April 20th, 2020
Karin was on the computer, looking at posts from her Ravelry group. Ravelry is an international knitter’s society. The gang somehow reminds me of the Freemasons, except that the women members are all armed with needles.
I came to Karin with a book in hand. I told her,
“I got this in the mail today.”
Karin squinted at the title, and said, “Generation of Swine? What kind of book is that?”
“It’s from Hunter S. Thompson. He’s the guy who wrote Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”
Karin laughed. “Oh, then it’s about crazy people.”
She smiled at me. “You like crazy.”
I shrugged and said, “Well, yes, I am attracted to it.”
Karin went back to looking at a knitting pattern from some lady in New Zealand.
The full title of the book is: Generation of Swine; Gonzo Papers, Volume 2; Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80’s.
Seriously, who can pass up a book with a title like that?
I need a road trip bad. The destination doesn’t even matter. I just need a shot of crazy.
This is not to say that there is an insufficient amount of craziness here. Oh no, we have plenty of that. It’s just that a person becomes accustomed to local forms of madness. The homegrown types of insanity start to look normal. One forgets how profoundly twisted the neighborhood really is.
That is where a road trip helps. It is always good to view craziness with fresh eyes. Shock and awe. Drive a couple hundred miles and witness new varieties of lunacy. Take a look a look around and go,
“What the hell is this shit?”
Where to go? Actually, any place will do, but I know of some locations that are better than others for observing weirdness. Let me think of a few…
New Orleans. Yes, oh yes. I went there for the first time as a chaperon on our youngest son’s 8th grade class trip. I was in charge of Stefan and eleven of his barely adolescent classmates. It was in 2008, just three years after Katrina. Half of the city was still desolate. The 9th Ward looked like a setting for “The Walking Dead”. The French Quarter vibrated with strangeness: Harley riders, blues musicians, homeless folks, hustlers of all sorts, voodoo fortune tellers, lap dancers, and twelve wide-eyed eight graders from Milwaukee. Some streets were lined with expensive homes that had enclosed gardens like those on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. In the heart of the French Quarter, which is the heart of New Orleans, was the Cathedral of St. Louis. I went to Mass there and wept.
Manhattan. An entire city on meth. A place where nothing ever stops. People start clubbing at midnight. Or at least they did before COVID-19. The Port Authority Bus Terminal has uniformed soldiers with automatic weapons guarding it. Mary House, the center of the Catholic Worker Movement, is the same street as the national headquarters for Hells Angels. Times Square has enough flashing lights to induce an epileptic seizure. I spent a day in Manhattan with Karin. Jules and Rose gave us the tour. We saw a herd of skateboarders cruising down the center of 9th Avenue. We lunched in a Soviet-style, subterranean, Ukrainian restaurant. The streets were a roiling, surging sea of humanity, which is unfortunately currently at ebb tide. One day was enough to put me into sensory overload.
Las Vegas. Mostly thieves and knaves, but entertaining ones. Vegas exists to separate the rubes from their wallets. Donald Trump has a gold hotel there for some reason. I have bad memories from Vegas. Most of those memories have to do with a short, but interesting, stay in the Clark County Detention Center in the spring of 2017. It’s amazing what a person can learn in fourteen hours, especially if those fourteen hours are spent in jail. I met a variety of outcasts and deviants, and those were just the cops. The CCDC is in downtown Las Vegas, right next to the Gold Nugget Casino. Two very different worlds in extremely close proximity. I didn’t do much sightseeing in Vegas. I was eager to leave Nevada.
Crazy. The possibilities are endless.