6 - Sander Hicks Why the Tour Got Kicked Out of
the Winston-Salem Border's an excerpt from the tour
I flipped out last night after the Border's incident.
The town closed in, people flaked out, promises
were made. A couple of people said we could crash
with them but they left their phone off the hook.
Southern Hospitality. I got so jumpy my driving
priveliges were temporarily revoked. The boys took
the wheel. I sang old Black Flag songs and assaulted
a shrubbery. My War. Police Story. Understand it.
We're fighting a war. I got a six pack but was forbidden
to drink it in the truck. The boys got real parental.
I tried to calm down but realized I was really upset.
Down deep, I was craving alcohol. I slowly realized
this, and it was frightening. I swore we would not
sleep inside the Winston-Salem city limits. I insisted
everyone in this town was a Robot, as I hedge-dove
outside Hardee's. The boys found a cheap hotel close
by though, and I compromised out of pennance for
unravelling screams and alcoholic crankiness. Maybe
it's time to go dry again. Why give up control?
got the motel double but everyone felt distant.
Dale slept in the truck and in the room Matt took
the floor near the door. Seth had a beer but couldn't
sleep. I had four and didn't want to sleep. Channel
surfed and let my boiling head dry.
horror film made me think the bathroom was posessed.
The lights were on a timer. Exactly 3 minutes after
you turned some off, others flipped on. Matt stirred,
sleeping face up, spread-eagled like a dog in the
foyer. And the toilet ran if you didn't know how
to reach in and jam down the flush valve.
So, the walks to and from the bathroom got dull
and tiring and I shut off the modern Keanu horror
flick. I laid awake and replayed the Border's incident.
Why had it gotten to me? What did I do right? What
did I miss?
two years at the start of this decade I went to
school in a very square, small-minded, concrete
place. J.M.U. There was one person there able to
really articulate the problem. Greg Allen, the self-proclaimed
campus celebrity, the elvis-shaped thorn in the
side of the middle class proving grounds of James
Madison. The one guy who pointed out the increasingly
safe social standards that everyone from the frats,
the newspaper, to even our own brand new FM school
radio station were instituting fiercely. Fellow
students ratted you out to higher-ups if you played
music with cuss words or inappropriate story lines.
A point system scored your productive input and
moved you up the administration of the station.
Greg Allen was older than me by a couple years,
had gotten into radio early, and as we were about
to go FM, tried hard to make the programming more
risky, wild, tripped-out, devilish and prank-filled.
His FM radio program, Learning to Love Me, was an
exhibition of the rarest freaks and garage sale
oddballs of 20th Century recorded music. Together,
a few of us threw up a clangy resistance to WXJM's
debut season of consumer polls and classic rock.
me and some other people ran the radio's magazine,
Back to the Basement. Every issue was jam-packed
with a lost library of clip art and garish collage
Greg assembled from twisted old children's books
the University warehoused. You looked into the landscapes
of these black and white collages, and realized
something was very wrong. There was a whole side
of the story that you weren't getting in this tight,
controlled, stadardized, media-censored little enclave.
Greg's visual portals might not have been taken
by all 5000 readers, but at least we had something
that showed there was a different channel out there.
senior year was a rough one. He cast his senior
work play without a script and made the best actors
on campus nervous. He planned something extra for
the end of year issue of our magazine. This title
would be modified, Back to the Beelzebub. He stayed
up all night for about a week, on caffeine and marijuana
and wrote a shiney little play about cannibal television
aliens visiting a world of schoolyard bullies, terrorizing
weaker kids and their egg pets. Back to the Beelzebub
went to press and we went with it, all three editors
pricking their fingers under the structure of the
web press and bleeding into the red ink we had done
special requisition papers for. It was gonna be
just like KISS. They bled into the red ink once
the paper hit the streets, society panicked, the
whole valley. The local AM talk radio phones lit
up like prison flood lights. Tight nasal midatlantic
women made sweeping statements about demonology,
"That means DEVIL" and for a minute, J.M.U. was
viewed as a hotbed of Satan. Greg was ecstatic.
Gleefully he tried to pick up the phone and get
on the air, but they wouldn't let him through. He
probably would have laughed his good-natured chuckle
and everything would be explained. Maybe the mystery
and the fear about the paper sustained the suspense
on air. I'm glad the talk radio didn't let him explain.
The issue really was a grand finale attempt at social
meltdown. On the cover was a vibrating, fine-line
picture of a devil/gnome head. Next to him was a
poem or a speech or a manifesto, "Buy a piece of
property on plasma lane...you can physically unify
but you refuse to fuse freely with foreign forms."
The whole thing had a late-night creative-burst
edge, the hour in which thoughts meld and the solution
becomes lucid. Everything permitted.
In an editor's note, Greg explained about the blood,
claiming there was a virus in it for everyone, and
bid a fond farewell to the campus. He even had a
spot on the cover readers were urged to lick for
promised effects. A lot of campus administrators
were shitting bricks, but Greg went out into the
plaza in the Spring Virginia sleet without a hat
and passed out copies of the tabloid. In large wet
flakes and dark stringy bangs sticking to his forehead
and brushing into his eyes, passing out papers angily
in the sleet, this image of him holds as I walk
away. I had a weird feeling. It was the end of the
year, what had Greg done to get here? Would he be
OK after this? Where would he go that could work
with this scholar of such specific, dangerous genius?
Had he paced himself?
taught a little school for a while, but ended up
working in town at Luigi's, the dead head pizza
place, wearing a large beard and a large poncho.
He tried teaching in South Eastern Europe I heard,
but ended up down in North Carolina, at Border's.
He did well there, was well-liked, and was made
Music Manager in Cary, N.C. in 1996. He got married
two years ago to someone none of the old freak scene
approved of, but I decided to reserve judgement.
we got to his new store in Winston-Salem yesterday,
he looked five years younger, like he had gotten
caught up on sleep. He looked shorter. Good skin,
neat and trimmed hair. I gave him a big hug. We
tried to catch up as much as we could inside the
hectic set-up. I tried to connect with him about
business things, like the growth Soft Skull has
had, but he was on his way out the door. He had
dinner plans. New wife's new bosses at new job.
He asked me for more notice next time. He laughed
nervously, putting it on me, joking and teasing.
I should have said, since when is three weeks not
enough time for advance notice. He said, "Sander,
if you come down again, alone, next time, I'd love
to set you up. But I can't house three dudes. We've
got a small place." He left.
played in the caf*. White Collar Crime acoustic,
on a cockamamie old Stuvesyant upright. We drew
people in with the Talking Heads cover. That always
gets 'em. This Ain't No Party. A dangerous life
during wartime hides under the subtle production
of the Talking Heads FM radio espionage.
Greg's abscence, Joy, his community relations coordinator,
stayed on our tail, turning down the volume. The
real problem began brewing with Seth's show. It
began to be clear that we were mismatched with the
location. Joy said so, why a superstore in a strip
mall in the suburbs of a conservative town.
answer is because it is there. Because it is everywhere.