Post-Post-Post-Modernist Folk Tales

Illustration by Amber Albrecht

I think the best folk tales we have in our generation are the lies our parents told us when we were children.

Every night before bed when I was younger, my father would come into our rooms and tuck us in, lie down and make up a story to tell us. I'm speculating, but, I'm pretty sure they were generally fabricated on the spot.

The ones he told me were usually incongruous and catered to my interests, which, as a pre-adolescent growing up in the nineties, dealt largely with cartoons and comic books, video games and violent television shows. I really can't say I remember any one of those stories in particular, but I do remember a brief series on The Ninja Turtles, as my mother forbade me from watching the cartoon for some reason.

The stories he told my younger sister, Maggie, were much more interesting to hear back then, But I find them even more interesting to think about now.

Usually, these stories centered around a young girl named Melissa-Ann and her various adventures, which were strangely similar to events in Maggie's daily life.

Melissa-Ann scores a goal in the soccer game, Melissa-Ann sings in the holiday concert, Melissa-Ann and the bullies on the playground, and so on...

Maggie ate those stories up, and every night begged to be told a new one before bed until she was much too old to be told bedtime stories. Even I sat in on a few and remember them fairly well.

Eventually, the life of Melissa-Ann turned into utterly fantastic legend, involving space travel, dinosaurs, pirates--even the tooth fairy and Santa Claus made cameos. There might have even been one where Melissa-Ann celebrated Passover and Elijah appeared at the dinner table, but I might be making it up.

Years later, after my father's funeral, my mother, sisters, and I were forced to stand in a line at a reception in an events room below the church sanctuary. After the painstaking hour of pre-rehearsed "sorry for your loss"es, and "if there's anything I can do..."s from people I barely knew, a twelve year-old Maggie turned to me and asked,

"Where was Melissa-Ann?"


The Hipster, The Hipster, and That

"The Beat Generation, that was a vision that we had, John Clellon Holmes and I, and Allen Ginsberg in an even wilder way, in the late forties, of a generation of crazy, illuminated hipsters suddenly rising and roaming America, serious, bumming and hitchhiking everywhere, ragged, beatific, beautiful in an ugly graceful new way--a vision gleaned from the way we had heard the word 'beat' spoken on streetcorners on Times Square and in the Village, in other cities in the downtown city night of postwar America--beat, meaning down and out but full of intense conviction--We'd even heard old 1910 Daddy Hipsters of the streets speak the word that way, with a melancholy sneer--It never meant juvenile delinquents, it meant characters of a special spirituality who didn't gang up but were solitary Bartlebies staring out the dead wall window of our civilization--the subterraneans heroes who'd finally turned from the 'freedom' machine of the West and were taking drugs, digging bop, having flashes of insight, experiencing the 'derangement of the senses,' talking strange, being poor and glad, prophesying a new style for American culture, a new style (we thought), a new incantation--The same thing was almost going on in the postwar France of Sartre and Genet and more we knew about it--But as to the actual existence of a Beat Generation, chances are it was really just an idea in our minds--We'd stay up 24 hours drinking cup after cup of black coffee, playing record after record ofWardell Gray, Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, Willie Jackson, Lennie Tristano and all the rest, talking madly about that holy new feeling out there in the streets- -We'd write stories about some strange beatific Negro hepcat saint with goatee hitchhiking across Iowa with taped up horn bringing the secret message of blowing to other coasts, other cities, like a veritable Walter the Penniless leading an invisible First Crusade- -We had our mystic heroes and what's wrote, nay sung novels about them, erected long poems celebrating the new 'angels' of the American underground--In actuality there was only a handful of real hip swinging cats and what there was vanished mightily swiftly during the Korean War when (and after) a sinister new kind of efficiency appeared in America, maybe it was the result of the universalization of Television and nothing else (the Polite Total Police Control of Dragnet's 'peace' officers) but the beat characters after 1950 vanished into jails and madhouses, or were shamed into silent conformity, the generation itself was shortlived and small in number." -Kerouac

Now we wear skinny expensive jeans, cheap t-shirts, dabble in music, drugs, life. no one takes things too seriously. we try represent our culture- or the future of our culture, for that matter- it is too dangerous to dedicate oneself to anyone thing because nothing is perfect enough. our tastes and ideas have been gentrified. the things bought for us are the best because we don't have to analyze their value long enough to devaluate it as a worthwhile belonging or statement. spiritualism is struggling in a minority of the hidden free spirited. 
hedonism has overcome mental expansion. we take drugs to relate to the finite not the infinite. the "hipster" thinks he's someone else. self-worth is no longer internalized (self-worth or self-appreciation for that matter); self-worth is determined by how others judge you and you judge them. we judge others and ourselves, nothing is sacred. 
this mentality is internalized in us when we are growing up in that cliché privileged and bigoted suburban coming-of-age. we get educated. by a system. we learn to think outside the system, as much as it allows us. 
to the bottom line. 
what this generation lacks, is sincerity, honesty, first-hand experience, internalized experience, a sense of gentle humor, compassion, introspection, calls for change...
we need to look into crystals and forget what's not important. who cares? I want no part of it. I want to create. Let the critics be who they will, those who are afraid to create. To the bottom line. Is that enough?

Reflections #2

(from The Big Picture)

When someone shouts/hollers/yells/whoops in public alone, people might think they're crazy.
While if someone does the same in a group, people might think they have a great story.
The problem is that everyone has some kind of good story.