At St. Dymphna’s on Sunday night the aspiring Wayne Coyne in the corner was hunched over a book that I figured from the fatness was House of Leaves. We became insta-friends when the aspiring Wayne Coyne (briefly henceforth, TAWC) slammed his book down in front of me and said, “Did you know Pepe II of Ancient Egypt had such a crippling fear of flies that he used to cover his surrounding slaves with honey? So they wouldn’t bite him? It’s sort of hilarious. I mean it’s very upsetting, but also hilarious.”
“More flies with honey,” I said, being cool. (I am so cool, everyone.)
“You look kind of Egyptian to me. Are you a time traveler from Ancient Egypt?”
Soon it’s Dennis Cooper and Chuck Palahniuk and Henry Miller (of course. Of COURSE), and somewhere even farther down this timeline TAWC morphs into a person with a good Christian name. Only his friends call him ‘Spud.’ And now we’re talking about Dune. And did I know that The Cars and Weezer had the same producer for their first record, which goes a way to explain something don’t I think? And while we’re on the subject, do we think it’s called flanorexia if you only eat flan?
I meet some more people, many named Dave. There are Too Many Daves. There is a bucket of KFC and shortly after this there is last call. Exceptions to the Dave grain include Photographer Alex and Jedediah, who is our bloodstream – Jedediah “has connections” at every bar I’ve ever heard of. And aren’t we all going to Sway after this? Oh, it’s only the best after-after hours club in the West Village. And for reasons cousins with those three Delirium Tremens I did not pay for, I am suddenly shifting into a cab with all of my hip new friends. A stunning Japanese girl who speaks in sotto is my only cohort in chromosome repping, and I think as we cut West: I really don’t do things like this very often.
So Sway is a sweatbox. Sway is a lawless den of sin. Sway is an adventure in 1985, not unlike to seminal film The Goonies. Jedediah introduces me to everyone. The bartender’s name is Dave (!). The deejay is less a deejay than the person at the party who happened to put on the whole of The Queen is Dead. Sway is a certain kind of man who will never make it easy for anyone. Terrible improv partners, sway:
(Could be a cricket)
“So what do you do…George?”
“I’m a musician.” (In a seemingly blow off gesture, G[?] pulls out an iPhone and heads to youtube. After a beat:) “I bartend here sometimes.”
“Oh cool! What kind of musician?”
“I play everything. I have a drum machine.”
“So you’re kind of a one man band, huh?”
(Could be 40,000 crickets)
(G[?] suddenly leans over after a pause so long that I supposed it could only be the curdling death of this intro gone south… G [?] presents an unloaded youtube video)
“This is me.”
“Looks like it’s not loading.”
“You want a drink?”
“Thanks! Whiskey something?”
G [?] vanishes into the the ether. I glimpse him later not-quite-murmuring to an aspiring Courtney Love.
Other friends are disappearing and reappearing, like buoys in storms. Spud is allegedly off somewhere with the beautiful Japanese girl. He loves her, I can see it. A guy named Malik is passing out clove cigarettes. Jedediah wants to know how am I supposed to dance with my coat still on. I want to know how am I supposed to dance to Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now. I find Photographer Alex in a corner wedge booth with a view.
“Welcome to the AV club,” he says.
Now these are actually the perks of being a wallflower: we talk about Deep Space Nine and Israel. We belt all of the words to Heroes when it comes on and boogie without standing up. Some parts of “Brooklyn” are okay, you know. You can really find your people here. With allies like Photographer Alex even the most uninformed ruminations on the debt crisis, the silliest hats – they become bearable. Become humorous. Become real.
And at 5:30 or so as the bouncers make their final sweep, just the original crowd is left. We have lain claim to the back bench. When porters walk our way, we hold our ground: Just say you’re with J.
But just like I knew when and why to come here, I know when and why to leave. I stand. They kiss me on the cheek, they give me their business cards, they beg me to stay. “Tomorrow is such and such a raid on Lit lounge. So and so works there. Come.” Come is command. And maybe I will, maybe I won’t (I probably won’t) but in any case the sun’s coming up lickety-split in the East now. In my cab, I head East. East to the river and no friggin regrets.
Sometimes in New York it feels like there’s a mystery set of other people always off having the kind of adventures you assumed you’d be beating off with a stick when you moved here. They say anything can happen in this town, but it turns out anything is very rarely magic. Yet look! My fraidy-cat fontanelle is closing up! There is a pretty ridiculous movie called We Bought a Zoo existing on clearance rack DVD somewhere, there’s a quote from this movie that here applies: “[To do anything] All it really takes is fifteen seconds of crucial courage. Fifteen seconds of being brave.” Less, if you think about it. It only takes a heartbeat to say ‘yes.’
On this note, I am trying on (metaphorical) pants. I am going to take this theory as far as I can. Saturday I go on an audition. Now auditions can be great fun, if you like stroke symptoms. Like many rides at Disney World, auditions require long and scary waiting time during which dread can mount and consume. And I was rusty. During the two minute classical I didn’t settle on a place to look. Still, relief like water when the director told me “lovely work.” It’s an even curiouser blend of flippant shrug and fiery motivation and sweet relief I feel when I am not called back for the role. But people go on auditions, or they do if they’re actors. You make time in your day and you practice and then you just go. It’s cake, concept-wise. It might hurt later, yes, but that is so not the point.
Tuesday night, I had a date. Now dates can be great fun, if you like stroke symptoms. Like many rides at Disney World, dates can be daunting and terrible from a distance but seem a real breeze after the fact. All you have to do is talk, and – if you’re excellent – test out that new stand-up material on an unwitting audience.
Dates: another thing it feels like a mystery set of other people do, but not us. Instead, we hang out. We “swing by.” We “get drinks.” Our non-dates occur at 10pm or later, for all the dubious reasons. But it turns out a date is something else you can sometimes say yes to. Or, if you’re a real soldier, initiate.
Loose some, win some…winsome. And for the record, he was a gentleman and I’m still smiling today.
Do you know about inertia, gang? Snowballs? The power of positive thinking? On the present wave I’m riding everything is getting semi-magic: the pimples on this piece of chicken, bundled up strangers walking by the bar in all manner of colorful scarves. People. I think about how you feel different people in different places on your body sometimes – I have some friends I keep in my squint, others in my hands, my chest. The faces of all the breakfast club members on morning trains, and now think about trains for a second. Taking you places! Making you late! Ruling your world as malevolent gods, but if you’re easy and normal and okay with it, even traffic can be kind of funny. Profound. Profoundly funny.
Yet I know about luck and patterns and endings, I know about bad moods. I’m no fool. This is not my first rodeo. I keep my eyes wide open all the time. And I know the si streak will inevitably end, probably the first time I get offered black tar at a party. But it’s still a well-meant reminder for you this Friday, and one the universe seems to keep screeching back at me. I hope to bottle good nights. I offer them out to you and a future me as a probable template for giddiness. Try it, do it, don’t rattle your cage or fret about deserving, don’t worry about tomorrow, only widen your lips and push out air like this: yesssssss.
An abrupt shift: David Foster Wallace in Both Flesh and Not writes about the late 90s “phenomenon” (sort of a BS term, in this case) of young art brut postmodern writers. I mean Vollmann and McInerney and Ellis, Moore, gauche writers, writers who in retrospect all seem of a piece. I haven’t finished reading this essay yet, but Wallace has begun to make an argument to do with the wild attention roller coaster many of these personalities experienced over their careers. The wunderkind got an original hype, but many were eventually panned in reviews. Indicted for their neo-mini-mini-minimalism and their shocking second-person testaments to moral erosion in America. Made into the leaders of a “movement” that was destroying fiction, according to Updikean logic. You’ve already gathered that much of Wallace’s essay is neither here nor there regarding my own week’s adventures, but I’m holding on to a term he uses throughout that piece: the conspicuously young. The idea is that the conspicuously young may be bright, but merit your doubt anyways.. They might have deep and important things to say, but especially in the case of the fiction writer – who has always tended to bloom best late – their feelings and epiphanies have a de facto element of ‘work in progress’ to them. Now this is ten kinds of a fraught way to approach your heart and brain, so what I’m really talking about is the lifestyle I consider an extension of a lot of that fiction. Television. Grunge. Apathy. New York. Young fiction, young minds, we all still simmer in a related crunchy dream. It’s merely enough to give me a little pause when feeling particularly ego-fat, when preaching gospels; if you subscribe to young and old soul theory, I may be very wise. It somehow seems more likely that I’m at least thirty three percent doofasauras.
So, as one does when things seem to be coming up roses, I look for Cassandra on the horizon. I feel like it behooves one to remember how conspicuously young one is, presently.
(Well, in theory. In theory I look. I tell you I’m looking, which is just as good. Okay, I’m totally not looking. I’m walking around blind. I’m going to bed when you wake up. I’m in the East Village and Brooklyn. And you know what, gang? I think there is a ball to be had out there, some nights I can suss it out. It brews in even the most mundane. Can be found, with the right tools and eyes and answers.)