Friday, September 24, 2010

How Can I Even Try To Go On?


So, to pick up where I left off, Danny and I are in New York City, in Pyramid Club, on Christmas eve, 1992, and it is empty, save for the afore described bartender, and a friend or two of his, sitting at the bar. After making a big deal that I was visiting from Chicago, I pass around what I thought was orange flavored candy I bought in Chinatown. I assumed it was candy, it looked like Chinese candy words, but in reality it was loose orange tea. Dehydrated orange peels, to be precise. After a few seconds, we're spitting out the pungent mess. I buy everyone I 'harmed' a drink, which I was loath to do, because that was all the money I had for the night.
Not everyone in Chicago is a total idiot! I said in embarrassment.
Danny and I chugged a few 40s to be frugal before arriving at Pyramid, while we got ready to go out, because he was low on cash, too. Getting ready with Danny was something that was usually more fun than the clubs themselves, and I treasured another night of it.
We stayed a little longer at Pyramid and danced, and then we were off to Cafe Aback, where we met Cheri, a coworker of Danny's. His roommate Michael worked there too, so it was, thank God, free drinks. In the taxi on the way there, he kept making me promise to not let him dance for Tony, the owner. He said he was tired of performing there for free; he'd happily do it if he got paid. Tony could always charm a dance out of him, no matter how hard he resisted.
"Tonight I'm determined! No pay, no dance!" Danny kept repeating.
After listening to Tony's non-stop begging for a while, Danny gave in and begrudgingly flung himself around the dining room to Holiday. Cheri and I stood at a little side bar in another room with a pool table, to wait out Danny's performance. I knew she hadn't known him very long, and I wasn't surprised when after giving her a look that suggested this was an inherent need of Danny's, his need to perform, and impossible to stop once the ball got rolling, she gave me a look as if to suggest:"I know."
The bartender fed us shot after shot, because, according to him, we were dressed as the picture of 1920s Berlin decadence meets 1970s Harlem superfly, in our sequins and polyester, black lipstick and rouged eyes.
I just love how you two look! he said every time he slid us a Jager.
We were bored waiting for Danny to stop dancing around the dining room, a room we could hear but not see too well from our position, bored but mesmerised by a guy trying to teach a buxom girl how to shoot pool. She was obviously a prostitute, but she was hot, so the guy didn't seem to care what the night would end up costing him, we concluded between sips of Jager.
Because the way they were dressed though, Cheri and I kept checking with each other to make sure this was still indeed a bar in New York in the 90s, and not some early eighties soft core porn movie; their clothes looked like costumes to us, and they way she giggled sexily, while he pressed determinedly into her backside, was all too clichéd, and their little show just went on and on, never getting past the "now darlin, aim your stick at the little white ball" phase. I'm sure to them we looked liked impoverished immigrants, who somehow wandered into the hottest bar in New York, and who, by the looks on our faces, obviously had no understanding of the ins and outs of American seduction. There was just the four of us in the room, so it was hard not to notice each other.
Dang Cheri, I'm really drunk, are you? I asked.
Yeah! We gotta get away from this bartender! she said.
Meanwhile, the party in the dining room was roaring at full steam, Madonna turned up full blast, and the few faces I glimpsed seem to like the show Danny was giving them.
After what felt like hours, Danny was back with us and soaking wet, demanding we 'leave this instant!' He refused to talk about what happened in the dining room, promising to tell us all about it tomorrow. We were off to a big night club, exactly what and where I can't recall... it may have been Twilo, or someplace like that.
The next day was Christmas, and we opened presents, Michael, Danny, and I all warm and cozy in our pj's and hang overs. Danny gave me a Barbie, Madonna's Sex book, which I sold on Ebay a few years ago to help pay for an unexpected move, and a book of Jean Cocteau drawings, which I still have. I don't remember what I gave him for Christmas that year other than the necklace I made for him, because I was pretty broke, having just started a new job. After presents we went to brunch, where Michael told his side of the dining room story, and Danny told his side of what happened at Cafe Aback...
It turns out there was an unseemly group of people at a table, not so subtly suggesting a payment from the owner, in return for certain favors. The owner didn't want to make any payments, so the group decided to demonstrate that they were serious. (Do your own math.)
So while Danny danced around the dining room, one of them threw a bottle of beer at him, which missed him but smashed into a wall. A certain celebrity saw who threw it, and yelled at him, saying he could hurt someone, where he said 'shut up n****r', which sent her boyfriend flying across the table, aiming for the insulter's throat. More beer and beer bottles fly across the room, but the music was so loud, and the crowd was so wasted, no one really noticed, myself included.
There was like $20, 000 worth of damage to the restaurant! Michael said. Oh well.

For lack of funds, we spent the rest of Christmas day at the movies and walking around Manhattan without incident. I was leaving early the next day.
I couldn't sleep that night, due in part to the large chunk of sexual tension which had found it's way into our already cramped twin bed. When two pragmatists share a bed, it's always a long night...
Anyway, I hadn't realised I didn't have money for the train to La Guardia, so we tore the place apart, looking for loose change. Danny said I was going to have to ask a stranger for some change, which I ended up doing; I was a dime short. I got lost trying to find the subway from his house, because I never took it back then. After walking up and down the same block four times in my high heel platforms goddamn the seventies!, lugging a bag the weight and feel of a dead body, I finally find the subway entrance, and wait twenty minutes for the train and board the nearly empty car, Danny's written instructions in hand for the transfer from the train to the bus in Queens. After a few stops, a tall man in a Santa hat boarded and made a big production about putting his briefcase on the floor in the middle of the car, almost like he was doing performance art, causing everyone on the train to stop what they were doing and gasp in fear to watch him. All he did was pull out a few papers, which made me wonder why everyone over reacted the way they did.
A few stops later, a hundred ten year old kids squeeze into my train car and fill it up, shattering the early morning calm with their excited chatter. At the next stop, the doors open, and a very drunk homeless lady, clutching an open bottle of vodka in each hand, swayed a moment before she stumbled into the car, to the only open space, which of course, was next to me. She gave me a heartbreaking look that seemed to say:
"Yeah, most people look at me like that. Don't worry, hun, nuttin'll happen to ya."
Please don't let her puke on my Gaultier backpack! I prayed to myself. She eventually moved on without incident, and a few stations further, the train stopped and the doors opened, and a voice inside me screamed:
Get off the train!
But this isn't the right stop! I answered back.
Check again!
And sure enough, this was the stop I needed, and I jumped off in the nick of time. I was distracted by the penises Danny drew on his note for me. I thought, Why does he draw penises on everything? as I almost miss my stop, almost making this horrible day I was having a million times worse.
By the time I got the bus in Queens, I knew I was going to miss my flight, and I started to freak out; I never missed a flight before, and I didn't know what was going to happen once I got to the airport- I had no money. I was so upset, I got off at the wrong airline, and had to beg a ride back on the bus.
"Sir, I'm lost, and I don't have any money, and I need to get to United Airlines!" I said, voice quavering and eyes welling up, to the driver.
"CAN WE HURRY THIS ALONG!" Barked a hardened old New York woman.
He gave me a smile and her a dirty look, and motioned me aboard.
At La Guadria, the ticket agent said she could easily put me on the next available flight, and I began to relax a little, til I remembered I would have to panhandle again at O'Hare, to get the train back into the city, and to work.
Some kind stranger gave me train fare, but I had to walk many blocks from the train stop in the freezing rain to get to work.
Of course it's raining! I thought, getting soaked to the bone.
As I sat idle for a few hours doing nothing more than a haircut or two, and waiting for the day to end so I could crash into bed, little did I realise that was my last weekend of drinking, and a new phase of my life was starting. I was going to learn how to grow some legs, and walk on dry land...


Abbaesque S.O.S.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Only Love Can Break Your Heart


I forgot to tell you my little New York story, my last drunken hurrah in New York story, one that took place in December of 1992, when I went to visit Danny. I had my last drink some time after Christmas that year, a Christmas I have absolutely no recollection of, (if you're a reader of my blog, you know that's unusual) so this was my last party, as it were, and it was a doozy...

Danny was living with his friend Michael, near the top of a ten floor walk up. It was a large, shabby looking building, in the lower east side, and theirs was a tiny little two bedroom apartment. The building felt smaller than it should be; walls and ceilings were cramped in and close, and everything looked covered in the dust and grime of a thousand broken dreams. The stairwell was also scaled down, built for the size humans were a hundred years ago, and deep grooves were worn into the marble stairs, where in my imagination, hundreds of salesmen trudged up and down over the years to hundreds of deaths, and where slipper clad old ladies carried their shopping-bagged burdens til the day they were found partially eaten by their unfed cats. That was one damned depressing looking apartment building.
Was it built this way? I thought to myself, the first time I climbed the stairs with Danny. Or was it carved up and shrunk down, to make as many apartments as they could, out of the original apartments?
Opening the door into the two bedroom place they shared though, the lightness of the walls and floors, and the large, unshaded windows letting in gallons of sunlight drove out any sense of bleakness, and it actually looked like a nice place to live.
Danny covered his bedroom walls with fashion pictures that inspired him, porn, and his artwork, a picture of which I still have, and in typical New Yorker fashion, he made use of every square inch of his room, giving it that 'early storage space' look. He was determined to become a fashion illustrator, and kept at it for a couple years, inspired by Warhol, and fueled by his friend Bonnie's success, and he drew up quite a collection for his portfolio, some of which he gave to me: Danny, circa 1991

(Now that I write this, I'm remembering I did spend Christmas of '92 with Danny in New York; I mistakenly thought I took this trip before Christmas.)

Alphabet City, where he lived, was still kind of dangerous back then, it seemed to me, and at night I would literally run down the street til I found a cab, but during the day, when the sun light shone bright on public school's late nineteenth century façade, I was more relaxed. I remember reading about Alphabet City in a Blondie interview from the 80s, and presenting it to my ninth grade English class as part of an oral project, because I thought it was the coolest name ever, and vowed to myself to one day live there. Now I wasn't so sure.
Danny trotted that portfolio around New York for a few months, never having much luck, and shared with me many depressing experiences he had hearing the word 'no'. I heard his many stories of how unfashionable he found the fashion world; the bowls of junk food on desks, the bad skin and hair, the sloppy dressers, and the piles and piles of crap strewn about in the designer's and fashion mag's offices: lotions, make up, perfume, bags, shoes, sunglasses, anything you can think of, sitting around half used and discarded, all given freely by companies vying for a little fashion mag ink. What he found most depressing though, was the greedy gleam in the eyes of the staffers who saw his talents, and wanted him to leave his work overnight, or wanted to take his portfolio to another room, where he knew it would be plagiarized. He knew it for a fact because he saw an idea of his in a mag a month after they had turned him down. I loved his work, and did my best to make him keep at it, knowing in my heart the depths of his talent.

My flight got me into New York Christmas Eve, and as Danny hadn't a key to loan me, I met him at the restaurant he worked then, Elephant and Castle. It was small and quiet, and he served me a lovely meal. He liked waiting there, for the most part, but his manager got on his nerves, but in true Wickie-Poo fashion, he turned it into a comedy. That night, an infamous line was born, though I had just missed it's arrival, I knew we would be saying it to each other for years to come:
"Brian! Cheng, my manager over there just said the best thing to me! I was talking to Tracey, the other server, and I didn't know it but Cheng was standing behind me the whole time, and after about ten minutes, he yells 'Talking! Talking! Talking! You ne'er shut up! If you no stop talking so goddamn much Danny, I have to fire you!" in his heavy Chinese accent, making us jump and bust out laughing! That's all we've been saying for the past hour! 'Talking talking talking! I ne'er shut up!'"
"But didn't he say he was going to fire you?" I asked.
"Oh, he won't! He loves me, and the customers do too."
To this day, whenever I meet someone who likes to talk, those words echo in my mind...
Danny told me a lot of E&C stories that night: Koons (NSFW!) came in twice a week, getting so wasted and grabby, the staffers begged Danny for him to wait on him.
Oh shit! It's the Artist! Danny, you deal with him! Please! they begged.
Actually, none of them knew who he was, just that he was a some artist, and one day on that trip I bought a Tashen book of his porno art, where Danny recognized him.
Oh, it's the artist. He said, flipping through the book, nonplussed. And one of Danny's heroes, Franco Moschino, came in not long before he died, and Danny saw a glimmer of recognition in Moschino's eyes, because Danny had sent him dozens of pictures of himself and his work over the years. But, alas, although they are kindred spirits, Moschino kept his distance, and even though he waited on him, they hardly spoke.

(On a side note, I must tell you another quick Moschino story. I've been looking for a while now on ebay trying to find a magazine with an ad for his eponymous perfume, to use as the top photo for this story. He launched the perfume in '89 or so, and for some reason, any fashion mag from that time is now twenty bucks. It's an expensive gamble for me to take, not knowing if there is a copy of the ad I can scan. For whatever reason, I can't find it on a web image search anywhere, except for this lone small picture:


I really need a larger version of it. I'll keep searching. I'm also looking for an image of his other infamous ad, one for his clothing line. It's a model shot by Fabrizio Ferri in black and white silhouette, with a large model airplane perched on her head as a hat. I Can't find them any where! [Alright, I'll take a picture of the Ferri ad from a fashion book I have, but it's not the same...]
Anyway, I was walking down Halsted one day in 1990, and saw a crude xerox of that Moschino perfume ad taped to a light pole, with a big black X over it, and the words Women Aren't This Stupid! scrawled on the bottom. You see, in the ad a woman was drinking the perfume through a straw, even though the text proclaimed: For External Use Only!
I saw that image as a satiristic a take on the days of prohibition, when Chanel No. 5 was a hit, and women reportedly drank their perfume, because at the time France made it with potato alcohol, so it wouldn't kill you to do so. I also had that image on a t shirt, which I got a Marshall Field's as a gift with purchase, when the perfume first came out. I knocked people over to get that tshirt! I about fainted when I saw it. But someone was so offended by Moshino's ad, they wanted the world to know. God, how I wish I would have snatched that flyer off the pole for my scrap book, and how I wish I still had that t-shirt, even though I wore it til it hung on me in rags...)


After dropping off my luggage at the apartment when his shift ended, we walked around Chinatown my first night there, buying up fake Rolexes, fake Chanel button earrings and t shirts, and buying vials of ginseng (the only hangover cure, in my book) and weird flavored candy, like chicken soup and orange pekoe. We scoured the surplus stores on Canal Street looking for anything we could turn into a club look, and hung out for a while with Pat Field in her old 8th Street store, trying everything on, and buying more than we could afford, because her stuff is so great and she is so much fun, and running into Steven Sprouse on the way out, who gave us the once over and a smile. You could see infinity into those blue eyes of his. They were just startling.
The first club we went to was Pyramid, because I had never been there, and I had wanted to go since 1984, when I first heard that Nina Hagen song. It was in his neighborhood, so it was first on our list. We were very under dressed, and almost froze jogging the few blocks to the club, on that chilly December night, forgoing the responsibility of a clunky jacket that would only get in the way on the dance floor. Danny wore an outfit entirely of his own creation: sheer black jeans worn with a sheer black jockstrap, and a sheer black tank top under a sheer black t shirt, a Mr. T quantity of rosaries, all topped off with Cherries In The Snow lipstick, and a large white rabbit fur Russian hat.
I was still in my "I want to be Jane Forth from the early seventies!" mode at the time, and wore my silk lined black bell bottomed wide lapeled suit, and a tenné surfer boy hair do, which Danny found most appalling. The only thing he liked about the 70s was that it got him to the 80s. I also debuted my latest hobby, and wore a multi-stranded red and black beaded choker I made especially for the trip. I made many of them back then, usually accented with an ankh or Maltese cross. I made an all pearl one for Danny, and he said, to my surprise, I should try to sell them at Saks. I created them with beads from thrift store necklaces, and wire from Ace Hardware, and thought them too indelicate for mass appeal, but he disagreed.
Behind the bar at Pyramid early that Christmas Eve was what I would call a living sculpture, slinging cocktails in a hooded white shroud, covered from head to toe in rhinestone brooches, silver Christmas tree decorations, and blinking white lights, looking like a gay gay gay version of the ghost of Christmas Past. Only in New York! He greeted us with a hearty Hello girls!, his surprisingly baritone voice echoing around the empty room. We had the place mostly to ourselves, for in New York I've noticed, and London too, if you're not at the right club at the right time, you're alone...

This post is getting very long, so I'll tell you the rest of the story....later.


St Etienne
some of my early 90s illustrations: Michaelangelo and Boy George
(and yes, I sent George many versions of that illustration, back in the day)
I can now breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the Moschino ad is now in my photo collection to the right. I've been wanting it there for years!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

September 4, 2010

Walking down Lincoln Ave and eating an apple, I saw a tall thin man walking toward me, with short white hair, and a dingy collar length beard. He strode with quick, deliberate steps, chin up, with excellent posture. In my eyes he walked a fine line between looking like a homeless man and an eccentric; his clothes fit him well and were color coordinated, but they were doused with a noticeable amount of grime. His face was shaded with just enough desperation and pathos, though, to make me cover my apple with my hand, lest something yucky float off him and land on it, causing me to unintentionally ingest him.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

September 2, 2010

Leaving work today, I couldn't tell if the sky was dark because of the storm clouds, or now that summer is on the wane, it's just getting darker earlier. I eventually chose the latter, subconsciously telling myself, perhaps, I was ready for fall. When I turned left onto Addison, to get the train, I was stunned to see a bright khaki, dreamlike sky unveiling itself from a dark ceiling of clouds in the far, far west. As I walked on, and looked north and west, I saw the dark ceiling zigzagging east and off to the horizon, revealing scattered vignettes of clouds that looked almost like mountains, an effect caused by the many tall buildings obscuring my view. Whenever I see those mountainous forms, I'll transport myself someplace that has actual mountains, and imagine my life there, and how I would probably be blasé at the sight of a 25,000 foot tall rock formation, and wishing I lived back in the city...

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

September 1, 2010

Getting on the #50 Damen bus tonight, I was a little disoriented and thought to myself, damn! all I ever do anymore is ride buses! I walked to the back, where I saw an amazing looking man seated by himself reading a book. He was so good looking, I was afraid to look at him again, for fear of being unable to tear my eyes away from his perfect sandy-grey hair, they way his chest looked in his fitted shirt, and the nice summer glow on his arms. And reading! Books are always sexy. I sat down across the aisle from him, but I was soon lost in the world of my own book, and forgot about him until he got up to get off at his stop, when all of the sudden, in an instant, I was eye level with his butt in his well fitted jeans, and someone was telling him to catch your ear phones, you're about to drop them! Thanks, he said, the sexiest thanks I've ever heard. I wasn't the only one on this bus to notice him. And oh my, that's an adult mohikan cut into that sandy-grey hair of his. I couldn't believe how better looking this guy was when he stood up, and I did my usual, thirty second imaginary life time together, really liking the fake life that flashed before my eyes. As he walked out the backdoor, and walked to the corner to wait for the bus to drive off so he could cross the street, my eyes never left him, really enjoying how his body moved under the clothes he was wearing, and hoping against hope he might sneak a peek at me, when whammo! he turned back to look at me and gave me a little smile.