Sunday, September 16, 2007

Take Me to a Dark Room

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Halloween, 1987, at Berlin, was quite the Fellini-esque experience, and it's forever burned into my memory. At the last minute, Erin and I decided to brave the giant crowds Berlin somehow managed to squeeze into it's then tiny space, sans costumes. We bought some extra large drinks and staked out a bird's eye perch on their 'dance floor' to watch the night's debauchery. When Berlin was half the size it is now, and super crowded like the night was that night, we always bought extra big drinks, because the four foot squeeze back to the bar, and the hour wait for a refill was too much to take more than once. Berlin had a cash prize for best costume each Halloween, and people put a lot of effort into winning, so it was a great theater.
I say 'dance floor', because for some reason or other, we were hanging out in Berlin's basement earlier in the week with Jim, a bartender, and Erin and I were commenting on the scary noises above us.
"You probably shouldn't stand underneath the dance area. We technically don't have a dance floor, because you need special requirements and reinforcements for it, and we don't have that."
"Oh." We said.

There were many amazing costumes walking in the door that night, but the three I remember most were were Annie and Dave from their There Must be an Angel video, and the Sears Tower. Every Eurythmics detail was perfect and stunning; complete with the three foot crown and five foot long wigs. And the Sears Tower was beyond words. As a teenager I made models of every type, and none are easy to do, so to make a human-sized one, let alone one you could dance in, is a remarkable feat. He even stuck airplanes on wires to look like they were flying around him.
As the night progressed, the crowd worked it's self up into a frenzy, and started jumping up and down on the 'dance floor'. Erin and I knew it's dangers, and we grabbed the drink rail for dear life when we felt ourselves dipping a foot up and down, to the rhythm of Confusion and Why Can't I be You?. I started to imagine the floor's cross beams splintering a little more with each jump, and after an hour, with no disaster, we went to Smartbar. I guess we kind of wanted to see if there was going to be a disaster, for we knew it wasn't a very big drop into the basement, and the drink rail seemed pretty sturdy...

Thanksgiving that year was a pretty dismal experience. I couldn't get time off work to go see the family, and I didn't drive, and all my friends, including my roommates, were out of town. So I got it into my head that I was going to fast for all the people in the world that didn't have anything to eat that day. When I told that to my clients and co-workers that week, they all invited me over for dinner, but I refused. I was alone and at home watching TV, occasionally condemning the selfish world over the plight of the less fortunate, until the commercials for food started to get to me, and I ran over to the 7-11 and bought a bag of junk food, and a six-pack.

Our salon was invited to do a hair show at Limelight that December. It took us all day and night to get our three models ready for the show, but it was a great time. Erin and Donny came by to help out and pour drinks. We each, Maria, Consita and I, had our own ideas for our hair model, but I added a little dose of craziness to them all. Mine was inspired by Moschino's classic model airplane-as-a-hat ad, and a newspaper Mohawk I saw in i-D, though I turned it into a newspaper fall. So dangerous, I know, so I ripped the newspaper out as soon as the show was over. Thankfully, one picture of that night, taken at the salon, with me in the back round wearing Margie's sweater, survives. Tension was a little high that day, getting the models ready, because Consita didn't invite her business partner to do the show with us, and he was there working, and the two of them bickered back and forth non-stop. Our models walked down the catwalk to Les Rita Mitsouko's Marcia Baila, a song you all know I love.
This evening was made much more complicated by the fact that my mother, upset at my absence at Thanksgiving, because of my overbearing boss, decided to drive 13 hours from Little Rock herself, to the salon, to drive me home for Christmas.
"I just want to see your boss try and say no to your leaving with me when I show up there!" She said.
"Well, I have this fashion show thing, but I can leave after that I guess..." I said.

She pulled up to the salon, at Sheffield and Webster, around 9pm, in her little yellow car. She had that car for years; she would drive me and my brothers to doctor appointments and to school in it, so it was very surreal seeing a car I associated with my boyhood in the little town I grew up in, nestled into this big city I lived in now. Erin rode with my mom to my apartment, because she wasn't up for Limelight, to wait for me til 3am so we could start our drive south. I remember being mad I couldn't get wasted at Limelight that night, and I was even more mad when I got home to find she had cleaned my room, and discovered all my dirty little secrets. I was 21 then, and I lived like I was still in high school. Clothes and records piled everywhere, Boy George and Debbie Harry posters on the wall, half eaten food all over the place, but worst of all were all the pictures of naked men my friend Bryan would send along in the letters he wrote me, hidden under my sleeping bag. They were too cute to throw away. Maybe she didn't pay too much attention to what she saw, but she seemed to be more upset about the fact I slept on the floor, and gave me money to buy a futon. The second I got home we were on the road. It was a long long drive, and our only stop was for breakfast from a grocery store in the Ozarks, who's homemade doughnuts I still dream about.
That Christmas was pleasant enough, and I remember it because I recently looked at some pictures, but I looked like someone who had lived a hundred lifetimes, each one more miserable than the last. I was in an alcohol withdrawal haze, which always helps, because I hid my drinking from my family, and would only 'have a few beers', instead of the 8 million I usually drank.

I was thinking of the music and books from this time in my life, trying to come up with a theme song for this post, when I remembered how much I played Eurythmics' Savage. They made videos for each song with Sophie Muller, and together they make up a little movie. That CD and video compilation's fearless creativity inspired me beyond words. I guess it won't ever be available on DVD, so if you can find a VHS copy, dust off your video player and check it out. The books I read were everything by Daniel Odier, The Handmaid's Tail, and an attempt at A Hundred Years of Solitude.