Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Return to Ground Zero, Che Pt. II

Okay, so I'm at back Mission Grounds, all set to re-read this morose, unwieldy tome of woe I'd written "to" my current ex-girlfriend, which I'd probably never send her anyway, so I really wrote it to and for myself, when who should I run into but the Che Guevara bike violator. He was missing his red beret, so it was one of those-is that him? is that not him?-kind of deals. But then he said, "Hey, sorry about your bike." I assured him that it was "all good," which it decidedly was not, the only thing making it approach the vicinity of even "partially good" being the fact that I nearly broke my hand pounding him about the skull. ("It's all good." Who came up with that boner? I'm reminded of my security friend White Trash Gary's line: "It's all good? No it ain't. Some of it's downright stank.")

And that's when the scene became comic. I mean really comic, sublimely so-somewhere between Shakespeare and the early episodes of Three's Company, before Chrissy left. (Which were really just a modernized version of Twelfth Night anyway.) The guy behind me, who Che had previously given the "hey what's up?" to, said:

"Why are you sorry about my bicycle?"

Che may have been waiting for me to clarify things, to tell the confused man behind me that it was my headache-inducing bicycle that he was sorry for. He just smiled cryptically. A good revolutionary, I suppose, sews chaos and eschews clarity.

"It wasn't my bicycle," the man behind me continued. "It was my guitar. You messed up the tuning pegs on my guitar." Apparently my Gordie Howe style, jersey-over-the-head drubbing was the first beating in a long line of petty vandalisms. Maybe the first beating would prove the end of said line, but you can't beat common sense into the clinically stupid, and to be sure, I had no idea how many beatings Che had received before I jumped on him on 16th Street. Maybe it was only the first of the week.

There was a bit of silence, then the man went on: "You got in a fight with some lesbian in a bar. That's what messed up the tuning pegs. They're stripped out."

Wow. Amazing. Che's trail of terror has widened to include some unsuspecting reader of Rubyfruit Jungle trying to mind her own business while sipping Guinness, or perhaps chamomile tea, at the local watering hole. Che, like most revolutionaries, seemed to have more of a knack for stirring up shit that for actual violence. Maybe he was the one who drew the picture of the telephone with the Anarchy circle 'A' on it and the words: "Freedom: Dial 1-800-AK-47" on the wall of the crapper in this very eatery. Clearly, this café revolutionary, this potty Trotsky, wouldn't know an AK-47 if it crawled up his ass and shot him. And Che? If you're going to swing a guitar at something or someone, clearly the idea is to swing it by the neck, down near the head stock and those easily damaged tuning pegs, and smack the body-especially if it's solid-up against the object of intent. Maybe he was Eastern Bloc. He'd evidently missed rock 'n' roll from the time Elvis smashed his first guitar, through The Who, and past Sonic Youth and Nirvana. But if The Velvet Underground could inspire Vaclav Havel to start a revolution behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia, what the hell was Che's excuse? He was too primitive to even use a club correctly. And that's pretty fucking primitive.

You might say that it's so primitive it's advanced and that Che is some kind of quasi-enlightened Coyote trickster character, stirring up the shit pot with the wrong end of the stick so us normal folk can see the humor and folly in our attachment to things of this world. Good spin. My counter to that would be: "Uh, I don't think so."

"So now what's wrong with it? It needs new strings?"

"No, it's the tuning pegs. The things at the end of the neck that the strings go into. They're all stripped out. You went to a bar and got into it with some lesbians"-ah, the plural-I'm sure Che had tried to crowbar his way into some kind of sapphic seraglio-but would a man who couldn't use a club show any aptitude with a pry bar?-maybe he attempted an unflattering Janis Ian cover at open mic night at the Lexington-"and now I've got a guitar with strings that I can't tune."

And in that, I'm sure, there's a metaphor for this whole fucking thing. And maybe a moral to the story: The guitar of the revolution is always out of tune (and thus, all the more revolting to the establishment)? You can't keep a good lesbian down? If you're going to smash the state, you'd better know how to swing a guitar? Don't sing it, bring it…and if you're going to swing it, better know how to grip it? ("This machine kills fascists.")

You can't play guitar with a broken hand?

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