1975. (Or four? ‘74... No, it was five because Martha Dillingsley was still alive in ‘74. Why would I confuse the two? Does it even matter? What matters anymore? … and I’m digressing again… but Martha was a fine woman. Took it hard and deep when the Berlin Wall went up. Too bad she always blamed West Germany.)
1975: the year I met my mother. She was working as a Vietnamese prostitute in North Korea. A strange occupation for an Italian Apache from the Southside of Chicago. Maybe it was the Irish in her -- a pimp named Patrick -- who led her to that life. I’ll never know for sure. By the time I knew she was my mom, five guys from my platoon had run a train on her so gross I didn’t want to see her ever again. It’s a shame the things a boy loses when he goes to war. But it was my choice, and this isn’t about the war (fucking French-Mongolians). This is about the day I invented the internet.
It all started with LSD. Lake Shore Drive. My friends and I liked to play a kind of chicken while high on acid. Lake Shore Drive runs along part of the Chicago coast, a skyscraper stretch bordered by a highway just before Lake Michigan. There’s always somebody cruising the scenic road into the city, though we preferred to play around midnight. About then traffic is steady but not thick. The idea is to run from one highway shoulder to the other. Whoever makes it back and forth the most wins. One night Rob Hill tried to beat my record, seventeen times. But Rob figured the Green Goblin bearing down on him was something out of a bad movie, an acid inspired terror -- I still remember him yawping as the semi ran him down.
I never liked Rob, but I didn’t enjoy watching him get splattered… maybe if I wasn’t high on acid, though I prefer thinking I wouldn’t have enjoyed it regardless.
Now, computers had been around since 1905 (I probably shouldn‘t say I invented the internet. After all, the first e-pistle was sent by the Titantic -- “Emergency! Send Help! Rampant social commentary on board!” But no one really used the cyber-pneumatic grid for much more than communication. Letters whipping back forth at the speed of light, fast enough to inspire patent clerks. What I should say is I reinvented the internet.), but the average person didn‘t tend to have one.
Consider: the first “home” computer was nicknamed The Beast. In order to have it, a person needed a spare room. It wasn’t until about 1955, after we landed on the Moon, computers started getting smaller. (There are all kinds of crazy theories as to why, from Martians to human ingenuity.) By 1969, computers could fit on a desk, and eventually, everyday folks owned at least one. But the internet was still developing.
See, people have a tendency to see something for its obvious applications; who looks at a shovel and thinks handheld catapult first? The pioneers of the digital frontier went straight for utilitarian ends: enormous phone directories, instruction manuals on mass, dictionaries, poorly transcribed textbooks, television guides telling of the past and future,
first aid methods, providing a place for lunatics to rant without technically shouting, huge caches of random photographs, take-out dining menus, antiquated cartoon collections, simple instructions which confused old people in order to prove they were of no more use to society, job listings, translation forums which meant well but were ultimately useless, pixilated renderings, and epic volumes of multiplication tables, sometimes going into tens of millions times tens of millions. Yet, few saw more than a digital warehouse.
When Rob tried to stop that truck with his face -- a mean mug but no truck stopper -- I was glad for one thing: I’d brought a camera. Someone once said, “No one will believe what they can doubt.” I’m shamefully quoting myself, but the point is still sound. I learned early on that my adventures through life were too epic for anyone to believe out right. Fair enough… pig fuckers. The only way to prove is to have proof. That may be a tautology, but it still gets the point across -- I took pictures of Rob’s remains. My favorite is this one where most of his face is intake on a busted skull.
A broken bowl glaring in disbelief.
I wanted to be a photo journalist, and Rob’s unfortunate display of machismo (seriously, even supposing a semi-truck sized Green Goblin was actually bearing down on him, how the fuck was Rob planning to stop it? Sic paraphrase of Rob‘s possible last thoughts, “Oh, I‘ll just pull my huge balls out, and that‘ll terrify it away I‘m sure; and remember: my balls come out my mouth when I scream. HHHHEEEYYYYAAAAAA!!!!!” … but I digress.) looked like my chance to set that career in motion.
Sometimes I wonder where I might have ended up if things had gone differently. My article, Youthanasia: how the young control the population according to Darwin, was never published. The hot story at the time was Richard Nixon, stabbed to death by a sudden attack of conscience.
But an odd thing happened. Word of my grisly photos soon spread. I kept getting e-pistles, anonymous and obvious, asking for copies of Rob’s final repose. It never mattered to me why anyone wanted to see them, so long as people
wanted a look at my work. However, I soon got tired of answering each correspondent individually. So I set up a cyberspot. One location where anyone could see what I’d seen.
At the time, people could only access the photos. The idea of electronic magazines was just starting to come into vogue, but I was wondering just what exactly folks wanted. I’d put my article on the site and about fifty or sixty people downloaded it… by accident, as the downloaders indicated in e-pistles. In just three weeks, the photos got downloaded almost seventy-five thousand times. I began to wonder if it really mattered what I had to say; and letters kept arriving, online, full of various statements (i.e. you‘re a sick awful bastard, thanks for the fap material, this is so awesome I puked, etc.) which got me thinking as well.
A picture is worth a thousand words, but whose words?
I got my buddy, Abe Stone, to whip up a sort of instant forum. People could “comment” on a picture they saw right away without joining any kind of group. Everybody already has an opinion. They’re just looking for a place to express it. The cyber-verse turned into that place.
Mine was the first of its kind, but the idea soon caught on. It seemed like a good one at the time. Democratizing everything. From the encyclopedia to the Sunday sermon, anybody anywhere anytime could “comment”on whatever they found in the net.
It’s funny (like if you can laugh at the Holocaust) what people are like when they think they’re anonymous or
being clever or both. Expression without consequence. I wouldn’t say I got to know the world. I got to know how the world wanted to be seen.
But I could have been wrong. It’s a big world after all. Maybe people are different in other parts of the globe, I thought. So, since I couldn’t afford to travel on my own -- not all ideas make millionaires -- I joined the military. If I’d known a war was about to breakout I might have waited for peace.
I’m still not sure if I’ve experienced people the way they really are. At least I got to see my mom. I just don't care for some of the comments people leave about her.