Next phase? We'll see. The next city must come through the internal logic of living as opposed to being imposed upon life. That scares me, but it's the only way.
Sometimes planning is the fear of not getting what one wants by doing what one wants.
Had a good weekend. Out of town. Lots of records purchased. Too many to for me to even list. Sorry.
Lots of really nice house music and disco music and also a box set of one of the better performances of Tristan und Isolde (Bohm at Bayreuth in 1966) in practically mint condition for $4. I still don't like opera, but the prelude, you know what I'm talking about. Beautiful and historically important and beautiful.
Someday I am only going to listen to classical music. Even if I live in a trailer in a trailer park, I am going to decorate one room with wood paneling and a couple bottles of fine liquor and just listen to classical and disown my "hip" past. If classical music, at least the non-hip non-avant-garde stuff, stays cheap, I should have a lot of great music by the time the paneling is installed.
There's a certain pleasure. Wagner hated us Jews (well I'm half Jewish, which is certainly enough Jewish for him) and he is dead and I am alive and I get to listen.
So some records in Western Mass and then dancing in upstate New York. You can guess where if you have been paying attention. Drank way too much. Met a girl. We wandered through an abandoned building and kissed a little and passed out at her friend's house and had a nice morning of awkwardness and asking each other about the things people generally might know about each other before kissing. And also Wire and Roxy Music, both her choices (this could be dangerous) and delicious food. And awkwardness. Surrounded by people I don't know drinking coffee and knowing they are wondering who I am and what happened and I can't reconnect with my friends and I can't discuss the previous evening and I can't tell if people are being legitimately nice or just putting up with me and this doesn't get easier with age (quite the opposite) and I wish I could have heard what she said after I left and I don't really care as long as she was and is honest with me.
Finally we part, she to her crew and me to mine and they think they know what happened and I tell them who and they are impressed. She is really cool. Not only in that I think she is but also impossibly hip attractive Brooklyn artist who can handle her drugs whose last guy supposedly looked like Johnny Depp and acted that way too and now I have kissed her. But for all the looks of admiration in their eyes I know the truth of the drunken fumbling and stupid things said while watching a movie slipping in and out of consciousness and two weird people just being themselves in a way they aren't amongst others. I know the truth of my loneliness and her isolation and touching her head for a moment as she slept facing away from me wondering if acts and feelings and words did and could ever possibly match. I am not a conqueror and she is not a piece of land.
I like her. She might even like me too. Her dog likes me (can he talk?). Only 186 miles away in the mountains and I have no car. Typical.
If I seem unhappy with myself, here's a good example of why, a pattern that plays out constantly: now that I have written about moving, have vented, have gotten it all off my chest, I start to think about staying. Time to sleep.
It's almost over. Thanks for your patience. I love you all.
And then I put on a record. Back to NYC again. This is fun. Fuck. House music is my life. Who I am kidding? Just me, apparently.
Almost done with this personal shit. I hope. It's no fun. I feel like I am messing up by writing about it. I feel embarrassed, even.
I've decided that I have to move sooner rather than later. I've been warned against this sort of thinking in the past. Wherever you go, there you are, etc. I don't think moving will solve anything. At least not internally.
A friend of mine used to let me use his computer when I didn't have one. He is another smart person who has struggled to realize his potential. The password for the computer, at least a few years ago, was "newstart2", which I always thought was funny yet poignant.
I don't expect a new start, don't expect that all that I dislike about myself will be magically healed. But I've had enough. Providence is ultimately my fault. Everything that I have disliked about this place is present everywhere else. I didn't make my best effort. It was a waste, and I apologize, both to the people I have met and to those who have read this blog and have gotten a bad impression of life here. It's nice here. It's not what I want. It's a relationship that, for me, has always been temporary, and staying longer only ensures more pain.
I keep running into the limits of my capabilities as a person wherever I go. I am imbalanced. Every ability I have intellectually and musically, abilities not yet fully manifested, still pregnant with potential, are counteracted by major inadequacies elsewhere, and those inadequacies are ultimately what keep me from pleasure, from simply enjoying life. I can't deal with other people. The freedom I felt in Washington was a freedom contingent on freedom from other people, from the context and limitation of myself and my actual life, which allowed me to reconnect, ultimately, with life itself. The thing that exists beyond the limits and boundaries and frailties of any individual.
What I found in both Washington this past week, and New York when I lived there, is the satisfaction of being there itself. It was something to hold on to, something to be proud of. It gave me a sense of accomplishment. I felt less detached. As depressed as I can seem, let's be clear. I am not suicidal. I like life, just not me (yet) or my life. But what I do like about life is barely present where I currently live, which makes everything seem pointless.
I read almost all of David Byrne's How Music Works in DC. It's alright. Worth reading. I found myself agreeing with him most when he was critical of the ideal of the isolated genius whose creations arrive seemingly out of nowhere and sui generis. The Romantic ideal is bullshit. Context matters. In fact, what we regard as genius may be just a celebration of a person's capacity to understand and speak to a context better than others. Maybe the work itself is done in isolation, but the statement needs context to be heard. It's not a tree/woods situation. It's more akin to language.
I speak one and hear in one, and I feel the people around me speak and hear in another.
And it is hard. Hard to work on music with no audience in mind. Frustrating to write, sometimes, just knowing that there is nowhere for this blog to go. It's never been about money, though the idea of someday doing what I would do for free and getting paid for it instead sounds fantastic. Nor has it ever been about fame. In fact, fame sounds like hell to me - hard enough for me to trust people as it is. I think I'd just like to mitigate the prostitution in my life as much as possible.
Still there is something wrong. Something lacking. To paraphrase Neruda, I feel like I am crossing a sea towards no arrival. I can't embrace nihilism, especially one that derives from a recognition of mortality. I can say life is pointless, and yet, could I say that Martin Luther King shouldn't have bothered? Not that I am comparing myself to him. Not at all. It's more that, to validate the nihilistic sentiment, one must think of a really positive example of someone working tirelessly to improve the condition of humanity and then still come to the same conclusions about the worth of life. I can't. I sometimes worry that utopia would be boring, but it will never arrive in my lifetime, and there is no way of knowing anyways unless it actually comes about.
If there is one critique of Providence that I do think is valid, it is that all my concerns seem so distant here. This is not a grand stage where the competing ideologies of our times clash in dramatic fashion. This is not a place of change. There was a certain pleasure in even going to bad parties in New York, a sense that I was connected to the leading edge, even if the edge was leading in the wrong direction.
I don't even know where I am going with this essay. There is no conclusion, no insight. All I know is that I am a dreamer. I must feel that there is more to life than life itself. Otherwise, why struggle? There must be a reason simply beyond my own pleasure to not sell everything I own and move to a tropical island somewhere to dissipate in a pool of rum and rain and the rays of an ever-present sun.
I ask again, why struggle? The real shame of our current socio-economic system, the losses that so many have incurred since the collapse of the "Fordist consensus", well, millions and millions of words have been written, but it comes down to: after years when, outside of the (sadly) usual racial and sexual prejudices of our society, it became possible for a substantial portion of our society to move beyond mere subsistence as a goal, now, with no real loss in total wealth, we are moving against that tide back to where millions now have to think in a manner that was foreign to even their own parents.
And the main critique I have of the restaurant industry, an industry I may be stuck in again for some time, is that the possibility of thinking beyond subsistence is very tough. You simply don't know how much money you are going to make, and it is easy to get stuck in the near future, and the worries of your own life. Even as broke as I was in New York, when I worked my shitty day job, I knew how much money I was going to make, could think of the future, both in terms of my own life, and in grander terms as well. While I hesitate to make any argument towards causality, I can't help but think there is a relationship between the kind of temporary and insecure working lives of so many of us in "bohemia" and the nature of the culture produced which seems to shy away from grand statements and grand ambitions.
That reminds me of another frustration about my life in Providence. I think I idealized the idea of moving to some sort of proverbial "woods" to focus wholly on music. And yet, even with the lower rents and the general ease of life here, the sense of escape and detachment I was looking for was impossible. As long as fulfilling one's responsibility to oneself includes fulfilling responsibilities to others, there is no escape. The cost of living will never be low enough. In fact, the feeling of exploitation somehow seems worse. There are fewer jobs, smaller variances in pay. To bring back an analogy, there's simply not enough "johns" here for a prostitute to be picky, or to price him/herself out of relatively and potentially unpleasant experiences.
I'm scared, even as I type this. It's going to be tough to move. I'll be putting myself through a lot of pain again, on faith. Maybe I can't even do it. Maybe it's even premature to write about it. Am I really doing this AGAIN? And yet I already feel the anger of having wasted more precious time on this experiment of living in Providence. Today I spent my shower shouting at myself. I knew I should have known better.
I went to a boarding school for high school. It's a long story, and one I won't tell. I had the opportunity to choose amongst a few schools I was accepted to. I chose the most rural because I thought I would be able to concentrate better. It didn't work. Providence was me trying this logic again, and with the same result.
I feel the shame again. I'm hard on myself, if you hadn't noticed. I keep starting over, keep being just at the cusp of starting a life, of having one, without being able to achieve it. I'm sick of doing it. For all my "searching" malarkey, there has to be a base from which to work, a place to come home to after the night's wandering is over. Because if one truly wants to wander, one can never stop. Because what one chases when one wanders is the the sense of possibility borne of the anticipation of arrival. What one seeks is the freedom from the attachments that place context and constraint around life. To wander is to constantly replenish the stores of the unknown.
And that is why leaving will never solve anything. Because once one settles, what is open will gradually close. Certain apples will be picked, others will be left to rot, and the tastes untasted will become only phantoms, haunting in perpetuity.
Only: the fruit I've left behind is more delicious and it is still there to be picked.
(mostly written last night, but suddenly iPad wouldn't let me scroll to the bottom of the page to keep writing)
First: dear Google, fuck you. I don't want to use your social media application. Fuck off.
Slept in again, this time exclusively due to the allergies.
In a rush, train to Gallery Place. Austin Grill because fast. National Gallery.
Modern Art really feels like in belongs in a museum now. Fewer and fewer paintings seem to be able to take me anywhere. Now that the line has ended in nowhere.
I could just be narrowing my tastes as I learn more, though. Rothko, Pollock, maybe I only cared when I did just because I was impressed.
Going to go to the West Wing tomorrow. All things being equal now, I think I may appreciate Italian paintings of Jesus and Mary more than ever.
After painting, walking. Oh so much. Walked through L'Enfant Plaza, then West, to Georgetown again. Wisconsin Avenue all the way up to the Friendship Heights metro station. Metro back to hotel. Well-needed rest and reading.
Here's the interesting part. Train back to Gallery Place, quick pizza at Matchbox. Walk to L'Enfant Plaza. Pictures taken around midnight. Walk all the way back to UDC metro station, with a quick stop for one beer at, you guessed it, Pharmacy.
Am tired. I might actually get up early and "do something" before I head back to Providence.
You may have noticed that I don't seem up to much besides wandering, eating, drinking, and sleeping. It's true. There are reasons. First off, I'm from here. All the touristy things I have ever been interested in doing have been done. Secondly, I am kind of broke. The most astute comment ever, said by a random girl, and overheard by me as I walked behind her and her friend in Georgetown years and years ago now: without the shopping, there'd be nothing to do. Thirdly, most of the people who made my life here are long gone. There were only a few people to contact and, well, for various reasons, no plans could be made. And lastly, the corny part.
I'm trying to find myself.
There, I said it, and it sounds stupid. But hear me out. I barely have a family, have been without love for a long time, and my friends are spread all over the country. I think, on some level, and, especially given the solitude of my childhood, DC itself has played the part of a person in my life more than people themselves. The city itself allows me to understand my own narrative, to place myself in context.
Here, in Providence, where I have lived less than two years, where I don't go to museums or art films with anyone, where I have never played as a DJ, where I can count on maybe two hands the truly satisfying meals I have had, and probably need only one hand to count meals of quality shared with others, I really feel that I am not known in any way. I'm just the bartender who works on music nobody has ever heard. Sometimes I go our for drinks. That's it. Nothing formative or memorable. At all.
Going back to DC has allowed me to feel that I, at least that "I" that is important to me, still exist. All the alienation vanishes. At least, the alienation, from politics and mainstream/mainstream independent culture, remains, but I can integrate, at least, with myself, with life itself. That feels nice.
Woke up earlier but not early. Check out.
Quick hop into the National Building Museum. Cool exhibit on the Gustavino Company and their, seemingly, previously unheralded importance in creating beautiful, tile-based ceilings for some of the most classic buildings built in America at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. I resist my own middle-class taste sometime, and have been tempted to write a defense of the existing Penn Station in NYC, but there is something really, really exceptionally beautiful about this era of American architecture and design.
After that, the LA exhibit. Drawings and pictures of some cool vernacular architecture but also a lot of mediocre postwar Modern and even International style atrocities. And tract housing. Yikes.
Like the Le Corb exhibit I saw at MOMA, or rather, barely wandered through seething with disgust, I found it a bit, somehow, disingenuous. Aesthetics isolated from political and social context: frustrating. With architecture: immoral.
I complain about working in restaurants. Most nights, it's actually not that bad. What bugs me is that I just don't want to do it anymore. Have I mentioned that the best thing about the restaurant industry is also the worst? You don't build anything. It's clean, it gets messy, you clean again, and start over. Regardless, I find my job easier to deal with when: a) I feel I can be myself and contribute somehow and, b) I like what I am offering.
Today I had a delicious dessert, on top of an already-indulgent meal at one of my favorite places. Thoughts of my job here in Providence barely crossed my mind while I was away, but they did again after lunch. The dessert I had today was perfectly executed in every way, from preparation to plating, and was $7. The desserts at my restaurant are usually significantly less creative, are smaller, are less fresh, are less delicious, and are generally unsatisfying. They cost $7.
Now I could just say, well, I went to Jaleo, Jose Andres' mecca for Spanish cuisine. A nationally-known and locally-beloved institution. But so what? Is not being good an excuse for not being good? Jaleo is a larger space, yes, and I think the kitchen is open a little later, fine. The ticket averages are higher. So more sales, yes. But the restaurant (I ate at the 7th St. NW location) pays, I'm sure, exponentially higher rent, has a much, much, much larger staff, and shoulders the burden of having higher food costs. So what is my restaurant's excuse?
While I'm distracted. They have been tightening the screws at work. All on the front-of-house staff. Sales tracking. Cameras. Measuring all alcohol pours. Efficiency expert (oh, and the owner with the drug problem and a history of stealing tips is no longer banned from the premises). All this tightening, to try and raise sales, to try and squeeze every little drop out of everything, and dessert sucks. Also the regular food too. I didn't even want dessert when I went into Jaleo, and the bartender didn't have to do anything to sell me dessert. Nothing at all. No pitch. No reverent descriptions. He just handed me the menu. The savory food was so good that I got seduced into it. Didn't want the pleasure to end. The food sells the fucking food. Stop blaming the front of house.
After Jaleo I felt like I was on opium and drifted lazily over to the Hirschhorn. You can buy totebags decrying consumerism now. So I left the shop empty-handed. Most of the museum was cordoned off, being prepared for an exhibit not yet open. So, permanent collection. Dubuffet, Bacon and De Kooning in consecutive rooms. A beautiful Clyfford Still that I don't remember seeing before. Perfect. Happy. What did I say yesterday about Modern art? Who cares.
Hustle to the West Wing of the National Gallery. Free museums are the best.
I only had forty-five minutes left. Wandered through the Italian rooms. Felt love in my heart. Knew everything was going to be ok. Eventually.
Metro back to hotel to pick up bags. Metro to Union Station. MARC to BWI. Last meal. Plane. Cab. ATM. Driver paid. Bank balance: ouch.
Walked past my restaurant, didn't even think twice about going in to talk to anyone. My life is between me and you. For now.
Woke up late. You can imagine why. Alcohol and allergies.
Booze seems to turn up quite often on this blog, but I have to say, I really don't drink that much. In Providence, I'll drink my allotted shift drink on the nights I work, and, unless I am visiting a certain person, I don't go out on my nights off. I don't keep alcohol in the house.
Regardless. Another walk down Connecticut Avenue. Kramerbooks. City Lights of China. More walking. Metro to Alexandria. Emotions. A profound sense of belonging. A reminder that I had a home. One that I can't return to.
Metro to Pentagon City. Lebanese food. Metro to the hotel. Nap. Nightmare about my job. Walk to U Street. One quick drink at Pilar. One of my closest friends used to work there. She wasn't there. She must have finally moved, like she had been threatening for so long.
Back to Pharmacy. More free drinks. Stone Roses no longer on the jukebox. The thing about Pharmacy is that it is actually for drinkers. They don't try and distract you into thinking that there is any other reason to be in a bar.
Cab back to hotel. The cab driver asked me about living in a cheaper place. I told him that the money scales with the cost of living. He will stay here. He should.
I sent an email to the girl I've been afraid to contact for so long. The account no longer exists.
There's so much more I want to say, but using this device to say it... no way. When I get back north. Yes.
Suffice it to say, there isn't much to life, is there? I want to move back here but I don't know that I should. I don't want this to be all there is.
I wasn't planning on doing any sort of a recording of my trip but since there is at least one person who wants to know...
(This is me on my iPad - less articulate)
The day started off badly. I have been fighting off allergies and worked very late last night and, consequently, woke up with less than fifty minutes to make my flight. I rescheduled, and spent too much money to do so...
But I did.
Because. This trip had already cost too much money, so I had to spend more.
I took the bus to the airport. I ate a burger there. The bartender showed me a video of himself skydiving in Tennessee. I've never felt compelled but now I do. Fear has destroyed me. Time to overcompensate.
The flight was un eventful. When I got to BWI, and walked outside, even just the smell, home.
Bus to Greenbelt. Green line to Fort Totten. Transfer to Red line, Shady Grove. Van Ness-UDC.
Already overwhelmed. A long walk down Connecticut Avenue to DuPont Circle. Couldn't even remember where Moby Dick's House of Kabobs was, or at least the location in that area. So. Fuck it. M Street to Georgetown. Combo number II. Orgasm. Providence food is a fucking joke.
More walking. Lot's of walking. Chinatown. Searching for cigarettes. Found.
A bar, The Passenger, named after the Iggy song. Named by former coworkers. Two fabulous cocktails, no time to catch up with old friends. Too busy. Good for them.
More walking. All the way to Adam's Morgan. Fucking Pharmacy Bar. Haven't been since at least 2008. Haven't been a true regular since 2006. Recognized immediately. Six beers eleven dollars. Oh, and great conversation with people I did not know before I walked in. As always. Best bar in the world. Best. Bar. In. The. World. Not. Hyperbole. Even. Given. This. Pretentious. Style. Of. Writing.
Jumbo slice, formnostalgia's sake. Cab. Sleep.
First off, I like being alive again. For a change.
Still a bit hard to parse. I left for a reason. What was it? Thought I could do more. I was right, am right. But does it matter where I am when I do it? Yes. No.
DC not ideal. Brooklyn not ideal. Nowhere I have lived is ideal. Providence is worse. What next?
Ok. So I can write. A bit. Sometimes. What's next?
I think I've always said that I have no aspirations to be a professional writer and it's true. But let me explain what I mean.
I worry that I can't be depended on when there are deadlines. I don't want to write things I don't want to write. Money or no money. I don't ever have any sense beforehand whether I will be inspired when I sit down. All my best and worst writing comes just as easily, and with the same amount of premeditation. There's little editing involved. I can't imagine myself writing for Pitchfork or Resident Advisor. For a millions reasons. Some: I hate short word counts, or the idea that what a piece of music could symbolize or engender on a social level is beyond the purview of a review. Especially since I think I am pretty bad at describing music itself.
Also the hype cycle. The fact that every publication, even the ones the publish good stuff, is ultimately full of shit. People actually like Haim. What fucking world do I live in?
I also realize I am much more disillusioned than most. What new records would I write about? If I wanted to go the regular route, I would put together a portfolio of reviews. Of what records though? Or rather, which ones recorded after 2005?
Also, I should say, I don't want to ever depend on my writing in any way, to have any of my sense of pleasure and autonomy taken away from me. I wish more people came to this blog, wish more people gave a shit, but I haven't done anything about it for a reason. This is my space outside of anyone's expectations but my own. I like it that way.
I had an offer once. From the sadly-defunct Stylus Magazine. Some of those guys used to hang out on the same music message board I did. They liked my writing. I got sent an album. I had nothing to say. That was it. I felt horrible. Still regret it, though I still have nothing to say about that album; haven't even listened to it since. Didn't enjoy the pressure of trying to have something to say I didn't have something to say about. Didn't enjoy being relied on or disappointing others, though, most likely, I was more disappointed in me than they were.
It doesn't help that I can name more than a few people smarter and more talented than I who write and don't get anywhere. I look into the future and I can't see myself in it, to quote somebody else, somewhere.
Insecurity, too. How many books must one read, how many records must one have heard, how many films, etc.? Never enough as far as I am concerned. I only know what I know, if even that
But I do write. So is the next step just being more formal about it and sending things out to people before putting them up for free here? I feel like I've hit a wall, somehow. Feel I can do better. Feel that I want to challenge myself to do better. Feel like there is a difference between working at a bar and being a bartender. I may always have to do the former. But I don't want to be the latter anymore.
First off, fuck life. I remember now why I spent so much time lowering both what I expect of myself and what other expect of me. I'm a day away from having finished all of three books since my post this past August soliciting reading material. That's it. At this rate, I may get around to your suggestions someday in 2014. Which is actually not that far away now but still angers me because 2014 was further away when the suggestions were made.
It's funny, I could go months in New York not getting anything done at all and not be as mad because I was looking forwards. Now I am not. I do waste less time than I did then and yet, because I invest more meaning in time now, my actions still can't seem to catch up with desire. I need to fucking relax.
It doesn't help that it gets cold up here quickly. It's been less than two months. I need to fucking relax.
I can't really be scared of death at 32, can I? Must be something else. What?
It's not that time is moving faster, only that so much of it needs to be ignored.
That's what scared me about 9-5. Being glad a day was done.
This is not about sadness.
The other thoughts.
I haven't read and am not going to reread my posts from last February where I realized I couldn't establish any definitive structural "need" for retro culture in late capitalism, but I think, at least, I have the beginnings of the hypothesis. Maybe I had it then too. Maybe I am repeating myself. Maybe somebody else had them. Just in case not.
Let's just say (and here's the relationship back to cities, gentrification):
Retro culture is the reinvestment of surplus capital.
That sort of explains away the "need" inasmuch as the need is inherent to the system, the aggregate result of seemingly-diverse agencies underpinned by a hidden, subconscious, yet shared goal.
Both reissues and bands that sound like other bands are basically either maintaing or expanding the reach of a market or markets.
So the challenge may now be to define the terms "surplus" and "capital" in the context of "economies of culture".
What happened to raise the effective demand for cultural "product", the demand that requires the expansion of markets?
I don't have an answer but here's a hint: identity is the social manifestation of the "coercive laws of competition".
Per Houellebecq, the collapse of enforced monogamy means we can never recuse ourselves from the market as long as we desire pleasure/profit. The need for individuation and innovation is now constant.
Tasteful consumer choices, choices of "conscience", require fuller engagement with the marketplace compared to "lumpen", "big boxes", "brand names".
Capitalism is ontology.
None of this is new. Can it be put together in a new way, though?
...with alt-coutntry as an idea, genre, scene, etc., and occasionally get really pissed about it. Especially not being in DC or NYC any more. I could write a lot, a LOT, but it all comes down to something simple: there seems to be a huge segment of the American "left" that has a problem with cities, that still locates authenticity in some halcyon era before, I dunno. It never existed (at least without lynching [too much?]).
Sometimes in Brooklyn, looking around bars filled with wood and taxidermy stocked with all sorts of "handmade" ryes, it felt to me like the goal was to literally create a retroactive history in which ethnic white working-class people never left the city and blacks and immigrants never moved in. This scares me. A lot.
This feeling really inverts my sense of "guilty pleasure" in music. I love horrifically maudlin, "plastic" freestyle records unabashedly. I keep the small handful of alt-country songs I love to myself. Here's one, one of the best ever written. Songs I mean, of all time, for me, at least. Not for any cannon that exists outside of my late night solitary listening.
The most recent trip happened sometime between 2006 and 2008. I can't even remember, that's how important the experience is.
This particular place was in Arlington, VA. I went because a coworker had never been to one and wanted to go. It was a topless place, almost more a dinner club than a strip club. I was bored. I stuck with it, though, for the sake of my co-worker. I was barely in my late twenties, but I felt already like an adult compared to the person I went with, who was just over twenty one.
We sat, we drank beer, we watched. The girls came around, solicited drinks, etc. I already knew. He didn't, but he learned, and in the hardest way possible.
This guy, Paul, lived with his mother in one of the nastiest houses I have ever been in. The glass case where his snake was kept was the cleanest space in the whole house. We would grab some beers and play Guitar Hero after work occasionally. We could smoke cigarettes inside. Of course.
I think I could have been a better friend to him. Or rather, I was a good friend at the time, but after I left for New York, well, the past was the past. What did we really have to talk about? Life sucks, retail sucks. We ended up going to a Skinny Puppy show together. I liked it more than I expected I would.
A particular confusion of mine. I am, still, and have been, just as angst-ridden as any Tool-loving teenager from the suburbs, but, the educated, urbane aesthete in me, hard to shake, even as that same angst prevents me from taking my place amongst those who I "belong" with.
Regardless, topless place.
The girls came and went, money was requested, drinks were bought. At one point, a young girl sat down next to Paul. They started talking. Much was discussed. Broken homes, tough lives, tough jobs, and, especially, more totemic bands of disillusioned young white suburbanites everywhere. It could have been a conversation anywhere, in any context; it was going well.
Of course. But not really. We bought her a drink. A professional, she didn't touch it. She got up and left. A deep connection was broken. What could have been the love of Paul's life up to that point went to talk to someone else, about something else, for more money. I could see in his eyes that he really believed, if only for a brief moment, one that ended with her exit from our booth.
Before that, I had gone to a strip club at some point in 2004. A friend was getting married. He had never been. It was silly.
There were, and may still be, two strip clubs on M Street NW in Washington, DC a few doors down from each other south of Dupont Circle. We went to one. The bouncer was having a hard time reading my friend's ID. My friend stated his year of birth, and the bouncer asked him to repeat himself, looking affronted. My friend obliged, and the bouncer decided, for some reason, that we were too drunk to come in. We had had one beer already that evening.
Perhaps this is not funny by itself. I should add that my friend spoke with the same sort of earnest and friendly tone of voice that someone proud of their small town and of a hospitable nature might offer directions.
We walked a few doors down and got in to the next club, easily.
And, other than the fact that, of course, the drinks were too expensive, that's all I remember. Not because I drank too much, but because it felt so pointless. There was, of course, as my friend had suspected, no epiphany to be had.
When I went to the club in DC it had been five years since I had been to a strip club.
That club, the first club, was somewhere in Ohio near Cincinnati.
I was living in New York in 1999 during a year off between high school and college and was living in a one bedroom apartment in Park Slope with two girls, both of whom I had known from my previous school. My dad was, ludicrously, proud, even though nothing happened, and we, the girls and myself, were all better off because of it.
They had a lot of shoes.
I don't mean that to sound sexist. I just tripped. A lot. There were probably at least thirty pairs of shoes on the floor at any time. It was a small apartment for a married couple of below-average height and perfect physical fitness. Yuppies on yoga. I'm sure, given the neighborhood, that our residency was followed by precisely such a couple.
A guy called Jason was a friend to us all. But why? I'll never know. I guess I can credit not having ever found a place for myself in this world for most of the misery I have experienced and continue to experience, but I've met a lot of interesting people, if only because they wanted to be friends, even if there was absolutely no sane reason for us to actually be friends. I think I may have hurt some people because of this, but never intentionally.
Jason was into the Dave Matthews Band and had his parents buy him the same model of guitar that Dave Matthews played. I knew some of the songs, but was way too cool to be in to that music, especially in 1998, though I did end up "jamming" with Jason every so often. He was a year behind me in school, and stuck there while I moved to New York. He was attracted to one of the girls with whom I lived.
That became a problem. She was manipulative. She told him she was pregnant with his kid. She wasn't. I was stuck in the middle of that situation, compelled to clearly explain to Jason the truth, which my roommate would constantly contradict. I lasted in this apartment for six months. I stopped paying my bills at the very end and started buying records instead.
The mother of the girl who lied about being pregnant showed up to the office where I worked one day drunk, before noon, to scream at me. Apparently, what I was told I had to pay for rent by the aforementioned girl, and had always paid, was not the same amount I was supposed to be paying. It was news to me. Thankfully, due to the mother's behavior, should I have ever forgotten in subsequent months exactly how much money I was meant to pay, I would have had at least thirty people from which to solicit that information.
I should add that the most awkward conversation I have ever had with management soon followed.
While I am still not talking about strip clubs: after I moved out, I began receiving threatening calls from another boy who was enamored with this girl promising physical harm should I not pay back the few hundred dollars for utilities that I still owed. And calls from Jason about pregnancy.
But before all of this happened, I made the thirteen hour journey from New York Port Authority to Cincinnati. It was summer, right after my graduation, and before Jason had to return to school for his senior year. Jason had guilted me into coming all the way out there for his birthday, which he did not want to spend alone, or, better said, without at least someone from school. He had plenty of friends in Cincinnati.
I got there, and nothing was as I expected. Apparently, Jason had to attend summer school. I had not known this before getting on the bus. I spent the days playing video games in his parent's massive home while he was off at school. In the evenings, we would tool around the suburbs, me smoking, most likely, at this time, Galouises Blondes, and him, his pathetic Marlboro Ultra-Lights. We were in an SUV, with the greatest hits of the Steve Miller Band blasting through the stereo.
Early evening were spent doing nothing, getting stoned, drinking beer, playing video games at his friend's apartment. Chili, Graeter's ice cream. The late evenings were something different.
We went to the same strip club every night for almost a week.
It was misery.
Jason, he who would soon be convinced that a certain girl was pregnant, was, at this time, convinced that he had a chance with a certain stripper. So we went, every night, to see her dance.
I guess she was attractive, but, given that I had seen her naked, my ambivalence should be seen as vaguely insulting. She was certainly nice, which is, ultimately, more important. She certainly wasn't in love with Jason. This became more apparent when a crew of us went back to her place to hang out. It was, well, uneventful. I think she had kids. Sleeping in the next room.
During that week at the club, spent patiently chain-smoking and sipping water as I was underage, I developed a sad, perverse fascination. No. Not that.
I would watch the girls in the mirrors instead of directly, and would watch for the moments when the girls would see their reflections and allow one moment of self-loathing to reveal itself subtly at the moment of self-recognition. It wasn't something I enjoyed. Or rather, it wasn't something that made me happy. I guess I enjoyed it, not due to the self-loathing, but to finally get the chance to see real nudity: vulnerability. That that moment could even exist, that these women had not been completely subsumed in their objectification, was, and here's the perverse part, the only true moment of possibility, of hope there to be witnessed.
Prince, Sign 'O' The Times (out of respect for Prince, no link!)
Now on to sleeves and more techno. 2013 is a good year for music but not for records.
More on this later, but, for now, I just want to say, as a loyal supporter of music and musicians, I feel really, really fucking exploited as someone who buys records. I'd gladly pay $10 for your dope new techno single than the $3 I paid for Mirage, even if nothing on it is as good as "Gypsy", but your record was only $10 for one day, and only somewhere in Europe. Now it's $60 plus another $15 to get it shipped to me. And none of that extra money goes to you, the artist. Since I refuse to download, I guess I will never hear it except on Youtube or SoundCloud and I will never play it at a DJ gig. Does this bother you? I hope so. Not because I am the greatest DJ. I'm not, and I'm not famous, either. I just represent a lot more people than you are aware of, and we are all disappointed. Aren't you? I understand the elitist strain in techno. Except now it's linked to money. Which is something different entirely. Is that your thing? Really?