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

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