Totally True Tune Tales: Project Mayhem


That’s what the guy screamed as he picked up “Jimmy” via neck resting firmly in his crooked elbow.

He let go, and Jimmy laughed like crazy.

We headed out, all the while yelling, “GET OUT OF MY STORE! GET OUT OF MY STORE!”

All that for a bit of two-liter soda bowling. And opening them afterward. All over wherever the carbonation would take us.

Yeah, we had it coming. Not that we cared; being banned from one 24-hour grocery store just means we only had three others left to be banned from.

Every morning, “Jimmy” would blast Nine Inch Nails’ Broken. I call him Jimmy instead of his real name because he would revel in knowing his story is in print. I refuse to give him the satisfaction.

“This is the first day of my last days…”

He lived in the attic; he moved up there to accommodate me, the third roommate needed to make rent affordable. He gave up the enormous master bedroom so that I, the girl, could have my own sanctuary away from the big scary man types. Or maybe he wanted the attic because it was bigger, more interesting, and he could get away with more things that the third roommate “Al” didn’t like.

We lived a rogue life. I was the only one with a real job; my second “job” was getaway driver. This is when I would head out with Jimmy and a few tagalongs on a mission for destruction. My glowing green cassette deck nearly always pumped Marilyn Manson’s Portrait of an American Family; we all thought it was a hilarious album and a nice thumb in the eye of our community. It made a great soundtrack as Jimmy and pals ran up to lawn ornaments and smashed them with baseball bats.

Our freezer was lined with decapitated heads of the Virgin Mary. Fourteen of them, to be exact. Why we froze them I’ll never know.

We lived off of two things: music and deer sausage. We acquired mass quantities of the latter during late-night runs to Jimmy’s parents’ house, sneaking in the basement window and raiding the deep freezer. The music came from me, with my ever-growing collection spent from what was left after bills. I can’t say it was my copy of Broken that endured daily spins, but I did my best to fill the other gaps in time with a bit of variety. Jimmy and pals’ idea of variety was throwing in The Downward Spiral.

Wait, I’m forgetting the third key ingredient of our diet: coffee at Perkins, consumed until all hours of the night. This might be where we gained our greatest notoriety, outside of the mall.


Ahhh, the mall. Jimmy had been kicked out several times but loved coming back just to see how long he could last before getting kicked out again. For a while, he ran a stand selling Magic: The Gathering cards. His acts of mayhem, including insulting multitudinous mall patrons and stealing a hand soap dispenser from the theater to later deposit into the fountain, certainly didn’t go unnoticed and his stand was promptly shut down. Still, the point was to challenge the authority. To make a scene. To remind people that for as many times as they wanted to throw us out, it didn’t mean we disappeared.

We were easy to pick out. I was the first one who began dyeing her hair black, although that was before the apartment came to fruition. I just always liked the idea of it. It went well with the black boots I had been wearing year in and year out since high school. Jimmy was next in line on the black hair dye train. I’m not sure precisely why he did it — and it was funny that he passed out cold from lack of sleep in his recliner while doing it, causing a neat black permanent patch on its burnt orange surface — but he must have thought it fit. Two more lackeys joined the train; I started teaching them how to apply eyeliner.

No, we weren’t “goths.” We didn’t really know what the hell “goths” were, anyway; the term conjured manifestations of some sort of silly cross between Robert Smith and a cheesy vampire movie. We were fans of bands like the aforementioned NIN and Manson, as well as everything from Garbage to Smashing Pumpkins. The gothiest we ever got was hanging out with this kid whose name I don’t even remember that always wore his hair in his face — we only referred to him by pulling our hair into our face and saying, “Do I look like Trent now?” He hosted Vampire: The Masquerade gatherings. He was a dork.

So we wore boots and dyed our hair black. And I hated being called a goth. For crying out loud, I was usually accompanying my look with bellbottoms and a flowery shirt. I was listening to White Zombie and Pantera, Bjork and PJ Harvey. I was born to be eclectic and unlabelable.

Homebase, back at Perkins, was a balancing act. We didn’t want to rock the boat and get kicked out, so we usually headed next door to the grocery store if we felt the need to cause trouble. Sometimes, we would nonchalantly raise a bit of ruckus in the restaurant, but knowing all of the employees helped to smooth that over as best as it could be smoothed.

Yeah, Jimmy would patiently wait for people to leave their booths and snatch the leftovers from their plates; that was fine so long as he didn’t get caught. We were all prone to piercing creamers and tossing them unsuspectingly at folks who looked like they deserved it. We table-hopped, talking with people regardless of how much they wanted to talk to us. We drank so much coffee that at one point Perkins debated a limit on pots. Still, we were never tossed out.

One night at the restaurant was particularly hairy. There was one police officer who routinely came to Perkins and sat around until he was needed elsewhere. On this night, there were a couple of other officers present instead, and one struck up a conversation with Jimmy.

“What’s that say on your pants, son?” he asked.

“It says ‘schadenfreude,'” Jimmy replied.

“What’s that mean?” asked the cop.

“I don’t know. Some girl said it describes me and wrote it on with marker,” he remarked. That tidbit was more than true; Jimmy couldn’t even pronounce it properly.

“Is this some kind of gang?” the officer asked.

I broke into a fit of uncontrollable giggles.

Jimmy, losing his control over being respectful to the officer, replied, “No sir, they’re just words on pants.”

“Well I think you’re a troublemaker,” accused the cop, growing more irritated by my laughter.

“They’re JUST PANTS!” said Jimmy.

I was dying. The officer glared at me while he whipped out a notepad. “Spell that for me,” he demanded. I knew precisely what was going on, as it was the big ordeal in town at the moment: the cop was gathering what he thought was an honest-to-goodness gang insignia.

“P… I… G…” started Jimmy.

“GET OUT OF HERE!” boomed the officer.

We took our sweet time, gathering our things, babbling about how we needed to leave a tip, enjoying the attention of the entire restaurant.

Strolling out, the two of us began a NIN singalong. “Hey pig… yeah you… hey pig piggy pig pig pig…”

“…nothing can stop me now ‘cuz I don’t care anymore.”

Our band of bandits came to an abrupt end; the third roommate, “Al,” was outed as a schizophrenic and started placing curses on me after he swore I broke his mouse playing Minesweeper. After that, everything spiraled.

Jimmy cheated on his girlfriend, my sister’s best friend; I told him point-blank that I lost all respect for him after that. Never mind that this girl he cheated with had her own boyfriend. None of that mattered to me as much as the fact that she was the type that only owned greatest hits albums and would play Pink Floyd’s The Wall all the time, but only “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” and “Comfortably Numb.” I knew that tramp back in junior high; she was a waste of oxygen then and a waste of oxygen now.

Years later Jimmy showed me a graphic novel he was putting together, and the scene where I spoke those words was immortalized as something that really did break his spirit. I was quite surprised; I had watched Jimmy thumb his nose to the opinions of the universe, but somehow, mine mattered. That didn’t stop him from sleeping around on his girlfriend for many years to come, but at least I spoke my mind on the subject and he knew better than to bring it up.

Even more years later, Jimmy ran into me while I was out on a date. Why, oh why, did I end this date at Perkins? This time, it was all public-image Jimmy as he tried pulling the “jovial dickhead” routine on me and my male friend. My response was to curtly thank him for stopping by. “Oh, I get it, you’re trying to get me to leave,” he smiled and sneered. I stared him down. He got up and left.

There were rumors that he was coming back to town. Instead, it turns out he’s going back to try and once again patch things up with his girlfriend. All of these years and it’s still the same girl. I would give him credit for something, but my guess is that he’s still listening to the same NIN and Marilyn Manson albums, trying ever so hard to be thumb his nose at the world.

“Wish there was something real, wish there was something true
Wish there was something real in this world full of you.”


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