background
February 9, 2014

“This Will Explain…”

the-watcher_marvel_pictureboxart_160w50,000 Envelopes
Perhaps the greatest, and also least helpful of Ackerman memes. How many tens of thousands of envelopes have passed through the U.S. Postal service with the innocent inscription “This will explain…” scrawled on the back… only to be followed by a folded mailing in which nothing was so straightforward, clear, or comprehensible?

Ackerman was fully capable of sending you a bag of old Circus Peanuts marked “This will explain…” Or the latest issue of “The Waverly Flea”* or “Moonhead News,” circular-sized gibberish magazines without equal.

To the Ackerman newbie, this might generate a second of confusion; to the Ackerman old hand, the relentlessness of “This will explain…” becomes a sort of madness, ever growing in intensity as they arrived year after year. Of course, one doesn’t have to add, this all goes to Ackerman’s life project: a panoramic, speculative, pessimistic, far-fetched critique of both sanity and its demon twin, insanity. Kind of crazy, eh?

* A quick funny story about “The Waverly Flea” (long-running Ackerman gibberish newsletter from the 00′s). I had the idea for a long-running newsletter to be called “The Waverly Flea” that was to be circulated only in Waverly, the neighborhood of Normals Books and Records, and to some extent, a neighborhood where I grew up. Now, Waverly is a “transitional” neighborhood where impacted poverty and crime are abutted to cheap real estate Bohemia homesteading, and at least during the period of the housing boom, there was a lot of focus on getting real estate values up. A good place to survive in some inexpensive rental for decades while worrying about the coming class war, to try to flip a property and “reclaim” the neighborhood, or to crash after getting out on parole.

During this time, I got the crackpot idea that it would be fun to write a newletter that was just about flea infestations, with a straight-faced but highly paranoid tone, and to post a few copies around on community bulletin boards, etc.I imagined the horror of homesteaders reading this official-looking screed and getting the sense they were at Flea ground zero, or at least that a maniac was at loose in the neighborhood, obsessed with flea populations.

I casually told Ackerman about this idea and it made him laugh

BEFORE I COULD EVEN WRITE ONE ISSUE of the Waverly Flea, a week later, I came into Normals and there it was, The Waverly Flea Issue 80, tacked to the Normals Bulliten Board that was Ackerman’s local media of exposition. My concept hadn’t be realized, just the name grabbed, but the contents were hilarious and disturbing in the best Ackerman emotionally-charged-gibberish-newsletter style. Many more issues came after, and I sullenly gave up my porject, The Waverly Flea.

This will explain… The Waverly Flea!

 

 

 


No Comments

February 9, 2014

“Are you drunk?”

Agatha-ChristieAgatha Christie
In the realms of single-idea, repetitive, functionalist irrationality, few things hold a candle to Al Ackerman’s “Are You Drunk” paintings and drawings of famous individuals.

Of course, there is a clear logical displacement in the work, in the sense that it is the viewer, not the celebrity who is drunk! —as if we were being confronted by individuals at the apex of fame for our drunkenness, over and over again, always the blurry three eyes.

What level of hell is that? A hell worthy of Flan O’Brien, at least.

However, I feel certain celebrities were left out here during Ack’s lifetime: where is Richard Simmons? Klaus Nomi? Victoria Principle? Artie Lang?

These are the obvious questions in life—the rest is more difficult.


No Comments

February 9, 2014

“You are… the Entity!”

295601_592843404059189_453768382_nA Subtle Reassurance
Much like “This will explain…” the phrase “You are… the Entity!” adorned the backs of hundreds of Ackerman letters, providing a subtle reassurance to his constituents.

Like anyone who has read Theodore Sturgeon’s masterpiece, “The Other Ceilia,” you know it can be shocking to accidentally puncture your hand with a boat hook, only to have a gooey tarry substance shoot out and caustically eat its way through the plank floor of the boat house, life can be disconcerting. Its the little things, like realizing that each hair on your head is capable thinking for itself, or that you might have to eat the bean skillet again for dinner.

The mind of Al Ackerman was prodigious, and his alienation as deep as the San Marianas trench—as aspect that entirely conflicted with his down home, southern-fried demeanor.

On some level Ackerman understood the lost-in-the-universe plight of human meat-machines better than H. P. Lovecraft, and tried to communicate it with an odd (misplaced) love and humor. How many post office people got the magic of this exuberant disclosure?

 


No Comments

February 8, 2014

“Oh man, I really love the zombies!”

cat_in_the_hatThe Cat In The Hat at Normals Books and Records

Al Ackerman worked at Normals Books and Records in Baltimore from about 1993 until early 2012. During this time, he was a great conversationalist with customers (a more literary fellow would be hard to find), but he also obsessed on different species of customers that drove him nuts (“Cloggers,” “Duckvillers,” etc. and many other descriptive categories of his invention).

Sometime in the mid-00′s, Ackerman began to say “Oh man, I really love the zombies!” with fair frequency. It took a long time to find out where it came from, and at first I assumed it was just something he’d made up—a bit of inspirational nonsense.

Turns out the story was this: For a year or so, Normals Books had been bedeviled by a young heroin addict and occasional shoplifter who lived in the neighborhood, and who Ackerman had given the nickname (not to his face) of “The Cat In The Hat.” This was because he would burst through the door, always unaccountably exuberant like the character, but ultimately not someone that you would want in the store. He may have also had a floppy hat–not sure about that. Ackerman was never one for running people out of the shop—he generally couldn’t be bothered.

One day, Ackerman and a co-worker were at the front desk of the store and had forgotten that “The Cat In the Hat” was in the back in the store, where he had been hanging out for hours. Suddenly the boy’s voice rang out, totally un-self-consciously: “Oh man, I really love the zombies!” Followed by silence.

Ackerman was highly amused and never found out what provoked the outburst, but he got a ton of mileage out of it, always delivering it with a ridiculous slightly drunk sounding Ackerman cadence.


No Comments

“This Will Explain…”
“Are you drunk?”
“You are… the Entity!”
“Oh man, I really love the zombies!”