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Punks on ’Tussin

The Big Fun Glossary

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Theresa Venisian

At some point in the mid-‘90s, it seems a group of girls from suburban Philadelphia — for reasons both manifold and vague — moved into a rural farmhouse in Virginia, not far from Charlottesville.

A number of characters, mainly from the local punk scene, began to accumulate around them and their house. Over the next few years this rapidly evolving group held jobs, held parties, abused cough syrup, smoked cigarettes, drank Mad Dog and Wild Irish Rose, fell in love, fell out of love, fell in hate, endured some truly god-awful weather, made music and art, played with dogs, had their power cut off, snuck into frat parties at UVA, played solitaire, had sex, smoked santa clause, had their water cut off, played with cats, got married, got tattooed, cast horoscopes, set hay bales afire, and hung out in coffee shops.

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Jatasya Santim

Eventually, money problems and personality conflicts had them abandon the farmhouse and — for the most part — go their separate ways. And that would have been that, if not for one of the members of this strange, postmodern community, a shady character called (or perhaps one who calls himself) The Gus.

In attempting to describe to other people his experiences with the place/society/state of mind that had come to be called “Big Fun,” The Gus found himself tripped up by language; Big Fun, like all tight-knit social structures, had developed its own specialized vocabulary, with unique terms, usages, and syntax. Big Fun’s rampant alcohol and drug use — not to mention a playful, creative turn of mind common to many Funsters — had only exacerbated the language problem.

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Johnny Boom-Boom Mancini

The Gus, being very into words in any case, began to write a glossary. As he wrote, he included additional points of reference: brief biographies of friends, enemies, and interesting local oddballs; descriptions of parties and concerts; concepts used in astrology, tarot reading, and numerology; and bits and pieces of chemistry, psychology, popular culture, and philosophy that he had accumulated along the way. He kept on writing until he had 666 definitions, and then he stopped.

And then he posted the whole thing on the Web — along with photography, music clips, drawings, strange animations, and what-all — and hyperlinked just about everything to almost everything else. The result, while at times pretentious, is almost endlessly readable, skimmable, and jump-around-inable. And — funny thing — the more time you spend jumping around inside the glossary, the less of The Gus there seems to be, and the more clearly you can make out the shape, size, and color of a fascinating pocket of youth culture.

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In the glossary a reader gets to meet people like Theresa Venisian, Jatasya Santim, Matthew Hart, and Johnny Boom-Boom Mancini. And, through the slow accumulation of tales and details, those people become more and more real as the reading goes on. So do bands like Two-Point-Five Children and Drill for Absentee, or cars like The Gus’ Punch-Buggy Green, or cats like Senovia, Stink, and Pywacket, or parties like the Infamous House-Warming Party and the Jehu End of the World Party.

It’s a strange, weirdly compelling picture that finally emerges. I thought so, anyways. Give it a look.

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