Sunday, August 15, 2010

"An Abridged History of Never Coming Back": A story based on "Pulaski Skyway" by Clutch, as suggested by writer Eirik Gumeny (11/100)

An Abridged History of Never Coming Back

We’ve got a history of dock workers, and have for a long time in this country, which is probably why so many folks try to peg the origin of the disappearances in the early part of the 1900s. The main argument is between those who believe it all started at the beginning of the 1930s, when Frank Hague got into it with the labor unions during the construction of the skyway, and those who believe that it started when the Holland Tunnel between New York and New Jersey was being designed in 1919. All of these people are wrong.

Here’s how far back it goes. In 1021 AD. Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah took a donkey ride to the outskirts of Cairo for a little night meditation and when people went looking for him later on they found the donkey and some bloody clothes but no Al-Hakim. It’s true that people disappear all the time: kidnapping and runaways and mental cases who just wander away to nowhere with something resembling soap opera amnesia. But, what’s also true is that someone always chooses to make these things happen, whether it’s the individual in question or not. Sometimes it’s random, to prove that it can be done, that one person can take another person and not kill them so much as delete them, just remove them from whatever it was they were going to do for the rest of their life. More often than not, though, there’s a reason. Some might say that we hold grudges and drop bodies.

All of these people are right.

There were obviously lots of disappearances between Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah and the early 1900’s dock days, Edward V and The Roanoke Colonists and so on, but those latter glory days are the ones people are most interested in. Going into that century it seemed like the whole country was dancing on steel just because it was possible. There was so much of it. I can’t say the industrial advances didn’t have their logical perks, but the men who made them became invisible. The real middlemen, the men on the docks and the men building bridges, became invisible. To make up for it, they started their own variation on the nameless disappearance religion. It started from the bottom, the very bottom, the dwellers and, later, mole people, who made the city move simply by being the ruled class, by being the lowest level so nobody else had to. Once they were one, the stevedores and labor workers got in, maybe only twenty people all together to represent this larger faction. They abducted twenty-five year old Dorothy Arnold in 1910 because she was a bratty heiress to a perfume empire and a shithead boozer from Manhattan. They dug deeper and spread further, which isn’t to say they got smart. In 1914 two men in Santa Barbara, California made Idaho businessman F. Lewis Clark disappear because they thought he was “the man who went across the USA with that Indian broad.”

They went to the spine of it all in 1938 and flew Andrew Carnegie’s nephew and his plane into an uncharted area around Long Island. Then a few of those idiots tried to take credit for Amelia Earhart the year before. I helped build the Jersey Turnpike in the 50s, and even though they weren’t the brightest group, they got on track by the time I joined. I had a hand in a few of the big ones after that, namely Nelson Rockefeller’s son Michael and that son of a bitch Jimmy Hoffa. We didn’t have anything to do with D.B. Cooper, though he seemed like our sort of man. He had it all: everybody knows D.B. Cooper and nobody knows D.B. Cooper. He could have been another criminal, but he could have been like us, too, a guy who wanted to draw and erase certain lines between output and recognition. I’d love to meet him, assuming he’s still out there. He’d be about my age, which is to say that we’re both too old now to do any sort of disappearing other than the kind that comes naturally with getting old and fading, the kind where it just sort of happens, when the choice is finally no one’s.



Clutch is a band from Germantown, Maryland. Singer Neil Fallon doesn't look anything like what I imagined him to look like before I actually saw him. The band added a full-time organist to their line-up as of their 2005 album Robot Hive/Exodus, making them the second coolest rock band ever with a permanent organ. I think their 2004 album Blast Tyrant is their best album, putting it in the running for one of the best riff rock albums of the decade. They've chilled out a lot in the past several years, and I heard all they do is sit around and smoke weed and talk about theological issues. Pure Rock Fury is their best-named and least-enjoyable album, which is kind of a bummer, but the least-enjoyable Clutch album is still way better than most bullshit out there. Maybe I've just got a soft-spot for bands whose songs can be learned within a month of picking up a guitar, but Clutch really are masters of the groove riff.

Eirik Gumeny is a writer from New Jersey. He is the head honcho at Jersey Devil Press, an underground journal of misfit writers who are too beautifully fucked up for anywhere else. Much like Neil Fallon, Eirik doesn't look how I thought he would. I expected a white dude with dreadlocks, fingerless gloves, and Hawaiian shirts (strikes one, two, and "get the fuck out of here" in my book). He has a book called Exponential Apocalypse that I've been meaning to order for a long time. You should all make an attempt to beat me to the punch, and place your orders. I bet it's as great as the other book JDP released this year: the 2010 Jersey Devil Press Anthology, featuring almost two dozen awesome stories in it, including one by yours truly and one by OBCBYL alumnus yt sumner. Get that one, too. Eirik also enjoys tacos. Probably.

Our Band Could Be Your Lit on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.

Next week: A story based on "No Love Lost" by Joy Division, as suggested by musician Aaron Beam of Red Fang.

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