This is about bad behavior. I was thinking about the tragedy in Sandy Hook, as will you all in America (this shit happens every week in the Middle East, like the 10 girls blown up fetching water in Pakistan, or the 20 or so people blown up in a market in Iraq during the past week) and no doubt, this is relatively shocking depravity for most of us. It should be. The grief that will follow this community will play out over decades. It’ll end marriages, close the elementary school. Jobs will be lost over this, neighborhoods losing their centers, where trust and happiness once planted seeds in people’s minds, now there will be sorrow and fear to harvest, bitterness and loneliness. Why did it happen? That’s not even a good question. Because the answer isn’t something that people don’t already know. Some people are bad like wanting to pull pranks, and some people are flat out evil bad. It’s okay to couch it in whatever conveniently acceptable psychiatric disorder you have at the moment. Whatever it is will be proved wrong, accepted as such, then, with a fresh litter of busy knob twiddlers and laser wielders, out pops a new diagnosis that makes more sense, maybe next year, maybe ten. And the diagnosis will be based around a capsule or a shot or a gas you can put into your swarm of molecular grease and call medicine, something to make the bad people good.
I wonder if those kids would be alive if that evil young man had just tried to be bad a few times. Growing up I sometimes fantasized about getting back at people who humiliated me, and my desire to excel in school, as it turned out, became defined no longer by good grades and praise from authority figures, but by gaining credibility in the eyes of my peers, my classmates, the very people who could, with just as much ease, label me with some sort of ridiculous reputation that would carry over into my adult life.
When I was a kid, there was so many ways to be bad that you had to classify them into something along the lines of evolutionary species. Anything that required absolutely zero planning could be bad, maybe even worse than something that involved elaborate planning, it was hard to say. Pulling a fire alarm and ending the school day right before a murderous test could be considered bad, but it was also a way to extort money from dumb rich kids who needed an extra night to study. The difference was context. Sneaking out of the house at night to go skate was coolness. Why not spice it up by urinating in a neighbor’s rose garden. That’s sort of a crime of need. It’s not that bad unless you catch the neighbor breathing in your ketones on her prize yellow roses. Creating an atmosphere where pranks could flourish was the goal. Kids looked for trigger points in their adult minders, ways to make the tall beasts break down, express their weaknesses, and find ways to exploit that fragility. You shared intelligence in class, honing your skills, so that the most innocuous comment or seemingly harmless gesture could, if you were unawares, be totally undeserving of the crazy temper tantrum it elicited from teachers or parents. But if you knew, if you were in on the joke, then the act would gain a sort of holy shitness that would likely never escape the people connected to the butt of the joke. I remember a teacher who liked to give everyone a zero when they got on her nerves, but would feel guilty and offer extra credit to make up for the zero. I was extremely motivated by her logic. I remeber taking home her “extra credit” list available for the duration of her class of three months or so. It was a bunch of short assignments that involved about twenty minutes of work each. I did all of them. I calculated how many times I could drive her nuts and have my homework torn up in my face and apply extra credit to maintain a good grade, and I kept that tally on the last page of my text book. I had eight circles to check off. If I did really well in class, I could be a total lunatic eight whole times. If anything, this way of looking at being bad motivated me to be a good student. A bad good student.
So, I shared this info with a couple of other ass hats in class, and after a week of planning, we started a series of running jokes involving the number zero. We’d keep talking about zero, when asked for a correct answer for an oral quiz, replied ‘zero’. When answering roll call, instead of saying ‘here’ or the ridiculously lame ‘present’, you just said ‘zero’. Get lots of people to wear shirts with the number zero and keep talking about shirts for no reason until she saw the connection, and then cook up something new. That was just one teacher. There was an entire terrarium of ridiculous Tall Adults who we were doomed to scuttle beneath, and all of them deserved our creative wrath.
In the end, though, I made that teacher so angry she started picking on me and managed to drop me to a ‘B’ based on my behavior. So, I farted on an apple and gave it to her. Everyone knew I farted on it, and no one said anything. That’s gold, the holy shitness. There are three forces of the Holy Shitness, the NASTY, THE DESTRUCTION OF STUFF, and MESSING WITH MINDS, all of which, when united with laughter, creates the fourth force, the weakest, analagous to gravity in the universe, the HOLY SHITNESS.
That’s really specific, the gag about the zeroes and homework, and maybe a bit silly, so let me talk about some standard shitty pranks that could be classified into a bestiary of Bad. First of all you had the NASTY, gross and vile things that may or may not involve your own emesis, urine, feces, boogers, spit, cum, pubic hair, flatulence, blood, or something long those lines belonging to someone else. NASTY pranks can also involve repugnant substances like rotten food, roadkill, soiled clothing, bugs, and any combination of these things in conjunction with items or places of sanctuary or comfort. Asshole on the phone insult you for working your crappy job while giving you an order for a dozen wings? Then you play wing baseball in the shop with the dozen wings, using the pizza peel as a bat. Four guys, ass hats all since they’re in on the joke. four equals three pitches each. Japanese baseball. Pray bar! Afterwards, the teriyaki wings are scooped up, fried, seasoned, and delivered. You give him the wings, act defeated, get a TIP and then go back to the shop, write up the wings as a loss, split the cash for the order, and go drink until blacking out. The perils of the holy shitness are not to be underestimated. I know, this keeps getting away from me, but there were so many horrible things I did to get my revenge. Putting a booger on your teacher’s back is boring. Teabagging your homework before turning it in is almost not even worth the effort. Teabagging your money is so 1986. It was probably against someone else’s scrotum and cocaine already. Chances are, if you were snorting cocaine in the 90s, I tea bagged your straw. I’m not proud. I’m just saying.
DESTROYING THINGS. Goes without saying. This is illegal. Wanton destruction of someone else’s stuff is usually frowned upon, but if it happens during the course of doing another kind of prank, then it becomes a sort unique qualifier that gives the prank some staying power. Throwing a dead dog on someone’s convertible in a drunken rage is NASTY, but that it drips and oozes putrefaction and leaves permanent stains is DESTROYING SHIT. Sometimes a prank that backfires and involves your own shit being destroyed is even better. Doing donuts in someone’s yard is destroying their lawn, and getting chased for five miles, wiping out a fence and wrecking your suspension giving someone the slip is PROP CITY. You might be rolling on flat tens, but you’re still rolling. This is especially true of pranks involving high speed chases in cars or on foot. A broken window, a flattened sign, a broken headlight, a torn shirt: all trophies, battle scars. DESTROYING STUFF is dangerous. Smashing mailboxes, burning stuff, blowing stuff up, setting things on fire, ransacking, and the deliberate removal of prized possessions to be publicly destroyed before one’s peers for the mutual satisfaction of the witnessing aggregate is pretty risky ways of gathering the forces of the holy shitness. Usually because to access somebody’s stuff to destroy it usually involves yet another climb up Ass Hat Mountain involving planning, deception, look outs, and illegal deeds, namely of theft, and trespassing.
So, how to spice that up? No one wants to go to jail. Driving someone’s stolen car with the back seat ablaze with tasteless porno drenched in liquor is a short-lived and horrifyingly dangerous. Putting it out with a stolen fire extinguisher from the police department which you throw out the window and use to flatten the mailbox of a known pedophile is the holy shitness. Shitting in a bag, setting it on fire on someone’s exquisitely tiled porch, pounding on the front door, sprinting away and leaping into some bushes down the street where you can watch wearing binoculars is just nasty. When the robe catches fire and the person throws it off to keep from being burned, that’s the holy shiz again. But still, as far as pranks go, that’s still pretty much just Nasyty. I knew someone who was invited over to an ass hat house to “drink up all the liquor” while ass hat’s parents were out of town. When he got there, they went downstairs to the wet bar, and my friend was ready to drink. Was gonna be epic. Whereupon the ass hat, who had every single can of food lined up on the bar opened – dozens of cans of fruits, legumes, vegetables, liquids, grabs a five pound can of ketchup and basically paints my friend, dousing him with red slurry from head to foot, splat! There was an assortment of similar sized cans, a large assortment, like the kid’s parents owned a restaurant or something. My hapless friend suddenly found himself being pelted with slops of baked beans, tomato sauce, boiled potatoes, sliced peaches, and the other kid’s cackling like a lunatic. He’s slipping, diving for cover behind a pool table which is also getting covered with mustard and kraut and ravioli. This is NASTY and DESTROYING SHIT. My friend hollers for him to stop and says to to him this is gross and he’s not going to help him clean it up, his shirt’s ruined, ass hat’s parents are going to kill him and so forth. But ass hat counters with the holy shitness and utters two short legendary statements. “Dude, this isn’t my home. I broke in.” So, they decide to drink up the liquor, as was aforementioned and promised and only proper considering the circumstances, then absolutely destroyed the place. Trespassing, destruction of property, serious jail time as a possible threat. That’s a cloud of doubt, a miasma of fear they swam in for years, worrying that the home owners would some how find out.
I had a friend break into a house and call me long distance. When the home owners returned and found all this weird shit, like all of their furniture moved into the wrong rooms, things in the yard inside in the tub, things in the house outside on the roof, they filed a police report, and called me once they obtained their phone records. I told them someone called me drunk from their state one day, were incredibly entertaining and told me to try to do my best in life. I was touched. Well, they screamed at me that I was lying and in on the joke and they’d find a way to make me pay…for messing WITH THEIR MINDS. That is the real measure of an effective prank. Does it dissolve your reality, and you with it, into a deep abyss of chaos and skepticism.
Do certain things make you stay awake at night because you’ll never know if you were, at certain times, being totally messed with? I do. There is some weirdness that’s so poetic I’ll have to eventually come to respect. I’ve been made a fool of enough to have virtually no shame any longer, and cringeworthy behavior is something I not only enjoy in others, I expect like a karmic wheel run round the earth, to bring mooning teen agers alongside my family chariot, to regard me with fake southern drawls and wandering eyes at restaurant counters, and so on. In a way, it’s like a code of honor. Making one question one’s own reality is the highest possible service that one may render another. And in order to do this, pulling a prank on someone, or constantly fooling and messing with someone will eventually sharpen them up. That’s what martial arts instructors do. That’s what great leaders do.
They create a space, an environment in which people apply doubt and experimentation, abandon models and innovate. It’s also the weakness, that destruction of or the messing with the minds of an antagonist is the goal, instead of self-preservation. It’s like a game, with no reproducible and widely accepted playbook to determine the winner. It’s exclusive acts. You have to be in on the joke to even understand what’s at stake.
The once solid conventions of your life become illusory. The possibilities of what lay beyond those contrivances which society puts before you like a banquet of nasty shit sandwiches for you to gorge yourself upon until you destroy yourself with chilling predictability, for what and why? Would you trade your security for truth? Plato said that life resembled for most people nothing but shadow play on the walls of a cave illuminated from flickering light, but take the average ass hat into the light of day, and they’d be terrified, and want to retreat back into the familiar illusions which allowed him or her to assume the routines they’d been trained to accommodate with their toilsome predictability. Would you risk losing your cozy nook in the shire to see what lurking, epic tales are to be had, to be learned, and lived by the seat of your pants, by the edge of a dagger? Sounds corny, but there’s been times when pranks designed to fool me were possibly times when I might have been killed. Evil pranks I luckily escaped.
Messing with people’s minds is an art. The bullshit that the world is built upon is more or less benign to you if you just let it happen. If you’re compliant. If you follow the rules and do what’s expected of you, despite that little voice inside your head that cries out strongly that what you’re doing might be wrong, hold up a moment, your being trotted around like a dog on a pony. In the dark is applause, and laughter… But what passes for education in this world is more or less a system of compliance to deliver to power those who are most likely to assume those positions with the least amount of resistance. The world is full of powerful people who inherited their riches. They were born into the upper class, and despite the pratfalls and wild and winding roads of fate, the system will protect them. If you’ve got a few million dollars, you make your money make money in perpetuity, live carefully, attend the perfunctory parties and social events expected of one in your station, grease the inevitable palms of the clergy, of the state, the robber baron, the technocracy, and you contribute, with your property, to a cornerstone of the edifice of humanity, this seemingly headless beast that has run amok on the earth for thousands of years. If the history of humanity has taught me anything, it is that it’s half blind, single-minded, brutal and dumb. It is as ferocious as an insect, as powerful as its weaponry, and so on, and so forth. I could be crushed like a bug any second.
John Fowles wrote a book called The Magus where a teacher is invited to a Greek isle to teach, an unbeknownst to him, he’s at the mercy of an occult presence in the employment of a rich, mysterious weirdo whose sole intent is to trick this teacher, to mess with his mind, to get him to a point where he abandons his own humanity and actually whip a woman with a bull whip (to the teacher, this is absolutely unpardonable) before an audience of actors. Everyone on the island was in on it. From the baker to the school kids It was a trick to make him realize there was always someone watching him…because he was truly special. I read that after being poisoned on the island of Crete working in olive groves. The ass hat who gave me the book was a vagabond computer software engineer who’d been traveling with a sadhu in India. We both, in fact, felt like we’d been lured to the island for one reason or another. The book was a way to discover how to question the reality of everyone around us, and we fed ourselves on the thin gruel of our paranoia. we tried to get people in on the joke. I had had dreams of a premonitory nature before tragedy struck me – I was nearly killed with insecticide by a pharmacist who owned the hospital I recovered in. In the end, I would flee the island after running a youth hostel for a year, a ramshackle affair brimming with Albanians and Yugos escaping genocide in their respective states. Whereupon following my departure, the place was immediately closed, and my friends, including the Englishman who lent me The Magus, were thrown into the street. I wonder if he thought I planned it. That would’ve been horrible, and would’ve no doubt messed with his mind for years. A month later he was badly beaten and was flown home to England by his loving family to fix him up. I wonder if he thought I had a part in it, but I hope not. Mark, if you ever read this, wherever you are, I had nothing to do with your spleen. But in the end, we were both like the hapless teacher ensnared in someone else’s web.
But I digress. Messing with people is the best. The history of the world often times is often won by wonkery, fakery, forgery, tricks and traps. To just stir your pot for a moment, I’ll give a list of things people do to mess with people: Knock on doors and run away, TP people’s houses, hide their stuff, turn everything to the ON position in someone’s car so when they turn the key, everything starts going at once, and the radio is at ear-splitting decibels, switch people’s food for something NASTY, put laxatives in it, glue things to the ground and watch you struggle to retrieve them, encase your workstation keyboard in jello, fill your purse with fish, put sand in your umbrella, salt in the sugar shaker, order magazines to your home, prank call people, prank call people and leave telephone numbers of people you’ve already pranked and link the narrative of the pranks so each thinks the other person’s messing with them, go streaking naked at important events, crash parties and act Different, act absurd or counterproductive to an absolutely absurd event like showing up dressed as an Hassidic at a holocaust denier rally and ask if anyone would like to go to a ball game, rearrange words on signs, letters in words on signs, Photoshop and manipulate photographs, spoof and satire any event and broadcast it, call in fake dedications to radio stations, hack people’s websites and post weirdness, draw dicks and Hitlers into every single background of every movie you do prop work on, put up fake flyers and then prank the people who show up for the imaginary event, get their information and use it to prank them even more, then prank the people who thought that scheme up, move people’s furniture just three inches to the left, wear a fake mustache and a wig to Goth clubs, go for broke and get on the PA at any store and announce fake deals, wear ridiculous costumes, fake illnesses or invent grandiose achievements to share with boorish braggarts, get absurd tattoos, make little shrines to non-existent gods, create a gallery of paintings in a forest and abandon them, send random Christmas cards to total strangers with truly sincere messages, put letters in a bottle asking people for favors and send them to sea, asking not for rescue, but requesting certain shaping technicues of pubic hair to be adopted by their families and native communities. Pose as an employee at a big box store and send everyone on break. Flash mobs, random acts of crazy, living theater, haunted houses. Pay it forward. The stock market, the White Paper, the newspaper, the laws, the theories on human behavior, the poorly conceived lifestyles perpetuating destruction upon the earth you can numb yourself against and support thanks to the pharmacopia we let bleed into our every irresponsibility, the forgiving words for every expected sin. The medal for the murder, the cross for the Savior. It’s sort of presented like a joke, but things get our of hand when you don’t cut loose, question authority, laugh at it a bit. Punks not dead.
I just wish the kids and those adults in Sandy Hook were still alive. If only that ass hole had known how fun it is to go roll someone’s house with toilet paper and pour laundry soap in the yard, order a subscription of gilf porn to someone’s home, post a flyer with their phone numbers offering to walk people’s iguanas, or advertise the sale wooden diapers made out of redwood trees. At least someone’s would’ve been laughing. That’s the difference between evil bad and prank bad. Laughter. In the end, there’s something to which you may look back and laugh about, especially with a friend who recognizes the potential of holy shitness to manifest in the least likely of places, especially in your mind. Or your mom’s, or whoever lucky enough to share the joke you’re in.