Recent Work By Caleb Powell

Experienced: Rock Music Tales of Fact & Fiction, a rock ‘n’ roll anthology edited by Roland Goity and John Ottey and published by Vagabondage Press, combines memoir, journalism, and short story. The pieces cover a wide range of “experience”, from conventional to quirky, humorous to nostalgic, with writing by Jim DeRogatis, Fred de Vries, Sean Ennis, Laurel Gilbert, Brian Goetz, James Greer, Ed Hamilton, Harold Jaffe, Brad Kava, David Menconi, Adam Moorad, Corey Mesler, Scott Nicholson, Carl Peel, J.T. Townley, and Timothy Weed. The anthology fits my world. I’ve tasted more embarassment than “fame” as a bass player in a Seattle band whose accomplishments were a write-up in The Stranger, some college radio air time (both due to having contacts), and gigs at a couple decent clubs, one or two where strangers outnumbered friends. Anyone who loves music can understand the pull of this world of fantasy and reality; Experienced revisits and expands this dream.

“Thank you for your interest in Zoetrope: All Story,

 

We are a staff of two, assisted by a small team of brilliant and generous volunteers, who are collectively dedicated to reading and responding to the 12,000 submissions All Story receives annually…

…All-Story does not accept submissions via e-mail. Send stories to:…”

The above guidelines come from Zoetrope: All Story, one of the top tier literary magazines of today. My response:

Dear Zoetrope,

Your submission guidelines are fucked up. Snail mail had a purpose…once. There are better options, and the time is now.

The list of deservedly established writers published at your magazine is formidable: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Woody Allen, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Roberto Bolaño, Robert Olen Butler, Don DeLillo, Mary Gaitskill, Kathryn Harrison, Ha Jin, Jonathan Lethem, Yiyun Li, Naguib Mahfouz, Alice Munro, Salman Rushdie, Kurt Vonnegut, & David Foster Wallace. Many writers would love to join this crew, do not mind submitting, and hope to be “discovered” on the slush pile. Yet how do the majority of your authors submit? I doubt Woody Allen stuffs an envelope and drops it in the mail, fingers crossed, hoping Zoetrope will make his proverbial day. But that’s what you demand of the regular scribe, and while all writers are not stereotypical “starving artists,” they would love to save a dime or two, unlike ol’ Woody, who can afford the postage. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, Woody’s earned the privilege, but then why bother taking submissions from the masses? No matter how good an unknown’s story is, Woody and friends aren’t gettin’ bumped. Fetid grapes aside, The New Yorker now accepts E-subs, but even The Diddle Ass Review should. And so should Zoetrope.

Electronic mail or submission managers are no longer science fiction, and function more efficiently than snail. E-subs might create an overflow of stories, but there are solutions: short windows for submissions or charging nominal fees (not writer friendly, either, chief sinner Narrative Magazine, charging nasty clam so they can pay all the writers they solicit, but that’s another rant). Here’s the analysis:

Estimated annual cost of 12,000 nine-page stories plus cover letters:

  • $ 600 12,000 8½ x11 envelopes 120 x $5 per packet of 100 envelopes
  • $14,040 $1.17 Postage for 12,000 submissions
  • $ 240 12,000 4×9 envelopes for SASE 120 x $2 per packet of 100 envelopes
  • $ 5,280 $0.44 Postage for 12,000 SASE
  • $ 1,200 120,000 pages @240 x $5 per 500-page ream
  • $ 960 Printer ink cartridges @10,000 pages per cartridge = 12 x $80

Total = $22,320 or over $1,800 per month.

  • Not included but should be considered wasteful:
  • Gas to deliver 12,000 submissions plus 11,998 rejections and two rewrite requests
  • At 3 inches a 500-leaf ream, a 60-foot tall tree of paper

Time at printer preparing envelopes, etc. @five minutes/submission = 100 hours (not to mention time spent by “brilliant and generous volunteers” who, with Bartleby-like futility, refine skills in a Sisyphean search for fabulous stories that will never be accepted by Zoetrope)

Fifty Zoetrope clones would push the cost over a million dollars. Smaller mags? Every 100 subs/month = $2,232/year. Yet as the smaller mags regularly publish from slush, the waste not as egregious.


Zoetrope, your guidelines continue: “Before submitting, non-subscribers should read several issues of the magazine.” What a deal! I’m sure you’re not intentionally trying to screw writers, but c’mon, this is way totally like effin’ really just absolutely too fucked up.
Certainly, writers should do their part, not waste editors time with inappropriate submissions, and buy, read, and support literary magazines; that’s yet another topic. Bottom line: writers might buy more magazines if they had more money, and they might read more if they had more time. Right? If one writer has ten stories and submits each story twenty times that’s over $350 a year a writer could spend on food, rent, books, and subscriptions to literary magazines. Sure, Zoetrope, you are not the only guilty party. Those lovable stalwarts over at The Sun, despite their concern about social issues, environment, and poverty, refuse to evolve. Others? The list includes The Atlantic, Crab Creek Review, Creative Nonfiction, The Georgia Review, The Iowa Review, The Texas Review, Zyzzyva, etc., not to mention the publishers and agents that postpone electronic. The cost rises into millions of dollars, a forest of paper trees, and oodles of wasted hours. So Zoetrope and cohorts, big and small, agents and editors and publishers, take heed: Stop the snail. Or be fucked up.

Sincerely,

Caleb “The Mad Writer” Powell

Tao Lin’s loyal cult following has grown beyond the fringes of the underground. When he pisses in a back alley at night his adoring fans cry, “Look! He’s streaming golden light into the darkness!” He may not be pushing art forward, but he’s giving it a good shake, and for this he deserves credit. However, much of his output resembles mad dross, yet critics (see here) call him existential and compare him to Hemingway and Camus. I’m not saying such pundits are stumpdumb, but Tao’s no existentialist, and he ain’t Camus. Perhaps these reviewers are confused because Tao cleverly peppers prose with “faux existential” messages. Example (from Shoplifting from American Apparel): “Sam questioned Hester existentially while lying nearly face down covered completely by the blanket.”

Deep, man.

The only thing Tao has in common with existentialists is a preponderance of uncertainty. Therefore, last year I pitted him against Camus: Tao Lin vs. Albert Camus. Camus’s victory was decisive, yet Tao’s not done, not by a “long shit.” This time, seeking a fair opponent, I’ve matched Richard Yates with the anonymous genius of the 2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual. Let’s see from where lyric mastery comes!

Tao Lin’s Richard Yates vs. 2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual

ROUND I:

Richard Yates: He walked to the post office. He mailed packages. He walked over the steel bridge. He stood on the train tracks looking in both directions. He walked on a street parallel to the train tracks. He walked behind a grocery store to the train tracks. He stood on the train tracks. He walked on the street. He walked on the train tracks.

2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual: To the left of the instrument panel cup holder are two 12 volt power outlets. The upper outlet is controlled by the ignition switch and the lower outlet is connected directly to the battery. The upper outlet will also operate a conventional cigar lighter unit (if equipped with an optional Smoker’s Package).

RESULT: Tao Lin’s six repetitions of “he walked”  indicates competence in S-V, but could not overcome the lingering poetic resonance of “instrument panel cup owner.” Winner – 2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual.

ROUND II:

Richard Yates: He thought about Dakota Fanning and other people. He orgasmed into toilet paper. He carried the toilet paper to the bathroom and put it in the toilet. He peed into the toilet. He flushed the toilet. He washed his hands. He washed his face. He went to his room and read a few sentences from different books. He ate dark chocolate.

2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual: Air comes from the floor, defrost and side window de-mist outlets. This mode works best in cold or snowy conditions. It allows you to stay comfortable while keeping the windshield clear.

RESULT: Tao Lin’s masturbatory scene no match for a relatively tame epiphany about de-mist outlets. Winner – Richard Yates.

ROUND III:

Richard Yates: Around 5:30 a.m. they were in a booth again. Dakota Fanning was asleep with her head on the table. Haley Joel Osment held her and looked at things. He went to the opposite seat and lay and slept. He woke and saw Dakota Fanning’s head under the table with a shy facial expression asking if he was okay. It was around 6:45 a.m. They left Price Chopper. They walked over the field onto the parking lot of school buses.

2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual: Under certain conditions, the cellular phone being On in your vehicle can cause erratic or noisy performance from your radio. This condition may be lessened or eliminated by relocating the cellular phone antenna. This condition is not harmful to the radio. If your radio performance does not satisfactorily “clear” by the repositioning of the antenna, it is recommended that the radio volume be turned down or off during cellular phone operation.

 

RESULT: In a closely fought round, Tao Lin writes a genuine scene, tender, yet lacking in appropriate weight, as, with a stunning glimpse into the emotional ramifications of cellular technology, the Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual squeaks out victory. Winner – 2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual.

Final Words: The 2006 Dodge Caravan Owner’s Manual defeats Tao Lin’s Richard Yates, much to the delight of the tens of thousands ofsatisfied Dodge owners. Yet Tao’s future shows more promise than that of any car manufacturer. Tao’s star, as cliché-lovers say, shines brighter every day.

 

 

CONTEXT: On February 5, 2011, David Shields and I spoofed jocks in The Nervous Breakdown. Less than two months later I wrote an article at TNB about a dubious competition run by a Seattle sports radio station, KJR. Then I sent a link of the article to KJR, and they responded. This is the next chapter: 

According to Forbes Magazine, Seattle is the most miserable sports town in the United States. As a Northwest native and long suffering fan of the Mariners, Seahawks, and the now departed Sonics, I cannot disagree.  Our bad teams are complemented by Seattle sportscasters with Moobs (Manboobs) and Seattle whiner-fans griping about East Coast Bias. Yet I never have minded being the underdog. Unfortunately, the Seattle sports scene has deeper problems. As a father of three daughters, and a lifelong sports junkie, I’m having a mid-life crisis.

THE JOSH LUEKE “RAPE”: In May of 2008 two baseball players on a Texas Rangers farm team met a woman at a bar and took her home. The woman, unidentified, promptly threw up and passed out in their apartment.  She woke partially clothed and physically violated, and went to the authorities. The results: DNA from her jeans, tank top, hair, and semen on an anal swab matched one of the athletes, Josh Lueke. He was arrested, charged with rape, but eventually pleaded guilty of a lesser felony, the obscure False imprisonment with violence. He emerged relatively unscathed, his career intact.

Last summer the Seattle Mariners traded for Lueke, and he is now on the big league club. His presence makes the transgressions of other Mariners tame (one has battled domestic violence accusations and another shoved last year’s manager). I’ve had it. This year I will not listen or watch Mariners games, and if the team does not get rid of the scum, I will not watch next year or ever. Our family will now enjoy baseball games played by the Everett AquaSox.

THE MORAL PLACEBO: Okay, I’m boycotting the Mariners. So friggin’ what? Sex crimes happen across the spectrum of society. Every city has their scandal. Pittsburgh Steeler Ben Roethlisber has similar trouble, but this just gives me one more reason to hate the Steelers. It’s true there are two sides. Gold diggers like Karen Sypher, who was sentenced to 7+ years for extortion after an affair with Kentucky coach Rick Pitino, are an element, but her egregious actions in no ways justify a defense of the creeps.

So what’s a moral placebo? A “moral placebo” is when an individual makes a pledge or action on ethical grounds, yet the main beneficiary is the individual: he or she feels better about him or herself. Examples: Swearing not to drive an SUV; praying really, really hard for the well-being of starving children in underdeveloped countries; or boasting about how your eight million-dollar mansion “saves” energy because it has solar panels, even though you consume twenty times more energy than the average citizen. Yes. Words and action have a relationship (perhaps the person praying will actually send money or volunteer), but without action these stands are useless. Call me cynical, but brandishing a candle against the proverbial darkness often comes off as bullshit.

Nevertheless, I brandish, I spout, and thus I’d like to add a few words about my other “moral placebo,” a boycott of KJR Sports 950 and their sponsors. My previous TNB post took on KJR’s Mitch “Dork in the Morning” Levy and The Bigger Dance. I sent a post of this article to KJR, and soon after a few members of the KJR Society for the Legalization of Date-Rape responded. One KJR DJ took the time to engage me and defend his right to objectify women.

EXCHANGE BETWEEN KJR DJ & MYSELF:

Caleb Powell: KJR supporters have revealed themselves in the “Comments” section.

KJR DJ: Wow. Nice to see such an intellect using the proper narrow brush.

(He pasted from my interview with David Shields)

Powell: Angelina Jolie or Katherine Zeta-Jones?

Shields: Uhhhh…Angelina Jolie or hmmm…I would say Katherine Zeta-Jones.

Powell: Beyoncé or Britney?

Shields: Uh…I must admit…Britney.

I think it’s the consistency in your point of view that I find so refreshing. By the way it’s “Catherine” with a C.

CP: It’s a Spoof on Barkley. Thanks for the ‘C’ tip. Didn’t you notice the intro: “Using questions often directed at jocks, specifically Charles Barkley, we did a quick Q&A…”

KJR DJ: Ohhhhhh. I see. When YOU do it it’s a spoof. Got it.

CP: Didn’t know the Dance was a spoof.

KJR DJ: So you think we take it seriously? Honestly…it seems wildly hypocritical of you to ask David Shields what you asked him and then trash us and our listeners for what is in fact a harmless little contest. Then you play your deal off as a spoof but still want to take ours seriously.

If you don’t like the contest then there’s an easy way to deal with it. Don’t pay attention to it. But don’t demand that every other person has to see things your way…or that one or two people who respond to your post are suddenly representative of the entire listening audience of KJR.

CP: Representative? Even one KJR fan thinking like that should make you worry. “Wildly hypocritical?” That’s hyperbole. My piece with Shields ridiculed the “dumb jock.” “Harmless little contest?” Bullshit. You and KJR take it seriously. The contest is not a spoof, it’s a cash cow for KJR; sure, to you it’s fun and for the most part harmless, but it objectifies women. That’s a problem. Men that objectify women are more likely to be violent. There is a direct correlation, the evidence is there, and yes, I’m giving you a conclusion, but the studies behind it are complex and cogent.

And even though, for the most part it’s harmless and most guys that get off on the Dance are okay, enough of them are “date-rapes waiting to happen.” Those comments here at The Nervous Breakdown are frightening, aren’t they? You want those guys dating someone you care about? Hey, I don’t know if you have a daughter or a sister, but would you want any woman to have to deal with men that think objectifying women is “harmless?” It’s not.

KJR DJ: And it’s pretty damned convienient that YOU do this and claim you were just ridiculing the dumb jock. But we’re doing it and we’re equated to rapers (sic) and murderers. THAT my friend is bullshit. Tell yourself anything you want.

CP: You’re not rapists, but rapists feed off your schtick.

KJR DJ: But no rapist read your interview with David, right?

CP: What? Another non-sequitor?

That’s it. KJR DJ at least thought about the issues, yet his argument was hampered by a rudimentary use of rhetorical modifiers and his inability to understand irony. He chose to remain anonymous. I don’t listen to KJR, and though I’m boycotting their sponsors, like Mike’s Hard Lemonade, big deal, I never drank it, anyway.

Yet maybe I’m wrong. Maybe beliefs and stands matter. My wife backs me, our oldest daughter plays T-ball, and I’ve discovered other parents agree. Seattle Mariner attendance is down, and a young struggling team is not the only reason. The lit candle might not be a mere platitude. Our views influence how we raise our children and treat our peers. They’re not just token moral placebos.

The objectification of women by celebrities, politicians, and athletes, unfortunately, seems an almost necessary and accepted joke. Here in Seattle a local sports-talk radio station, KJR, yearly caters to the male-dominated audience, filtering interviews with strippers and discussions of women’s “racks” with sports talk. The most egregious example is “The Bigger Dance.”

“WELCOME TO THE BIGGER DANCE: KJR’s Mitch in the Morning’s Bigger Dance is run much like the Big Dance, however, instead of bracketing 64 college basketball teams, KJR brackets 64 beautiful celebrity women. Simply fill out your bracket and tune in to KJR weekdays in April at 6:50 a.m., 7:50 a.m., 8:50 a.m., and 9:50 a.m. for the head to head matchups. With each round we’ll be closer to crowning our 2011 Dancing Queen of the Hardwood!”

Mitch “Dork in the Morning” Levy, creator of the “Bigger Dance,” once bet Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird whether she would better a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. The stakes? Mitch would buy season tickets vs. Sue would let herself be spanked on the air as she said, “Harder, daddy, harder!” All good fun, right? I’ll admit, Howard Stern can be funny, and I am all for women acting on free will, but what’s the bigger issue?

In the sporting world sexual assault is not taken seriously enough. From LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant to Pittsburgh Steeler QB Ben Roethslisberger, too many athletes get away with mistreating women.

The “Biggest Dork” Sweet Sixteen

 

  1. Charlie Sheen Holds a knife to his ex, three times accused of Domestic Violence, believes 9/11 was an inside job. Early favorite. Said: “Women are not to be hit. They’re to be hugged and caressed.”
  2. Joe Francis CEO of Girls Gone Wild. Guilty of child abuse and prostitution. Said: “I’ve been anally raped over and over by the media.”
  3. Tucker Max Author of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. Said: “Rape sucks, dude, it’s like, not a joke.” & “Rape’s not funny, but murder can be.”
  4. Fred Phelps Frontman for Westboro Baptist Church. Fantasizes about Michael Savage’s weener. Said: “God hates fags! God hates America!”
  5. Michael Savage Real name Michael Weiner. Fantasizes about penetrating Fred Phelps. Said: “You should get AIDS and die.” (Fired from MSNBC for telling this to a gay-caller)
  6. Rush Limbaugh Divorced three times, married a fourth, but fears Gay-marriage. Said: “Will Americans want to watch a woman get older before their eyes on a daily basis?” (About Hilary Clinton in the White House)
  7. Ben Roethlisberger Entitled athlete, twice accused of sexual assault, Tennessee police bungled investigation. Still loved by America because he’s a damned good football player.
  8. Julian Assange Investigated for rape in Sweden. Offended NY Times executive editor Bill Keller by implying anti-Taliban Afghani informants should die. Said: “Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism.”
  9. Mel GibsonThreatened to kill ex Oksana Grigorieva. Said: “I’ll put you in a fuckin’ rose garden you c*nt!”
  10. Joran van der SlootIf his dorkiness were not overshadowed by evil, would be favored to win. Pissed off because there’s no Tucker Max in Peru’s prison library. Said: “The girl intruded on my private life. She had no right.” (Explaining why he murdered Stephanie Flores Ramirez)
  11. Sarah Palin Who says women can’t be dorks? Said: “Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.” (In support of abstinence-only education)
  12. Bill O’Reilly Settled his sexual harassment lawsuit with Andrea Mackris. Said: “Just use your vibrator to blow off steam.” (To Mackris)
  13. Mitch Levy Sucked at golf until he paid for lessons at Inglewood Country Club. His game has improved, but still dates insecure women. Said: “We were having an on-air debate over who was hotter – Ginger or Mary Ann.”
  14. Brett Favre Pulls a “John Edwards,” betrays cancer-stricken wife. It’s all about Brett. Still loved by America because he’s a damned good football player.
  15. Ann Coulter Not really a “dork” but a “dorkette.” Fantasizes about Sarah Palin’s breasts. Said: “If we took away women’s right to vote, we’d never have to worry about another Democrat president.”
  16. Glenn Beck Mormon, believes the Angel Moroni revealed doctrine to Joesph Smith through mystical golden tablets. Covertly wants to reinstate the covenant in Section 132 regarding polygamy. Said: “If you’re an ugly woman, you’re probably a progressive as well.”

Not all mega-dorks made the list, including Mike Huckabee, Barry Bonds, Tiger Woods, Ron Blagojevich, and many other deserving phallus-and-testosterone riddled wankers… Stay tuned, the 16 dorks will be whittled down the Final Four. Who will reign as “The Biggest Dork?”

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION:

 

David Shields has talked extensively about Reality Hunger over the past year. This February the paperback will be released. Also forthcoming this month, The Inevitable: Contemporary Writers Confront Death, edited by David Shields and Bradford Morrow, with essays from Geoff Dyer, Jonathan Safran Zoer, and Joyce Carol Oates, among others. But what else, besides death and reality, does David Shields think about?  David confided over dinner at Seattle icon, Restaurant Zoe, that Tracy Morgan’s recent comment about Sarah Palin being great “masturbation material” provided the chuckle of the week. He was obviously distracted and transfixed by the culinary displays…the small plates, the olive tapenade amuse-bouche, and the root of celery crème fraîche, and who wouldn’t be? But I wanted to probe deeper. Using questions often directed at jocks, specifically Charles Barkley, we did a quick Q&A. I substituted “work of art” for “basketball team”, “Jonathan Franzen” for “Lebron James”, and “literary game” for “the NBA game”.    

On December 8, 1984, south of Coupeville on Whidbey Island, the FBI surrounded Robert Mathews’ Greenbank farm house. Mathews had founded The Order, a white supremacist group connected to twelve armed robberies that netted over four million dollars, a wounding of a police officer, and the murder of Denver talk show host Alan Berg. In a Coupeville classroom a few miles north my classmates and I were informed that school busses to Greenbank had been cancelled. That day Mathews would die in a fire after a cache of explosives detonated during a shoot out. All I knew about Mathews, thirty-one at death, was that he was a “bad man”. The crimes of murder and armed robbery I could understand, but not white supremacy. What motivated Mathews to make the sacrifice? Why join The National Alliance, The Aryan Brotherhood, Neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan or found a group such as The Order? Are white supremacists caricatures of evil or simply misguided? Who would be willing to kill and die for these beliefs? Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead: Frank Meeink’s Story (Hawthorne Books, Spring 2010) confronts these questions, as does the film that parallels his life, American History X. Frank says the film and his story, though, are not just about him, but, “Every kid who got sucked up into the white supremacy movement and had a change of heart.”

Meeink became accustomed to violence early, in part due to lack of a structured family. When he was an infant his father left, and his mother remarried an abusive man as she escaped into drugs and alcohol. Meeink, alone on the streets of Philadelphia, often truant from school, descended into a world of bullies and victims and immersion in gang life. He was raped at gunpoint, and began carrying self-hatred and a desire for vindication. The perfect recruit for the “movement”, he succumbed to skinhead indoctrination and rose quickly, eventually recruiting others and putting needle to the skin to show his allegiance: a swastika on his neck, a portrait of Joseph Goebbels on his chest, and S-K-I-N-H-E-A-D on his knuckles. He celebrated Hitler’s birthday on April 20th, feared the ZOG, or Zionist Occupational Government, and poured over literature such as The Turner Diaries. Arrested multiple times for violent and petty crimes, finally, after almost killing a person, he went to prison for felony assault. There his life turned as he befriended black inmates.

Soon after his release the Oklahoma City tragedy stunned our nation, and troubled Meeink to the point he went to the FBI. This led him to the Anti-Defamation League, to speaking out against racism, and to Jody M. Roy, Ph. D., a chair on the board of directors for SAVE (The National Association of Students Against Violence Everywhere) and author of Love to Hate: America’s Obsession with Hate and Violence (Columbia University Press 2002). Their friendship led to the collaboration of Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead.

As for Robert Mathews, every year young Frank Meeink types held death anniversary vigils at South Whidbey State Park. Anti-racist protestors resented their presence, snipers with BB guns hid in the woods and peppered the skinheads, and a police presence became necessary. When the state began closing the park every December the skinheads moved to a nearby location on Smuggler’s Cove Road, their most recent ceremony a footnote in local news.

 

INTERVIEW:

 

Caleb Powell: What did skinheads offer you that was lacking in your life?

Frank Meeink: I would definitely say it started with the security. I liked having a family, belonging, all the stereotypical things that make gang members gang members. I liked hanging with my crew; having my own scene.

I hated a lot. Self-hatred, violence, the anger within, was like a shaken up soda bottle and someone just took the tap off and directed it, and the someone…they happened to be the skinheads. I think I wanted to believe this stuff already. So it was easier to except. They said the right things at the right time. I don’t think they planned it, they weren’t that sophisticated, but when I was at the right low point they said things that gave pride in my being white and male. I felt completely worthless and they said you are not worthless, you have this calling, this job, and that job is to support the white race and be a white soldier, an Aryan Christian soldier.

Powell: You describe your rape in Autobiography. It is a crucial and honest moment. What was it like to reveal this publicly?  

Meeink: I told Jody the story while we’re driving in a car one day…‘cause I thought she was going to hear about it from my dad. I told my dad right after it happened, and I knew she would read the police reports and the psychologist’s notes from prison, so she’d find out anyway. I wanted her to hear it from me. I just said, “Hey Jody, there’s something I want to tell you about. So, um, this guy made me perform oral sex on him, he pulled a gun on me, um – I was hitchhiking and left myself open. And Jody told me she heard all this nasty stuff about me before she met me, and then she heard this. She later told me, “I wanted to hug you that day.” She asked how it happened, and I remember reliving it with her, telling the story.

Six months later she’s writing the book, and I told her I didn’t want it in, and she said, “You don’t even understand how this makes you human. It pulls people back to knowin’ what a fucked up kid you were. You were a really fucked up kid and fucked up things happened to you all the time. So I’m going to say that I strongly want it in, but if you don’t want it in then we’re not going to put it in.” I said, “Can I sleep on it?” So I went home and I told my wife, and she said, “You think people are going to think about you differently. They’re not. You know, it’s not that big a deal. You were a kid.” I thought, hey, I’ve got to put in everything that happened. It’s the truth, it is what it is, it happened.

When we interviewed my dad he said one of the worst things he ever did to me was not to be there. I mean, I told him immediately after it happened, a half hour later, and you know what he says? He pours me a shot and says, “Shit happens.” I’m his son, I’m coming to him, major upset, and I’m hoping he’s gonna say, “I’m going to find that guy!” I told him in detail what happened, and he just said, “Hey, Frankie, well – bad shit happens, Frankie.”

Powell: How do skinheads organize?

Meeink: They’re actually unorganized. Very unorganized. Many factions. All the websites fight with each other – power struggles and so many chiefs. There’s no grand movement or plan. In fact, scary thing is, without it being organized it’s harder to crack some of the cases. Leaderless resistance is a new term, as they try not to use their names, or pinpoint where leaders are. So there are a lot of racists out there acting alone.

There are people like Robert Mathews, he’s like a God to the movement, everyone respects him…he became a martyr to the cause. Then there’s Ruby Ridge and Randy Weaver, a low level guy with few connections, or Timothy McVeigh, they are all at different ends of the spectrum. There are separatists that don’t want anyone telling them what to do, and then there are guys who want to overthrow the government.

Powell: Skinhead ideology is nonsense. Voltaire said: Those who can make you believe absurdity can make you commit atrocity.” Do you agree?

Meeink: You believe stupid things because you fear. Belief comes from fear. The people that believe in racism, that have this hatred, have the same two components, namely fear and ego. They think, “I’m afraid they’re going to move into my neighborhood, and there are going to be mixed babies.” Things like this drive the racist movements. You join these groups because you fear something. With racists they make you believe you’re joining because you have love for the white race – pride. But everything you associate with goes back to Hitler, and all these other negatives, it’s a mental illness. When you’re really mental you don’t know that. You think you’re okay. We are all just human beings, but racists judge humanity from what continent someone comes from. Now imagine if Martians came down, they’d all see us as one race.

I was in the airport in LA and I came across this guy from a group called P-9. That’s the name of the gang, it’s called P-9 Death Squad.

Powell: Penis Death Squad? Penile Death Squad?

Meeink: No, the letter ‘P’ and the number ‘9’. Anyway, we’re talking, and he said he got away from it because they were getting more and more into hatred, and he had no hatred, he just had this white pride, and that’s why he joined. P-9’s rhetoric was full of hatred, but he still thought the root values of P-9, the foundation, was a good thing. So I say, “You think the foundation is good?” And he says, “Yeah.” And I says, “You call yourselves ‘Death Squad’. That’s your foundation.” And he looked at me and goes, “You gotta point.”

Powell: You have said that you committed over 300 acts of violence. Do you relive those acts? Do they haunt you?

Meeink: I do think about them. I think about them differently, and when I look at myself back then I look at myself in third person. When I tell you a story of me when I was twenty-three it’s as me, first person, because I’m already way out of the movement. But when it’s the “me” of that racist stuff it’s a different person. I think “him”, not “me”. And I’ve tried to make amends to people who I’ve personally harmed. I try to seek them out. I’d love to make amends to everyone, if I could. But it’s not those people from my past who hate me so much – the people who still can’t forgive me for the violence are ones who never had anything to do with it.

Powell: If racism and hatred were so deeply seated in you, how did this change? What happened in prison?

Meeink: In prison I started realizing that it has to do with girls, and having and dealing with a girlfriend on the outside. Black inmates my age had this overwhelming thought: “I hope she doesn’t cheat on me.” And I happened to be going through the same things with my girl. No matter how much of a thug you are, you still want that ultimate love from a woman, but no matter what color, you still had that same insecurity: if she cheats on me it’ll break my heart. Across every continent it’s the same – there’s gay men, of course, but the majority of men across the world want a girl, a family. There’s nothing so common in a human, in a male, than a broken heart, it’s one of the common bonds we had that made me realized that we are so the same.

Powell: About prison, you once said, “I learned to become a man in there.” What did you mean?

Meeink: I learned how to shave. For the first time. Like really shave. I always had peach fuzz, I dry-shaved as a kid, but I never had to shave or trim up my beard, and a guy showed me how to do this, and I remember thinking, “This is something your dad is supposed to teach you.”

I learned not to fear men. I used to fear men, especially older men. When I got to prison I learned you couldn’t fear – if I didn’t stand up for myself, if I cowered, I would have more regret. I learned that my word was my word, my bond. You stood by what you said.

After I got out there still was my stepfather. I still was afraid of my stepfather ‘cause he always beat the crap out of me. He’s this big guy, six-two, wiry, skinny, and he was a navy boxer so he knew how to hold his hands. And he beat me up whenever he could. I got home from prison and he was sitting on this couch. One of my cousins comes in and asks, “How you doin’ Frank?” And I said, “I’m doin’ great.” ‘Cause I was. I’m out of prison, I’m not a skinhead anymore, I had friends, yeah, I was doin’ drugs, of course – anyway, my stepfather says, “Oh yeah, he’s doin’ real good, he’s a loser. He lives in my basement, he’s a fuckin’ cellar dweller.” So I’m like, “Ha ha, funny, cellar dweller.” And I was a cellar dweller. I lived in the basement. Then he said it again, and I’m like thinkin’, “This guy isn’t jokin’, he’s in one of his fightin’ moods.” He gets up, and my little sisters were there. Bad situation, and I’m like, “That’s enough, you’re not funny.” He says to my mom, “You better get in here, I’m gonna whip your son’s ass.” I stood up, and I’m built ‘cause I just got out of penitentiary. He throws this lame-ass hook, and I just ducked it and came up and he left himself wide open and I hit him with one of the greatest right hooks I’ve ever thrown. I’d never hit someone so hard and had it feel so gooooood. Family’s screaming, sisters are mad, everyone’s mad. My sisters are eleven and thirteen years younger than me. Bad situation, fast forward – years later he’s really mean to my sisters, calls them whores, and these were his daughters.

He was fifty when he died, died in a different neighborhood, went unclaimed in the morgue. My sisters were sad, but he wasn’t much of a dad, just a drug addict. I’m more of a dad to them, my sisters are doin’ good. Both young with kids and tryin’ to make it in this world.

Powell: Tell about the process of getting rid of your tattoos.

Meeink: I had a swastika on my neck, skinhead on my knuckles, and I tried to get a job. Employers see this and they think these ain’t good people skills’. I had to get rid of ‘em. There was a Jewish woman who lost family in the Holocaust. She called me up and said, “I heard you want to get your tattoos taken off.” I said, “Sure.” She said, “Come see me.” She was this bigwig doctor at the University of Pennsylvania, a great hospital, and she started telling me her story. Her family died in the Holocaust – and she’d be more than honored to help me take ‘em off, but would I mind having resident doctors do it. I remember her joking, “If they miss, it’ll hurt.” I said, “I don’t care if you use a belt sander, as long as it’s sanitary get it off.” And when I went in the doctor told me her story.

Now, I was never a Holocaust denier. I wasn’t one of those people. I believed it happened, but I just didn’t care. I guess that’s how we felt, the skinheads. Jews were evil and we wished Hitler had killed ‘em all. Then, to have this doctor telling me her story, man. In the movement, in my stupid process, I’d think anyone, like that woman, that she’d be just telling her story for charity or sympathy. But this woman told me the history of her life, and she rolled with it. She told me, “It happened, and I’m going to move on, and I’m going to get that swastika off your neck, and that’s my pleasure.”

I remember seeing Schindler’s List. I was a skinhead the first time I saw it, and I ranted. I just didn’t get it. Then years later I watched it again. The first time I thought, “Oh, typical, Jewish Hollywood’s putting out this movie, putting down the Aryan Race, Nazis are bad, they’re all bad guys, yeah yeah yeah.” Second time it was a great movie, about Schindler and how he helped.

Powell: Were you surprised that Obama was elected president?

Meeink: I voted for Obama. You know, I’m a McCain guy, too. I liked them both, and I was asking myself who was going to take us into a different direction. They both had good ideas, and then when McCain went out and got Palin I was done. Done. Obama felt right.

Here’s the thing, everyone’s screaming about how Obama’s so far left. You hear this from the far right. He’s the anti-Christ, we’re going to hell, all that. Here’s the deal: the middle voters, the undecided, the independents, people like me, if you don’t get us you don’t win. That’s the way it is, I’m a middle voter. Obama takes us in the right direction. We need to be at peace with the world, internationally we weren’t looked at as good, and Obama helps our image. And I’m for universal health care. I am. We all have these things, and I think when people look back at America I want them to say, “They took care of the people that didn’t have anything.” That’s our job. People don’t have anything so we have to take care of them. Call me a socialist if you want, but I’m for that. It takes a village. I’m strong on that.

Powell: What do you think of interracial relationships? What if one of your children wanted to date a minority?

Meeink: They do. My daughter is dating a black guy, and my son dated a black girl. As long as a guy treats her right, or a girl treats him right, I don’t care. This guy my daughter’s with, he’s actually mixed, he’s black and white, but he looks black, and she’s white, and he’s a great kid. When I met him I gave him the dad talk, “Don’t hurt her, be good to her, if you hurt her, you know, I’ve been to prison and I don’t mind going back.” Same thing I’d say to any boy that’s dating my sixteen-year-old daughter. I mean, if my kids want to date who they want, fine. I mean, if one of them was gay, they could come out. I’d rather they be happy than stay in the closet and be depressed.

The things I teach my kid are age-appropriate. I’m an addict. So I give ‘em the drug talk, the sex talk, the alcohol talk. My thirteen year-old son and I just went over the sex talk, I’ve given the drug talk to my sixteen-year-old daughter, I’m about to give that to my son – about drugs, how it’s in my blood, it’s in my parents’ blood, and it’s hereditary. Be vigilant, I say. But every kid experiments. I don’t say it’s okay, I just say, “Watch yourself, and you know that you can always talk to me about it.” If I find drugs in my house then there will be consequences, but if you come to me and say, “I tried it,” then I’ll say, “Let’s talk.” Just like with anything, I’ll say, “Let’s talk about it.”