Given the option of being fired or being fyred, I would much prefer to be fired. For to be fired means the loss of a job, a minor setback in the flux of modernity, a switch in the name and address of a company paycheck. To be “fyred,” on the other hand, means to be robbed of thousands of dollars, marooned on a craggy Caribbean island, starved, without shelter, exposed to the elements, attacked by sand fleas and buried in paperwork to reclaim the luggage that the Bahamian government is holding as collateral for all the unpaid customs fees. This is the regrettable result of the Fyre Festival, a sensational debacle that took place, or didn’t take place, on Great Exuma Island in the Bahamas. I’ve had my own experiences being stranded on a deserted island and it is no laughing matter. When I was a boy some prep school chums and I were beached after a plane wreck on an unforgiving atoll, and in an attempt to govern ourselves we went mad as march hares, savagely killing each other in a relentless attempt to maintain control over our environment. William Golding wrote a book about it, changing just enough to protect our young anonymity. Happy to say we learned nothing from the experience, and are just as power-crazed and savage as ever.
The Fyre Festival was supposed to take place on Fyre Cay, an island once owned by the drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, which would’ve been a far more preferable location. Odds are there is still a smuggler’s ransom of narcotics stashed somewhere on that lump of pitched sand in the sea, a drug cache that wouldn’t have stood a chance once a thousand desperate partiers got a hold of it. After consuming hundreds of kilos of cocaine and marijuana the crowd wouldn’t have even realized or cared that nobody had bothered to perform. Billy McFarland, the hollow man party promoter could’ve told the whole audience that Jimmy Hendrix, Jerry Garcia and Jim Morrison had rocked a four-hour set list of all their greatest hits and the doped up revelers would’ve agreed it was an amazing performance, a rare collaboration, a once-in-a-lifetime show.
As it wound up the marooned festival guests were stuck on a bald patch of cement next to one of those swingers’ resorts like Hedonism, battered by a rainstorm. A young festival-goer was forced, out of sheer hunger and desperation, to trade his girlfriend to a gang of middle-aged sex fiends for a cold plate of eggs benedict and some dry pieces of toast. The girl was drenched in pineapple glaze and forced to preside like a goddess over a hundred anonymous couplings. She now lives deep in the jungle, like Kurtz, the figurehead of a nascent group of new age pleasure seekers.
The only music to result from the disaster, as far as I can tell, is a pleading ballad from Ja Rule called, “That’s not fraud.” It goes…
That’s not fraud, that’s not fraud.
That’s not fraud, that’s not fraud.
Maybe false advertising,
But definitely that’s not fraud.
It’s catchy. I like it. With any luck it will make enough money to pay off the mountain of lawsuits that have ensued.
Speaking of the savage control of the environment, I was surprised to see one of my old Lord of the Flies peers, Montana representative Greg Gianforte, elected to Congress. I had lost touch with him since the days of our barbaric, adolescent power struggle on that tiny island. Old Greg, (not that one), has lost none of his aggression, beating the snot out of Ben Jacobs, a reporter from The Guardian, for the unspeakable offense of asking a question of a political candidate. That is dangerous territory for a reporter in America these days. Ben should’ve taken the safer assignment and traveled to Syria to spend a week with ISIS rebels. Congressman Gianforte underscored, or uppercutted, a nasty reality in journalism today. Report at your own risk. It is open season on the press pool, especially out in the rugged western frontier. A seasoned reporter may ask a confrontational question, but don’t be surprised if the answer is to be hog-tied and thrown into the desert. Extra points if the writer is from The Guardian, Der Spiegel, or Mother Jones. A hog-tied reporter may not get the answer he is looking for, yet being tied up like a rodeo swine is, after all, an answer in and of itself. There is only one solution. Judo lessons for the Fourth Estate. Fight back. Cage matches in the East Wing. Battle Royale on Capitol Hill. It is the Lord of the Flies in Washington D.C., and somebody has misplaced the conch shell.
More Alembics to come.
(This entry is dedicated to Denis Johnson, a righteous poet who could hammer the lines down good and clean. May you live on in the embrace of future generations of readers.)