk. They deserved to be ill-remembered. Then the pain pills kick in and the last thing he does is to recite a few lines of Shakespeare: "All the world’s a stage and we are but poor players who strut our stuff, all sound and fury signifying blah, blah, blah." He falls back to sleep and dreams of a simpler world where all moral positions are reduced to platitudes.
In the dreams of Steve Dunleavy ancient arguments are often superimposed over scenes from old classic movies. This time it’s Nietzsche contra Wagner in Night of the Hunter in which a mutant Robert Mitchum, unable to spell, and with six fingers on each hand, acts out a confrontation of philosophical forces before a young blond boy who symbolizes pre-world-war Germany, a proto-fascistic time not unlike our own.
"Listen and I’ll tell you the story of right hand, left hand. The Left Hand of Pompous Individualism and German Self-Hate. It is this hand, brothers, that laid low the Semites. The Right Hand, the hand of German Nationalism and Romantic Grandeur. It has veins that go deep into the soul of man. These hands are always a fussin’ and a fightin’ and it seems like Self-Hate is a winnin’. But wait, Hot Dog! It’s Romanticism that’s won. Yes indeed, Dear Hearts.
We’ve come to the point in the article now where I can say anything I want because you’re probably not reading it anymore. There’s no transition. Steve’s passed out. Andrea had her moment. You’re probably figuring out how to categorize your personality to take advantage of some prime demographic.
If Nietzsche were alive today would he bemoan the depths to which democracy has sunk? Would he say I told you so? But then again if he were alive today, would he be important? Sickly pompous opinionated fools are a dime a dozen. And besides nobody reads. Some believe Nietzsche argued for an aristocratic class to maintain values. Others might say he had no use for idealism at all. In Ecce Homo he wrote, "I do not refute ideals, I merely draw on gloves in their presence." Back in Guliani’s Times Square, the protectors of today’s idealism also draw on gloves, latex gloves on the hands of the cops with the Micky Mouse Masks, who search the body cavities of the homeless for contraband. Anyway, my 1500 words are up. This was supposed to be funny. But I guess I blew it.
Carl Watson is a writer and philosopher. His books include Beneath the Empire of the Birds, Bricolage ex Machina, and hotel des actes irrovocables.
Dachau, 1998—photo: Ando Arike
Working for a Living:
Curse or Tragedy?
By Turk Studzel
In Dachau last November, at what’s left of the infamous concentration camp, I saw first-hand the motto on the wrought iron gates that greeted inmates here and at Auschwitz: ARBEIT MACHT FREI—"work will set you free." Now a memorial to those who perished there, the camp was pervaded by an eerie stillness, as though the very soil were still shocked by the atrocities that took place on this ground, but not far from the gates, almost across the street, modern life went on in its busy way in the form of a shiny new shopping mall and, yes, believe it or not, a Dachau McDonald’s.
Despite its ghastly incongruity, somehow this strange juxtaposition of architectures and human activities suddenly made sense to me--as epitomizing the 20th century—the motto "ARBEIT MACHT FREI," in particular. Work, shopping malls, war, concentration camps, and McDonald’s: aren’t these all related facets of a social and technological machine—call it the Planetary Work Machine—gone on a grim and pleasureless spree of self-flagellation?
Nietzsche writes: "Behind the glorification of ‘work’ and the tireless talk of the ‘blessings of work’ I find the same thought as behind the praise of impersonal activity for the public benefit: the fear of everything individual. At bottom, one now feels when confronted with work—and what is invariably meant is relentless industry from early till late—that such work is the best police, that it keeps everybody in harness and powerfully obstructs the development of reason, of covetousness, of the desire for independence. For it uses up a tremendous amount of nervous energy and takes it away from reflection, brooding, dreaming, worry, love, and hatred; it always sets a small goal before one’s eyes and permits easy and regular satisfactions. In that way a society in which the members continually work hard will have more security: and security is adored as the supreme goddess..." (The Dawn).
One wonders: hasn’t the promise of technology always been that we would work less and have more and more time for leisure, or art, or play? Think of the phrase "labor-saving technology." With so much of this stuff around, why is it that now, when technology has begun to think for itself, and when every facet of life is technologized—why is it that we must work more hours than ever to stay even? So-called "primitive" peoples—hunters and gatherers, for instance—are said to have worked but twenty hours per week. Of course, they didn’t have televisions, or computers, or refrigerators, or cars, but who are we to call them primitive, given their healthy attitude towards working? I would certainly call these people advanced.
Nevertheless, the machine, The Planetary Work Machine, goes on consolidating itself, bringing new tribes, new peoples, new nations into its fold—the so-called U.S. "victory" over the Soviet Union is a case in point: wage-slave capitalism wins out over Communism. Yes, everybody is happy now! Just ask the Russians or the Eastern Europeans. They’ve got McDonald’s now in all their major cities.
ARBEIT MACHT FREI—yeah, you bet! Work will set you free! Isn’t it strange how a contradiction in terms can become the rallying cry for an entire civilization?
photo: Alex Oliveros
Yuppie Go Home?
by Kevin Kosar
It was all of six weeks or so ago when the spray-painted words, "Yuppie Go Home" began appearing all over the Northside. I recall asking myself, "What the hell is that all about?" Over the next week I made it a point to ask folks in the bars and shops I frequent whether they knew what this was all about. The answer I got was uniform: Williamsburg, and especially the Northside, is changing. It used to be a real dump and now there are a lot of people who can't afford to live in the Village coming over here looking for places to live. Sounds right to me.
Well, shortly after the graffiti appeared, manifestos written by the New York Psychogeographical Association were slapped up everywhere on the Northside--on business windows, on mailboxes, phone polls--EVERYWHERE. Upon reading these one gets the feeling that Armageddon cometh, that it's time to board up the windows, arm yourself to the teeth, and get ready to do battle with the fiends who are infiltrating our idyllic town. The invaders' aim is nothing short of evil: to eradicate the low-income residents, to drive out les miserables, to create an all-white and wealthy Aryan kingdom.
Who then, are these devils? Why they're the Yuppies! The young urban professionals! And why are they aiming to do this? Well, quite simply, says the New York Psychogeographical Association, because they are mean, elitist, racist people. I won't bother to take up the very debatable assertion that yuppies are by definition racists and elitists. Instead, I'll let that one lie and ask a more fundamental question: is Williamsburg being overrun by yuppies?
To answer this, why not take a moment to get a grip on what we mean by the term 'yuppie.' As I understand it, a yuppie is a nouveau riche or soon to be wealthy young, white person who possesses a college education which has enabled him or her to obtain a high-paying, white collar position, often in the financial services. The direct descendants of George Babbit (Babbitt: a type of conventional American businessman, ambitious in his business, but otherwise provincial, mediocre, and smug, named after the title character in Sinclair Lewis' 1922 novel, Babbit), they are nervous around non-whites, they have crude tastes, and they enjoy spending money on trendy consumer goods. The picture that comes to mind is of a guy named Skip and a gal named Peaches, wearing matching collegiate sweatshirts, wearing Gucci shoes, gabbing loudly on cell phones to friends named Chet and Allie, and driving about in their $30,000 sports utility vehicle.
The taxonomy delineated, now let us ask ourselves a basic question: do we see these people in Williamsburg? If so, are there lots of them? In my experience, which includes wandering the streets at all hours, and from the experience of those who I've chatted with, nobody knows anyone of this description who lives in Williamsburg. Moreover, only on the rarest occasion has anyone spotted a yuppie. Indeed, I myself have even gone looking for yuppies in the place you think they would most likely frequent: the streets and subways during weekday rush hours. My findings: NO YUPPIES. There are lots of people of different ages and races who appear to be schlepping off to Manhattan for low paying jobs, nose-ring sporting artists, and immigrants of all stripes--but NOBODY wearing suits, or even ties, and certainly nobody carrying briefcases or screaming into cell phones, "sell, sell, sell!"
In short, what we have here is non-existent yuppies being called the moral equivalents of Hitler and being told to go home or just go away from Williamsburg (NIMBY?). Most strange. As for the talk of the evils the yuppies are wreaking, well, it's hard to see how their dastardly plots can be hatched if they aren't here.
Now, in light of this empirical fact, one wonders, "Why are non-existent yuppies being blamed for problems they haven't caused, or perhaps, problems that don't exist?" Perhaps it's a case of what Nietzsche called ressentiment, the habit of those who feel helpless about their situation to cook up phantasms to explain them and to strike moral poses against them (See Beyond Good & Evil and The Antichrist). Who knows.
I can hear the voices already clamoring, "But it is a fact that rents are rising!" Yes, yes indeed, it is a brute fact that rents are going up dramatically. However, this is not BECAUSE of yuppies. It is quite simply a matter of increased demand for apartments being recognized by Williamsburg's landlords. More clearly, there are lots of folks like me (young, making over $15,000 a year- barely)who want to live in Williamsburg. Neither I nor they are yuppies, far from it. However, by virtue of our demand and landlords recognizing that we are willing and able to pay $700 or $900 for places they used to rent for $300, rents rise. Indeed, if there is anyone to demonize, it is not those who find Williamsburg charming and want to live here, it is the landlords who have decided that because they CAN charge higher rents, they SHALL.
That said, one can only hope that all the "yuppie go home" hubbub and the desecration of private and public property by the self-appointed defenders of the neighborhood will end. Their hearts are in the right place, but they've misconstrued the shift in the market for apartments as a hostile invasion. And from what I hear from chats with my neighbors, it's not much appreciated by Williamsburg denizens old and new.
by Eric Redlinger
When WBO contributor Bill-Not-Bored plastered his original pseudo-philosophical discourse on the essentially homeless ontology of "yuppiedom": Yuppies Can’t Go Home (see WBO issue #2) on myriad flat surfaces of Williamsburg, he cannot possibly have anticipated the overwhelming multi-cultural response his oeuvre would subsequently provoke. In fact, the development has been as amusing as it has been revealing:
First, there was the expected version in Spanish presumably posted at the same time as the English original or shortly thereafter. Since the Latin community of Williamsburg represents the largest single ethnic group to be directly effected by the current gentrifying push this was a logical extension. Hot on the heels of the Spanish edition, however, was the Polish version, posted with similar tenacity to the copious boarded-up storefronts and construction fences which pepper the Bedford Northside. Some areas sported all three versions side by side, along with accompanying commentaries added by numerous sidewalk critics.
Last week, while schlepping my bike up the miles of recently added stairs on the Williamsburg Bridge, I was surprised to see two further additions to this increasingly multinational debate: translations in both French ("Yuppies ne peuvent pas rentrer chez eux") and German ("Yuppies koennen nicht nach Hause gehen")! Now, let’s stop to consider this for a moment: translation is a time consuming and onerous task. Yet someone felt the need to invest his/her valuable time in the clarifying service of a message that was itself a work of satire for the sole consumption of hitherto unknown cultural niches?
Moral: next time you write your Brooklyn address on a mailing list or post card consider including alternatives such as "Chateau Guillaume" or "Willhelmsburg." You never know who you might be in/excluding...
Addendum: rumor whispers of a Yiddish version of Yuppies Can’t Go Home which the editorial staff has as of yet been unable to track down. Anyone who had the foresight to grab one of these and is willing to mail it to us will earn our sincere thanks. -ed.
For, believe me, the secret of the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment of existence is: to live dangerously! Build your cities under Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas! Live at war with your peers and others! Be robbers and conquerors, as long as you cannot be rulers and owners, you lovers of knowledge! Soon the age will be past when you could be satisfied to live like shy deer, hidden in the woods! At long last the pursuit of knowledge will reach out for its due: it will want to rule and own, and you with it!
--The Gay Science
Man would sooner have the void for his purpose than be void of purpose....
--The Genealogy of Morals
We no longer esteem ourselves sufficiently when we communicate ourselves. Our true experiences are not at all garrulous. They could not communicate themselves if they tried. That is because they lack the right word. Whatever we have words for, we have already got beyond. In all talk there is a grain of contempt. Language, it seems, was invented only for what is average, medium, communicable. With language the speaker immediately vulgarizes himself. Out of a morality for deaf-mutes and other philosophers.
--Twilight of the Idols
If there is to be art, if there is to be any aesthetic doing and seeing, one physiological condition is indispensable: frenzy.
--Twilight of the Idols
Our highest insights must--and should--sound like follies and sometimes like crimes when they are heard without permission by those who are not predisposed and predestined for them.
--Beyond Good and Evil
All seeing is essentially perspective, and so is all knowing.
--The Genealogy of Morals
One thing is needful. "Giving style" to one’s character--a great and rare art! It is exercised by those who see all the strengths and weaknesses of their own natures and then comprehend them in an artistic plan until everything appears as art and reason and even weakness delights the eye...
--The Gay Science
TRASH GODDESS OF BERRY STREET
By Tsaurah Litsky
...an ongoing romance in which our heroine, an aspiring pornographer,
searches for true love in the bars and byways of Newe Williamsburg...
In our last installment, Teara meets her sister, the dominatrix Binky Bodice for Happy Hour at the Right Bank. Binky is accompanied by her slave, Backwards Dogood III, dressed in a Dalmatian suit in his role as Binky's canine pet, Rover. Teara tells Binky of the strange phone call she received mentioning a rabbit-shaped dildo. Binky tells Teara about the rabbit-shaped dildo and the missing designer of that rabbit-shaped dildo, Hans Handerson. Teara suspects that Olaf and Hans are one and the same. Binky also tells Teara about the benefits of a tongue piercing and Teara decides to get one. Then, many champagnes later, Teara, Binky and Rover repair to the men's bathroom, the women's being occupied, and indulge in a sex scene so bizarre that Teara wishes she had written it.... When the tawdry threesome emerge from the men's room, Olaf, wearing a white rabbit suit is waiting outside. He grabs Teara up in his arms....
"Feta, Feta, oh my beautiful Feta," Olaf moaned as he pressed Teara's face to his chest. Teara couldn't breathe, her nose pressed so tightly into Olaf’s chest that the acrylic fibers of the bunny suit were mingling with her nostril hair, a deeply unpleasant sensation. She tried to grab Olaf's shoulders and pull her herself up, hoping she would find breathing space around his neck but he must have mistaken the pressure of her hands on his shoulders for a sign of passion for he only grasped her tighter. "Oh my little Feta, you are light as a feather," he crooned. Binky, who with Rover, had preceded Teara out of the men's room, turned to see her dear sister struggling in the embrace of a big bunny.
"Who do you think you are, Mr. Wacky Wabbit," she said, "put my sister down this minute." When Olaf did not comply, so enthralled was he in embracing his sweetheart, Binky prodded Rover in the posterior with the sharp toe of her stiletto shoe. "Go get him boy, sic him Rover, earn your Alpo," she yelled. Rover complied. On all fours, he darted between Olafs' legs and bit him not at all gently on the nuts.
Olaf let out a mighty roar, worthy of the famed Swedish Lion Ingmar Bergerman, and dropped Teara (no lightweight, our Teara) who landed with a resounding thud on the barroom floor. This is not the first time I have been dropped on my ass on a bar room floor, thought Teara, but I pray to the ghost of Greta Garbo that it will be the last. The patrons of the Right Bank, attracted, no doubt by Olaf's mighty shout gathered round.
Binky knelt by Teara. "Oh sis," she cried, "are you all right? And who is this wacked out white wabbit?"
Teara looked up into the concerned faces of her sister and her friends. She struggled to regain her breath. "That's no wacked out wabbit," she said, "that's my lover of last night, Olaf of the Strong Back, my Nordic knife, and from what you told me earlier Binky darling, I suspect that he is really the famous vanished dildo designer, Hans Handerson."
The beautiful E.K., who had come out from behind the bar to join the curious, chimed in, "Just imagine, a famous dildo designer in our midst.."
"I'd like to be in your midst," wisecracked Pedro, the portrait painter from Poland. To pay him back for this crude remark, E.K. aptly snapped him in the nose with her bar rag.
"Well," said Binky, there is only one way to find out." With a swift motion of her hand she peeled back the hood with two droopy rabbit ears that covered the top of Olaf's head. His long mane of dirty blonde hair fell to his waist. "It is Hans Handerson," Binky exclaimed, "he looks exactly like his pictures."
"It is obvious to me," Binky said, now addressing Olaf/Hans, "that you are the world famous dildo designer Hans Handerson, unless--and it seems highly unlikely--you are his twin brother, why did you tell my trusting sister Teara that your name is Olaf?"
"And why," Teara interjected," are you wearing that silly bunny suit?"
Olaf/Hans looked at Binky blankly. "H-h-h-h-hands," he stuttered, "the only hands I know are these," and he held his big hands, covered in their bunny mittens out for all to see. Then his gaze fell tenderly on Teara. "Feta, Feta, my little feather," he told her," I am wearing this suit because of my knob."
"Your knob?" Teara asked incredulously, looking at the hefty protruberance visible between Olaf/Hans's legs even beneath the heavy folds of the rabbit suit.
"Your knob?'" echoed the puzzled denizens of the Right Bank. following Teara's gaze down between Olaf/Hans' legs.
"No,n-n-n-no," he stuttered, looking down at himself, the "knob " seeming to grow larger and larger under the mass scrutiny. Embarrassed, Olaf/Hans looked away. "I mean my f-f-f-fob, I m-m-m-mean my job, my job as day security guard at Driggs Avenue Dress-Up-Gorgeous Costumes for All Occasions.”
The room became so still you could hear a diaper drop; everyone in the neighborhood knew that Driggs Avenue Dress-Up was a front for a sinister gang of middle European midgets, the Mazurka, notorious smugglers of candied kielbasa. The shocked silence was suddenly broken by the sound of a tambourine. A huge figure marched through the door of the Right Bank, one arm overhead, hand shaking a big tambourine. The other hand stretched out in front, holding a big bedpan up like a shield. The personage who entered the bar was wearing a long white nurse’s uniform and had a great shock of Dolly Parton-like blonde hair and big bulging blue eyes the size of gumballs. Even though this creature was wearing a dress it was obvious from his bull-like neck, broad shoulders and huge hairy hands that this was a man.
"Olaf, Olaf," he called out in a deep bass voice," come to mamachen, come to your Feta."
"B-b-b-b-but..." stuttered Olaf/Hans, looking adoringly at Teara.
"Come," the nurse-man said stridently, "I am your Feta, remember our nights together, our nights of pierced pleasure," and he/she stuck out a fat tongue studded with a spike as large and thick as a thumbnail. Olaf walked over to the huge nurse and he/she put the bedpan squarely like a hat on Olaf's head. Then without even a backwards glance at Teara, Olaf followed the big nurse out of the bar.
Teara burst into tears. Binky embraced her grief stricken sister and then put her hand down inside her Jean Paul Guilty bra. Once again she pulled out a hundred dollar bill. "If ever a weird scene called for a drink, this one does, booze for all." E. K. got busy serving drinks and Teara's friends tried to console her.
An hour later, Binky, with Rover trotting behind on his leash, walked Teara out of the Right Bank and around the corner of South 8th towards Teara's place. The pickle moon which had looked so promising earlier, now hung upside down above them like a frown. Teara was a bit giddy, but she was still weepy and confused....
"Oh, Bink," Teara wailed, "why do I keep falling for impossible men? Remember that Max from New Jersey who told me he was single, but who was actually married with nine kids? And what about Percy, who turned out to have a history of exposing himself to the monkeys at the Bronx Zoo?"
"I don't know," said Binky, "maybe it's because you're an incurable romantic, a guy puts a newspaper crown on his head and you decide he's a prince. Sorry sis"-- they had now reached Teara's door-- "gotta go," Binky said, "got a late client." She gave Teara a hug and a kiss. "Remember, chicken tits," Binky said," it's not over till the garter snaps." With that sage advice she turned to go, pulling sharply on Rover’s leash. Despite this, the virtual canine stayed put, his big melancholy eyes fixed yearningly on Teara.
"Oh, O.K.," said Binky, "probably do you both good." She unhooked Rover's leash. "Be a good doggy and listen to Teara," she said. Then Binky turned and walked away down the street.
"Arf?" inquired Rover tentatively, his muzzle trembling.
Why not? thought Teara. He has such beautiful eyes. For a moment, Teara at her pet tenderly. Still, I don't like him crouching at my feet like a puppy. She put her hand under his chin and pulled him up till he was standing.
"Tonight you are a man," she said. And yet, later, in bed, he licked her all over like the doggy he used to be. "Maybe I will call you Rover after all," she told him.
He raised his charming head from between her legs and answered, "O.K. by me as long as you let me show you my bone."
Teara sighed with pleasure. "You can count on it", she said.
Will Teara go through with her plans to get a tongue piercing even though her romance with Olaf/Hans is on the back burner? What part will Rover aka Backwards Dogood III, play in Teara's future? And how will the sinister gang, the Mazurka, change Teara's life? Find out in the next thrilling installment of Teara Bodice-Trash Goddess of Berry Street.
Tsaurah Litsky’s work is featured in Best American Erotica 1995,’97,’98
by the Butter Network
Naked woman with a saxophone,
running out of time
She is concerned with arrangement.
Several miles down the road there was, in the way, a plant that glows red, with a green.
The street, otherwise, shows a bright clean.
All the people were off to church.
Rivers of love coming together over pink rocks with the sun turning the surface of the water into cellophane while I sit next to the rock and barf, stroking the moss with my claws and dreaming of dead fleas.
Deep in my subconscious there was a happy feeling.
I could not describe it to my friend with the dog.
Nor to the little old lady from the other side of the green toad.
My fuzzy feeling made the others wonder and blink as I sat tight in my yellow robe.
When no one was looking I loosened my robe and sank deep into my mind where appearances didn't sing, or even talk much. I imagined myself naked in the middle of a dark room. Voices whispered from all around, but they bored me. They always say the same old thing. "Anything is possible."
I fell into the moon-surface pattern of the ceiling and considered making some toast.
3 yes. a story.
Creamy white sauce would be the blanket of this feast. I would dress up in a puffy clown leotard, like some pagan god of the eternal flight of the great pigeon. And I would be alone in my very own department store overlooking the ocean, smoking a big fat cigar with my friend Mr. Squirrel.
I watch the puffy white clouds of smoke drift through my past, conjuring up distant smells of burning pavement planted in the summers of youth. And with that Mr. Squirrel blows forth the scented wind of the swift rectum ideology. Debates are had, on account of the snails and butterflies, but it all blows hollow in the end.
Nothing of significance. Nothing worth distracting Mr. Squirrel from the dull ache in his gut, reminding him relentlessly and always of this: He needs nuts.
We lie down on the grass. We touch warm parts of the ground and the flesh beating patience below. Fabric and faces color the flies and gnats. Massive rock and grass surfaces patternize the sky, and in another place it is all over and understood.
The smile is pure.
Suddenly, positive thought rain. The sky lights up and all the fuzzy little animals are together again in freedom and mirth. Or so the story goes.
A Pedestrian Tale from the Midday Crunch
By Edward Thirst
When I work at all, I arrive early and leave late. So, my only chance to see the legendary bustling sidewalks of Manhattan, packed with people swarming like ants over fresh crumbs, is at midday when I myself go out in search of lunch. As a novice New Yorker spending my first summer in residence, my journeys into the lunch time rush came with bruises to my shoulder from the lady whose packages took up half the sidewalk, to my left forearm from stocky guy cutting suddenly toward the deli and away from the gyro cart. I was a pinball and they were bumpers and bells, flashing and ringing as I bounced back, forth, and around the sidewalks of Lexington Avenue, of 53rd Street. No side was the right side of the road, and if they weren't coming at me they were slugging along in front of me at a geriatric crawl. Walking, I came to realize, was no longer just walking. It was strategy.
My first tactic was cooperation and it was a miserable failure. As a transplant, fresh from the jaw-clenched civility of California, I instinctively assumed the ideal, picturing the "Act of Midtown Walking" as a wholly organic and communal venture undertaken by the entire office-worker community, flowing about on wide sidewalks that sandwich yellow hordes of frustrated taxis. I found myself, instead, a piece of romantic drivel trapped in a bitter comedy. My wide-eyed attempt to negotiate the crowd with a well-timed array of smiles and winks won me looks askance at best and, more often, shoves aside.
My next tactic was the bob and weave. I dodged the on-coming briefcases and umbrellas, I bounced from stern shoulder to solid hip, and I slid in and around the approaching skirts and silk ties. In a sense it worked. I avoided bruises and got my lunch, but in the end it was unsatisfying. A sort of resignation to the chaos, to powerlessness. Now I was the mouse and they were the walls of the maze, and I was tired of sniffing around the perimeter of their structure. This is New York. I wanted in.
I set out to own my own space. I fixed my shoulders forward, widened my stance, lengthened my stride, and swore off all swerves. Fuck elegance. Either they'd move out of my way or they'd get a shoulder-ram to the chest. Predictably, I often swerved despite my determination, unable for several days to actually throttle a stranger with equal will. But, eventually my conscience dulled and by the end of my first New York spring I'd knocked over a healthy portion of old ladies and dapper businessmen.
More often, though, I'd found myself facing a fellow traveler struggling and determined, like me trying to find her way through the masses. There we'd stand, reflexively jerking back and forth in front of each other like two poised wrestlers, both wanting to get out of each other's way, and not. Eventually one of us would laugh and the other, seeing this weakness, would plunge straight on, delivering a hip bone to the gut.
It took only a brief look in the mirror to realize that I had more bruises now than I'd had during the early, stammer-stepped days when I'd first arrived. I needed a change in perspective. Early in my second autumn I began bringing my lunch to work and I'd spend my noontime break sitting at the edge of an urban courtyard, or along the guardrail bordering Bryant Park, watching the walkers walk and sway and dodge and curve, paying special attention to the people who made other people move and, eventually, I discovered something obvious: they weren't trying. They weren't even watching where they were going, not even noticing, it seemed, the scores of people who moved from their path with the ease of dry leaves in the breeze.
I tried it and it worked. I'd stare up at the buildings with the critical eyes of an old-timer, I'd read a magazine as I walked, or watch the skirts pass-by five lanes away on the other side of Madison Avenue. I walked along pretending not to watch out for anyone, and they all avoided me. I could see them out of the corners of my eyes seeing me, clearing a path.
Lately I've noticed I'm not alone. There are others of us. We drift along, fumbling through our coat pockets, staring at the sidewalk as if in search of change, or even, in extreme cases of total dedication, pretending to carry on conversations with invisible friends. Of the others, none, until recently, had come squarely toward me and so the relative strength of our wills remained untested. But then, passing through Times Square on a warm afternoon in late March, I saw him. Stout. Shabbily dressed. Choosing a passing helicopter as the object of his occupied stare. A twitch of his eyes told me that I too had been spotted. Unfazed, I continued to look down, feigning interest in the smoke rising up from my cigarette. Head on, dead set in each other's path, we walked.
Just before we met he stopped right in front of me and took out a cigarette. I found myself stuck, watching him, my path blocked, my stride broken. He fumbled in his pockets for a light and I (caught awkwardly within a few inches of a stranger) reached out with my own lighter, stepping between him and the curb to block the wind of passing traffic. Without looking at me, or even thanking me, he took a deep drag and moved straight-on. A roofless double-decker tour bus rolled by, the glamorous voice of its blond, sunglass-clad guide spilling out into the streets, and failing to convey any sense of irony: "Welcome to the heart of New York."