Been hearing a lot lately from Europeans grateful as hell they don’t live in the US — talk of bigwigs like Boris Johnson renouncing his U.S. citizenship over tax bills from the states, in spite of never having lived there; gaffs at incredible student debt, astronomical medical charges and the general way the United States milks its citizens as cash cows as soon as they reach proverbial adulthood (though, like a patronizing, overprotective parent, won’t trust them with a drink til three years later.)
My distaste, as a citizen, has only grown since I left four years ago. Though not ungrateful for the luxury my citizenship has afforded me — ease of travel with my passport, for instance, or the ease of obtaining a new iPhone every two years under my family’s costly mobile contract, or the high-quality education that ironically led me to escape the holy land of capitalism in the first place — I still feel more emburdened by the things that define Americanness, the debt intended to enslave me, the brute sense of entitlement that follows like a stray dog until you learn to strangle it off, the intuitive affront at things deemed less civilized, that which is dirty, that which is poor; the social obligation to pretend to be nice until you’ve gotten what you want out of someone, to bend over backwards for the customer who, under sacred capitalist doctrine, is always right.
Capitalism has founded a culture based on for-profit falsities, people taught to swindle as a means to an end — a pasted-on smile and a high-pitched “How are you today?!” that, as we all know, is never intended to invite an honest answer. Like most of my friends without affluent parents, I’ve spent years sucking sacred customer dick in the service industry, tolerating patronizing verbal abuses of all those Good Christians who, you never know, might just be having a bad day — so don’t take it personal (if you do, you’ll be fired or worse — sued for inflicting emotional distress.) It pains me to envision forcing myself back into that industry; never again could I felate a customer for the sake of my job unless I go into literal prostitution, which pays better anyway. Fire me for self-defense or a refusal to bullshit, if you must. I’ll find another shit job, there are millions like it out there. That life is a mere mirage of living.
Then there’s the debt. My humble 22 grand used to be enough to keep me awake at night, until I decided it was a social tool to oppress and subdue me (which it is.)
Consider Noam Chomsky’s take:
“Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt, they can’t afford the time to think. Tuition fee increases are a “disciplinary technique,” and, by the time students graduate, they are not only loaded with debt, but have also internalized the “disciplinarian culture.” This makes them efficient components of the consumer economy.”
I sought an education and was charged an inhuman amount as punishment. I do not, have never agreed with this system but have had no choice but to consent — rape at gunpoint is still rape. Seeking education is not a crime; a society which values its citizens and its future must encourage education and install incentives to seek it out, not punitive consequences. The USA has made its priorities quite clear, and they do not coincide with my own. At the risk of sounding like a cocky piece of shit, nothing is more valuable to me than my time, my youth, my vivacity — I refuse to devote the years of my 20’s, all this vigor and passion and potential, slaving away on the corporate ladder, or behind the sales counter deep-throating spoiled white people just to pay down my interest fees. They can tack the debt on me, but they don’t own my hide. Hit me with the consequences, USA. Threaten me with total financial ruin — the way I see it, with all this debt I’m already there. My years are mine. If I am so free, as a citizen of this Great Nation, then free I shall be and far I shall roam, unburdened by chains, financial or otherwise. The debt’s not going anywhere, so I’ll worry about it later on. Right now, I’ve got other priorities (marrying a charming, wealthy Canadian is relatively high on the list. Canada HMU.)
chasing one little baby tick of unblackened weed around the rim of the pipe, warm in my bone-cold fingers: cold white light and me here on this dingy old velvet couch listening to the boys in AIDS’s bedroom pretending it’s a real gym. they listen to eminem a little too much, but i won’t givem shit for it.
genezareth and hannah are considering busking on a corner on weekends; seabass was turned down for a resto job due to his lack of a work visa; bethany was selling Christmas cards for a euro apiece; i was considering selling knit caps, AIDS and I have discussed becoming regional camgirls.
we are sort of brutally poor, but we do our bestish. combat creeping depression with routines and rituals: open the shutters every morning and close them up every night, go for hikes, go for runs, do pullups and pushups and abs, chat together in the sparsely-furnished kitchen all squattin on buckets and low stools on the ground. we are all in balls deep for bernie sanders.
written fall-winter 2015. entry 1 of a series.
he was at once somehow equally handsome and perverse, with a bit of a hunch from habitually lowering his height to interact with those around him. a life full of forced bowing as if bound to some socially obligatory servitude.
yet this servitude to others, it touches us all — forms a grid, a matrix to which we attach ourselves and from those fixed points create an extended reality. we have shaped it upon the play ground which was provided by mother nature. she threw down the backdrop and now is watching the scene unfold. the grand comedy. cheers Ma.
this net above us is held in place by our own hands and those of our neighbors. in public we expect things of people, and we reaffirm these expectations by accepting that things should be expected of us in the first place as a natural reality. we reinforce that reality by engaging actively in it regardless of our stance(i.e. being “anti-capitalist” but continuing to purchase new items)
peer pressure is the weight of the collective stare of a given population as it turns and questions everything about you in an instant. it is heavy. it is painful. It is a weight that serves to keep us in our places by allowing us to force manipulated behaviors onto others: with narrowed eyes we say, “because you are different, i doubt you.” that type of prohibitive garbage.
who knows. cosmic crap. remember to keep in close contact with friends and not be an asshole.
only REAL MEN please
a REAL men:
-UniversidAd De La kAlLe
-into “butt stuff”
-can survive on pussy alone
-30min underwater breath-hold minimum
-can ask questions
-NOT allergic to shellfish
-SOMETIMES wears thongs
-ability to pivot right AND left
-does NOT use a pillow
-allergic to yogurt OK
I cried for you in the kitchen last night
before I remembered
I live alone,
just like I wanted.
Vienna. Wien. Wiener. Ha ha.
A pulse in the dead heat. Espresso with cream.
Who are you reading? (Hustvedt and Foer.)
Gothic churches, pointed spires, Flak towers that fired 8,000 rounds a minute at Allied forces, including my paratrooper grandfather. Did you know, he would say, that I went up in an airplane twenty-one more times than I came down in one?
Wind. Lots of it.
The fading gloom in Fabian’s massive modern office-turned-flat and his cologne, clearly he has spruced up. He talks of schnapps, good for a stomachache.
A dim, colorfully lit Hungarian café, a nude female mannequin wearing the head of an unknown antlered mammal with eyes on the wrong side of its head — “probably some art piece,” says Fabian, and shrugs.
Onion soup and tea and a seconding of the schnapps notion from the owner of the restaurant (did I ask?), a thin, dramatic woman with spiked bleached tips and a long brown skirt. Fabian drinks three beers and uses Facebook on his phone.
Café Kafka (real), Café Jenseits (smoky 1920’s), Café Sperl (just old), Café Europa (three levels, each one murkier than the last — here Fabian orders a Frankfurter, tells me to “punk up” and drink more Fernet Branca), Café futurgarten (predictably trendy, as a name without capitals will always indicate), Café Phil (for sophisticated hipsters), Café Espresso (a dim bar packed with cool chainsmoking millennials: all seats taken, so Fabian decides to lean up against the doorjamb. I make eyes with a fella in the window. We watch each other, then he watches me walk away.)
Fabian, now drunk, launches upstairs into the swanky wine-and-cheese event of an elite facial reconstruction academy. It is quite small, private, a suit-and-tie affair. Fabian bursts in, raincoat dripping, and shouts (in English, for my benefit) about wanting to eat their “tiny breads” (appetizers.) I am behind him, an actual homeless person. The man who chases us out wears a beige paisley suit worth more than any dwelling I might ever aspire to own.
Hi, I’m Viennese. I study architecture. My grandparents were Nazis, but I’m a vegan socialist. I climb mountains effortlessly, speak English fluently, and my university is paid for. Now you decide, who won the war?
For those too ill to eat:
Sobriety: an unreasonable choice.
Jägermeister: a solid choice.
Fernet Branca: a safer choice.
Averna with lemon: a poor choice.
Café Kreisky and vomiting discreetly into the bright red toilet, Café Bukowski with Charlie himself gazing out from all angles, daring me to do it again (but this time with gusto!) Hey ladies, I think perhaps we should take a cab home. No worries, I’ll pay for it! I’m fine, just going to the toilet. Just real quick.
Small red flecks in the water. Scheisse.
Only one night in the Wien ER (Wiener. Ha ha.) I have become an avid hospital tourist. Thricely stabbed before anyone can locate my artery, as usual, then the waiting room until I’ve been bleeding backwards into the empty IV bag for a while. I sleep in a chair because my friends have to sleep in chairs. We’re there from 1:30 to 5 AM. Stomach virus, Gastritis, the docs tell me. Non-fatal, in spite of the blood in your vomit. Take some carbon. Where shall we send your bill, Miss Worley?
A couple of shows: DOA, a handful of unknown Viennese punk bands at Venster99, Midnight Priest from Portugal way out at Erdberg, me jogging through the industrial district to catch the metro before midnight as I’m still too ill to crash on an addict’s living-room floor. Sometimes I still feel like a phoney — not dirty enough, certainly not a satisfactory alcoholic, sometimes I walk into vintage stores — sometimes I even buy jeans at H&M. Gasp, don’t tell the punks that. But look, I gotta buy pants somewhere and fitting this ass ain’t easy.
One failed departure from the city leading to a short campout at the Westbanhof station and a re-assesment of my mental capacities (Westbanhof is not Hauptbanhof, whether or not you speak German, you scheisskopf.) So back to the house I trudge, and as I am “well” it is high time for a drink — make that three beers — during a Quebecois film about two lovable virgins aspiring to bone each other in public places — 3x4cls of Jäger for 7.50€ (bargain) on the steps of the Volkstheater with Lia and her lipsticked Viennese friends — then one last café to top it all off, tucked under the Gurtel, blacked out on all that Jäger, a couple hours of Actually Dancing to an American swing playlist, and a trek home that I do not remember.
I catch a ride out of the city the next day with a sculpture artist and an atheist physicist Syrian refugee who’s into heavy metal. We listen to the Cypress Hill Black Sunday album on repeat.
That was my Vienna.