Opening blog post
Steely Mountain Amusement Park.
When you walk around a place like this, you may notice a tightness in your jaw. Not from stress, exactly. You’re smiling because your face thinks it’s supposed to. Suddenly your cheeks hurt, and you realize you’ve had grinning insincerity plastered across your mug for six hours. Or precisely the opposite? Do you suddenly remind yourself to actually look at other people’s faces and discover with amazement that nobody anywhere looks happy? That despite the pink clouds and sugar-canola air, mouths are grim and flat; bodies coldly pinball from ride to store to arcade to food stand picnic table? Either way, one thing’s the same… the eyes. Whether they’re frozen in plasticine glee or wooden surrender, it’s the eyes. What kind of dead are the eyes?
Readers! Thinkers and patriots. Angry, oppressed masses. Disillusioned youth. Chomskyites, Trotskyites, and Zinnophiles. Prophet children of the Promised Age of Disappointment, Keepers of the Extinguished. Radicals, free and otherwise. People gather in parks for many reasons. In the fall of 2004 Delle Merkle and I paid full price for admission to Steely Mountain theme park. We spent the day being entertained… playing games, eating funnel cakes, riding rides. This was 3 years after we the people had our bell rung by a one-two sucker punch in the financial district. It was almost immediately before the defining election of our generation, when W’s suspicions that he had been right about everything were self-confirmed. And yet in the fall of 2004 very few people in Boston were paying much attention to politics. The majority, I among them, were in fact previously occupied… obsessing over professional baseball, because it made a much better story.
Delle and I put on a terrific show. She knew and I really knew we were done. Neither of us wanted to be any less attractive, charismatic, fun, and especially careless, than the best possible version of ourselves. Neither wanted to give the other justification for anything, or cement in the other’s memory a less than ideal image. Of course that performance is transparent, and it was obvious to both of us that we were acting, but to break the illusion or call the other out would have been unsporting. And we were nothing if not sporting.
You’re wondering now why this departure into my personal history? Where is the usual impassioned rhetoric, where the angry exhortations, the withering attacks upon our sequestered oligarchy? Patience, eager and exploited ones; I’ll get there. Beyond the gut-plunging backward corkscrew of Beastkiller, the only reason I remember that day eight years ago at all is because that’s when I first let on to Delle that I thought her drawings were too corporate-looking. Yes, it’s hilarious in retrospect. But that was the beginning of my journey from there to here.
Read now my confession, that the path leading me to you, O class-conscious citizens, wound through suburban corporate parks near airports, past thoughtfully-designed gray cubicles in cold ballasted fluorescence, past receptionists, copy rooms, and security-coded glass doors… into the boardroom. For as if walking in my sleep, with the intense unconsciousness of a painful dream, I wandered into and among the point one percent. For a brief time my clothes smelled not of tobacco and whiskey but ozone sterility. These events were set in motion that day at the park, breathing the heavy air of roasting almonds and dancing to the electronic symphony of video games you play standing up.
And so I’m going to tell you now, free and informed readers, Post-Marxists and Libertarian Socialists, blue dogs and hippie pinkos, how I, Jason Hammond, in these nine somnambulent years, was transformed from cynical post-grad drifter to superstar corporate consultant to radical left-wing blogger. And no, it’s not the usual way.