Tuesday, July 30, 2002

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS to the Blog! I've been talking about some kind of Nightmares-related list-serve for ages, just for the preservation of the oral history of it all, but, as Brook says, the setting up of it was what bogged me down. The important thing right now is to collect these stories before we get any more senile; they can be sifted through and organized when the collection swells to appropriate tick-like-ness.

One of the things that bogged me when confronting the set-up of a list-serve was the elusory quality of that age, that era, that area. We all know what we're talking about when we speak of "then," but it's nearly impossible to invoke with words like "eighties" and "Johnson City." It was the parallel inverse universe, the anti-eighties and a lot of UN-Johnson Citians doing very UN-Johnson City things. It was about looking around a homogenized hillbilly town and seeing a few points of consciousness staring back at you from amongst all the glassy-eyed possoms, and figuring out that if an experiment like yourself was going to survive you'd better make some friends.

I am passionately convicted of two things with regard to this project: 1) that because of the intellectual ghetto-ization of the Appalachian region, most of the people involved failed to see the sub-culture as an achievement on a par with say, Montparnasse in the 1870's or Chelsea in the 1960's (I can here you laughing from here- laugh all you want, but realize you are proving my point for me.) I suggest that if you could travel back in time to some fabled fringe society, you would be startled by how small and rag-tag and very JC-like it all was. No such ever looks world-shaking and influential before myth makes it out to be so. No one walks around bathed in the unholy glow of media romanticism while it's really happening. Our art form was that we assembled. Some came to sing, some came to dance. You belonged to the experience as much as it belonged to you.

Which brings me to 2) that because of its very nature, any book written about this phenomenon from the point of view of only one or two authors would be fatally incomplete. It happened because we were all there; the more voices we can hear from now, the richer and more authentic this tapestry will be. No one's got it right; no one's got it wrong (although I'm sure the arguing will add some spice.) Each has their unique tale to tell, so pop open a Rolling Rock and drink a toast to Roshoman.

That spiel over with, today I found myself thinking about the chloroform party, summer of '86, out on the Old Jonesborough Highway, courtesy of Kevin Hurley and a white, diaper-like rag. It was somebody's birthday, although I can't remember whose. (Wonder why.) Somebody ate handfuls of dog food out of an enormous bag. It seems like the Southside Sheiks were involved in some way. Chip and Brian were living in this old log house? The next day I had to be in Music Appreciation class. I had the shakes and discovered that chloroform smells sweet when you sweat it out. We sat in wooden chairs in an auditorium, and since it was the first opportunity I'd had in college to carve anything into a desk, I did. Just don't ask me what. I don't remember how the party evening started out; I think there had been a cookout, but I wasn't around for that. I remember sitting on the stairs with Lynne and smoking cigarettes (hers.) Her dress kept tearing. I recognized the deterioration as light damage. Sun rot, fabric people call it. It happens frequently to the linings of draperies. I imparted this to her. She seemed polite but probably not overwhelmed with the exact diagnosis of her dress. This is what I remember. This, and Kevin Hurley with a big white rag.


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