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.


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