It's generational, My Friend whispers, These Millennials can't help it...
'This bunch, this band before us, strumming their guitars, banging their keyboard, stamping their feet to the orgiastic harmonica player as the lead singer spouts some folky song of delusional optimism, is of some synthetic strain of caravan bohemia, resembling the stank of organically deodorized armpits, as if they were from some Vermont commune, or like they were roadies for Samford&Son...' Exasperated, My Friend sighs, 'And of course they're shit.'
I responded with a bemused snort, ‘Wow... That was a rant.'
'I do admit, these kids make me feel old.'
My Friend nods.
The band is of minimal musicality, a generation of kids molded by Youtube tutorials and mimicry, all of it rendered through the inorganic processing of Garageband to be favorited, retweeted, reblogged, tumblr’d by their legion of followers, who tonight, a small section of them, anyway, have nestled themselves into the bar and dining area before the stage, uproariously applauding the original songs and the ironic “covers” of my generation’s 20somethings years.
‘Oh…’ My Friend snickers, staring about the crowded room, ‘Listen to all the conformist cheering.’
I sip my drink, shrugging, ‘Look at ‘em…’
As the band departs the stage for a break, the entire room, as if in rehearsed, ceremonial observance, leans into the luminescent screens of their smartphones, their thumbs flicking through selfies and #resistance.
‘Let’s go play some goddamn darts,’ My Friend separates from the bar, heading down a hallway to a small, back room decorated with only a few leather chairs and a dartboard...
Of course, I should have described that cozy, backroom lounge as “typically” decorated, because this evening it had been converted into a nursery for the minstrel’s families, their offspring crawling about and patting the screens of iPads and iPhones, mesmerized by the 4G digital streams of Disney social engineering.
My Friend halted within the threshold of the lounge, his lips curdled, eyes squinting, abhorring the desecration of his drinking sanctuary. ‘And they’re fucking reproducing…’ He stared down into the uncovered bosom of a young, tattooed, hipster mother, who of this generation’s brazen feminism, was blissfully breast-feeding her child.
‘That’s a disgrace. She has befouled that chair…’
The Young Mother stared up to my Friend’s voice, scowling ‘What?’
‘That wonderful leather chair you’re seated in, is imported from a pub in Wales, a pub of proper traditional values—’
I yanked my friend by the arm, hauling him from a quick-to-escalate confrontation… ‘C’mon C’mon.’
Red, the owner and chef of the restaurant, halted us in the hallway, his smile contracting into disbelief, ‘Don’tcha wanna get your asses kicked in darts, tonight?’
My Friend laughed, ‘I don’t want Antifa coming after me, Red… I don’t wanna piss off anyone in their safe space back there.’ His head gestured to the lounge.
‘I know I know, Red-O, you gotta make money…’
Red shrugged again, scoffing.
‘Are you gonna be at the next March-Against-Made-Up-Issues, too, Red?’
Red exhaled, ‘You guys leavin, I take it?’
My Friend slapped Red on the shoulder, ‘See ya, buddy…’
‘How drunk am I?’
It is the late night rhetorical questioning of the drinker, the realization that hours have become a haze and that tomorrow will be a hangover of thudding regret. ‘We’re too old for this…’ My Friend says, reclining in the passenger seat of my car. ‘It’s like, how old is too old for going out, plunking yourself down at the bar and imbibing? Huh?’ He chuckles. ‘Because, those kids, back there, make me feel old, too. And, I mean old, motherfucker. Those two guys in the band, I recognized them, they were in my high level Shakespeare class. They were two, cool, smart kids, and now what? You see them? Tattooed, fight-the-power-t-shirts while playing some…what? What the fuck was that music? Like, what the hell happened to those kids? And they’re married? What? Twenty-four, twenty-five, if that? Married, babies, playing in some social-justice-warrior-folk band with their purple-haired wives? Sorry, man, I can’t take it anymore… I see their younger compatriots on campus all day.’ He sighs. ‘I was told years ago, it was all gonna gotta hell, and as always, he was right.’
‘Who was right?’
My Friend grunts. He doesn’t want to spoil our monthly reunion, as he calls it, our day of collegiate era bar-hopping, sloshing vodka and prying into the deep deceptions that govern Humanity and our accelerating descent into middle-aged ignominy…
‘That’s a good description of it all,’ I laughed.
‘Yes, it’s just two guys of an unimportant demographic, of snarling, snarky self-loathing,’ My Friend added. ‘I dumbed that down for you, because, as you know, I have to do it all day for my whittle scholars…’
We drive a county or two away from our careers, and the remnants of our romantic obligations to remain undetected, to simply exist as two anonymous aging dudes in t-shirts, hoping to maintain a legal balance of drunkenness and sobriety, which usually entails gulping glasses of water, a bunch of appetizers and maybe a few entrees outside of what is considered lunch and dinner, to keep that balance intact… the car swerve free.
‘Shit, that makes us sound pathetically old…’ My Friend laughs. ‘And yes, I can feel those fish tacos slowly melting, digesting through the mucky mound of whateverelseitwas I ate today…’
‘You wanna try that new place you saw on Yelp—’
His reply is a scornful roll of the eyes. ‘No, I overheard some of my brain dead pupils discussing such the other day… There is some sort of social-justice-gathering-of-offended-self-righteous-morals this weekend, and it’s nearby, so they were all chattering about going to it after they’re done resisting. You know, when I’m sure none of them have even remotely finished their whittle-bittle essays that are due Monday… But, they will argue that this weekend’s rally was deserving of a credit. And when they all protest in front of the President’s residence, he will cave-in, spouting some bland, jargon leadened script about valuing inclusion and diversity campus wide…’
‘You good? Get that all out, now?’
He snorts. ‘You wonder about the future? Not just our bankruptcies-to-be lives, but about humanity; humanity with a capital H, kind. How these kids, especially those like I have in my classes now, and those like we saw tonight, who’ve reproduced… Do you wonder what it’s going to be like?’
‘Hmmm…’ My working days are devoted to the accounting and inflating of Old Money Wealth, enhancing and protecting their perpetual, generational security, so, ruminating on the future of Humanity, on a objective scale outside my own pessimism, is something I’m unable to devote--
‘Well?’ My Friend interrupts.
‘I dunno… Things seem fucked, that’s for sure.’
‘You can only imagine, dear boy. You’re insulated, to a certain extent, maneuvering Blue Blood monies about all day, condemns one to a Cape Cod paradise…’ He inhales rapidly, then exhales, his hand patting his stomach. ‘Sorry, I’m trying not to drain the swamp on the interior of your car.’
‘Thanks… I’d rather not clean-up puke tonight…’ I accelerate from the bar parking lot.
He apologized for the preponderance of miserablism, or maybe it was curmudgeon, that stereotypical description of The Old Man, spewing bile at the 6 O’clock news from their barcalounger--
‘Wait, do those still exist? Would The Kids even get that? Sounds like a sneering description from Updike… Hell, do The Kids even know who Updike is? Nah…He’s too Dead, Old Misogynist White Guy for ‘em… I was gonna throw an Updike novel into the mix for one of my classes this semester, but I stopped myself…’
'I mean, don't you get the sense of everything vanishing, or maybe, it’s deteriorating, that This World is unrecognizable. Somehow, it’s been supplanted…supplanted by another Generation’s version, a virtual one---Do you get it?’ My Friend asked, massaging his forehead.
‘Yeah…You were twenty-three, and now, the world you had, The World that you thought was yours, is…no longer. And now your mid-forty-something, divorced and…dead inside.’
’Were we deposed? You and I, our generation? Or were we never of supremacy? Did we ever have the opportunity to wrestle, to impose dominance…’
‘The fuckin’ Boomers still reign.’
‘But, we’ve been surpassed…’
There was never a foundation, a philosophy, a legacy, only Corporate Marketing. Now it’s relegated to YouTube nostalgia of flannel and fashionable suicides and overdoses, but who are the artists, writers, thinkers, voices… My Friend laments from the passenger seat.
I steer the car down a curling, highway exit chute and into the gloss of a New Money Artisanal Community with it’s avenues of fountains, whispering willows and Land Rovers.
‘Get me out of here…’ My Friend laughs, as we pass down the utopian streets of vegan smoothies and Burberry blondes.
Soon, the replica gas-lamp streetlights fade, and after another few miles, I turn into middle america, with it’s 1970s mid-size ranch homes nestled on their tidy plots of Earth.
‘Takin’ the back way home as usual,’ My Friend laughs, ‘Never see the cops out here…’ His finger taps the window, ‘This…this will all be gone, someday, you know that? All these houses of simplistic American values, memories of metallic lunch pails, men who labor with wires and engines, kids who play in yards…’
‘Why is that?’ The car’s headlights glint from the eyes of several deer congregating near the road.
‘Because, it’s a symbol of a dead America, of tradition, values, racist Grandfather jokes. Where families live their insular lives, reading bedtime stories from books to their children, where fathers and mothers reproduce and go to church, it symbolizes Red Fly Over MAGA States. The cities, my friend, the cities, is what these kids dream of: microbreweries, beards, diversity, which, of course, means heroin addicts shivering and dying on the streets as you walk home from your supercool locally sourced cocktail bar… But this is middle class. This means poverty, white trash, this means solitude, nature, the scent of manure. And sometimes, you might pass an annoyingly loud pickup truck with a confederate flag sticker on their back window, and oh, shit, a gun on the seat, but guns are evil! I mean, how else are you gonna protect yourself in rural America? What happens at two-thirty in the morning, and you have no local police force and the fucking State police are an hour away? Their isn’t an iPhone App for that, my whittle manbunnner… And, let’s just say, you’re white and the intruders are ohno! a different color skin than yours, what are you gonna do? Feel guilty from your white privilege? You don’t wanna attack them, because that’s beyond a microagression, so, what can you do? I mean, you don’t wanna even attempt to protect yourself or kill them because, you don’t wanna be branded a racist…’
I look away from the road, My Friend’s head scrunched against the car window like some morose child on the school bus despairing of his delivery to classrooms, bullies and government subsidized cafeteria lunches.
‘You okay?’ I ask.
He sighs, chuckling.
‘Are you bouncing ideas off me for a new essay?’
‘That’s another reason why my tenure is under siege, I’ve refused to contribute to the pablum of the day, contributing to these academic journals, those pages of made-up illusory critical theories, to be incestuously lauded like some Hollywood awards gala… Jesus Christ, why do we, the self-reverential, insulated fucks of academia need another revisionist history, feminist critique of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest?’
‘I think in college, I used that book as a door stop.’
‘In college, I burned it on the front lawn of the English department building… My fellow Literature majors horrified. Today, at my college, they would celebrate, not because it’s self-masturbatory post-modernist dick shit, but, because it’s another symbol of the patriarchy…’
Out here, in the country, My Friend begins another diatribe, Even though it’s only a few miles from the city, it’s now a completely different culture. But it holds some truth, you know? Hard work, grit, dirt, shit that makes us humans… And most importantly, nature. You see sky, green, trees, fields, butterflies, it’s not curated and captured, its not used as background for an Instagram Selfie, or an experiential hike, it doesn’t have to have a hashtag attributed to it, it simply exists as a testament to what we’re really connect to, not Netflix, Facebook, some other sort of app or cause, but fucking Earth! You dig a hole, get soil under your fingernails, on your hands, you get The Earth on you and then you place seeds into that hole and nurture them until they bloom into something beautiful or edible, something with petals, nourished by buzzing bees, you know, a symbol of this amazing, breathing organism that is Earth… Of course, one could interpret planting your own food as the greatest symbol of anarchy: self-governance, self-reliance, community—if you share your bounty with your neighbors—no multi-national, globalist big box stores to sell you GMO crap, no corrupt political duopolies, right? But these kids think going to a protest sponsored by some globalist funded NGO is anarchy, or wearing a black mask and getting paid fifteen dollars an hour to smash windows… But again, growing your own food is considered a degrading experience, someone else should do it, some migrant or immigrant, I can just have Amazon Fresh deliver to the front door of my loft apartment with it's exposed brick walls.
‘I haven’t had a rant for awhile… I don’t really have an outlet, for the most part.’ He laughed. ‘You know, there was a temporary conduit for relief,’ My Friend smirks. ‘Remember Eva? That bartender? She, uh, performed a few different methods for extracting rage.’
I shake my head, steering the car through rural roads. ‘Oh, yeah. Now, you’re down in it.’
She was in her mid-twenties, searing, contemptuous, rebellious without the Millennial posturing, those Iggy Pop t-shirts she wore while slopping suds wasn’t nostalgia for a past she never experienced, or conformist idolatry, she was just a cool chick, My Friend insisted. Those alternating weekends when his ex-wife didn’t deliver the kids, Eva would venture over after her shifts, liquor or wine in hand.
‘You two are no longer a thing?’ I asked.
‘One weekend… I almost told Eva this. But I got a little weirded out and…I freaked her out. Then I just cut her out... But, even my ex-wife doesn’t know, or understand, or is convinced of this story, but I almost, I dunno, I went to therapy for a few years for this, even, I will admit it, my good man, I saw a past life hypnotist.’
‘What are you telling me?’ I stare at him in curious disbelief as we idle at a stop sign.
He looks at me. ‘Yeah, I’ve never told you.’
‘Well start, asshole…’
‘Remie Everton? Remember him? From college? Was of some old English-French ancestry, his parent’s lived on that old estate? He drove those old MGs all the time?’
I laughed. ‘Remie was crazy.’
Remie’s family estate encompassed acres of fields, streams, lakes, barns and homes, all of upper-class grandeur and craftsmanship, shrines to genetic wealth.
‘Out in acre twenty or something, there was a small guest house, Number Five, as Remie called it, because, beside the main mansion residence, there were innumerable guest houses and outbuildings…’
Number Five was considered relatively unremarkable, scornfully deemed a servant’s quarters, as it was a minimalist one story structure of stonework, plank hardwood floors, a cathedral beam ceiling and windows of handblown glass. It’s one modest feature was it’s backyard, where nestled in a copse of trees was a biergarten. Several authentic, communal Bavarian tables were arranged below tree limbs draped in string lightening. A small cement plot, covered with an ordinary roof, like it was some community recreational picnic area, protected a small bar with its liquor cabinet and taps which dispensed a variety of Munich wheat beers.
‘It was the summer my parent’s and I had a massive, agonizing fight pertaining to college, girls and the potential that I would drop out or take a semester off. Of course, it was also the summer before they died…’ My Friend sighed. ‘I didn’t want to stay home, things were shit, my sister was out of control, everything was just shit, so, Remie invited me to stay.’
Those were nights of face scorching bonfires, boots of beer to be chugged and Remie’s beautiful, flirtatious visiting Portuguese cousins. Eventually, the girls departed, but not before savaging the liquor cabinet and reducing the beer kegs to foam dispensers.
‘Remie and I were sitting out in the garten one night, having finished what was miraculously left of the Jäger and still jonesing to knock back a few steins, when we realized the girls had plundered everything… Remie just shrugged and said he would go get another keg, but he had to travel back to the main garage that was equipped with a walk-in refrigerator and freezer system, so that was gonna take a while… He jumped into his specialized, suped-up utility dune buggy thing and tore out. Nowhere near in control of his vehicle like you’re…’
My foot slapped the brake pedal, the car slowing, allowing a herd of Bambi’s to hurdle the road.
My Friend gave a faint smile. ‘Of course, this is where my years of therapy started.’
He remembers waiting, alone in the unfamiliar wilderness, unconcerned with his safety, unperturbed by the lack of stimulation.
He chuckled, ‘We grew up in the age of silence, right? Unlike the brats of today who would retreat into the cancerous radiance of their screens, we are still of introspection, unafraid of the void. I simply sprawled out on a bench, and stared up through the tree limbs into the stars.’
There was no cinematic lapse of time, or some infinite inertia, as if the Earth had halted it’s rotation, there was only the sounds of summer insects and nocturnal small animals. But, then, there was a sound, as if a presence had alighted to the table, something immaterial…yet, oxymoronic, like, a heavy feather…
‘I can tell you’re a goddamn great Literature professor…’
He inhales and exhales, eyes adhered to the windshield.
“There was something there…’
My Friend calls this presence The Man.
‘He was older. Long, pain engraved face, very determined, serious, like some New England Puritan or Shaker ghost. His clothing just as minimal: white dress shirt, black blazer and matching pants, but he wore no shoes. Bare feet. Something like a Pennsylvania Amishman, something you would see in a tourist postcard. Beside him, there was a black brimmed hat. He sat at the table, his hands folded.’
My Friend expelled unease. ‘When I first recognized his presence, there was no fear, anxiety, a supernatural aura… It was simply recognition that someone was at the table. And I remember sitting up and going, Oh hello, kinda thing.’ My Friend swallowed. ‘He never spoke. His mouth never opened, but… he transmitted to me. A voice I still hear. It wasn’t telepathic, like it was resonating in my brain, I heard him in my ears.’
We arrived at My Friend’s home, the car accelerating up the slight incline of his driveway. I turned the ignition off, but My Friend never wavered from the windshield, or seemed to acknowledge his familiar surroundings.
‘Sometimes, he relayed symbols, like the old Wingdings font. And now, twenty years later, I can still conjure and render his symbols perfectly, awake and under hypnosis. I admit, I’ve had them analyzed by a Freudian and cryptographer…’ My Friend shakes his head, blinking his eyes, awakened from his trance. ‘Holy shit, you got me home.’
‘Sorry… I—I just needed to get that out. Everything that is going on, it’s…that night is becoming more intense to me. I underwent some experimental therapies a week or so ago. I’ve been thinking about taking a leave, too.’
‘What’s going on, man?’
For some people, conspiracy theorists, occultists and investigators of the dark realm, his renderings of The Man’s symbols have been deemed important, controversial and prophetic--
‘I hate to interrupt, my man, but you gotta tell me, what did this…spirit, or whatever, tell you?’
‘He told me, I would die at forty-five.’ He inhaled. ‘That’s three years away.’
‘Do you believe him?’
‘Everything he told me, has happened. From my parent’s death, to my sister’s overdose… to world events, like terrorist attacks, presidential election results.'
‘I—I—I’m lost…’ I stammered into oblivion.
‘It’s those symbols.’
We stare at each other.
My Friend exhales. ‘Some investigators, have determined it’s the forbidden history…’
I smile. ‘Of what?’
‘Humanity. How it began and how it will end.’
‘I’m not really sure to what to think.’
‘So, you’re like The Messenger?’
‘No, I’m not. I’m not Neo from The Matrix. I’m not humanity’s savior. I’m not The Messiah. I’m not an agent of change, or even of chaos.’ He looks away, hand tightening on the passenger door handle. ‘In another three years, when I’m dead, people will come for my body and take it to some laboratory where a bunch of doctors, scientists, Illuminati members, or whatever, will, split my skull and cut open my brain.’
I stare at him, dumbfounded. ‘For what?’
He smiles. ‘To reveal light. A blaze of explosive, universal light that will ignite the souls trapped in these pathetic, flawed Earthly bodies… The light will burn everything away. Everything humans have ever created. Then, the world will revert to nature.’
He removes his hand from the door handle and clenches it into a fist to give me a humored punch in the arm. ‘Next month, right? I only got a few more years of this.’
’Su—Sure. Yeah. Of course.’
My Friend smiles and exits the car, trotting across the driveway toward the back door of his house.
I reversed the car down the driveway, smiling, skeptical of My Friend… My God, the guy is having a nervous breakdown.