Yessir, the world had limited entertainment options “back in 1988”. Telephone “Party-Lines” were a thing– or getting lost in the labyrinth of an automated-system “for a thrill”. . . . . though the real shock was when your parents got the phone-bill. “in this world of worlds”, what do you think you, or I, or anybody “would dredge-up out there”?
Beetlejuice’s phone-line sits, “mostly unanswered” as it’s another “get-broke-quick” scheme. He’ll be “an internet millionaire in no-time”. . . . .
Karma, Purgatory, Bureaucracy
“Just another number”.
Be there “no Karma about it” but THE RECENTLY DECEASED will hit that old after-life office with the thud of paperwork.
(Reminds me of the ole’ Social Security office)
Franz Kafka couldn’t have said it better, whether just the victim is mad or “THE SYSTEM”, itself is even crazier. . . . . and remember, that guy in the “Metamorphosis” story did turn into an insect. OR EVEN A BEETLE.
A lot of people “kill time” in the waiting room, bearing the incarnation they took when “struck-down, mortally”. The visual cue—its own kind of karma whether you’re a shrunken-head on the leash of a witch-doctor as it didn’t end well for the big game hunter.
Don’t go smoking in bed, either—or take poison which will turn you into an icky, translucent green like the secretary behind the sliding window.
Perky, pert, and sarcastic—if not despondent in this perfect illustrated example of the mind/body and material/spiritual splits that cleaves the world into an alienated hell.
Ole’ Beetlejuice pops his head in and takes a seat. I’d imagine him probably sticking his hand down the front of his pants like Al Bundy in “Married with Children”. Half-resourceful or maybe just fool-hardy “no one will notice” as he lopes across the parking lot to grab a cooler of beer.
You’d imagine he’d only lose his place in line.
Solely the balance between evidence and lyricism can allow us to achieve simultaneous emotion and lucidity. . . . . but there he hollers at his loss.
In this last week, we’ve lost Chris Cornell—the singer from Soundgarden—and Roger Ailles—the chairman of Fox News. Only out of an episode of “Adult Swim” could these figures every encounter each other.
The moody rock singer leans up on the chair, hang-dog with his hands stretched over his knee while the right-wing chieftain tries to bluster and glad-hand his way out of federal commitment for dinner reservations “elsewhere”.
There’s only a few things certain in this life. . . . . death, taxes, and irate constituents.
End up here and you have to meet your quota of lingering, ghostly “overtime” back on earth. Spook the hell out of the living for a spike of adrenaline and ecto-residue that kicks into your early retirement, building enough parasitically-fueled power to ascend up the spiritual pyramid to eternal bliss.
Sounds like Medicare and Social Security.
You’ll pay though. . . . . they’ll take everything “but the squeal”.
Death. Taxes. Hollywood sequels. . . . .
Welcome to America. You could die laughing. . . . .
“No dream”, kid. This was your life! Remember to Linger in the graveyard and pick the daisies before summoning for pizza on the Ouija board.
The Nightmare. The Dream-time. Overdosed on bullshit, we all grew up convinced that we’d become rock stars, celebrities, and billionaire CEO’s.
You see it– over heaps of rotting, sheltered largess– how the truth is always grimmer.
And funny— if you have a soft spot for literal “escape-artistes” or better known as malignant dreamers.
Like slackers who claim to be “workaholics”— perhaps dark angels (– or beautiful, tortured freaks?) roosting over their water-colors and canvasses like world citizens of the MTV generation.
And here—assembled in this little inverted inlet of adolescent elan & slurry—
. . . . . the hallowed art room. Weep a jaded, bloody tear—like an acid/fractal corsage burning on the French gates of bohemian allure. Lo, the mortification.
Neither perky, nor perky. . . . . more like rays & skates swimming below the radar of the civilization-keepers, the granite-faced coldness of uptown museum giving. And how—dubious and penniless—it never stopped them from doing exactly what they were going to do anyway.
A dark fire, organic and rich—like a top-knot tied in some street agitator’s hair, standing with his back turned and arms crossed before a mural.
It was the indie cachet that mattered.
Call it French/Polish. Or Czech-Sicilian. Or any lone Portugeese/Hungarian misfit glowering over a mouth full of mushy, toothless gums with a bottle of wine and token beret.
Like street theater—acrobats, stilt-walkers, and clowns fanning-out to pick-pocket the unsuspecting like grinning astrological sun-faces and the theatrical color purple. Murky paintings of European prostitutes and café Marxism like the tricky riddles of Pablo Picasso confounding the bourgeois with a scribble in the bare, empty air.
Add, subtract. . . . . distract. Then divide by zero and cancel-out all standards to prove the infinite answer. There, all along justifying their shoddy example.
Artful minds. . . . . funny how that aligned.
A beggar’s banquet for dodgy humanities degrees. The only thing to do was bitch about movies.
For society was in some advanced state of decay as the postmodern condition rose amid a forest of video monitors and music-video hijinks. Like bread and circuses for “Alternative Nation”– the MTV broadcast propping-up the endless 1990’s smorgasbord of “chill”. Come as you are. Greet me, eat me, exploit me, consume me— like a complete, fully-wrapped package.
A poster—a video-box. A STATEMENT.
You only saw the sizzling, final product at the red carpet premier or other such overly-slick media event—perhaps at the white, sandy beaches of Cannes.
Beggars, thieves, and hanger’s-on.
It was mostly a state of disrepair and ambitions largely doomed to completion. It was the kind of artsy prestige that appealed to the junior purple-beret crowd holding up a flower and picking the petals in a haze of sweet perfume and acrylic paint-smells. Languid, droopy, depressive features like the misshapen, lumpen murk of a goldfish or other such mutated urchin.
Shyness, non-conformity. The courage of expression. How the gamin needs to bleed a little when they sing, the urban art-house angst like pained, droopy flesh torn in the gears of modernity.
The sculptor of verisimilitude, life-like and uncanny.
Lost in the flickering river of decrepit celluloid, like a faded and dying flower of human inspiration. Silver nitrates “killing you slowly” in an acrid bath of photo-room chemicals—crying mimes and angst-filled philosophers. Razor-tape, snipping scissors, and precise editing-room devotion. Giving one’s all and collapsing in exhaustion like sweet, unrequited death.
SHE. . . . . hashing over some obscure quirk in a movie, a hallmark pitch-shift, a change in tempo, a favorite scene—something odd & unusual. The grotto where you dwell. . . . .
Breathless and insistent, holding up an index-finger as if to pause all traffic. . . . . and recollecting herself as she expounds afresh on a different track. Holding her hand up—don’t speak—don’t ruin the moment—and then “release”. Am I man, or “Fifi” the French poodle on command?
The world needed a hero. Or visionary leadership in this non-volunteer democracy. Waking up to find “all wars fought”, as if “everything had been done”—and how the pillars of good citizenship may as well have wilted and withered into crushing apathy.
Freedom. . . . . horrible freedom. A power in negation, a wasted economy like an indented space on the couch. A veto, a thumb’s down. Everyone was a critic.
The air was stale, empty and thick. . . . . you could practically choke on it.
With art, perhaps came “too many choices” and the inability to concentrate one’s forces into a hard little nugget of unforgiving ownership. How to commit one’s obsession, one’s neurosis, one’s passion—and somehow turning it around into a profitable following.
But for naught. . . . . amid the metallic screech of starlings in some plaza of an old European capitol—the market segment of hungry dollars lost to crumbless anonymity, the faceless hordes.
Wretched, ugly humanity as impersonal social and marked forces crushed the weak underfoot.
The poet, joker, and thief—or the rapt, unblinking attention of “just anybody” before all the living sparks died in this cold universe– acceptance never your real home. Yes, that final emptiness at the center of that bottomless, swirling maelstrom found in desperation and unhappiness and seduction.
So it was, to “stand alone” and be judged and dissected. Even then, as the papparazi held up their popping flash-bulbs like a kind of obsessive-compulsive pecking of bottom-dollar tabloid interest—and the bodyguards held back the crush of onlookers.
Tell that to the young lordship of the remote control, for what makes the slit-eyed, lizardy interest perk-up from jaded slumber. How the forces of media production waved-in cranes and trucks and sets for you—just to lay down a slot of broadcast programming like an indifferent dish for your 13-28 target niche. And the union crew, hoggish and sweaty murmuring into walkie-talkies like expendable, reeking meat as “brand signifiers” were the order of the day.
More like corporate “shorthand” or associations with flippant, idle consumerism within arm’s length—even as your thicker service economy thralls saluted with a spatula and got back down to work in a pizza parlor. Time was money. . . . . and convenience blessed “the spoiled”.
Lo, the mortification.
Sure, the technology and modes of production were at our hands—making the personal, political readily enough with “DIY” or do-it-yourself workshop culture.
But somehow it all got pulled-down in the common Marxist sloth. . . . . doing what came naturally, “what was easier”, anyway.
As the omniscient Marlboro cigarette was flecked between twiggy fingers in dodgy cultural cachet paid for, with a song. Tear it up into a million pieces—or maybe we were just the inhabitants of another mostly-wasted art period.
The original Elvis Presley who traded the bonus gravy of fame with an Elvis impersonator, now old n’ crotchety in a retirement home fights an ancient Egyptian mummy curse up and down the stick-whapping halls as they switched “Elvis” had succumbed to fame and died in 1977 as we best know the story. . . . . kind of a rhinestone mummy vs. an Aztec ape in a modern cult-film starring Bruce Campbell.
It’s 2002’s “Bubba Ho-Tep” for a twisted romp through the sort of drug-culture Rob Zombie crowd as there’s nothing that screams “kitsch appreciation” more ironically than the whole retro-world of Elvis Presley and the stranger side of the backwoods “white experience”.
I was introduced to this film by my older cousin who grew-up in the winding back-hills of outlying St. Louis counties as it’s where farmland is replaced by exurbia and speaks to the Atari/Star Wars/Six Flags basis of local Generation-X flavor– like wolfen stares and fringe art workshops you would find “vaguely off-putting” as you sit side by side next to a home computer work-station.
Call it “punk”, call it “stoner”, call it “flat & grim”. . . . . but you’d know it as the new American Gothic and what happens when Generation-X adopts into gamer culture quite seamlessly.
Black “Betty Boop” t-shirts and not forgetting “Speed Racer”.
We, “the children-of-the-night” over whiskey and pasty, stark complexions as life is existential, like forest fungus and rusted-out cars. . . . . and not forgetting “The Residents” as a gang of eyeball-heads stuck on spindly legs and tuxedo outfits with high society top-hats.
Over NES “Castlevania” and the 1980’s Garfield Halloween special you could see spirits from the Civil War tramping up through that paved, woodsy road of gnarled darkness like the deepest, hoariest under-belly that post-World War II America had to offer.
Write what you know– and Beetlejuice would figure out there along the highways by the shale rock cliffs and shoeless “Huckleberry Finn” quality of thicker country folk, earthy yet wise in their own ways.
Just another idea for where to put the sequel: “Beetlejuice 2”.
Coming to a graveyard near you. . . . . as Beetlejuice sits on a tomb-stone and shrugs his shoulders impishly if asked “what gives him the right”.
It takes a dark kind of soul to hang-out in a graveyard and over come the gothic kids and black metal fans in face-paint and simmering defiance as Beetlejuice welcomes them with open arms. Seem kind of young– and stupid too.
Kids always find it gratifying when adults take an interest in them. Beetlejuice could be 40 or 4000 years old with the allure of beer and cigarettes, dodging respectability. You’d call him a con-artist or bunco man as his creative reach doesn’t extend much further than using a stick to lift-up the skirt of Barbara Maitland. In craft and guile– it’s not much higher than what you’d see down at a flea market for petty thievery and other tall tales.
Putrescent rot and decay. . . . . drawn to mischief like flies to a pile of shit as a scheme is working through his putrid noggin as he’s devilishly fond of contracts.
He will give you knowledge. . . . . for a price.
What is the secret? Maybe the big answer is that there’s not really an answer– and you sell your soul to find out. It’s like “fine print”, or death– or no such thing “as a free lunch”. What will you find out? Maybe that “no matter where you go, THERE YOU ARE” as it couldn’t be any simpler or more grotesque than “free will” and “spiritual limbo”.
So what are you gonna do? Get wise, get older– “settle-down”. The world of carny’s, roadies, and trailer-living turns out to be more dreary than flashy as there we are, all giving an account for ourselves with our hands shrugged-out in the rotten perfume of wasted youth. For those who don’t believe in elder’s wisdom– soon you will become the elders and it all goes full circle as the land of death lays beyond.
What is death like? Maybe a Department of Motor Vehicles as you’re processed like a flat, laminated card until all the life is drained-out. Our miseries duly counted, not worth one whit as part of being an adult is taking responsibility while setting-aside some free time.
Sincerely, a jaded/post-teenaged poet.
For youthful, fresh perspectives– you can’t go wrong with local community radio as kids have the naivete and faithlessness to declare themselves a punk princess impressio in a doll-house of young, kicking energy for the sake of local interest and avoiding true career callings. Lydia runs along the punk/artistic circles and gleefully drags-along her clique of oddball friends, like “skate-rats”, “hippie-girls”, and street characters as they bicker around themselves and fill in stretches of dialogue in the glittering hang-out of Utopia Studios.
The odd, the strange, the unusual, the transgressive– bands playing and imagery flashing on from a projector “like a real head-trip”. Below is footage of Nirvana playing at a campus studio up at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. You can see ingenious blue-screen tricks and some of what’s in the background is from Haxan, a 1922 Swedish/Danish film that was once narrated by Beat oddball, William S. Burroughs.
An hallucinogenic trip for kids dancing and writhing in the strobe-lights to strange energies as it gives you more of a feel for who Lydia is, or what’s true to her character as you can’t write-down this stuff, necessarily– only watch and appreciate.