THE KONKS "Honey"HOLY MODAL ROUNDERS "Sugar in the Gourd"MOFUNGO "Don't Shoot That Junk Into Your Arm Again, Please"REV. EDWARD W. CLAYBORN (THE GUITAR EVANGELIST) Jesus Is Sweeter Than Honey In The Comb"Note: the following "denial rant" was written by me in early 1992 or so, and first published in the Portlable Lower East Side in their special Chemical City issue in 1993, then again in the Grove Press book Low Rent: Best of the Portable Lower East Side in 1995. JUNK “Junk is no good baby.” —Brion Gysin
I cannot conceive of a life without junk food, without the rush of getting high, of getting off, of feeling light, of feeling lighter, of the chocolate melting in my mouth and not in my hands, of a weekend that doesn’t end with a good nod, of a day where my blood sugar level does not soar through the roof. I do horrible things to my body under the pretense of pleasure. My teeth are plaque-damaged from years of sugar abuse, my stomach a massive monument to Milky Way bars. I’m trying to figure out a lot of shit, like: what is junk, and why do I like it so much?
The junk gets in you and it never leaves. Picturing the insides of my body, along with the usual red meat and gristle and nerve bundles, I imagine an invisible system: a capillary-like complex of plasticky tubing that pulses nonstop, sending a foamy, cream-colored insulation-like liquid to every cell. (Since I was a kid and saw biological textbooks with their cross-sections of human anatomy, this is how I’ve conceived of my soul.) I’ve daydreamed that, if I were to kill myself, I’d slice very deeply into my wrist, but no blood would come out. Instead, white foam would issue forth from the bursted soul tubing, very much like a can of Reddi-Whip being turned upside down and emptied. As I slip away into the warm bathtub water, I bend over and put my tongue to the creaminess. Its taste is the same as the cernter of a Twinkie.
I was birthed through the mouth of instant gratification. I grew up, sort of, with Sesame Street and Oscar M-a-y-e-r and if I need it I need it now and it better have lots of red dye number two. What is the taste of postmodernity? A glass of Tang, or a bottle of Coke? Does Coke really take the paint off a car hood? Did the astronauts really drink this gross fucking orange-flavored sugary shit up on the moon? Well, I didn’t mean for this to be a pop-culture quiz. The point is that if desire is not brightly packaged I am not interested in it. I crave processed sugar molded into strange little shapes, covered in brightly-colored bite-sized artificial flavorings, wrapped up in plastic and aluminum foil. I have great trust in prepackaged, individually wrapped junk food; I guess it was one of the first things that really made me feel good.
Sugar has flavor, but it has no taste. It has calories, but no vitamins or minerals.
When you overdose, your blood pulses so fast you seem to trigger a second heart. When the sugar heart is pumping inside you, the blood squirts underneath your skin miles per hour faster than ever, and you’re rocking back and forth in your sneakers, looking up at the cumulus clouds. There’s a smile on your lips, the double-scoop chocolate ice cream cone is slowly melting its way out of the base of the cone onto your arm. You try to enjoy it as slowly as possible without having it leak all over you, but even an expert can fail at this task. Your lips, chin, mouth and hands are stained a shit-brown color. You run to the street and you think that the world really does spin around.
Should the body be a reservoir for junk? You have to abhor the idea of the body to be a serious devotee of junk food. Though it is through this weird meat contraption that I find quick solace, the heart-heavy pulses of relief and release, I am repulsed by the reality of flesh, of fat, of my ugliness. This conception of the body strikes me as very Catholic and regressive and in the end only good for medieval saints who can fly up to God after years of brutally pummeling themselves. But there’s a little of the saint in every junkfoodie; we’re all persecuted in this fatist society and we all secretly want to leave this body behind. “My mom threw me out ‘til I get some pants that fit/ She just can’t approve of my strange kinda width.” —David Thomas, Pere Ubu
At some point in the last few years, I stopped being chubby. I became fat. And I can’t say it’s like I didn’t notice or something ‘cause I notice every new stretch mark, every extension of the little fat roll on the back of my neck. But I don’t stop eating processed sugars. If I’m addicted to anything, it’s instant gratification itself; hence, I never seem to, never want to put two and two together and make myself aware of what the end results of my actions are. I just wanna get off now. “Sugar is culture.” —Sen. Jesse Helms
Civilizations that thrive on excess—like, say, ours—are inherently self-destructive. That sentence probably didn’t blow your mind. But what differentiates the time we live in from any other is the type of awareness we have regarding our demise. True, there’s been some fucker standing in the corner shouting, “The end is nigh!” since man learned the missionary position and thus became sentient (see Quest for Fire if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) I’m not discussing any biblical end-of-the-world shit here, because that presupposes somebody or thing will do the offing for us. I’m talking about how it’s the end of the world as we know it and I’m doing it and I feel fine. We all know the excitement of participating in the destruction of something infinitely huger than ourselves. We are David to our own Goliath. This is more than a projection of our own mortality on the rest of the world, it is a built-in desire that only the greatest men and women are able to sublimate: the desire to rip yourself apart and shred up everything that’s around you.
The only way to self-destruct is slowly. The culturally acceptable pathways to self-immolation are always the slowest ones. The chemical things, legal and illegal, natural and unnatural, that get packaged up and sold to us as pleasure-inducing, these things are all poisons. It’s not my intention to get moralistic about this because I have known the myriad pleasures of slow self-destruction all my life. It is a great part of the thrill of getting off on chemicals.
I think too much about offing myself. Almost every morning I lie in bed and imagine my body being annihilated all at once. I hear the skin rip, see the red blood and the white fat and the brown guts as I elaborately draw and quarter myself. But then I get up and take a long hot shower, and I’m okay again. Where does all this self-hatred come from? It’s the flipside of total immersion in instant gratification…
It’s important to remember that junk food has nothing to do with food itself. It frequently bears no resemblance to the original, nourishing variety. You eat junk food to get off. Junk food is many kids’ first dope experience, first religious experience, perhaps even first orgasmic experience. “Sugar, aw honey honey/ You are my candy girl/ And you got me wanting you.” —The Archies
I suppose I should mention my great, uh, interest in porn from an early age. Porn is to sex what junk food is to food: a hyper-inflated, prepackaged simulation of the original. It gives it to ya ALL (the orgasm, the rush) AT ONCE. It often forgoes the nourishment, but again, that’s part of its appeal. The crucial difference is that porn is potentially far more damaging to the soul, if not the body, than junk food. Porn and junk food both breed similar, voyeur-in-your-own-body feelings with regard to corporeal existence.
Where we can tie the junkfoodies together with the junkies is through their relationship to their bodies. There’s a shared view that the body exists just to get you off right now, which is combined with the knowledge of the horrendous consequences of the action as well as the actual drug/ sugar rush—and the eventual crash which often leads to the search for more.
I lived with this guy who was totally unhappy. He was in his mid-twenties and living off his parents and doing dope all the time, snorting it. I watched incredulously as he metamorphosed into this scary zombie creature from outer space. He never worked, the heroin made his balls itch all the time, and his junkie ghost girlfriend and he would just hurt each other, constantly. Break windows, sleep with each other’s friends, quarrel over who hogged more of the bag. I stopped snorting heroin pretty much altogether while this guy lived with me, but after he moved out, I started doing it again. Duh. I don’t need to drive around with the carcass of the victim of an auto accident in the passenger seat to stop myself from going too fast on a slick road, but apparently I did find it necessary to see the carcass of a living heroin victim to keep myself from heroin.
The junk gets inside you and it never leaves. A study written up in some Tuesday’s Science Times found that “untreated” (no formaldehyde) corpses of Westerners decompose markedly more slowly than those from India, where Hostess products are a tad less common. When Americans kick, we’re already pickled from all those preservatives we’ve consumed.
So how do you wash the junk out of your head? How do you cut it out without cutting out the desire part altogether? My head is this little green pond full of wriggling need-monsters. I want to fucking soar like Silver Surfer right over the orange buses and kids on their bikes on my way to school; I want to brutally murder everybody on the subway; I want some clothes that fit; I want to fuck that girl in the bodega down the street, up her ass if possible; I want my ninth grade Spanish teacher to seduce me that time she drove me home in her car; I want my dick to grow four more inches; I want everybody to like me; I want Winona Ryder to beg for it’ I want a Guggenheim grant to fall out of the sky, hit me on the head, and make me dizzy.
Maybe I’ll stop doing junk food this week. But these new Milky Way Darks have been really satisfying me lately and if I can just scrape together another four bucks I’ll have enough cash for a wicked speedball, which will carry me blissfully till tomorrow.