CP Home | CPAOD Books | CPAOD Web Columns | CP Contributors

By Michael Hemmingson

Date: Tue, 27 Apr 1997 06:34:21 -0400 (EDT)

The stuff began on Thursday, and something happened prior to that; in retrosepct now and later, this may or may not have hidden meaning to what may or may not occur.

Thursday morning, before Christine came to pick me up, I went across the street to the pet store to get some gold fish for my snake. They also had some cute white mice. I thought I'd get a mouse for my kittens, Surfette and ArtBell, to play with. I stuck the gold fish in the snake's tank, and let the mouse loose. The kittens went nuts over him. Christine went screaming out of the house. I felt sorry for the mouse, suddenly.... plus he was so damn cute. So I saved him from Art's kitten jaws of death, and put him in the snake cage for safe keeping. Wrong idea. My snake, FurBall, is a fish eating snake, but began to bite the mouse. FurBall has no teeth. She didn't want to eat the mouse, I think she was being territorial. I was afraid that, being gone all weekend, that the mouse would bite the snake. The kittens were still going nuts. I set the mouse free. I named him Dr. Benway.

The mouse seemed happy -- with chewed up fur -- in my small front yard. But what a trauma -- first in the jaws of a cat, then being bitten by a snake. It's a vicious world; one moment, you're leading a quiet mouse life, and next things are attacking you right and left. Now that I think of it, this *is* a metaphor for the beginning of Federmania.

Christine and I went to SDSU to hear old friend Lance Olsen read from his two new books. Hardly anyone was there, but this was to be expected, but it was still a lot of fun, and good to see Lance and Andi Olsen again after two years. Christine and I went back to her place, fucked (wait, is this right? is my memory playing tricks on me? did we or did we not fuck? or was it just wishfull thinking?), and then I went back to SDSU, met Lance, and we sat in Hal Jaffe's MFA Fiction class, chatted with some students, then I took off with Lance and Andi in their rental where we drove about 20 miles East of San Diego, where there are less lights, to eyeball the Hale-Bopp Comet.

We went to Patches at the GoodNite to wait for the crowd. Everyone was at UCSD to hear Federman and Sukenick read. I didn't go. I wanted to, decided against it. I was supposed to be thinking about my staged reading of Federman's THE DIALOGUE OF THE BUMS -- I was procrastinating. Christine showed up, and soon a lot of students and McCaffery and Suk and Fed showed up, plus a lot of interesting writers such as David Matlin and Don Stufloten, whom I have the utmost respect for, as I think they are doing some fine cool shit with the fiction thang.

Got drunk. Christine left, as she had to get up early, and old SDSU friend now turned grad-student-fuck-up, Gerrick, drove me home. I'll get into my dismay at this group of grad students who were hanging around, a lesser quality than the group I knew two and a half years ago.

The next day, Friday, I attended a panel, the first in Federmania, on Censorship and Trangression. A lot of old stuff rehashed, but overall a good panel. I thought it funny that Carey Wall, the Dept. Chair, attended, since she seems to be on a crusade of censorship. Then we headed for Borrego for the festivity and relaxation. I went with Lance and Andi.

Well, here's the thing -- Christine didn't want to go to Borrego. At first she did, and was looking forward to it, but our last trip there, 3 weeks ago, she had a bad experience while I went driving around the desert at 3-5 AM, listening to Art Bell on five stations. She was scared, she beleived she had been abducted by aliens again. Something -- contingent with the mystery of the desert of the real -- got to her. So she didn't want to go. Then I talked her into going for at least one day, and we paid for a $100 room for Sat., then she changed her mind again.

So I figured I'd go out Friday, crash somewhere, and Chirstine would come out Sat. and we'd have our other room. Turned out there was a lack of people wanting the rooms Larry McCaffery had set aside, so Gerrick and I shared a room at the Hacienda del Sol. The Sat. room, paid for, had two queen beds, so I told him he could crash there.

Gerrick has changed the past two years, since I last used to hang out with him. He was in a McCaffery class I was sitting in on, and originally intoduced me to Rosina Talamantes, who has caused all the problems, and the skeletons that have resurfaced, thanks to one Carey Wall. I'm getting ahead of myself. Anyway, when I first met Gerrick, he was a hip, well-read kid of 23, long blonde hair, 70s clothes, with a drop-dead blonde bombshell girlfriend, Becca. Gerrick was eager to learn and loved hanging out with his elder writers, and he seemed to take a liking to me as I was around his age (27) and a published writer, and he looked up to me a lot. Now, he is more cynical, more mocking of his elder writers, running a literary journal off campus, and having just turned in his MFA thesis and not knowing what to do next. As is the case with many of the grad students I started to meet. Gerrick brought his .45 semi-automatic and we were gonna go shooting in the desert.

In the room next to us were two renowned German scholars/translators, Thomas Ihrmer and Thomas Hardyl. Hardyl is Federman's German translator and a guy McCaffery brought aboard the FEDERMANIAC CASEBOOK PROJECT when it began to expand to its current near-infintely hot and dense status. I had met Ihrmer last summer, when Christine and I were out in Borrego, and Ihrmer was travling the country with his girlfriend and making literary contacts for CHELSEA HOTEL (hip post-everything German mag he contributes to). Anyway...

We sat around drinking vodka. Ihrmer started getting really drunk, due a lot to jet lag, as he had just flown in via Munich to L.A. to San Diego, and the long drive to Borrego. The three of us talked for some hours about politics and art and the usual shit. Oh, I forgot to mention I had done a lot of speed, so I wasn't getting drunk, and I was quite awake. Ihrmer was smashed. We got around to the topic of women and sex. Thomas said, "That woman I was with last summer, you saw her? I broke up with her. I am dumb." He didn't strike me as being dumb so much as simply drunk. In addition to the lost girlfriend there was the lost academic job (life for former East Germans has gotten mightly confusing, I'd say). Things began, as Stephan Wright would say, to take on a hallucinatory clarity (for me) and (lack of clarity)(I assume) for Thomas, who may or may not have made a pass at Gerrick and me (mistranslation being one of the tropes for the whole Federmaniac week). If our German friend was coming on to us, then Gerrick, a bi-sexual, was not interested. I, not bi-sexual, was also not interested. If "interested" or not was what we were supposed to be. Interested or not, it was all very fun. Gerrick and I told him it was time to go to his room. It took us 15 minutes to get him next door, where we thought he had gone in. I heard some noise outside, stumbling, and figured Thomas had gone back out. Then it was quiet, until the next morn, when McCaffery found Thomas next door on the ground, passed out, blood all over him. Thomas would not recall anything except coming over, and then being on the ground. I told Gerrick, "Everyone's gonna think we beat him up." Gerrick said, "Nah." Sure enough, many people did. Thomas, who didn't seem to recall anything, immediatedly began the day drinking and told me his life was falling apart. I told him my life was falling apart too. It's part of the scene, man -- we're writers, our lives are *never* together. If our lives were *not* falling apart, we wouldn't have anything interesting, really, to write about. At least I wouldn't. My own writing has always been based on madness, yet there seems to be less madness these days. Not like the good old days, for sure. But the good old days were about to catch up on me -- and if I don't talk about that here, I'll discuss it in the next report.

I was depressed because Christine didn't want to come out. I called her, she said she was gonna stay in town. We had the room, paid for! She didn't want to. I was out of it. I hadn't slept, my speed was gone, and I started to drink. Gerrick and I got the room, which was much nicer, and ordered room service. Fuck it -- if Christine wasn't gonna come out, I'd just charge up her credit card.

The grad students emerged from the wetwork of the city in hordes, along with a few undergrads who were wide-eyed and wanted to hang out with, uh, "real" writers. I guess . . .

I dunno. This group of grad students didn't seem very intelligent to me; they were slow, they'd just discovered writers and concepts I knew 10 years ago, and all they wanted to do was get stoned. Gerrick and I had given our other room keys to two students and told them to go re-check-in now. They wanted to smoke pot instead. By the time they got around to check-in, they had lost the room and were moaning that they had no place to crash. I didn't care. I was starting to lose energy. Larry had taken most of the group out to a journey to the Salton Sea, where I'd been before, so I stayed behind. I slept a little, then the party began, which I had no energy for.

On that note, one must talk about the Salton Sea. About 30 miles East of Borrego, it is a very strange, unfinished city. The Sea itself is polluted and stinks. Strange, secluded types hang out there. Everywhere yhou look, there are unfinished and abandoned houses and buildings. It looks like a set from an post-WWW 3 movie.

I sat outside most of the time, staring at Hale-Bopp. I kept thinking how nice it would be if Christine showed up unannounced, to surprise me. Suddenly, she did. She sat next to me and kissed me and said, "I am here." She looked beautiful in a black mini-skirt. She got up to get a beer. I, of course, thought I was dreaming, or Hale-Bopp had invaded my head. I went in and Lance Olsen said, "Christine showed up." I said, "I thought I was hallucinating." "No," Lance said, "I saw her."

The evening was better. The party winded down and we went to our room.

Oh, wait -- Gerrick wanted to go shoot his gun with some people. As much as I wanted to go, something told me not to. I felt something bad would happen.

Gerrick showed up at the room around 2:30 AM. He said two grad student friends of his needed a floor. Foolishly, I said OK. It was the same two stoned idiots who we gave our other room to and fucked up. I told them they could crash as long as they were quiet and left by 8 AM, becuse Christine and I wanted some time alone in the room with room service breakfast. Well, they were quite loud, we couldn't get to sleep until about 4, and they refused to leave until around 10. Plus, it was a non-smoking room and they helped themselves to smoke cigarettes and pot without asking. They seemed to take offense that I wanted them to go. They didn't even offer to pay something for the $100 room and letting them crash and disturb our night.

I found out a lot of these grad students were like this. Many of them had said, a few days before, that they'd camp out in the desert, or go back home, but they all seemed to want to crash at Larry's. I heard that Larry was pissed and kicked them all out around 1 AM, with nowhere to go, two of the fuckers invading my space at 2:30. Last time I'm being nice.

Anyway, Gerrick had gone out shooting and got his car stuck in the desert and had to walk back in the dark for two and a half hours. I was glad I didn't go.

The aliens came that night. Before Gerrick had shown up, I slept a little, then woke up with a fear, their dark-eyed faces in my mind. I knew they had been at the window. Around 5:30, I woke up screaming, with the most vivid post-alien image -- the room was aglow with white and blue lights, and their many faces and heads were moving away like a pan-back of a camera. Christine woke up and said, "What is it?" "They were here," I said. She went back to sleep. I don't think I woke up Gerrick or the students on the floor.

Maybe the aliens came for them. I don't know. I'll have to wait for my next hypnotic session.

This is my third alien encounter in Borrego.

Earlier that night, I had seen only one black triangle, and it was flying against the mountains.

Morning came, it was time to go to L.A. where Lance and I were to read at some bookstore. Chritsine and I wenmt by Larry's, and Doug Rice had arrived, but we didn't have time to talk.

The drive to L.A. was great. We got there, had dinner with Lace and Andi, and read to a slim handful of people. This is how many readings go. I read a little bit from my new book, MINSTRELS, and from "Skull Fuck" in NICE LITTLE STORIES. The people there at first seemed to get into the story and images of "Skull Fuck," but by the end, they seemed to be offended. This is what Christine told me, anyway -- she said she got this sensation. Oh well.


I wanted to stay in L.A. but Christine wanted to go back. The drive back was quick, no traffic, if you can believe that. We were asleep by 1:30, Borrego and L.A. behind us, a long week ahead of us. I wondered why I was involved. Who the hell am I? I'm no one. I'll never be anyone, no matter how many books I publish. I have to start directing Nicky Silver's THE FOOD CHAIN next week. 5 long weeks, big play. Why do I even write? The future of America's english teachers is bleak, if I am to take the group I saw as an example. Plus my past is about to haunt me in a way I really don't want to face. It was bound to happen one day. My whole reputation is about to go down the tubes -- but it has before, so what's another atomic blast?

CP Home | CPAOD Books | CPAOD Web Columns | CP Contributors