American Shithole #38 | Digital to IRL

American Shithole #38 | Digital to IRL

By Eric Wilson

There’s always some degree of weirdness for me, meeting online friends for the first time in the flesh; I would think that particular strangeness is rather common by now, as I can’t imagine the experience has changed much in two decades.

Long ago, during the waning years of an aging century (that now seems several lifetimes removed and at least twice-forgotten), I traveled by train to meet several fellow Bill Hicks fans that had never met each other in person before. It was 1997 and the internet was where almost everyone was finding like-minded folk from all corners of the earth — one such tribe thought it would be a good idea (after a few years of communal message-board-ing) to travel thousands of miles to Austin, Texas, whereupon we would all dwell at someone’s one-bedroom apartment for the weekend while we were gathered in celebration of our favorite comedian.

That’s one of the things I miss about being in my twenties — twenty-somethings just do shit for no good reason.

I remember telling a joke, just as we had turned the lights out (after finding suitable places on the floor to crash that first evening); it was something about Bill Hicks’ childhood friend who had blown us off earlier that evening, and thankfully it killed instead of hanging there dying in the darkness.

I am reminded in particular by the disappointment on several faces when I arrived. When I asked why, the general response was that they were expecting someone ten feet tall with lightning coming out their ass.

They only knew me through my writing, and at the time I was even more bombastic than I am now with American Shithole.

I bring this up because in all likelihood this coming week I will meet in person for the first time, Literate Ape editor Don Hall, his wife Dana, Joe Janes and perhaps others. Now, I haven’t met someone for the first time that only knows me through my writing in 20 years. It was weird then, and I assume it will be a little strange now — but I am quite looking forward to it. (And having that vanguard of cool relocating from my beloved former hometown of Chicago to the warm, dusty confines of my adopted neon city in the sand, doesn’t suck.)

Don’s article this week exemplifies why I’m excited to work with him in the future. (Nice timing on that piece, Don — it affords me the opportunity to shamelessly lavish your work with praise, just prior to your visit.) It has everything you need in a modern piece on existential blues, really. It reminds me of when Don writes about insights he’s gleaned while teaching. I love that stuff.

It’s been a particularly good week or two for Literate Ape — a lot of inspired work from a stable of writers I look forward to hearing from each week — I also found the Brian’s Corner remodel refreshing in all of its “fuck it, I’m doing it this way now, you ungrateful assholes” glory. I kept adding things to American Shithole when I first started — like a fucking idiot — as if the 1,500-2,000 word pieces needed to be longer. It’s nice to be reminded that no one gives a shit, no one is reading anything, and since this is art, you really can and should do whatever you want with it. It’s weird that I am doing my art in ways I don’t want to. That’s weird, and I’m going to stop that. Thanks, Brian.

You know what else I find weird now? Facebook.

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Thankfully, only a handful of my Facebook friends post with any regularity anymore, so I can totally see social media devolving into occasional promotion and little else for me. In almost no time at all I have digitally dropped off the earth without deleting my profiles in social media or anything else for that matter. I am there in shell-form only at this point.

Over the last decade, Facebook has dominated my time online; peaking probably around five years ago when I moderated a private herd of horny, misanthropic atheists. Facebook occupied hours every day. It is only very, very recently that my time in front of a screen has tapered.

Tapered off a cliff really, this past two weeks I’ve spent less than an hour online a day — and frankly, it’s a fucking godsend.

We’ve seen what connecting the world can do — wonderful things with Caturdays for everyone indeed — but mostly, Facebook provides charlatans and two-bit grifters with a platform to fleece more humans in less time than ever fleeced before. What’s worse, Facebook is a platform for a steady flow of personalized disinformation and tailored tribalism — a “how-to” on the shaping of ideology via the dissemination of fear — the brain-fucking of entire nations of nearly-illiterate simpletons into positions of opposition to their own self-interests; in that sense, Facebook is a masterpiece of modern technology.

I don’t know what 2019 is going to bring. I haven’t a clue. I know for Trump it’s win in 2020 or end up someone’s prison bitch. This is now a zero-sum game for all of us, and that shitgibbon has no intention of ever setting foot behind bars. Dark times are ahead. Trump will sacrifice anything to save himself; including this country. (So cue the Darth Vader theme, because I am pretty sure that motherfucker finds our lack of faith disturbing.)

I don’t know exactly what 2019 is going to bring, but I hope I will remember it as the year I shifted from international and national interests, to more localized ones. From digital adventures back to more real-world experiences. From solitary creative efforts, to collaborative works that are greater than the sum of their parts.

One final thank you to Literate Ape editors Don Hall and David Himmel: My father has not been able to read my column since his debilitating stroke during heart surgery last spring. Thanks to you, he was able to enjoy American Shithole before that happened — this was very important to me for many reasons; now even more so. I am eternally grateful.

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