Republic of Jesters

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Back Peddle #1 - Cultural Decay

Tyler Dudek and Patrick Desmond are sitting in traffic somewhere in the Phoenix sprawl. Tyler is driving his 2007 Nissan Skyline GT-R, his “rice rocket” as he likes to call it, which is a Japanese import that his dad pitched in a little, but for the most part, Tyler is paying the rest off with his credit card. It may have left him with hefty debt to pay off, but fuck it right; the amount of girls he gets and the amount of respect he gets when he blows past any turd driver makes it totally worth it. The only flaw he can think of[1] is that sometimes it’s a bitch to order and pay at drive-thrus because the driver’s seat is on the right hand side. He’s always ordering drive-thur too; why should he have to walk inside and wait in line with the rest of the schmucks? He could be sitting in isolation with a college hottie from Tempe while listening to his fave Top 40 hit. But of course, if he has got a college hottie sitting shotgun anyways, she can order for him and it will only let the world know that Tyler Dudek is scoring once more. Problem solved.

“Yo Ty-guy, did you see that chick?” said Patrick.

“Which one?”

“A couple lanes over, I think she might be in front of us now. It’s a sexy blonde with sunglasses riding in a blue Accord.”

Tyler strains his neck to left, sees a middle aged lady in an SUV, so he decides to pull up even further to gain a better vantage point. He almost tail ends the car in front of him, but fuck it right, he has a hot chick to scope out.

“Fucking rights man.” Tyler looked a second time. “Wait. That’s Shawna, bro, that girl Lucas was plowing a couple weeks ago.”

“Ohh yah, shit, I forgot about her. She’s still fine though, I wouldn’t mind getting a piece of that.”

“Damaged goods P-Deez, damaged goods.”

“Don’t say that man, it was only Lucas. Remember, we used to call him millimeter Peter back in high school.”

“True. Get on it P-Deez. We all know the last thing you slayed was a dragon.”

“Fuck off man. You gotta slay a couple dragons to get to the princess, if you know what I mean.”

“Huh huh huh,” Tyler laughed in his signature moronic way.

“Hey, check it out, there’s a ‘sev up there on the right. I feel like I need something to get me going. Do you wanna get an energy drink or something?”

“Now you’re talking. That’s a fuckin’ brilliant idea.”

Tyler waits for the light in front of him to turn green, accelerates and switches lanes into the strip mall’s parking lot entrance. He scans the parking lot looking for the optimal space where the most people will see his ride and he has the shortest distance to walk. A mini-van pulls out of a spot right in front of the doors of the convenience store, Tyler snaps his fingers in excitement and then drives into this spot with exaggerated speed, turning and braking. Anyone who knows him knows that he drives like an asshole, but it is only expected; suburban youth will always drive like they’re in a NASCAR race. Burnouts and speeding are constants; as long as they are paying higher insurance, they might as well make it worth it, right?

“Rockstar parking P-Deez, rockstar parking.”

Tyler and Patrick enter the store and go directly to the wall of refrigerated beverages. At one end there is about a hundred different flavors and brands of energy drinks. Turbo Taurine, Maximum Overdrive, Organic Overkill, Zenith Cyclone, Diesel-Fuel, and Zyborg Fluid, just to name a few. They even have Flow-Chart Attack, a drink whose marketing states that ‘It will help you perform in the boardroom… and the bedroom.’ After scanning through the endless choices, Tyler’s eyes stopped at Impulse Performance Drink’s Spazberry Surge. He opened up the fridge, grabbed three cans, and then announced to Patrick that his drink is on sale. Coincidentally, Tyler was wearing a shirt with an off-center Impulse Performance Drink logo on it.

Tyler went to the counter, put his three cans down, and grabbed a pack of beef jerky as the cashier was ringing in the cans. The man working the till was a middle-aged South Asian man with an unimpressed look on his face since he just witnessed Patrick making jerk off movements with his hand while looking at a work-out/fitness magazine called Female Titans.

“That will be $10.25,” said the cashier.

“$10.25 my ass,” replies Tyler, “The fridge says Impulses are three for two.”

“That is only for the Pomegranate Punchout flavor. Spazberry Surge is still regular price.”

“False advertising,” states Tyler and he reluctantly places a ten dollar bill and one quarter on the counter. He storms out of the store and goes back to his car. As he waits for Patrick, Tyler fiddles with his ARTifact.

An ARTifact is the latest advancement in consumer technology. It’s a handheld electronic device that’s a phone, music player, videogame system, camera (picture or video), and more. Essentially, it can do anything entertainment wise. E-mails, phone calls, text messages, music, check the weather, check sports scores, draw something, make a reservation… anything that’s digital and involves a internet hook up, it can do. With all of its features, it’s no wonder that practically everyone in North America has one. If you don’t have one, you’re either poor, stuck in the Stone Ages or a Luddite.

It should be noted that the ARTifact’s producer, Cygnus Media (a subsidiary of Capstone Enterprise), can attribute a lot of its success to its elite marketing team. By capitalizing the ‘art’ in ‘artifact,’ the product has been able to connect with a higher consumer base because users feel as though they are being artistic and creative whenever they are using the device. If you are doing something artistic and creative, you can’t be wasting time; therefore, people are willing to spend much more time and money on ARTifacts. The marketers have emphasized this point so that advertisements slathered across cities lambast those who don’t have an ARTifact; egging them on with slogans such as “Are you getting your daily dose of creativity?” or “How much ART have you produced today?”

Of course, nothing of merit is ever produced on such a device. Many ARTifact patrons bought the product thinking they were going to film and direct a movie with its video camera and editing program, or perhaps make a album with its Cut n’ Paste Record Studio program, but they soon gave up on these goals. Celebrity gossip and self-serving media were way too easy to come by on the ARTifact. These distractions were great ways to waste time and they were also great distractions from the debt accumulating on the patron’s credit card that can be attributed to the high telecommunications bills that the ARTifact racks up. But there’s a credit score program on the ARTifact, so one shouldn’t worry about debt.

Patrick eventually entered the car with a can of Maximum Overdrive, a bag of BBQ Steak chips, and a pack of beef jerky. He sits down and lets out a massive burp; one for the dude/bro record books. “Hey Ty, what did that terrorist say to you?”

“Oh fuck man, that idiot said that the Spazberries weren’t on sale, ‘Only the Pomegranate Punchout is on sale,’” mimicked Tyler in an Indian accent. “Fucking stupid immigrants man, I should have punched that guy so hard it would have knocked him the fuck out of AZ.”

Little did Tyler know, the cashier was far from “fucking stupid” or an “idiot.” In fact, the clerk was more educated than Tyler, his dad, and his mom combined. After receiving a Bachelors of Technology at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, the clerk went on to get a Masters of Technology in Civil Engineering at the University of Madras. Having made a decent living as a Civil Engineer in Chennai, the cashier and his wife decided to use their savings to move to America where they could raise their child in a relatively harmless environment. Ironically, one of their children, Raymond, now races against Tyler on amateur nights at the Firebird International Raceway.

“L-O-L, for sure man.” Patrick took a swig from his Maximum Overdrive. “Hey, how about we pump some beats out on your system?”

“Fucking rights bro. You heard the new Thicky Wooster track?”

“Nah man. Lately I’ve just been listening to Swag’innit’s new shit.”

“Alright, you got to hear it.” Tyler picked up his ARTifact and finger-scrolled through the seemingly endless list of artists on the display. An ARTifact can hold up to 400,000 songs so it’s not surprising that Tyler has loaded it up with so many songs fresh out of the record studio that he will only listen to once and then forgot to get rid of them. This sometimes bugs Tyler because he often likes to put the music player on random (he has other things to think about that don’t include what song is coming next), and more often than not, a song comes on that he doesn’t want to hear. Oh well, it’s just one of those things you have to deal with in world filled with complexities.

He finds Thicky Wooster in the menu, clicks on the name, scrolls to the album Wooster in the Henhouse, clicks on it, then finds and selects the song Nursery Rhyme Spree. Instantly the bass kicks in: a sound so loud it could almost break any sort of covalent bond. This can be attributed to Tyler’s new subwoofers which he spent almost three paychecks on. He gets some pretty good paychecks too; he is the top selling sunglasses salesman at the mall kiosk that he works at. He spent almost three paychecks on the subwoofers because he got the highest quality ones. Why should be settle for the weak bottom shelf ones? They can’t get anywhere near the mind warping decibels that he needs to maintain his image.

After a few bass lines, the percussions starts in which sounds like a golf audience clap sped up 20 times. The rapid claps are also accompanied by a synth loop that sounds as if it was sampled from a 1980s horror movie. Thicky Wooster is known for his slightly spooky beats; a form of hip-hop which has recently gained popularity amongst suburban teens. After a few bars of the beat, Thicky Wooster’s voice starts with the chorus that repeats eight times:

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,

Catch a cracka’ by the throat.

Do-re, me fa so,

Fuck that bitch, I fucked that ho.

It should be noted that Thicky Wooster hasn’t always been a hard-hitting post-horrorcore rapper with an emphasis on explicit lyrics.

Thicky Wooster was born Chris Johnson in Birmingham, Alabama and grew up in one of the cities lower income neighborhoods. It was a typical Southern city ‘hood: blocks of shotgun houses with crack-rock slangers hanging out beside the local cornerstore, and wherever there wasn’t any buildings, there was a lot of fields. By circumstance, the neighborhood had taught Chris about the pains and strife that exists within society, much like Siddhartha’s first journey out of his palace. But his family got by financially because his father had a stable job as an electrical utilities installer. The reason why the family remained in the neighborhood was because Chris’ grandparents were in the area, as where some of his other relatives, and the family’s Baptist Church was there as well. As the neighborhood taught Chris about the struggle, the Church taught Chris about the power of community and the word of God.

Subsequently, the Baptist Church would be the site where Chris first got his start in his rap career. The Church had set up a number of positive outreach community programs, of which the most popular was ‘Rapping 4 Christ: An Emcee Workshop.’ Chris’ mom had signed him up after he was caught stealing at a local sporting goods store. She thought he should be doing something positive with his time, so she made him go three times weekly. Chris was reluctant to go at first, but eventually he felt as though he really had a talent for writing lyrics and rapping them out, so he stuck with it.

A few years passed and Chris’ talent was becoming more and more refined. Noticing his knack for rhythm, the teacher of the workshop, a local rapper named John Doughboy, decided to bring Chris to his record studio. It wasn’t much of a studio, in fact, it was just a room in his house with a microphone, a couple turn tables, a few keyboards and a mixer; but nonetheless, it got the job done. Chris recorded several of his verses and John Doughboy produced them into two coherent songs.

John Doughboy had a lot of influence in the Birmingham hip-hop scene at the time, so he sent the songs into a local hip-hop station which helped Chris get some radio play. Chris started gaining recognition as a young up-and-comer MC around Birmingham, and soon after, other parts of Alabama were starting to recognize his talent. He was becoming somewhat of a local celebrity.

What set Chris apart from other up-and-comers were his no gimmick persona (his stage name was Chris Johnson) and his informed lyrical content. Unlike his contemporaries, he didn’t rely on violent lyrics or catchy choruses; he knew these were cliché so he tended to take an approach that would emphasize his intelligence. He used his life experience to rap about the problems that he saw on a day to day basis, making it clear that black-on-black crime and being caught up in the drug game was only exacerbating the situation in African-American communities. The Civil Rights Movement and positive community action were reoccurring topics in his lyrics, causing him to be a positive role model within Alabama.

Eventually an A&R man for a major record label had heard some of Chris’ tracks and showed some interest in signing him. The A&R brought it up to the head offices and they all decided it would be best to sign Chris on one of their daughter labels: Shank’n Rip Records.

Shank’n Rip was known for their tough roster of acts, for the name itself came from an incidence that Rotten Rick, one of their signed rappers, had experienced in prison. In order to gain respect in his ward, Rotten Rick[2] had made a knife out of a broken microwave plate - a shank - and stabbed another inmate with it. Shanks, being the homemade products that they are, cannot penetrate deep and thus have a very small chance of causing a lethal wound. It’s a well-known fact amongst the prison population that the only way to make shanking someone effective is to stab the target, remove the shank very quickly, get a finger in the wound, then try and rip the wound wider to make for more bleeding and tissue damage. It’s a gruesome story, but it sells; suburbanite adolescents of the time loved prisoner mythology after all (yet their greatest fear was experiencing it first hand).

The offer to be signed to Shank’n Rip Records was brought up to Chris Johnson, but at first he was skeptical about the whole proposition. In order for him to be signed, Chris would have to shed his positive, natural persona and take on a new image to fit the label; one that was hard, thug, gangster. Truth be told, Chris hadn’t even broke a law ever since the incident at the sporting goods store. He realized the hypocrisy in the whole ordeal and he was conscious of the fact that Shank’n Rip rappers had some influence on the negative doings in his neighborhood.

He held that view until he saw the amount of figures on the check that was proposed. His whole outlook on the situation changed drastically. Here in front of him was a fortune: an amount of money that could easily get him, his mother, his father, and his grandparents out of the struggle that confronts them every day. So Chris took the offer.

In order for Chris to start selling records, the record company made sure that Chris could fit the mould of Shank’n Rip. First things first, Chris would need a good moniker. At that time, a slang term for a marijuana cigarette that was gaining popularity in Alabama was a rooster. Tracing back its etymology, a ‘rooster’ evolved from the expression ‘wake and bake.’ ‘Wake and bake’ was a staple term for a long time running, but eventually marijuana patrons got bored with it and started tweaking it. Next came the saying ‘the crack of dawn,’ but crack had a relatively negative connotation so the idiom was soon abandoned, but not entirely; people liked the intended meaning so they started calling ‘wake and bake’ joints ‘roosters.’ ‘Wooster’ had then been a bastardization of ‘rooster.’

As far as ‘thicky’ goes, that train of thought is easier to track. A ‘fatty’ was commonly used to describe a joint with a lot of weed in it, so ‘fatty’ evolved into ‘thick’ which then changed to ‘thicky’ to give it a somewhat more playful ring to it. In toto, ‘Thicky Wooster’ implied that the first thing Chris did every morning was smoke a massive marijuana cigarette; a name that millions of people across America could embrace.

The transformation didn’t stop at the name. No, Chris was also given a new image. The Shank’n Rip image consultants were aware that a major niche could be filled in: the Black Power rapper. Nobody had touched this since Public Enemy in the 1980s, so the 2010s was the right time to bring it back.

It should be noted that ‘Black Power’ expresses a range of ideologies, from peaceful to violent, but in Chris’ case, Shank’n Rip wanted him to emphasize the violent aspect of the phrase because after all, it was more profitable. Thus, Chris’ lyrics about civil equalities and positive action were warping into lyrics about affirmative action, black supremacy, and revolution through violence. The company urged him to use ‘cracker’ as much as possible and to take any opportunity to berate the white man. They even went as far as making Chris’ signature attire an Atlanta Black Crackers hat; a move that’s an ode to the Negro Baseball League (a Black owned operation) and also has a hint of irony in it.

Truth be told, up until that point, Chris had no grudges with Caucasians. Of course, being from Alabama and all, there had been a history of white people harming his ancestors; whether it be during the Slave years, the Klu Klux Klan period, or the events leading up to the Civil Rights Movement. Even in the modern era there were inherent issues that white folk were exposing Chris’ relatives to, such as the owners of Birmingham factories relocating their operations to developing Asian countries, thus causing his uncles and cousins to be out of work. But directly pertaining to his life, Chris had been harmed more from tornado damage than he had from a person of European descent.

Regardless, the image makeover had been a complete success. Thicky Wooster was a highly marketable name and white teenagers stormed their local malls to buy his albums that included songs such as: ‘Huntin’ Whitey’ and ‘Crackin’ Crackas.’ All the while, Chris Johnson was feeling a bit of remorse for having abandoning his original views, but on the bright side, his family was living strife-free in a gated community outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

“This song is the shit,” chimes in Patrick. “I can’t believe I’ve been sleeping on it.”

“Yeah man, Thicky Wooster has still got it,” replies Tyler.

At that moment, while the guys are still sitting in the strip mall parking lot, Tyler’s ARTifact starts ringing. Since the ARTifact is hooked up to the auxiliary jack, the ringtone replaces the music which sounds awful because of the car’s subwoofers. A picture appears on the display that shows Chad Radcliffe at the end of a two storey beer bong, showing Tyler that it’s his friend Chad who is calling. Tyler presses the ‘Speakerphone’ option on the ARTifact and then shouts, “Rad Chad, what the fuck is up?”

“Nothing much cock smoker, just getting off work. What the fuck’s up with you?”

“Me and P-Deez are cruising around,” answers Tyler. “You know, day off biz.”

“Awww, that’s cute. Just the two of you, on a date. I bet you P-Deez is probably giving you road head right now, that’s why he hasn’t said anything yet.”

“Ey Chad, tell your mother I say ‘Thanks for last night.’ She’ll know what I’m talking about,” inputs Patrick.

“Yeah, dinner last night was good, wasn’t it? Anyways, you boys down to swing down to the gym and pick me up?”

“Yah guy, I’ll be there in a bit,” responds Tyler who ends the conversation on his ARTifact, leading the music to turn back on. He puts his Skyline into reverse, backs out of the parking stall, puts it into gear, and then motors out of the lot in the direction of the gym that Chad works at.

Tyler, Chad and Patrick all met each other at Barry Goldwater High School and have since been best friends. Their pottymouths and juvenile behavior had really been the glue early on in their relationship, which those personality characteristics have never faded. Even though they’re now considered adults, they still act like the same horny teenagers as when they first met. Amongst their classmates they were called “The Three Stooges” because of their antics. They always wrestled each other, pulled pranks on one another, and took every opportunity to insults each others sexuality. Not a day went by without a bruise inflicted from a slapstick routine. They spent most of their time high school life’s in the hallways or the principal’s office. No teacher could tame them. Ty-guy, P-Deez and Rad Chad: the notorious class clowns. Having them in one of your classes was a curse, for they were hands down the biggest distraction. Luckily they were usually split up into different classes, but that didn’t help much because they would usually get synchronously kicked out of class and then form up in the hallways afterwards.

Tyler turned off of the expressway that he was driving on and entered the strip mall parking lot where Chad’s gym was situated. The parking lot contained a number of non-distinguishable one storey buildings that stretched across the landscape for meters upon meters. This was a sight that was ubiquitous in Phoenix. One could find oneself on the complete opposite side of the city and be confronted by the grocery store, oil change shop, chain restaurants, big-box store, and gym that was before their eyes here. And they say that we, as a society, have more options than any other culture in the history of Homo sapiens. Yah right.

Tyler drove to the northwest corner of the lot and parked in front of the vast stand-alone building where the gym was located. Chad was waiting out-front with his usual work attire on: a tight fitting t-shirt with a company logo, a pair of cargo shorts, and a pair of bulky ‘skate shoes’ that looked a few sizes to big. Also, for a personal touch, Chad had on a pair of white framed sunglasses and a white baseball cap that was backwards. Tyler and Patrick both had this head gear on already; so much for having an individual style.

Patrick got out of the car, flipped the seat up, and then pointed to the backseat implying that Chad should get in the back. “Fuck that,” responded Chad. “I’m sitting shotgun. You got to sit shotgun all day I bet. I want to check out the honeys. You can go choke your chicken in the backseat.”

In response, Patrick pinched Chad’s nipples then twisted them clockwise. Chad let out a screech, and then retaliated by flicking his finger at Patrick’s crotch. Although no damage was inflicted on him, Patrick grabbed his groin, fell to the ground and said, “Tyler, Tyler, he gave me a low-blow. Make him sit in the penalty box.”

Tyler played the referee. “Time out boys. Put your sticks down. I’ve just been informed that Chad Radcliffe has gone for a nut shot. He will get a game misconduct and will have to sit in the penalty box for the rest of the night.”

“Aww fuck that. P-Deez deserves it for being such a fag,” said Chad as he climbed into the back seat. “Anyways, what do you boys want to do tonight?”

“I wouldn’t mind getting my dick sucked,” said Tyler.

“P-Deez’s mouth is open all night buddy. You shouldn’t have a problem getting your dick sucked.”

Patrick threw his beef jerky packaging at Chad in an attempt to shut him up, but Chad just starting laughing in a hyena like manner. Eventually he stopped long enough to say, “No for reals though, do you want to go to my house and play some Hockey, have some brews, then go to the club after?” By Hockey he meant playing the latest NHL videogame, not actually playing the sport. But that was alright, his friends knew what he was talking about.

“Sounds like a plan,” said Tyler who put the car in reverse, left the parking stall, then screeched his tires as he accelerated forward. He got back on the expressway in the direction of Chad’s mom’s house, making sure to go at least 10 mph over the speed limit. He turned up his sound system as ‘Lick U like a Lollipop’ by Swag’innit was playing. This got Patrick excited. He started mimicking the dance moves in the song’s music video, mainly the head-nod-lollipop-lick maneuver. This irritated Chad, so he grabbed the top of Patrick’s seatbelt, the part that attaches to frame of the car, and tugged it back so Patrick would be stuck to his seat.

All the while, Tyler was lost in his own thought. He was busy thinking about the last girl he hooked up with. Priscilla was her name and Tyler had seduced her at a nightclub called Salsalitas. Usually he will only see a girl once because he ascribes to the whole ‘nail and bail’ attitude, but Priscilla was different. She was definitely a girl he could hang out with. She’s up to his standards in the looks department, she’s into blockbuster movies, she has an ARTifact, she digs radio rap, and hell, she even knows a thing or two about cars. She’s a keeper for sure. Tyler’s contemplating calling her tonight, just to see what’s up.

A loud bang interrupted his thoughts. Tyler’s Nissan, which had been going 15 mph over the speed limit the moment before, suddenly jerked all of its passengers forward. Tyler, Chad, and Patrick, all in unison, said, “What the fuck?” It took a moment, but eventually Tyler realized that he had ran into the back of the car in front of him. A rear ender. Fuck.

“This shit wouldn’t happen if everyone drove as fast as me,” he told the guys as he pulled into the shoulder of the expressway and parked behind the leading car. The other car in the accident, a 2014 Toyota Camry, had received quite a bit of damage on its bumper. Tyler hadn’t checked his front end yet, but he was sure some damage was done on his new body kit.

Shit. Insurance will cover some of the damages, but Tyler will have to pay the rest off. Oh well, just another thing to charge on Tyler Dudek’s credit card.

[1] He thinks about his car a lot, mind you.

[2] On a side note, at this point in time, Shank’n Rip’s Rotten Rick is still serving out three consecutive life sentences.

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