American Shithole #7 — Besties
by Eric Wilson
I figure if I’m going to demonstrate that this column is not solely devoted to American Politics, I had better do it soon. I can feel the gravity well of the gun violence movement pulling at my psyche. The maelstrom at the White House demands response. The roiling stink of greed coming off Washington that would make a Billy goat wretch, beckons.
Today however, I feel compelled to shut the front door on all the chaos of our political hell-scape, and instead write a short article about friends. Best friends, really. Not the particulars about my best friend — we shall call him, Peter — but the bonus points in life you generally receive if you’ve been lucky enough to have developed a best-friendship along your way.
Often some shared experience, some trial or tribulation to overcome is the catalyst for bonding, but there are times when two people hit it off for no apparent reason at all — like me and Pete. I met Peter freshman year in high school, and the first thing I ever said to him was, “What the fuck is your fucking problem?”
He was blocking my path. We have been besties ever since.
The boon of my friendship with Peter — plucked from a truly long list of gifts received — is what I imagine to be a benefit of all great friendships, and that is the life-long infusion of positivity; or mutual positive reinforcement. You might be inclined to think the author of American Shithole to be a misanthrope; this is not true.
It is through this powerful friendship — present throughout part of my childhood, and all of my adult life — that I have remained positive in disposition, even when I was suffering the most. The buffer this relationship has provided to the nastier elements life has to offer, is only now coming into focus as I gaze into the rearview.
Of the many bonding experiences that I have catalogued for an eventual return to my home planet, I fondly recall the earliest events with Pete most often, one of which I would like to share with you.
It was late August 1984, the blissfully worry-free days following our junior year of high school. We lived in the Chicago suburbs, and in those times, summers were mostly, if not wholly uneventful. Life was downright boring.
When I had returned from a visit to Albuquerque, our days and nights prior to senior year were spent playing D&D and watching movies, mostly. In those days I would actually go to the movies — you sort of had to — and the two of us would often end up at the long since demolished Tradewinds Cinema.
Tradewinds was one of those strip mall theaters of the ’80s that you could pay a buck or so, and see a film that premiered a few months earlier. The kind of theater where people would get stoned and drunk for the midnight double feature of Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains The Same, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Also me.
Peter and I found ourselves in a largely empty theater one August afternoon, with the only other patrons nearby being a couple sitting a few rows from us. The film on the reel was Top Secret!, with Val Kilmer, and we have never laughed that hard in our lives. Even to this day, I cannot remember ever having laughed like that.
The movie was pretty funny as well — I have seen it since, although I wasn’t capable of paying much attention at the time. It wasn’t Kilmer’s precocious (s)mug that was cause for so much joy, it was the intermittent exchange between the couple a few rows away. Let’s call them Fred and Alice. Fred had been shifting uncomfortably in his chair, breathing heavily ever since the opening credits. Then he started moaning, and doubling over.
“Ooh, aarrgh, oh sweet lord. Oh god,” Fred cried out.
“Honey, enough,” Alice chastised, under her breath.
Fred shifted and groaned, writhing in his seat, while Alice continued to berate him in hushed tones.
“I can’t, I can’t…” Fred whispered, as he shook his head back and forth.
“Oh honey, no!” Alice pleaded.
It was at that point that Fred cut loose the mother of all farts right there in the theater. I mean, it reverberated.
The two boys sitting a few rows away, had their brains set on fire with delight. It was that perfect kind of laughter that cannot be stifled, from that perfect storm of both unexpected hilarity and an inappropriate environment or situation. Fred might as well have farted in church. This routine continued shortly after we recovered from the initial waves of laughter and exhaustion.
“The pressure, it burns. I can’t. I… oh noooo…”
“Oh honey, not again!”
Again Fred would release the Kraken. Again the boys would squirm and squeal making every attempt possible not to explode with laughter. I remember at one point sliding down my chair onto the filthy Tradewinds theater floor, in fits and spasms as I rolled around in who knows what. This went on and on, and every second of it was a delight.
“I can’t hold it back any longer…”
“God damn it, Fred! Get up and go to the bathroom, right now!”
Best fucking movie experience of all time.
I tell this brief tale of silliness — for there is nothing quite as silly in youth as public flatulence — to in part celebrate a life-long friendship, but also as reminder of what our lives were like before the specter of gun violence invaded every corner of our existence.
Peter, I love you. Your friendship is the cornerstone of support I have relied on for nearly forty years. So, feel free to crop-dust me the next time we are aimlessly wandering some crowded street fair in Chicago.
I hope, dear reader, this message finds you well, and in the company of your closest friends.
It’s not so easy, or silly for kids today. I hope they experience harmless absurdity like my ’80s fartpocalypse, but now these moments often come tainted with fear. The fear that every kid is saddled with, every damn time they go to the movies, or shopping, or step foot in school. I call B.S. on that.
It isn’t just the horrible violence and aftershock for those that survive these mass-shooting atrocities, it’s the ever-present fear acting as an interloper to all memory and experience of our time — for all children. All American public experience is tainted by gun violence now. Everything.
What kind of America prefers quiet, terrified children, too afraid to laugh at a fellow moviegoer’s incontinence? I joke, but that’s not right. I probably wouldn’t even laugh at a guy farting in a theater these days — I, too, would worry I’d get shot.
I am fairly certain our youth build friendships as strong as we have in the past — I imagine they must, given the shadow of fear that gun-worshipping ignoramuses and the NRA cast across them. I am not worried about their fortitude one bit though, after what I have witnessed in the last few weeks.
Yet, not only is the safety and happiness of every single child in America being ruthlessly held hostage by an American terrorist organization, but all of their memories too, good and bad, they are forever saturated, tainted with this madness.
It’s really all for these fucking monsters. The Stephen Feinberg's of the world. These are the men Lapierre represents. The kind of humans that covet power over all things. Those that would gladly profit from all human suffering.
Which makes for an easy segue this week to:
The B.S. Report
This is the first edition of the B.S. Report, where American Shithole saves the closing paragraphs each week for issues and events related to gun violence — particularly those surrounding the efforts of the many brave students and youth movements across the country.
In case you missed it, (future besties?) David Hogg and Cameron Kasky appeared on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. The young activists did a fine job across from Maher, and I appreciate that he didn’t kid-glove them in any way.
The NRA is rapidly mobilizing members in Florida to resist any gun legislation. No surprises there.
If you are looking for information on the March 14th national school walkouts, womensmarch.com has put together this kit for organization, and maintains this list of the schools scheduled to participate.
Stay strong, sane America!