His final column.
As commenter 293 below wrote at 9:04 this morning, "FUCK!!!!!!" Two years ago today our friend, colleague and (in ways we're just fully understanding now) mentor Steven Wells passed away. We still miss him dearly. And, of course, we're not alone. Just look at these Tweets!
He meant a whole lot to a whole lot of people. Tweet your favorite Swells memory, column or story today with your caps-lock on in his honor. Here, we revisit his final piece, which he wrote just 10 days before shuffling off this mortal coil.
Editor's note: Our friend and colleague Steven Wells died Wed., June 24, 2009 of the cancer he had documented so well in two cover stories for Philadelphia Weekly. On June 14, he submitted this column.
Why is it that the people with the most profound stuff to say are also those who are the least capable of being able to express that profundity?
I am talking about us. The mutoids. The abyss starers. The already organ-bagged cancer boys. While we are in some mere state of deterioration, our ability to comment is still possible. It might even be occasionally interesting. Certainly every writer who has ever contracted cancer has thought so. We can make cancer jokes. Existentialist jokes, even. The world is ours!
But then as one nudges closer to the edge, in the eye of the tiger storm (Tiger Storm, quite possibly the worst line and the best band name ever written), one is more inclined to shit oneself (literally and figuratively) than to throw shit at the system. Which is wrong and weak and lazy but kind of understandable. As is my wife’s fury this morning upon her discovery that a pair of pre-adolescent oiks destroyed a 95 percent-completed jigsaw puzzle (of cats) in the family waiting room. Even as her own dear husband was having his savagely jigsawed abdomen dressed in a hospital room but two doors away.
But life isn’t that banal or that stupid. Life isn’t about grit and grime and squalor. Life is getting angry at destroyed cat jigsaws. Life is the amazement at seeing the Vanity Fair title erupt as a scarlet mohawk-cum-quiff across a dainty Johnny Depp’s forehead, and the drooling anticipation of watching a Brian McManus-recommended terror-comedy on my computer later tonight. And of course the sight of tireless, tie-less and tire-burning liberal rioters taking to the streets of Tehran.
I speak as someone whose greatest craving at this exact moment is not world peace and universal democracy or a rational and global redistribution of wealth, but a can of ice cold ginger ale.
And of course all this bollocks is written by an idiot who has polished his image as an existentialist, atheist hard-man and anti-mope, forever sneering at the tribes who wallow in self-pity—the gothers, the emo kids, the Smiths fans—the whole 900-block-wide marching band composed entirely of the white male urban middle classes who are convinced that (as the most affluent and pampered human beings who have ever walked the planet) theirs is a story worth hearing. Blissfully unaware that they are but a few generations away from regular visits to the doctor who would wind parasitic worms from their beer bloated assholes using sticks. (Check out the AMA logos, those smiling beasts are not snakes.)
You could blame this fallacy on poor education, cultural deterioration, or simple moral decline.
Me? I blame it on sunshine. I blame it on the moonlight. I blame it on the boogie.
This is a story about dignity. I used to think I knew exactly how I’d respond in moments like these. I’d be like Cary Grant in 'His Girl Friday': Pithy, sophisticated, dryly witty and unflappably handsome. But, in fact, every time I’ve faced real-life drama I’ve been more like Ben Stiller at the end of 'There’s Something About Mary': running down the road screaming, flapping my arms, blubbing like a baby. Which is what I’m doing now.
A man gets lost in the Philadelphia health system "What is this, fucking Kafka?" and lives to tell about it. By Steven Wells firstname.lastname@example.org Illustrations by Jim Campbell --> I'm writing...
Do we let the dog of socialist sodomy chew our hard-won bone of freedom? Or do we strip off, oil our bodies, grasp our opponents and—in the flickering torchlight cast by the anxiously onlooking Statue of Liberty—vigorously wrestle the homosexual agenda into gasping submission?
They’re not McDonald’s. They’re not “businesses.” Oh, sure, they’ve got to make payroll. But they are not and cannot be run as out-and-out cash cows for the greedy and the idle.
Scene But Not Nerd Geeks in Philadelphia make their mark. By Steven Wells email@example.com --> Writing about Philadelphia's ongoing geek revolution is like trying to take a snapshot of a...
Years ago, the survivalist, or the man carrying the banner reading, “THE END IS NIGH,” might have been dismissed as an eccentric. But what is surprising is the increasing number of Philadelphians who’ve come to share such fears. In December 2008, Fernando Salguero set up the survivalist meet-up group Survive and Thrive, which, as it proudly boasts on its website, is “open to all faiths, beliefs and lifestyles. BAR NONE.”
We are, of course, digesting the death of our friend Steven Wells. And we've been touched to see tributes pouring into the comments section of his final column. Before he was an abrasive and controversial PW writer, Steven was an abrasive and controversial music writer for a variety of English press, perhaps most famously for NME in the 1980s. His UK and music colleagues this morning are offering up their tributes.
Commentary from the Sons of Ben, Los Campesinos the Guardian, Phawker and more.
After a long battle with cancer, PW staff writer, Guardian columnist, punk-rock novelist, NME gadfly, gender-twisting rebel comedian and poet Steven Wells has gone on to other things. Well, not really. According to Steven, there’s no such thing as the afterlife, and if there is, I guarantee he’s really, really pissed off right now. I [...]
My colleague Steven Wells has passed away. I won’t presume to write a heartfelt eulogy for him, because I didn’t know him that long, but I can say I will honestly miss him. And I can say that his acerbic and contrary nature wasn’t an act he played out on the pages of Philly Weekly, [...]
First, a request from our music editor: “Hi all, I spoke with Steven's wife Katherine this afternoon, and she's very moved by the outpouring of support shown both in the comments here and the gobs of tributes creeping out of every corner of the web today. She's asked that I ask anyone who knew him here if they might send scanned pictures of Steven from the 80s/90s. They will be used at his memorial service in a slideshow we're planning so, please, if you have them—or anything you might have you think could add—please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Much appreciated. Thanks so much. Look forward to hearing from you. Brian McManus Philadelphia Weekly, music editor” Now, onto more tributes to our friend Steven Wells. From Will Bunch: He leaves us with a great body of work, and one more thing: His hellish tales of the American health care system where he did battle in his final years. That's a tale that our policymakers in Washington need to hear, so that the next generation doesn't have to endure what some of Wells went through. From James McMahon, NME: I never met the man, but I did get five emails from him. I know this because I printed them out and stuck...
In 2007, Steven Wells made a series of YouTube videos -- rants, of course -- about America, the War on Terror and politics.
Music editor Brian McManus passes on a couple of pieces of information about Steven's passing: First: Flowers. Flowers for the family can be ordered through Fox's Jenkintown Flower Shop and Greenhouse, 1.800.537.6553. Second: Memorials. The family would welcome donations in Steven's name to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Your love of Steven and support of his family is appreciated.
More obituaries for our friend and colleague, plus information about the memorial service.
The Quietus, a website devoted to covering and reviewing popular culture, has a massive tribute to Steven Wells today. Steven had been a contributing writer at Quietus, and a number of contributors there shared their thoughts about his passing.
He was a mentor, a storyteller, a fire-breather. He was more passionate than anyone we’ll likely come across again. Of course, you know this already. Because if you read his stuff, you know the man. Everything in his writing is everything he was in real flesh-and-blood life.