This Science Fair was sponsored every year by the man who invented pizza, a hardworking orphan across town who didn’t think it was right to take time off to attend but might send over a truck containing a buffalo….”
by mike mosher
Rock was the deep end of the pool and Tippy our lead singer held our head under. Well, that helped pass the summer, but the garage didn’t really count, for our victories were not yet before massed armies of youth. If we opened the garage door only cars and station wagons passed by, or people’s little brothers and sisters. A band that childishly, sullenly asks the musical question What, I didn’t throw them eggs at that house. We had frittered away the summer, but we were sharpening our rifles. Now let’s get serious and conquer the world. The dirty university. I was ready to use my guitar as a guillotine. In this world they judge a man by his guitar pick.
Tippy knew a girl who was babysitter, even at her young age, for an assistant Student Teacher, and that’s how we got ourselves scheduled to play for the upcoming Forcefield Junior High Science Fair party. Sounds scientific, but sounds fair. It was to be our first adulatory experience.
Forcefield, the junior high school on the Midnorthwest side of Aleppo. The not-weirdest side, it was populated by poor white salt-of-the-earthminers, angry black kids and general workaday workhorse suburbanites. Progress through Technology parties were still in vogue, and the new generation’s throngs of ambitious kids were no longer satisfied with Aleppo oompah bands’ versions of “The Sausage Polka” for entertainment.
Navy-blue day sky. Halloween trees. Apples making cider of themselves. This was the Fall of it all. Still what they call Retard Summer, the afternoon of our first gig the sky darkened with a tornado warning which sure seemed appropriate. Radios crackled in basements, as we had or would in practices. The sky-fart smell of ozone moments before a Summer thunderstorm. The smell of a stove. All the kids had to stay in school, which helped make the impending prison riot atmosphere all the more delicious. Our arrival at the junior highschool that afternoon was marked by near-tragedy when all the kids in an approaching schoolbus rushed to one side to look out the window at the band, causing the bus to tip over. Impromptu child bullfights took place while the kids were waiting for the band to come on, picadors’ blowshooting drinkingstraw wrappers dipped in sticky pudding at each other and the ceiling. Some kids missed the fun since they’d run home to watch the Apogees vs. Perigees game with their older brothers and fathers. Fools. The youth of today wear heavy, heavy monograms. One kid’s name was Soupstock, named after the big Rock festival since his uncle was the farmer who owned the land.
This Science Fair was sponsored every year by the man who invented pizza, a hardworking orphan across town who didn’t think it was right to take time off to attend but might send over a truck containing a buffalo. Imagine, the band would be playing for kids so young Tippy was still a virgin when they were born. Born in the International Geophysical Year, what a joke.
Every kid on the shelf. Like a flock of Gods, too young to know it and too young to know better, too you. Junior high schoolers still looked like the kids on the back of matchbooks who testified how they sold seeds of Family Grippe Newspaper door-to-door for valuable prizes, free gifts or discounted greeting cards. Electric chair haircuts, gas-chamber teeth. Microphilia, the unnatural love of little teeny things.
I mean shit, I remember science fairs and science class back in Stonehenge Junior High. I had personally done something in Earth Science class involving bunsen burners and potassium nitrate that produced an explosion and burnt scars into my guitar hand. One kid in my class who later became a Skylab astronaut wrote the song “Roll, Pitch and Yaw” while he was still in Ninth Grade. A young bioengineer wore a cricket protector. Some kids did science projects on the statistical probability of which kid in the class would die–one always did–and inevitably get the yearbook dedicated to him or to her. The general rule he discovered: bet on the hemophiliacs. He spit on our school.
Miniature flying cities. Sadistic statistics projects like “Teenagers and Integers”. “Why Dames Get Varicose Veins” wrote one kid in a Sinatra-like discourse. Various working volcanoes, from vinegar and baking soda to sparking, smoldering purloined chem lab substances. Carbidesque cannon big bangs would punctuate the concert like the 1810 Overdose. One project was about before the continents drifted apart, when there was just one called Gondwanaland, how they addressed letters. Weird monster science. Earthworm-shockers made from two screwdrivers stuck in the ground, each attached to a split electric cord. A nectaurus in a glass cylinder full of a murky nectar of swampwater alcohol, swiped from the University aeons ago. Some kids just exhibited their monster models, often with the heads swapped into odd scenarios, like the Phantom of the Opera Jackie Kennedy on PT109. They were working in the lab late one night, past their bedtimes in their school clothes.
What a cool project, the weighing of an early-blossoming blooming buxom girl’s breasts using the process of measuring how much water they displaced as they fetchingly floated, that poor puckering girl suspended in that freezing glass tank. Where do kids get their crazy ideas? Many kids had dreamed up novel pregnancy test kits, involving a hapless mouse suffocating in a bell jar, a twitching canary in a miners’ lamp. Pulling the rabbit’s ears. One cleverly advanced goutish little wag from Britain invented one he called the Welsh Rarebit Test. An experiment How a Werewolf’s Testicles are Magnetic. A Science Fair plays directly to the children’s fear and depression at the thought of their parents’ sexual intercourse and scatological lives. It was at the Sci-Fair that kids started wearing I Love My Sperm buttons. I was pretty amazed at the way these kids pick things up, kind of the way dolphins can learn sign language from a chimp, and that was the topic of one of the projects. There was a grand era of sexuality, I don’t know if we were the cause of it or merely helped it snowball along or were swept up by it, in it.
Tobacco vacuum in the school sucked kids into the washrooms. Angels smoking Camels, putti smoking Kools. I thought about many paralel things as I sat on the too-small toilet, stuck this smokefilled washroom while everybody else was tuning up or testing out the first audience girls before the big Science Fair Gig began. Under my direction we would continue to grow from this afternoon, as the World’s Most Scientific Band. I wouldn’t get confused today, would play my guitar right. Through my many electronic pedals, Distort-O and afterbirth effects.
Tippy and the Chomps were truly scientific too, our chord progressions as easy as E=MC2. We set up our toys on the three-quarters size–where only little seductions took place–stage, and soon the young atomic squirts or squirtlings and squirtlingettes came in boisterously right after the last bell. Safety patrol boys and library aides provided security, ringed the stage. Hey, not bad! The kids really dug our amplifiers as big cool on-top-of-it machines. Candy booths were being set up by the Student Council to send ’em to England to meet the Rollings or something. Imaginary art with candy in it. Tippy thought it’d be fun to take a candy bath, melt the chocolate, especially with a warm girl.
A Senior Girl Scout serving as Program Aide starts the Brownie meeting with the “Little Red Handkerchief”, a Czechobohemian folk dance. One Liberachoid kid in the talent show poured vinegar and baking soda into his piano to simulate a volcano spewing forth champagne. As the youth of today stood around in their socks our music began a thundering KACHOOOUUUOOOUUUOUM OUUUMMMHHH… and Tippy started singing about his bombproof honey and the littles nervously grinned and dropped their candy and candy bars. C’mon, shake. Crowd of youthfuls transfixed by the chainsaw sound of his pocket-of-pain poems. C’mon, shake. A school somebody-or-other named Foodslinger, probably the Coach of cafeteria food fights, maybe an old janitor in the furnace room, said “Sounds like that boy ate too many chicken lungs” when Tippy started to sing. One science kid heard Tippy’s voice, hurriedly hooked up an oscilloscope and said, yup, that’s the sine qua non of sine waves. Kids could really relate to Tippy’s combination dancing/swearwords. Shaking drew amazement, overjoy from them. At that age, even yawning was funny.
Realize this was Halloween too, the Great Boy holiday, the bestest day of the year for boys, matched only in its hormonal intensity by Valentines’ Day for girls. Tippy’s goal had always been to match its anarchy and license, its Halloweenness, every day of the year. The Hitting Team, renowed for T-papering houses in the immediate vicinity of the school, filed in, streaming rolls of tissue as they marched. Rock concerts were basically prize fights for youth. Everybody danced and shook or at least stood and watched Tippy and the band transfixed. They might call it a celebration of Youth Science but this was truly a Devils’ Night tarantella. Grinning like the skulls in their heads, these elves of Elvis did the steeplechase, danced out of disuse. Junior highschoolers sure are the perfect people, lil’ butterflies with computer-card (their permanent record) wings. Tiny human birthday cakes and candles, protoadults with big foreheads. These blind pumps of the dancefloor, vacuum-cleaners of Soul. Girls were crazy little splatterdancers with only maps of breasts to guide them. I gazed out from between the colored lenses of my Luftwaffe sunglasses bemusedly, for to my weltanschauung I could only see children quietly applauding their feuhrer, young pimpfs on a weekend excursion to Hitler Youth Hostels. Confused spotty kids ghost dancing in their ghost t-shirts to our marvelous marijuana’d electric whirring. Dick, Jane, Spot, Sally, Wolf, Bear, Lion, Webelos. Tippy tiptoed, stepped and flipped on their fingernails as they placed their digits onto the stage. They wanted to touch where the monster walked and it was his philosophy to give smashed hands. Shooting a slicing laser beam of excitement through the adulation-audience, kids with rubber band lasers pointing them at him right back.
Kastompety kastompfey went the little nervousnesses, little fuckers, audible to their very parents blocks away. Near-naked preadolescent savages bouncing like the Eniwitok Indians standing under the Hydroponic Bomb. Brownie scout uniforms soon lay crushed and wrinkled underfoot. A smart kid with overstuffed glasses name Jointdexter pointed out to school counselor-cum-miniature golf coach Mr. Bernard Izodsky that his schoolmates could be compared to atoms bouncing under heat and pressure like in a science class film. He hypothesized that Rock could be a more complex molecule model or Science Fair Project than the classic “How Rock Harms the Ears of Mice”; of course the dumb kids, mostly assigned to the experiment, who performed this perennial chestnut never measured the mouse’s sex organ afterwards or palpitations from their cheatin’ hearts. Izodsky listened carefully, for the lad had brought honor to the school system with a state prize for his project for the First Film Strip Projector on the Moon.
But there wasn’t time, for the door swung open with a smack! of institutional gloom. In glowered Mister Stiffinger the Assistant Principal. As lackey to Principal Mr. Rudely Stormsewer, he was empowered to stop the Chomps from taking legal children from their mother’s childbed to the creaking floodgates of the anticelibacy laws. His solution to any pupil problem was to keep the offender after school, disoriented, wandering the school in search of a corridor pass. Eighth Grade Counselor Mr. Phlegmslinger’s hard, cold rodent eyes, weird forest creature like a school administrator, staring over his sniffing pink snout and sharp little teeth. Opossum as oppressor. No way in his dim bureucratic conciousness could he realize that already Tippy was considered so cool that in the duration of the concert one kid, master forger of corridor passes and excuse letters, ran back to his locker and printed out packs of matches with Tippy’s picture on them for the other kids to play with in the woods and dry Michigan fields beside the school. Tippy glared at the bald one with a withering slithering gawk and lurched, haphazardly threw the microphone at the old enemy bolo-like, javelin’d the microphone stand at him. There’s a hole in the skylight of the cafequarium still, go look for it. The kids faces turned and focused like baby violins. An invitation to a dynamiting. Esqueerita brand model rockets whooshed as they shot all over the cafetorium. The kids on this signal of what was right and left and wrong, turned on that godlessfather the principal, tore him up and used him in a torn paper collage on the bulletin board in front of the library celebrating Book Brotherhood Week.
Rock n’ roll is trans-parent, which is to say, beyond the parents and their channelling into the child repression of his or her lust. Electric music begets homunculi. Rock stars are mathematically less-than or greater-than-or-equal-to the boys they inspire with formulae, and thus serve as an example with some subtlety. Some kids piled into a stolen schoolbus to check out the first drive-in movie about Rock, “They Came Out of Some Garage”. Other kids had died when, intensely practicing their music and packed together in a tight garage, they were too transfixed to notice the family station wagon poisonously idling there. Monoxide Moms wept to the papers.
One of the science teachers had listened to too much early Rock n’ Roll himself and hence would take his classes on grand unchaperoned beach parties to Lake Meshuggah under the guise of field trips. He would trade smart kids the materials to make gunpowder straight from the chemistry lab locker to make gunpowder or a night with the teacher’s girlfriend in their car in exchange for the kid’s secret recipe for napalm. The Mad Scientist was a viable career role models for impressionable kids. When this science teacher later spoke favorably about the Chomps’ appearance at the Science Fair Sockhop–“Hey, the kids seemed to like them”–the hipster pedagogue immediately had to quit under a cloud, but went on to make a fortune in real estate and student slum housing near the University. This kind of behavior only proves the wickedness of Science to the theologian.
The Kid who won the Science Fair? Well, like everything the Fair had a “Drugs” theme that year, intended as an anti-drug exercise but that gave the kids an excuse to research and explore, construct hookahs, etc. He didn’t invent any drugs–no future diet drugs for every Mom’s medicine chest, nor diet foods for me–but did accidentally come up with a substance that, when rubbed on the face, instantly produced a zit, for people who wanted an excuse to avoid their school picture.
The Science Fair closed on the theme of There Is Nothing New Under the Sun. Except us. Tippy and the Chomps, west side Aleppo and the rest of Michigan’s coolest band. Look out. This is when the fun begins.
Mike Mosher <mosheratsvsudotedu> has godzillions of contributions online at Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life and Leonardo Reviews.
His obsessions are Michigan rock n’ roll of the late Revolutionary era (1970-73), and the traditional pedagogy of the Three C’s (comics, community murals and cyberspace).