The Last Big Party Before the End of the World

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They eat each other alive out on the fringe, just like everywhere else.  No margin for tolerance. Same old clash of values, priorities, ideologies brought forth from the Outer Realms. Same animosities, resentments, prejudices, still looking for someone to scapegoat, to place the blame for every wrong turn of events, not starting fresh as was the intention. Not seeking solutions, just retribution, still linked by a chain of violence to the Old World. The Safety Belt, her very name an irony, the most dangerous hotspot on the globe, condensed viral cluster of the disease that felled a nation: unfocused anger, misdirected rage, false hope of catharsis through bloodletting, like the Nazis trying to harness the death energy of millions of dead Jews. They themselves just another chainlink in the barbed, razor-wired meshwork of subhistoric psychic mayhem. The hairy breakwaters of the telekinetic wavelength. Overwhelmed by nature’s rich but simple ebb and flow, the evolving mammalian brain developed blocks against the vast storehouses of knowledge that, for simple creatures encoded and receptive since their creation, defines the organisms connection to the whole.                     
So instead of possessing the whole of knowledge and awareness from conception, we supposedly advanced beings must relearn what we already know, buried so deep it is beneath our access. We receive the information in increments, bite-size snack food, dietary supplements, perfect for the binge-and-purge, dump-and-fill approach of the academic system. Half-baked ideas for fresh-faced kids with deep-fried minds. Don’t learn, memorize, save data ‘til test date, then delete the file to make room for more disinformation.
Thus do the ivy-vined walls of otherwise sterile and inorganic ‘higher learning’ serve the will of the masters, creating more produce-and-consume-oriented labor force drones, pragmatic, materialistic, logical, and only dutifully spiritual, partaking in their personal sacraments one designated day a week in order to maintain a sharehold in the Magic Kingdom that is the officially sanctioned promise of a later, greater reward for services rendered during the forced march to enslavement and death.  If we instead discover a personal relationship with the Creative Mind, we can commune with our God(s) every day, just as easily contacted in a phone booth as a confessional, even easier on a mountaintop or within listening distance of the ocean’s constant hum. If we sit back and allow ourselves to ponder this conceit of eternity, the inward journey is begun, and the territories within seem to expand in infinite directions the further and more frequently we wander, hiking our way into the unmapped regions of our intellectual and psychic frontiers. Getting lost without getting scared, aware that all lines do not only lead to the same point, all points are in fact the same. The only destination to avoid or fear is the one from which we started, and it’s a moot point since there is no turning back once you’ve lurched a few feet forward. You can stay where you land, within sight of the past life, stagnate, rot, and crumble into dust within spitting distance of the moldering heaps of brainwash delivered and dumped by the shuttleload during the so-called formulative years. Never more than a trainee, a flunkie, possibly blissful, definitely ignorant and maybe no worse off than the ones who struggled long and hard to traverse the greatest inner distance their means, abilities, and stamina would allow.  Knowledge may not lead to peace and ease, but if we ponder long enough and never cease riddling the so-called facts, soon enough we discover that we are all immortal, that this energy which fuels us, allows us, empowers us, is us, is as constant and eternal as any force or occurrence that we can grasp with the current limitations imposed upon our minds. Perhaps we do not retain consciousness, the mundane and trivial details of human existence hardly relevant once the scope is fully widened. Perhaps the insistence on an identity, our unwavering belief in the self, is the damning perversion, the fatal flaw that presents us from recognizing without question, without doubt, that we are not merely of the whole, we are all the whole. If ours is the only Universe, an ego would not be a necessary or natural trait. However, if we have neighbors on the other side of the dimensional boundary, perhaps all the bluster and bravado and preening and strutting develop as tendencies to facilitate survival, a show of strength and certainty that implies that we belong, we’ve staked our claim, and no extradimensional phenomenon is going to push us off the existential ledge.
                                                                                                              Dr. Amos Atlas
                                                                                                            Reality Unhinged
Burning Man 2017: Stunning Photos From The World's Biggest And Craziest Festival

Dr. Atlas’ World’s Only Solid Light Rodeo Circus and Wet Methane Carnival was a hybrid of wild west show and science fair. Atlas, a charismatic, vibrant octogenarian, had lived and worked on the cutting edge of designer science for over half of the century. Once Dean of the College of Sciences at a large, state-run University in the Southwest, the good Dr. was hounded out of the institution and into a decade of exile when a secret, privately funded experiment he was conducting on the academic premises was discovered by prying, paranoid, unimaginative campus liberals, who brought it to the attention of the University Board, who informed the mayor, who went to the Governor, who contacted the FBI, who, as it happened, had a vested interest in busting Atlas, and in keeping the whole matter out of the public consciousness.

Atlas was able to spirit away the subjects of his research, his charges, his children, and to escape himself, along with most of his team, thanks to a healthy personal and chemical relationship with key members of the true American underground, the secret class of revolutionaries, resistors, defiers, defilers, soldiers in the war on oppression and ignorance, the ongoing struggle for the means of production and control.

The babies went to orphanages, foster homes, private care facilities established and operated by the dedicated members of the Movement.  Atlas travelled the low road, a circle as elliptical, and often convergent with, that of the fugitive Yippie, Abbie Hoffman.  The two even struck up a friendship, Atlas picking up where Leary left off as a guru and guide through the dualistic realm of the spiritual sciences; Hoffman provoking Atlas to new levels of understanding as to the insidious, body-and-soul-mangling reality oozing wetly through the ripped and bulging seams of capitalism’s plastic veneer. Atlas finally and formally politicized, a champion of equality, justice, and self-determination for every living being.  Hoffman, and indirectly Kesey, inspired Atlas to create his carnival, a  free-roving, year-round source of entertainment and edification for the Great Unwashed Masses.  He also felt obligated to acknowledge his inspirational debt to Walt Disney, Spanky and Our Gang (“Let’s put on a show!”), and PT Barnum.  Ten years below street level had garnered a lot of contacts, an entire invisible community of lifelong friends, extended family, fellow travelers with the knowledge and skill and spirit to aid in his offshoot of the struggle.  Technicians, performers, inventors, designers, builders, promoters, producers, day laborers, ticket-takers, hand-stampers, devoted fans and followers.  All his as if for the asking, all because he had a contribution that they all found worthwhile enough to sacrifice for, as long as they felt they were getting a return on their investment, if only a sulfurous flash of matchstick enlightenment.

With a Disneyesque entrepreneurial spirit and an Einsteinian level of genius, Atlas brought his fellow citizens of the world into a reality of his own creation. While many of the inventions and technological advances displayed at the Carnival over the years had practical applications, many in use worldwide as a result of his efforts, nothing gave greater satisfaction to the Dr. than to bring delight, fear, wonder, and awe to the faces of young, old, and undetermined. And oftentimes for free. One stint per year at a strategic time and place could earn enough to keep the show going for the other 51 weeks, depending on weather conditions and the sometimes lingering doldrums of the slow season. 

This year’s marathon moneyfest was being held at Govt. Site #11.7b, which had once been the city of Detroit. On the eve of the thirtieth anniversary of the catastrophe which had decimated that town, Atlas and his merrily determined crew were driving stakes, raising tents, setting up camp for a week-long run in the Motor City Crater, as the location was popularly known. Advertised as the Armageddon Follies: Old-fashioned Spellbindin’ at Newfangled Prices, or Gimme Dat No-time Religion. The name led to Atlas’ first post-exile legal entanglement when a letter arrived from a man on the West Coast who called himself Leland deMand and claimed to be putting on a three-day musical slugfest that he was billing as the Armageddon Follies. Atlas was indifferent to a lawsuit, but Farley Weege knew of deMand, a son-of-a-bitch LA bigsnot, he said, who probably stole the name from them but would sue them down to sawdust if they didn’t let it go.  Weege suggested renaming the show the EndTimes ReVu, and Atlas liked that, thought it sounded like a radical newspaper.  Both men thought that would be the last word from Leland deMand, that their selfless consent would leave the sue-happy crew boss of corprock wannababies with nothing to do but stamp his feet like Rumpelstiltskin until he was forever wedged and enraged in the wings of some outdoor ampitheater built astride a high-stress faultline.  They had misjudged the competition.

deMand showed up on Thursday afternoon, his vintage ‘Nam-era Bell Huey rising as if from the urban rubble and swooping pterodactylly down to the crusty craterbed.  Bodyguards preceded him, steroid-pumped, coke-fueled, twitchy motions of weaponry and personal field phones, constant contact, brains abuzz with hive mentality, data feed readouts to and from the core consciousness to whom they answered instinctively.  Catch one alone, all it can do is sting in defense and flee in terror.

Perimeter scans, radiation-level readings, X-ray specscan of all Carnival personnel in immediate vicinity.  An all-clear finally signalled and deMand descended with the jaunty ‘life’s so cool and so am I’ spring-step of someone used to being constantly on, on the air, onstage, on-camera, out there in the limelit glare and vacant gaze of the public eye, taking all the credit for what went on behind the scenes, just so everyone knew that their cultural heroes, pop icons, didn’t get there by themselves, were in fact more product, an important but not essential aspect of all he was responsible for creating.

“If you ever so much as catch me in a pair of shades like his, don’t even check for a pulse. Just gut me and stuff me.”

“On me honor, Doc,” Weege replied in his rolling brogue.

             “Gentlemen,” was the first lie to come motoring out of his mouth as deMand extended one professionally-manicured and recently palm-read hand. 

Atlas responded with a reticent, lackadaisical handshake, and Leland deMand got down to business. Is there someplace we can talk.”

“This isn’t a place?” Atlas jibed him, gesturing at the ashen landscape.

“Truth to tell, I am in a hurry. But I wouldn’t say no to a drink.”

“Spring water okay?”

deMand sighed slightly, response otherwise inscrutable behind mirrored wraparounds.

“Fine.”

“Won’t you join me in my tent?”

“If you’re here to serve suit, I think you’re going to be sorely disappointed when you get a peek at our tender boxes.”

“Don’t fuck with my illusions, Atlas. You’re ass-deep in gold, huckster. But I didn’t come here to pose legal threats.  I mean, you don’t send a man to do a lawyer’s job, right?” guffawing at his own cheap shot.

“I suppose. Then, at risk of seeming abrupt, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

deMand went from uproarious to no-nonsense in .o6 flat.

“I’m asking you to vacate the premises.”

“Why?”

“For the Armageddon Follies.”

Atlas was furious.  “It’s not enough you take our name, now you want our venue?”

“Chill, Doc. I’m in the middle of a presentation. Let me finish.”

A long draw of the Spring water did nothing to cool Atlas’ rage.  deMand lit a Castro and continued his spiel.

“Yes, I am forced to find a new location for my extravaganza. Maybe you heard something about that little incident of civil unrest in my hometown? They blew up my stadium. And yes, I did consider grabbing this scene of unnatural wonder out from under you, just because I could, and I’ve trademarked my name by undercutting the competition.”

“Backstabbing, more like.”

“Uh-uh. Backstabbing I reserve for family and close friends. Which I like to think we will be.”

“I find it rather unlikely.”

“You’re in a really negative space, Doc. Please don’t take me there.”

“You’re scum, deMand. Pitiful, wretched, carcinogenic spawn of all the tragic, ruined masses have been trained to hold dear.  Everything I despise processed, battered and fat-fried into one ugly little McNugget.”

“True enough, and you’re a semi-reformed fascist turned bleeding-heart philanthropist and New Age Mr. Wizard to make amends for all those years spent helping manufacture A-bombs and other war toys.”

“You’ve done your homework, Mr. deMand. So you see, we don’t have too much in common.”

Au contraire, mon frere. We’re entrepreneurs, entertainment enthusiasts, and regardless of differences in method or motive, we both know that the only way to keep the show afloat is to turn a tidy profit every now and again.”

“Am I to assume, then, that I am about to recieve a proposal?”

“I hope you don’t expect me to get down on my knees.”

“The point is all I require.”

“Alright. How can I put this? I got a thing, you got a thing, everybody’s got a thing, right? It’s all showiz, to a certain extent, whether you’re putting on Woodstock 4 or just putting the moves on some babe.  You gotta give em some of that razmadazzle, the ring-a-ding and bod-a-bing-bod-a-boom wham-bam thank-you-very much for coming goodnight Houston! kind of thing.  You know what I’m saying?”

“Not really.”

“Sure you do. I’m talking about butts in seats and smiles on faces, I’m talking about what you love most in the world. Making the people happy.”

“Actually, I prefer making them think.”

“I hear you, baby.  That’s great, that’s noble. I could use that kind of balance in my organization.”

“You could have your people fitted for souls.”

“You’re a funny man, Doc, and I love to laugh.”

“Are you trying to…hire me?” Atlas shuddered.

“Oh no, Dr., I would never insult you in such a fashion. I am actually interested in more of a partnership. I had this brainstorm, you see, when I was considering aquiring your property lease. Why should the two biggest events of the summer be at odds with one another? Why not team-up?  Why not combine our two events and really give em a show. The kind of thing they’ll be flocking from all over the globe, hell, they’ll be streaming in from other planets to check out this action. What say, huh? I can see it now: deMand Product in Conjunction with Dr. Atlas World’s Only Solid Wet Rodeo and Whatall Present THE ARMAGEDDON FOLLIES!!! How about that?”

            “Forgive my shortsightedness, Mr. deMand, but I fail to recognize the potential benefits of this…partnership, as it pertains to my own enterprise.”

            “Audience, Doc. You want to teach people, I can bring in students.  Young, hip, deemed unteachable. But you could reach em, Doc. And believe me, if anyone in this world could use some schooling, it’s these rocknroll kids.  Not to knock em, I love these kids, my bread and butter.”

            “Do I detect intimations of altruism in your snake‑oil scheme?”

            “You’re reading me like a press kit, Doc.  It’s like we’re synched up or something. Like this was meant to be.”

            “Yes.  Perhaps.” Sardonic and wry.

            “Are you with me, Doc? Are you in?”

            “I don’t understand…”

            “What?”

            “The location change. We’re already here. Why can’t you just bring your act here?”

            “Well, I’ve given this a lot of thought, Doc, and let’s face it, the Crater’s a dead scene, totally last year. There’s a much hotter venue for our gig, perfect for a concept like the Follies.”

            “And where might this be?”

            “The Belt, baby. Where else?”

            “The Safety Belt.”

            “The very.”

            “The whole region is off‑limits. Verboten. I hear they’re shooting people on sight. And I doubt seriously the govt.’s going to lift its ban and tear down the barbwire so that you and I can put on a show.”

            “Who’s asking? That’s the beauty of it. Two outlaw venture capitalists stage a wild west voodoo millennial extravaganza in the most sought‑after getaway spot this side of the sun, you get fat, I get fatter, and you don’t even have to compromise your precious underground populist credibility.”

            “Who’ve you got?”

            “Are you kidding me? Fucking with me? What? This roster defies comprehension, and all laws of industry physics. I got Sham Rage. I got Godlips. The Liver Spots. Lungbutter. Shark. Bob Dillo. Kneel Jung. I got fuckin Motorcade. The list goes on. And that’s just the musical groups. This thing’s maximultimedia, full sensory meltdown. I even tried to cop some of your weird science vibe, went and did what no other major promoter has yet succeeded in doing, signed fucking Coathanger Med School. Y’know, that industrial art‑freak anarchist lo‑tech fx crew? Whatever they do, it’s wild, and I tell you, these kids, they fucking eat…What’s up, Doc?”

            Atlas had gone glassy and slack somewhere around the mention of CMS, and remained so, staring at nothing, until Leland couldn’t take it anymore.

            “You with me, Doc?”

            “I’m in, deMand.”

            Without another pause, Leland pressed a tiny button on his left cufflink, spoke into it hastily.

            “Umploon, bring me the contracts.”

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