Ghost Pine #11: Crows (2007)
1. The First Meeting of the Social Justice Club
2. Hashish in Calgary
3. Independence Day
4. Scenes from a Trailer (2001)
5. Shademaster Locust (2002)
6. Wisdoom Teeth (2005)
7. Offices (2006)
9. The Ballad of Stu Rhubarb
10. Crud #1
i) Frig the Cops, part one
ii) Puke Stories: Buses, part one
iii) Puking ‘cross the Prairies
iv) Frig les flics, p. 2
On the night of Independence Day Brendan’s mom took us to the Mongolian Barbeque in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Brendan and I explored the buffet’s dozens of bowls brimming with raw foods. We chose our unique combinations, doled them into our own bowls and then took our places at the back of the line where we waited patiently. Eventually we handed our bowls to a chef who skillfully guided our meals across the surface of a crepe iron six feet in circumference.
Our meals orbited the empty center of the enormous surface. The chef pushed our little piles of food along with a metal yard stick, keeping them discrete from the numerous sizzling piles that belonged to the other patrons. Their orbits complete, the chef efficiently deposited our individual meals into fresh bowls and handed them to us.
Then we searched for our table. We had lost it as if it were a car in a shopping mall parking lot. Brendan’s mom waved us over and when we sat down she told us a story. “A colleague of mine bought a new Volvo last month and when they brought it out to him the dealer slapped a huge American flag sticker on it, without even asking him whether he wanted it or not.
“Now he doesn’t know what to do. He has to take it in after six weeks to have a preliminary tune up. He’s worried that if he removes the sticker the dealer will disdain him.” She paused and thought for a moment, before noting, “The funny thing is that it’s not even an American brand!”
Independence Day was the same as every other summer day in Williamsburg, thick with southern humidity. The heat had held us prisoner all day in the air-conditioned living room. We watched television for hours until we crawled into our former selves, lethargic suburban teenagers empty of all worth.
When we arrived days before, B’s mom explained that she was emptying out the fridge before she left to spend the summer in Massachusetts.
“Eat all the ice cream you want” she had told us. “There’s lots.”
On Independence Day we convinced ourselves that her invitation had included the bottles in the wine rack among the other perishables. We got drunk on the sofas in the full light of day.
We ventured outside only under the cover of darkness. Earlier that week we had biked through Colonial Williamsburg. Fans of colonialism from all over the country have applied to live in these faux seventeenth-century houses, Brendan explained. They live in apartments over the fudge stores of main street.
On a colonial back street we stole sour apples from a tree and lay by a stream. For a replica of the peacefulness of an earlier time, it was actually pretty peaceful.
That night, after coming back from dinner at the Mongolian barbecue, we stayed in watching Indiana Jones movies. I loved them as a child and was surprised to learn that they were ideologically rotten and bad. During the commercials we turned the channel to see video footage of a circus elephant trampling its handler. This was followed by a news update stating that Washington, DC was now officially ready to be attacked by a dirty bomb.
B’s dog Evie, thirteen years old and soon to die, lay on the floor in front of the television. We forgot what time it was until we heard explosions. We ran outside, to the overgrown lot behind the shed. The sky above shook with the sounds and colours and smoke that was this small town’s tribute to freedom.
The Ballad of Stu Rhubarb
It’s impossible to say when or where I first encountered Stu Rhubarb. All I know is that he was everywhere during my late teens and early twenties when my white hot passion for hardcore punk rock was mellowing into a mediocre acceptance of other musical genres. Stu was on both sides, I ran into him at hardcore fests in bland Midwestern American cities as well as during my brief stint as a roadie for Canadian indie-rock bands (before there was money to be made in such endeavors). Stu would unexpectedly appear at the furthest flung show, at the Apollo in Thunder Bay or the Boys and Girls’ Club in Truro.
Stu is an asshole. Many of the aspects of his life remain shrouded in mystery, but that fact is clear. He complains to no end about the slings and arrows of fortune that have assailed him. He has never had his name on a lease, possessed a credit card or, he swears, even had a bank account. After years of non-stop travelling he seems to know everyone everywhere and won’t hesitate to say a bad word about any of them – even if they put him on the thanks list in their band’s records.
Stu and I have been pen pals for years, sending letters in between our PO Boxes. Despite the bilious nature of his correspondence, almost solely concerned with detailing how the town he was staying in or the band he was touring with sucked, I always enjoyed his bittersweet prose. Last year, after not hearing from him for over six months, I cracked open the shoebox filled with the letters he wrote to me over the last decade and remembered just how entertaining his writing could be. I wrote him a postcard offering to put out a special issue of Ghost Pine dedicated solely to collecting his letters. Not only did he decline my offer, but the postcard he sent me went out of its way to tell me, in no uncertain terms, how much my zine sucked. He wanted nothing to do with it.
So I wrote him back and called him on his shit – in all his years of complaining about bands and zines and poorly promoted concerts, he had never had the guts to play in a band, write a zine or put on a show. Two weeks later I received my response, not in the form of a letter, but via Stu himself, who I found standing on the stoop of my apartment when I got home from school one day. He wore a beard, carried a sleeping bag, and had a utility belt strapped around his middle.
“Fuck you, man,” he said as he moved into the closet of my apartment. “I’m going to write the epic-est fucking zine the scene has ever laid eyes on. I’ve got incriminating stories about all the hottest bands of today,” were his last words to me before he closed and locked the closet door behind him.
I didn’t see much of Stu during his six week stay, I just heard the occasional cackle from behind the door. I offered him a spare computer we had lying around, but he refused it, screaming “No computers! Hand written!” and then lay back down on his sleeping bag, scribbling in tiny hand-writing under a bare 40 watt bulb.
Eventually the cackling from the closet ceased. It was replaced by mutterings and then silence. One day Stu was gone, along with my change jar and a pair of my jeans. He left only a small stack of paper – a fragment of his intended epic zine. It was some months before my school work calmed down enough that I could read them. I found myself laughing immediately and knew that I had to publish these stories. In typing them up I recognize that I’m betraying his vision, but his handwriting was so tiny and dense that I could only read it after ten years of practice.
So, here are Stu’s stories, except for the vengeful diatribes against the bands that have employed him as roadie. Stu has never had any luck with money and to have him black-listed from his one occasional form of employment would be, I think, a poor choice, one that would no doubt set him on the path to actual homelessness and alcoholism, rather than the romantic punk rock variety that he has been toying with for the last several years.
So ladies and gentleman, welcome to Stu Rhubarb’s Crud #1.
P.S. Stu recently closed his longstanding PO Box, you can contact him through mine: