Strange Ducks #5 - The Collector
Some people collect comic books, others collect dangerous ideologies
The following story is 100% true and 1000% relevant to today’s political climate. Just a warning, it’s a long read and brings up very disturbing subjects.
It was the fall of 2009. My beloved, Debra, and I had now been living in Portland, Oregon for a little over a year after relocating from Montclair, New Jersey, a fairly upscale town about 10 miles west of New York City.
As part of making Portland our new home and to get a feel of its vibe, we decided to hit up the various nightclubs around town. This also gave us a way to meet people and possibly make some new friends here in the Rose city.
While attending a “Goth” night held at one of the larger clubs, my ever-convivial partner Debra, struck up a conversation with a woman who was complimenting her for the fabulous latex dress she was wearing.
Apparently Latex clothing was something of a rare commodity here in the Pacific Northwest. and was possibly a sign of refinement and daring personality to the average club attendee.
Deb and this woman, whose name I can’t remember, but I’ll call her “Eva” for this story, chatted for a bit and then they exchange numbers. The woman, a short, rather curvy burlesque dancer in her late twenties, expressed that she’d love to invite us out to other events around town.
Over the next few weeks, the two of them chatted back and forth via text until eventually Eva invited us to a house party at her boyfriend’s house.
When Deb told me about the invite I said, “How quaint, a house party. At least there isn’t a cover charge.”
Deb said I should can my apprehensions and go with the flow. “Who knows” she said, “Maybe we’ll meet some really cool people!”
“You mean cool like that weirdo Viking we met at the Norse Hall last May?” I countered.
Deb laughed. “Oh gosh, I hope not! Come on, what do we have to lose?”
Despite my general distrust of strangers, I eventually acquiesced to her demands that we attend the house party.
The following Friday night we were parking the old PT Cruiser on NE 24th st., down the street from where the house party was located. As we walked up to the front of the house, we saw there were a few people, mostly white guys, outside on the porch. This crowd looked to be in their late twenties or early thirties. Most were smoking cigarettes in one hand and clutching red party cups in the other. One guy held a bottle of Jack Daniels. Surprisingly, A few of them were wearing kilts, a thing we rarely saw back in NYC.
Aside from the kilts, this sight gave me flashbacks to being in my twenties in Upstate New York when I and my country hick buddies were doing the same low rent house parties.
All they needed to complete the picture on this porch was to have a boombox playing a cassette of Sammy Hagar or Def Leppard.
As we got closer, I could hear the sound of Guns and Roses emanating from the house.
“Close enough. Hello, time warp.” I thought.
My next thought was, as I scanned the mostly Levis and Carhartt crowd on the porch, “Boy, are Deb and I overdressed for this crowd.”
I looked down at my leather pants and thought about the fetishy dress and corset Deb was wearing under her full length faux Zebra coat.
When we stepped onto the porch all conversation stopped as eyes were upon us.
“Eva said this was the party to be at tonight!” Deb said in her typically charming happy attitude.
Considering it was fall, there wasn’t even the sound of crickets to respond to Deb, but thank god her friend Eva popped out the door to great us and usher us past this group of deadbeats.
“Come in, ! Come in! Grab a drink!” She said as we came through the door.
Once through the door, I saw that the crowd inside was a bit more varied. There was a smattering of nattily dressed hipsters and a few women dressed in their finest Victorian Steam Punk clothing.
I asked one person where they parked their Penny-farthing but the joke fell flat.
Instead of suffering any further humiliation, I located the nearest source of booze and poured myself a giant red cup. Dealing with this crowd was going to require a serious deadening of neural connections.
Deb chit chatted with Eva while I scanned the room for any sign of life.
One guy was playing with his dog and having it do tricks to amuse some of the partygoers.
Another group of people were gathered around a man on the far side of the room. It looked like they were intently listening to whatever this guy was saying.
Eva excused herself from Deb for a moment and waded into that group to extract the guy in the center. She dragged him over to us.
“This is the couple I was telling you about!” Eva exclaimed.
We exchanged introductions. I don’t remember what name he gave us, but I’ll just call him “Rudolph.”
Rudolph was about 5’ 7” and slim. He looked to be in his late twenties. While Eva was dressed for a night at the Moulin Rouge, laced into a tight black bodice and frilly burlesque dress, Rudolph looked ready for a jaunty gallop on a horse. He wore a white long sleeve shirt with epaulets on the shoulders. It was tightly buttoned and centered with a narrow black tie; the black jodhpur pants he wore flowed down to black knee high equestrian boots.
His aristocratic equestrian appearance was betrayed by his jet black haircut. It was the kind of cut that was popular if you were a Joy Division fan, or perhaps trying out as the MC for the roadshow of Cabaret.
Eva told Rudolph that we were artists who moved here from New York City, which sounds a lot more metropolitan and worldly than it really was, but it seemed to intrigue him none the less.
“Oh… New York City!” He bleated. “Well, considering that you might like to see my collection!”
“Oh yes! Show them your collection! It’s so cool!” Eva swooned and then added “They’re also into The Scene, Rudolph!”
(I’m not sure what Scene she meant unless it was the “Wear cool clothes and attend interesting parties scene.”)
“Indeed? Then we must show them the collection!” Rudolph replied as he directed us to a stairway that led up to an attic room door. Given Eva’s cooing portrait of us, Deb and I assumed that we were about to be shown a room full of knock-off Warhol prints, or with our luck, some kind of depraved sex dungeon. Er, …sorry …Sex attic.
When we got to the attic room Rudolph threw the door open.
Deb and I saw that we got the “depraved” part right, but as our jaws fell to the ground we realized the amount of depravity was far above anything we’d imagined.
The room was chockablock full of Nazi memorabilia!
Nazi Flags! Nazi Banners! Nazi Paintings and Photos! Nazi Metals, SS Emblems and Pins! Nazi Helmets and Officer Hats. There was a manikin in the Corner dressed in a Full SS Officer Uniform. There was even a small closet off to the side that was crammed with antique, and highly illegal, Nazi machine guns, artillery shells and hand grenades!
The room looked like Hermann Göring’s Discount Warehouse of Fascism and War Atrocities!
The horror of it all was pushed over the top by the fact that in the center of the room was a king size, black, four poster bed draped in black curtains and covered in black satin sheets. It was the kind of bed that would make Hugh Hefner jealous, that is until he saw all the Nazi souvenirs surrounding it.
My mind was reeling with questions and apprehensions, as well as a huge amount of repulsion and anxiety at all these relics of hate.
Seriously, what kind of sick psychopath could find any of this as an enticing setting for any kind of sexual peccadillo, or much less, for a quick nap?
The answer of course is: A Nazi. Only a Nazi would find this appealing.
I asked Rudolph how he managed to acquire the munitions without getting into serious trouble. He flippantly replied that since he was the heir to the Browning Machine gun fortune, he was able to obtain the necessary licenses.
I’m pretty sure that answer was total bullshit, but then again in the gun worshipping United States, where rich whites have all the privilege, anything is possible.
As I continued to survey this collection and surmise what kind of maniac I was standing next to, Deb was equally dumbstruck and flabbergasted.
Actually she was even more wary and nervous about this than I since she was Jewish! I could tell she was mentally clutching her Star of David for any degree of protection she could get from the evil in this room. It was taking all her strength to contain her outrage.
However when she saw the bar of SS soap made from human fat, and then the Nazi Lamp whose shade was made from the human flesh of concentration camp victims, she could no longer hold back, especially when Rudolph proudly asked what we thought about all this.
Deb said in her most tactful, least offensive way, “Um… Being that I’m Jewish, I’m curious as to what’s your motivation for collecting all this?”
Rudolph responded that he admired “the art and design” of all the Nazi Iconography and reliquary, which is a standard answer that any Gestapo Groupie rolls out when asked about their “collection.” Deb sensed the willful ignorance in his answer as much as I did.
As phony as Rudolph’s justifications were for this room it did clarified a few things in my mind.
First, that he was yet another self-entitled trust-fund baby without a clue of morality, raised by an equally immoral family who made their money from war and death. The blood colored lenses of wealth and privilege through which he viewed the world obscured his ability to see the inhumanity and overall evil in his idolatry.
Second, that while I knew before we moved to the Pacific Northwest that within its hinterlands were caches of far-right, antisemitic militia types, I never expected to confront them here in the center of lefty progressive Portland.
This house party certainly dispelled that notion.
Before either of us had the chance to lay into this Fathead for Fascism about his interior decoration choices, Deb smartly and graciously thanked Eva and Rudolph for the invite and excused ourselves from the party.
As we wondered toward the exit and back out of the house, this crowd and its antics became much clearer, now that we knew who we dealing with.
The guy getting his dog to perform tricks was in fact a guy speaking German commands to a German Shepard with huge razor sharp teeth. The nattily dressed hipsters all had decidedly militaristic touches to their outfits. The guys in kilts were wearing T-shirts with coded militia insignia.
Yep, we had foolishly waded into a viper’s nest of rotten fascist bastards.
Despite the big clunky high heels Deb was wearing, she bolted for the door with a faster pep in her step.
As for the crowd that was on the porch, they had now gathered out into the yard. The guy who was holding a Jack Daniels bottle was now clutching a gas can. He was taking swings from it and amusing this crowd of drunken lunkheads by blowing fireballs up towards the trees. The trees that were full of dead, fall leaves!
Deb and I quickly made our way down the sidewalk and back to the PT Cruiser. Once inside the car, Deb turned to me and said, “According to my watch, it’s Jew O’clock and high time get the fuck outta here!” and with that, we zoomed off.
Thankfully that was the last we ever saw of these folks, or should I say, “volks?”
Looking back on this experience now in 2024 brings up a few observations that seem sadly even more relevant to current events in the United States.
Most obviously, there are those today who still worship and promote the ideologies of evil such as Nazism, racism and nationalism.
The goons we met in 2009 more than likely evolved into the dangerous Proud Boy and Oath Keeper fanatics who terrorized our country during the Trump administration, the 2020 Election, and then the January 6th insurrection. Even though a fair share of them have been swept up by the FBI, there are still many, many more of these fascist lunatics running free and still posing a huge threat to our country’s democracy.
Even more worrisome is that idiot trust-fundian, Hitler worshippers are possibly still behind the scenes funding these groups. If twentieth century history is to be any guide, we can be sure that, much like the fascist movements of the 1920s and 30s who were well funded by oligarchy and industrialists, our current political strife is funded by the same mindsets of greed and autocracy.
The only difference now is that the industrialists have been replaced by spineless Tech Bros who are co-opting the internet for their own rapaciousness, while turning a blind eye on the various “information” platforms they’ve built which are being used to spread racism, antisemitism, damaging unhinged conspiracies and misinformation.
This, as you probably know, has furthered the destruction of one of the main tenets for a proper democracy, that being the fourth estate of local newspapers, magazines and vetted, honest journalism. When properly run and distributed, these help keep in check the outrages of political overreach and abuse by creating a well-informed citizenry.
Henry Wallace, the VP under FDR from 1941-1945, summed it up best, “The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information.
With a fascist, the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”
Unfortunately, Henry Wallace didn’t expect dictator wannabes like Donald Trump, who has no reservations in urging his cult followers to use violence in order to achieve his goals. Violent ideologies like Nazism go hand in hand with vicious oligarchs who care more about power than country.
This makes the spread of Nazi and fascist propagandists all the more abhorrent and dangerous to the democratic principles that uphold our country. That’s why to accept the disbursement of any doctrines of hate on various platforms under the thin premise those websites being “anti-censorship” is literally playing into the hands of autocracy and fascism. 1
I think we can all agree that we don’t need to repeat history when in comes to the horrors of the Third Reich, or any other genocidal philosophy.
Now as for the collection of Nazi artifacts, I think the German government is correct in their banning of, and imposing harsh jail sentences for, the sale and distribution of these items.
I’m a firm believer that objects made with evil intent, even if they’ve been placed in a museum display, can still can project a small piece of their depraved essence upon the viewer, especially if the viewer’s mind is weak or not educated about the history of such items. The more one surrounds themselves and worships these vile relics, the more these items can negatively influence one’s thoughts and actions. Sacred relics taken in colonial conquests, surgical oddities of dubious origin used in exploitive sideshows, Shrunken Heads and other necrophilia totems, as well as Death Camp atrocity products all carry the same damn stench of man’s inhumanity against himself.
Bad mojo that only leads to more bad mojo. Stay far away from such things.
On a related side note, a few weeks after our encounter with the Gestapo Gang, After making a run to our local coffee shop Deb walked through our door with miles of smiles. She happily stated that she had gotten an invite to a house party that night by some guy who was celebrating his 40th Birthday.
I reminded her about our last encounter with house parties in this town, and maybe that we shouldn’t be tempting fate again.
Deb said, “Don’t worry! He’s a New Yorker like us!”
This only partially settled my unease.
But in spite of heeding my own warning, I once again acquiesced to my beautiful, yet naive, love and agreed to go the house party, even though I knew it might end horribly for us.
The house was only a few blocks away from where we lived. To me this meant that at least we could walk there and make sure enough people saw us so that there was an evidence chain in case we disappeared.
When we got to the house, we rang the door bell.
Immediately we heard the bark and snarl of a very large dog. The door opened and a man greeted us while holding back his large, snarling doberman.
I thought to myself, “Oh Christ, not another Nazi.”
Thankfully though, once the man put his dog into its cage and told us to not look the dog in the eye, …ever, the rest of the night went wonderfully and that night we met some of the best people and longest friendships we’ve ever had here in Portland, which helped to restore my faith in that we made the right move coming west.
Yes, I’m talking about you, Ghost, X, Facebook and Truth Social.