My Parody Religion Is Better Than Your Parody Religion … or: How I Survived X-Day XI [2008]

PROLOGUE

I first heard about the Church Of The SubGenius on a national WWIV syndicated message board, on some BBS, way back in the late 1980s. The ridiculosity of it all intrigued me, as did the parody of organized religion. It is a parody religion, like Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, but superior in every way: Actual depth, substance, philosophy, and even truth. Superior art, superior video, superior radio shows, superior events. (Um, FSM doesn’t have any of these, does it? FSM is basically like parodying the Holy Bible with a knock knock joke or a single middle finger; CotS is like parodying the Holy Bible with a more ridiculous bible.)

Read the wikipedia page HERE; it explains things adequately).

The Book Of The SubGenius describes the “Church”‘s philosophy in the following manner:

“The Church Of The SubGenius is an order of Scoffers and Blasphemers, dedicated to Total Slack, delving into Mockery Science, Sadofuturistics, Megaphysics, Scatalography, Schizophreniatrics, Morealism, Sarcastrophy, Cynisacreligion, Apocolyptionomy, ESPectorationalism, Hypno-Pediatrics, Subliminalism, Satyriology, Disto-Utopianity, Sardonicology, Fascetiouism, Ridiculophagy, and Miscellatheistic Theology.”

And if the quote above made no sense, remember that part of the fun is that, to an outsider, SubGenius members look that much more crazy by virtue of simply being a member. And that’s part of the point.

THE FIRST BOOK

So anyway, after following the various rants and raves, and not really being able to comprehend it all, I took the plunge and bought The Book Of The SubGenius around 1990. It was dense, full of amazing clip art and pretty pictures, and many, many words. I never could get through it all. Most pages had to be read 2 or 3 times to fully comprehend. It is basically a compendium of entries from the SubGenius ‘zine, The Stark Fist Of Removal. It definitely entertained.

THE SECOND BOOK

I got the 2nd book, Revelation X, sometime in the later half of the 1990s, but as I never finished the first book, I never exactly read it. I do love the drawing of J.R. “Bob” Dobbs smoking a pipe that is circular in nature, such that he is inside the bowl of his own pipe, smoking himself. If I ever were to get a tattoo visible under normal light, that would be it. (My first tattoo choice would be visible only under a blacklight, and would involve covering me with faux circuitry.)

ORDAINMENT

In 1998, prior to the original X-Day, I sent in my $20 (now $30) to become an ordained minister (just in time). It took me awhile to come up with my church name, but finally I dubbed myself Reverend Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos. I got my membership pack, and my free issue of The Stark First Of Removal, which did not come until after X-Day (THE ORIGINAL X-Day: 7/5/1998). The cover read: “X-Day: Why You’re Not Dead”, and was good for a laugh.

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I promptly lost a great deal of my swag when moving out of my parents house in January of 1999. I have also since found out that there is a national unitarian church that, by definition, does not discriminate against other churches. They have a greater legal recognition, and quite literally all I have to do is send them a tiny card, and I will be legally able to perform marriage ceremonies. How cool woudl that be?!?! As an update since originally writing this, I’ve since received my ordainment from this Universal Life Church and need to check with my county authorities to see what I need to do to be able to legally marry people. That would be awesome.

Various partygoers at Casa Clarolyntopiastan may remember the showing of the Church Of The SubGenius video “Arise!” on various spare TVs with VHS players during parties around 1999-2005. It often drew people in as an inexplicably strange media barrage, like much of the SubGenius‘s works. It’s 90 minutes of psychedelic gold.

X-DAY XI: SO LET’S GO!

So after many years of being interested, I finally decided to skip my normal 4th Of July festivities and haul my ass out to X-Day at Brushwood Folklore Center in Sherman, New York. This was a non-conformist’s equivalent of a pilgrimage to Mecca, as well as the modern-day equivalent of a BBS gathering. The only SubGenius event I had ever attended before was the Baltimore Devival in 11/2007, so it was bound to be an unexpected and thus interesting time.

Carolyn became ordained a few months in advance; a requirement to attendance.

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$30 to ordain, and $30 to go. And Brushwood charges $10 per person per night. And It was also going to be a good $125+ gas money to take Carolyn’s mom‘s SUV up there. This was going to set us back about $500 (counting alcohol and such), which is way more than we usually spend for our 4th Of July’s.

But still: A SubGenius MUST have SLACK, and we were going to get it, Bobdammit. Even if we had to use the conspiracy’s so-called “money” to get it.


DAY 1: Wednesday, 7/2/2008

We woke up REALLY FUCKING EARLY so that we could pack and leave our house by 7:30AM. Carolyn drove the first half of the way, and we stopped at a huge plaza rest stop. It had a Quiznos where you couldn’t order a turkey guacamole bacon sub (which is both of our order of choice). I viewed this as taking advantage of the fact that weary travelers just want to be fed. Why stock anything that rots faster, like guacamole? Why cut the bottom line when you know your customers are desparate? Save the good stuff for when there’s competition (there was no competition here). Stupid corporations. Guacamole is a form of SLACK, and the conspiracy of pinks was keeping us from getting our Bob-given guac!

I drove the 2nd half. We did NOT stop to see the “World’s Biggest Big Mac”, and were quite annoyed at the fact that ALL OF PENNSYLVANIA seems under constant roadwork construction. Seriously — Virginia is the WORST state to drive in between here and Orlando, Florida — but Pennsylvania was far worse.

Despite these delays, we still made excellent time, hitting Sherman, New York around 1:45PM or so, a good hour earlier than expected. We stopped off at the ONLY store in “downtown” (which was literally one block, as Sherman only has a population of 1500 or so). After buying some Yuengling (our favorite beer), jerky, and other various supplies, we headed on out into the wilderness. It was about 5 more miles of rural farm roads. We had NEVER driven on such steep hills in our life; going back to town you could literally coast from the highest hillpoint through the next 3 hills (all larger than anything in Virginia), all the way to town (2 or 3 miles), without ever hitting your accelerator. But you might have to hit your brakes!

We also drove on the SMELLIEST STRETCH OF ROAD IN EXISTENCE. Carolyn noticed the smell first, and I made the mistake of sniffing. I gagged. A lot. We’ve smelled plenty of Virginia Tech cowpies; this was like acrid nazi shit. Fortunately, it was in a valley between 2 hilltops, so we got past it pretty quick. And even more fortunately, it never smelled that bad during the return trip. Still though — the only smell worse than this is the smell of death.

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Brushwood Folklore Center aerial view
(the small section we hung out in)

We finally arrived at Brushwood Folklore Center at 2:14PM. As we walked towards the registration area (over the weekend, about 200 would register), the unmistakable voice of founder Rev. Ivan Stang was instantly recognizable; I’ve listened to far too many hours of the Hour Of Slack radio show, and his voice has a unique timber to it. He was standing around with Susie The Floozie (who looks quite different without makeup), Princess Pisces of Baltimore, MD (who looks quite different when dressed like a camper), and a few other longstanding Subgenii, discussing this candy that comes in tiny plastic packets that look like drugs. Susie gave us some — not the first time she has given us candy, as she went around the Baltimore Devival, giving out candy. I mistakenly opened up the plastic, not realizing that the baggie itself dissolves in your mouth. “People are always giving me things that look like drugs, and them I’m disappointed when they aren’t drugs,” said Stang. I had heard via the DRCnet weekly newsletter (subscriber for 14 years!) that the police complained adamantly about this candy, saying that it hampers their efforts in the bullshit conspiracy called The War On Drugs. Apparently these candies are banned and may not even be in production anymore, so I was glad to get to try one.

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Susie The Floozie with candy that looks like drugs – (from SubGenius.com)

After registration, we drove around. Brushwood is huge, and we would end up only ever seeing a very small section of it. There are lots of semi-permanent campers and structures, but we drove by most of them and only hung out in the central field. There is a bend in the road adorned with a sign saying something along the lines of, “once you go around the bend, you’ll never be the same”. Indeed. Before we could even pull up, we saw our first naked people, who probably were not SubGenii, but just the generic pagans that typically frequent this clothing-optional campground. I really did not need to see 60-year-old vagina. To sunbathe with your hooha pointed towards the road requires, ironically, balls. We had been warned about the “BARES” in the woods, and the warnings were true. I also found out that even a small penis can affront your senses from 300 feet away. Be careful when you look over someone’s shoulder; you’ll never know what you might see. Freedom is never free; it always comes with a cost. :)


Brushwood360 (30s)

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white school bus

We pulled up to the slowly-growing congregation of tents, one of which was adorned with a full-size (5 to 6 foot) Dobbsheadand tried to have a bit of privacy by parking farther away from them, near the center line of the field. Little did we know that some people considered that the “puking ditch”. (Later, when I was passed out in the tent, Carolyn overheard someone walking their friend to the ditch, saying, “Okay. Just a little bit farther. Don’t puke yet. We’re almost there. Okay. 3, 2, 1, Puke,” followed by puking sounds instantly on cue.) But we didn’t want to go much farther, as we wanted to remain close to “The Four Flushers”, which is a wooden structure containing 4 actual flushing toilets. The water supply is all rainwater, but you couldn’t really tell.

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Carolyn with the gorilla

By 3:30PM, we had set up our “camp”, which was really just our tent next to our truck. We didn’t make our own firepit, as it was preferable (and more slackful) to wander around to other peoples’ fires (there were really only about 4-5 fires in the field at a given time anyway). There was TONS of personality in this place, like an abandoned, painted white schoolbus in the middle of the field. What was its purpose? Could we have slept in there if we had wanted? Despite being 100 feet away, and us walking the huge circle around the field, we never went there! WTF!

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view of the Roundhouse

There were also other various structures, such as the “Roundhouse” / “Fire Shrine”, which was an amazing looking structure dedicated to having the state’s largest bonfire and reserved for all-night drum circles. I brought my Morrocan drums from Epcot Center but never joined in. Hell, they even had a maypole!

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The Roundhouse / Fire Shrine

This was to be where the big bonfire was thrown Saturday night, as well as a place where people frequently had drum circles that you could hear — but not see — at night.

We also heard Modemac announcing that they would have movies tonite. (And every night.) We actually didn’t really participate in movie-going, except for a brief foray (covered later):


Modemac on bullhorn announcing movies tonite [foreshadowing] (27s)

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Carolyn eating, Rev TwoBeans (bg)

We were also extremely pleased to see outlets coming up from the ground at several places in the field: This meant we could take infinite pictures, and infinte pictures we did take. Our 256M card was completely filled, and we had to make 2 passes to delete stuff as it filled and refilled.

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Rev. TwoBeans carrying extension cords

Since Brushwood is supposedly primarily a pagan campground, there were lots of mini-shrines / icons around, especially inside the Roundhouse, where the pagans held HUGE bonfires:

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pagan mini-shrine

This one was cooler:

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cooler pagan mini-shrine

And this one gave me an urge to defile it, thanks to the inclusion of a Barbie doll:

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pagan mini-shrine begging for defilement

And defile it I did. Sacrilicious! If you did this with a Catholic communion wafer, or a Koran — you’d get death threats:

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defiled pagan mini-shrine – $GODS_OFFENDED++;

…But us SubGenii are not renowned for following rules. Including our own:

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camping FAIL – can’t you read the sign?

One of the most creative tent setups was Christie and 808’s use of an actual parachute as an impromptu tarp. So if you camp, and have a parachute — don’t throw it away!:

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Christie & 808’s tent (by Christie)

Before we could even make it to The Four Flushers, we were offered shots of tequila from the back of a truck by Reverend Morgan [forgotherlastname], who greeted me with “Your winkler is showing”. (It took me a second to realize that was in response to my “What Would Fonzie Do?” t-shirt.)

It was around then that I asked, “So, does everyone really introduced themselves with their Church name?”, finding out that yes, they do. Her boyfriend’s name was “The Senator”, and we eventually met quite a few people, such as Rev. Buckey, Crystal, Rev. Eggplant, Tangent, Pantiara, 808, Christie, Lord Cyclohexane, Bucky & Crystal, Phil, and someone who gave a different name and story everytime you talked to him (so I dubbed him “Rev. Madlib”, later finding out his name is Nick Perry).

There were quite a few from Canada, as Brushwood was only 1.5 hrs from Ontario. Other various SubGenii lurked around in farther-away campsites. Supposedly there were people in the “alt.slack woods” (named after the SubGenius newsgroup alt.slack), but we never made it that far — despite being lured 90% of the way there by strange lights in the woods at night (pictures forthcoming).

The central crowd was small, as it was only Wednesday — the primary dates were Thursday through Sunday (and we had to miss all of Sunday).

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Christie’s tattoo

After meeting Christie and 808, I noticed her tattoo — “Z is for Zillah… Who drank too much gin.” I instantly recognized this as the final frame in The Gashlycrumb Tinies, an Edward Gorey book that I have in poster form, hanging in our smaller bathroom.

Turns out, I was the first person ever to know what this is — after 7 years of her having it. Oh, there was another person who recognized it once — but he was a guy in a mall stand trying to sell her Edward Gorey merchandise… So I don’t count that as being real since he was being paid in conspiracy dollars to know who Edward Gorey was.

I’m the first non-financially-motivated person to ever notice it :) Though later, Gypsy Prime pointed it out too… But she missed her chance by 24 hours. Either way — Glad to know we all think alike.

Anyway, the poster/book consists of 26 child deaths–one for each letter–with accompanying picture. There are 7 rows and 4 columns, giving a total of 28 squares. The final 2 squares contain the 26 tombstones for all the children — I’ve compulsively counted them many times for consistency. It’s what you stare at when you pee, though I’ve given up on my repeated attempts at memorizing it. And her tattoo is, obviously, the very last frame of the book/poster. REALLY FRICKIN’ COOL.

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Christie and her tattoo

One of 2 negative things the entire weekend happened, which was simply someone I wont name yelling at his girlfriend loud enough for everyone in the field to hear. They seemed fine afterwards. A dude in a bright red car covered in stickers drove down the field and asked me about it; apparently he was management, and the bad vibes were enough to bring him around. I told him it wasn’t a big deal and assuaged his fears. I was frankly surprised that anyone would really even react to it, but this place had Really Good Vibes(tm), so it makes sense that they would make sure nothing bad goes down. But the two people involved seemed just fine for the rest of the weekend, so I’ll just treat it like my absinthe rampage: an unfortunate, uncontrollable event that will never be lived down.

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Carolyn, Madlib, The Senator, Pisces, TwoBeans, Eggplant

It was around then that *I* finally found out it was Wednesday, and not Thursday as I had been believing the entire day, including the car ride. AWESOME! A free day was generated out of nothing. Doing nothing and getting exactly what you want is pretty much the very definition of slack. Praise “Bob”! It was also around then that Carolyn realized she should have brought her Crocs!

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Praise the free day!

At one point, someone talked about setting up a Slip ‘N Slide, to which I replied, “Slip ‘N Slide made me bleed as a child!”. They burst into laughter, exclaiming that this was the quote of the weekend. We’ll see.

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Joy, Pantiara, Tangent, Crystal
Amazing food came out of the tent on the left!

It also wasn’t long before my bloodstream was made to be happy. As we talked with Phil and “Rev. Madlib”, we found out they had traveled the 30 miles here from Erie. A story was told about a specific dog that stopped and chased them during the last 2 years. Hearing this, Carolyn decided that we should give them Carolyn’s mom‘s dog treats that were in the SUV. Strange to give a stranger dog treats? Not here. Strange was the norm.

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Phil, who was chased by dogs, and Popess Pantiara Evokovitch

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Carolyn, Madlib (who was chased by dogs), Modemac, Anonymous

Anyway, as we drank with these people — the most random crowd we’ve ever hung out with, but possibly the most likeminded as well. Excellent and crazy conversation ensued. At one point on the way to The Four Flushers, I engaged in a memorable conversation with Lord Cyclohexane, where each comment topped the last. Finally we laughed at the conclusion, and I said that was something I would write down if my journal was with me. Lo and behold, he took out a piece of paper, and wrote it down and gave it to me:

“Cognitive DICKonense (dissonance) – Necrophilia candidates, beat to death and FUCK! Ann Coulter.”

Yes. Wisdom indeed. Carolyn found this piece of paper the next day and was quite perplexed.

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Lord Cyclohexane, master conversationalist

When the sun finally started to set, we noticed it was going on 9PM. Basically, the farther north you are, the lower the sun sets. 400 miles actually made a difference, so it was always deceptively later than we thought during the evenings

I’m not really sure what happened once the sun set. We both got really, really, REALLY drunk. I sat around at some campfire. We went from drinking-all-day to falling-over-drunk without realizing it. The night was a total haze. We ate, but I have no recollection. We went back to our tent to crash around 11PM; the earliest we had attempted sleep in all of 2008. We were THAT drunk. We made out, fell over into the wet grass, rolled around, and failed to get up at first. Carolyn was bruised for a good week afterwards. I think we were crunk. Haha. I said crunk. And I used it incorrectly.

I then remembered that earlier in the day, Modemac — the designated guy-with-a-bullhorn — had been trying to herd Subgenii (which is like herding cats) to various events in the pavilion, amphitheater, and swimming pool/hot tub area.

He had mentioned the “drive in” movies, so we decided to check out Dead Man, which we had seen a few weeks ago, just for the hell of it. Of course we were WAYYYY drunk. We stumbled in in front of people we did not even perceive, plopped down right in front of the screen on the wet grass, and watched it for 10 minutes or so. Carolyn was passed out face down in the wet grass.

I pulled her up and shoved a cigarette into her mouth, which we shared until it was gone. We really should have bought the cigarettes in Virginia; the price is insane in New York ($6.66 for a pack of Newports!). Once the cigarette was gone, I realized there was no way either of us could focus on the movie. We were too drunk, and it wasn’t that entertaining to begin with.

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Carolyn (right) passed out during Dead Man (left)

We stumbled back to our tents, holding each other for balance. I could swear Carolyn was going in the completely wrong direction, 90 degrees from the way we wanted. I laughed. “What?” “You’re going the wrong way!” “No, I’m not!” In fact, there were 2 “roads” — one through the middle of the field, which we took to park our truck, and one on the side of the field, which lead the the Four Flushers. These 2 roads were naught but 150 feet apart.

Nonetheless, I was convinced we were wandering off in the completely wrong direction. I was laughing maniacally. I pretty much kept laughing the whole way back. We were probably within 30 feet of our tent before I realized, “Oh shit! She’s right!” I was of the mindset that the farther we got from our tent, the funnier it would be to be uncontrollably drunk.

I don’t remember getting into the tent, and neither does Carolyn. The next thing we know, raindrops are hitting our tent at 4:30AM. We ran out of the tent and saved our stuff by putting it into the truck. My head hurt like all hell, and I searched what I thought was every pocket in my backpack for ibuprofen, concluding “fuck it, we have none!” and going back to the tent. But these memory did not resurface until much later. We would end up with another 4 hours of sleep after that….

READ ABOUT DAY TWO HERE…. (once it’s posted).

See also: Doktor Holocaust’s X-Day reviews: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4. And the official reports from SubGenius.com.