Sunday, June 19, 2005

Sunday's Breast

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>> Bought the above painting today from my friend Gina Disney who’s leaving L.A. for good tomorrow. She has a blog of her work called Melanchomedy.

>> Are you gay-vague? Our tattered vernacular gets another phrase thanks to Dave Colman at the NYT. Check out how he gets his interview subjects to incorporate his little phrase into their quotes. How self-indulgent gay is that?

I would have gone with ambiglamorous. Or ambigay. Ambisexual?


The London production is called "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others." The Guardian UK has a rundown. The lede is a trashy miracle:
In a bright room, a string quartet hums and squawks. The unsettling noise accompanies a woman as she dances a slow flamenco. 'Unruly girls who will not settle down must be taken in hand,' she sings. 'A crack on the head,' she continues, as two other women mime slo-mo applause, 'is what you get for not asking. [Burly man drags another woman across the stage] And a crack on the head is what you get for asking.' The singer continues her splendid dance. A young man, in red skyscraper heels, mimics her movements while prostrate on the floor. The burly man bursts into a tapdance that's also a systematic duffing-up of no one in particular: the younger one flinches, though he's never hit. The music hisses and morphs into gypsy handclaps, which merge with the sound of the tap to make a threatening clamour...

>> Neal Pollack was the poster child for the pomo, smug, ironic era in the contemporary lit scene right around the year 2000. He writes a devasting essay today's NYT about the annhialation he suffered because of the literary persona created under the womblike umbrella of Dave Eggers' McSweeney's literary enterprise. My friend, Jeff McMahon, shares his assesment:
I could be wrong but it feels like Eggers used Pollack for his needs and when those needs were met, he flung Pollack into the junkheap while superciliously flying high with sanctimony and good will, which seems as self-serving as his ironic era.

But Pollack has to take some blame. He created his own Faustian Bargain. Shit, he became a sub-sub writer celebrity, which, in this culture, is almost impossible. So he should be grateful. He also learned the danger of entering a narrative that begins as a fiction but becomes a real prison. I say bravo to him. He's wiser for his asinine journey. I can't wait to watch the film version. Who will play Pollack? A John Belushi type? Who will play Eggers? A jaunty-jawed type, perhaps Ethan Hawke?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanics and Tonies

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My Honda mechanic in Downtown is an L.A. relic, or something. No pomp. Old school, earnest, everyone’s kind. Sure, they charged me $630 for my service, but I was treated like a king, see, a king. Worth every penny. Oh the kindnesses swathed upon a bourgeois charmer who has the inability to haggle.

The Asian woman cashier didn’t even look at my I.D. when I paid. But she scrutinized the black woman before me, and the effeminate Latino man after her. It’s because I’m white, I know it. Or queer.

“I like your smile,” said the cashier after the black woman left. The balck woman who scrutinized her bill and espoused the importance of having one’s driver’s license number memorized. She, in strange brown denim pants, oddly fitting, the back of her head a glorious sight. She was all consternation until she relented to the price and wrote the check. Then she became reluctantly kind. The cashier said to me, “Whatevah,” as the woman left to retrieve her car. The cashier was in her late 50s, for sure. So strange to hear her say that. Her being so commonplace, so ensconced in this old, old, car shop. She diminished my use of “whatever,” however ironic, however effete, however affected and co-opted and styled. Time to come up with an equally effective, dismissive word. How about something nice and disaffected like “fuck.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Lapham's Lap

The New York Observer has an article about our east coast weekend-intelligentsia magazines' plans for archive digitization.
Harper’s is currently in talks with three companies to digitize the magazine’s complete archives, which are currently stored in bound volumes behind glass cabinets in the office conference room.
Sounds like the setup for a heist movie. But the impetus for stealing these mags wouldn't be for money or as some kind of guerrilla act of defiance against WHITE MALE WRITERS. No. We'd steal because we want Lewis Lapham's love. "You get your precious archives back, Lewis, but you have to hold me! Smoke cigarettes and just hold me."

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Babylon Redacted

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“Have fun in Aunt Barbara,” wrote a friend in an email yesterday morning. I drove in a haze, images from the previous night’s viewing of “Mysterious Skin” stirred with other feelings, vague. The clothes arrayed on a fence on Hollywood Blvd. looked like a row of fatigued refugees, then Thai Town’s shrine (I’ll never forget the woman there right after the tsunami hit, shaking her head, on her hands and knees, supplicating before the shrine, weeping, anguished), then to the 101. North. To Santa Barbara.

“As Alice Cooper says, welcome to my nightmare,” said D as I entered his apartment. We hugged. He wore a short-sleeved collared shirt with thin pale-yellow and white pinstripes. It looked amazing on him, leisurely. His SF Giants hat hid hair that’s at a good length for him, but he’d disagree. The World Championship of Darts was on TV, muted. “This is the most hardcore, working class, British thing ever,” he said.

“When did they start televising darts?”

While checking my email in the bedroom I heard a girl’s voice, surly, talking to D in the living room. “Come and take a tour,” she said. “Bring your friend.” Simoney’s mocha olive skin was all over the place. Her long, gorgeous legs shot out from miniscule khaki shorts, and her pink tank top with “X Rated” written in white revealed her hand-sized breasts. The hat on her head was this bright blue and white plaid number. “I like your hat,” I said.

“It’s from Sweden! Come take a tour. Let’s go. I’m so drunk right now. I’ve been drunk since Wednesday. What day is it?”

“Saturday.” For the record, it was 4:30pm.

The Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” blared in her apartment across the way. Her roommate Kristi greeted us all beachy, blonde, and, yes, drunk. She was further ebullient because it was her birthday and she was graduating collge the next day. Kristi’s two brothers from Minnesota quietly stood in the living room drinking Coors Lights. Simoney showed us around. There was a shopping cart on the balcony with a blue cooler in the baby seat. The bathrooms were unimpressive but we were shown them nonetheless. Then to Simoney’s room where she placed a large sheet of bubble wrap over her shoulders like a shawl. I wanted to pop a few bubbles for a sec. Her huge comfortable bed looked so, let’s say, comfortable. But the room stank of potpourri. We ended the tour in the kitchen where Coors Lights were offered and open.

Kristi was all slurred, lumbering, telling stories with no context. She said, “Night moves. I gave some guy a lap dance and he freaked out.”

Simoney said of the night discussed, “I laughed so hard I peed a little. I suffer from functional incontinence.” Then she pulled me aside and said, “You’re my new best friend.” She’s studying to be a nurse.

The girls took a pink notebook out of the freezer titled “Dirty Little Secrets.” I told Kristi to read me some excerpts. “Vandalize my house,” she read sounding like she was reading a line of poetry. Maybe she was. “Man I was drunk when I wrote that. And here it just says, dot dot dot.”

“That’s an ellipse,” added Simoney as she lifted the pack of cigarettes from my front shirt pocket. “I started smoking last week.” The Minnesota Brothers were fresh faced and handsome in a very corn-fed, Middle Western sort of way. The older was a Marine. The younger had this floppy brown hair cropped close on the sides and a scar on his forehead from a tussle with the police. Evidently, he recently went to jail for shooting a police dog with a potato gun. The dog, stunned, drowned in a port-o-potty. We left while Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” squealed all glam. Not glam at all.

“So I named my fantasy football team No Depression,” said D as we walked down State Street, the main drag, towards this Irish Pub called the James Joyce that I was dying to revisit. (Last time I was in town a naval ship had docked and Santa Barbara was cluttered with all these chipper sailors in full regalia, the bibs and caps and flared slacks. A few were in the Joyce while we drank pints and ate peanuts. Like a scene from a Pynchon novel, the bartender rang a bell and announced, “Billy O’Flannegan’s gunna sing a song.” O’Flannegan, in his 70s, thin, tired, drunk, sang “Old Shanendoa.” It was a devastating and long rendition. Pained. All the while the bartender waved a beam of light from a small flashlight over O’Flannegan’s body. The sailors and patrons were silent and reverential, then heartily applauded when the song was done and O’Flannegan simpered back to his stool reaching for the fresh pint poured during his performance).

“Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong,” sang Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warrens in the jukebox as we entered the Joyce. A fat man’s hairless baby legs plunged into a pair of dark brown topsliders caught my attention. Then O’Flannegan showed up! He grew a mustache since my last visit. Wore sky blue denim jeans, a suede cowboy shirt in light brown with a dark brown shoulder piece, cowboy boots. He nearly fell returning to his barstool donning shades coming back from having a cigarette. He didn’t sing today. But he was drunk. Ullyses S. Jasz played some old timey Dixieland jazz. They had a theramin.

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After a French dip and martinis at Joe’s, we went to the Press Room which has an ample Brit Pop selection in its juke box. More pints. My body was aching at this point. Our tongues were loose. We talked about sex and romantic associations. I determined that associations are the new relationship. I told him about this guy I’m sort of associated with.

“I haven’t seen you this into someone in a while,” D said.

“Really?” I said.

“Yeah. C’mon. Remember John? That guy was just a pretty face, some punk style, and a few one liners. This guy at least sounds interesting.”

“Fuck. Please don’t say that.”

“Why not, dude?”

I let out a sigh.

Right then, Radiohead’s “I Might Be Wrong” came on. I picked that song. The infectious, sexually galloping guitar riff, the stuttering drum sounds suddenly brought me back a few years, driving down Sepulveda to Tito’s Tacos with my girlfriend. We were in the throes of deep, intense love all honest and innocent and affectionate and difficult and great while it lasted. The Radiohead song was playing and she was really into it, kind of swaying her head, fully relaxed. She turned to me and said, “I want to make out right now.” I parked the car and looked over at her, those intense eyes, those cheekbones, the shocking brown hair. I gave her what she wanted.

The last stop of the debauch (we hadn’t even planned it) was Elsie’s, a very cool, mellow bar with a nice outdoor patio area where we had the last beers of the night. On a pillar at the back of the patio was a painting of a Latino motorcycle rider. He was depicted very naturalistically. His expression was stern but I sensed a softness to the eyes, shadowed. He wore a leather jacket with zippers and he stood beside his bike, left hand clutching a chrome handlebar pointing straight up. The other hand lay by his side, fist clenched. As we left, I passed my hand over his face.

I drove home this morning. The Sunday New York Times was waiting and I was eager to see what kind of token gays they would have in the Weddings section. No gays this week.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Bolero, My God

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The tie-front bolero sweaters seen everywhere provide today's uniform of T-shirt and jeans with an elegant high-waisted Empire silhouette. The minisweater, of stretch jersey or knitted, sometimes resembles a bra with sleeves. —Bill Cunningham, NY Times
I was in an old 1920s apartment in Echo Park sipping beers with some girls. The profile of Jamie’s face revealed an extreme, classical beauty, to the point of deformity. She talked about the dissolution of her association with a guy who grew too busy for her, stopped even reassuring her. “All he had to do was call me and say he missed me. That’s all.” I didn’t catch what her day job is, but she’s a photographer when she can be.

I shook my head and said, “men.”

The Pretenders Greatest Hits is the best breakup album according to Jess. She’s petit, but her charisma is giant. She's from the South, accent intact. To make her laugh is to feel like a winner. She puts her all into laughing at my jokes, all anguish and glee. She had on these super tight indigo blue jeans, a white shirt, and a belt that was a snake eating its tale. “Is it real?” I asked.

“Of course it is.”

I touched it. It was plastic. Only later did I ponder the implications of that belt. Fashion as philosophical statement… Feedback loop, self-annihilation…

Shortly thereafter I found myself further inebriated, with the plastic six pack rings a bracelet, my hot new accessory. The conversation was about fashion, full throttle, and Bill Cunningham’s On the Street last week popped into my head and rage started rising.

I have a special rancor for the fashion atrocity that is the bolero. My guess is that Cunningham does too. “I mean what can be appealing about a bra with sleeves? Who decided that this was attractive? I’m convinced that whoever propagated this style is a cynical, cynical gay man. Suddenly, ‘fashion aware’ women everywhere are tying ratty sweaters right below their breasts. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. What’s next? Prada clown shoes? Why? Why do women constantly fall into step with ridiculous fashions? What’s wrong with these people?!!”

The neighbor came. Too loud. I was screaming. Enraged. Time to go home.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Los Feliz Affectations Recounted in Chinatown

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She works at a bookstore in Los Feliz where girls have come in on many occasions and said, “So I’m dating this ‘smart-guy’ and I’m having him over. I want to buy some books to have around, you know, that are smart.” They just come out and say it. The smart being a kind of affect, a kink, like being into leather or really enjoying getting your ass eaten. I wonder about these ‘smart-guys.’

She who must endure the innanities of brosters (bro-ey hipsters) has had enough of this city after two years. I try not to protest against her decision to leave L.A. too much. She made the above drawings on bar napkins last night at Hop Louie in Chinatown. Her paintings are glorious and she felt uncomfortable drawing under pressure, my pressure, me saying, “Draw my portrait. Make me look sexy.” The napkin on the right is of the bartender and was actually drawn before the portrait, but I like the conversation in this order...

“I am Adam,” I did not say.

“Are you a foreigner?” the bartender asked, but not to me.

“Yes.” I say it all the time but I didn't say it last night.