The rich multi-ethnic polyglot of northeastern Queens extends even to the “bass car” phenomenon. Not only are there genuine 80s hair metal fans still running about – bless their souls – but it seems as though every ethnic grouping here has their own preferred soundtrack to match their fast-riding, look-ma-no-eyes motoring about town.
Traditional Italian-esque “Goodfellas/Scarface” composite guidos have their KTU techno and freestyle, a zombified musical form that refuses all attempts to kill it with decent electro; various “Queens Shmoes” – white, black, Asian, etc – really do seem to love Queensryche with a genuine heart that will never be hard-of-hearing, no matter how many pedantic guitar solos it endures; an even wider ethnic blend enjoys the loud sounds of whatever passes for hip-hop as it coasts through its hair-metal phase right into the arms of neo-disco; arabica and bhangra beats abound; there’s even plenty of that hilarious Mexican style of music with all the accordions in it. Aside from driving like complete assholes, they share the heavier-than-heavy need to bleed from the ears. They do this to let everyone know they’re coming and going, as well as allow those equipped with sonar know their approximate density, speed and distance.
The one exception to this rule are the Hasidim, who prefer to do their peerless homicidal driving in a comparative near-silence – all the better to haunt my dreams as an army of Civil War reenactors dressed like obese Abraham Lincolns and guiding half-wrecked minivans towards my terrified family.
I now share the road with them all, having been a legally licensed driver in the state of New York for almost a week. But I have studied guidos and bass cars for years.
Studied and feared them. Not because they “have a crew”, or that their uncle owns a body shop in Bayonne, but simply because they exist. If knowledge dispels mysteries, it doesn’t always make fear more manageable, particularly when we’re giving weapons to people in the form of automobiles. I would rather they all have guns, for at least guns require some skill in aiming. Any moron can kill with a car, as can be seen every single day in the United States.
So how can so many people from so many walks of life share this one distinct trait? I believe this phenomenon has its roots in the New York City housing market.
Some of the blame can be pointed at the general popularity of hip-hop and the brickwall mastering we hear on nearly everything today; some can be given to the last twenty years of easy credit, which fuels not only car sales but drives down the price of both user modification kits and custom alterations.
But not all, not all! The guidos of my youth (a surprisingly diverse population) in northern New Jersey would blast their freestyle from custom-painted Irocs, letting all know that a) they had money and b) a working radio or cassette player. That they lived at home and dated 15-year-olds was, of course, merely part of their particular life script, even as they passed into the heady days of their mid-to-late-twenties. What we all knew is tha they liked to move it, move it. One should no more begrudge them that lifestyle than one could begrudge a glacier for crushing the landscape it travels upon.
They are, after all, merely animals. To pretend otherwise is to misunderstand the nature of the guido  and its role in American culture.
But a major role has been played by the NYC real estate market. Consistently high prices encourage a lack of migration/leaving the basement; after all, renting is “just throwing money away” and familial connections can be leveraged within high-rent areas to ensure housing for their children and keep outsiders at bay. This also ensures that folks without too much going on in the career department have plenty of disposable income for the clothes and the clubs, as well as turning relatively small cars into relatively big deals.
There are a lot of folks just on my block alone who rock the bass car and fight with their parents despite being well into their mid-20s and (apparently) even their 30s. I particularly admire the overall shittiness of the gentleman with the shocker decal on the back of his car, something which never ceases to bring a smile to my face.
He is a poem written in hair gel and ethnic slurs; a walking, talking, overly-loud private conversation held in public. I know more about his relationship with his parents and underage girlfriend than I know about most of my family members, and I am both richer and poorer for his inability to even spell “decorum”.
That the kids – a term I only use evocatively, since a few of them are older than I – can balance their decaying relationships with their aging families with absurd fights and constant invocation of the regrettably-euphemistic “N-Word” against both themselves and their equally-fucked pasty friends is indeed a matter of wonder.
That I mostly wonder why they haven’t died of shame is a reflection of my own limitations and understanding of what it means to be an adult, and I am financially and spiritually poorer for it.
But back to real estate: their parents were either born here or moved to this particular corner 30 or 40 years ago and bought houses. They dugg in with the dwindling population of older Irish and Italian families and against the burgeoning Greek flood. Various Eastern European, Asian, Spanish-speaking and Arab populations followed.
I would not be too surprised to find some Eskimo guidos rolling around by Astoria Park in a bass sled, perhaps dragged by bass dogs.
What the children of these diverse immigrants all share is this need for volume. Hell, some of them can’t afford either cars or travel, so they turn their parents’ homes into bass houses. On the subway I may call them “earbud commandos“, but they’re merely manifesting their bass selves.
And housing prices rose, as they tend to in this uniquely-constrained real estate market, further penning in this new generation of the “working class”, ironically possessed of neither work nor class.
I feel them drive by every day, and each day I am reminded of a scene in the book The Godfather (adapted in the second film, if I remember correctly) where Michael Corleone asks his father why he would employ the brutish animal Luca Brasi. His father says, in short, there are people who walk through life begging someone else to kill them, and that men like Luca Brasi exist to fulfill this request.
And then I think about how, if some kind of strange postmodern fascist movement against guidos emerged, I would likely not speak out if they came for the guidos of all races and creeds. I would not speak out at all, I think. In fact, I would probably work the camps for free. Shooting attempted escapees, prying the gold chains from around their necks, pushing them into concrete bunkers with promises of Axe body spray delousing treatments – I can see myself doing all these things with a smile upon my face and a cheery song in my heart.
A song sung at an appropriate volume for a human being working to keep civilization from falling to ruin.
Perhaps we will find some use for the guidos, and not just as lampshades or furniture or cattle feed. Perhaps we can use them in future wars, to fight the guidos of all nations. Blowout hair shall kill blowout hair. It might help arrest this cultural drift, nudging us away from a mockery written in bad tribal tattoos and sexually transmitted diseases. Bread and bass circuses, in little bass ghettos, with just enough contaminants in the water to prevent fecundity but without causing too much cancer before their useful working days are over.
I too have a dream.
A bass dream.
I hate them for this bit of self-realization, a deep look into the eyes of my inner bass Nazi, and yet I feel as though I should thank the guidos that have decorated so much of the background of my life for setting me free. Free from the assumptions of the American Dream, and free from the illusions of civil society and its centrist values. Free from the obnoxiously obvious lies of voting and churches. Free from the idea that walking and talking makes something human, and not a doppelganger or a burlesque that breathes and shits and holds conversations with passers-by while parked at a 45 degree angle against a street corner, impeding all comers.
Guidos are the living proof that democracy is a farce, and that any attempt to set people free from the confines of culture and the circumstances of birth results in an obnoxious cage and a debased honor culture so hideously twisted it makes hip-hop’s calculated feuding look like genuine displays of grievance.
The future lies in a body politic forged into a single hand, turning down a human radio, forever.
 There were three Iranian guidos, all brothers, who insisted on being called Persian. These were the days of “ayatollah asshola” shirts, after all. They were also exceptionally vapid, even by guido standards.
 No longer an ethnic slur against Italian-American working class yutes, it is a category all its own, like “redneck” or “hipster”. Like those terms it is both pejorative and descriptive, amorphous enough to encompass any speaker’s sense of loathing.
As a postscript, I believe I can make the argument that the show Metalocalypse is, in some ways, a revenge fantasy for whitebread hipster types, both against the metalheads of their youths (back when they were burnouts instead of mathletes) and against the bass car phenomenon. A band so loud and obnoxious that it murders large swaths of their fans, and so popular as to be able to kill at will and escape any national or legal authority. They are both the epitome of the bass car – with billions of dollars at their disposal, of course – and its antithesis. There’s no guido-appropriate posing or preening to be found in blastbeats, being far too self-absorbed in their pursuit of “brutality” to thread an eyebrow or wax a chest.