Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Time Off From The Rain


We knew our downstairs neighbor was dying. Chris told me one night about meeting him as he moved in with his parents.
"Our son is too ill to live alone, because of AIDS." He's lucky to a family like yours, Chris said.
Looking back to those days of 1991, I wish I would have spent sometime with him as he lay dying, but I wasn't strong enough. When I walked past his front door, on my way up to my third floor apartment, my imagined image of him grew more and more detailed, and as the weeks went on, so did the aura of sadness emanating from their home.
I knew the day had come when he had passed, when on one Sunday morning, I saw his family getting into a big black car, on Sheridan Road, in front of our apartment building. I sat at my window and watched and waited for them for what felt like an eternity for them to drive off, on that cool sunny day.
The women were buried under their expressions of grief, and the faces of the men bore a quiet compassion for their women.
Chris, Cath and I left some flowers at their door. He was he first person I knew who died from AIDS.

During this time in 1991, Chris and I took the bus downtown every Sunday for the parties at Cairo and The Victor Hotel. The bus let us off a good mile from Cairo, and I looked forward to this time with him, as we crept through the deserted city streets. On the way to Cairo we had to pass Limelight, which had just closed or was about to, and we regaled each other with the stories of our past glamorous lives. Here we were now, just scraping up enough change to take the bus. Thank God we were already stoned. I have no idea how we got home.

I call 'that place' The Victor Hotel, because I rarely had a good time there. Cairo wasn't a whole lot better, but I distinctly remember thinking a few times, This is fun!, or I wish this place was a little funner!. At the Victor Hotel, it was always: This is no fun. And I got into a lot of fights there. The exceptions being the night the Live Brady Bunch performed the Johnny Bravo episode with Eve Plum, and the night Deee-Lite performed. But by the time they went on we were so wasted we barely remember it happening.
At Cairo, Chris and I stood off to the side and watched the action on the dance floor in the basement, wondering aloud why the revelers looked so happy. Were they faking it? Was it drugs? Drugs never made me that happy. They made me take off my clothes at inappropriate times, but never happy, I confessed. Yes, you do that, Chris said.

My love life was a juggling act between Mark and Skip, I loved them both and had different experiences with them, but it was really the same: Mark was having a hard time dealing with the death of his ex, who ODed, and Skip was still living with his ex, whom he thought he still might want to be with. I remember wishing they could just be present with me, here and now, but I guess it's hard not to drag all those past lives around with us.
In essence I think I saw them as life preservers; something to grab onto as a way out of the sea of drugs and booze and self pity I felt I was drowning in. It's one thing to grab onto someone and say help me, than to just grab and grab and keep grabbing.

I did manage to find some fleeting moments of peace of mind, when the chatter in my head, fix you life! get better! want to live! was quelled, when everything was perfect, usually in the dark quiet moments in the early morning when I woke up next to Skip or Mark. I prayed for the second hand to stop moving, wanting as much time with them at that moment I could get.
I also found those moments on Sunday afternoons, when I lay in bed alone reading for hours. Catcher In The Rye, Boy Wonder, the liner notes for Louder Than Bombs, a story about City Of Joy, the new version of The Stand, to name but a few. I dreamed about having the power to create the worlds these authors created on paper a reality. I wanted to create a perfect world I could walk into and never leave, if I wanted.

I walked many many miles that year I lived with Cath and Chris, sometimes it would take me hours to get home. (I've always been kind of antsy) Hours and hours spent in my head, wondering what to do with my life, knowing I needed to make some changes, again, but not sure what or how. The grip I had on my life was getting harder to hang onto, and the siren call of let go was getting harder to ignore.
My lease was ending soon, and I didn't know where I was going, but I knew if I wanted to let go, it would be better to live alone...


Time off from the rain.
the beat goes on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's All In My Mind


Tony had a quiet presence about him, as if he were made of marble, or a statue found in Tutankhamen's tomb, come to life. I sometimes got close to him to check if his chest was actually moving up and down. He was tall and thin and still, and moved with the slow grace of a redwood swaying in the breeze. His presence also had a timeless permanence to it, like all the extra comet dust floating around space was gathered up just to create him.
Was he on drugs, or naturally this way? I asked myself one afternoon in Berlin. We were meeting the other Tony, Tony T, to talk about a fashion show he was putting on- Tony was going to model, I was going to present an outfit.
As we chatted, I realized this was the first time I had spent time alone with him, and it was a little overwhelming for me.

What is his deal? I thought, as we made small talk. Is he depressed or serene? I asked him questions to gauge where he was coming from, without directly saying it, because I didn't know him very well then. We talked a long time that afternoon, in 1991, and I came to the conclusion he was either wearing his eternity on his sleeve, or just plain tired.

The fashion show was a lot of fun; I had my friend Siobhan model a pre-Gaga football girl satire ensemble. (Lady Gaga is a cute weird dresser, but I like Roisin a little better...)
I bejeweled and spray painted gold metallic a set of football shoulder pads from the thrift store, gave her a bee hive hair do instead of a helmet, and paired it with bright orange stretch pants, the word 'hell' sewn to her butt, in big floral letters. Of course she played on Hell's team. To top it off, I gave her a Jewel shopping bag to carry down the runway, as an homage to Wickie-Poo, because no matter where I ran into him, he had on an amazing out fit that turned heads, and elicited jeers. I hope Renee has a picture of it laying around somewhere...

Life with Chris and Cath began pretty well, but I soon grew discontented with our arrangement. I guess I was at the start of my search for a life without drugs and alcohol, but didn't realize it at the time, and I couldn't bear being in the apartment with them very much, between Chris' all night mini drug parties, and Cath's wake and bake-edness (rhymes with nakedness). They drove me nuts because I wanted to be doing what they were doing all the time. Don't get me wrong, I was no saint, and I kept up with them, but only a day or two at a time. I was yet again around 24 hour party people, and resenting their abilities at it. I knew my addictions enough to know I couldn't hold down a job if I partied like I wanted to, and begrudgingly only went out a few nights a week.
So to avoid them , I got up early and went to a coffee shop on Broadway, aptly named Coffee Chicago, and hung out a few hours before work started, at one pm. (It's where Joy's Noodles is now. I spent countless hours next to that brick wall...)
I can't remember what I did for all that time, besides drinking tons of coffee, but I must have read books. After breakfast I walked the fifteen blocks to work, which took me an hour or so, and after walking back to the coffee shop after work, I stayed til close, which was midnight. I liked the nights there better, because they played old movies in a side room. A cup of coffee and a movie for a buck? Not bad. The kids who worked there got to know me pretty well, but I wasn't in the mood for any new friendships, I couldn't handle the ones I already had, so I kept to myself for the most part.
Friday nights were the worst. I had to be up super early to walk to work, to not drive in with Cath, because her smoke wouldn't kick in until we got to work, which was too late, for being with an unbaked Wake and Bake on a Saturday morning is just about the most dreadful way one can start one's day.
Chris' sounds of a party trying to not make a sound in his room, kept me up for hours. Then, just as I fell asleep, his ex showed up drunk on our buzzer, pressing it a hundred times, begging to be let in. No amount of threats or swearing ever dissuaded him from doing it again the next week. Maybe that's why he gave us so much free weed. That stuff was amazing. I had never got anything but paranoid from it in the past, not from lack of trying, but this guy's stuff became my reason for living. One puff and it was hours of happy laughy time. I seriously considered turning my life over to it, and did, for that whole year.
On the weekends, I went out with Renee and we'd do normal things like go to the movies or karaoke, and going to Scoozi or Hat Dance, and brunches at Queeny Mark's place in River City, and tea dances with the Berlin gang.
BUT, if Renee wasn't around, I hung out with Chris and Tony, and their scary friends. Their friends are just a blur in my memory, just a flash, because of all my consumings. I don't mean Chris's old friends you can still find at Berlin. I freak out a little when I see them, for they are still together, tied in their forged familial bonds, all these years later.
No, these people were scary in their commitment to ruin. Hour after hour, drug after drug, it was too much. One night the Mark I was dating was with us, and the next day he told me a the guy hosting the party turned to him and said, in a horrid monotone voice, with a shit eating grin on his face: Soon, very soon, most of the people in this room will die. And you wanna know why...? Mark was to afraid to say anything. Because of the decisions they are making right now...
Mark was so perturbed by that guy, he wouldn't be around him again, even thought it meant a free party. He'd ask me if the You Wanna Know Why Guy was going to be there, whenever I asked him out after that.
Mark, I'd say, that freak always has that look on his face, his brain is fried. He's a mess. Don't listen to him.

But no matter what happened that week or over the weekend, Chris and I would wind the night down together, sometimes with Tony and Cathy, by watching movies on Cath's VCR, her super-expensive early Eighties gift from her dad VCR. Usually the same movies: Female Trouble and Glen or Glenda, and/or Desperate Living. We had them all memorized, but we never tired of them. I guess it always helps when you know somebody else has it worse off than you, and no one had it worse than Dawn Davenport...
No one knows suffering like Lana Turner! (I think that's from Polyester)
I was just looking at the list of movies from 1991, and Chris and Renee and I saw so many of them in the theater, I can't believe it. How did I find the time or energy? None of use could stop talking about My Own Private Idaho, we really loved it, and Whore made us laugh our ass off. (At the funny parts. Or Theresa's blunt performance. I'm not sure which.) To this day, whenever I see a limo, I assume Theresa Russell's in there, nonchalantly working a three way.


Tony, Chris & Renee, 1991

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Promise to Be Found


Tayler walked into the apartment a wreck. She was crying, and her face was a smear of snot and mascara and lipstick. Her leggings were ripped at the knees, where some blood trickled, and under one arm was a smashed cake box.
"Tayler, what happened?! Are you hurt?!"Ava and I shrieked. (Well, as much as two could shriek, who had been hitting the bong all morning, anyway.)
"Some bitches robbed me! I'm alright, I guess. I got off the train at Sheridan, and they came out of no where and pushed me down at took my purse and ran off!"
"Oh man, on Easter?!" I said
"Yea. On fucking goddamn Easter. Here's your cake." Tayler said handing over a smashed mess. "Ooo, it smells good. I'll get some forks" Ava said.
"Dammit! Where's the bong!" Tayler yelled.

Sometime in early '91, Ava moved in with Chris and I, and I was right, our new solidarity kept us on the right track for a while, and we didn't indulge in night life activities as much as we had been. Chris found a job as a receptionist at a salon on Belmont, B Vamp, where he earned the moniker Pancake, because he was in his compact every two seconds, reapplying. I was loath for him to work there, for I still hadn't forgiven the B in B Vamp, for his jumping on my back and trying to ride me like a pony, not once but three times, bombed out of his mind, at the Midwest Beauty Show, in 1989.
"He was probably just excited being around so many hair stylists." Chris said, laughing.
I pushed those feelings aside, however, when I saw how well they took care of him there, and when I kept hearing the tails through Chris of how much fun they had everyday, I debated applying for a job there.
My work situation turned into one headache after another at the time, and I dreaded going there, and complained to whoever would listen, but I hadn't the nerve to quit. If I hadn't been working with Erin at Neo that year, hosting Sunday nights, I'd have lost it.

Soon after Ava moved in, we had a party. A 'get to know each other's friends' kind of party. I hoped it would be better than the one I threw for Erin for her birthday, when three people showed up- I told you no one comes to my birthday parties because there's too many Christmas parties going on, but thanks anyway! And not as good as the last one Scot and I threw, where I had sex with Skip after I broke up with him, in Scot's room, after barracading the door, not realizing there was some else in the room, who, it turned out, didn't want to leave. Yes, not that much fun, but not too little, either. In all honesty, if I hadn't pictures from the party that night, I would not remember it. I guess that's good.

My relationship with Mark was slowly fizzling out, and turning into a friendship, and that was bumming me out.
I liked sleeping with him, and wanted to continue our affair, but the night he wriggled out of cuddling with me, while watching Silence of the Lambs, only allowing my temple to rest on his thigh, I realized it was over.
It should have ended the night I realized I was in bed with yet another h addict with an inferiority complex, yet I kept going back to him for a while, because he told me he liked to smell his sheets after I spent the night, because he never smelled anything like it. When I told him I wore Dali, he bought some, too.
He lived by a Green Line el stop, in and old carved up mansion, on the west side. It was one of the few residences left in the area at the time, stuck in a corner, and easy to miss; the once grand homes of the 1880's giving way to industry in the 1950's, and to the street walkers in the 90's. Despite the fact the entire building was surrounded with a chain link fence, the building and their cars were constantly broken in to. I hated spending the night there.
When I couldn't sleep for fear of a midnight murder, I snuck out of bed and smoked in the living room, quietly lit by the blue Italian lights strung on the wall, next to the drafty front window. This was early winter of '91, and I watched the snow fall on the empty lots across the street, and on the unused factory buildings across the other streets, everything stained a piss yellow by the street lights, annoyed by the silence of the car-less road, wishing I were stoned, and wishing there were vitamins in cigarettes; I felt so unhealthy lately.

That was a habit I started at an early age: staring out at a snowy landscape at 3 in the morning, cigarette in hand, wondering how my life got so fucked up, and fighting with every fiber a desire to be normal. Ahh, the introspection winter inspires in me.
I was in a handstand and cart wheel phase at the time, and my constant gymnastics annoyed him, which wasn't hard to do. (I am the oldest of five boys, so I know how to annoy, and he was bullied by his older brother. It made for an interesting combo at times...)
I sat at his typewriter and typed, over and over, ala The Shining, S-T-E-V-E-N, P-U-S-H-O-FF. (Ouija Board is my favorite.) We actually used the Ouija board in his place, but I did not like who I met doing that, so we only did it once.
Mark was a great story teller, and a brilliant writer, but he wouldn't believe me. I often thought to myself, Does he think I'm dumb? Does he actually not believe he has a gift for writing?
We sat together in many dive bars, and divey gay bars, and downed a lot of scotch, and talked about writing and art til all hours of the night. I still have the e.e. cummings book he gave me.

Speaking of Morrissey, I have Rene to thank for rekindling my love of him. One night driving in her car, she played a mix tape, and The Boy With The Thorn In His Side blew up in my brain, and I cursed myself for ever doubting him. Oh God, I gotta get some more of this! I said to her. She also made me fall in love with Pet Shop Boys and Vivaldi.

One Sunday, Ava, Chris and I realised we were about to get the tattoos we had been discussing for the past few weeks, on the same day. Tranay, who was a friend of Ava's, talked us all into getting inked by the man she worked for, Guy. His newly opened studio, Guilty and Innocent, was across the street from our apartment, and we debated for weeks the designs we wanted and finally chosen: Chris, a belt of vines, Ava an art deco figure, and me, a Sphinx. We each were present at some point during each other's tattooing, Ava's being first that day, and the sight of all that blood dripping down her white back, gave me pause. I had no idea how much tattooing bled!
When it was my turn, they walked me across the street, stone cold sober, as Tranay suggested, and stayed a few minutes, before leaving me alone with Guy and The Best of Blondie. Needless to say, tattooing is very, very painful, despite what you've heard, and I had an out of body experience the entire time. Guy did an amazing job transforming my tiny picture of an idea into my tattoo, and I regret breaking the creative spell he was under, after I saw what he had started to do free hand, outside my design idea. It was just too painful to stay under the needle any longer than I had to.
I didn't know how Chris kept going back to get his tattoo completed after Guy started his that Sunday, because his was around his entire waist, and required many hours, and mine was finished that night.
I still love my tattoo, and whenever I look at it, I'm reminded of the permanent ways our friends can change us, despite the passage of time, distance, or death.


At Ava's party, 1991:
Tayler & Ava
Tony & Philip
Yours truly
Rene, betwixt Scot's artwork
At Erin's party, 1990:
Scott & Erin
Me & Erin
Scott & Scot & Rhine
Neo, 91
Guy's card
Kiss Them For Me

Friday, August 28, 2009

Life Without Buildings


The scene opens with a long shot of our hero with his head lying on his folded arms, asleep on his desk, in front of his active computer monitor. Zoom in. You can tell by looking at his rumpled clothes and scruffy face, he's done this many times before. In fact, he spends most nights here sleeping, if you can call it that. As his brain crawls it's way through as much REM time it can get, the computer monitor flashes an endless parade of images and stories related to the object of his search, his raison d'etre. He's read them all, they barely scratch the surface. His months of searching only reveals what he already knows: not much. He hopes his vigilance will yield better results. He hopes if he stays at his computer twenty hours a day, he might find what he's looking for. He hopes if he closes his eyes just for a second, he might find some peace. And the object of this search? If you saw The Matrix, you might guess Morpheus. If you knew our hero, you'd say a pink rhinestone bracelet he bought at Kohl's in 1984, that he just knows is lurking somewhere in a sixty piece 'buy it now' jewelery lot on ebay...

Chris and I floated around our large, sparsely furnished apartment for a couple months or so after Scot left, like two drunk ghosts, before Cathy moved in. Our place was so empty, it reminded me of the many 80's videos set in a smokey, fake street at night, newspapers caught in the wind. Or sometimes, it would look robbed. We'd come home to find our few possessions left askew, everything seemingly rifled through. When you did as much drugs and drank as much as we did, you got used to your life looking like that. We kept our couch and TV in the dining room which was next to the kitchen, and left the living room empty. We hadn't the money to furnish it.
Rex's curtain was still up in the dining room, from when he stayed there, when Scot was still living with us. Chris' friend Tony stayed there for a while, too, after Danny did. I forgot how many glamorous and wonderful people lived behind that curtain.

Looking at the curtain, I often thought of the night, we all were there. Rex, Danny, Scot, Chris, Tony, and I had a little pre-party before hitting the clubs, and went to "Danny's place". (Rex had moved out and was just visiting.) We lay on his futon, dreaming about our futures, sharing some sad stories from our childhood, (Tony in particular; his parents kicked him out at a young age for being gay.) smoking, drinking, and laughing, but there was someone else there with us, unseen. We all felt it; we knew this was a special moment in our lives, all of us coming together like this. It was a cold night in December, yet we were together and warm and safe- I think we knew that we were in the presence of people who would be there for each other when we needed them. We also knew on some level this would be our last night together as a group: in two years, two of us would be dead.
But that was yet to be, and Chris and I tried to go on with our lives as best we could. For me, Scot's moving was the latest in a long line of friends who had left Chicago, and I felt lost and overwhelmed. The life I began creating for myself in 1985 when I moved to Chicago had crumbled around me. And if my friends hadn't moved away, we moved in different directions with our lives, and that can be just as distant. I knew we still cared for each other, but we weren't building our lives together any more.
I became, as much as I could, the stable person in Chris' life, and helped him save his money, made dinner and breakfast when I could, and scolded him when he 'kept the party going' in his room with bar friends til daybreak. I say as much as I could, because I knew this was the role Chris wanted me to perform for him, and I was up to the challenge of the part of a responsible adult, but my coping mechanism at the time was drugs and alcohol, and I easily dashed any amount of respectability I managed to build for myself, and joined Chris in his all night binges.
My irresponsibility came to a head one night after a particularly close K call, and one too many out of body experiences bearing witness to my shocking and embarrassing behavior.
"Oh Christ, what am I doing- put down the straw and put some clothes on??!! "
Chris' actions started to disturb me, for his life seemed to turn into one long continuous binge, and I didn't know how long he could keep it up. We would get into these long talks about his behavior, like I did with Brad, and one day I learned he was an accomplished trumpet player. I begged him to go back to music; to make his life about that, something other than partying. I told him having my hair career and hobbies gave me something other to focus on than going out, and I told him about the friends I knew that hadn't anything else, got into trouble or ODed.
He just looked at me, as you would a child who asked you why the sky was blue.
"It just is, honey."
He would then describe his plight to me, that he was a 'victim of himself'. The damage was done. He was resigned to that idea, no matter how much I pleaded to the contrary.
We needed another person to live with us, and I had someone in mind, and I hoped Cathy's motherly instincts would kick in, and help me help Chris...

Chris & Roxy, above
twentysomething, and hating it, 1991

Monday, August 24, 2009

Left To My Own Devices


Once upon a time, I did so much laundry with Todd, I can't help but think of him every time I do mine now, in my murky 1910 basement.
When I was sixteen, I lived down the street from him, and during that summer of '82, I bore witness to his every waking moment. Happily so. Like Tonto, or 'the Professor and Mary Ann', I was never center stage, but enough for a supporting role, in his story. Yes, Todd saw himself as a star. He was beautiful after all, with his bright green eyes, curly blond hair, and quarter back's build, and he loved the attention it got him. He transformed himself into the role of a 'star' from the one he was forced into as a teen: that of the town pariah. If you grew up gay in the 70's, chances are you know what I mean.
He lived above his landlady Bernie, who smoked despite her oxygen tank, who would shout quit smoking Brian! whenever I passed her door on the way up the stairs to Todd's. I would smile and nod and wave.
We walked the few blocks to the laundromat lugging his baskets. (Both the Laundromat and Bernie's house have since been torn down.)
We would talk about guys we liked, and school, and I would help him shake the lint and wrinkles out each piece of his wet laundry before it went into the dryer.
"Doesn't it all get smashed up in the dryer, anyway? Doesn't the lint trap catch it all?" I would ask.
"I don't care! Every piece must be shook out!" He'd reply.
Todd was a few years older than me, and starting culinary school, and I envied his independent life, and asked myself internal questions about my own, as I watched him live his. Would my life be like his, after high school? What will I study for a career? Where will I live?

His apartment was a little threadbare and depressing, with it's greying white paint and bare bulbs. The few pieces of furniture were clean but over used, and cheap when it was new, in the sixties. Littered about were hand me downs of hand me downs, small attempts by his mother and sister to add a sense of home. But it was his.
To cheer the place up, I painted him a picture of Marilyn Monroe, based off of a photo of her with Carl Sandburg.
Todd was often overwhelmed by the demands of school, and cursed his plight, and instead of studying, ran out to the gay bars every chance he got. He eventually ran off to Colorado for a year with his boy friend Opey, so he could quit school without listening to the wrath of his family, who payed for it.
I moved out of state later that year to finish high school, and watched, through the letters he wrote to me, his enthusiasm for Colorado, and Opey, wane.
Todd's is a long story I hope to tell in more depth sometime, but hopefully you get an idea of him. I don't know if it's Todd's or Bernie's ghost, or just my imagination, but as write here in the Viceroy, and breathe deeply, I get the distinct waftings of their old Memorial Drive duplex. I mention where I am right now because I am meeting two old stars of my story from the eighties, tomorrow for lunch. What, it's only been twenty years since I've seen them?!

Now why did start telling you about Todd? Oh yes, because I saw him as a kind of mentor, and I studied his life as a way of figuring out my own, and that reminds me of my state during 1991. I hated I hadn't a person in my life like Todd, because I had no idea what the hell I was going to do with me life any more. I felt so stagnant and stuck somewhere I didn't want to be, but I had no idea where to start changing.
So when Erin asked me to co-host eighties night at Neo with her and Carlisa, I jumped at the chance. I was nostalgic for a life yet lived, and went back to the past to live for a while. I knew the answers to any question about my life back then, and I basked in the warmth of old news.
They were fun, crazy, drunken nights, and we dressed up to the hilt. Neo is where I got my first taste of performing on stage. We paid homage to our idols by lipsynching to their songs to a mostly disinterested audience.

At the time, my past had little comfort for me, but it was all I had, so I stuck around...

At Neo 1991
'Nona Hendryx & Boy George' at Neo
'Nina Hagen & Boy George' at Neo
Disinteresting: Boy George
Disinteresting: Nina Hagen


Monday, August 10, 2009

It All Started With a Phone Call From Brett...

The following is a guest post from my friend Sarah, about her infamous night with Bowie, in 1990. If you would like to guest star on my pages, please do... send me a story. Scroll down in a few minues for a new episode from my saga...

It all started with a phone call from Brett. Around 5pm Saturday, he rang me up wanting to know if I wanted to go to the Bowie concert. The concert was in Tinley Park. We had no tickets. I had already seen Bowie twice. This was not a do or die sort of situation for me. My response was not positive.

However, after some momentary cajoling by my smooth talking friend I had agreed to drive from my parents’ North Shore home to his parents’ Northwest suburban home and then to Tinley Park to see David Bowie.

As we had a bit of a time crunch, I rushed about threw on something…well, I don’t remember what I wore, but let’s assume it was black, and I was out the door and on the road in my recently received college graduation present. About an hour later I was in Brett’s kitchen when realized I had made a tactical error. “I forgot to stop for beer,” I said.

Brett began rooting about in the family fridge. Much to his teenage brother’s horror, Brett emerged with a box of white Grenache. “Man, they’re going to blame me!”

“It’s okay,” I soothed, “We can replace it.”

Somehow, someway we got to the arena before the show had started. We pulled into what was by now a very short line up for the parking lot. A fresh faced college kid asked me if I was going to the VIP lot. “Yes,” I answered and we were directed to a three row strip of blacktop near the arena entrance. After parking in the front row, we downed a glass of the white Grenache and made our way to the box office.

Two women were in line before us were asking for theatre seats. The ticket agent was valiantly trying to locate a pair but could only find two seats with an obstructed view. The women began to debate the value of these seats versus sitting on the lawn. My friend jumps in and says, “I was here last week for Depeche Mode and had seats behind a column. It sucked! You’re better off on the lawn. Really.” Did I mention Brett had the velvet tongue of a con artist? A moment later the women were moving away with their newly purchased lawn seats in hand.

Brett leapt to window and said, “We’ll take those two seats.” The agent said she’d try and see if there was anything better and typed away on her keypad. “I have two seats in the tenth row,” she smiled.

After stopping for a couple giant beers, we found our way to our awesome seats. Bowie rocked. We sang and danced. For a short time life was good for two recent college grads with no job prospects during the recession.

When the show ended, we climbed atop the hood of my car and enjoyed a couple glasses of boxed wine. VIP parking does not mean VIP exiting so we hung out there looking at the moon and chatting. At some point we began to refer to ourselves as Ron and Carol. I think it was the cheap, warm, stolen wine talking. During our conversation, I casually mentioned that I knew where Bowie was staying. One of the other Planned Parenthood volunteers knew somebody in security at the Ritz who was not all about discretion and had told her that the Thin White Duke was in residence. Upon hearing this tidbit, Brett jumped up and said, “Let’s go!”

An hour or so later we were on the Gold Coast and had secured a miracle parking spot in front of Holy Family. With no more of a plan than “Let’s go” in our heads, we made our way to the Ritz where we waltzed past the doormen and into an elevator. The doors closed.

As we stared at the floor buttons not knowing what to do next, the other elevator occupant, a woman, said to us, “Are you looking for David Bowie?” Seeing as how one word kept working for us that night, we said it again,” Yes!”

“He’s at Buddy Guy’s. I’m a producer with CBS and I’m doing a story on Buddy Guy. Adrian Belew is there and so is Paul Reiser [the comedian]. Phil Collins is rumored to be coming, too.”

We thanked the woman for the information and hightailed it back to Holy Family. Now, we had to have a discussion. I had four dollars in cash left. Brett had an Amex. Would this be enough to get us into the club?

We shot over to the south loop and secured yet again another convenient parking space. Approaching the doorman, I asked, “What is the cover and do you take Amex?”

“Two dollars per person and we take Amex,” was the bouncer’s answer. I don’t think we hugged him but we should have. I unloaded my cash and we entered the bar. Brett went to get beer and I headed towards the stage. A woman was sitting up front and I noticed she had empty seats at her table. “Are these taken?” I asked. She shook her head no and I sat down just feet away from where Buddy Guy and Adrian Belew were jamming on guitar and Paul Reiser (I know, Paul Buchman) was playing the piano. Off to the side of the stage, in a roped off area was David Bowie. I was in love.

Brett found me and took his seat. The woman at the table noticing my fixation on the former Ziggy Stardust said he’d been singing earlier. She started chatting about how she’d just like to talk to him. I said, “He wouldn’t have to talk to me. He could just point.”

Bowie never did get up to sing again that night but Adrian Belew was on fire playing with Buddy Guy and Paul Reiser (really) was doing a fine job on the piano so it was well worth the $4.00 and Amex charges. Phil Collins never showed up but I really didn’t miss him.

Sometime after 6AM, I was back in bed on the North Shore rerunning the night through my head til sleep took me.

Five years later, Brett and I had a huge falling out and we haven’t spoken since. Regardless of what actions ruined our friendship, I’ll always be glad he talked me into going to see David Bowie that night and I hope he feels the same way.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Here Comes The 21st Century


When Scot moved out, in January of 1990 -no, wait, '91. He moved in 1991. I'm on a new year now. I told you all about my 1990: New York, London, gun shots, being slutty, etc. There are some stories I haven't told you about yet though: Rhineland, Mark, a good Ronnie story, the party I threw for Erin, or the night I almost died buying Boy George records. I'll tell you those sooner or later...
So in 1991, I needed to get a stereo, because Scot took it and his TV with him.
For me, music comes first, so Chris and I went a few months with out TV, til Kathy moved in, now that I think about it, and brought hers. I had somehow managed to trash the stereo system Jody bought for me in the mid-eighties. Too many nights coming home drunk and "accidentally" kicking it, I imagine. It was very compact, like an end table, and I kept it on the floor near the front door. I knew that was a mistake.
I wanted to be a modern, a hip and now, and to buy a CD player, but a whole new stereo system was more than I could manage at the time, so I settled on a CD boom box. I loved it. I had that thing for years.
Erin drove me out to the suburbs to buy it, because she said I could get a better price out there, so I bought it in Elmhurst. My first CD was a Boy George single for One on One, which sadly, I sold on Ebay a few years ago for movin' money. (And oh yea, I hope you like Boy George, because my story is going to get very Boy Georgie for a while, because of Renee.)
I hated to replace that player- all those memories and cool stickers, about to take up space in a landfill. (Where else are you going to put stickers?)
...All those nights coming home from work and turning it on, only to have it blast so loud I jumped out of my skin.
This is how loud Chris plays this thing when I'm not here? I'm surprised we haven't been kicked out of here yet. I thought to myself.
...All those hours spent with my boom box and Listen Without Prejudice, I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got, Kill Uncle, ABC's Up, You Can Dance, Anarchy in the UK, Louder Than Bombs, Def Dumb and Blonde, The White Room, but to name a few.
I bring this up now because I just got my replacement boom box in the mail, for the one I replaced my first one with. I guess a new one every ten years is pretty good. And my new one has an MP3 wire, along with the very necessary cassette and CD players, so I'm still a modern, even though I'm dragging a lot of the 20th century along with me. I happen to like the 20th century. My old one has this great sticker I bought at the Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin in the nineties, and I hate to part with it, so I will try to pry it off.
(I just saw this sticker story in NY Mag, and it got me on a kick. I lifted this one recently myself, because I passed it for months whenever I ran in the park, so I took it to put on my fridge to remind me to run. I call it A Viking Wants To Blow You.)

When Tony introduced me to Renee one night in Berlin in late 1990, we acted more like we were long lost friends than two who had just met. Almost like we picked up where we left off. We went to Berlin that year for Halloween, the bar, not the city, and she said she was coming in costume. I hadn't made plans to dress up, but when I saw her walk in the door, I wished I had. She drove for an hour from the 'burbs as Laura, the dead girl from Twin Peaks. Plastic wrap and all. Now here's a girl I can relate to! I thought to myself.
"I want to marry you!" I told her. "Right now! Let's drive to Vegas!"

The year before, Scot put a personal ad in the paper, to meet a guy. Back then, people mailed responses with pictures in care of the paper, and they then sent you a big envelope of replies, if you were lucky, a small one if you weren't. At first they had put his 'I'm a skater boy looking for love' in the boy meets girl section. Oops. The best reply, other than the one from the 'I'm a jeans and lace kinda gal', was from this cute Asian girl, Oyster. I begged him to respond to her, just as a friend, but he refused.
When the next batch of replies came, it took us hours to sift through them all. There were dozens. A letter at the bottom of the pile caught my attention most. It was short and to the point, and came with some great photo booth shots.
"Wow Scott, I want this guy!" I said
"You can have him. He's not really my type."
"Alright!" I said
I never did respond to him, for he sent the letter to Scot after all, and I forgot about this event until one night I was sitting in my boyfriend's kitchen, and a light went on.
I remembered back when Scot and I were looking at the letters and pictures from the men who wanted his company, and I saw a guy in a photo booth, I wanted him so much, I felt like I time traveled to the future for a second, just a second, to take a peek to see if I would ever have him, almost like I was cheating at the game of life, and turning to the back for the answers.
"It was you, wasn't it! Last year, did you respond to a Reader ad from a 'blonde skater boy', and send him a photo booth picture?" I asked Mark
"Umm, yes? How did you know!"
The night I met Mark at Berlin, in the winter of 1990, he was leaning against the wall, wearing a black motorcycle jacket with a Soviet t-shirt, tight blue jeans that accentuated his long legs, and his gorgeous ash brown hair tumbled down his forehead, obscuring one eye. He was so beautiful and perfect to me, and I was so afraid of him, so extremely terrified, that I ran right up to him and introduced myself, and not out the door. This is exactly how I initially felt about all the guys I cared about and loved, in my past. Sometimes, in spite of myself, I make the right move.


Debbie the Hobo

Monday, July 20, 2009

Wrong b/w In Sympathy


I finally figured out what my problem is: to write, I need to read. I had that long dry spell from posting, because I hadn't been reading. Well, I read a little. I finally finished that book I bought in Paris last January, at Shakespeare and Company. I bought Paul Auster's New York Trilogy only because it was affordable and had great graphics, because the store is pricey- great, but pricey, and I have to read before bed. I really liked the book, and took my sweet time reading it.
Then life gets in the way, and takes up a lot of my psychic energy, and head space, and there's only so much to go around.
So now, because I want to get back writing, I'm reading two books: Kafka's The Castle, and Touching From a Distance by Deborah Curtis, both of which amaze and transport me instantly into their worlds, so I pass that along to you...

Michael, or Lady My Kill, as we used to call him, used to show up at the most annoying times. Either early in the hung over mornings, chain smoking and eating up our kitchen, or just as we were about to go out, killing the voyeuristic mood we liked to lapse into. By 'we' I mean Scot and I.
My Kill's was the threat that we used on each other to motivate out the door: If we don't leave now, Lady My Kill will show up, and you know what that means!
That meant loud, grating acid trips. If he was on acid, which was usally all the time, he wanted your attention, and to scream in your face. Scot and I are pretty mellow guys, and have very high pain thresholds, unless we were drunk, so his presence was a little much sometimes. A lot much, often, actually. At first we tried to scare him away, by lying to him and saying we were going to church before we went out, or the police station (he was on acid after all) and when that didn't work, we'd lay around in our underwear, trying to act weird.
Alas, nothing scared him, and even though we told him his behavior was difficult, and to call before he came over, which he did for a while, we eventually accepted his presence, for I think we were the only stable people in his life.
He did have a pretty funny Boy George story:
Hey hey Brian Brian Brian!!! Did it tell you I saw George on a bridge one night in Paris, and I screamed at the top on my lungs HEY BOY GEORGE, YOU'RE A FUCKING BITCH!!!
Which he then did, in my apartment, for effect, I suppose.
What did he do? I asked.
Nothing. He said.
I looked at him and thought It must suck to be famous.
Lady My Kill got his act together a few years later, and started taking the right kind of drugs, you know, the prescribed kind, and went to hair school. (There are a lot of kids out there who went to hair school when they made the decision to do something constructive with their lives, and I can't help but feel a little responsible for that. Did I look like I was having my cake and eating it too? You be the judge...)

As I told you earlier, I met Renee just as Scot was getting ready to move away from Chicago. He said he was leaving because he didn't make enough at Medusa's to live off of, and didn't get enough support from his friends, but I think it must have been more than that. Chris, his on again, off again, was back in the picture.
Chris and I hit it off well, and we subconsciously, and consciously, fed each other's self-destructive habits. Watching two people you love live so destructively crushes your soul after awhile, especially when they claim to' just be having fun'.
Scot never did the things Chris and I did, but I do remember us having many pep talks with him, after that confession, about giving a good job interview, and believing in himself, because he was (and is) so incredibly talented artistically.
I know! But I can't talk to people! Why can't I talk to people! He would answer in frustration.
Because you're an artist, Scot. You don't tell, you show. Show people how great you are. I said.
Looking back, it took special people to see his abilities, and many did (I think his Medusa's job was a two day gig that lasted a year: they quickly saw his talent.) His biggest mentor was Nunzio, but when he died and Orbit closed, it hit Scot hard, and it took him awhile to recover.
Chris and I let him go with our blessings; we let him go where he needed to go. I wish we could have given him more, but we barely gave anything to ourselves as it was.
Chris moved into our dining room, and then into Scot's room after he left. It was a cold and deary day as we packed up his moving truck. Chris and I hoped he'd change his mind, but as he drove away, our apartment, and our lives never felt so empty.

Scot, in our Sheridan Road apartment, Chicago, 1990


In Sympathy

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Fire Walk With Me


OK, yes, you guessed it, I'm obsessed with David Lynch.
And here's a playlist I made for you. It's guaranteed to put blood in your stool, you'll dance so much you will...
Fritz Conrad Sumer '09 Mix (sic)

Anywho, I was looking through my concert ticket book, looking for more events from 1990 to tell you about, when I came across my stubs for Bowie and Soul Asylum, both of which I went to with Chad. I thought nothing happened to me in 1990, but I was wrong: everything happened to me. I wrote about Chad last year, when I sent an essay to a Morrissey fan site, and then posted here, hoping to win free tickets for the 'best Morrissey memory' or some crap, which no one 'won', for I doubt it was an actual contest. Cause I would have won! God, I'm bitchy tonight. Oh well.
That was a great story, (Found Found Found, June '08) and Chad and I had a great time, and you should go back and read it!
Well, in 1990, we went to Bowie's Sound and Vision tour at The World. We were in the last row, yet the show held us mesmerised from start to finish. For us to finally see our long held idol, well, words can't describe it. For me I think it was seeing Boys Keep Swinging, on Saturday Night Live, and it was love at first sight. I recently found a clip of him on Johnny Carson, from 1980, performing Scary Monsters, and an amazing restyling of Life On Mars, when Johnny held up a copy of that album I gasped a little, cause it was like watching him wave a dildo around, that album is so gay to me. My gay. It was the soundtrack to my secret gay 1981 love life. And there's Johnny, waving it all over TV, for America to see. (And I still have my dog-eared copy Roy Carr's book, if you want to see it...)
Watching Bowie interact with himself via video image sizes here-to-for unseen, was like watching him breathe life into his past and present personas. Weird validation. Well, it was more than that, he had very elaborate interactions with his pretend self. I guess most artists do, and feel eclipsed by their 'image'. It was almost like his own version of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. This clip gives you a pretty good idea.
Soul Asylum was at Metro that year, and I went with Chad because he asked me, but I didn't really dig them til their Somebody to Shove days. For whatever reason, I decided to dress really gay, just to see what would happen. Nothing did. I did that for Gallon Drunk at the legendary Lounge AX, much to their dismay, cause it was like me and 8 other people there. They were fan-freakin-tastic. Nothing to note at Soul Asylum except the show seemed sparsely attended, as well. I think I 'gayed it up' at Gallon to upset my date Mark, who was easily disturbed back in those days. I couldn't help myself!
Now I have to tell you about Mark...
um, later.

Writing this story reminds me how much I have digressed from my original plan of telling you more about Renee, and another story about a movie I saw with another guy I dated then, Skip.
He invited me to see a movie, which I now have to spend a million years searching for, because I forgot to save the link for it a couple years ago. Hold on sec... OK I found it, and it only took me a Frankenstein!
Alright, the movie was Poison, and we saw it at the Music Box, but we weren't alone; we were with a friend of his. I didn't like the movie at the time, for I thought is was just as it's title implied; a conceptual poisoning of homosexuals in a heterosexually dominated media. These were the days of the corporate American sponsors of Thirtysomething threatening to pull their ads is they dare show two men kissing during prime time, after all. That may have been the director of Poison's intent, for he was 'out', and maybe he needed to clear the cinematic slate, as it were, and declare these stories 'poison', and go from there. I dunno. But my diatribe on this topic made Skip more and more upset, if the look on his face was any indication, for he begged me with his eyes to shut up and take the movie for the pieced of fluff he thought it was. I was trying to upset him because I could tell he was sleeping with this guy, and I wanted Skip all to myself, and he was dropping me off, getting rid of me, after the movie to be with this guy, and I was mad. Mad right there on Sheridan Road, in front of my apartment building, by Broadway, in 1990. (Imagine a picture of me pointing to the spot his car sat, my eyes moist, with a quaver in my voice...)


Monday, June 29, 2009

Drowning In Berlin


On Friday nights, in the fall of 1990, I would often lounge on my couch and chain smoke, and watch the planes heading toward O'Hare as they floated past my window, and contemplate the flight patterns, while watching The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd or Twin Peaks, or whatever the hell was on TV back then.
London... Tokyo... Dallas...Las Vegas... LA... Paris. Another plane, another city...You want me to where next week? Cairo? Oh, alright... I would think to myself.
This was a few months after my trip to London, and boy did that trip ever create a desire in me to travel more. For months afterwards I would stop and stare at a plane that was headed away from the city, wishing I were on it, being excited about the new land I was about to discover.

One night that fall my lazy day dreaming was shattered by the sounds of gun fire. My first instinct was to get low, for it seemed the shooting would never stop. When it did, I crept up to my balcony door, even though my apartment sat way back from the street, and just as I reached the door, I saw some kids running down Sheridan, away from another kid pointing a gun at them.
There was then, as like now a rash of gun violence involving young people and guns in this city. I remember the entire family, kids and all, shot execution-style, a few doors down from where I lived; a crime that was never solved. I also remember around this time a friend's son being shot across the street as well, with a shot gun, behind a fast food restaurant.
I found out later that a no one died that night, but a teenager was shot in the spine, and lost his ability to walk.

In the fall of 1990, I met Renee. Tony from Berlin introduced us because we were standing next to each other one night, and he pointed and said Hey! You love Boy George, and you love Boy George! You should talk! And we've been friends ever since. I think we took this picture the night we met, for I rarely, if ever, ripped in half a photo booth series. You had to really beg me back then. They are polyptychs, you can't break them up...
Of course, having just met George, I told her the story, and it became a thing: I had to tell her the story every time I saw her. Not that I minded, of course. We spent many nights at Berlin in those early days, torturing Dion(now in LA)or Bobby (now at Crew) into playing way too many Boy George vids, to the point when the moment they saw us together, they put one on. God love 'em! We eventually moved on to other musical obsessions, Suede, Pussy Tourette, Annie Lennox, Belinda Carlisle, Lush and Shakespeare's Sister come immediately to mind, but this 1990 '91, and Jesus Loves You had just come out, and we couldn't hear it enough.
I was spending less time with Erin, because she moved out of the city for a while, and we didn't get together like we used to, but I was still spending every Sunday night with Scot at Berlin and Christopher Street and Vortex.
I loved our walks to the bars, and looked forward to Sunday nights with him; the bars weren't as crazy as they could be on Saturdays, and I liked the mellow vibe of a Sunday night out, when we had the dance floor nearly to ourselves for hours at a time. The S'Express days were waning, because he told me he couldn't afford to live in Chicago any more, and was moving home in January.
It took me a while to understand how deeply his moving affected me, and the deep sense of loss, so I guess Renee came into my life at a time when I needed her.

Oh, and as promised, Wigs of New York . And I hope to God you listened to the title song. Go to Amazon and buy the CD! You'll thank yourself for years to come...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side


Erin knows why that song is there, & More memories of Central Park:

Erin and I trekked through Central Park, one sunny and cool December afternoon, in 1990, following a trail that wove through the trees and shrubs. The trail appealed to us because it was so organic, so in contrast to the cement rigidity of the city, and we quickly forgot about the mad rush of life, a few yards away. Though I had been living in Chicago for the past five years, and couldn't imagine my life any where else, I still felt the undeniable pull of nature, and the need to wander the woods, as a periodic cure for the city. (After 24 years in Chicago, that pull to nature is long gone, but I now live by a park that reminds me of Central Park, and being there somehow draws me to New York and High Cliff.)
During out respective childhoods, Erin and I spent a lot of time in the woods, and I guess the surprise of finding a good chunk of nature in New York was a novel, welcome surprise. Before long, we noticed we had a guest with us during our hike, who picked up the pace when we did, and soon I remembered where we were, and this guy probably wanted more from us than our company, so I grabbed Erin's hand, and dove off the trail. Oh yea, Erin said. We're in New York!
As we wandered the more populated trails for the rest of the day, we finally found the Alice in Wonderland statue, and we got caught up in losing the sense of time and place, as only Central Park can do, and near sundown, we came upon a large group of still, quiet people. We looked at each other in wonder. As we got closer, we noticed the group were all ages and races, and many of them were crying. We looked at each other again. Curious, we crept closer to what looked like the focus of their attention. Below our feet, we saw the large circular memorial for John Lennon, strewn with flowers and lit candles. Maybe someone was playing Imagine on a radio, maybe some were softly singing that song, maybe both.

This is the tenth anniversary of his murder. Erin said. I was in school, in Spanish class. I said. I was in English. She said. Let's go back to 15th Street, and buy some wigs! I said. (I'll post those pics later.) On our way out, and after completing almost an entire loop of the park, starting near 70th street, we heard the faint refrain of Pennies From Heaven. Walking closer to the music, we sat on a bench near a lake, near the man who was playing his own version of the song, over and over, on a boom box, as he gazed at the water. Being tired from our long day of walking, we sat hypnotized for dozens of playings of Pennies From Heaven, as the water danced on the rippling lake.
Then we bought wigs....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Caves of New York III


Sorry, sorry, so sorry for the two month break from my stories. I've been writing a play, auditioning, acting, getting ready to act, and helping a sick friend, to name but a few things going on in my life these days. And change. Change, change, fucking change.
I'm very excited about my play, but with all my piles of notes, I'm a little afraid I'm turning into that dingy looking guy at my library, who I see slumped over his scribbled-on note books, taking up the whole table. Piles and piles of dirty spiral note books, containing God knows what- madness or a master piece. Is he another Darger, or just a guy doomed to write down every random thought that comes into his head.
Maybe some day I'll ask him what he's writing.

Erin and I went to New York together in December of 1990. We stayed with her uncle, and his wife and two young daughters, in their condo in the Village.
Erin knew of my love for New York City, and I carefully planned our trip- mainly what clubs on what night.
My first trip to New York, in 1980, started at the World Trade Center, so I felt all trips should start there, so I've brought many friends down town over the years as an introduction to the great isle I love so much.
On a bench in Battery Park one early eve with Erin on that trip, watching the colors of a fading day reflect off the Statue of Liberty, I thought about how much my life had changed in the past ten years; it seemed if I squinted just right, a lot of my dreams had actually come true. And I was happy. But I was always happy in New York.
One night at her uncle's, were getting dolled up to meet our old friend Rex at his place, as the girls watched, among their toys, non-plussed a boy was putting on make up, on their bed.
Her uncle is a painter, and had applied his art to all the doors in their loft. I hadn't experienced such a spare home before; there was nothing but art in their living room, and a lone chair that hung from the ceiling. Well, there was also a large collection of shoes by the front door, for the big rule of the house was shoes off!, which Erin and I found funny and annoying, but if you have ever spent time walking the streets of New York, you could concede the point.
Despite it's minimalism, their home had warmth and a heart, due a lot to the art work, but also to the two little girls, and the frilly, pink clutter they can't help but attract.

Before we left for Rex's, and a night of debauchery, they insisted we go with them to see 'the real Santa', at Macy's. We took the bus uptown, the girls leading the way like we were in their backyard, off to see their club house.
This was my first time in Macy's, and the line to see Santa was amazing, scary, and fatally long, and thank God there exists the brilliant and now classic story David Sedaris gave the world, about his experiences there. Read Santaland Diaries, if you haven't! Who could have ever imagined the humor, pathos, tragedy, and human drama lurking under all that fake snow...
I begged off the three hour wait, and let Erin fulfil her auntly duties, to Christmas shop. I remember buying Scot an Andy Warhol coloring book, and getting a scary comment from a teenager on the escalator, about my twenty dollar Canal Street Rolex.
We finally met Rex at his pre-war apartment in midtown, which he shared with a friend, living the classic New York life: tiny apartment, huge wardrobe. At this moment in 1990, fashion was Gaultier, and they even had the necklace of his I had seen in The Face.
We went to Save the Robots, where the vision or a giant roomful of pink plastic pig chairs is forever burned into my memory, and where we met up with one of their gorgeous friends. He was the type of beauty you couldn't help but gawk at. He was like every guy in high school I ever had a crush on, all rolled into one.
I sat on a plastic pig imagining kissing his perfect feet, (he wore sandals in December!) until I was caught, and my only punishment was his wry, knowing smile.
Oh, to wield such power... I thought to myself.
Erin and I ran out of money, and went to a bank lobby ATM, on our way to the next club, where we met a woman who lived there during it's off hours. Hoping for a tip, she guided us through our ATM experience.
Erin promptly treid to help this woman change her life, and gave her some money under the condidtion she promised to go to social services.
People never really try to help me. She said. Thanks for trying.
We met up with Rex and his gang at an after hours club, where he put our names on the door. I remembered the name of that place until about five years ago...
For me, going back to the cities I'v visited over and over, as the years go on, is a little like going to Knoxville, and expecting the World Fair to be there: I miss all the old haunts. The Brain, The Saint, all the Junior stores... Thank God museums don't close; they are like old friends to me.
At this after hours club, Erin and I lounged bored at 4 am, in the vip room, surrounded by most of the people we thought we left back in Chicago. The only highlight was watching a fawn-like barback try to sneak a punch bowl filled with God only knows what, and attempt to flee before the crazy hoard caught a wiff of the free 'booze' and pounced on it like pirhana on a clumsy rabbit.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Caves of New York II


I went to New York in 1990, to visit my friends Danny and Ronny, but also to see if I still wanted to move there. I had gone ten years earlier with my family, to see some of downtown for a day, for we lived in Connecticut at the time, and many memories are forever burned into my mind from that trip, but when I saw the 'basement' of the World Trade Center, as I called it, and it's city beneath the city, my first thought was I want to work here!
During the eighties, I lived mainly in Wisconsin and Chicago, and I spent most of my free time fantasizing about New York and London. I read all the magazines that centered around the parts of the cities I craved, mainly night clubs and fashion, and I saw myself living in one of the two one day.
When 1990 came and went, and almost all of my friends moved to New York, I wondered why I still lived where I did, and what my life was going to be about, now that the eighties were over.
I spent most of that decade in gay bars and night clubs, and never questioned my place there; I was still a kid after all.
For me, the eighties were: DIY! Androgyny! Drinking! Buying records! Drugging! Sleeping in the hallway cause my ride left! Sleeping in a stranger's bed! Sleeping til 3pm! Burgundy hair! Dancing to cool songs with cool people! Spending every second with friends! Starting fashion trends! Having enough money for the bars! Catching as catch could! Partying all night and all day and still looking great! Running all over town acting queeny and getting into trouble! Not caring if I paid my bills! Running up to the edge of disaster, again and again!

But at 24, none of that seemed important to me any more. It seemed childish. Bars and clubs were starting to bore me, probably because most of my friends were gone; they were either gone or falling down the drug rabbit hole, and into worlds I wasn't ready to visit. Work was going from bad to worse, and I hated every moment there. Did I hate working? My job? My career? I didn't know. I spent many many long long hours thinking about what the nineties were going to mean to me, bumbling, stumbling, hung over mornings, and bleary afternoons thinking Now What? Now Where? Now Who? Now Why?, wondering those questions, not asking them, desperate and worried, while wandering around my apartment, and the streets of Chicago.

Back in 1990, after my visit to New York, I knew I was ready to move there. But when I was back in my routine in Chicago, I would always change my mind. I have given myself the gift of living in a city. I thought to myself. I live here.

Danny and I spent our time together running around New York, going to the Met and the MOMA, having lunch in the minuscule Bagel next to his apartment, shopping in Soho for cheap club wear at Canal Street Jean and on Canal for fake Chanel t-shirts and jewelry, hanging out with Pat Fields at her store and buying up the place, visiting Bonnie at her rent control on St. Mark's, (God, the past lives that seeped out of those walls!) across from the 'anthill' as Danny called it. It was a large recovery house, with many doors and stairways, that indeed did resemble an anthill, when it's inhabitants endlessly crawled all over it. Later I found out that building was The Dom during one of it's incarnations, where Warhol filmed the Velvet Underground. At night, of course, we went out. I only really remember being at the Palladium with him on that trip, and the Monster. We had so much fun getting ready to go out, the actual going out was secondary, because I didn't have him all to myself any more.
He was fighting with Ronny during that time, rather Ronny was fighting with him, I think Ronny was jealous of him, and he wasn't speaking to him anymore. They were living together, sleeping in the same room, but not speaking. When Danny wasn't around, Ronny would tell me how his new life in New York was, which reminds me, I have to do an entire post on Ronny sometime soon. He was pretty amazing. He was glad he had finally moved there, and found a great salon to work for, and encouraged me to move there, too, as he dressed for work. His clean and simple outfit of white jeans and a white dress shirt and a blue bandanna dew rag became a favorite look of mine for years after.
On my last night in New York, Danny and I went to the Monster. It's a local Village gay pub, with dancing in the basement. The week of partying was starting to get to us, and we dressed down for the occasion, and had a more subdued conversation while we got ready for the evening. I was a little shocked by this, because Danny never dressed down ever, that I could remember, and he looked great in his preppy college kid clothes. He said he started to realize the kind of guys he attracted when he was dressed androgynously were not the kind he wanted to spend more than an evening with, let alone have a relationship. That simple act of changing the way he presented himself to the world, told me he was starting to change his priorities, too.
He kept trying to get me to talk to this guy that was checking me out, and we hung out in the basement til they closed.
"But Danny, I want to spend time with you! I want to talk to you!" I said
"That's OK, we talked enough- just talk to him! See what happens!" He said.
The bar closed, and we went to the bodega by his place, to get some junk food, something we did often back home. Well, who was in the beer aisle but Mr. Monster Guy, so we talked a little while. After a few moments, Danny joined the conversation, as we completed our purchases, and walked onto the street, where we parted ways with Monster Guy.
"I'm proud of you, Brian. You did something you are usually too afraid to do."
And that, as it turned out, is a good way to describe my experiences and life in the nineties...

NY, '90


Same Old Scene

A rare imix for you to enjoy. Rare cuz I flames on the Apples.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Caves of New York


I am obsessed with the year 1981. I spent hours today on Pocket Calculator trying to remember which Walkman I had. My best guess is the Sony WM-3.
I should say which Walkman Brad gave me. He bought it off a kid in Milwaukee for 25 bucks, that's way over a hundred in the store, bro!, during one of the times he ran away from home. I can't believe I ever got rid of it. I hate myself for getting rid of stuff. I think that was the real reason I was so attracted to King Tutankhamen as an eight year old: listen to my voice...be like me and keep your shit forever!....
(I got that game for Christmas in 1974. I distinctly remember seeing my brothers and step dad frolicking in the Christmas Day snow through the window of the dining room, wanting to be out there, too, but unable to tear myself away from my new game. I can't go.....The Mummy is talking to me!!...I am finding it really hard resisting pressing that Buy It Now button...)

I've turned into an archaeologist of my own life. Via the computer, I dig up all the things I lost over the years. This week alone I got three Bowie Scary Monster records in the mail, and I await with baited breath the forthcoming email from ebay telling me I have the chance of bidding on a WM-3.
I do still have some original things of mine from 81, but sadly, only a dusty few. Why do I want this stuff back, anyway? 1981 wasn't that great of year for me, at all, but I guess the few times it was good, it was really good, and I want to remember, in the fullest detail possible, those memories. Old things can trigger memories for me, even though I'm unearthing another's possessions. Some things from '81 I miss, and don't know where to start looking: my pink Antonio t-shirt, that red shirt I bought from Chess King, the Debbie sun glasses I got from the back of Rolling Stone, all the clothes Brad gave me, the silver bracelet my mom gave me for Christmas, my Cortez's, and the folders I drew on in high school. I roll these things over and over in my brain, almost like I'm trying to force them into reality.

I was in Paris a few weeks ago, where I made Bronzino Man II, (Don't get me started on him!) and what did I find on my Louvre map but a little box that said Proust's Bedroom. All the air went out of my lungs. I ran up there, cursing my cheap little digital camera, (a camera I plan on keeping forever, btw) to bask in Proust's things.
Hands shaking a bit, I asked the female guard where his room was.
Down that hallway she said as she pointed, a little startled at my enthusiasm.
If I had wanted to, I could have snuck in and sat on his bed, security was pretty lax. I contented myself with a lean over the velvet rope barricade, to look into his mirror, and I 'accidentally' brushed my hand up against his chaise lounge.
I could be very comfortable here. I thought to myself.

In 1990, I went to New York City twice. In the early fall by myself, and later that winter with Erin. When I went alone, I stayed with Danny and Ronny at their new apartment in the Village, just off Sixth Ave.
Eyeeeeee love New Yooork! Danny would sing out the window, across the street to the Pink Pussy Cat Boutique, despite the rancid cooking smells seeping up through the walls, from the half dozen restaurant smoke stacks that surrounded their apartment. Because of that, to this day, walking past a restaurant can gag me out. They lived on the 8th or 10th floor of a building devoid of an elevator, which was newly renovated, and a good size for New York. Unless you have a lot of money, New York apartments are comfortable only to first graders.
This was my first trip back to New York since I was there as a teenager with my family, ten years earlier. I was a little upset with myself for missing the eighties in New York; missing Warhol and John Sex and Basquiat and Keith Haring, and the Peppermint Lounge and Mudd Club and Danceteria, as well with missing London in the eighties, so I cranked up my Party Monster-Odometer full blast, and I set out to leave my mark on Ninties New York.

Leaving my mark on New York started with breaking a dildo. A Jeff Stryker, no less. I know what you're thinking, you're thinking Wow! He broke a Jeff Stryker! But it wasn't like that. Well, it was and it wasn't. I was using it, but not using it, when it broke. I'm not too sure I would ever want to meet the person who could actually use it, if you know what I mean. It was their other roommate's, whose name I can't remember right now, let's call him Ken, it was Ken's dildo, and I threw it unwrapped in the garbage can. I could have died.
Of all the things to break! A giant dildo! No one will ever believe I broke it by not using it! No one! They'll all think I'm a loosey-goosey! I will never live this down! Now I have to buy Ken a new one, and those things cost a fortune! I can't afford a new Jeff Stryker!
Those were the thoughts racing through my head as I walk into the Pink Pussy Cat. So rather than let Danny and his roommates think I'm a dildo-clepto, and feign innocence if someone were to ask where the Jeff Stryker was, Where the hell is the goddamn Jeff Stryker! Which one of you bitches has the Jeff Stryker! I admitted to them what had happened. Ken didn't ask me to replace it, but he said did freak out when he lifted the lid to the trash can, and saw a gigantic disembodied penis laying there.
If you are so inclined to Google a picture of a Jeff Stryker phallus, you have to find a picture of someone holding one, to appreciate it's size. It's a little like that scene in Aviator, when Howard Hughes realized you couldn't tell how fast the planes were traveling in the clear blue sky, for his movie Hell's Angles, because they weren't moving past something. I need clouds! Give me clouds!

Danny and I went out to the clubs every night; the Palladium, the last night of Save The Robots, Pyramid, and the Monster. The Palladium was a gorgeous old building, with a fun week night party at the time, and I mainly remembered how extreme some of it's patrons were dressed, I thought it was performance art. Performance art walking around a huge, empty gallery. Palladium is mammoth, and needed thousands to look alive. We didn't stay long; just long enough for Danny to break up with an 'annoying' friend.
What is going on with you two? I asked him, as I saw his friend storm off in tears.
I told her I didn't want to talk to her any more, and she kept saying 'What have I done to get this kind of treatment from you!!' He said, and laughed.
I pretended to laugh with him, and asked, So Danny, when is it my turn?

come back later for Caves of New York II, and probably III.

r.i.p., Lux


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Without You I'm Nothing


1990, Heathrow:
I stood in line waiting to check in for my flight home to Chicago, when I hear loud, Beatles on Sullivan type screaming.
During this time, England had a rash of terrorism, and the subways were plastered all over with posters asking you to 'pay attention to unusual packages or behavior', with two large big-brotheresque eyes staring out of the walls. Those posters freaked me out the most when there were so many people crowded into the narrow, snaking, underground hallways, you couldn't even stop if you wanted to, let alone try to pay attention to anything other than getting where you needed to go, and not swept away with the crowd. I tried to avoid the tube during rush hour.
So when I heard the terrifying screaming, coming from my right in Heathrow, I braced myself for flying debris, and looked for a place to dive for cover.
I slowly turn to my right and see about thirty eleven year old girls, charging full tilt boogie in my direction. The screams were screams of joy; with smiling faces their arms strove for the their target.
What the hell? Who are they screaming over? I think to myself, as I look to my left, where I spied a New Kid. Ooohhh.
He feigned that he was less than thrilled at seeing this tidal wave of fandom headed his way, and pretended to look for an escape route, when he saw us bleary eyed travelers glare at him for disturbing our early morning peace.
In the nick of time, his body guard appears out of nowhere to smack the kids away like he was trying to put out a fire. His rough behavior didn't hamper their enthusiasm, and each girl tried their best to get their arms around their idol.
The woman in line behind me asked aloud, What I want to know is how they knew he would be here!
After a minute I turned away and thought meh... Now if that were Joey...

John and I went to see Sandra Bernhard's Without You I'm Nothing on the 3rd of July, in 1990 together, at the old Fine Arts Theater on Michigan Avenue. He lived down the street, so we walked from his place, and who did we pass on our way there but Joey the New Kid himself. I didn't scream, or feel a tingle in my loins, for he looked all of fifteen years old. I still have his doll, though, in my closet somewhere...

Without You I'm Nothing was the right movie for me at the right time for me. I went back and saw it a few more times before it left, with my friend Donnie, (who I wrote about a few dozen posts ago) who was now my co-worker Donnie. I'm not real sure why that was, because he made good money in the fragrance world, but if I'm remembering correctly, Consita hired him as a manager. I thought it was going to end badly, our working together, but it was a good experience, considering that any room Consita was in was a very small room.
We loved that movie, and could not get enough of it.
Sandra just made it look so easy, getting up there and making a movie off, what looked to me, her cuff. She truly inspired me to find that voice I had inside me, and do something with it. She had the novel ability of not putting her cart before her horse, and put it on celluloid.
Being with John, and watching that movie for the first time, I knew, despite the fact we were holding hands in the dark, I had no idea how to move our relationship forward, or where I wanted it to go. Now more than ever I felt ruled by what scared me, and not by what inspired me, and it was making me sick.
Ugh. It's sitting here next to me, it's up there on the screen; everything I am doing wrong. Now what. I guess that's a question: Now what?

Around this time, Scot and I were into making shirts. He had lots of extra interesting fabrics laying around from his job upholstering, so we made these kind of Shakespearean, over sized shirts in purple and pink velvet, that were just up to the edge of, but not quite, club kid. Well, Shakespearean on Scot, but more Kristina Holland-like on me. This was near the end of our crazy outfit days; the days when we would pull out all the stops and pile on the wackiness until we finally realized, even though it's tons of fun, fashion doesn't get you laid.
Also around 1990, 91, Michael Alig started showing up in Chicago, throwing parties in alleys and warehouses and laundromats and always with a dozen imported New York self-created freakazoids. They were really quite amazing to behold, their creativity seemed to know no bounds, and I would steal in dribs and drabs, bits of their look for my own.
Though I did find it odd that even though they would be flying on God only knows what, they took the time to protect their hearing and wore earplugs on the dance floor. When I saw earplugs in the guy with pipe cleaners glued to his forehead, I thought Is this his job? Does he think of this as a job? If this is a job, then who the hell am I working for?

One night at Berlin, Michael starts talking to me, as he did every time he saw me around town, and put me on his lists for his parties. Come on! Show up! He would ask.
I was being very strict with myself with drugs and partying at that time; it wasn't too hard, I wanted to be free of it for a while, and it felt good to be clean, and I went with it, and I think Michael liked that about me. I never showed up to his parties, even with promises of what ever I wanted being there. I never showed up because I knew those parties, I knew those people, and I honestly did not know that if I went to one of those parties, I would ever want to go home again.


Thank God Morrissey is still alive, that's all I gotta say about hearing the leaked copy of his new album.

1982, in a Wisconsin basement