Wednesday The ostensible purpose for my return is purely professional, to cover CMJ and interview Harmony Korine (I asked and he e-mailed back, "sounds good"), but that's all just pretext. I came to come, to get more of the guy I got with last time. He's a one-of-a-kind, a very modern boy with many different faces: 21, Irish playa, gay ex-skater, friend of celebrity, pseudo-Warholian photography student who sits at his computer digitally erasing imperfections from candid polaroids while the party rages around him. He met Mercury Rev. Let's call him McGuinness, 'cause he drinks.
The first couple days are good, I stay with him for bars and parties and semi-frantic sex, fun even though I'm too drunk to come (can't have just one 40).
And suddenly it's over, phone calls aren't accepted, messages aren't returned, I am frozen out. Which sucks for me 'cause I only know three people in New York, and if they all flake on me I'm totally alone. This isolation is compounded by a severe come-down from smoking bad bathtub crank last night out of a lightbulb, which has left me with no pleasure and no serotonin.
The first couple days are good, I stay with him for bars and parties and semi-frantic sex, fun even though I'm too drunk to come (can't have just one 40). And suddenly it's over, phone calls aren't accepted, messages aren't returned, I am frozen out. Which sucks for me 'cause I only know three people in New York, and if they all flake on me I'm totally alone. This isolation is compounded by a severe come-down from smoking bad bathtub crank last night out of a lightbulb, which has left me with no pleasure and no serotonin. I'm drained and my brain hurts. Weep for me, I'm stranded, it's very sad. I try to circumvent the pain, my mind says, "You're young, you don't need emotions, Ziploc your feelings and keep them in separate airtight bags, infinite sadness is so 1994." Walking around in the rain alone, with no place to go, all rationalizations fall flat.
Then there's my sleeping situation, which is basically dependent on my ability to find an older guy to seduce and have halfhearted sex with. Like I say, it's very sad.
Cheer up, boy, it's CMJ, biggest of the big music industry big events around! With 900 bands to listen to! Hilton Tower, got my press pass, I love the Biz and the Biz loves me. Getting off the elevator going up, I'm instantly handed three demo tapes, walk forward, hear a man chant his company's website over and over like a mantra. It's crazy inside, insiders sit at booths relentlessly hustling, aggressively trying to sell themselves to the press. Free shit flows freely, like water. Free lollipops, free lighters, free Voice condoms?all they ask is that they scan your badge and appease some computer void entity. Fill my backpack until it starts hurting my spine. Assorted crap?tapes I listen to the first 10 seconds of, never to be heard again.
Like Dutch Rock 1999. Ever heard Dutch rock? No? Good. Or aspiring Lilith Fair second-stager Andrea Florian, who made me and Galen, who I'm supposed to be staying with but who's never home, dissolve into laughter. Let me quote from "Feminist," a manifesto delivered as a strident Ani DiFranco-y rap/rant: "I am a feminist, and I claim the word proudly, it doesn't necessarily mean I'm a lesbian, but then again, maybe I am." Our souls were stirred by her honesty.
After 15 minutes of nonstop blaring hype the novelty wears off, I have no interest in MTV2 or MP3.com or any of that shit, and I hit the streets again. Waste time at Barnes & Noble reading books about Lou Reed, Patti Smith and Michael Alig. Then head over to the Roxy for the opening night party featuring a bunch of trendy futurist acts I've read about but never heard. Swallow pills from somebody's medicine cabinet, pink hearts, very mod, wishing Keith Moon was there to see me.
I have to miss the Super Furry Animals at the Bowery Ballroom because they have bouncers and McGuinness won't lend me his ID. Noel Gallagher was there, I hear. The only famous person I see is Jesse Camp, but he doesn't count until he ODs. This whole 21+ shit is really bothersome. Look, I don't drink unless I have someone to clean up my vomit for me. So it's sit outside the Roxy under a bridge while rain pours down around, reading Uncut until loathsome industry types start overshadowing my magazine with their fat asses. I sit helpless but listen as an especially hideous woman from a radio station lectures at length on how mad she is about not getting backstage at the Orgy concert. I don't feel your pain. "If anyone has a clove cigarette," she vamps, "I'll pay big money." Only if I can burn you with it.
"Show's about to start," authorities say, so we all go line up in the Floydian rain. In fact, the show will not start for more than an hour, as I get drenched. Big trucks unload while the radio station people standing in front of me say shit like, "Do you remember Captain Kangaroo?" etc., etc., isn't it funny that we're cleverly referencing kitschy 70s pop culture? I stand in passive pain remembering those bad Gen-X beer commercials from the early 90s?at least the dialogue was sharp. I'm coatless, soaked and shivering, achieving that drowned rat look. Never felt so American Tail (see, I can reference too).
Fifteen minutes after my hands have gone numb, they let us in. Not impressed by the Roxy, bad decor and it's freezing inside. I snort crank in the bathroom and hold a lighter under my hands, trying to warm the purple out of them. Search for life but find none, just ravers who look at me with disdain when I ask where to get E. Chainsmoke American Spirits because David Lynch does and he seems happy. Wait an hour for Fantastic Plastic Machine but the schedule's all fucked up and the opening DJ, even though he opens with "We Will Rock You" and I'm an avid supporter of a non-ironic Queen revival, is just embarrassing. I get fed up and walk out real fast in a spun and agitated manner, step wrong and stumble down three stairs, fucking up my ankle.
Waste five bucks on a taxi getting to Twilo, which was only a few blocks away. Can't get in yet because it's a Black Book private party. Sit reading Dazed and Confused until I meet a DJ who shares his 40 with me and tells me about when he smoked out Drew Barrymore. When I finally get in they say I have to pay, my press pass only gets me a $5 discount, but there's nowhere else to go so I break my policy of never paying for clubs. The guest list can be kind and it can be cruel.
Sasha's spinning and I try to dance but my ankle hurts and a ravey girl looks at me and says, "You're not getting it, you're not dancing with the crowd," which I guess I'm not. Wander around until I end up upstairs and drink water ravenously from the faucet in the unisex bathroom. Find two full drinks without owners in the phone booth, which I down. Go downstairs, get free cigarettes, dance. Going back upstairs, guy stops and hugs me, says I look great (19, teen-idol haircut, alien-raver pants, wifebeater, flaming orange scarf), think I see Naomi Campbell or some other supermodel. It's strange, but again I find full drinks in the phone booth. In my speed-based visions-of-grandeur state, I begin theorizing that perhaps some wealthy anonymous benefactor wants to see me sloshed. I find a Corona and down it.
Downstairs, alchemical dancing, trying to cast a spell on semi-attractive guys to make them buy me drinks or take me home. Hired dancers in fluorescent orange twirl on platforms. Follow suspected cocaine abusers into the bathroom hoping for a free line but no luck. Twilo's all right, but clubbing by yourself just doesn't work, so at 3, crashing from the crank and starting to feel the pain I've inflicted on my ankle dancing on it, I leave. Outside, the streets are cold and vacant. I try to listen to my discman but it keeps shorting out (dead batteries, they say). I'm trashed. Ask three different cab drivers where the nearest subway terminal is and get three different answers. By now I'm hobbling, I'm a straight-up gimp, very Midnight Cowboy but with no Joe Buck to lean against for warmth.
A large black man with a small knife approaches me and says, "Empty your wallet," which I resignedly do, on autopilot. The whole experience feels scripted. A very cinematic mugging. Once all my money is safe in his hands, he says, "I have AIDS," holds up his wristband for inspection, says, "I take 13 pills a day," and disappears as surreally as he came. Gimp to the subway station and scrounge enough change from my backpack to make it.
The nearest stop to Galen's place is 15 blocks away, so I hobble back, arriving wet and shaken at 4, crash on his couch. My swollen ankle throbs with vigor. All I can think about is selling my CMJ pass for heroin.
Thursday Back at the Roxy, unfortunately. An attempt to get McGuinness to take me to Life, like the last time I was here, fails. Couldn't get into the Kit Kat Klub for Leftfield's Paul Daley so I'm back here. More crank in the toilets. The bathroom attendant gives me a dirty look because I don't tip him. Hey, listen, I got mugged!
Roxy's slightly more live than last night, but still not pumping. Much as I want to like Carl Craig's Innerzone Orchestra it's just not happening. Reading about the project I hoped it would be proof of my theory that Miles Davis' On the Corner is the first jungle album, that drum 'n' bass comes from coked-out 70s avant jazz. Craig's album Programmed is mostly decent, but live they never come together. What Craig's forgetting, what Miles even at his lowest never did, is the need for a hook, for something the audience can bite down on. Serious doesn't have to be boring.
The Herbaliser are really good; they put on the best show I've seen in a while. Their mixture of horns and hip/triphop is tight and gets everyone dancing (except for those sorry CMJ souls who sit, drink and bitch). The lead guy really interacted with the crowd and got a good energy flowing. I danced and stared at the sax player, who was hot. Considered approaching him when I spotted him on the dancefloor during DJ Krust, but he was busy chatting up a couple girls and exchanging numbers with them. Hope their threeway goes well. Danced hard to DJ Krust and left afterward, crashing in the same manner as last night.
Friday Get really stoned and go to the CMJ Filmfest. First film is Radiation, a boring verite movie about a tweaker indie-rock promoter and an annoying "East Village woman spoken word artist" who makes me embarrassed to be a glam poet. I get all self-critical and wonder if this is how people see me. A guest appearance by Stereolab cannot save the film, Suddenly Susan Goes Underground.
Then a documentary on the Clash, followed by a Q&A session with the director, who has to patiently field embarrassing questions from obnoxious audience members, one guy freaking out because the movie didn't cover the last Clash album. Are these people unaware of how stupid they look, getting all agitated over trivial details? I hollow out a cigarette and fill it with weed while humanity debases itself further. It's outside to smoke, then back in for Yellow Submarine. Terrible movie, but I'm high and just looking for some nice visuals to transport me away from emotional hell. Some of the pop-art sequences for the songs are actually really good, like the one for "Eleanor Rigby." Could have been a great movie if only it didn't have the Beatles in it.
Looking at the CMJ calendar is real discouraging; there's absolutely nothing I want to see. Can't get into the Rawkus showcase at S.O.B.'s and anyway this whole CMJ thing is garbage, the shows just aren't fun, there's a real uptight vibe to everything. Everyone's detached and bitchy, which is fine if you're a superstar, but not if you're just a slob with a music job pretending like you're important.
So what happens is Galen has some Es we take and we fool around a little bit. We conduct a little fantasy session, where I play the young closeted gay boy and he plays the cooler, older bisexual cousin who always got the dopest E and the bangingest beats, all wrapped up in his Ninja Turtles sheets, and the whole scenario is real cute. Sometimes it's nice to make out with your friends. We start to peak. I call McGuinness and leave a rambling message just for fun and because I have nothing left to lose (words like respect and dignity mean nothing to me), saying something like, "Art fag? What's this shit?" No reply, of course, but I'm past giving a fuck. Then get the grand stupid idea to e-mail Harmony Korine again, peaking even harder. Reads as follows:
yo whatcha listenin to those bitchass ho faggots for, those is just faggots, yo i'm on E but really that scene shit is just there to be paraphrased tomorrow in an easily digestable morning stew, real art is craniums falling apart boy it's electricity and no photo spread or O.D.B. and Leo backstage shit will change that so we should phone or email or else there could just be nothing, or maybe i'll just run my unanswered email cuz it's getting better, it's really getting better, and you know the electricity's going out in 3 months and you know where to get china white i hate needles (hey look! i got no veins, just cute abscesses). YO I GIVE UP ON NY FASHION I'M DOING SHIT MY OWN WAY AND FUCK ALL THE POLITICS)!!!!!!!! I GET REAL RAW. YOOOOOOOOOOOO WHAAAAAT'S UP HARMONY KORRINE? I SAW YOU ON DAVID LETTERMAN WHEN I WAS 16 AND I THOUGHT YOU WAS THE SHIT WHEN YOU SAID "I WANT TO WRITE THE GREAT CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE NOVEL" AND THEN YOU SAID "SNOOP DOGG'S STAGE PRODUCTION OF JAMES JOYCE'S ULYSSES," AND NOBODY LAUGHED BUT I DID. 00-_PHI<>LIP BUICHARD!!!!!!!!E#*W(R^_&%$U
By now we're at the point where if we don't get out the door now we never will, so we leave. Try one gay lounge and get denied, but get in the next one, wade through the faggots holding bottles of beer, everyone looks at me 'cause I'm chicken, but ignore them all and first thing I do is hit the couch and stretch out as loose as I can, I'm just jelly and I need a place to dissolve. Just want to metabolize the whole world, suck out every microgram of chemical satisfaction and spit out the parts that displease me. Everything seems possible.
Maybe I'm rolling too obviously in this sea of drunk fags looking for ass but I don't care. Galen asks what I'm thinking. "Oh, Smurfs mainly, with a little bit of pagodas and scissors thrown in, how 'bout you?" Part of me is passed out already. I begin a poem that starts, "The simultaneous thrill of seminal braincells lost in some meltdown decade, the kind that did its self-destruction in front of a monitor." I feel like this could be the start of a 21st-century Howl but can't be bothered to finish it because writing, I figure, is just another form of impotency.
Stretched out on the couch, just feeling it, letting the jokes men are making about me float off my silky transparent skin. The barmaid curtly asks me to move my legs and I realize I'm way out so I sit up, try to pretend I have a spine. Galen chats up an Israeli but I can't talk, I can barely smoke a cigarette. Closing time comes around and it's obvious that Galen's hooking up and he introduces me to a film editor who "worked on one of the few perfect movies of the 90s," so I ask him if he's responsible for Velvet Goldmine and he says no and within minutes we're making out. I'm not that into him sexually (he's 27, not my type) but the act of making out is esthetically pleasing and after a while it's all like kissing the same face anyway. Am I sexual? Most definitely. Do I go home with him? Maybe.
I washed myself to make sure I taste good. Maybe things happen.