A thousand years ago, when I was fifteen, I had a secret vice which was to “borrow” my mothers Pontiac Bonneville and drive out to the small landing strip that called itself the Greater Shreveport Airport. I’d park the car, go inside to the newsstand and there, I would purchase a Baby Ruth and a copy of the National Enquirer, sit down in the airport’s waiting room, eat my candy bar and read the sleazy newspaper that wasn’t allowed in my house. A nurse who had once been in residence when my mother was ill had stacks of them. This publication was as off limits to me as Playboy magazine, which I also tried secretly to look at. And once was discovered and taken home and spanked by my mother who was picking up her Dexedrine and sleeping pills at the pharmacist, whilst I was perusing the dirty magazines waiting for her.
Trashy magazines, trashy newspapers, “dirty” novels like Lolita, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Couples were all banned in my childhood home—I remember because I tried to get to them all at various stages of my growing up. Imagine a curious pubescent today skulking toward Updike or Nabokov? The parent of such a child would post of his or her little genius on Facebook and Instagram.
But back then, sex was dirty. And trashy magazines were contraband.
Baby Abducted By Aliens
Dog Lives To Be 200
Grandmother Strangles Bank Robber
I loved all these headlines as I loved the crunch of the Baby Ruth. I think it’s interesting that the candy I always chose was not my favorite which was Almond Joy. My mother’s name was Ruth. I think the reading of the trashy newspaper and the eating of the Baby Ruth was a “fuck you” to my mother who was as ridiculously strict with me as a teenager as she was negligent of my younger self, who was bullied, abused, and generally made use of by everyone in my family. Manifestly I was furious at her. And in rebellion from her values.
Maybe because I’m reading newspapers online these days, I’m reminded of my ancient love of pulp. I can see already getting news this way is dangerous. And how bombarded I am by this constant trashy shit. I think as the lines between journalism and trash are blurred, obscured and ultimately done away with, I am not just getting stupider as a reader, I am similarly losing my intellectual and instinctual understanding of what is trash and what is journalism.
Isn’t that how 45 won? He and his people conned the American public who were apparently more gullible than my fifteen-year-old self . Facebook of course is beyond Big Brother. Facebook is perhaps the Antichrist.
My new secret vice, one I discovered of course on Facebook is online quizzes. I find myself stopping work, ostensibly just to check my email and ending up, spending half an hour on a quiz. Why? Because I nearly always get a hundred percent. Yes, hooked I am on those stupider than stupid multiple-choice questions: Who wrote Moby Dick, George Orwell, John O’Hara, James Patterson or Herman Melville? And being told I’m a genius when I get it right. What is the future perfect of go? Who painted this masterpiece? Rembrandt, Matisse, Renoir or Picasso? And when I correctly answer these anodyne questions the average nincompoop with a modest BA like I’ve got finds trouble free, I’m rewarded with: your IQ is at least a million; you are a grammarian with a PhD., an art historian, etc.
The tests are no more an indication of what’s upstairs in my little head, (or yours either) than the sidebar on Facebook is a true picture of what’s going on in the real world, if there is such a thing as reality any more.
The National Enquirer has won.