Origin story

The big issue

Ferretti’s reading this installment of the Metro Times 20th Anniversary issue. So are you. This means that you’re reading an article about reading an article about the Metro Times’ 20th anniversary.

It’s like thinking about thinking about self-improvement. Can you feel the gluey waves emanating from your center? You’re ringed in reflection. Feeling sticky. At the same time you’re moving forward with the text in the here and now.

What is time? What is memory? More importantly, what was the face of the Metro Times before it was born?

The big sleep

How did this paper arrive in your hands? From a sequence of cause and effect that began with the Big Bang? You’re free to put it down, in an act of rebellion against a mechanistic universe.

But if you’re like me, your brain will only shift into low gear, and focus on the hunt for sex and food and vengeance and recognition and money and better weather.

I’m the third wheel between you and the MT. My job: transmission. The MT doesn’t oil me with riches. Why break teeth over it? Better to concentrate on the mesh between writer and reader and paper. Better to hum along in honor of the MT’s 20th birthday. Ommmmm.

But maybe the religious spin doesn’t work for you. It doesn’t put me any less inside your head. It just makes me an alien guest.

This thought suits Ferretti because he thinks the Metro Times arrived in 1980 in the shape of a flying saucer. He sees readers and writers and artists and sales personnel and advertisers as being pulled aboard by its centripetal force. At its center: Pursed lips.

Ferretti likes his cosmic wheel turned sideways. I like mine vertical. But I’m not stuck on any one conception of the Metro Times’ moment of conception.

A single phenomenon can be perceived in numerous ways. Can it also be conceived in numerous ways? Simultaneously? If only in our shared dream?

The big bangs

You’re in my dream as I write and I’m in your dream as you read. The Metro Times itself is a dream bird. The pages fold out like wings. It’s got an era’s worth of plumage and silt. It rides the wind of fashion and politics and art.

Any Mayan knows that the MT was hatched inside a volcano. It’s the progeny of the seismic rub between cultures in the late ’70s. The underground press slid underneath the mainstream press. There was friction. Rumbling. An orgasmic blast.

The Metro Times rose from the eruption like a hummingbird or a sparrow or an eagle. Whatever works for you.

Presently, I’m a song in its throat. Can I change registers without changing tune?

I’m still certain that the Metro Times is the product of the rub between cultures. But the paper may have been created in a different way. A related way. Maybe even in a whole related set of ways.

Can the following also be true? That the Metro Times is the offspring of sex between rivals, wherein the heat of hatred became the heat of love?

Think of institutions going from headlock to liplock. Melding their spit. Think of the steamy stuff, then look at the math.

Mainstream Press + Underground Press = Metro Times.

You’re reading the sum of that coupling, wherein one square parent and one circular parent produced offspring that has angle in business and curve in art.

This takes us back to the beginning. What was the Metro Times’ face before it was born? It was the infinite void between fiscal responsibility and creative fire.

The Metro Times’ face now: an ice cube inside the sun.

The big balloon

Where’s the purity? You’re reading the hybrid of mainstream and underground press, wherein my words crossbreed with your intellect and mood and experience. We’re both compromised. And I can’t hedge for allowance by doing your dishes or mowing your lawn.

So I inflate our balloon with helium in the hope that we ascend while laughing. You favor tear gas? Consider James Joyce’s view: History is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake.

The big fabric

Pop! Who’s your daddy? I think the almighty creator is a weaver. He swerves on bad days. He knits on good days. One day he brought threads of art and business and entertainment to the spool. He wove a rag. He threw it on the floor. He almost wiped his feet on it.

But in an act of divine mercy, the creator got on his knees. Breathed life into it. Thus the Metro Times was created as an ordinary magic carpet.

I’m in its thread as a writer. You’re in its thread as a reader. We’re riding that gust of favor. We’re taking a tour along the frayed edge of reason, yet looking directly into the dot in the center of the kaleidoscope.

Maybe it’s the same pursed hole at the center of Ferretti’s flying saucer. The quivering hub. Upon which I’m trying to align my sprocket.

Am I gathering metaphor or shedding metaphor? Am I gathering masks or shedding masks? All this laundry of language. All this futile hedging for allowance. All this creative soap to loosen my stain from the original fabric. What was the face of the Metro Times before it was born?

The big ending

I’m the germ of an idea. I’m infecting your nature. I’m traveling from the roots of English through the branches of your brain into the crown of your consciousness. Such is my implant.

You could divest yourself of me and get on to the steamy stuff in the back pages, in which case this article would be another tree falling in the forest that nobody hears. But as long as you’re with me, then those ads are the trees falling. Let it be. They’re full of forbidden fruit!

Do you ever feel like a tree falling that nobody hears? What happens when that occurs on a collective level? A void exists for a microphone.

Such was the face of the Metro Times before it was born: A forest of trees falling that begged to be heard. The MT became its amplification. Some fresh press had to do it.

Why did the Metro Times survive where other alternative papers failed? Because their sages attacked the void with an unmystical vengeance. They followed the war maxim of General Sherman. They arrived fastest with the mostest.

Ommmmm, you bloodthirsty dogs of war!

Capitalism? It’s more than a matter of funding. It’s also a matter of capitalizing upon a moment. Every born writer wants to be voice of his or her generation. Every born media mogul wants to create the platform for that voice. They want to shed their diapers together and do what? Fit into the puppet strings dangling from the world’s stage, just waiting for the lead actors?

Do the times make the man, or does that man make the times? The landscape of art and business is strewn with dead heroes. Survival takes a divine element: luck. In art as in nature. In business as in nature.

For the aberration to take root, the environment must be just as aberrantly receptive to it. That’s evolution! It has a loving quality when one thinks of natural misfits finding a surprise embrace. Propagating. Creating a lineage that carries their mutual distinction.

That’s the pretty side of Darwin. That’s the pretty side of life. I’m no 21st century mathematician, but I’m certain that beauty not only multiplies exponentially but gets refined in the process. As one gets accepted here, it gets rejected there.

Maybe not out of natural selection. Maybe out of a natural fortuity where tenderness breeds tenderness.

What was the face of the Metro Times before it was born? What was the face of anything before it was born?

Something in need of a shave for the barbers of the world.

Something in need of a haircut for the world’s hairdressers.

Something in need of a kiss for the lonely.

Ferretti doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. That puts him at the center of his flying saucer theory. He likes his cosmic wheel turned sideways. I like mine vertical. At least they share the same fluid center. Which is where I’ve gotten my ink and will leave my ink. Marking a period.

Illustrations by Jerome Ferretti Jerome Przybylski channels words in Philadelphia. Jerome Ferretti conjures images in Detroit. E-mail comments to [email protected]