Fluxis on Wed, 23 Dec 1998 20:27:32 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> What it is to be American

The town is Nashua, New Hampshire, voted by more than one source as the "Best
City To Live In America." By all means, they are stunningly accurate, as it is
the swarming hive of all the activities that Americans embrace. There's plenty
of shopping in the downtown district, a fine park for all the variety of
activities that adults and children alike will enjoy, including family-
appropriate music and festivals. And don't forget the counter culture; there's
a head shop in the downtown  where all the kids go, espousing "revolutionary"
messages from 38 years ago, selling marijuana delivery devices to kids so they
can rebel against their parents, in a very healthy, rite of passage manner.
There's no wonder this city is voted best place in America to live, it is a
virtual microcosm of all that America stands for, the good and plentiful, with
an excellent cable television service and plenty of entertainment to occupy
our humble minds. 

I pass through the downtown, where the trees seem to be decorated with pretty
yellow lights almost year round, but at xmastime, especially. There's a cafe
that was run by a schizophrenic, convinced there was a sniper waiting for him
on top of the building across the street, of course, Nashua would breed that
sort of paranoia in less stable Americans, the sort of Americans who don't
know whats good for them and their country. But the shop went out of
buisiness, the streets maintain a gorgeous facade and the town returned to its
precious stability. 

It takes us an hour and a half to find our way to a gas station where the
attendant tells us that the denny's we are looking for is in the opposite
direction from the one we came, to turn around and "good fucking luck with all
the construction, I don't ever go that way any more." 

The Dennys is clean, well kept, and overwhelmingly pink. We're here to meet
people- two people from Laconia Valley, Meliissa M and Amy B. They're here for
24 hours to celebrate the solstice and the tenth anniversary of the art guys
doing the same thing in Houston, Texas. They have notified the management, had
photos taken with the staff, and yet are not recognizable to the waitresses
when I ask where they are and that I am supposed to join them for several
hours of the endeavor. 

My friend Lyric and I sit in a booth and are handed menus. The atmosphere is
one of complete insanity. Men walk into the room boasting about cigarettes and
start feeling the windows to determine if its cold or "just them," smile and
wink at my friend and then proceed to the smoking section. A family of 8
enters and the youngest member, roughly 12, is caked with eye make up and
lipstick. The table next to us is having a discussion on why Microsoft is
superior to Linux on account of their technical support staff. There is a sign
outside that occasionally flashes messages about "Take it easy with ease" and
signs about bringing your pet to the mall (But only on Christmas Eve.) We
hatch a plan to take tarantulas and lizards and let them loose on everyone's

The waitress, definately not an art fan, determines that my friend and I are
apparently ordering only complex orders in order to make her life even more
strenuosly difficult than it already is....we get a hamburger, fries and a
milkshake, and bewilderment when we answer "spicy or regular fries?" with
"Normal Fries." 

"Spicy or regular. We don't have 'normal.'" 

We are unable to locate the art chicks amongst this chaotic wasteland of
middle class freaks. 
The Buddha statue that was supposed to serve as an indication or mark of
strangeness was perhaps the most believable item in the entire restaraunt. 

They are out of oreo shakes, we learn, and so I order an Oreo sundae. The
waitress gives me a very disturbed look and walks off, flustered. We see a man
get up and take a photograph of the two women with the buddha statue. We still
aren't convinced. 

The waitress returns with some sort of oreo shake, made with hot chocolate and
whipped cream, seems she heard us ask for a shake merely on account of her own
unshakeable faith in the fact that young people who look "arty" are obviously
out to make a fuss. A man in a cane walks at obscenely slow pace to his table
and sits down with two grandkids and reads the paper as he asks his kids,
roughly 6 and 8, about their day, the child responds "I hate what you like
because you like it" and the old man reads his paper and asks calmly about
whether their mother had to work that day, then gets quite excited about the
child sitting on her own leg and so grabs her by the arm and tells her to sit

We're sweating with fear. We are not good, respectable american citizens. We
try to contact a friend in nearby amherst who was supposed to meet us but the
cuircuits weren't functioning properly in that area, says a prerecorded voice,
and its as if the walls have started to cave in. We've been here 5 hours and
finally get our check.

We issue a five dollar tip to attempt to make up for our intrusion into this
land of cascading lack of irony. The bill is paid and we announce ourselves to
the women with the buddha statue
and suddenly the earth is tilted on its axis, some punk friends of Lyrics
enter the building and storm over running, nearly knocking over the waitresses
pot of coffee, her pleas that if he runs again like that she will have him
kicked out are ignored, there's a big spectacle of the hello in the corner and
the other waitress declares us incapable of table hopping, despite that my
five dollar tip (a mark up of 30%, over the customary 15%) was also all the
money I had to use for food for the next two days. She says that if we are
finished eating we will have to leave.  
No one is happy aside from one of the art chicks who has been ignoring me the
entire time. She jumps up to run and get a phone call from Allen Bukoff and I
half expect that If i were in her place I would never stop running. 

Allen Bukoffs Sanity in this wretched hive is a oasis as far my own stability
went, and I dismiss myself to attempt to speak to him but I'm not allowed the
phone. The Q Tip calling card goes dead and soon the front counter's phone
rings and the waitress acquires her fifth look of contempt for me that
evening, utterly devoid of cause. 

Denny's as an institution has been notorious, particularly in southern states,
for refusing to serve black customers. A law suit was settled out of court, I
imagine, and unofficially there's still plenty of clamor about fascism at the
local Dennys. 

Lyric and I exit the building and say nothing until we get into the car: like
the end of an intense gymnastics routine or the tail end of a 5-hour long acid
trip, our mouths start to move again and all we do is utter inhuman sounds to
conteract the forced sanity that was Dennys. We swerve onto a road that gets
us as far the hell away from Nashua, we have no desire to return there again,
but from the highway we see the glitter of the mile or six of road that serve
as a testament to capitalism's unwavering battle against sanity in this,
America's Best Place to Live. 
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