[Author's Note: This is the final column that appeared in SLAMM magazine before they sold the operation to San Diego CityBeat]
To everything there is a season my friends. In case you haven’t heard, our fearless leader, Kevin “Give-em” Hellman, is no longer the owner/publisher of SLAMM. He has sold the magazine to some big-time publishing firm — who will probably turn our beloved grass roots paper into some glitzy, soulless, alternative weekly, ad-rag, distributed straight from the printing presses of hell, with horrific column titles like, Why I Love Kittens and Happy World, and inked with the dripping, toxic, searing blood of the damned.
But I kid the new publishers.
I’m just sorry to see Kevin relinquish the helm. I have a powerful allegiance to that MGD-drinking bastard; for it was he who broke me into the field of journalism.
The first piece I wrote for SLAMM ran on March 5, 1997 (Issue #16). It was an uninspired CD review on a now-defunct local band called Uncle Joe’s Big Ol’ Driver. Subsequently, I received — and SLAMM printed — my first ever hate mail: “Well, Mr. Edwin Decker, do you have some sort of hearing impairment? It is amazing someone would pay you for writing such crap.”
Imagine my glee. Somebody actually cared about my little review – as if what I said about anyone’s CD mattered. Instantly, I became a hate-mail addict. And the hate mail poured in. I got letters saying things like, I am ignorant as I am sick, and that I would burn in Hell, that I probably ball my sister, and that I must have a serious, upper rectal disorder. (Actually, it’s Ms. Beak that has rectal dysfunction).
Last month I got a letter that said, “I hope you fucking die, ASAP.”
But my all-time favorite hate response wasn’t mail at all. Rather, it was a song. A local, ska band called Spazboy was so incensed by my lackluster rendering of their CD, they lashed back and recorded the hit single, “Ed Decker Thinks We Suck.”
Can you imagine that? A song written about me. And it was a damn good song. Suddenly I understood – it’s all about conflict. Not just in journalism – but everything! Mountains are formed by the conflict that is a volcano, forests emerge thicker and stronger after the forest fire, Bill O’Reilly, the conflict monger, has the top rated news show on cable, and a Spazboy song is propelled by their loathing of me.
That is what the Book of Ecclesiastes means when it says, “To every thing there is a season . . . A time of love, a time of hate, a time of war, a time of peace . . .” It means the universe revolves on conflict and resolution.”
Which is why it is so much more fun to write a review about a band that sucks. Otherwise you end up having to write something innocuous like, “Listening to Roger McGuinn play bass is like listening to a puppy softly barking on a floating, fluffy cloud of happy, joy joy.”
Of course you’d rather write something nasty. You didn’t get into this CD review business to blather about the brilliance of others. No way. You got into this business to showcase your amazing wit, and your amazing style, and your amazing repertoire of assonyms. Yes, you are the genius who truly understands conflict. And you want to scream out, “It sucks. It sucks! Roger McGuinn’s bass line sounds like fecal logs barreling down your intestinal flume and into the toilet of mediocrity.”
But that would be wrong (wouldn’t it?). After all, Roger McGuinn is a fabulous bass player. So you write about clouds and puppies, and at night, in bed, staring at the ceiling, you say, “Ugh – is this all there is?”
Then one day I asked Kevin, “How about I compose a column about the comedy and the tragedy of the nightclub scene — as told by some drunken, Bohemian, malcontented, anti-guru, bartender in search of higher truth through casual sex and obscene language?”
And Kevin Hellman said yes.
And Charles Bukowski turn, turn, turned in his grave.
And writing Sordid Tales has been the best writing gig of my life.
And now, Kevin has turned our lovely paper over to some new publishers and editors — whom I just learned aren’t publishers and editors at all, but convicted puppy rapers — who plan to use the offices of SLAMM as a front for their heinous puppy-raping operations!
But I kid the new publishers and editors.
I just wanted to say, “Thanks Kevin.” Thanks for publishing my drunky ravings. And thanks to editors Andrew Altschul, Troy Johnson, and Will Shilling for letting me invent words like “assonyms,” (synonyms for the word “ass”). Thanks to my literary neighbor, Ms. Beak, for bringing so many readers to our little cul-de-sac in the magazine here. And thanks to Tom Gulotta, for laying it all out, clean and professional-like, so Sordid Tales doesn’t look like what it really is: drunken half-thoughts scrawled out in the middle of the night on crinkled cocktail napkins.
- Kevin Hellman remains on staff as Director of Marketing and recently as publisher.Troy Johnson remain as music editor.
- Ms. Beak does not really have rectal dysfunction. (Though it’s amusing to imagine she does).
- Sordid Tales remains.
(Author’s note: The song, “Turn Turn Turn” was composed by Pete Seeger.
He took the lyrics directly from the Book of Ecclesiastes)