Friday, July 21, 2017

RAW on RAW* -- Take 1

*"Ridiculous Anabaptist Wanker on Robert Anton Wilson"

Some ancient history from 1991, when I first started working in the bookstore:

The Receiver there was a slender guy who dressed entirely in black and listened to the Sisters of Mercy. His shelf of special orders was a small collection of Crowley titles. I steered as wide a berth as possible around him and his freaky books (I dug the Sisters, however).

He was in the habit of tying up the company fax machine and sending long, obscenity-filled screeds to the city's radio stations. On the day management finally showed him the door, he collected his books, loped past me, then stopped, turned around, shoved a chapbook of Crowley poems into my hands and left the building.

I never took the chapbook home, but then I never threw it away, either. For all I know it still rests in the basement of that building.

Needless to say I was a tad freaked out.
I mentioned the gift to a co-worker I was slowly befriending. He snickered. "A little worried, are you? You know, there's this form of White Magick...."

My cage now thoroughly rattled, I thanked him for his kindness but declined further involvement of the esoteric variety.

A couple of months later I bought this issue of Mondo 2000 while on lunch break. I left it on the staff-room table and got back to work.

When the afternoon coffee break rolled around I returned to the staff-room and was surprised to see my friend reading the magazine. When he wasn't devouring Jackie Collins, his literary tastes were considerably more refined than my own.

I asked him what he thought of the magazine. He sighed and flipped it back to me. "You do not want to go any further down this road," he said.

I took the magazine home and read it. Even after a thorough perusal I had no clue what he was warning me about. The Timothy Leary/William Burroughs exchange was akin to the Chomsky/Foucault meeting -- a concept more exciting to contemplate than to see in execution. Brian Eno was his usual pleasantly challenging self, the graphic layout was delicious, but the larger think-pieces were the bourgeois-gnostic variety of "counter-cultural" that I'd encountered in baby-sitters and friends with older siblings and a small handful of university mates who were taking a stab at free-thought.

I shrugged and stowed the magazine in my archives, not giving it any further consideration -- basically putting my friend's advice into practice. Or so I thought.

A quarter-century later, I can't open an internet browser without being completely immersed in the very environment he was telling me to steer clear of -- one that our former Receiver was already swimming (or drowning) in.

And neither can you.

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