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HARDBACK RE/Search #6/7: Industrial Culture Handbook Excerpt: Monte Cazazza

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Monte CazazzaR/S: Tell us your earliest acts of mayhem?

Monte Cazazza: There were lots of acts of mayhem. When I first had to go to school, I didn’t like it. So I sat there for about a week and just screamed. Unbeknownst to me, if I had sat there about another week I probably never would have had to go to school, because they would have ended up giving me a tutor, or something. But I didn’t know that, and my voice gave out before they relented.

This was in Catholic school in Philadelphia. I had this nun who really hated me—she used to hit me all the time. See, I was like the example—God’s retribution.

R/S: I thought it was illegal—

MC: Not in those schools—in those schools you kneel to the boss, as Cabaret Voltaire would say. So what happened was—one time she was smacking me and finally I said I’ve had enough of this! and ripped her habit off. Of course, her hair was cropped about half an inch-all the kids thought she was totally bald—and she flipped out. Then they sent me to see the priest because they thought I was possessed… The look on her face was priceless. And she never hit me again either after that.

R/S: When did you leave home?

MC: The first time I started running away was when I was about 9 years old. I would hide in museums. I would hide in libraries. I even slept in a very expensive hotel once. But then I would get caught-about 3 days would be tops before someone, somehow, figured out that I wasn’t supposed to be where I was, and get ahold of me, and start demanding who I was and where I lived, and why wasn’t I in school etc. etc.

R/S: Tell us about your high school experiences?

MC: My parents had moved to the suburbs, which I detested immediately. I hated everyone that lived there. So in high school, literally, for one year I didn’t talk to anyone. Just went to school, sat in the very last seat in the first row, and didn’t talk to anyone because I didn’t like anyone there. No one knew anything about me, I was just this person, and mostly they left me alone. I didn’t have any friends in high school, and I didn’t want any.

The police, though, came to arrest me once. I had this business going where I would shoplift cartons of cigarettes—my whole locker was filled with cigarettes. And I was selling them to everyone very cheap. Teachers, everyone. I used to go into these 2 big supermarkets with my gym bag and I would just fill it up with cartons of cigarettes and go home. And one time I got caught shoplifting. The store people called the police and they showed up. Somehow they figured out that I must have been doing this for a long time, because of their inventory or something. I don’t know how they added 2 and 2 together, but…first they talked to me, and then they let me go home. Later on they got a warrant to search my locker. So I’m sitting in history class and these police come in and tell me I have to go with them. I wouldn’t tell them the combination of my locker so they smashed it open and found the whole thing just totally filled with cigarettes. And I thought I was in a lot of trouble then, but actually nothing else happened beyond that point. They just confiscated them all and told me I better not get caught shoplifting again…and I better not sell any more cigarettes….

I think that because all the teachers were buying cigarettes, they were all kind of implicated. They asked me what I was doing, and I said I was just trying to make money and better myself, in the American way. The best thing was that I didn’t smoke!

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