Authors: Robert Shea,Robert Anton Wilson
Tags: #Science fiction; American, #General, #Science fiction, #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Visionary & Metaphysical
(Two blocks north in space and over forty years back in time, Simon’s mother heard pistol shots as she left Wobbly Hall—Simon was a second-generation anarchist—and followed the crowd to gather in front of the Biograph Theatre where a man lay bleeding to death in the alley. And the next morning—July 23, 1934—Billie Freschette, in her cell at Cook County Jail, got the news from a matron
. In this White Man’s Country, I am the lowliest of the lowly, subjugated because I am not white, and subjugated again because I am not male. I am the embodiment of all that is rejected and scorned—the female, the colored, the tribe, the earth—all that has no place in this world of white male technology. I am the tree that is cut down to make room for the factory that poisons the air. I am the river filled with sewage. I am
the Body that the Mind despises. I am the lowliest of the lowly, the mud beneath your feet. And yet of all the world John Dillinger picked me to be his bride. He plunged within me, into the very depths of me. I was his bride, not as your Wise Men and Churches and Governments know marriage, but we were truly wed. As the tree is wed to the earth, the mountain to the sky, the sun to the moon. I held his head to my breast, and tousled his hair as if it were sweet as fresh grass, and I called him “Johnnie.” He was more than a man. He was mad but not mad, not as a man may go mad when he leaves his tribe and lives among hostile strangers and is mistreated and scorned. He was not mad as all other white men are mad because they have never known a tribe. He was mad as a god might be mad. And now they tell me he is dead.
“Well” the matron asked finally, “aren’t you going to say anything? Aren’t you Indians human?” She had a real evil shine in her eye, like the eye of the rattlesnake
. She wants to see me cry. She stands there and waits, watching me through the bars.
“Don’t you have any feelings at all? Are you some kind of animal?”
I say nothing. I keep my face immobile. No white shall ever see the tears of a Menominee.
At the Biograph Theatre, Molly Moon turns away in disgust as souvenir hunters dip their handkerchiefs in the blood
. I turn away from the matron and look up, out the barred window, to the stars, and the spaces between them seem bigger than ever. Bigger and emptier. Inside me there is a space like that now, big and empty, and it will never be filled again. When the tree is torn out by its roots, the earth must feel that way. The earth must scream silently, as I screamed silently.)
But she understood the sacramental meaning of the handkerchiefs dipped in blood; as Simon understands it
Simon, in fact, had what can only be called a funky education. I mean, man, when your parents are both anarchists the Chicago public school system is going to do your head absolutely no good at all. Feature me in a 1956 classroom with Eisenhower’s Moby Dick face on one wall and Nixon’s Captain Ahab glare on the other, and in between, standing in front of the inevitable American rag, Miss Doris Day or her older sister telling the class to take home a leaflet explaining to their parents why it’s important for them to vote.
“My parents don’t vote,” I say.
“Well, this leaflet will explain to them why they should,” she tells me with the real authentic Doris Day sunshine and Kansas cornball smile. It’s early in the term and she hasn’t heard about me from the last-semester teacher.
“I really don’t think so,” I say politely. “They don’t think it makes any difference whether Eisenhower or Stevenson is in the White House. They say the orders will still come from Wall Street.”
It’s like a thundercloud. All the sunshine goes away. They never prepared her for this in the school where they turn out all these Doris Day replicas. The wisdom of the Fathers is being questioned. She opens her mouth and closes it and opens and closes it and finally takes such a deep breath that every boy in the room (we’re all on the cusp of puberty) gets a hard-on from watching her breasts heave up and slide down again. I mean, they’re all praying (except me, I’m an atheist, of course) that they won’t get called on to stand up; if it wouldn’t attract attention, they’d be clubbing their dicks down with their geography books. “That’s the wonderful thing about this country,” she finally gets out, “even people with opinions like that can say what they want without going to jail.”
“You must be nuts,” I say. “My dad’s been in and out of jail so many times they should put in a special revolving door just for him. My mom, too.
oughta go out with subversive leaflets in this town and see what happens.”
Then, of course, after school, a gang of patriots, with the odds around seven-to-one, beat the shit out of me and make me kiss their red-white-and-blue totem. It’s no better at home. Mom’s an anarcho-pacifist, Tolstoy and all that, and she wants me to say I didn’t fight back. Dad’s a Wobbly and wants to be sure that I hurt some of them at least as bad as they hurt me. After they yell at me for a half hour, they yell at each other for two. Bakunin said this and Kropotkin said that and Gandhi said the other and Martin Luther King is the savior of America and Martin Luther King is a bloody fool who’s selling his people an opium Utopia and all that jive. Go down to Wobbly Hall or Solidarity Bookstore and you’ll still hear the same debate, doubled, redoubled, in spades, and vulnerable.
So naturally I start hanging out on Wall Street and smoking dope and pretty soon I’m the youngest living
member of what they called the Beat Generation. Which does not improve my relations with school authorities, but at least it’s a relief from all that patriotism and anarchism. By the time I’m seventeen and they shot Kennedy and the country starts coming apart at the seams, we’re not beatniks anymore, we’re hippies, and the thing to do is go to Mississippi.
you ever go to Mississippi? You know what Dr. Johnson said about Scotland—“The best thing you can say for it is that God created it for some purpose, but the same is true of Hell.” Blot Mississippi; it’s not part of this story anyway. The next stop was Antioch in dear old Yellow Springs where I majored in mathematics for reasons you will soon guess. The pot there grows wild in acres and acres of beautiful nature preserve kept up by the college. You can go out there at night, pick your own grass for the week from the female of the hemp species and sleep under the stars with a female of your own species, then wake up in the morning with birds and rabbits and the whole lost Thomas Wolfe America scene, a stone, a leaf, and unfound door and all of it, then make it to class really feeling good and ready for an education. Once I woke up with a spider running across my face, and I thought, “So a spider is running across my face,” and brushed him off gently, “it’s his world, too.” In the city, I would have killed him. What I mean is Antioch is a stone groove but that life is no preparation for coming back to Chicago and Chemical Warfare. Not that I ever got maced before ’68, but I could read the signs; don’t let anybody tell you it’s pollution, brothers and sisters. It’s Chemical Warfare. They’ll kill us all to make a buck.
I got stoned one night and went home to see what it would be like relating to Mom and Dad in that condition. It was the same but different. Tolstoy coming out of her mouth, Bakunin out of his. And it was suddenly all weird and super-freaky, like Goddard shooting a Kafka scene: two dead Russians debating with each other, long after they were dead and buried, out of the mouths of a pair of Chicago Irish radicals. The young frontal-lobe-type anarchists in the city were in their first surrealist revival just then and I had been reading some of their stuff and it clicked.
“You’re both wrong,” I said. “Freedom won’t come through Love, and it won’t come through Force. It will come through the Imagination.” I put in all the capital letters
and I was so stoned that they got contact-high and heard them, too. Their mouths dropped open and I felt like William Blake telling Tom Paine where it was really at. A Knight of Magic waving my wand and dispersing the shadows of Maya.
Dad was the first to recover. “Imagination,” he said, his big red face crinkling in that grin that always drove the cops crazy when they were arresting him. “That’s what comes of sending good working-class boys to rich people’s colleges. Words and books get all mixed up with reality in their heads. When you were in that jail in Mississippi you imagined yourself through the walls, didn’t you? How many times an hour did you imagine yourself through the walls? I can guess. The first time I was arrested, during the GE strike of thirty-three, I walked through those walls a million times. But every time I opened my eyes, the walls and the bars were still there. What got me out finally? What got you out of Biloxi finally?
. If you want big words to talk to intellectuals with, that’s a fine big word, son, just as many syllables as
, and it has a lot more realism in it.”
That’s what I remember best about him, that one speech, and the strange clear blue of his eyes. He died that year, and I found out that there was more to the Imagination than I had known, for he didn’t die at all. He’s still around, in the back of my skull somewhere, arguing with me, and that’s the truth. It’s also the truth that he’s dead, really dead, and part of me was buried with him. It’s uncool to love your father these days, so I didn’t even know that I loved him until they closed the coffin and I heard myself sobbing, and it comes back again, that same emptiness, whenever I hear “Joe Hill”:
“The copper bosses killed you, Joe.”
“I never died,” said he.
Both lines are true, and mourning never ends. They didn’t shoot Dad the clean way, like Joe Hill, but they ground him down, year after year, burning out his Wob fires (and he was Aries, a real fire sign) with their cops, their courts, their jails, and their taxes, their corporations, their cages for the spirit and cemeteries for the soul, their plastic liberalism and murderous Marxism, and even as I say that I have to pay a debt to Lenin for he gave me the
words to express how I felt when Dad was gone. “Revolutionaries,” he said, “are dead men on furlough.” The Democratic Convention of ’68 was coming and I knew that my own furlough might be much shorter than Dad’s because I was ready to fight them in the streets. All spring Mom was busy at the Women for Peace center and I was busy conspiring with surrealists and Yippies. Then I met Mao Tsu-hsi.
It was April 30,
(pause for thunder on the soundtrack), and I was rapping with some of the crowd at the Friendly Stranger. H.P. Lovecraft (the rock group, not the writer) was conducting services in the back room, pounding away at the door to Acid Land in the gallant effort, new and striking that year, to break in on waves of sound without any chemical skeleton key at all and I am in no position to evaluate their success objectively since I was, as is often the case with me, 99 and 44/100ths percent stoned out of my gourd before they began operations. I kept catching this uniquely pensive Oriental face at the next table, but my own gang, including the weird faggot-priest we nicknamed Padre Pederastia, had most of my attention. I was laying it on them heavy. It was my Donatien Alphonse François de Sade period.
“The head-trip anarchists are as constipated as the Marxists,” I was giving forth; you recognize the style by now. “Who speaks for the thalamus, the glands, the cells of the organism? Who
the organism? We cover it with clothes to hide its apehood. We won’t have liberated ourselves from servitude until people throw all their clothes in the closet in spring and don’t take them out again until winter. We won’t be human beings, the way apes
apes and dogs
dogs, until we fuck where and when we want to, like any other mammal. Fucking in the streets isn’t just a tactic to blow minds; it’s recapturing our own bodies. Anything less and we’re still robots possessing the wisdom of the straight line but not the understanding of the organic curve.” And so on. And so forth. I think I found a few good arguments for rape and murder while I was at it.
“The next step beyond anarchy,” somebody said cynically.
“Why not?” I demanded. “Who works at a straight job here?” None of them did, of course; I deal dope myself. “Will you work at a straight job for something that calls
itself an anarchist syndicate? Will you run an engine lathe eight unfucking hours a day because the syndicate tells you the people need what the lathe produces? If you will,
just becomes a new tyrant.”
“To hell with machines,” Kevin McCool, the poet, said enthusiastically. “Back to the caves!” He was as stoned as me.
The Oriental face leaned over: she was wearing a strange headband with a golden apple inside a pentagon. Her black eyes somehow reminded me of my father’s blue eyes. “What you want is an organization of the imagination?” she asked politely.
I flipped. It was too much, hearing those words just then.
“A man at the Vedanta Society told me that John Dillinger walked through the walls when he made his escape from Crown Point Jail,” Miss Mao went on in a level tone. “Do you think that is possible?”
You know how dark coffee houses are. The Friendly Stranger was murkier than most. I had to get out. Blake talked to the Archangel Gabriel every morning at breakfast, but I wasn’t that heavy yet.
“Hey, where you going, Simon?” somebody called. Miss Mao didn’t say anything, and I didn’t look back at that polite and pensive face—it would have been much easier if she looked sinister and inscrutable. But when I hit Lincoln and started toward Fullerton, I heard steps behind me. I turned and Padre Pederastia touched my arm gently.
“I asked her to come and listen to you,” he said. “She was to give a signal if she thought you were ready. The signal was more dramatic than I expected, it seems. A conversation out of your past that had some heavy emotional meaning to you?”
“She’s a medium?” I asked numbly,
“You can name it that.” I looked at him in the light from the Biograph marquee and I remembered Mom’s story about the people dipping their handkerchiefs in Dillinger’s blood and I heard the old hymn start in my head are you washed are you washed are you washed in the blood of the Lamb and I remembered how we all thought he hung out with us freaks in the hope of leading us back to the church holy Roman Catholic and apostolic as Dad called it when he was drunk and bitter. It was obvious
that whatever the Padre was recruiting for had little to do with that particular theological trade union.