Freaknik II, Electric Boogaloo

For the record every sequel should have the phrase “Electric Boogaloo” in the title. Thus I am following my own rule. 

Anyway…

I was checking the news outlets last week for some nugget of inspiration when I happened on an announcement in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “Freaknik” was back, would be held in the city on Labor Day weekend, was returning for a whole new generation of black collegians. After reading the headline I made it a point to pick up a newspaper the next day to make sure the city fathers hadn’t declared a preemptive state of emergency. No word in the urban dictionary strikes more fear in the hearts of the Atlanta political establishment than “Freaknik.”

I could try to explain Freaknik, but the best and most succinct description of Freaknik can be found in the powerful poetry of the Hypnotize Camp Posse and their insightfully metered composition known as, “Azz and Tittiez.”

The song basically goes, “Azz and Tittiez…Azz and Tittiez…Azz and Tittiez…and big booty bitches.” (repeat).

That about sums it up. Not only does it sum up Freaknik, it sums up every fetishistic and Bacchanalian skin festival from ancient Greece to modern day Mardi Gras. Pan with his flute, Bacchus with his amphora, and Apollo with his lyre were the original party promoters. The pursuits of the flesh have always maintained a striking similarity over the millennia. It’s a pretty big common denominator, and although the aphrodisiacs may vary, and the music may be better or worse depending on whom you ask, and the legality of certain couplings may be more or less questionable, it all boils down to the same transaction.   

Whether it is a butt, a booty, a ba-donk-a-donk, a callipygean haunch or steatopygian wall of gluteal paradise, a person’s rear end can make or break a party. In Burgo Partridge’s A History of Orgies, (A real book, here is a picture…)

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Mr. Partridge describes the libertine clubs of the eighteenth century, in which women were invited to showcase their rumps to a roomful of tongue-wagging gentry. One woman, who went by the name Oyster Moll, had a reputation for being particularly insatiable. “Her crinigerous clift was ready to run the gantlope through a regiment of footguards.” I’m not sure what the hell that means, but I can venture a guess. That was two hundred years ago. Yesterday’s “clift” is today’s apple bottom. Whatever. 

My own memories of the original Freaknik date back to 1994. I was a freshman in college. My friend Tim and I had stumbled upon it by accident. It all started when we decided to drive off campus for a slice of pizza. Tim and I, by the way, are both as white as the underside of an albino. It was about four in the afternoon on a springtime Friday. About a mile up the road we hit a wall of traffic. There was no going anywhere. There might as well have been a huge glacier fifty miles long right through the middle of town. Bemused, Tim and I parked and decided to walk to the pizza parlor. We hiked past the endless line of cars, all stuck in place in what was the most fantastic scene of gridlock I had ever witnessed. We trudged along, figuring that around the next corner we would happen upon some major traffic accident. We weren’t a hundred feet up before a woman leaned out of a car and flashed us, flashed everybody in our direction. Four guys were immediately around her with video cameras. Mind you these weren’t camera phones. These were the big clunky recorders that could tear a rotator cuff from hoisting it around all day. VHS cassette tape sold separately. And the bass from the music shook the entire street. Revelers were perched on the roofs of their cars watching as girls were grinding and dancing on each other in the middle of the road. We took note that all the partiers were black.

“They are somewhat festive for a major car pileup,” my friend pointed out, rather philosophically.

“These Atlantans really know how to make the best of a traffic snarl,” I said. “I think we are going to like it here.” 

There was no horrible auto collision. It was Freaknik–a massive, somewhat extemporaneous city-wide party during the spring break for all the African-American colleges. Tim and I arrived at the pizza place and still the line of cars extended into infinity beyond, with no sign of letting up. Luckily our journey on foot was helped out by some students from Morehouse College who gave us a couple of beers as we walked by their car. They also explained what was going on.

“It’s Freaknik. We are getting our freak on.”

Tim and I sat on the patio of the pizza place and watched the festivities. Nobody could believe it, much less the partiers themselves. It was the type of random, wild, magical out-of-control party that happens once or twice in a lifetime. These types of things usually fall short, but sometimes like a riptide or flash flood, all the elements line up in exactly the right ratio, and the barometer drops and the phlogiston kicks in and something inexplicable happens and if you are lucky enough to be there you take part. 

“You can’t hoard fun. It has no shelf life.”

–Hunter S. Thompson.

Yes indeed, Dr. Thompson. I agree. In fact I had to look up a passage from my own novel, a weird little night-life satire called Wet Brain, in which the anti-hero assesses the same mostly fruitless search for a good time.

To wit, “We were all looking for the greatest night of our lives every time we stepped out of the house, even if we didn’t realize it. A location could be located, plans could be planned, but the magic itself was entirely unreliable. Sometimes it happened and sometimes it didn’t. It could occur anywhere and at anytime. The trick was to be prepared so at those odd, unexpected moments when it whipped up the pursuer’s only responsibility was to move with it, to ride it like a pack of wild horses. Sometimes you got trampled. Sometimes you made it to the sunrise.” 

Which brings us to the reason the city of Atlanta’s formal attitude toward Freaknik was one of shock and horror. It brought the whole city to a standstill for an entire weekend. Brides couldn’t get to the church for the weddings they had paid big money for, ambulances couldn’t get to hospitals, fire trucks sat helplessly while buildings burned to the ground. The politicians that didn’t get bounced out of office immediately set about putting into law draconian “no cruising zones” where kids could get busted just for driving past a street corner more than once.

And that was that. Freaknik fizzled. The other rule about sequels is they almost always suck. The book is better than the movie, the movie is better than its sequel, and if big success was a mathematical absolute than everybody would do it.

Post script. I read the other day that the party dubbed “Freaknik” was cancelled. Part of me is disappointed. The other part knows it would’ve been a letdown anyway. Bacchus, Pan, and Apollo are always planning though. They will make it happen somewhere, sometime. I hope I’m on the guest list.

More Alembics to come.

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