Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Room Is Quiet


I hated him seeing me drunk. I don't know why, I mean I didn't know him, and I had just spent all that time and energy getting drunk, so why didn't I want him to see me drunk?

He was Max, the door man of my new apartment building. Well, door man of a sorts: he sat at a folding table in my lobby, a bible propped open next to a thermos, and a baseball bat leaning against his chair.
The lobby was treated much the same way most vintage buildings in Chicago are: coated in dozens of layers of paint. It had little hints here and there of it's modest former glory
of the 1920's when it opened as a hotel, but it was never what you would call grand.
A few weeks after I had moved in, there were a rash of muggings in and around my building, and Max was hired to sit guard in our lobby from midnight til sun up. He was a nice guy, but we never said more than hello and goodnight to each other the year or so he worked there, but I can't deny I was kind of waiting for him to talk to me about Jesus, because I never saw him without that bible, but he never did.

I guess I hated Max seeing me drunk because of the looks he started giving me when I would stagger in the front door at four in the morning. They were looks of pity and disdain, with a dash of contempt thrown in. Could it be he was only returning the look I had given him and his malformed arm, with a dash of doubt of his protect abilities thrown in? I hadn't consciously looked at him that way that I knew of, but I was usually pretty blasted. I had no doubt he could stop anyone he wanted to with that bat. He was also over weight, and in his eyes I saw he had taken a lot of shit in his life for his deformity, and that can grow an anger in someone that could stop a freight train, if you weren't careful.
I wonder, did his contempt grow as time went on, as he saw drunk after drunk stagger home? I'm sure I wasn't the only one; I lived in a big building at the time.
"They pay me to look out for these losers night after night? This is what my life has become?" I imagined him thinking to himself.
As I left my building night after night to go to the bars, I prayed as I walked past Max at his table I would come home to him asleep in his bible. If he was asleep, I could usually sneak in without waking him. The odds on that were 50-50.
"Oh thank God he didn't see me wasted again!" I thought to myself as I slid into the elevator unnoticed.
Though sometimes he fell asleep face up, snoring away at the ceiling, bat in hand, and snapping to attention and ready to pounce, when my key hit the lock.
As time went on, the expressions on his face went from 'here comes drunky again!' to that of pure pity, especially on the nights I couldn't open the door by myself, to that of pure contempt when I brought strange, equally drunk men into my place
But why oh why did I care if he saw me drunk or what he thought of me?
Well, maybe, because in a bar, I blended in with my surroundings. Most people, if they were out at three in the morning in a bar were probably drunk, but in my lobby, I was the only one. And it was night after night. If it were once or twice a month, I'm sure he wouldn't think anything of it. But it was night after night, me wasted in my lobby, and I knew he was quickly going to see me as a drunk. And if he saw me as one, the day was probably coming when I would have to see myself as one...

I didn't have much in my new studio apartment, and that made the long, lonely nights of Aja, cigarettes, and scotch seem to last for an eternity. I got rid of my futon because I moved into the hotel, along with any other furniture I had. I slept on the floor with some blankets and pillows next to my loud loud alarm clock. I sent a lot of my things to my dad to store for me, for I hadn't felt it necessary to have things, even though my only two regular visitors, Renee and Mark, begged me each time they come over to please take their spare pieces of furniture, if only as a loan. But I said no. No to T.V., no to chairs, I just had my boombox, frog collection and my black, 1970's polyester suit. I was obsessed with that thing! I only ever wore that when I went out to the bars. I lucked upon it one day in Value Village; it was my holy grail of vintage fashion finds. It was that perfect combination of hideousness and coolness: no one but Versace models were wearing bell bottomed suits at the time; I couldn't have felt more blessed. I can't find a picture yet of me in that suit presently, I'm sure there's one around somewhere. I wore it regularly til about '95, when someone burned a hole in the jacket with a cigarette in a night club in New York. Oh well, all good things must come to an end, I suppose.
The scent No. 19 instantly brings me back to that threadbare empty room; I wore that most of the 90's, as does Arden's Sunflowers. (OK, I admit it, I wanted to be Jane Forth. Here's me, 1992.)
I don't really know where my frog obsession came from: my ancient Bavarian ancestors, maybe, or the ghosts of lake Butte Des Morts? I had to have them around me, and whenever I saw one I bought it, be it on a hat or t-shirt or pin, and I carried one with me at all times, one for work and one for going out. I found out later through my friend Phillip that in the Native American culture, frogs represented a change of life, or dual life: they start life under water as tadpoles, eventually growing legs and walking on land. Something I was about to do myself...

I saw Lush at Metro with Renee twice that year, loving both shows, transfixed by their fuzzy, lyrical chords and the pretty pathos blasting out the speakers.
Sweetness and Light

I was digging around my record collection the other day, and thought you might like this:

Oblivious 12" Mix

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Shadow of Your Call


Lots of songs in this post you need to listen to!

Today, something happened to me that also happened in my 8th grade art class. Yes I can, for whatever reason, remember every gory detail of my 8th grade experience. And if your 8th grade days were anything like mine, come, come and join me on the pity pot. There's plenty of room...
I took that class with one of my best friends, Cathy Smith, and we constantly got in trouble. My art teacher, rather than supporting my creative and effete ways, like I had hoped she would, chose to hate my guts, and punished and humiliated Cathy and me unmercifully. I refused to ever step foot in another art class until my senior year, and that was only because I had moved to another state. I was glad I did because that art teacher went above and beyond her duties to help nurture my gifts, such as they were.
Her art class was so amazing and wonderful that I was sad when I thought of all the great classes I could have taken over the years, and vowed, when I was seventeen, to always go back and try again, no matter where, no matter what.
Anyway, back in 1979 in my art class, Cathy wore an actual YMCA t-shirt over her Village People t-shirt, and I of course noticed it, because her shirt was slightly transparent and I could see the fun-house effect her boobs gave the iron-on transfer of the guys in the band, and we of course found it hilarious and wouldn't shut up about it until we (of course) got yelled at.
So, as an homage to Cathy, and cunty art teachers everywhere, I wore my Yo Japan t-shirt over my Harajuku Lovers one today. I just thought you should know that....

Hmm, how do I ask you have a certain place in the world where things happen to you? Meaning whenever you set foot in some particular spot, your life changes? I have a few. Whenever I go to Milwaukee, something shitty happens. Well, I should clarify that statement and say whenever I go to Milwaukee to have fun, something shitty happens. These days, whenever I have to be there, I try to fend off any bad juju by I reminding myself in the form of a mantra exactly what I am doing there: Catching a train. Taking a flight. Just passing through! Please no one throw a turd out the window at me!
I guess I can't say every time, because nothing much happened when I saw Coldplay there a few years ago, although I'm sure some would argue Coldplay is it's own punishment. My other areas are St. Mark's Place and Battery Park in New York. The St. Mark stories I'll save for another day, but suffice it to say instant karma exists on that street for me, rarin' to go, brass knuckles hidden in her fists.
The first place I ever sent foot in New York was in Battery Park. It was a lovely spring day in 1980, I was with my family, and we drove down from Connecticut after much begging on my part. Being a fan of the late seventies music scene, especially Blondie, and loving the very unromantic picture they painted of New York urban life, well, I just couldn't wait to see it for myself!
Also, back then I saw New York as a place that fostered and encouraged people to be themselves, or whatever they wanted, and I longed to be there, because I wasn't safe being who I was in my stifling little town. Thank God SNL beamed all those weirdo bands into my life in the late seventies, and Night Flight exposed to me more of New York's liberated underbelly, and LA's as well. La cage aux folles, as they say.
So who is the first person I see, sitting alone on one of Battery Park's winding benches, wearing red glittering jelly shoes, tight blue jeans, and a shirt that was more blouse that shirt, but Jobriath. (Clear plastic shoes and clothing, sprinkled with a touch of glitter was a short-lived trend for the mega-cool in 1980, but I still feel the need to reach for things like this.)
That is exactly what I want to be! My brain screamed in my head, as I craned for a better look, a longer look, without my family noticing. He sat casually reading a book with body language that said: Yes, I'm wearing a silly outfit in the park, and I'll be wearing something silly tomorrow, and that's because I live in New York, and I can do what ever I want, without fear of retribution. Ho-hum, licking my finger, turning the page...I wanted to be him because he was comfortable in his own goddamn skin.

I actually didn't know of Jobriath until Morrissey started talking about him a few years ago, and when I saw that little clip of him as 'Cole Berlin', it became Jobriath in my mind who was sitting on that bench way back when, because for years I wondered about 'that guy in Battery' so to put and end to the question, I decided the answer was Jobriath. Ask, and ye shall receive...

So to tie these stories into my continuing saga, of which I have been neglecting of late and promise to be better, by picking back up in the spring of 1992, when I moved out of the transient hotel and into 420 Wrightwood. That is the place where my life started to change, and I of course, remember every gory detail of that, too. One day in mid April I just could not take where I was living any more, because I finally saw I wasn't like most of the people there, who were either running out the clock, or victim to their addictions. I had spent so much goddamn time imaging the world without me in it, it was time to imagine something else.

So I walked over to 420 because I remembered my old friend Candace used to live there, where upon I met Lois, the building's manager, who with a burning cigarette perched elegantly in her inelegant hand, showed me their only available studio. The apartment building had been built as a hotel in the twenties (you know how I love that) and converted into apartments in the 40's, for returning GI's, I would guess, and very little else, as is typical in my Chicago apartments, was different. Though instead of putting in new kitchen sinks, they found a stock pile of sinks from 1905, and the fridge was fresh off the assembly line in 1966, but the original 1940s linoleum was in good shape. After I moved in my two bags, it took me all day to clean under the Buick-like stove because it seemed I was the first to do so since nineteen fucking seventy. When I was finished, I sat on the carpet in front of my sliding french doors, and watched the rain fall on my little balcony, smoking menthols and drinking tea, happy with my new life. My fourth floor view looked to me what I imagined Florence would look like, what with all the church domes in my view. But what my eye kept coming back to, over and over, was the rather large inscription etched in stone on the side of the building out side my window: Ye Shall Know The Truth, And The Truth Will Make You Free...


do or die
world without end
art teacher (for ms. t)