EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 26: NEW WAVE NIGHT MAYOR

me 88
yanni called me “negative man”

I stopped reading serious fiction from 1985 until the year 1990, when I picked up a paperback of The Sheltering Sky during the first week of my first winter in Berlin, having discovered Bowles’ book on the floor of my flat-mate’s room after five lost years of watching music videos and reading Rolling Stone and The Face instead of Calvino or Kundera or Ted Hughes or Nabokov or Anne Sexton et al. Five long years of mindlessness and thrilling sex. It didn’t start off thrilling but it certainly ended that way, a few weeks before I left America for the first time, my Grace-Kelly-esque girlfriend on her back on the hip white plastic kitchen table, my penis in her vagina, my left testicle in my ex’s mouth, all three of us in makeup. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

From 1981 until 1984 or so, I was reading lots of Art Biographies while teaching myself to paint, books about Modigliani and Picasso and Chagall, hungry for details about Bohemian lives while learning, through trial and error, technical tricks such as painting “cloth” and “glass” or using complimentary colors in order to concoct convincing shadows, augmenting the biographies with absolutely everything by Henry Miller, the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn and Sexus, Nexus, Plexus and the book about his time in Big Sur and so on, which only half-counts as literary fiction. I was living in a windowless room and eating spaghetti for lunch and dinner and teaching myself to paint. To interrupt the monotony of acrylics I picked up the guitar again after having dabbled in college, strumming at midnight while the burnt umber dried.

unfinished-portrait-of-w-h-after-rousseau
Life-Sized unfinished portrait of my first New Wave hair-dresser Ex (there were two)

When I had finished with Miller and student spaghetti and living in windowless rooms, I was a semi-accomplished song-writer, a not-bad guitarist and a promising singer on an actual allowance from a management company. I decided to push my book sense under the table,  while letting myself be seduced by the vapid world of “music”, though I was divided, fatally, by mutually-exclusive mainstream and avant garde impulses. I was as into Captain Beefheart as I was into David Bowie. Beefheart could get you precisely zero pussy. Bowie could get you truck-loads. Literary Fiction was pushed out onto an ice floe to die. Fuck it. All the pretty girls were neon-lit in pop videos. 1985-1990 were my Lost Years. I was never again such an un-critical cog in the heartless flesh-planet of Hegemony.

I came close to being not just a cheerleader but a Collaborator. My pied piper was David Bowie. Bowie has a lot to answer for about his work in the mid-1980s, in my opinion. Bowie was the controlling icon they put into place after executing Johnny Lennon. Bowie embodies the utility of lying to yourself about the evil of what you are doing until you get far enough in the game to repudiate it later. No one did a better job of promoting the Nazi aesthetic at a moment during which the Nazi aesthetic required the most resistance (the second time around) from a culture on the brink.

I was only as “radical” as I was supposed to be: Reagan was Raygun, Mondale was a Saint, the Democrats were for “the people”. Mondale had a pretty blonde daughter on MTV (she many years later married a middlebrow acquaintance of mine who belonged to the Four M Club: middlebrow/ middle class/ middle-aged/ Midwestern and thought he was F. Scott Fitzgerald to her Zelda but then she died of a brain tumor; time is a motherfucker). I was years from understanding, then, that Reagan and Mondale functioned as a standard dyad of pseudo-opposition, like any football franchises supposedly hating one another in the Super Bowl, putting on a good show for the pathetic serfs in the audience who are always so het up by the proceedings that you’d think they had a stake in the outcome. I was never into team sports but I was one of the serfy dupes from 1985-1990. Adding my little note to the cacophony of the nation’s Fight Song. Do I need any more proof that so-called “Popular Entertainment” is, primarily, a mind-scrambling Control Mechanism, beamed directly into one’s balls or ovaries? And that Pretty Girls are the Judas Goats who… but, no. I really should save the preponderance of my self-disgust for me.

I think it was 1981 when I met a guitar-player named Jo. Jo, the minister’s daughter. Half-Chinese and nearly tall as I am (6 foot plus a near-inch). Beautiful. Repressed.

Jo was the girlfriend of the brother of Katrina. Katrina was the tall, skinny, nervous blonde with long krinkly hair I had met in college and who never, as far as I knew, had an orgasm while I was fucking her. I labored over her clitoris with the hamfisted persistence of a novice who was eager to do a good job but no matter how I sweated over that rubbery red little defective toggle, Katrina could only start to think of coming after I’d finally given up and had my own orgasm and lay beside her spent.  After which there’d be a terrible lung-filling silence as when a toddler has got a boo-boo and is first stunned and taking on air for the terrifying howl to come. And sometimes Katrina actually howled.  The neighbors must have thought I was whipping her with Christmas lights. More often than not she was wracked with muted convulsive sobbing but when she howled it was fucking loud. Because she hadn’t come. Maybe body-wracking sobs were her form of coming.

Cosmic joke: A good old guitar-playing friend (and fellow Beefheart devotee)  sidled up to me on a communal couch one day and said, Tell me about Katrina, and I told him with chummy boyish naughty glee all about the scary business of Katrina’s inability to come and the body-wracking sobs and howling and all that and he kind of blinked and said, I really like her… and he’s been married to Katrina now for about 30 years. Not one Xmas card from either one of them since.

Jo was somewhat of a hippie, deeply into the Grateful Dead, perilously into Joni Mitchell’s irritating precious high pitched phase, dabbling in bumper sticker peace signs and Dulcimers and incense and tie-dyed thrift shop sun dresses. But she was quippy-smart and 5’11” tall and 19 and had nice cheekbones and puckish tits and I developed a crush on her. I was 22. My son, who had fought his way out of the Mousy Albatross a year before (36-hour labor), was toddling around in cloth diapers the year I first saw Jo.

Jo-smallest
JO

A distinct memory is of son toddling naked around the communal house Jo shared with fellow faux-hippies, a house with a hurricane fence on Dupont Ave, I think, near Lake Street, his little mop of loopy, honey-colored hair indolently breeze-blown, he was toddling naked in the sun and suddenly squatted to deposit a milk-dud on the narrow white concrete walk on the side of the house near the garden hose and Jo’s Blue Merle collie, Joni, came running from out of nowhere to snarf the shit-ball up and side-chew it down as though it really was a milk dud and son clapping. That was the house in which I happened by an open bedroom door one morning and saw Jo’s chubby little bourgie little pimple-coated-friend Pam bouncing under a skinny pumping faux-hippie joint-salesman with ginger balls wearing an actual headband and me wanting to vomit.

A lot happened in the one or two years it took to make Jo love me, but that’s for another chapter, but there is, for example, that time she had a high fever and I trudged for forty minutes through thigh-high snow in an ongoing blizzard to bring her poptarts and tea. I think Johnny Lennon had been dead about two years by the time of that night. Jo’s then-boyfriend, a dead-ringer for Bowie with Hunky Dory-long blond hair and a note-perfect ersatz Bowie warble and amazing chops on his golden Gibson hollow body jazz guitar smirked patronizingly as I dropped off the poptarts and stepped back out into the blizzard. Thirty years later he is still poor and unknown and married to a woman who does some dismal job to support him but he’s still great at playing guitar in dive bars and at various state fairs. Another little interpersonal war of attrition this dark horse eventually won.

But this chapter deals with Jo’s transformation from a frigid hippie into a New Wave Sex Monster who learned to love three-ways and anal and to play a Roland synthesizer in a series of my schizophrenic (half-avant) bands during my lost evil years of ’85-’90. Well, it deals with that among other things.

I remember the night Jo had her first orgasm. I had been working up to it for weeks. I would go down on her and pretend that I didn’t care whether she came or not. I pretended that I was licking her for the love of licking (which really is how I feel about licking My Wife now, please note: the pheromones and neural networks are all lined up, finally). The truth being that I never quite learned to love the smell of Jo’s pussy. There was always something a little lactic about it, like the smell behind a Dairy Queen in a run down neighborhood on a hot day without breezes. I forced myself to do it. Licking for ten, fifteen, thirty minutes a session. And then came the night she actually felt something and sort of flinched a little. About which I pretended there was “no big deal”. Internally,  I was kicking my heels and shouting Eureka! Her husband now, an Internet Mogul, owes me this and I hope he knows it. I single-handedly turned his wife into a part-time exemplary statuesque sex monster. When she isn’t prancing around their genteel hundred acres with horses and chickens. Does she remember the time, near the end, very near the last time I would see her, before running off to Europe, that she said, in a pitch-dark room (we were sleeping over somewhere), long after I had introduced her to the mysteries of local apotheosis,  “Come over here and fuck me in my half-Chink ass”? 

It was the next night after that fleeting tentative little tensed-up almost-orgasm that we finally found the golden neural seam of magma wired to Jo’s on-standby clitoris and she became a questing nymphomaniac and ended up cheating on me with god-knows-who (including a doorman named Grady, ferfuxsake, at our favorite night club and with a Mr Frank Zappa, who supposedly only gave her a foot rub but was kind enough to compliment the lyrics of mine that Jo had forced upon him as a condition for rubbing her feet). I was cheating on her, too. I was already fucking the luscious orphaned virgin Art Student from Wisconsin when Jo and I started. It’s very hard to keep it all straight in my memory now. I think it is nobler to leave it garbled and true than to smooth it all out by fictionating it.

Narrative art demands the sequential when so many things, in real life, happen in simultaneous parallels. But you can’t write or read in simultaneous parallels.

Soon after Jo and I started but before I was her official boyfriend I tagged along to the dormitory room of her friends at St. Kate’s or one of those cute little colleges, maybe it was St. Wally’s, and they were watching the Human League’s Don’t You Want Me Baby on a big television and her former roommates were sort of looking at Jo and me and then back at the screen and then at Jo and me and I finally felt, for the first time ever in my life,  that I identified with some kind of movement:  we were New Wave. We were hipper, fancier, wittier, sexier, more worldly and more likely to know who Julie Burchill was than the fluffy little suburban college bunnies who regarded us suddenly with their grudging awe. I was wearing a pinstriped blazer with narrow lapels and a skinny red satin tie and topping that off with eye-liner. A droog with his soft secret shrinking hippie center.

I stood in night clubs in trench coats and pointy-toed boots. I sold all my Yes. My sex life went through the roof. I started fucking girls who wore makeup. I started wearing makeup.

I was standing in a club called Zoogie’s that had formerly been The Longhorn (seminal punk venue) and a Chaplinesque scenester who looked also a lot like Peter Sellers, big nose and big head and a sheepish smirk in his raincoat, his back against a pillar as the fog from the smoke machine blew across the room from the stage, sort of stomped the pillar with the heel of his boot and said, to no one in particular but loud enough for me to hear, Man, I’m glad it’s the ’80s!

And I agreed.

Zoogies_Nov_80

I saw John Cale in that club and Siouxie and the Banshees, if I’m not mistaken, and The Police played there but I missed them, they were unknowns. I saw Detour Derek and the Lost Boys in that club, the genius band you’ve never heard of, I saw them with Jim, my Beefheart-loving guitar chum who later married Katrina and avoided me like the plague (or like a man who had called his future wife, verbatim, a “fruitcake”), and we were in awe of Derek, who had fingers missing from his left hand, just like Django Reinhardt, he did this brilliant song called Dykes (“they are upsetting me”) and we approached Derek, Derek with the amazing barbed-wire guitar riffs, after the show, he spoke to us with great introspection on the sidewalk outside of the club in a light drizzle, clawing his cig like a parrot, and he slightly bummed Jim and me out by warning us that making music is the worst possible way, bar none, I mean the worst, to earn a living.

Hegemony came calling three times.

Hegemony Call #1, c. 1982:

I had organized a Concert at SNAPORAZ Theater. With a thick stack of poster-sized paper I got from the Art School Orphan, I hand-stenciled beautiful advertisements with metallic-blue spray paint centered around the howling dog motif I had been using (and which reached its apotheosis in a painting a did for my son on his 5th birthday, a painting called Doggy King of the Dogs, a painting of a howling dog wearing a crown experiencing an epiphany so profound it caused him to poo, the mid-air poo represented by a shiny thick squiggle of burnt umber right out of the tube… which my son’s incensed Fauxhemian stepfather scraped off the canvas in a fit of Midwestern pique).

portrait of art orphan with dog
portrait of art orphan with dog
SNAPORAZ was post-industrial loft space near the Art School, a grungy warehouse rented by my friend Kurt whom I knew from the hippie mansion my son was born in (Kurt with whom I traveled to NY the day after Lennon was executed; Kurt who was fucking, also, the mousy albatross; Kurt whose nickname was Woody Lennon). Kurt had scraped together enough money (how we’ll never know) to fly in, one by one and sometimes in twos, a bunch of Czech theater people who began to have artistic lives there in Tinyapolis and to put on events, with us, in Kurt’s loft, which Kurt called SNAPORAZ after Marcello Mastroianni’s character in Fellini’s City of Women. Those Czechs were somehow connected to Miloš Forman. And one of those Czechs was a young guy whose father ended up being the president of the academy of motion picture arts and sciences or whatever the august body in charge of the Oscars is called. And another of the Czechs was the Czech Prez’s minister of video-hagiography and about this fellow I remember this, I remember his wife, a whimsical European imp who painted her freckles on and had a crazy thing for Kurt and played his rusty trumpet with a wild aplomb we all could hear…
more realistic portrait i did of the art school virgin, who was also an orphan; the upside-down figure in the upper left corner is her lost mother
more realistic portrait i did of the art school virgin, who was also an orphan; the upside-down figure in the upper left corner is her lost mother

I even tried to live in the basement of this warehouse called SNAPORAZ after moving out of the hippie mansion but one night down there in the super black cold with rats real and imagined was enough. We put on a wildly successful concert with cheap beer on tap… the place was packed, we made a shocking profit… my band Tin Tin Tin Tin was the headlining act. I remember one of the songs we did was “The Ancient Fireman Song” and another was “Maybe Monsters”, the chorus of which went:

It’s not my ego makes me want to be a perfect man

I know that something waits for me in heaven

maybe monsters

And after the performance a chubby smarmy fucker with a perm handed me a business card and said Hi, my name’s Gregg Scheiss, do you want to make real money playing music? Gregg obviously wasn’t paying attention to the lyrics of my songs; all he must have seen was a young, skinny, tall, exotically handsome kid singing with confidence in front of a bunch of slightly fascinated young hipsters. Well, sure, I wanted to make real money. But I was incapable of doing the kind of idiotic super-crap which money-making requires of the performing monkey.  I sat in Gregg’s flashy (rented) car and listened wide-eyed to his spiel, which included a testimonial to the fact that he had married his wife because she has (had) great tits and would let Gregg fuck her in the ass and roll her over and finish in her mouth without having to wipe his dick off first. I considered it un-chivalrous of Gregg to say so. Where was my chat with Brian Eno? Where were the conversations about Tristan Tzara and Luigi Nono I had imagined having with powerful Bohemians interested in my music? Instead I had been granted an audience with this greasy schlub who wanted to sign me up to play Dire Straits covers in every dive and hotel lounge within a fifty-mile radius of the snow-encased curb in front of SNAPORAZ his rented car was idling at. Another failure of Class.

There were White Bohemians who were having, or were going to have, those Luigi Nono conversations; Kurt’s cousin, ironically, was one of them. Ten years later he ended up in the UK (a couple of years after I had been there)  and signed to 4AD, got very cool art-school-type CD covers and even appeared in a video or two with Kim Deal and never once had to weather a spiel from Gregg Scheiss and his incredible shit-sucking tit-Wife.

Hegemony Call #2, c. 1986:

I had a band featuring a yokel from the iron range on guitar, a very good guitarist, a studied guitarist, a man who spoke in folkloric awe of “Morphadites!” and his chum a yokel on bass plus a middle class kid on drums, a gene-splicing university student, Dave, with Jo on keyboards and me with a guitar and singing lead and writing semi-commercial songs, one of which,  I remember, was called Doing Something Right.

Fate is a baby that loves us like crazy tonight,

We’re doing something right,

Slap me my darling if I start to put up a fight,

When we’re doing something right

We were rehearsing in a complex of rehearsal rooms under a recording studio in a warehouse on Washington Avenue called M Studios. The co-owner and studio head was a wealthy lawyer (Dad was a NY diamond importer) named L___. L___ heard us rehearsing one night and came up to me in the subterranean hallway with his hand in his denim pockets and his head noncommittally  tilted in the way of a long-haired balding guy in his mid-thirties trying to seem like a long-haired guy in his early twenties and asked if I wanted to come upstairs and record a few tracks sometime.  And so I started an arduous journey on that winding road to nearly becoming locally famous.

Jo and I had broken up and gotten back together again for the second or third time. She wrote a poem with the word “spilches” in it and I always think of Jo when I’m watching Woody Allen’s “Husbands and Wives” and the young writer character in it who wants to fuck Woody uses the word “apucious”.  Jo and I broke up a dozen times and kept sneaking back to fuck behind every lover’s back. I continued to fuck her while passing through four different women. Ignoring the vague discomfort of actually smelling Jo’s (ga)lactic pussy the sex was heroin-laced Pringles to a chimp. I invented sticking my thumb in Jo’s anus during vaginal intercourse to trace the outline of my slow-moving cock in her bottle. She was not loud when she came but her eyes would roll back in her head.

I was at the mousy albatross’ flat one Saturday morning to pick up my son because the albatross and her future husband were about to go out on a date with a small group of friends. Several women of a vaguely Wiccan persuasion were in the living room watching my five-year-old do an (in my opinion) humiliating little dance, coaxed by his stupid fucking stage-mother,  and I was seething, I recall, but in the living room, watching with the others, was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen, dressed like Jack Kerouac, curly short ash-blond hair, with an inexplicably worldly and un-Midwestern air to her. I soon learned why.

She had just returned to the US after spending a few years modelling in Paris. She had been the face for a French cosmetics firm. A very powerful and fairly repulsive pudding-necked star-maker named Fernand, I think it was, had tried to orchestrate a penthouse seduction, which she barely escaped, running down twenty flights of stairs to avoid his private elevator, causing him to blackball her and turning her into an instant lesbian who cut her gorgeous hair mostly off and boarded a very long flight, fists clenched, her portfolio full of tear-sheets cursed, right back to Tinyapolis.

I was sometimes still diddling the Orphan Art School Student from Wisconsin, the lush one, the narrow-waisted blond with juicy hard big tits and a squeaky voice and a very naive notion of  “dressing like an artist” (as pretty as she was I was embarrassed to be seen with her in her red plaid tam-o-shanter, though, to be fair, was it any worse than the thigh-high green rubber plumber’s boots I had affected to wear a few years before meeting her? Weren’t the tam and the boots both symptoms of cluelessly brave provincials dabbling in Dada for the first time?) and I mentioned this mysterious short-haired woman… let’s call her Virginia (she was a dead ringer for 20-year-old Virginia Madsen) … I mentioned Virginia and her legend and the Art Orphan said oh yes, I know her, she’s so cool! In our Small town with its fifty-storey skyscraper and its secondhand bowling shirts and its soft-edged snark.

art-orphan
the art orphan who was best friends with a fellow student who was being fucked by a now-famous instructor and Neon Sculptor at the Art School; the Neon Sculptor was hot for the Orphan, too
This was around the time of the Thanksgiving that my son was five or six and with me the whole day and I heaved a Turkey in the lonely old oven in my apartment in the so-called “Cupola House” right across the highway from the Art School and we found a baby bird on the sidewalk in front of the house and put the baby bird in a shoebox in my bedroom with the romantic dream of nursing it to health, my son and I, but, you see, a chronic gas leak I was so used to smelling that I no longer really noticed it sort of killed the baby bird later that very day, by the time the Turkey was ready for me to baste it in butter juice and brush it with honey and otherwise anoint it with rare herbs like the corpse of a pharaoh. My son was sitting in a dad-painted chair at the rickety Boho table in the kitchen when I opened the oven to baste the Turkey (I had filled my son’s head with fantasies of Turkey sandwiches the whole day: no drumsticks, no stuffing, just straight to Turkey sandwich) when a gas leak from the yellowed-with-age Temperature Dial on the stove whooshed into a malevolent blue flame which was, I am not exaggerating, three or four feet long and curving up like a genie’s scimitar. And my son was in hysterics of cartoon glee as I tried in breathless terror to huff and puff and blow the flame out…  his squeals of delight were so innocent, so worthy of love, so “daddy is so funny!”, he had no idea then or now (he’s 32, daughter of his own) how close we came to being blown to charred bits with the Turkey.

And Virginia and I started bumping into one another all around town. Kismet? Synchronicity? The Devil playing Chinese Checkers?

vm
she was actually slightly better looking than virginia madsen; they could have been sisters; she “borrowed” back all of the modelling photos she’d given me (to make copies) a week before she had a “psychotic break” on Bastille Day

I said to the Art Orphan, “I think Virginia kind of likes me…” and the Art Orphan, who was nurturing a bisexual crush on Virginia herself, chuckled dismissively and said (verbatim!): “Dear, she only likes women. You’re so egocentric sometimes!”

A sweet memory has suddenly come to me. I was officially homeless for a month or two after finally escaping the clutches of the mousy albatross and I actually stayed with the Art School Virgin for a little while. One weekend she brought home a Betacam video camera from the Art School (this would have been c. 1982, long before widespread consumer video camera use) and we made a sex tape, a static shot of us humping (she was on top) and I was moved and fascinated by the involuntary look of the coordinated pelvic thrusts… we were mammals after all! And the ten-minute tape was shown in her Art Class the following Monday and it was a big hit.

How it came to pass that Virginia was eating pizza with us in the living room of the Duplex that Jo was living in, at the time, escapes me, but I remember that Jo and I were on our way to a band rehearsal that evening and I asked Virginia to hang around and wait a few hours until we got back and she did, reading our collection of foreign Vogues etc.,  and we all ended up in Jo’s futon together that night, shyly snuggling, nothing biological, until Jo got up at the crack of dawn the next morning and left for work, or something like that and the minute the front door closed behind her, Virginia and I had what I’d call a deeply profound sex experience without even brushing our teeth first. We just started without a word and it was a wordless freedom and animal clarification I had never before known with sex as every woman I had ever fucked before I had fucked in the role of boyfriend or boyfriend-auditionee with lots of planning and calculation and the virtual eyes of the community on my pumping copper buttocks. It was the first time I had had, with someone else, an orgasm so primal and pure that I understood that sex was rather bigger than simply something you did because you liked someone.

The sex blew both of our minds and being that Jo and I had just recently gotten back together again, rather than dumping her for Virginia, I saw to it that we all embarked on a long-term menage-a-trois that wasn’t even the one I described in the intro of this chapter.

jo in front of my painting
jo in front of my painting

Hegemony Call #3, c. 1987

Some national brand was doing a local ad campaign with “originality” as the thematic hook and I was approached to be in the ad and I noticed that everyone who had appeared in the ad (over-pierced punks and goths with mile-high mohawks and so on) was a fucking freak so I said no.

new-age-liberace

Part 2

It was around this time that the now-fading New Age Love God Yanni was just a keyboarder in a regional Top 40 bar band and I was so cool looking and semi-interesting musically and locally famous that Yanni suggested I join the band.  A suggestion I fell down laughing at, for sure. I know stories about pre-fame Yanni but I need no lawsuits in my life.   It was either Yanni or the drummer/bandleader Charlie who called me “Negative Man” because, you see, with platinum hair and dark skin I resembled, to Charlie’s or Yanni’s provincial fucking eyes… etc.

My hair was bleached blond and I favored an aviator’s jacket that was actually Jo’s and we gave a concert in our rehearsal space under the recording studio and this concert was the peak of my career as a performer, although it was many years before I was writing songs for a living. Virginia was there in the crowd of the audience blowing kisses and mouthing “I love you!” at me. Virginia, Jo and I had mastered the art of the perfect three-way by then: two-on-one.  And then the more complex: Jo straddling my cock and Virginia straddling my face while Jo clutched Virginia’s tits from behind and Frenched the pretty trans-Lesbian ex-model with innocent ardor.  Secretly, I was monogamous, and falling in love with Virginia, although she had an annoying habit of using folksy locutions like “Darlin'” which drove me up the wall a little later in this tale. I wanted her to talk like she looked. She did not look Folksy.

To quote from a personal letter (and save me the time of re-writing all this):

I was confused… I felt weird and un-centered, too close to two women at the same time. The sex was amazing but my heart felt like a hairy pudding. There were many strange and vivid scenes (plus I was dabbling in non-genital,  Imagistic Bisexuality, as a musical Bohemian: one night I put on a display by close-dancing with Jo’s ex boyfriend, the guitar-playing David Bowie look-a-like, Katrina’s brother, he of flowing blond curls… I think I mentioned him before…  we danced to “Gene loves Jezebel” in the middle of First Avenue, the hipster discotheque featured in Purple Rain)…
…the typical public scene was the three of us dancing together in the middle of the parenthetically aforementioned disco, making out on the dance floor while a Thomas Dolby video or INXS video (or, I’m afraid to say, Simple Minds video) was playing on the screens and monitors over the sticky-and-glittered floor.
Note: my hair was bleached blond in those days (see photo “S in 1987”) and my fave outfit that summer was a bomber jacket and eyeliner and biker boots.
After several weeks of the menage, I began sneaking off to have sex with Virginia alone, which felt like an amazingly decadent pleasure, spiced with terror, because Virginia lived in the attic apartment of a two-story house with a very powerful Diesel Dyke, who hated men, on the ground floor… I had to sneak in and sneak out late at night to avoid detection and obliteration! One night I was there she laid out, post-coitally, a bunch of these fabulous photos that had been taken in France and she gave me a bunch (weeks later, she borrowed them back to make copies, then had a weird accident… see below… while still in possession of the photos, so I never got them back… no pictures of her in my possession until I Googled her recently and found some moving and very sweet pictures of her with her 10-year-old daughter and husband in the Grand Canyon, I wonder if she ever thinks of me and if so how kindly?)
We were all three Bat-dancing at our favorite Prince-related club one Saturday night when Jo wandered off to flirt with some dude with sideburns and Virginia and I seized the chance to grab a taxi back to my cool pad (also an attic apartment over an antique shop, called The Emerald Dragon, owned by two very old lesbians, Fern and Mary, Fern being flame-haired and Mary in a wheel chair ), special feature: a waterbed I couldn’t lie on without my heart sort of pounding in fear that it would collapse the floor and land on Ming vases downstairs! But back to that fateful and foolish Saturday night…
…Virg and I jumped out the taxi and ran up the old wooden stairs to my flat (in the rain, of all things, and the neon from the Emerald Dragon’s marquee, of all things) and practically kicked the door down we were so eager to fuck together alone. The missionary position was our secret joy. We were about fifteen minutes into it when I heard Jo’s key in the front door lock.
Awkward and histrionic scene.
Jo and I broke up temporarily (not for the last time)…
When Virginia had her psychotic break (hearing voices, etc), I had no idea what had happened. She simply vanished for a week. I remember standing at the Bastille Day Block Party for hours, waiting for her, first angry then puzzled then anxious with Love (remember: this was years before anyone who wasn’t a millionaire had cell-phones). I rushed home, finally, to find NOTHING from her on the answering machine tape. I sat by the phone for days.  I had never felt so dumped in my life. I assumed she had decided to re-embrace Lesbianism in the most dramatic way. I didn’t even have her pictures to cry on. Where was she?

Just about the time I decided to try to move on, I got a call from her, from the hospital. For a week we spoke for hours, every night on the phone.

Months after Virginia faded away into the hospital as the drugs that helped normal her out made her less able to engage with or endure me (there is so much pretense and affectation in a relationship when we are young). I attended a fashion show at First Avenue with Jo and in the dark among all the other serfy snobs and Midwestern phonies aping New York I stood and watched the newest most beautiful woman I’d ever seen come out on the catwalk in some sort of silver mosaic mirror-ball dress at the show’s climax and perhaps I am misremembering bits but did shirtless male models lift her on a rotating platform into a spotlight in the dark room shooting sparks in all of our eyes and eliciting audible gasps? She was by far the star of the touching little cargo-cult-like spectacle, every man or woman in the dark room wanted her and it took all kinds of underhanded, disingenuous, super-selfish dick-driven maneuvering on my part (poor jettisoned Jo, who even slurped this golden usurper’s unearthly-lovely pussy a few times to prove she was a good sport) but a few months later she was the love of my life and perhaps twenty-four months after the first time I wrote her a poem we were jetting away from Tinyapolis toward London where I would go through the first of a series of humbling adventures that would turn me into far less of a shit.  And a little bit less of a dupe.

The afternoon I was soon to turn thirty and I fucked her on my trendy plastic white kitchen table while Jo sucked one of my balls was one of the last afternoons of a certain kind of gloriously unconscious, even larval,  life. The moan I finally released as a result was a loud summation of the thirty years of bliss and suffering I’d lived until that moment.

And I really do have her to thank for that.

Grace in London
Grace in (clockwise) London, London and our flat in Tinyapolis; Grace who is now happily married with Three Kids and living with a Chewing Gum Mogul in Turkey
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