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Withdrawal, Day Seven

The keys are still on the desk, just where she left them, just as she left them:  the building door and apartment door keys lying close, the mailbox key off at a right angle. I wonder how much dust they'll gather before I give them to the next roommate, or I throw them into a drawer.

We had a small clipboard with some Post-It notes, on the side of the refrigerator, to leave messages, or label food in the fridge, or in markedformetal's case, to sometimes write up a grocery list.  Her last note is still up there:  "jam".  Now, she wasn't big on breakfasts, didn't do too much toast.  Maybe she wanted it for sandwiches, I don't know.  But it's still up there, I have no reason to take it down.  And I see her elegant cursive every time I go for something to eat or drink.

Her parents had gifted her a box of groceries shortly after she moved in, some basics, mostly Costco-sized.  One was a 30-oz. container of French's yellow mustard, which we both remarked on at the time to be more mustard than we'd ever need.  I only take mustard on hot dogs, and now that markedformetalis gone, it's literally a lifetime supply.  I don't know how long mustard keeps, but if I ever wanted kids, this would be enough for me to pass down to my heirs.  As such, it's just a reminder of how much I don't actually need, when I live alone.

Similarly, there's her Christmas present to me.  My coffee maker was/is a modest 4-cup Black & Decker.  She didn't have coffee often, but would occasionally on weekends when Beau would be over.  So, for Christmas she gave me a coffee grinder, and a 10-cup Sylvania coffee maker.  As much a gift to herself and Beau as it was to me, I suppose, they/we could have coffee all together instead of making several batches; though she'd already read the two books I had bought for her as gifts, so I guess her gesture still wins out over mine.  Moreover, I already had a coffee grinder, which I have to think she would have known if she'd taken an inventory of what was in my kitchen, before she had decided that my kitchen was too small and didn't enough equipment to cook with.  We both decided that Christmas morning that the grinder should go to her father, who probably didn't have one (though I'm betting he does), so it went when she did.  But the Sylvania is still there on the counter, behind my Black & Decker, an unplugged testament to the greater volume of the apartment's solitude.

I've always hated slamming doors, so I habitually close doors behind me, rather than let them swing shut (unless I'm in a hurry or something).  I got into the habit of closing the doors especially quietly, since she was usually asleep when I left in the morning, or could be sleeping off a migraine, or was just plain tired.  I'm still instinctively keeping quiet when I leave, even though she's no longer in her room to hear.

But that's not to say that I am carrying some sort of torch, or in any way hoping--or even wanting--for her to come back.  Just that I am a creature of habit, and change like this doesn't come easily. 


Withdrawal, Day Three

Horrific weather, but I drove down to Renton to see my friend J., find out if he wanted to move in.  He didn't.  He just moved six months ago, when the house he was renting with three other guys got foreclosed on, and he had to get out; at the time, he hit me up, asking if that second room I have (and had suggested to him after My Crazy (Ex-)Roommate went back to Baltimore the year before) was still available.  I had to tell him that I'd already promised it to her, that she was due to arrive in a few weeks' time.  Thing is, he's steadily employed, and could easily have afforded half the rent and utilities, which I'd been paying on my own for a year and a half.  I knew she couldn't afford it, that's why I offered her the room, as it would give her a bedroom and bathroom of her own, when her alternatives with no steady income would be crashing on peoples' couches or such.  So I was presented with a stark choice last summer:  a paying roommate whom I'd known since high school and was certain I could comfortably share an apartment with, or a woman I loved, who couldn't pay anything and I hadn't known for more than two years, and couldn't reasonably expect to ever return my emotional investment.
  
If I believed in god, I'd say I was being given a test.  As it is, I'm just struck by the irony of it all.

I went for love, of course.  And now I've missed a very good chance to get some financial stability.  Things won't get desperate for a month or two, but I now have to make some choices. 

I moved into this apartment seven years ago:  I was unhappy with my roommate, who didn't do much of anything in the way of upkeep around the place, and it had descended into bachelor squalor.  One day, I saw the landlord cleaning out an apartment across the hall--seems that the two college chicks who were there skipped out.  So I spoke up for it, and got the best unit in the building:  1,050 square feet, two bedroom, two bath, washer/dryer, and a great view of the Puget Sound and the Olympics to the west.  All to myself.  For the first time in my life, I was truly on my own.  I was complete master of my dominion.  I was making middle management money, and this was before the Seattle housing market blew up and rents went up precipitously, so life was great.

Two bedrooms, two bathrooms.  My thinking at the time was something like this:  since I was now on my own, and didn't have a sloppy roommate, dating would get easier, I'd have some place that I could be proud of.  The fantasy was that I'd hook up with some chick, and she'd move in.  We'd have separate rooms, have all the privacy we needed for ourselves and yet we could fuck on a regular basis.  Maybe even continue to date other people, if we weren't perfect for each other, but we'd have that domestic angle covered.

That never came to pass, though I was occasionally throwing a poker party--I once had eleven guests at once.  A record.  A few chicks came over, none stayed the night.  Eventually, My Crazy (Ex-)Roommate moved in; there was nothing between us, sexually, but we'd known each other since college, so it was a very easy fit (at first, anyway).  When she left, I rediscovered my bachelorhood, but found that I had let the dating idea go.

Then markedformetal  came into the picture.  The landlord didn't like the idea that I had another roommate, after his experience with my last one; he wanted to raise the rent $200, and when I refused that he started talking about an additional deposit or a water consumption fee.  I eventually wore him down, after hours of talking.  I gave a thought to moving out if I couldn't get her in here; what was the point of having such a great apartment if I couldn't share it with the woman of my choice?

So I had half a year of her in my home.  Now that she's gone, I'm left with another feeling over and above my solitude:  what's the point of having this large a space at all?  An apartment for two--who am I kidding?  I've shared my homespace with an amazing woman that I loved...and this is what I'm left with.  I love this apartment, and I want to hold onto it for as long as I can; but there are times when I think I've trapped myself here.

She moved to Los Angeles because she desperately needed a change of scene.  Maybe I should think about changing my scene.

Withdrawal, Day Two

Went to see BLACK SWAN.  I was into classical in high school, so I know the music (by the way, the name Tchaikovsky is, to my recollection, not mentioned once in the movie, or shown prominently in the credits), though I've never  been one for ballet.  Really got into it, though, I think it might be Aranofsky's best movie so far.  Part of me would be thrilled to see it win Best Picture.  Also, Natalie Portman gives a phenomenal performance; she's the odds-on favorite to win, and if she does, she'll be the first, so far as I know, to win Best Actress in a role that depicted her character getting her pussy eaten...by another chick, no less.  On some guy-level, I'm tickled by that.
   Getting out was definitely a good idea, but coming home to an empty apartment is still disquieting.  I miss having to be quiet for her; the fact that I can have the television or stereo as loud as I want (without disturbing the neighbors) seems like cold consolation.  Maybe it's just my imagination, but it's like my sonic environment doesn't sound quite the same.

Withdrawal, Day One

Not bad.  The apartment feels empty, and so do I, but not devastatingly so.  More a pervasive silence around and in me that I'm trying to dispell, by playing the stereo, for whatever that will bring.
   I was going out to see BLACK SWAN, I have to see that and THE FIGHTER before Sunday's Oscar broadcast, and maybe WINTER'S BONE or 127 HOURS--but I didn't feel like it.  That was an exhausting weekend, if I went into a darkened theater I might fall asleep.  I'll try again tomorrow, though they're calling for snow:  it did snow here for a bit, left enough frost on the car that I had to chisel some away before tonight's grocery/beer run.  Making up some mac and cheese right now, with leftover rotisserie chicken, maybe some canned green beans.  But I have provisions if I get snowed in tomorrow night.
   I just put in a load of laundry, had to readjust the washing machine settings, from Hot/Cold to Warm/Cold, and Heavy Duty to Permanent Press.  Realized that that's the last time I'll have to reset it.
   I have to go through that back bedroom to get to the washer/dryer.  It used to smell of her, of her citrus bodywash.  Now that it's empty, that scent is as thin and elusive as a ghost.  But, like a ghost, is a lingering and haunting presence.  Would I really be better off not thinking about that?
   She said that she wasn't going to take any of her food, she had a well-stocked pantry going (she insisted that she have her own food stores that I wouldn't touch--something about a holdover from her childhood, when she didn't have free access to what food she wanted in the family kitchen).  Good thing I checked it before I went on the grocery run:  turns out, she'd cleared it out, along with all her stuff in the freezer.  Not to deprive me, I'm pretty sure--I'd bet anything, she took it all to the food bank.  Which is totally cool.  Points to her for buying a replacement paper towel roll in the kitchen, she'd gone through all of it while packing, cleaning up no doubt.  Also, she'd loaded all her dishes from the last few days into the dishwasher, and then ran it before she left.  She certainly picked up after herself.

But I don't weep...

Bluebird
 by Charles Bukowski

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
you.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he's
in there.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know you're there,
so don't be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do
you?


Terpsichore

 

"I would only believe in a god who could dance."

--Friedrich Nietzsche, THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA

 

I never had a desire to dance.

I mean, in college I learned how to waltz, and having listened to nothing but classical music in high school, the music was a natural fit.  Our school had formal dances about once a month, featuring waltz and swing.  I never got into swing, but I did try it once or twice.  In four years, I never missed a waltz party, I would show up at the beginning and stay until the last dance.  My partners complimented me on my style, though I actually couldn't get into the three-step, I cheated and did a two-step, but somehow made it work.  Great times.

Later, in my headbanging days, I moshed.  I hate going to a concert and having the floor seated.  Pearl Jam in '98 was amazing, a very genial crowd and a fun pit.  Saw them again in 2004, by which time some people got trampled at one of their shows in Europe, and after that they insisted on having the entire floor seated; there goes any desire I have to see them in concert again, no matter how good the performance.  This is a band who got famous for a video of Eddie Vedder doing a stage dive at The Moore ("Evenflow", if you remember that one).  Metallica, Primus, Iron Maiden, Butthole Surfers--my favorite part of the show was the pit.  I went to Stone Temple Pilots shortly after I turned 40, and let me tell you:  40 is not too old for the mosh pit.  That was a great fucking show.  I was incredibly disappointed when I went to Hole a few weeks ago, and the crowd was lame; bad enough that they didn't want to mosh, but they seemed to resent the fact that the mad crush of the rush to the stage violated their personal space, or whatever. 

So, for most of my adult life, when anyone asked me if I liked to dance, I'd say I waltz and I mosh, that's it.  I never went near any dance clubs, just didn't like the scene.  And it's not like there weren't opportunities; there was a dance party on campus every Friday when I was a student, it was the 80's and it was college.  And a lot of my friends liked dancing, as well as most all of the chicks I dated (or tried to date).  I guess my spirit was never moved.

Then along came a Metal Angel.

I met her for the first time at her favorite club, The Noc in downtown Seattle.  Taking the practical approach to courtship, I realized I would have to at least give dancing a try.  And the setting was good:  the music is goth/industrial, which while not my favorite at least lines up pretty well with my metal tastes.  So, on her return visit from Mitchigan last year for her birthday, we were at The Noc and the DJ put on Rob Zombie's "Living Dead Girl".  Actually, not the best song to start with, in retrospect, but it was one of her favorites, she told me she used to strip to it.  And I dig Zombie, and having had several pale ales by that point in the evening, I shrugged as she led me out onto the dance floor.

Fast forward to present, when I'm running on four hours of sleep at work today, as I was at The Noc past midnight, dancing my ass off.  The DJ played Rob Zombie's "Dragula", coincidentally enough, and I was stompin' hard.  This on a Sunday night, whereas the night before I was in Capitol Hill at The Vogue, getting there shortly after they opened, and dancing almost continuously for three hours.  Only reason I left when I did was to catch the last bus home out of downtown; if I'd had a ride, I could've closed the place.  Been going there every Saturday night for over a month, by myself. 

So what happened?  How'd I go from having no interest in dancing to someone who now spends his weekends enthusiastically doing nothing but?

It's not like I had some desire to get out and dance that I've been suppressing all this time.  I just had no desire.  Now, for whatever reason, I do.  I've always had a strange relationship with music:  I'm listening to music constantly, all day at work, on my MP3 player on the bus, on the radio in my car (I turn it off during the commercials), I have a 6 CD player in the living room, and a 5-disc player in my bedroom.  I don't like silence, I find it unnerving.  So I guess you could say I'm musical--only, I have no aptitude whatsoever for musical expression.  My parents gave me organ lessons when I was young, I tried piano in high school, guitar in college.  I'm hopeless.  And very envious of those who can play an instrument.  Though I have video game-conditioned reflexes, and an impressive ear for nuances of sound (I wouldn't be surprised to learn I have perfect pitch, or close anyway), I just can't channel that into any sort of musical expression.  And I don't like my voice, so I don't sing.  I guess dancing gives me a form of musical manifestation that I've always wished I had.  Music now affects me in a different way.  Just like there are some songs that aren't fully appreciated unless your're thrashing to it in a pit, some songs take on a different appeal if you're dancing. 

The turning point for me came in January, during another of markedformetal 's visits back here.  She was making the rounds at The Noc with her coterie of friends when the DJ put on The Cult's "She Sells Sanctuary", my favorite Cult song.  Up until then, I'd more or less been following her lead.  But when I heard the opening guitar strains, I thought to myself "If she's not dancing to this, I am."  And I charged out there with abandon.  And a few other songs later that evening.  As much as I enjoyed that moment, it didn't occur to me to venture out on my own in the months after that.  When markedformetal  relocated to Seattle in July, it was almost a month before she returned to The Noc.  I had a great time dancing that night, and through the following week I thought about hitting some other club on Saturday night, instead of my usual (and by now routine) downtown pool or pinball gaming.  I ended up at The Vogue, which is how that started.  Going clubbing by myself felt a little awkward, but The Vogue is in Capitol Hill, Seattle's "artistic" neighborhood, so if I looked completely gay out on the dance floor, I was in the right place.  I took to it surprisingly quickly.

So, all those 80's songs that I hated at the time?  I'm paying a $6 cover every Saturday night to dance to them now.  The guy in the dorm room below me freshman year loved to play The Cure's "Close To Me".  That electric xylophone really irritated me.  But I'm out there, finding the beat.  Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy"?  I have no shame, for better or worse.  I requested--and got--Joy Division's "Digital".  I started doing Ian Curtis robot arms.  And don't tell me that Shriekback's "Nemesis" isn't a great request.

After a few times out, I started to wonder if I was dancing too aggressively.  People were watching me, and not just the chicks.  One guy sitting near my table said something adulatory, like "You're really going out there!" or such.  markedformetal  says some people dance easy, some hard.  Last night the DJ played Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence", and most everyone else on the floor was swaying, almost trancelike.  Not me:  I was keeping time with the drum and bass line, not the vocals or keyboard track, so I was dancing faster than everyone around me.  I really get into it, I guess.  I've noticed that I do more footwork than most, keeping time with the rhythm, and rely less on gyrating or other serpentine moves.  Sometimes I think I'm too spastic, but I am enjoying getting the energy out.

So I'm not sure where this is all coming from, why the dance muse has touched me at this point in life.  Maybe it's because I have something to dance about:  I mean, life isn't perfect, but on the whole, I'm happier than I've been in memory.  So I guess it's only fitting.

"I have learned to walk:  ever since, I let myself run.  I have learned to fly:  ever since, I do not want to be pushed before moving along.

Now I am light, now I fly, now I see myself beneath myself, now a god dances through me."

Thus spoke Zarathustra.

Different Stages


"Hey, do you know where I can get something to eat around here?" I asked the guy sitting on the stool.
   "Around here?  After midnight?  Not anything close."
   It was after midnight--almost half past.  I was on vacation, my first after seven years of upper-middle management.  Portland was a nice weekend getaway from Seattle, fairly cheap and easy to get around, with a few things to do.  It was Friday night, I'd just gotten into town, and I was knocking around the downtown, checking out the scene.  Getting a drink, here and there.  But I needed sustenance, keep the beer and whisky anchored.
   "Yeah, most nights some of us around here go in on a pizza or something delivered."  Some of us?  He mean others in the neighborhood working the door, or others in this club of his?  Lush, it was called, in modest neon letters against a heavily black-curtained bay window that offered no glimpse of what was inside.
   "Well...what's closest?"
   "You go up this street here, about five or six blocks up?  On the right?  Up on the second floor of that place, there's a Mexican place that's open til one or so."  And since Mexican is my favorite, I went for it.
   Only, I must've gotten lost or something, because I never found it.  I had wandered up Burnside almost to Powell's City of Books, but didn't see any second-floor Mexican.  At that point, I just started wandering around the Powell's neighborhood, thinking there must be something.  And I found a chowder house, ordered myself (yet another--) beer, and some fish and chips.  Pretty nice, all in all.  Though on the walk back into the club section of downtown for one last drink before heading back to the hotel, I passed a diner called The Roxy, which looked so fucking cool I made a point of going there the next day for breakfast (and it was excellent).
 
   Saturday I went to the Washington Park Zoo, which was cool.  I had rented a car, which had a much better sound system that the '84 Honda Civic I owned.  For dinner, I headed a few miles to the south, to stop in with a sales agent that I'd had extensive dealings with while in telecomm, but had never met in person.  She had a nice place in McMinnville, we had a modest meal and several glasses of red wine.  I begged off around nine to return to my hotel, as I was checking out the next morning, turning in my rental, and getting the Amtrak back to Seattle.  And this was going to be my night on the town.
   Back in my hotel room at the extreme southern end of downtown, I had a few bong hits with a slice of cold leftover pizza and a Red Hook, augmented by the occasional shot of Black Velvet.  It was Saturday night, goddamn it:  I was gearing up for some serious hedonism.  My break from the job I'd had for seven years felt like a divorce, a sudden going from ten hours a day of intense work that included weekends, and some out-of-state travel--to suddenly having more time than I knew what to do with.  Like now.  This vacation.  This liberation.   I should be up for anything.  I remember getting into the rental car, a good buzz going, and just about to pull out of the hotel parking lot:  KUFO, the local rock station, was playing "Another Brick In the Wall, Part 3", which I knew led into "Young Lust".  I had buckled up and stashed my pocket pipe in my leather jacket, leaning over the wheel looking for my entry into traffic; soon as I recognized the song, I reached over and with anticipatory joy spun the volume knob of the car stereo, *just* in time for the opening lyrics.  Roger Waters all but screamed around me--
 
I AM JUST A NEW BOY!!
STRANGER IN THIS TOWN!!
WHERE ARE ALL THE GOOD TIMES?!!
WHO'S GONNA SHOW THIS STRANGER AROUND?!!
 
   I like pool, but the pool hall on Second, The Rialto, was now more of a dance club, with a $5 cover and a lot of loud house music; even if I got a table there, I wouldn't enjoy the game much.  Most of the other hotspots in downtown had that kind of feel:  deafeningly loud, and geared to the dance crowd.  I don't dance, never have, so I didn't see any appeal.  I got a burger at some place just off of Couch Street, a few blocks away from that one club where the guy said there wasn't much in the neighborhood in the late hours.  This place seemed OK--didn't he know about it?  Then again, I was the only person in there, and it still took them more than fifteen minutes to do a burger with Swiss.  Shouldn't complain, though, it was decent.
   Now I was on the hunt for a place I could get several drinks.  A club, maybe, but not one of these dance places.  Maybe a nice lounge, but not a wine bar or anything too sedate--I might see a band if they sounded right.  Something like The Space Room out on Hawthorne, I really liked that place.  I'd scoped the area, there were no real dive bars around--which was surprising, given the number of homeless in the area, I'd think that a low-end bar could do some decent business.  But no.
   It was getting on in the evening, though, and I still hadn't found anything.  So I thought, what the hell?  That Lush place didn't seem too loud.  Dark, kind of private.  I'll check that out. 
   "There a cover tonight?"  I asked the same guy, sitting on the same stool. 
   "No cover--two drink minimum," he told me.
   Two drink minimum?  I wasn't interested in minima.  Tell me about the upper limit, not the lower--six drink maximum, or whatever.  I was good for a shot and a beer or two (or three, if it was cool).  He checked my ID, stamped my hand.  As I walked past him into the entrance, I casually asked, "So, what's the scene here?"  Place looked dark, like it might be a goth club or something.
   "The scene here?  Boobies." 
   I swear to Christ, it hadn't occurred to me until I heard him say that.
   This was a *strip club*.  And, at age 37, this was my first time.
 
   It's not like I balked or anything, it just wasn't what I was expecting.  But fuck it all, I wanted the real club experience, and this was new.  Why not have my few drinks here?  Two drinks would last me ten minutes, fifteen tops--if I didn't dig it, I wouldn't have to stay long.
   As it was, the place was fairly comfortable:  the stage, near the bar, dominated the room, obviously, but there were plenty of tables and booths around, and a good many of them were open.  I got a shot of Seagram's 7 and a pint of Widmer Hefeweizen from the bar, and took a seat at a small table at a little remove from the stage.  There were a few open seats at the stage, but I wasn't up for that.  I didn't want a dance, or whatever they called it, so I didn't feel I warranted taking a spot that belonged to a paying customer.  I sat down, and took in the scene. 
   The place wasn't too dark, though obviously most of the lighting was on the stage, a ten foot-by-ten foot deal with a chrome pole and a curtained entrance.  The DJ would announce a set, with two dancers' names:  "Lovely Tiffany on the upper stage, and the exotic Lana on the lower stage."  I didn't see any other stage, so I didn't know what he meant, but near the entrance I'd seen a set of stairs leading down, so I assumed that this was the upper stage.  A young woman would come out, decked out in some lingerie and high heels, with a squirt bottle and a small cloth.  First thing she'd do is wipe down the pole, which I thought only made sense, but wasn't something that had ever occurred to me might be a necessary part of the job.  That done, the music would start, and she'd dance, on and around the pole, ending with her stripped down to a G-string by the end of the first song (which was some 80's glam rock, or else something more recent, dance music that I didn't recognize at all).  For the second song, the G-string came off, and she shimmied along the edge of the stage, attending to any of the patrons who proferred money.  This seemed to me audacious:  in Seattle, I'd heard that the dancers had to stay at least four feet from the customers at all times, that no alcohol was served, that a full-strip wasn't allowed, etc.  Here, it seemed just about anything went.  I understood that there was a no-touching rule, but other than that the action was a lot more immediate.
   The dancers were very pretty, young, toned, invariably shaved down to nothing, but cute nonetheless.  The dancing, per se, didn't do much for me.  I didn't find the experience arousing, but it was diverting.  Hey, I like women's bodies, and I was seeing more flesh--in the flesh--than I was used to.  That, and I was good and stoned, and getting drunk.  What could be better than this?  I took in the moment for what it was:  a celebration of all things sensual.  I watched the young stripper with a keen, libidinous male eye, to be sure--but I also had to wonder about her.  What did she do apart from this?  And why does that question come up when watching strippers, when it doesn't in my dealings with waitresses, or cashiers, or the chick that works the counter at Bakeman's?  So much for the idea that sex work reduces women to objects--I'm *more* apt to think about a woman's non-work life if she's in The Trade than otherwise.  Is that some kind of reverse-prejudice?  Or a necessary correction?
   All in all, I thought it was pretty cool.  I finished my shot and beer, and went for another.  I think I stayed for four dancers in all.  Maybe I just have no appreciation for dancing, but I couldn't differentiate between them.  First song they were on the pole, and did that whole thing about hanging upside-down by the legs and lowering themselves slowly.  By the time I saw the third dancer do it, I had to wonder why it was such an integral part of the act.  Was this supposed to be hitting some male hot button that wasn't working in me?  I wondered if it were more a show of skill, something the dancers were doing to impress each other rather than the audience.  Though the patrons were fairly vocal in their approval, so who knows. 
   Second song, she would pull down her G-string, facing away from the audience.  Then she'd slink or crawl along the edge of the stage--always clockwise, I noticed, starting near my vantage point near the bar and working her way around to the opposite side.  Just a coincidence?  Or was there a protocol?  I could see it either way.  The other side of the club had several curtained nooks, for private dances.  Once or twice I saw one of the patrons from the stage disappear into one, followed by a dancer.  From the cracks in the curtains, I didn't see much that was any more lascivious than what was on display on stage, though I didn't make a close study of it.  Not that I would have been scandalized or anything:  I take pride in my autistic disassociation, that nothing really shocks or surprises me.  I noticed that there were two chicks among the dozen or so patrons seated up close at the stage, throwing dollar bills around like any of the guys--and they didn't seem to be there with boyfriends.  Huh.
   I didn't feel much like staying for another round; like I say, the chicks were pleasant enough, but it was getting redundant.  How terrible a thing is that?  I wanted to check out a place I saw around the corner, called Ground Kontrol.  Looked like they had some vintage video games.  Thought I'd stop in there.  So I got up to go, but I was curious about something.  Every time the DJ would announce another set, he'd make reference to a lower stage.  "Wonderful Heather on the upper stage, luscious Serena on the lower stage," or some such variation.  I wanted to check out this lower stage, just to see what that was about.  So near the entrance, I found the stairway leading below, and went down.
   The effect was one of going down into someone's basement:  a dimly lit stairwell that opened into a bright, open space.  Though the lower area was about as spacious as the upper level, it was pretty much empty.  At the other end of the room, a bunch of guys were formed in a tight crowd.  It took a second or two to register what I was seeing.  As I say, the place was pretty much empty except for that:  it was the stage.  And about two dozen men were in some kind of frenzy, like it was an old-time craps game or something.  Only, at the center of all this, was a naked woman.  No pole here:  she was playing to the crowd.  No mood lighting, this place was garishly bright.  And no tables, or booths, or seats--no room for spectators.  If you were down here, it seemed, you were here for the show, and were paying for it liberally.  Honestly, I don't remember the show--I can't recall what she looked like, or what she was doing, what I could see of her through the crowd.  I just remember the throng of customers, their manic energy.  It reminded me of a cock fight.
   It wasn't a pleasant sight.
   "What?  What's wrong with this?" I heard a voice ask me.  "This is a strip club.  What did you *think* happened here?"
   Not this, I thought.  This isn't stripping, this isn't dancing.  This is....
   "THIS is what it's all about--don't look away *now*," said the voice.  It was the voice of a jester. 
   I didn't come here for this.
   "Really?  What was all that upstairs?  You didn't mind it so much when you could sit from a distance, have your drinks and just watch.  Didn't even have the decency to throw them a few dollars, the cost of another beer, for everything they showed you."
   That's different, up there.  That's--
   What was that sensation up and down my scalp?  Was my hair being mussed?
   "That's what?  Tasteful?  Dignified?  How dignified is it to have to scoop up all those dollar bills once the music's stopped?"
   Yes, actually, it *is* dignified.  Compared to this.  This is...this is....
   Once the word occurred to me, I couldn't help but think it.
   ...this is *inhuman*.
   "Oh no no no.  This is all-too-human.  Take a good look."
   And so I did, for a minute, anyway.  Not even that long, I don't think, as my creeping sense of voyeurism soon translated into the realization that if I wasn't paying, I wasn't welcome down here anyway, so having answered the question about the meaning of the "lower stage", I turned and went back up the stairs.
   "What?  You're leaving?  I thought you were up for *anything*!"  Oddly enough, that taunting voice didn't follow me up the steps back to the main floor, but was something I could leave behind as I emerged into the reassuring darkness of the club itself.  "You've got a good thirty bucks in pocket--don't you want to know what that can buy?"  I dimly heard from down below.  I can be such an asshole; even to myself, at times.
   I made for the door, but walked past the stage on the way.  I stopped for a second, looked over at the current dancer, naked and crawling her way up the counter, toward me, plying each of the patrons along the way.
   "Look..." I mentally telegraphed to her.  "Just because men like naked women doesn't mean we see you purely as objects.  There's such a thing as a healthy libido--even in a place like this.  There isn't anything necessarily dehumanizing about displaying yourself.  To watch you, I'd think you actually enjoy what you're doing; and for all I know, you do, in whatever way.  I don't know, I'm almost forty and yet this is new to me.  I just want to say that regardless of what you do here to entertain everyone, that it doesn't make you any less of a person, deserving of respect.  Rather, more respect, all things considered."
   But she didn't hear my psychic message.  She was busy.  Working.
   I left her to it, and walked out into the warm Portland night.  My curiosity, at least, was satisfied.
  

Freak On/Freak Off

Last night was wild.  Every year Burning Man Seattle hosts a totally insane party/rave/happening called Decompression.  I've been going since 2005, it really brings out the artistic freaks.  I mean, look at their advertising:



Just put aside the fact that I think APOCALYPSE NOW is the best movie ever made--that's just one cool fucking poster.  Here's how their website describes it:

We invite you to come celebrate with over 25,000 square feet of theme camps, interactive displays, fire spinners, DJs, live music and performers, dance, art cars, grilled cheese, suspension rigs, small blimps, neon rainbows, and any other damned thing we can think of. Imagine one city block of Burning Man being transported - streets and all - into a big empty box - and you've got an idea of SeaCompression.

Sponsored by Ignition Northwest and produced by the Seattle arts community, SeaCompression is Seattle's annual Burning Man decompression party, in which celebrants of many subcultures come together to reminisce about the old year and begin counting the days until they return home to the playa. Whether you've been to Burning Man or not, SeaCompression is a vibrant, exciting celebration, packed with exotic entertainment and smart, funny, beautiful and cleverly dressed celebrants.

So you just know it's going to be a fucking trip.  And that's one of the things I chase in life, the weirdness.  I love the fringe element in any society, and Seattle has more than its fair share.  I also check out Solstice and Folk Life and Hempfest, those are great scenes, and I was just at Little Red Studio for their Halloween party last week.  Actually, I'd gone to Capitol Hill, hoping to see the freaks come out in full costume.  I was disappointed, though, as not many people were out.  Dreary weather or depressing economy, I'm not sure, but I went over toLittle Red Studio and joined that scene.  Not as crazy as their New Year's party, but more than I was seeing up to that point in the evening.  I dig that place.

There's just one more element to add to this scenario.  For the last few months, I've been scoring ecstasy for a friend through my pot dealer.  For my second delivery, I kept two of the pills for myself as a commission.  He told me later that that batch wasn't particularly good, it was mostly speedy (which he hated) and not much euphoria.  Me, I do well with speed.  I mean, caffeine has never had an effect on me, I can drink shots of espresso and go to sleep.  Back in '97 I was doing crank on weekends, and was hanging with a dealer that had a glass pipe hooked up to a bong--we were freebasing.  And still, I never went a night when I didn't doze for at least a little while.  Hell, for my 40th birthday I got $100 in coke, did about half of it for my entire birthday weekend, and my roommate didn't even notice.

So I've got some speedy X?  Now, you have to understand that I'd never done X before, and I'm usually very conservative about trying anything new--I want to be in a stable and secure environment, and generally be around people I trust who know I'm doing something new.  But I figured, Burning Man Seattle is the ideal set and setting, so why the fuck not?  I mean, X is supposed to bring on intense euphoria, and I'm betting more than a few out on the dance floor are partaking.  What's the worst that'd happen?  I get a heavy speed trip?  They've got a full service bar, I know how to put out that particular fire.

I got to Sand Point a little after 8:00pm, having had a two-Red Hook headstart, along with some Seagram's 7.  This month's weed is particularly nice, so I was stoned immaculate, having hedged that bet with a good pipe hit just before pulling into the parking lot.  I had the two ecstasy capsules in one pocket, wrapped in tin foil, I was planning on taking one with the first beer I could get.

As I walk in--

The place was a big industrial space, a big open floor with several other areas off to the sides.  One adjoining part was a big dance floor with rotating DJs.  Another was a kind of ad hoc stage, where various acts would perform.  When I arrived, there was a jazz quartet just wrapping up their set.

one of the bands

They were followed by a professional rope jumping squad.  Pretty impressive, really, as I sat in the bleacher-style seats and settled in to my first beer, still taking in the ambience and getting into the swing of things. 
rope skipping

 I tried taking out the X at that point, but I was being watched:  some chick in a jumpsuit with a whistle and clipboard was acting as a coach, and calling members of the crowd out to get up and try to jump rope with the pros.  I, for one, know that beer doesn't sit well with that kind of aerobic exertion, and I wouldn't want to show off my physical dysterity, so I retreated to the safety of an improvised movie theater, a tent that'd been set up with theater- and airplane seats facing a screen where they were projecting a scenes of fire dancing, presumably from Burning Man in Nevada.  I popped the first of the X at about 8:15pm.

Meanwhile, I wandered around, checking things out.  Various artwork was on display, some abstract paintings and some very cool plastic sculptures with interior lighting.  Outside in the courtyard a few things were set up, including a big vertical furnace, with engravings down the side.

the burner

As I admired it (I love fire!), somebody walked up with a wheelbarrow full of kindling.  "May I?" I asked, picking up a chunk of wood.  With his consent, I threw it into the base of the fire, sending a flash of sparks up the chimney.  Nice.

Also, there was a van outside, selling Mexican food (my favorite).  I bought some tacos al pastor and took them inside, to get another Manny's Pale Ale and get a good food base in my system for the night to come, whatever it might be.  (For those of you who don't know about speed:  it decreases/eliminates your appetite, so if you want to avoid being sick the next day you should pay conscious attention to how much you eat and drink, as your natural indicators are going to be way off.)  I'd had chips and salsa before I left the apartment (courtesy of Peso's in Queen Anne, they make wonderful salsa), along with an avocado, so I was well-prepared for the beer onslaught of the evening, whether I felt any hunger or not.

It was some time after I finished the tacos, sitting off the dance floor in one of the adjacent wings, that I made the decision to take the second X cap, since I wasn't feeling anything at all from the first one.  I was counting on some sort of boost from this stuff, otherwise I'd have to head out fairly soon, before all this drinking caught up with me. 

I think I was walking toward the trash can to throw out the little cardboard tray the tacos were served in, when the drugs began to take hold.  I suddenly got the sensation of moving through ill-defined space, that something about this exact place and this exact time was DIFFERENT.  I had the unmistakable feeling that something was Coming On--something big was Coming, and that Coming was Becoming, and that Coming On and Onward and I was in the path of this Oncoming Becoming (or Something) and that I was here first and foremost but Becoming, and it was Coming On and

Uh-oh.

Fortunately the room was racing past me at almost exactly the same speed as I was passing through it, so we more or less agreed on that point.  The colors were a different matter, what with their intrusive and insistent intensity, I could focus on them but I thought I'd better not (not just yet).  I felt the rush of speed, that tightness that grips the body and (consequently) the mind in its immediacy, a constriction that I always sense first in the testicles, a physical drawing-in sensation like one would take and hold an anxious breath--brace yourself here it comes, your flesh thinks.  And the moment of expectation lasts, and becomes part of the high, because it's speed and you know it and that's why you took it to begin with and here it is and then some.

Cardboard taco tray into the trash, anyway.  No problem so far.  And as I watched the tray drop into the trash, falling at its predictable rate, proving that Newton was right (or right enough for now--) I felt reassured that the normal laws of physics were still in force, confused as they might seem to me at any given moment, and so I could proceed with confidence that the world around me was normal, or was at least behaving.  I was in the grip of some sort of soothing panic borne of benevolent speed drawing me through the coming evening, left to my own devices--because I felt as though I had left something else behind in that trash can, along with that thin cardboard dish...but just what that might be I'm not sure even in retrospect, though I certainly was conscious of it at the time, and smiling.

I moved through the rest of the night, acted upon by external forces that I channeled through the conduit of my hyperattenuated senses, stretching and pulling me through the events of the hours unfettered by the strict linear awareness of detail that my OCD and ADHD dictate so relentlessly, a sort of release unto and into pure experience that I have all too infrequently in my life.  Here I was, in the moment and of the moment, something that I remember not in the inadequate terms of concrete sights and sounds, but rather a pervasive extra sense of being intrinsically part of a time and place--and that time and that space was GOOD.  Is that why they call it ecstasy?

Apparently my camera phone worked, or at least I was able to work it competently, as I captured a few images of the scene around me.  I recall a geodesic dome set up with a bunch of hippies inside, doing hipful things.  I didn't venture in, not wanting to impart any weird vibes, or be on the unwitting end of inappropriate vibe partition.

bunch o' hippies

I don't know how many beers I went through, it must not have been prohibitive, since I didn't run out of money, but I heard you can drink plenty on X, just to keep yourself feeling hydrated if nothing else, and I could believe it.  I remember at one point asking the bartender if there was a drinking fountain anywhere, and he suggested I take my beer cup into the bathroom and get water from the sink.  Good advice, probably made a big difference in the quality of the evening, not to mention its aftermath.

No Fucking Stopping, Like It Or Not

I took in the whole scene, not as some receiving of that which is external, but more of an actualization of being integral to the scene, just letting the scene come out of me and through me, effortlessly.  A transcendent experience, I highly recommend it.

I'm seeing lights

It was beyond psychedelic.  I was a hallucination of myself, drifting through the crowd and taking them all in, keeping my secret non-specific existence to myself.  You like these colors, these lights?  You're welcome.

they're juggling fire

I remember leaving, just about the time they were closing it down at 2:00am.  I somehow managed to get home and crash out on my sofa, without incident.  I felt pretty washed out, understandably, though along with that I had a vague sense of proud euphoria, that I'd had some unspecified and fulfilling life experience, all the more thrilling for being inexact.  And, just like after the Oscar broadcast, the sad postcoital realization that it'll be another year before I get to have that much fun.

Oct. 8th, 2009

Saw Richard Dawkins tonight at the Hec Edmondson Pavilion at UW.  Never been there before.  It's a basketball court, apparently.  And he filled half of it (the stage was set at the half-court line) with a lot of enthusiastic fans.  While it didn't rise to the level of a rock concert or sporting event, it was somewhat more lively than your average university lecture.

He's promoting his new book, THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, which he describes as a hard-sell on evolution, and sounds very interesting, but I haven't seen or read any of it.  I picked up THE GOD DELUSION just last week, finally redeeming the Elliott Bay Books gift certificate that I'd received last Christmas at work (wait, is there any irony in that?).  Just in reading the preface and prologue so far, I'm a Dawkins fan.  I saw that he was speaking tonight mentioned as a comment posted to a news column in today's Seattle TIMES, otherwise I wouldn't have heard anything about it.  So I hustled out of work and got home, showered and changed and headed over to Hec Ed.  Parked in University Village and walked down, not wanting to deal with the crowds.  Got in with a few minutes to spare, before he took the stage. 
   I don't think he's as vitriolic or harsh as he's made out to be--what was that SOUTH PARK episode's assertion, that "just because you're an atheist you don't have to be a dick about it"?  I don't see how that applies to Dawkins and his writing on the subject.  Especially not as compared with Christopher Hitchens, who once flipped off Bill Maher's audience when they booed him.

And I can add Dawkins to the list of scientific luminaries that I've seen.  I saw Carl Sagan speak back in '89 (at the U.S. Naval Academy, no less--), and Stephen Jay Gould in '92, I think it was.  At UW, I've seen Camille Paglia (twice!  She's a real kick--), Katie Roiphe (God she's cute), Cynthia Heimel, Neal Stephenson, and Paul Krugman.  And I saw George Carlin perform twice--was going to get a t-shirt, but instead opted for something they were selling instead, a booklet of AN IMCOMPLETE LIST OF IMPOLITE WORDS:  2,443 FILTHY WORDS AND PHRASES.  Helpfully divided into categories, such as "Male Genitals", "Homosexual (Female)", and "The Posterior (All Parts)".

An Entire Day At the Movies?

Just thought of this. I remember a question I saw on IMDb last year, great little movie buff exercise: suppose you could live out an entire day that was composed of scenes from movies. What kind of day would you want to have? The rule here is that all of your scene selections have to correspond to the time of day as they occurred in their movie's storyline--so no jumping back and forth between night and day, keep it consistent and chronological.

So. What's your perfect day? Here's what I came up with.


  • Wake up and fuck (Al Pacino and Diane Venora, HEAT)
  • Get a shower, get ready for the day--"It's showtime, folks!" (Roy Scheider, ALL THAT JAZZ)
  • Breakfast: pancakes with the Marxes (the Marx Brothers, ROOM SERVICE)
  • Drive to work with Jules and Vincent (John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, PULP FICTION)
  • Arrive at the office--never mind what I "do" in this scenario, I'll just pick workplace occurrences that look cool. Best arrival scene that comes to my mind is some detective work with your colleagues, then getting harangued by your boss first thing after a morning shoot-out (Nick Nolte, Frank McCrae, Brion James, et al. 48 HOURS)
  • Staff meeting--the Dahlberg repercussions (Jason Robards, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, et al., ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN)
  • On the job. What I'm going for is, interesting depictions of people at work. And though I never wanted to be an air traffic controller, it sure looks cool (John Cusack et al., PUSHING TIN)
  • Coffee break. I'll stop in at some coffee shop in Greenwich, and people-watch with Martha Plimpton (Eric Schaeffer, Donal Lardner Ward, Martha Plimpton, MY LIFE'S IN TURNAROUND)
  • Walk back to the office, through the Feast of San Gennaro (Harvey Keitel, MEAN STREETS)
  • Return to the office, only to find that all my co-workers have been killed while I was out getting coffee (Robert Redford, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR). No, wait, my ideal day wouldn't have a body count. Let's just say I work at the Sub-Pop headquarters in Seattle, hang with Megan, see what she has to say to the New York TIMES today. Always struck me as a cool place to work, and I took a cue from the decor when I had an office of my own (Megan Jaspers et al., HYPE!)
  • Nooner with Rosie (Spike Lee, Rosie Perez, an ice cube, DO THE RIGHT THING)
  • Cocoa Puffs afterwards, right from the box (Alec Baldwin and Meg Ryan, PRELUDE TO A KISS)
  • Lunch. What could be better than a soul food restaurant on Maxwell Street, with John Lee Hooker playing on the corner? I'll have four fried chickens and a Coke, Ms. Franklin (John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Aretha Franklin, THE BLUES BROTHERS). Only, they never got served their food in that one, so I should actually opt for some place I can serve myself--like the automat, hanging with the Kerouac and Ginsberg surrogates. "I gave up writing when I was ten. Too dangerous." (Peter Weller, Nicholas Campbell, Michael Zelniker, NAKED LUNCH)
  • Drive back to the office, talking about Pam Grier (Harvey Keitel, Chris Penn, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, RESERVOIR DOGS)
  • Back to work, walking across the set and everyone wants to talk to me (Francois Truffaut, et al., DAY FOR NIGHT)
  • Afternoon nap during a boring presentation (Jeff Goldblum, Dan Ackroyd, David Cronenberg, et al., INTO THE NIGHT)
  • Get to the airport: we can catch the plane on the runway--don't bother with check-in or the goddamned airport security (Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS)
  • Talk explosives with my single-serving friend on the plane (Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, FIGHT CLUB)
  • Get met at airport gate by limo driver--"Spinal Pap" (Bruno Kirby, THIS IS SPINAL TAP)
  • Limo ride into town, with complimentary wet bar...and blowjob (Charlie Sheen and some chick, WALL STREET)
  • Stop at the casino and get some quick cash (that one guy who just filled his suitcase with cash in the counting room, CASINO)
  • Driver, take me to Spicoli's house, let me get in on that skull bong (Sean Penn, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH)
  • Have a drink at the bar with Jim, talk movies--"If Dennis Hopper cun doit, *I* cun doit." (Val Kilmer, Billy Idol, Michael Madsen, Bonnie Bramlett, THE DOORS)
  • For dinner, I'd go to prison. "Dinner was always a big deal in the joint," and it looks like they're doing it up very well. (Ray Liotta, Paul Sorvino, et al., GOODFELLAS)
  • After dinner, play Fast Eddie a few games (Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, THE COLOR OF MONEY)
  • Stand in line for a show, face off with the annoying prick behind me (Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Marshall McLuhan, some annoying prick and his date, ANNIE HALL)
  • See the show: Cirque du Soleil on mushrooms (Seth Rogen and company, KNOCKED UP)
  • It's ten at night and I'm not drunk yet? Now I *know* this is a fantasy. I'll wander into a dive bar and get a few too many (Mickey Rourke and Frank Stallone, BARFLY)
  • What a long, exhausting day--I'll bet I'd be feeling pretty tired by this point. Could use a bump: I'll just help myself to that big white pile in the middle of the table...and abscond with Michelle Pfeiffer (Mel Gibson, Raul Julia, Michelle Pfeiffer, et al., TEQUILA SUNRISE)
  • So where's the party tonight? I'd like to check out The Gourmet Club, dance real close with Penelope Ann Miller (Matthew Broderick, Penelope Ann Miller, Marlon Brando, Bruno Kirby, THE FRESHMAN). But I look ridiculous in a tux; something more informal, and challenging. I'll take The Factory, dig the human freak show, groove with The Velvet Underground all night, maybe pick up on Valerie Solanas (Lili Taylor, Jared Harris, et al., I SHOT ANDY WARHOL). That ought to take me till dawn.
  • Sun's coming up, time to wrap it up. Let's end things with a bang. We can talk about 80's movies after, Marisa, but for now: hands and knees, this'll only take a minute (Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD)
  • If I don't fall asleep right after, but want to see the sunrise, I guess there's nothing else to do but climb that hill while singing "See Me, Hear Me, Feel Me", and greet the rising sun at the summit (Roger Daltrey, TOMMY)