Synopsis of Defense Industry Reports 1-4 : Reeves took the krona he made from selling a documentary about North Carolinians drinking window cleaning fluid to a Swedish television channel, got drunk on Mexican beer in San Antonio and made a thousand T-shirts with “Defend Brooklyn” written on them.
Now he’s hanging the shirts up from the “Don’t Walk” sign outside the L stop, steeled for ad hominem criticism, ex-girlfriend attacks or people who would tell his mom that, despite years of pretension, her son is out on the street slanging T-shirts. And his mom would whoop his ass if she heard that shit.
People got off the train, looked at the shirt and asked “How much?” Like many artists I misunderestimate my massive talent and sold that second pressing of “Defend Brooklyn” for just ten dollars. Cheap.
Business was slow the first night. I made just enough money to buy a giant bottle which I shared with my roommates to help them forget the monolith of T-shirt boxes I’d parked in our loft. I tried to have a good time, but no matter how fast I drink my money away, I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling that I’m an impulsive drunk with terrible business sense.
The next day came up clear and sunny. Perfect T-shirt weather, but I was afraid to attend my own opening. It’s brutal for a sensitive artist type like myself to confront his critics at the purchase point with no agent, gallery or even a frame to hide behind. There’s a lot more honest dialectic on the street. When they shout “Defend Brooklyn from what?” you answer “What you got?” If they try to get “Brooklyner than thou” you tell them “fugeddaboutit.” If they talk about “Why does there have to be a gun?” you let them know that you’re armed and they can take that line of jive on home.
It was nothing less than fear of abject impecunity that forced me to shake off the stage fright, pick the melted Twix bar out of my hair, untangle myself from the lime green bra and drag that box of shirts to the corner and sell those motherfuckers to some insane people.
From my corner vantage that sunny Brooklyn day, Williamsburg was a small town idyll where we’d found each other. I saw a lot of talent riding around on bicycles on a Sunday free of zealots, control freaks or speed traps.
Now those without sin might try to denigrate my contemporaries by calling them “hipsters” to which I reply “it takes one to know one.” If I have to be hipster then I take the word back, like when Lord Buckley was one of us or when all the “colored people” turned black.
I sold a shirt, then another. Then ten in a row. The price went up to 20 dollars. I still sold a couple dozen more by the end of the day. Those shirts sold like hot fire. Wildcakes. All that. It was as if the neighborhood saw “Defend Brooklyn” the first night, slept on it and come back the next day, ready to buy. What dream did they dream that night that made it okay for liberal types to wear a gun on their chest? What Jungian archetype was agreed upon from behind the wall of sleep?
I suspect it was one of the old dreams about how that nowhere called utopia was now here, even if it were for only a little longer.
By the end of the weekend I’d accrued enough money to move out of my windowless room at the kibbutz. I can’t explain the satisfaction of graduating from a mewling artist with no money to a character from a Reagan speech, bootstrapping my way to financial freedom by standing on the street corner peddling dub sacks of apples or whatever.
Then I hired a beautiful girl to sell the shirts and she clocked between four hundred and eight hundred dollars sunny weekends. She was an Arab whose fierce eyes evoked caravans of opium rebels, resisting armies of infidels with only their Kalashnikovs. It was the summer before 9/11 and freakonomics was different then.
Soon enough I was a certified T-shirt genius, which happened to be coolest thing to be that year, right after the grafitti artist/drug addict or bike thief. I was so cool that some fashion magazine called Vice let me write articles which were then changed completely and printed under someone else’s name, but I didn’t care. It was such an honor to be invited to the Viacom frat party. I made buddies with a bunch of really neat guys who are still my great friends to this very day. They helped me advertise “Defend Brooklyn” on Tap Dancing Outlaw Jessco White and his lovely mama in their photo issue.
Suddenly, I had enough money to return to the real work of overthrowing the government and get back at those goddamn Jump Off Rock cops.
Apparently, the rest of the country was with me on this. There was a palpable anger at the government. It was right when greedheads were having a hard time meeting anywhere without thousands and thousands of radicals fighting back and defending Brooklyn all over the world, wherever it was. I know we can’t remember this because those precious Twin Towers burned and fell. Patriotically, we have forgotten those issues which are important enough to throw rocks at cops and burn down banks.
DON’T YOU DARE MISS THE NEXT DEFENSE INDUSTRY REPORT: : “MASTER BLASTER RULE BARTERTOWN”