Carnival of Chaos
On the Road with the Nomadic Festival
Published in Social Anarchism #26, 1998
Carnival of Chaos is for anarchists who already know what they're about and anarchist wannabes who would like to crawl out of their ruts, but need a swift kick in the pants. On the Road with the Nomadic Festival€is a real trip. A 'zine. A book. A plan of action. A journal-scrapbook documenting how a bunch of mixed-up kids piled into some vans in New York City and managed to get to California and back without self-destructing.
The book is a cut-and-paste collection of diary entries, maps of the journey and the areas visited, programs from the festivals thrown along the way (a way of "giving back" to the communities), art and design, poetry, photographs, cartoons, letters, and newspaper clippings set against an anarchist-black background. It is told from a number of viewpoints, with a running story line by Sascha Altman DuBrul. Some of it is typed. Some is handwritten. All is wacko fun.
While somewhat similar to Jack Kerouac's On the Road and John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley, Carnival of Chaos is less of a search for America than it is a search for similar anarchist spirits and a confirmation of an anarchist's worst suspicions about North America. The participants, scome of whom started out together and some of whom jumped on and off along the way, referred to as squatters, a band of anarchists and artists and freaks, a traveling circus, a roadtrip party, a group of weirdos, a bunch of bickering sleepless kids, and a youth subculture, refuse to play by rules written by fools. These rules include revealing one's name, paying money for food, supplies, and transportation, staying in motels or hotels, and worst of all, working for money.
´´his two-and-a-half month journey from New York to California to Canada and back to New York involved performing, partying, proselytizing, creating and working in unison, but also splitting apart, feeling like totally fucked-up idiots, disorganization and misunderstandings. The final verdict was that there had been too much/not enough planning, that next time would be different. The trekkers sent out warnings of their arrival, but didn't have much of anything else organised. They bopped into cities expecting to be greeted with open arms, fed, housed, and entertained, and were shocked to discover that they were expected to be the feeders and entertainers. So shows were slapped together and minds, not bodies, were fed,
Whether hitchhiking, train jumping, vanning or busing on the cheap, they were always moving, or rather always escaping the clutches of the law by the skin of their teeth, although some weren't totally successful at this, necessitating long-distance calls to parents, bail, warnings to never set foot in the state again, and the like. Anyway, these puppeteers who play with fire survived, and that in itself was a major accomplishment.
The groups they met up with had their acts together to a much greater extent and were more proficient than these nomads, and they acknowledged it. When asked to explain who they were and why they were all travelling together, they were at a loss for words, although when writing, they seemed pretty clear about their identities and their goals. They wanted to be seen as kindred spirits with gypsies and pirates, to reconnect with ancient knowledge from other parts of the world, yet they derided their more immediate predecessors, the aging hippies who gave them lifts, no questions asked, as if they could stay young forever and it would always be the 1990's.
This is reflected in the book itself. The print at times approaches footnote size, practically requiring a magnifying glass. But I got really caught up in the excitement of the trip, to the point where I could ignore the grammar, spelling, messiness, all the details that freak out editors. If details mattered, this wouldn't be a collage manifesto cataloging insanity. I rooted for them, even when they were rooting through trash and trashing stores. They are what we stay-at-homes don't have the nerve to be. Now we can have the experience, albeit vicariously. Jump aboard this moving train and ride!
Sascha Altman DuBrul. Carnival of Chaos -- On the Road with the Nomadic Festival. 128 pp. Bloodlink Press: 4434 Ludlow St Phila PA 19104. $8.00 world surf., $10.00 air int'l., money order only, payable to Scott Beibin
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