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Like Goths to the Flame 

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If you had happened to stumble onto the heat-baked plain of Disneyland as thousands of Iowans and I did Sunday, you would have found yourself smack in the middle of the Sixth Annual Bats Day at the Fun Park — Goth Day! — which is to say a convocation of Ursulas and Evil Queens and Wicked Stepsisters and Cruella De Vils the magnitude of which the Magic Kingdom sees but once a year. Goths overran the Small World ride, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, and the Haunted Mansion; visited the petting zoo (black goats!); and sneered at the Hot Topic–style punk miniskirts and pseudo bondage tops for sale in the Tower of Terror gift shop. Young teenage goths hung in groups chaperoned by their distinctly ungoth moms and dads. Baby goths lolled in the cradle of their parents’ goth-tattooed arms. Goths lapped up caramel corn and pink cotton candy, faux juleps and bad cappuccinos.

Even in the cornier pastures of California Adventure, out by the Ferris wheel, there were fat goths and thin goths, goths strapped into plaid bondage pants and goths squeezed into grommeted leather, torn fishnets and torn tights, blue hair and green hair, hair lifted from Lost Boys, Derek Jarman’s Jubilee and The Bride of Frankenstein, all tied together by stiflingly hot black clothing, a certain air of summery surliness and colors of lipstick that were almost certainly not manufactured by Maybelline. Lace-encrusted black parasols of every shape and size shielded pale goth skin from the brutal Orange County sun.

I like to think of myself as not unsympathetic to the gothic cause. A band I used to play with opened up for Christian Death a few times, and I stood in line for hours to see the Cure’s first Los Angeles show at the Whisky a million years ago. I have been to more Peter Murphy concerts than I would tell even my best friends about. I practically lived at a Hollywood club called the Scream.

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And although I ran across Bats Day quite by accident, I had, of course, heard about the non-Disney-sponsored fiesta, from zines, blogs and Chuck Klosterman’s diary of the event in Spin a couple of years ago. Who could resist the fun — the gloomiest people in the universe in The Happiest Place on Earth?

But as cheerful as Bats Day was, I couldn’t have felt more out of place. The goths were goths and I was just another stroller-pushing suburban dad in a pink button-down shirt. Bela Lugosi wasn’t the only guy who felt dead.

—Jonathan Gold

Signs of the Times

Claremont could easily be the setting for some mythical East Coast college town if it weren’t for the blazing sun and repressive smog hovering over the pillared buildings like some nagging atmospheric reminder of the impending apocalypse. In fact, many residents of the well-maintained, tree-lined neighborhood surrounding Claremont’s Village district are nattily dressed academics who work at the seven private colleges in the heart of the city. And like much of academia, a majority of those who live near the colleges are staunchly liberal. Growing up there in the early ’70s, I remember candlelit peace marches and a massive counterculture presence in the nearby park. Republicans were considered outsiders, who seemed to exist merely as theoretical targets of our scorn and fear. It was they who were waging an unnecessary war in some distant land, had broken into a Washington, D.C., hotel room to rig a presidential election and, it was widely conjectured, had urged the local police to hide listening devices in the park trees in a failed attempt to bust the local hippies (who had quickly caught on and began whispering misinformation into suspicious foliage).

But an enemy sneaked in and shattered this liberal, bourgeois idyll. Several weeks ago, my aged parents were slumbering in bed dreaming of rare French wines and their new grandson when the invader began to wreak havoc on the accepted order. Only when my mother stepped out in her slippers for the morning paper did she realize what had happened.

“Someone stole our John Kerry sign last night,” she told me when she called later that day. Indeed, nearly all the Kerry signs throughout my parents’ neighborhood had been uprooted and stolen from front yards the previous night. While it was surely frustrating, maybe even frightening, it was not all that surprising. I remembered how the last time I drove through San Bernardino, I was passed by a rumbling muscle car driven by some mullet-head displaying a bumper sticker with the heartwarming phrase “Aryan pride.”

My mother still works as a clinical social worker in the city of Loma Linda, where she counsels speed addicts and morose Seventh-day Adventists. A month before the sign incident, she was driving home in her little economy car when a large pickup edged right up to her back bumper. The driver honked his horn and then flipped my 70-something mother the bird, gesturing angrily at her John Kerry bumper sticker.

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