Twenty years ago I stood in the West Pattee stacks, as she wove a weird pattern around the center aisle tables to see me (for once, finally) face to face, elongated eyes stretched torturously across her severely boned, mask-hard visage— as I say to the kid, it matters to me; if I stumble, it's because her eyes are equally torturous— Justine has her own tsunami I'm dumb before—
of the HighwireFreeSchool
shows were big ones. We would do series of modest shows between the larger
shows. The Bats were an all-girl band we wanted to book, so we did. John and I
did a bunch of schmooze routines with them, at Tritone and elsewhere, and John
and I were both in love with Tobi, an old friend of Trish’s and mine who played
keyboards (and also painted). Tobi was tiny, an elf, with exquisite bone-structure
in her face, chestnut hair, and bright blue eyes. Of the Bats, she was the most
natural as a FreeSchool person. By this
time, we had a new system going at the Highwire, by which the factory room and
the main space would be used simultaneously. The night the Bats played, we had
poets reading on a raised dais in the factory room. The factory room had high
ceilings, but was darker, danker, and more private than the main space— a
perfect place to smoke up or hook up. The poets were Temple
kids, and one stuck out for us immediately, especially to John; a buxom,
olive-skinned Latino named Lena. If I sensed
that I would beat John to Tobi, he would certainly beat me to Lena,
who liked his looseness over my rigor. Christopher and I were attempting to
perfect a new way of combining poetry with visual imagery; he projected images
on a screen behind me as I read that night. Frankly, we were both bored with
dry poetry readings (no matter how attractive the participants), and this was
our way of extending their range. Headed towards 2005, John’s characteristic
looseness was the keynote mood. Even if it meant that Christopher and I had to
up the ante to six drinks per night out.
Spurn had a birthday party at around this time at his studio at 13th and
Carpenter. I wound up being the only FreeSchool guy there. The
four of us each had different sectors to work, and Baptiste's was one of mine.
At the time, Baptiste had a menage situation going; he was living, not only
with a stripper/burlesque artist named Lissy but with a couch-surfing teenage
runaway named Anastasia. Anastasia was a wild child. She later tried to jump
from one of the Highwire windows. That night, she insisted that everyone strip.
We were passing around a bottle of Stoli; people were downing three or four
shots at a time from the bottle. I decided to do them one better and down
seven. For about fifteen minutes, I felt an overpowering sense of swirling
ecstasy. Then, I got hit with a wave of nausea so intense I almost fainted.
Everyone was very drunk and very stoned; I managed to drag my pile of clothes
to the side of the circle and put them on. I didn't want to vomit all over the
studio. I knew myself to be performing what was, for me, the greatest
Intoxication Feat of all time— despite all the vodka-shots, I walked all the
way from Thirteenth and Carpenter to Twenty-First and Race at 2 a.m. without
puking. If I spent the rest of the night violently ill, I had done the right
thing by the Free School; saved face before the big Intoxication Heavyweights
of the Free School nexus, and entered the charmed circle (with John and Ricky)
of the alcohol poisoned.
"I suppose he told you that I landed
between his legs like a roguish girl...
well, you could say it happened that
way. You could also say he sold me
on the idea of veined trade, or that his
musky Scotch breath excreted wafts of
blue-bloodiness into me. You are perverse
to ask me these things, moon peering over
your shoulder like another rogue. For now,
he lays upon an altar you don't know is
there: drunk, blue." The director called
cut; stagehands shuffled towards cigarettes.
I wandered down the aisle towards the stage,
about to land, looking for your money-shot—
found a ticket to Boston, first-class, reservations
for a four-star Boston hotel, invitation for an
audience with a Brahmin princess. The dream,
I thought, continues, as I saw you sit on the stage,
begin to peruse a style magazine which has now
been discontinued, & I laughed, as there is no
fashion in a freezing New England winter, but
your breasts, which are considerable, do get extra-
perky, & when you try to sit on my face, I just
might let you. As for your old rival, she's got
wings to star in a musical over in Cambridge,
a version of Guys & Dolls they've got going.
It's a sparkling scene in every direction; an epoch-
making time. The cage has sixty-nine layers of gild.