Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Personal / Stories / pk by Age / Art Publisher /
@ K. 2002 11 08
I want to reflect on something. The story itself can be very short: something that happened to me (and my son) in a crowd.
The young Brian and I wanted to see a movie. It was playing its NY debut on East 86th Street: the same theater in which we saw Star Wars, Superman … I’m not sure which movie the following incident accompanied. It was winter: cold, windy, slushy. A lot of people were on line to buy tickets. There was another line for people with tickets. The movie, whatever it was, was getting a very good public response, following an eager anticipation: the theater had been full since day one. On this day people were standing in the cold: suffering, for their pleasure.
And something was gratuitously added to our suffering. The theater had hired some kid as an usher, had dressed him up in some kind of doorman’s uniform. This kid, a sad kind of skinny ghetto type, some kid (a portion of) whose ancestors had been abducted, their family, their freedom, destroyed, their language destroyed, their culture … and the kid must have had a brother, maybe a cousin, in the society’s pre-eminent institution for losers with an attitude: the military. This kid had a terrible past, an impoverished present, and no future: from what I am about to report, I wonder if even the military would take him. (They want jerks, not sadists: order-takers, not self-motivated homicides.) The kid may have been destined for jail.
But on this day he was dressed like one of Napoleon’s generals: and it went to his head. The kid was a skinny, acne’d imitation of all the marine pulp that Hollywood has churned out: every bit of the trash utterly realistic in one detail: the uncivilized boorish bullying of the drill sergeant. This punk didn’t scream at us on his lines to DROP AND GIVE ME TEN! But he did hector us. “Dress up that line! Straighten that line!” He strutted up and down: his own posture rigid, his manner petty-tyrannical. 86th Street’s public sidewalk had been given to him as his parade ground for coercing the cattle: us, the paying audience.
A lot of agonizing minutes passed while I contemplated addressing this behavior with the theater manager. “Call you dog off us or I’ll break his face.” (This was one instance in which my own martial diction might have been plausible: the kid was just a kid: maybe one hundred thirty pounds in his uniform. If the kid had ever been in one fight, then he’d been in more fights than me, but I doubted that his karate was yet puissant.
This was a while ago. I no longer remember what I actually did, if anything. What I did or didn’t do is superficial to the main fact of the story: the kid thought that the theater owner owned the public and that the theater owner had put him in change. Humiliate the public. Dehumanize all neither sharing (nor sponsoring) your uniform. Time for the slave-descendant’s revenge.
Having just written that, I now have more reflections than I’d started with. I’ll insert the most recent first:
I shouldn’t have threatened the theater manager that I’d break his drill instructor’s face; I should have threatened to break the face of the theater manager! Better yet, I should have identified the theater owner and threatened him.
The kid was just an asshole: how was he responsible?
Should we place all blame for the Passion on the soldier who gave the coup de grace with his spear? Or blame Tiberius Caesar and the Roman Senate?
A lot of my reflections I’ve built into the telling. The kid was an asshole, the kid should have been squashed, certainly his behavior arrested (and I mean by the public; not by any cops, not by any kleptocratic “law”). But I felt sorry for the kid. I feel sorry about the whole of civilized history.
Here’s a point not yet introduced at Knatz.com but quite explicit in my novel Dark Beacon: Napoleon inherited a military tradition where soldiers called attention to themselves via their dress: like poisonous frogs who are bright yellow while their harmless cousins are highly camouflaged. Officers gilded the lily, dressing like peacocks. Napoleon heaped glitter on his officers the way King Louis had suckered his nobles into bankrupting themselves with lace. Ah: but Napoleon himself dressed in basic black. Now tell me: who in Napoleon’s army stood out as distinct? Who contrasted with the crowd? Whose bearing carried the most information? Napoleon, of course.
Jesus wore a simple robe: according to the gospels and according to Hollywood. Who do we remember? The glittering kings? Or the carpenter king? (The coercers? or the coerced?) (Problem there is: Jesus, as Christ, is supposed to BECOME the ultimate coercer: the Judge: the guy with the keys: both to the kingdom and to the jail.)
What would the old anarchist Tolstoy in his muddy boots have looked like at Truman Capote’s party? Who’s the greatest writer? Truman Capote?
This kid, dressed like a peacock, looked like what he was: a loser.
Something happened once seated for Superman that I do remember: both what happened and what I did. The audience was full. You took what seats there were. For the World Series you didn’t quarrel if the old Yankee Stadium charged you full price to sit you behind a girder. If the luck of the draw seats me behind Shaq, that’s tough for me. I hope Shaq won’t jump up and stand. I’ll see little enough with him seated. But if I’m seated behind Queen Tatiana, I hope she’ll lower her 36″ collar stiffened erect with whale-bone, take off her mountainous tiara: give me some chance to see around her.
I further expect the public attending an event in a theater to shut up once the performance begins. I won’t tell you to shut up in your own living room during Friends, but I will tell you to shut up once Hamlet begins: whether in an expensive theater or out of doors in Central Park. When the lights dim, and the music starts: shut your trap, stop tearing candy wrappers, chew your popcorn with your mouth closed.
In this case, we were seated not behind but right in front of someone in violation of these customs. Some “pimp” (“judging” from his dress) and one of his “whores” (judging from hers) were behind us. He was six foot something: decades ago, when it meant something. He wore a huge hat that added several stories of fur to his dome. Naturally, he had not removed his hat once seated. And his overcoat was padded enough that he might as well have been wearing football padding. The whore was large enough herself. Her hair rose almost as high and as round as the pimp in his hat. It wasn’t my view or my juvenile son’s that were being blocked. And I wouldn’t have noticed or objected if the pimp hadn’t blocked my … attention. The pimp made inane comments I presume he intended to be droll to the whore throughout the opening minutes: in a fully normal speaking voice. He made no attempt to whisper: not even one so loud and shrill as to be insulting to his neighbors. He didn’t seem to regard the existence of the rest of us at all: except to regard us as audience: not the movie’s audience; his personal audience.
I hate, loath, and despise to miss a moment of a good film. If I come into the theater once anything but the film company logo has shown, I’ll retreat and ask for a rain check. For trash, half the film could be missing, and it wouldn’t matter. But for a work of art? The very first image, something up for only one second, something only discernible in the background, could be the whole key: the unifying image: or the point of departure for irony. Still: I rushed up the aisle, grabbed the first usher I saw and demanded the manager: this instant! The poor manager didn’t call for backup. He ventured boldly down the aisle at my side. The pimp and whore were visible from a distance: like seeing Pike’s Peak from New Mexico. “There, that guy.” I pointed with my whole arm, my finger extended. I spoke with my whole voice: the voice that sold hotdogs to the back rows of a football stadium filled with screaming fans. I then took my seat next to my son, hoping to fate that the pimp wouldn’t then and there shoot at me and hit Brian.
Not one voice from the public was added in accusation. So the manager didn’t witness how loud the pimp was. But he sure did see what an obstruction he was to audience viewing. The manager told the pimp to move to the back row. The pimp started in on the manager: in the same voice: utterly unconsciousness of its own stupidity.
I’m trying desperately to read Mario Puzo’s immortal prose on the screen, to follow Marlon Brando’s judging of Krypton’s criminals, to trace Superman’s space capsule, to follow his Smallville naissance … I’m hoping against hope that the pimp doesn’t know mind reading, can’t take my fingerprints with his eyeballs, won’t latter show up at my door with a few pimp allies … But it all ended very suddenly. Suddenly we didn’t hear another peep from the pimp. Hours later, when the film released me enough for me to look around, neither pimp nor whore where anywhere in the audience-scape. Even minus his Mad Hatter’s giant fur stovepipe and her Gargantuan hair they would have stood out like the World Trade Center of those oh so recent decades.
I’ll also never forget Brian’s and my experience with the opening moments of Star Wars.
I’ve been an avid reader (and writer) of science fiction since the seventh grade. I didn’t wait for dreck like Star Trek to convert me. By the time it came along, I saw it for dreck. I paid very little attention to Hollywood s-f. I took the few moments of HG Wells’ War of the Worlds I’d seen on TV very seriously: and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. But no Hollywood s-f before 2001 impressed me much. No, science fiction must in general be read.
Superman was science fiction, but that was OK, because it was a comic book first. Comic books were “real”; whereas so much of “literature” was tripe: propaganda, shit … merchandise. So Hollywood was coming out with some movie called Star Wars. So what? I’d seen a clip on the news. It looked silly: some guy in an ape costume squeezed onto a silly set with some silly-looking pretty boys: supposed to be ship cockpit with console. Ah, but now I’m a father. Brian might like what I think is crap. I’ll take him, and keep my own mouth shut.
The movie started. In seconds I was on my feet, cheering, whistling, hooting. My manners say sit still and be quiet. But when the homerun leaves the stadium even the cop will leap to his feet.
The TV news couldn’t show the movie’s effect: it was lo-res. It was small: vastly smaller than life, absurdly smaller than fantasy.
I enjoyed immensely reading later about Alan Ladd’s kid who was a Star Wars‘ exec going to public screening after public screening of his product. Someone stood and cheered in showing after showing. pk was just one of the crowd on that score.
2016 02 05 Jan and I were just remembering another martinet: I met Jan at the Highlands Senior Center, a Wednesday luncheon dance. An old woman named Rose was in charge of keeping the buffet line civilized. Rose had been in WWII, Rose was proud of her willingness to bark like a sergeant. As time passed Rose behaved as though I were her friend. She showed no hint of understanding how I hate all dogs of war. Jan misses Rose, and her funny little boyfriend LeVon. Hell, maybe I miss her too. Whatever the case I don’t scold Jan for common behavior.