Love Letter to Lester

Maria Bustillos on Lester Bangs in the New Yorker:  “for a certain cohort of bookishly inclined kids… there was only one writer.”

Perhaps the sweet spot of a Venn Diagram conjoining “bookish” and “reckless” might be more descriptive of Lester Bangs, his writing and his legions of young followers.  This isn’t Proust, where the squares of our Venn will huddle.  Lester writes about acid-drenched parties where he and his friends do stupidly destructive things in psychotropic-induced rages, his battles with his own demons and intermittent hero, Lou Reed.  As a tween from the purgatory of mid-Atlantic suburbia looking toward bored binge-drinkers as the best-case scenarios at the liberal arts college of my choice, I was scandalized and intrigued. I forfeited my pass to join the future bloated depressives of America in a game of STD bingo and spent weekends with Lester instead. For those certain bookish and (imaginarily) reckless among us, reading Lester was not only finding a friend, but a key to that desperate, manic, breathless, joyful voice in our own heads, to magically transform us into writers, or at least made us think that it could.

I began living vicariously through others’ accounts of what went up Charlie Watts’ nose as a sixteen year old, and the third-hand records satisfied all the curiosity I had toward real recklessness; my lust for the dark side remained cerebral, not manifested (back then at least). My journey through bold-faced names of the 1970s underworld led me to Lester, and cracking open his first collection, Mainlines, Blood Feasts and Bad Taste was like meeting a person I’d always imagined existed and was waiting to meet: someone who never shuts up but everything that comes tumbling from his mouth is somehow thoughtful, impassioned, shocking and true. Sure, like anything that has enough courage to be alive, he’s damaged, but you wouldn’t trust an artist who wasn’t crushed under the weight of existence (or the Lower East Side in 1977), and also drunk. In a self-penned “about the author” featured in the intro to his second posthumous collection, Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, Lester refers to himself as the best writer in America, pitting himself against Hunter S. Thompson. He’s right. Thompson may remain the the ruling king of the literarily debauched, but thirty years later, the poetry and rage of Lester’s work somehow hum and scream off the page to a truer tone.

Aside from Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s turn as Lester in Almost Famous and a few name-checks by unknown contemporary bands, Bangs has been conspicuously absent from pop cultural discussion (a biopic starring R.Patz is somehow not in the works), so I was thrilled to see Bustillos’ paean to him in the pages of such a tony rag.  In awe of his wit and seemingly tireless intellect, Bustillos outs Bangs as a lit nerd in rock writer’s clothing, rather than painting him as the oversized, benzedrine-ridden Falstaff many others have (perhaps that both portraits are accurate explains his true complexity and endurance).

A comment on the article  identifies Bangs as “mainly notable for being an extreme example of rootless, insecure, self-destructive hipster nihilism,” inviting others who subscribe to his worldview to follow his example “all the way to the cul-de-sac where it inevitably leads.” Besides assuming that the commenter must then view a cubicle and three-car garage as ultimate transcendence above said existential cul-de-sac,  nihilist struck me as a low and ugly epithet, as well as completely misguided. A true nihilist does not create. To create requires an intense engagement with the world, a leap of faith that another human will understand what you’ve made.  Each of Lester’s pieces are loaded with nothing but his impassioned joy or hand-wringing. Sure, he hated Prog Rock and most white male singer-writers of the 70s and his teenage hero, Bob Dylan, let him down. But true despair (for Lester, over the career of James Taylor) can’t be known without experiencing pure ecstasy (granted by seeing the Stooges live or tricking a record clerk into selling a favorite, obscure Count Five record for 89 cents).

Between airing his many grievances over the state of popular music, New York, Detroit, Idi Amin, women, men, and the list goes on, Lester let his joy and wonder of life and the world show through:  “Lately some people have begun to assert that, with 1967 so far gone and all, ain’t nothin’ cosmic anymore. They say that rare evanescent psychic Pez drop has gone out of contemporary life. But I Know Different.”

in which we ponder the nature of human existence.

kelly:  als0000 should i give my cat up for adoption?
my chill ass cat bro?
me:  aw lil chill ass cat bro!
kelly:  REAL TALK
me:  will you miss that lil felinecorebro?
kelly:  yeah i totes will
he’s chill as fuck
me:  sounds s00 chill!
kelly:  but he’s needy. emotionally and financially
me:  yeah, fuck him
kelly:  HAHAHA
like all the time i’m like, how weird that i’m responsible for your life!

kelly:  hahahahahaha
me:  also, whoa caps
me:  its like ’97 up in here
kelly:  i am laughing, irl, laughing out loud
from now on i’m gonna shorten that to L.O.L.!
pfft, fucking humans
starting avalanches of culturally devastating shitspeak

Inked Inanities #2

dinner party disaster: averted!

So you say you can’t cook but you have some dinner thing to go to. Maybe it’s a work function (heh, yeah right, who works anymore) or it’s your at your friend’s with a babely roommate. Either way, you need to give yourself some credit and get ready to impress. Cooking= throwing some stuff I didn’t measure into a pot and setting burner on medium and the timer for 30 minutes. Remember, following directions is for mnstrmrs. So, here’s SUPER DANK CRANBERRY CHUTNEY. It’s pretty tart, and can be served room temp or cold and it’s the perfect winter dish.
1 Beer (or 4, whatevs)
1 Box of wine
LCD Soundsystem pandora station
1 cup water
brown sugar
white vinegar
1 bag (or whatever) of cranberries (did you know that Ocean Spray is a co-op of cranberry farmers and one of the country’s largest?)
2 apples
Some raisins
Some walnuts
Ok. Open the beer. Put the water into a medium/large saucepan, boil. Cut apples into small chunks. Same with walnuts (like 3/4 cup or so, I like a lot, but whatever you want). Finish the beer. Get another one or start on the wine. Pop cranberries into pot. Same with walnuts, raisins (like a handful) and apples. Now add an extended splash of the vinegar. Not too much, just more than a little. Now add the sugar and stir pretty well (I like about 1/3 cup of sugar; that evens out the bitterness, but if you want it sweet, add like 1/2 or 2/3 cup).
Before you put in the spices, you’re gonna need another glass of wine. Ok, so do about a teaspoon of of cinnamon, a heavy sprinkle of the allspice, half that of the nutmeg, and just a pinch of the ginger. Ok, now stir pretty well. Let it boil, then turn down to low and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
Down a few more glasses of wine and send some txts about how fucking sick LCD is, and how you kinda feel like “Drunk Girls” is the “Leaves of Grass” of our generation.
When the buzzer rings, check on it and stir. You want most of the water to have evaporated– at this point, there will still be a quite a bit. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Also, what the hell are all these buzz bands on Pandora? Everyone under like 24 sucks. But so does everyone over 32. Shit.
Stir chutney, simmer five more mins. Decide you are going to text that bro who you’re not that into but really wants to bone you just cause like, what else are you doing (besides watching four more episodes of 30 Rock on netflix)?
So when the next five mins is up, turn off the heat and let cool on the stovetop for a while (there will still be some liquid left but that’s ok; it will congeal [yum] in the fridge). Pop into glass container (plastic + hot = cancer) and throw in fridge. Let the chutney chill for at least a day before serving; it’s both more mild and more flavorful after relaxing for a bit. Ok, Junior Boys are pretty good. Look for more Franzia.