On the Dial | Erick Lyle's SCAM
'SCAM' was the name of a zine put out by Iggy Scam, née Erick Lyle, some of which was later assembled into the terrific collection, On the Lower Frequencies: A Secret History of the City, published by Soft Skull in 2008. Lyle is an artist and activist, who spent a good chunk of time organizing punk shows, protests against the city of San Francisco's housing policies, against the war, railing against Reagan, passing out clean needles or vegetarian food, and generally fighting the good fight.
Lyle's writing has been in my thoughts a lot this past week in the wake of our presidential election. I began reading 'SCAM' when I was young and especially idealistic, living in San Diego in the midst of the 2004 presidential election, generally disillusioned with the literature I was reading and the bleak state of the world at the time. His latest issue at that time dealt a lot with this idea that the problems have been identified and vilified, but now what? Which is a question we're asking ourselves this week.
In Lyle's writing, the question evolved from 'what are you against?' to 'what are you for?' I think it explains a lot of the apathy of the 2016 election. I heard reporters on NPR saying this was the first election where people weren't necessarily voting for a candidate, but rather against a candidate, which is an important distinction.
On Christmas 1999, Lyle and a bunch of friends had a "Fuck Christmas! Let's Paint" party, where they congregated at an abandoned warehouse in the port and spent the day painting. With the new millennium approaching, Y2K was all the buzz, along with all of the imaginative apocalyptic scenarios. Lyle wanders from the party and climbs a 5-story crane, looking down and observing his friends. It's one of the more bucolic scenes in the book. Lyle writes:
"It seems like, my whole life, people have been waiting for some big event—the end of the world, the revolution. In SF now, people even talk openly of waiting for a huge earthquake to come scare off the yuppies and destroy all the banks. But what if you just lived how you wanted to, instead of waiting? What if we wanted 'the beginning' instead of the end?"