Please picture an auditorium best suited to a motivational speaker’s emotions-manipulating presentation. You are seated in this auditorium. The lighting is calming, muted. The Consort of Musicke’s 2007 issue of John Dowland’s collected works plays softly, nearly subliminally, from invisible speakers above you. The stage curtains are drawn and dark. People are filling the auditorium. The ambient chit chat, coughing, throat-clearings and occasional barks, or tinkles, of laughter, are gradually rising in density and volume. You have arrived early to take your excellent seats. Your tickets for the evening cost you no money: you solved riddles, on a website, for these tickets. Your solutions to the riddles were, by far, the best. Besides you, on your right, sits your date for the evening: Elizabeth Montgomery, the actress who made her name portraying the character Samantha Stevens on the ’60s network smash “Bewitched”. Elizabeth is the Elizabeth of 1966. You have always loved her. And now she is here, her head on your shoulder, squeezing your right arm with excitement. She keeps calling you that perfect word: Darling. I have made this possible for you.
The music stops. The curtains part like the Red Sea as the audience goes quiet. Amplified footsteps are heard as I cross the stage and occupy its very center with no applause. Elizabeth squeezes your arm very tightly and bites your earlobe. I am dressed in disappointingly ordinary clothing.
“We are Fuckstuff made of Starjunk,” I say, my voice ringing clear and loud. “Our only two interrelated biological imperatives, decreed by the circular logic of closed-system stresses, are to live long enough to reproduce. Fucking, the act, answers to all requirements of both imperatives. According to our hardwired sense of purposefullness, which is the chromosomal compass nudging us to remain on the unwavering path to both goals: while your are fucking you are living, which is the second-best thing imaginable. While you are fucking you are also fucking, which is fulfilling your destiny as a fucking machine designed to produce other fucking machines which will produce more fucking machines until the chemical resources required for the activity of fucking, on this planet, are exhausted, millions of years in the future. Fucking is The Great Work of philosophical legend. Everything else is incidental. Indoor plumbing is the highest achievement of Civilization, and it has facilitated fucking to the extent that Romance, beyond the fantasy-boundaries of literature, out here in the Real World, is a thing.”
“May I please have two volunteers from the audience?”
A canopied king-sized brass-framed waterbed rises on mighty hydraulics through a trap door in the stage behind me. Elizabeth squeezes your arm so tightly that you yelp. She finds your yelp cute. “That’s our cue,” she whispers, directly into the auditorium-shaped dish of your right ear, the right ear in which the earlobe’s piercing, from when you were a trendy young stud, thirty or forty years before, has healed shut without a trace.
Elizabeth tugs you out of your seat and up the aisle in the spotlight’s protective ellipse…
1BUBBLE of GRAY
So somebody I actually know on FACEBOOT, somebody from the Olde Days, somebody who was on the scene back then, such that it was, posted a thing that had a guy in it I recognized from that era. “Who is that?” I wondered. His name rang a little wooden bell. I clicked through his profile: more little wooden bells rang. I gazed upon the thumbnail of this fellow, full head of gray hair, biggish belly, adolescent high-top footwear, guitar slung around his soft shoulders, striking an epic pose at the center of a little bandstand in some city park. No audience (other than the videographer) as far as I could tell, though I wouldn’t doubt the possibility that a dozen friends and passersby were there to witness the shoot. “Click?” I asked myself.
It might be really cool. I like seeing over-40s who can still sing; who can still strike Paul Welleresque poses and get away with them; I like over-50s, who can do those things, even more. The footwear on this guy in the thumbnail was the off-note. It’s not the 1980s and you’re not in your Twenties and this isn’t any legitimate form of a time warp, man. What if you’d seen your Dad dressed that way when you were 17: what would you have thought of him? Touchingly (or embarrassingly) sad, right? Can’t you be cool and knock everyone’s ass off singing like a boss without indulging in these Civil War Re-enactments of Our Youth?
Places like Atlanta or Memphis or Chattanooga are probably heaving with Civil War Re-enactment fanatics. People in those regions may or may not be aware of the essential creepiness of such activities or perhaps they’re quite violently polarized on the topic. Some of the people in those regions, who are aware of the essential creepiness of Civil War Re-enactments, are probably also aware that the obvious Race Elephant, in the conceptual room of Civil War Re-enactments, isn’t the only reason such metastasized Nostalgia Rituals are creepy. Now imagine those Civil War Re-enactment creeps wore their 19th century uniforms all day, everywhere, in daily life, their sabres clanking, at their sides, in the Kwik-Mart.
And so to the Twin Cities, where ’80s Music-Scene Re-enactments are an infinitely-less lucrative cottage industry and a folie à plusieurs for tens of thousands of believers, I say: hello? You’ve replaced what should have been a noble continuation from, and growth beyond, the exciting local experiments of The New Wave, of your youth… with this tragically tired and tatty ersatz? This brackish gray bubble of mutually-confirmed delusion? Fuck, man. Get off the fucking longboards and get some grown-up trainers and dignified duds. You can be a badass Olde One but you can’t be badass Olde One in retro simulated-freshman fashions. Young fashion victims can recover and live on. Olde fashion victims become embarrassments in the grave. How many late-Boomers are being buried with their longboards these days? Show of hands.
I clicked. I clicked the thumbnail of this fellow, full head of gray hair, biggish belly, adolescent high-top footwear, guitar slung around his soft shoulders, striking an epic pose at the center of a little bandstand in some city park. I clicked and I swear to you, gently peculiar Reader, I would have been grandly and so gratefully jolted to hear a big and blustery and paint-removing voice bolt from the drawstring lips of this cat in his Keds. I swear I was hoping for that. Despite my reputation as a grouch, I yearn to cheerlead, but I can only cheerlead under the stringently-verified circumstances of the presence of genius.
His voice was thin, weak, gaspy, reedy. Oh fuck off. All of his FACEBOOT comments (from olde friends with thin, weak, gaspy, reedy voices) were, of course, hyperbolically positive. And all of his comments on all of their videos of all of them performing with thin, weak, gaspy, reedy voices over chugga-chunking guitars (very nice guitars, gorgeous guitars and amps afforded by their day-jobs) are hyperbolically positive, too.
You know when the ugliest olde fuck you have seen in months posts a FACEBOOT Selfie on vacation, looking withered and lipless and wattled and lightning-struck and Jack Elam-eyed and the comments feature chestnuts like “Still got it!” or “It’s so unfair, you never age!” and you spit your espresso out? That’s forgivable. You know the guy isn’t trying to be a runway model; you know he isn’t posting expensive (yet Karloffian) headshots in an effort to impress. The ameliorating lies of social interaction are a mercy. No unassuming victim of Entropy needs to be blasted with Truth regarding just how dire shit, in the diabolical Strange Change Machine of post-Youth, really got.
But, fuck me, if I lived there, among these people of the Upper Midwest, among these make-believe “benefit concerts” and “tributes” and delusional “band reunions” of combos that were never special, never relevant, always just trend-followers with equipment and haircuts, but now here they are, acting like the New Wave’s elder statesmen, I’d have to say something. I’d have to prick the brackish gray bubble of mutually-assured delusion with the hatpin I carry in a customized pool-cue case.
I know Quality Art as a Populist Super-Power and Soul-Replenisher is dead but do you have to hop all over the corpse in your fucking Keds?
I would not allow myself to be smiley-pressured into humoring such a city-wide, cognitively dissonant, IRL FACEBOOT-LIKES-ECONOMY nightmare. I hated bad “modern dance” performances, especially when I had been guilted into paying money (8 bucks then would be, what, 30 bucks now?)… and I always said so. I hated girlbands that looked cool but sounded like kittens-in-a-blender and I always said so. I hated bad paintings, hung on cafe walls, tagged with delusional prices and always said so. You know the best thing you can do with the long-yet-eye-blink interval between the age of 20 and the age of 60? Improve. A lot. Improve or develop some much-needed critical skills in the Arena of the Self. If you love playing the guitar but you suck, be lovingly and brutally honest about it, to your Self, and play in your soundproofed cellar with the lights off and stop forcing people to humor your silly ass at weddings, beheadings, barbecues and birthday parties. I know many people are tone-deaf and rhythm-insensitive but how do the people who aren’t stand you? Here he comes again, they must wince. The Spirit of Air-Punching Rock ‘n Roll Karaoke. Yippee.
Why should these fuckers get a Free Pass on their low-talent, time-and-space-wasting, shit, just because they’re hitting retirement age? If anything, the advanced age magnifies the seriousness of their crimes against Grace, Truth, Art. The possible penalty for these serious crimes is pointless. We’re all getting the Death Penalty anyway.
We all thought we were so cool in the 1980s. We were cool, even the dipshits, because we were young. Our fuck-ups were hilarious (when they weren’t punch-lined with paramedics or the fuzz), our dumb ideas were endearing. Sometimes we made valid discoveries and evolved an inch. Often we traipsed around town just blessedly oblivious in our day-glo, razor-ripped, piss-stained fashions of the Fool. Youth is a sex-drenched playground made of Flubber and we made the most of the bulbous machinery, fucking all over the flubbery slides, the flubbery trampolines, the flubbery teeter-totters and the flubbery swings. Our glorious twenties: What a beginning!
Where’s the middle?
What’s the end?
Sometimes I feel like I’m running down a slippy-slidey hill into battle, shouting blue oaths, swinging my old iron sword in the War between Age and Futility, and then I look behind me to see so many of the other old soldiers just sitting, here and there, in their thousands, on the muddy hillside, playing with themselves. And the dozy fuckers aren’t even hard. It looks like they’re pulling taffy. They’re forming “rock” bands called The Dunning-Kruger Experience…
But we are Fuckstuff made of Starjunk, aren’t we?
We sloppily-humanistic and unseriously narcissistic Late Boomers are blowing it, we are blowing it, so our Machine-like Gen-Z successors are taking over. They are taking over to show us how it’s done:
2WE INTERRUPT OUR REGULARLY-SCHEDULED BRAINWASHING
For years I thought 9/11 was the litmus (and IQ) test, then in 2020 it became C*V*D. Little did I suspect the litmus test in 2022 would be the death of a symbol of catastrophically unjust wealth and power, a symbol itself tied, directly or indirectly, to the cruel deaths and awful lives of hundreds of millions of forgotten Serfs during the near-century this symbol napped and boozed and snickered and shat in palaces of gold. As this symbol she had the power to Intervene a thousand times and she did not. As this symbol she had the power to make speeches to call attention to the lethal contradictions, a thousand times, but she did not. What did she do for 70 years? She watched. She watched in comfort from the Caligulan aerie of her grotesquely-inbred class. She watched the misery of the world while the miserable of the world watched her, little guessing that this symbol’s glittering image was nothing but a reflection of their own goddamned credulity. The goddamned credulity at the heart of it all.
Everyone knows that there were actual North American slaves who wept when Massa died but how many see themselves doing it today? Turn off the widescreens and use them as mirrors, Serfs!
Yes, bow down, Serfs. Doff your Serfy caps. Ignore the contradictions and give solemn speeches. Show some respect to the flagship symbol of the monolithic system still grinding your lives into sticky red dust. The only justice that is ever guaranteed to one day come, for the criminally powerful, in this world, has finally come for her as it came to her smirking Nazti husband. We’re still here and that “beloved symbol” and her skull-faced, humans-hating consort are all gone. Better than nothing, I guess.
Though her death means nothing.
As for Neil Oliver: you failed the test, chum. Like so many “radicals”.
3SHOOTING OVER THEIR HEADS WITH SARCASM
I posted the paragraphs, below, in a forum for Berlin musicians. It is (what I assumed is a clearly) satirical post about the cluster-fuck of the Berlin Expat Muso scene, in which everybody is in 3-10 different projects, working on half-assed and slap-dash material for pointless pass-the-hat bar gigs, while using apps to record unremarkable crap they assume will make them superstars any day now. Oh dear, remember back when even musicians were intelligent enough to build and focus on bands designed and developed, with a couple of years of woodshedding and rehearsal, to penetrate the bulkhead of consumer boredom? To synergize talent, patience, craft and ambition to make a (hopefully) wondrous noise to stick in your head for days on end? Now it’s just an ego-driven hot mess of entitled diddlers who couldn’t cohere enough to make a dent in hot catshit.
So I posted this satire:
I must not despair; I must remember to remind myself: WE ARE FUCKSTUFF MADE OF STARJUNK…
Correct me if I’m wrong but what I’ve noticed, in so many years, is that what the educated White Audience really enjoys, in Fetish-Object Blacks, is an Ignorant Sound. They tend not to like the Ignorant Sound of other Whites (from Appalachia, say) but they love it in Fetish-Object Blacks. Why? For one thing I think they think it’s more “real,” the sound of Ignorance, and the extent to which they feel that is a function of how Unreal or Fake they feel. This problem may be as old as The Antebellum itself. In the end it’s less of a burden to be alienated from one’s immediate feelings and be, therefore, Unreal. I imagine all those Subconsciousnesses saying Let the Blacks do it for us. Let them live shorter, stressful, less mobile, uneducated, unrefined and malnourished lives… and let’s stick microphones in their faces and get that real sweet Realness on wax.
At least that’s how it was when the economies were good and White Male Privilege was a thing.
Now one of the only very thin Privileges remaining to many Whites is the ability to blithely fail to notice that most non-Whites are still even less privileged in some way. Yes, we know: you have no home, no job, no woman and no trustfund waiting in the wings. But there are levels below you, still. I think you know this. I think you still think that Ignorant Sound in some Black Music is so yummy because it confirms those levels beneath you, it confirms the hierarchy and that you aren’t rock-bottom. You’ve hit close to rock-bottom in the tower of Whiteness but there are sub-basements. You can hear the bass booming up from them.
The lower Whites fall the harder they will have to scrape the Earth to find Blacks who are even lower, in the hierarchy’s crater, in order to hand them cardboard crowns and fleeting adulation.
Is this not the case?
I think this song, in the video below, is almost irredeemably (and cynically) stupid. I think it’s straight up cooning.
What do you think?
Your Daddies Thought: Our women can lipsync into hairbrush microphones to this Real sound to get themselves Sexy’d up. We can fuck and fight with that Real Stupid sound in our minds as we navigate adolescence. That Real Black Ignorant Sound will be our virtual genital prosthetic and the sound will function as our Daddies, too. The Ignorant Sound will teach us masculinity before we move on.
I mean, let’s be honest, that bullshit started before White college students were wearing fur coats and boaters and shouting rah rah rah through megaphones. They’d go and hear that Ignorant Sound at brothels. Do you really think that Louis Armstrong, an intelligent businessman, grinned like that at home with a parlor full of Blacks?
They pay The Rolling Stones hundreds of millions of dollars and Euros every year to do a bizarre pastiche of that Ignorant Sound, pastiche that has been so off, since the 1960s, that it actually became good in its own right, I love the ’60s and ’70s Stones, but the Projected Mojo remains the Ghost in the Machine of White Rock! All Hail the Ghost in the Machine of White Rock.
I Think: Jazz was intellectual. Motown is not that Stupid Sound. Motown was crossover. Is that why Motown was wiped out by Gangsta then Mumble then Freak-Rap? Is that why Jazz is locked up safely in a museum?
I Think: Being a Black musician is a cursed blessing. (White) people think you’re already especially musical, but before you make the first note, they think they know exactly how it will sound. Meaning that if it doesn’t sound that way, they will be disappointed, dismissive and/or confused.
[Blitz Quiz: name a style/ genre of music White Males aren’t allowed to make]
[Blitz Quiz: name the styles/ genres of music Black Males are allowed to make]
[Q: Are you ready to reformulate your response to the question of “White Male Privilege”?]
I never attended a service in a Baptist Church, as a kid, nor ever, and never wanted to. I find the unbridled Negro ecstasy over the unconfirmed promises of a blue-eyed Teuton surfer they believe to be God (and/or His Son) to be ridiculous, shading on the embarrassing. Do educated Whites enjoy watching uneducated Whites handling snakes and speaking in tongues? Or, let me rephrase that: do they admire Whites who get up to that kind of thing? No, they call them Deplorables. I’m not saying that Upper Middle-Class White Brahmin Episcopal Church services are better; those are like disinfectant-drenched Necrophilia without the orgasms. Religion is not my target, here.
Yes: the music exploding from Baptist church sounds great, it literally and primevally rocks, so I sincerely thank pioneers such as the god-like Sam Cooke who took that brilliant music and gave it far better subject matter than “God”: Pretty Girls. Pretty Girls instead of the Pretty Son of God. Pretty Girls may be slightly less attainable than girl-Girls but they walk this Earth, you can see them, you can buy them drinks, they can be touched, sniffed and adored. Jesus? Not at all.
That’s when Gospel became Rock which became music I can get behind: when Sam Cooke (who got away with the most atheistic line, in a popular song, in North America, in 1964*, ever) thought: fuckit and decided to sing the glories of the earthy-tangible with his Dionysian voice.
I was so sorry when Little Richard devolved toward the psychologically allegorical slavery of Gospel after making such incredible strides, in the 1950s and 1960s, leading America, and The West, out of its puritanically fuck-scarce Darkness. I was pissed at Al Green for becoming a “Deacon” (or whatever, or whatever that title means). When John Lennon sang the song “God” (“God is a concept by which we measure our pain,”) I thought: how fucking blow-the-top-off-your-head-good would this philophically-mature song have been if John had edited out the weak Yoko reference and asked Levi Stubbs to sing it instead**?
*From the ironically posthumous A Change Gonna Come: “It’s been too hard living/ But I’m afraid to die/ ‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there/ Beyond the sky”
**There’s a little-known connection between John Lennon and Sam Cooke: did you know that Allen Klein, Lennon’s erstwhile and slimey manager, was suspected, by some in the know, of being a cog in the machine of Sam Cooke’s shady death-trap, the resulting death benefitting Klein, financially, immensely?
4WE ARE FUCKSTUFF MADE OF STARJUNK: Critique of a Failed Seduction (with vintage audio)
I’m not sure how many super-mixed people with officially high IQs you’ve known, who grew up (ages 3-13) ultra-poor, in the most toxic ghetto in North America, survived junior High School in rednecky early-’70s Vegas, lived in a Funeral Home (during the Disco Era) to attend an all-boy college prep, dropped out of a private college (for rich kids) on a whim and ended up fit and happy and artistically productive, in Berlin, married to a semi-famous beauty, proud father of a man-Mensch and a girl-Prodigy, at 63… but there can’t be many of us.
What’s especially interesting about my story, in my opinion, is that, despite my intelligence, almost everything I got in this Life, after I left school, was because of my Looks.
I sound like Harold Brodkey here, I know, but I was demonstrably better looking than Harold, as a young man, compared to Harold as a young man; as an Old Man, Harold at 50 was about as good as I am now, though I have yet to start spending money on clothes: maybe I will soon. When I was younger I was a knock-out. I’m no Quasimodo now (girls still flirt with me, to my Wife’s amusement) but when I was young I was something, physically. Dirt poor and very cute.
Lots of people, of various ages and genders, wanted to fuck me… but no one (they were all connected, these people) steered me toward recognition for my writing. Some of the people who wanted to fuck me read my stuff, cursorily, and said Wow but did nothing about it, because I didn’t fuck them. Do gifted Intellectuals of Color come around that often? They just wanted me as a collectible cock-object. I was self-conscious about the idiocy-imputing cliché of my big bronze cock-object. Ah, prissy youth! Yes, it bugged me more, the better I got at making Cultural Artefacts: they only want my ass or my dick. They did.
Fair enough. But that does, in my opinion, expose something False in the promoted notions of Culture as Sacred, a critique which hardly needs mentioning, now… but back in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s I was first baffled then enraged by it: you’re all always talking about Culture, well here’s some Culture, stop staring at my crotch and help me get published… (though I learned, much later, that my “problem,” as a writer, was chiefly that I wasn’t writing acceptable nigger narratives)…
Then the Internet (that triple-edged sword) came along and lots of people were finally exposed to my output. 80,000 discrete readers by 2011. Picayune numbers for a Cat Blog but pretty good for a Literary Site; pretty good for Kultcha. The Internet, sweet enemy, intervened, eventually, but when I was coltishly young and physically perfect, long before the Internet went public, tragically over-educated for my type, and not Gay, what was I to do?
I’ve told this particular story before but I’ve just found an artefact I never found before: the voice of The Duchess. An “historical” recording of her being interviewed in 1991, a few years after our story ended. I have changed her name in this little text.
What’s interesting about this bit of “cultural history” is that the subject of the interview, the once-powerful curator, paid my rent for about a year, c. 1988, and wrote me random checks, and had me over to her smart-ish postmodern house, several times, because she wanted to f— me. One of my ME TOO, TOO stories. It’s one of my favorite stories (along with the story of how Suzanne Verdal tried to seduce me, seven years earlier). In neither case was I harmed in the least. In both cases I would have thanked the ladies for attempting to seduce me.
In The Duchess’ case she also attempted to buy me. If her approach had been better, perhaps she could have, but she sabotaged her own efforts. Men who seduce minors, or who physically importune women of any age, are foul. Employers who attempt to seduce had better do it with some sophistication: (A) if the first attempt doesn’t work, one should be able to play it off, convincingly, as a joke (meaning the attempt should be subtle and plausibly deniable: though if the attempted-seducer were that smooth, would they be going for the captive target of an employee?) and (B) the insinuated offer, of privileges, in exchange, should be worth it.
If I’d only had my current brain in that 1988 body, I’d have done a few sexual-ish (non intercourse, non-cunnilingual) things with The Duchess, invested in vintage comics with the proceeds and sat on the treasure until 2004. If I could have arranged to have things otherwise proceed as they actually did after, say, 2003, I would now feel regret, for not having done so, instead of bemusement. As it is (this is how timelines in Reality work), I needed everything that happened, before Now (Sept 10, 2022), to have happened, exactly as it happened, in order for Now to be as it is. Because I love my Wife and Daughter and Our Life and my Son (and Granddaughter) dearly. But if I could only edit that stretch between 1979-2004…
One event that sticks out (npi) was the time The Duchess wanted to go with me to THE hip night club (featured in Purple Rain), First Avenue, where I was a member. I liked the idea of showing up with an obvious sugar mama in her designer executive business woman duds. She picked me up at my corner with her fancy car… but she was all dressed up like a YOUNG CLUBBER (I think she was 40 to my 28/29) and she looked corny/ hilarious in her supposedly-trendy duds. This was the car ride in which The Duchess announced, triggered by recent reports on AIDs, that she “wouldn’t have anal sex if you (rhetorical general “you”) paid me to…” and then she side-eyed me while steering.
What a major misunderstanding! I wanted her in the pinstriped suit! I was too young to communicate that correction directly. If I’d been more mature I’d have said Duchess, let’s drive back to your glorious house and I’ll help you change. She was clueless, fashion-wise, but wiser in her experience of the shark-infested money-laundering Big Ticket Art World… valuable info I blew by not letting her blow.
She’d have arguments with her pockmarked lawyer boyfriend right in front of me, then cut me a check in her kitchen. I suddenly remember she had a big black dog, too (a hulking poodle thing) with an obnoxiously loud bark. The arguments and barking were a turn-off. When the Wealthy want to fuck you they don’t really feel the need to Seduce. What they’d like to do is snap their fingers. Which is what the super-wealthy no-doubt do. The Duchess was not that wealthy. The people she served were. I wonder if they ever snapped their fingers at her?
Read my poems with tears in your eyes, show me the ’60s-reminiscent tan-lines framing your cleavage, close the curtains, put on some bossa nova, followed by shoving a tape of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita in the VCR… bake some chocolate chip cookies… extol the virtues of Egon Schiele’s line while leaning over the fragrant tray of proffered cookies…
She was curating the largest corporate Art Collection in the region and one of her favorite hyper-articulate and self-serving bitchings was to bemoan the hostility of the workers, on the corporate premises, toward Modern Art. What I wanted to say was They aren’t necessarily hostile to Modern Art, Duchess, they’re just hostile to the fact that each of these doodle-ish paintings (which their kids could literally have painted) cost more than their yearly salary. Sandro Chia, AR Penck, Francesco Clemente, even Julian Schnabel… some of the stars in her collection: who can testify, with a straight face, without hiding behind a gnarled hedge of Artspeak brambles, that any of this slap-dash bullshit has stood the test of time? Lucian Freud and Jenny Saville have showed us the difference. There wasn’t one canvas by Lucian Freud in that vaunted $30,000,000 collection.
She invited me to one of her fancy Art History lectures at the Walker At Center, in a hidden room, in which about two dozen geriatric collectors sat, with me, in the audience. I was dressed up in an unstructured ’80s coat… all the rage… and my hair was dyed white (I was 29). Beside me sat an elderly English couple, “The Duchess is magnificent, isn’t she?” said the old fellow, to me, under his minty breath. The lecture was on Daumier. She was chums with Warhol. She wanted to fly me to Paris. Sadly, I just did NOT want to f— her. I was in love with my GF. I was a Stephen Dedalus without the raging erudition, which is merely the militant salve for the wound of being fuckless: I had her, my Penelope/ Siren (until she was stolen in London: in this narrative she was called Grace). The Duchess didn’t read my poetry and she didn’t bother to notice it was my GF she had to compete with, I suppose because she was wealthy and too narcissistic/ bossy to take note. Why should she?
The year-long melodrama culminated when The Duchess invited me to her place, told me to make myself comfortable and took a shower, in the second floor bedroom, while I perused a giant Art Book on a barge-sized leather sofa in the living room. I was turning the big pages when I heard an ominous sound: the shower abruptly stopping not a minute after The Duchess stepped into it. The next thing I knew, she was standing at the top of the stairs with her big blue cow eyes, hair plastered across her forehead, towel around her provocative torso and thunderous thighs. I’m not sure who it was that started the vicious rumor that men of color prefer big asses. Not I. “Steven,” she said, “I need to ask you something…”
I can’t remember the innocuous (failure of nerve) question or my answer. But the rent-paying was over. I didn’t expect anything else. I didn’t want to be nudged into fucking (but, again, if she’d read my work carefully, and discussed it at length…). I was okay with the end of that postmodern fairytale. Easy come.
Two specific things happened as a result of my refusal to play along with the “I have a question for you as I stand here on the landing dripping wet, my big boobs barely restrained by this towel” gambit. First, the next time I saw The Duchess she handed me a copy of James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room (I’d rebuffed her advances, therefore I must be Gay, ran the reasoning). I didn’t read it; I was into Calvino at the time; Calvino and Vonnegut and even Thom Jones, a little but no James Baldwin. Jimmy Baldwin with his embarrassingly implausible mid-Atlantic accent. The fellatic supression of the rhotic?
The Duchess (seething) called again, soon after that, from her office and asked me to go to her house and “trim her hedges” (double-entendres to the end). I refused. I’m still proud of my two responses. I’m good under pressure (like when the police once detained me under suspicion of bank robbery, absurdly, or something else).
First I said, “The Duchess, if that money was going to be in exchange for me doing odd jobs around your house, you should have told me up front.”
She agreed. Then she said, “The least you can do is come to my house…!”
“The Duchess,” I said, with preternatural self-possession, “If you think I’m going to go all the way to your house just so you can have the pleasure of kicking me out, you’re nuts!”
But that wasn’t the end of it.
A few months later I was riding my vintage (1965; an old man sold it to me out of his garage in perfect condition) fire engine red Schwinn bike, around Lake Calhoun, with my 8-year-old son riding in his seat on the back, when who should I see but The Duchess. We parked our bikes to chat.
“The Duchess,” I said, “I want you to meet my favorite person in the world.”
The Duchess greeted my son and we small talked for two minutes or less. Then she said “Ta ta!” and leaned across her bike and grabbed the back of my head and tongue-fucked the fuck out of my mouth and rode off in a cloud of dust. Perfect punch line.
Listening to her voice, in the below-linked interview, after all these years, brings it all back. She’s probably too humiliated, still (or afraid I’ll MeToo her, which I never would) to ever talk to me again.
If you listen to the clip, you’ll hear that The Duchess was the quintessential (shoulder-padded, big-haired) Alpha Dog Boss of the late-80s… she talked like a David Mamet character, which I’d forgotten until I found this clip. Her Data-Flow is relentless, which hides so much (as an interpersonal technique of filibuster) while her discourse absolutely flattens any notion of any transcendental surrounding a genuine Art Object. I never cared a nickel for chit chat about Lucian Freud’s process but contemplating his impossibly-good Lying by the Rags (1989-1990) is nearly 70% as soul-expanding as fucking Beloved Wife.
This entire post is an elegy to my younger self.
Maybe this is a Fall-spirited post. The air (despite obvious “global warming lies” to the contrary) is chilly, clouds distant but thickening. Summer fading. I’ll be 64 next year and I feel great, ready to fight the bears off, and as removed from the tendrils of the vestiges of my former POV as I can be. That young me: who was he? He was my place-holder.
WE WERE FUCKSTUFF MADE OF STARJUNK
[a superstitiously preemptive elegy in Beloved Wife’s sexy accent]
one of these days i will suck & nothing will happen & we’ll
stagger back from the impact
of the commemorative crater where time got
swapped with a count down. Grief Revere-ing
through town like what’s his name (not
benedict arnold nor crispus
attucks or who’s her face with the flag) proclaiming the
roundheads aren’t coming! the roundheads aren’t coming! invasion
of our End of Days’ decreasing sleep, shook-up after
noons & midnights dressed
in our pressed best pyjamas like hale bopp dupes stacked
to fire into the dire hejira across slack’s valley
of the drooped & dangling to
mecca (as verb, i mean) the meanest meaning of the mean
secret our parents’ deaths &
flap-like breasts really
meant to suggest &
you will reminisce how always you lurved
the way i sucked like Shulamith Firestone
When I was the age I was in the photo, far below, I didn’t understand that Life is an endlessly-cycling and permutating round robin of battles, often trivial, many of them fundamental, some of them Life-or-Death and savage. There is no off-button. When your defenses are down, flocks of arrows fly thick and dark through the breach and cluster, endlessly thudding, in the heart of their target and it hurts. Civilization’s atmosphere is thick with opportunistic arrows just looking for lowered defenses. Disney killed Timothy Treadwell just as surely as if it (or he) had sent a hungry bear to Treadwell’s address, but Disney-thinking fucked up lots of us.
Some of us thought we could drink like fish, when we were young, because we saw Dean Martin, or The Replacements, doing it, and now some of us are on dialysis or already dead and arrayed in rotting plaid in our fifties. You can’t simply elect to drink like fish or snort like Bowie (dead these many years, killed by his body’s delayed reaction to the ’70s) or sleep with crazy ladies, no matter how beautiful they might be. There is always a price to pay. Some might call that price “Experience” and claim it is the foundation of an interesting Life. They might be right. You might be lucky.
I was lucky. I never got fucked too badly when I let my defenses down or waltzed into rush hour traffic in the leading arms of a crazy girl, all of our eyes closed, hoping for the best. What I regret or resent was the lack of information.
No one said: Look, this is how it is, and showed me facts and figures. Or the rare times they did, their facts and figures were all wrong. I was forced to trial-and-error it. I ignorantly and haphazardly and open-heartedly accumulated Experience plus a ventral carapace of ridged layers of target-scars.
That’s me, down there, in the big picture under all this text, under the smaller picture beneath this paragraph, in London’s Timeout magazine. It was 1990 and I was 31, 30 the day I arrived, living in London with the then-love-of-my-life, staying in a pretty-good, two-bedroom flat in West Ken, a thirty-minute walk from Hyde Park. The flat was on the top floor, there was a Jacuzzi in the marbeled bathroom, the kitchen window overlooked the Baron’s Court Tube Station. I’d sit in the kitchen and eat samozas from the Off-License downstairs, listening to the radio. The flat was owned by a BA pilot who wanted, desperately, to fuck my girlfriend. Otherwise, would we have had access to such a flat? Of course not.
It had been two years, or so, since the Corporate Lady paid my rent because she wanted to fuck me. Would she have paid my rent, otherwise? Of course not. The stark truth of both of those transactions was buried under so many metaphors, evasions, euphemisms and white lies, at the time, that you’d never guess that the imperative to reproduce, or a farcical pantomime of it, was behind the whole mess. The BA pilot was Pakistani and my grandfather was Bengali. The imperative to reproduce drives emigration, too.
In London I was having an affair with an au pair named Sharon, from Malta, who prefigured the Persian girl I fell in love with, in Berlin, the following year. Sharon was tiny, big-titted, black-haired with terracotta skin. She looked extremely like a Catholic/Arabic Natalie Merchant with black-soled Hippie feet and we fucked a few times, rubberlessly, though I can’t recall if I ever came in her, I think my method then was to get to the brink and spill it on the metaphor of the carpeting. I recall Sharon sitting athwart my lap, twisting her back to me, topless, me cupping her big tits, doing some kind of gloating monologue. She was over more than once, despite the mountain of stairsteps. The young don’t notice stairsteps.
In fact, one night, Sharon spent the night, in one of the two bedrooms of the flat in West Ken, while my girlfriend, in the bedroom next door, was sleeping with a lingerie model, slurping the de rigeuer Brazilian. We could hear them in there aping porn noises. I made Sharon read my poetry but what was J chatting about, with the lingerie model, when they weren’t going down on each other, or giggling, or emitting death-cries in the room next door? It’s possible that I actually put the question to my girlfriend but her answer is lost to me now.
I can remember thinking, at that age, that my sex life was probably better than Ted Hughes’. Maybe that was the gloating monologue. Were Sylvia’s tits even half this magnificent and so on. Maybe that’s what girlfriend was discussing with the lingerie model between muff-dives.
This is so much better than death in a gas oven, one of them may have exclaimed.
Now that I’m nearing on 64 and she’s about 56 I wish we could sit in a cozy Inn, with a crackling hearth, we two leaning back in overstuffed armchairs, snifters of marbles instead of brandy in our hands, and listen to her say Remember the time you fucked me on the kitchen table? I was flat on my back and you had your cock in my cunt while N. took one of your balls in her mouth and you saw green stars? Remember when all three of us went at it in Lee’s, the photographer’s, changing room? Remember that crazy rich bitch in shoulder-padded pinstriped business suits who paid our rent for a year? And you bought me things with the money she gave you? Those were nice things.
The luxury of being able to reminisce that way, together, thirty years later, is almost the best reason for doing it. If it was only ever only about the Fucking, it’s as though you were used by the Fucking, a hapless medium channeling a universal force, mud-meat giving form to the wind. To sit in a tavern, and be old, together, and recall it all with a fondly passionless twinkle, would be almost god-like, wouldn’t it? It was only Fucking, it was fleeting, but we are still Us, as separate propositions, I mean (you with your family, me with mine)… we transcended and survived it! We’re more than material, we’re more than ideas! We survived Fucking when we were young!
You will die, I will die, my Wife will die. Our bones will stick out.
So, the pic down there.
The weedy photographer approached quite gingerly and addressed himself only to me (afraid I would shank him if he even looked at my girlfriend, I assume) and asked if he could record our image. The thing is, we’d just had an argument (hence the scowl on me and the look of frosty forbearance on her). For that one shining moment, as stowaways in London, the two of us embodied the gritty interracial glamour of the demimonde. If she hadn’t had her head in my lap (face-up), I might even have been her Pimp. Not her pimp: a dreamer. Maybe a dream, too.
Starjunk, in a word.
Get yourself a few copies on the newstand after Friday, the photog said.