Saturday, February 16, 2008

“Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.”

The greatest lecture hall performance (by Lucifer)

Preface and Part One


So the other day I was at the local bodega after work, waiting in line at the register to pay for some beer, when I caught the news on the TV that’s always turned on in that place. As I was leaving work about 75 minutes earlier, I had heard a little something about someone getting shot at Northern Illinois University, but I didn’t pay much attention. DeKalb isn’t a rough burg, too much, but people shoot people sometimes there, I think. Once in a while. Pretty sure it happens. So I forgot all about it during the drive home. The local college radio stations were under programming routines as per standard usual normal.

So it startled me at the bodega when I heard the Channel 7 reporter say that at least 17 people had been wounded. Then I looked up at the screen and saw a familiar building, looking exactly the same as it did the last time I was inside it, in May of 1990. And I felt a little weak in the knees.

See, I’m an old man now. I don’t even think any of my old professors are still at NIU, and I certainly don’t have any personal connections to any undergrads there. Nor any grad students anymore, I guess. But college kids in 2008 don’t really look all that different from college kids 20 years ago. They probably wouldn’t want to hear that … but they don’t. They have more gadgets. But they look about the same.

Well, there is one big difference, in terms of language. They seem to be much more fluent in the idioms of crisis, insecurity, chaos, mayhem, and terror than many, if any, of us were in the late 1980s. They’ve grown up in a world that has kept shattering over and over again. This is an era when candlelight vigils and campus-wide lockdowns seem to be almost as common as illicit keggers in dorm rooms (assuming they still have illicit keggers in dorm rooms – someone please tell me they do). When I was a student at NIU, I think the worst thing that happened to shock the consciousnesses of the student body was that, one time, a few miscreants plastered the campus with posters for a rock show that had some dirty cartoons on them. (Which those of us who were damaged by it attempted to express ourselves … uh. Never mind. That’s another whole set of posts.)

Pre-9/11, pre-Virginia Tech, pre-everything like that, people used to get away with all kinds of shit that would probably earn you a tasing now, or worse. Climbing onto the roof of Altgeld Hall for a puff. Sneaking up to the 16th floor balcony of the student center for a few tokes with a panoramic view of Corn Country. Breaking into the steam tunnels and roaming around … while stoned. Slipping into the power plant and shutting off the lights in the library at 8 p.m. one night for a weed-fueled laugh. Getting high in the arboretum. Getting high behind some bushes in the Mall. Getting high in the bathroom at Cole Hall.

Yeah. The days of that last one are most likely over, permanently.

Which makes me kind of sad, even though it isn’t like I was going to re-matriculate and do everything all over again – despite the fact that I have frequently recurring dreams about doing just that.

OK. This is getting raggedy. I should try to focus. All right, campers, what I think I’m going to focus on is Cole Hall itself. Since I don’t know any current students at NIU, or teachers, or anyone (except Bobbo at Record Rev – woot!), I’m finding myself fixated on the location itself. I spent a lot of time in that building, and in that specific room, and it’s very easy to place myself there in my mind. I can pretty much picture exactly what the whole horrorshow looked like.

So. I’m going to do three posts about specific memories from my ancient times at NIU – (shortish) anecdotes – set in the exact room where Mr. Dweeb-ass Jerk With the Unspellable Name did you know what last Thursday. These pieces will be titled “Performance,” “Exidor,” and “Graduation.” And after the anecdotes … we’ll see. I have some other things to say, I think.

Part One – Performance

This first one maybe isn’t that much of an anecdote, but it has audiovisual aids. And I never said this exercise wouldn’t involve some rocking.

Anyway, the Cine Club used to screen movies in Cole Hall – foreign pictures, art house flicks, etc. – and I used to catch one once in a while. One Friday, Zippy Squeak-Gun and I caught a talkie from 1970 called “Performance,” starring Mick Jagger. Here's the synopsis:

Chas, a violent and psychotic East London gangster needs a place to lie low after a hit that should never have been carried out. He finds the perfect cover in the form of guest house run by the mysterious Mr. Turner, a one-time rock superstar, who is looking for the right spark to rekindle his faded talent.

And here's the trailer:

This movie freaked me out (in a good way) -- one reason being that the song "E=MC²" by Big Audio Dynamite used a bunch of samples from it, and I had played that song about a million times, so when the lines were spoken in the movie, it was like something falling into place backwards through time ... or something.

Also, I was getting pretty heavily into William Burroughs at the time, and the movie features a line (spoken by Jagger's character) that Burroughs, in Cities of the Red Night, attributed to Hassan i Sabbah (leader of the Assassins):

Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.

Which, at the time, was a fascinating concept to me. Although I never could defend it against anyone who pointed out that it's complete bullshit.

Also in the movie, this kickass song, with slide guitar by Ry Cooder:

Memo From Turner

Not much of an anecdote, I guess. Zipka and I saw a movie, which tied in with a bunch of the farkakta "counter-cultural" mishegoss I was deeply interested in at the time. And it was a movie with all sorts of violent acts and themes exploring violence, etc., that I watched in a room that, 20 years later, was the scene of a mass murder. Ooy ... it might be kind of a crummy anecdote, but I can't quite shake the weird feeling that it's all connected.

1 comment:

Feral Mom said...

Brilliant, as always, and with quality YouTube, as always. I look forward to the rest of the series.