Thursday, December 17, 2009

Readings: Behind the Curtain, Part 2


Do I have your attention? Okay, then...

Doc Sportello’s primary antagonist in Inherent Vice is a cop whose handle is Bigfoot. Bigfoot is that rare officer of the law who uses a large vocabulary fluently. The two men seem to be opposite numbers. Yet it is almost as if the existences of Sportello and Bigfoot are each necessary conditions for the existence of the other. Here, Bigfoot and Doc wax Gnostic on the topic of Charles Manson:

xxx“It’s like,” Bigfoot had continued, “there’s this evil subgod who rules over Southern California? who off and on will wake from his slumber and allow the dark forces that are always lying there just out of the sunlight to come forth?”
xxx“Wow, and…and you’ve…seen him? This ‘evil subgod,’ maybe he…he talks to you?”
xxx“Yes and he looks just like a hippie pothead freak! Something, huh?”
xxxWondering what this was about, Doc, trying to be helpful, said, “Well, what I’ve been noticing since Charlie Manson got popped is a lot less eye contact from the straight world. You folks all used to be like a crowd at the zoo—‘Oh, look, the male one is carrying the baby and the female one is paying for the groceries,’ sorta thing, but now it’s like, ‘Pretend they’re not even there, ‘cause maybe they’ll mass murder our ass.’”

The year 1969 was a dark one in many ways: Nixon took office; the secret bombing of Cambodia commenced; Weatherman seized control of SDS; the Stonewall riot took place in NYC; the My Lai massacre became public knowledge; Black Panther, Fred Hampton, was murdered in his bed by Chicago cops; following the peak draft year of 1968, the Selective Service Lottery was introduced; demonstrations and riots against the war grew in size and frequency; the Walrus was Paul... But two 1969 events—the Manson Family killings, and the violent deaths at the Altamont Free Concert—served to permanently freak out the counter-culture. There was never a complete recovery. Things were never the same. It was the end of any real belief in “the Woodstock Nation”—among its former inhabitants, anyway. It was the Fall. It was the expulsion from Eden. The Man Behind the Curtain cranking the wheels was not the blustery, mischievous Wiz: the Man was Charles Manson.

If you missed Part 1, it is here.