Now Playing Tracks

mr. shadow

Two weeks ago I had what was supposed to be the final breakdown. By late June, I was barely eating, I had no sex drive, I craved sleep, and going to work was like going to the dentist. To my credit, there was reason to hate everything all the time. I was just a month away from my one year anniversary in Los Angeles. Soon, I’d have to sign a new lease and reevaluate my place here. I was starting to have dangerous thoughts – the kind you only have when you are desperate – about fleeing the city and running to New York.

The fever finally broke when I took a dramatic U-turn on Melrose into a storefront psychic. While her unnamed child and vicious Chihuahua scampered around us, she told me that I wasn’t ready for New York and that I had to cleanse my darkness now.

Something clicked in me and I finally felt like myself for the first time in recent memory. Everything would be fine. I wasn’t going to cut out and run now. But, in a few months, when I had saved up money and gotten in therapy and some productive writing, I would be ready to leave L.A. I realized, finally, that I didn’t have to struggle any more. I had been fighting L.A. since the beginning, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t change it. Do you know how hard it is to spend every moment convincing yourself that you are smarter than everyone in an entire city?

Once I knew that I could leave L.A. and that succeeding in the industry right now was not what I wanted, I was liberated. Knowing that there was an expiration date before I could move to a real city with real people and actual youth allowed me to live on here. The battle was over, but it hadn’t ended in defeat. Los Angeles and I could back away from each other quietly and calmly, knowing that we’d face off again in mortal combat.

It was a new start.

It lasted about a week and a half.

A few days ago, Mr. Shadow returned. Like a tiny crack in the ice, the anti-feelings made themselves known. And once I started wondering if my dark days were back, I was immersed. Could I survive another one of these cycles?

With the help of a friend I put together what has so obviously been going on for at least a year. I have clinical depression.

On Friday, as the realization was coming together, I started to wonder how long I may have been going through this. Some months are a blur. So, I poured through Olde Blog Posts.

It looks like there were many nights that I thought exemplified and validated the emotional, tormented mind of a writer but really only prove that I was under the veil of a dark cloud within my brain. I was going out to fix something I wasn’t even aware was there. Now, don’t misread that. It’s not like going out in L.A. helped me push away the shame of my condition. I wouldn’t give this city that much credit. Even if I wanted to have so much fun that I forgot myself, I couldn’t. What, would I go on a bender at Micky’s? Black out while texting on my phone at Akbar?

Look, L.A. is pathetic. L.A. is scary. L.A. is more than I can handle at this point. But L.A. did not make me crazy. The world did not make me feel alone and sad and burnt out. There’s something wrong in my head and that’s what’s making me feel this way. There’s something wrong inside of me. It’s not something I can change with just willpower. Once again, let’s not put all the blame on me. Even when I’m at my most manic, I will still point out how embarrassing it is that one of the Gay epicenters of the planet couldn’t whip up an adequate celebration for the end of DOMA. I’m still me.

I’m going to try to find proper treatment and deal with this productively. But I don’t know that I’ve ever been so frightened in my life. I don’t like losing control, which I why I don’t like getting drunk or high. When they brought a stage hypnotherapist to camp, he was able to make me do things, but I was awake and remember all of it. Landmark Forum chafes me. I don’t like the idea that for a short time or forever, I might have to let go of a part of myself. And now I might have to kiss all of myself goodbye.

If I’ve been under Mr. Shadow’s control all this time, was that really me? And if it was and I start some medication or treatment, will I lose myself as I am?

Don’t worry. This isn’t going to become a therapy blog, even though it probably has been one from the start. Considering the fact that I only realized my condition by reading old posts from this very blog, perhaps I should just let this sentient body of writing live as it pleases. And be thankful that I don’t have a life-threatening illness. Can you imagine how unbearable I would be if I started writing a cancer blog or something?

There is one thing I’m excited about. This discovery threatens to invalidate most feelings I’ve had over the past year, at the least. My relation to the human world has shifted, as the blame has gone from everyone and everything around me to my own broken mind. Now that I realize that I know and have known absolutely nothing about myself, I can never write the same way again. What I thought was wrong with the world might not be. The person I thought I was might not exist.

So, if you are still reading this, at least you’ve got something to look forward to. What that is, I could never begin to guess. 

San Francisco part four: the Last Shitty Travel Blog

            By the time I walked out of the 3D IMAX of Iron Man 3, I was already 45 minutes into my birthday. I walked down the vile downtown streets listening to Selena Gomez, Robyn, and Nicki Minaj on my headphones. As crackheads peddled for cash and groups of losers walked into alleyways, I flashed down the shady streets with a sparkle in my smile and a twirl in my hair, like the female protagonist who has just learned the meaning of self-respect in every movie made in 2001.

            It was my birthday. I was 23. I was walking alone in San Francisco. Everything was in its place. I wondered if I was feeling hungry, but decided it wasn’t worth getting stabbed to find a place.

            Then, like the vanishing city of Hamunaptra from the Mummy, a tacky, neon-drenched diner materialized. I ran for it. Just at the window, cops were arresting a rasta-haired goon. It was perfect. I slid in and took a seat at the bar. The place was tacky as all hell. It was so overly-classic and sentimental that I thought Christopher Reeves and Margot Kidder were going to walk in.

            What’s more, everyone was Gay. There was a group of homos in tanktops, all on just about the last year of their partygirl careers. They were having a useless argument about who was the DJ at the previous year’s circuit party in Rio. It was perfect. I asked my rough waitress for a slice of carrot cake and a diet coke. And I enjoyed it: every last bite. “Shake your Groove Thing” came on, and suddenly it was Priscilla all over again. I was basking in a moment of rare serenity: everything had led up to this moment, and now, my destiny was ready to be consumed. I had only to take it in my hand and then all that would be left would be to lick my fingers.

            The next day, After much walking and comic book shopping, I found myself at SF MOMA. I was rifling through the 20th century Modern Art when I fell upon the most magnificent piece of art I’d ever seen. A white, sparkling bust of pure marble cast the figure of the ideal man above a bed of near-Kryptonian crystals. With his breast exposed, his eyes closed, and his chin rising, he looked like he was coming alive from a great rebirth. He was a pure, beautiful, incorruptible vessel of dream essence. Jeff Koons, who I had never heard of, made him and titled him “Self Portrait.” He was so real and so alive that I found myself staring at him for 20 minutes. I kept falling into a trans in which I’d stare at his perfectly fine eyelashes for so long that I’d think I’d see his eyes moving. I wanted so badly for him to wake up and be real, to come out and touch me.

            That night, I made it to the Marina and the Diamonds concert. As I filed through legions of 17 year old gay boys and their sequin-clad best girlfriends, I realized that my balcony seats were in the very highest row in the nosebleeds. I would be crammed between six high school sophomores two hundred feet above the actual act. On my birthday.

            My inner brat moaned for rescue: didn’t the cosmos know that I deserved better? But then I thought about how Jaimie Lannister lost his hand, and about the speech Brienne gave him to make him see sense. I tried to have perspective. Maybe I could sneak to the edge of the balcony and look down? No. This was pathetic. Patience and humility were made for lesser beings.

            I asked two ushers if they could help me, but, as they explained, it was their ass or mine. All hope was lost. Then, she appeared. Looking like Amanda Plummer in So I Married an Axe Murderer, a rough-hewn usher hobbled around, helping unknowing souls to their seats. I took a chance on her.

            “Oh man, you shouldn’t have told me it was your birthday,” she weezed. Bliss!

            She took me downstairs to the main floor and introduced me to the head usher as her silver-haired nephew. I didn’t wait to be asked for my birth certificate. I bolted in. Look, this keeps going. Suffice it to say, I made it to the main floor.

            Downstairs was replete with high-schoolers out for a wild night. There were young gay boys who tried dying their hair platinum(showing my current level of maturity) and enough braces to create a reflective lightshow for the incoming diva. It was so crowded – the bodies were so tightly smushed together - that I think I may have entered a few people on accident. Don’t convict me of statutory.

            Charli XCX opened, and what a sexy bitch she was. She wore a plaid schoolgirl skirt and an adidas workout bra and she flipped her thick long hair and held onto the mic like it was her lover. Midway through her act, she revealed to the crowd that she was the original writer of IconaPop’s “I love it,” and decided to perform it for us.

            I raised my fist into the air like a freedom fighter and jumped up and down with the thundering beat. Charli’s voice is softer than IconaPop’s, but she was still irresistible. I was bouncing and screaming along with the words. Like a flash of lightning, I felt myself at the first time I heard the song – Glam-ou-Pride Tel Aviv, in June 2012 – in a dark dancehall with my back on the wall. Everything between now and then was just butter. I heard a beautiful song at a party once, and now I was with its creator.

            As I screamed and let my fury out, I noticed that the two girlfriends to my right and left, were, though well decorated, essentially useless. They weren’t moving or dancing. They were just nothing. It made me sad.

            No matter where you go, whether it be to a liberal arts college in the city, or a sexy underground party, or a pop diva’s concert, or even to the entertainment mecca of our country, you will always find people who bore you. There they are, lonely and subdued, ready to submit but not to create, just there to drift. It’s time to look past them. It’s time to focus on the rage and power of the music you hear and block out the ones who are there to dance and make out with you.

            After Charli, the main act made her dramatic entrance. On what looked like the set of Faith’s motel room from Buffy, Marina twirled in wearing a pink miniskirt and matching top, showing off luscious thighs, a tiny waist, and some massive, round, peachy knockers. Yikes. She could pass lemons with Joan Holloway.

            Though she didn’t perform my favorite song, “Living Dead,” she still crushed it on her piano, on stage, and while dancing. During “Shampain,” she threw a chalice full of glitter into the air. I watched the cloud of shimmering golden flakes twist and sparkle as they dissipated.

            By sheer will or karmic obstinacy, I ended up in the second row, just feet away from the stage. I had started the night at the very back, on top, out of view, and now, here I was, in my rightful place at the front of the show.

            It is a new year. My 24th year will be crisp, delicious, and furious in its momentum. Everything I have will expand and manifest in ways that will last for years. I will not be afraid to push myself forward until I am where I belong. And I will count on you, my club scholars, to remind me when I’m full of shit. Here’s to it.  

San Francisco Part Three: Against all Straights

            It was my last chance: Saturday night. This time, I’d hit SOMA, a.k.a. the South of Market district. There were a few spots that I could hit in a small block, so I wouldn’t feel too out of the way.

            I had a talk with an elder gay earlier in the night, and he advised me to keep an open mind, give older people a chance, and not think too much. I took his advice with an cleansed heart, ready to embrace some hidden world of good music and dancing that was closed to me just because I had a bad attitude.

            Fulsom & 11th. Clean. Industrial. Serviceable.

            I walked over to Beatbox, which was hosting a massive party for Cinco De Mayo. There was a nice crowd, but I could only hear rough house music. Not pretty. What’s more, the cover was $25. No. Under no circumstances. What’s the point of embracing a new experience if you have to pay through the nose for something you already know?

            So, I took a tour around, and ended up where I knew I would: Bootie San Francisco. I dance at Bootie L.A. at least once a month, so, suffice it to say, I knew what I was going to get. It felt like giving up, but at the same time, there was a long line, and I could hear actual music with lyrics through the door. Look, I made an effort. Nobody can say that I didn’t do my research. I just couldn’t make rainbow fireworks with my bare hands.

            The party was something from a dreamscape: level after stacked level of reveling, wild bodies, burning flesh through the dark of the club. Phenomenal Skrillex remixes were blasting at top volume and every single human unit was in motion. It felt like Montreal. It felt like Montreal in 2006. You can’t beat that.

            The floor was nice and expansive, and, just overlooking it by ten feet was a wide platform with even more of a party. Levels of dancing. If you took the Witch’s Lair-type stairs up, you’d enter a long Babylon-type balcony and two more rooms of dancing. The upstairs bar had a kind of Bar Mitzvah party for the Parents zone where a packed crew danced to “Get ur Freak on” and “Move Bitch” get out the way. By the back hallway, a wacko tobacco room of techno beckoned a small, but animated group.

            I had options.

            I returned downstairs and shoved myself through the crowd until I could take a place of comfort by a platform wall.

            Something wasn’t right here.

            Bootie LA is one of a few truly mixed parties out there. It attracts Gay dudes, fratboys, couples, awful straight people, fantastic straight people, and yoga teachers. Some nights, the mix of people creates a perfect alchemy; some nights, there’s not a single girl in the room, and the dudes are not interested in one another.

            Bootie San Francisco was different. I was the only Queer person around. Fine. I’ll be generous. There may have been one other Gay, maybe crying in the bathroom. But that’s it. Fine. I’m OK with it. But these were not the type of hetero people like the ones who read my blog. These weren’t like the hetero people I know.

            PREFACE: Before I go on attacking straight people, just keep in mind that there’s a part where I learn a beautiful lesson about tolerance and friendship and stuff. I’m trying to temper my bloodlust.

            They were straight. Like my Pakistani boyfriend will hold my clutch while I dance straight. Like my friends made me this sash so we could go out for my bachelorette party straight. Like oops I spilled Jack Daniels on my Lacoste Button Down straight. Like there are five smelly guys standing still in the back staring at the girls straight. It was rough. It was like an even more hormonal school dance.

            But the music was so good, I didn’t care. I had two fat guys in front of me and some wild chicks. A dubstep remix of Britney & Will.I.am’s “Scream and Shout” blasted through the room.

            Normally, I would never dance with this kind of crowd. Straight people like this only bring back middle school traumas, and, what’s more, I simply don’t feel safe around herds of straight men at night.

            But, there I was, with shock white hair and a red sleeveless vest. I was the only person on the Technicolor end of the sex/gender/identity rainbow bridge to Asgard, and probably the only true Bootie veteran in the room. I had nothing to be afraid of.

            They should be afraid of me.

            IconaPop’s “I Love It” came on. The deep-revving chorus reached down to take me. I started bobbing forward and back, flailing my arms, and jumping. I opened my eyes. I was actively bumping into straight people and I didn’t care. I was a horror. A terror. They didn’t know what I was. The chorus of the song blasted me and I could feel my shaky, mortal self melt down to the ground and my true, astral, indestructible form rose high above the crowd in a burst of fire and revelation.

            I flew around the ceiling, looking down on all the dancing bodies, finally released by the chaotic music I had sought out for months. I was beyond – beyond space, beyond the body, beyond my old limits. There was nothing to be afraid of. As the sad straight people looked on at me, they felt fear and total abject confusion. I was the mystery. I was the one to be afraid of. Nobody would do me harm.

            I came down when the music stopped for the show. Some Japanese Biology student had his elbow in my stomach. I moved away.

            It was time for the Midnight show. At Bootie L.A., R.A.I.D., my dance crew, performs a choreographed, ridiculous midnight number on stage. At Bootie San Francisco, they host more of an act, as it were. A giant white hoop descended from the ceiling. A beautiful Black Amazon with tight, sculpted abs walked up under the hoop, and, to a mashup of “Bulletproof” and “500 Miles”, she swirled, flipped, hung, twirled, and slithered through that thing mid-air. It was a stunning show, but it lacked the campy madness of Bootie L.A. This was more serious.

            I could really take the mix of B.O., and if I had to watch one more creepy dude walk his erection into an unknowing girl’s flop, I was going to develop a syndrome. So I headed upstairs.

            Hard 2003 rap was playing on the small floor, and people were getting down. I found a wall and posted up. I turned to my left, and there they were. Like spiders making a nest, an actual hive of guys were making out with their girlfriends. It took me back to the slutty religious Jew guys on my year course program. Was there no escape?

            The music downstairs was good, but it wasn’t banging enough to distract me from the unfolding horror of this crowd. I know I was supposed to have an open mind and embrace the lessons of community and acceptance and stardust but these people were repulsive. It really does stand to reason that most of the world’s problems are caused by most of the world’s men. Looking at these sad girls, in high heels and full makeup, and these moronic guys, in button down shirts and leather shoes, made me sad for the world. What did these men think was going to happen? What did they think they knew about the female species?

            I needed to find my own kind. I needed some comfort.

            Then, like avatars of goodness, they materialized. THE GAYS!

            Two of them. Shirtless. Very nice looking. They had flat stomachs and nice nipples and they were probably my age. Who knew this breed existed! They were onstage, dancing wildly, opening up the space and helping me to banish the rapey malevolence that was threatening to destroy us all.

            But then, as they always do, they betrayed me. The two Gays started making out on stage for everyone to see. That was the last straw.

            If there is one thing I despise, it is a happy, good looking, publicly affectionate gay couple in a nightclub. They do not exactly make things better for the rest of us. In fact, they only signal the shape of things that will not come to the rest of us. And here, when I needed some solidarity with my fellow gay brethren and united cool girls, this is all that I got?

            It was too much. I looked at the faces in the club and saw only shadows. I needed at least some human connection and I couldn’t find it. If the music were better, I probably could have coasted. But there was nothing to save me.

            I busted out of the club and walked down a side street. I walked past the Eagle, a gay dive, and noticed that the clientele was older than my parents are. No. I walked back the way I came, past Beatbox, where a line of truly pathetic Gay 30 somethings in tanktops waited for what was a long enough time to make their nipples that perky. I was repulsed.

            I got back in the cab and got the hell out.

            San Francisco, in all it’s charming allure, has been conquered by the Club Scholar. There are secrets that he never unearthed and excellent parties he has never heard of. But he has consumed its nightlife and used it to further his own evolution. This party is over. Perhaps the next will be better. 

San Francisco Part Two: Sunnydale Beckons

            OK, I would never want this blog to be about some J.A.P. who goes on a weekend trip and blogs about the crepes he eats and what powerful lessons he learned, but you know what just bear with me for a few paragraphs. I think we can all agree that I’ve made a decent effort at not doing awful things like foresquare or taking pictures of my salads.

When I was trying to get from Japantown to the Haight via the light rail, I asked some strangers for help. I spoke with a kind of touched middle aged woman with a bob, merlot lipstick, a red pussy pack, and a purple blazer. She was on her way to her weekly poetry group.

I envied her, in the same way I used to envy this purple haired old woman who would show up every Sunday at the Taj Boston for High Tea, dressed to the Nines, Brooch polished, ready to hear some violin BY HER OWN DAMN SELF. How free they must feel! Without the neuroses or self-consciousness that we all face, they could do anything they want and be so far gone that they wouldn’t even realize it. They had really crossed over, and they weren’t coming back.

Of course, as the day went on, nagging thoughts about my body started creeping in, on account of the fact that I haven’t exercised in over a week and I have been eating like a pig on this trip. I went to go see a revivalist screening of Donnie Darko, then boarded a subway to my hostel.

The train was headed towards Sunnydale.

Sunnydale, California.

I spent pretty much 12 hours a day of middle school wishing that I’d get hit by a bus and that I could wake up in Sunnydale, California. This was my Enid moment from Ghost World. When I sat on the train, I knew that I could follow it all the way to the end. I could never get off. But then I wondered if the real Sunnydale is actually really rapey or not, so I decided against it. But regardless – big moment here.

It had been a busy day and I hadn’t really looked in a mirror. I caught myself in the reflection on the train.

I looked insane. Really, really, insane. My hair is as white as Judi Dench’s on a good day. I was wearing thick blue Buddy Holly glasses that covered my entire face. My American Flag tanktop didn’t fit. And I had multiple bags hanging on every flap of skin.

I don’t know who I thought I was before. Seeing myself now, I realized that it was already done: I had already crossed over. I was one of those classy old broads with wild hair and demented clothing. There was no need to worry about standing out or, otherwise, fitting in. I was already someone else entirely.

I’m never going to be noticed for how good my body is. I’m not one of those guys anymore. I’m another species entirely, and I don’t know why I haven’t gotten that yet. It is time to shed my conventional anxieties about my looks and my body and leave those for guys with simpler minds. I’m not destined to be a 37 year old gay man who posts pictures of his abs on instagram.

This was a holy sign. I had ascended. Sunnydale flickered in the distance. The person who was on that Sunnydale train was never going to be any other Gay. It would be something else entirely.

I can be crazy. I can command fear. People think I’m nuts anyway. There’s no returning to the other side. Enid and I are leaving, and we’re never coming back.  

San Francisco Part One: Catastro

            As soon as I arrived at my charming alleyway hostel, I showered, did my hair, and threw on my old reliables: black mesh tanktop, red nylon jacket, and skinny jeans. I was going to break the rules tonight! I’d walk the streets of Northeast San Francisco to the South of Market area, where I’d visit a swinging all-hours joint called the Endup. You see, everyone assumed I’d go straight for the Castro, because all gays are the same, right? That’s just like how everyone assumed I’d live in West Hollywood, because all gays are awful, correct? No. I was going to paint myself a new picture: the defiant traveler who finds exotic spots via one minute searches on google and walks to them. I don’t need to contribute to the ghettoization of American Gay Culture! It’s time I took a stand!

            I didn’t plan for my walk. It wasn’t long – probably 20 minutes total – but it was rough: like, the opening scene from Batman rough. Without exception, every single person on Taylor street was scary. There were old women who looked like Grandma Death arguing outside of hosiery stores. Homeless people would wake up from their pavement sleep to spit or vomit. An obese man offered me coke. Another vagrant walked out of his wheelchair to offer me crack rock.

            By the halfway point, I was walking fast. Look inconspicuous, I told myself. Why did I wear a see through tanktop? I zipped it up with my bright red jacket. Damnit! Just be boring, I told myself. I kept forgetting that my hair is not even platinum anymore – but shock white. I look like Rogue’s gay brother!

            Gays aren’t safe to walk the streets at night, I decided boldly. We deserve our own neighborhood, our own turf. Oh, shit. Once I heard what I was thinking, I kind of slapped myself.

            Finally, I reached the End Up. It was situated directly under a freeway, which was lovely. There wasn’t much of a line, save for the middle aged bald straight men going in, saying “Here we go again!” like excited perverts. I tried to keep an open mind. I walked right up to the entrance to listen in, but all I got was thrumming house music. There wasn’t a lyric for miles. I couldn’t do this.

            That was that. I was done with this experiment.

            I finally hailed a cab.

            “Castro and 18th,” I said immediately.

            “Let’s go,” he said.

            My cabdriver, a crusty old man with a phlegmy cough, explained to me that I was situated in and had just walked through the Tenderloin, San Francisco’s seediest central area.

            “But isn’t that a bit of a banal name for a dangerous neighborhood? It sounds like a strip club!”

            “It’s the center of the cow,” he tried to explain to me.

           

            When we arrived in Castro, we arrived in Castro. Bright lighting, Flailing arms, small dogs. All the signs were apparent. I walked up and down the block. I don’t know how far the Castro area extends, but from what I can tell, it was all situated in one or two blocks. It was… quaint. If I had been 18, I probably would have thought it was a spectacle; well-polished and trimmed Gays rolled up and down the block, getting late night pizza, petting dogs, and shooting the shit at one another. I was a bit taken aback by how plain it all was. Look, there were dancing homeless entertainers, loud queens in bootie shorts and dangling earrings, and even a senior citizen wearing nothing but a black tubesock, but compared to the Queer as Folk series premiere I was expecting, this all felt a little dollar store to me. Where were the legions of drag queens in hand-sewn sequins? Shouldn’t there be some gay pornstars walking around? It was all very loud… and cheap.

            I walked by a few places. Most of them were bars, which I was most definitely NOT having tonight. I get that I probably should have gone into a bar, approached some tasteful looking people(the few the proud) and asked where I should go, but I had already made conversation with the biologist sitting next to me on my plane. My speaking quotas were full. I wanted to dance now.

            I saw a line outside of a two story club called Café. Look, I’m resistant to any nightspot with that moniker, as it reminds me of the nursing home that was Club Café in Boston. What the hell kind of title is that for a place? What is sexy about a café?

            But I heard Rihanna, and I was desperate, so I got in line. The monstrously obese female bouncer was kind to me, and I took the stairs up. I silently told myself that I’d canvas for female bouncers’ rights. I far preferred them to their male counterparts.

            Cafe was big, alright. Imagine a cavernous attic with attractions at every corner. Any way you turned, you were certain to fall into dozens of tanktoped men, sweaty go-go’s, and well to do Gaysians.

            The walls were clean and the lights kept changing. This “BoyBar” had all the feeling of any tacky, over-sterylized, bachelorette-party hosting gay megaclub in the States. And, to deliver the kiss of death, there were legions of hags, wearing high waisted skirts and heels, grinding up on their skinny gay friends with a look of deep discomfort masked by a rowdy smile.

            The music took a turn for the worse, and suddenly we were in the Abbey. I had to get out.

            It well may be that there are scores of sensational clubs in the Castro. I just didn’t find them. I wandered around, up and down, checking my Jack’d profile, and waiting for something to fall out of the sky.

            I found a pitiful-looking video bar with a large dancefloor and a decent line. The place looked packed, and Selena Gomez was on the screens. The place was called the Badlands, and it was all I had left.

            The cover was $3, but the bouncer didn’t charge me. In my typical insecure, narcissistic fashion, I took this as a testament to my dazzling beauty. But once I got in, I understood.

            I was the only one in the packed club who didn’t look like he was collecting disability benefits from an oil rig explosion. Was this even a gay club? There wasn’t a single throbbing bicep or trimmed eyebrow in the joint. Sure, men were grinding with men, but I guess when a crowd of zombies get really close in their containment areas, it could be considered grinding too, right?

            I pride myself on being able to slither through any crowd. With a look of sinister intention and stunning mystery, I hover through like a head nun on wheels. But not at the Badlands! These people didn’t have hard bodies, but they were putting up quite a resistance. They wanted to dance – or at least waddle into decay – and they were not going to give up their spots. I soon found myself running in fear out of the club and up the hill.

            I gave the damn Café another shot. I entered, hopeless, and finally heard Macklemore. Thrift Shop! The Theme song of this trip! Finally, my salvation. I found a wall and just kind of shook my head around to get into it. I spotted some decently handsome guys, scattered among the rabble.

            But like an erotic dream cut short by the sun, Macklemore was over, and so we returned to bad house remixes of “Scream & Shout.”

            The party was over.

            “The Castro Sucks!” I texted to my friend Raz. “I can’t dance anywhere!”

            I wandered around and got in a cab.

            My demented cabdriver got excited when “We are Family” came on the radio. He told me that it was OK. I’d strike out again. Friday nights aren’t the best. But Saturday – that’s when I’ll have fun.

            I let him console me. Then, I returned to my hostel cubby and put on “For a Good time, Call.”

            I had conquered the Castro. I suppose it had to be done. I just wish I could have done it with a smile on my face. 

What I learned from James St. James

            Preface: My friend Raz, who isn’t a neophyte to Queer culture – unlike some people – explained to me that by referring to James St. James’ beloved true crime memoir Disco Bloodbath: A fabulous but true tale of Murder in Clubland by its movie title, Party Monster, I was sabotaging my gay credibility and making myself sound like an ungrateful turd.

            But, at the risk of sounding like a total philistine, I have to insist on using the movie’s title, as it is more fitting to the work. This story was never about a murder; it was about the monster who changed it all, and his cultural machine which still endures to this day.

            So, as I discuss what I learned from the novel, I hope you can subdue your cringing at my use of the poor man’s title.

“New York was on its last leg anyway. After Peter Gatien’s clubs were seized by the DEA, and Peter himself was arrested, there was another one of those yawning chasms in nightlife. Another “Death of Downtown.” This time, though, there was no new Michael Alig to roar in and shake everything upside down and bring it all back to life. There was no crazy new scene to take the place of the old one. Just a mind-numbing succession of paint-by-number nightclubs, and a few rickrack club kids going through the motions. The fun people just stopped going out. And the ones who kept at it, did so with a drowning man’s ferocity, and a hara-kiri, Blood & Guts approach to nightclubbing. Of course, since then, most of them have died.

Hey Ho.

The world goes on.”

-       James St. James

You know that feeling you get when you see an old classic movie you know you are supposed to see but you don’t really care to? You catch an iconic, original scene, and spend the rest of the movie remembering every time it has been copied in movies since.  

I had seen Party Monster the movie before, but it didn’t leave too much of an impression. Look, let’s not pretend that it is the queer Citizen Kane we all make it out to be. The production value… happened, and Wilson Cruz couldn’t help but make himself all too deserving of his fictional murder.

Now that I’ve read James St. James’ brilliant, scathing, unrepentant account of the Club Kids era, I have to admit how naïve I have been all these years. So much of our current nightlife and queer culture – in 2013 – is just a faded knockoff of what those nutjobs made for themselves in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s. When I insist that everything nowadays is derivative of what once was, I’m not necessarily saying it’s a bad thing. I’ve seen party creators take a lesson from the Club Kids and continue on with the form’s latest incarnations, but I’ve also seen parties jam-packed with twenty somethings who saw a Macaulay Culkin movie and think they can pay tribute to something that is no longer a thing.

The Club Kids lived in more conservative times than today’s, and without fear of false assumptions, authoritative reprisals, or, really, any repercussions at all, they blasted off into an uprising of outrageously costumed, socially sensible, and wildly demented mutants who stayed out past after-hours, went on endless benders, fucked one another over literally and figuratively, and inevitably ended up in ditches, rehab, or in morgues. This wasn’t the 2013 conception of wild, which usually amounts to a bunch of Japanese girls going to the Abbey for a bachelorette party and coming home at 1:15 am. This was a full on livelihood. I’m not saying that the Club Kids possessed some sort of self-worth, inner fiber, or moral high ground above the rest of us. But I am saying that when they partied, they actually partied. They didn’t go to a club that closes at 2:00 AM and take photos of their drinks on instagram.

I am aware that this movement ended with vomit, overdoses, public defecation, and, finally, murder. I’m not trying to make the late ‘80’s into the new Belle Époque. The reason I write this is to urge another young person – maybe myself – to take the message, not the literal execution, of this movement, and bring it to life for my generation.

Michael Alig played the fame game. If he were doing it again today, he would absolutely be posting pictures of himself with Drag Race contestants on facebook. But his ascent had a destination. He wanted fame and power and to restart the party in his own vision. Obviously, he was motivated by celebrity, money, and drugs, but that doesn’t discount the fact that he dedicated his life to building a new vision for the culture. Can we say that about anyone in my generation? Who runs the Queer nightlife now? In the United States, nightlife is a business. It is not built for the young. And it is certainly not built by the young. We are charged 12 to 20 dollars to enjoy a club with stale Kelly Clarkson remixes and aging go-go dancers. This is the way. The men who profit from this have been in this business for years, and have not been on a dancefloor since Blondie was a #1 act.

That’s not to say that it’s all bad. The point of this piece is not to argue that if twenty somethings ran nightclubs, all of gay culture would be fixed.  In fact, I can credit everything to Preston H. Bizarre and the Silver Fairy – two Gay men at the cusp of 30 who took the Party Monster aesthetic and reinterpreted it for a new scene. Their baby, Glam-ou-Rama, changed my life. Upon entering the party, visitors were dazzled by that anything-goes, there’s a woman with a chainsaw feeling, but they didn’t have to suffer through the rough upheavals. Glam-ou-Rama is the colorful freakshow the Party Monsters would have intended it to be, but instead of embracing their rush to push the limits with extreme drug use and belligerent aggression, it espoused innocent kitsch and sloppy kisses.

In L.A., the club kid movement has inspired multiple parties, namely Mr. Black and its spin-off, Evita. Situated in a hard wasteland of culture, these parties have served as a haven for the sensational souls who craft their own costumes and die their own beards. As for the attendants… Look, the Club Kids movement was based on irony. An ironic tribute to an ironic movement kind just sucks.  

I think my favorite part of Party Monster is the fearless regard with which James St. James crucifies his former peers. He doesn’t look back on his days with the Kids as a time of innocence or dreams gone astray. No, he is the first to recognize that he is pretty much a vegetable because of the fucked up shit he used to do with these people. And if he is going down, the rest of them are going with him. He doesn’t let us look on at Angel Melendez as a fallen innocent, and he certainly takes his time stabbing Michael Alig in the neck on the way to the grave. Party Monster was meant to bring a final rest to the movement, not inspire knockoffs.

It’s absolutely hypocritical for a 22 year old self-proclaimed partyboy to complain about how the mean, decrepit club promoters won’t let him have fun. I should get off the computer and start a new, surging, sweeping movement for my generation. But, like so many of my peers, I lack the dedication. I fear the elderly. And I don’t have enough faith in my contemporaries to foresee an army of followers. I’m not ready to kill or die for this the way Michael Alig was. Hopefully, somewhere out in the void, there’s an uneducated young Queer who doesn’t understand irony and who decides to have a little fun of his own – in an entirely new way. We don’t need a tribute. We need a monster of our own. 

Finally

Do you ever enter a room and feel like you recognize every single person?

            I’ve kind of stopped having expectations in Los Angeles for a while on account of the fact that most parties I go to are not any genuine fun. So when I am hit in the face with true awesome glory, I forget myself.

            I walked into Evita in a red, sleeveless American Apparel hoodie that I christened at my first pride parade when I was 17. When I approached the bouncer, I heard something unexpected: Rihanna’s “Jump,” my favorite song on her new CD.

            Entering the room was like stepping into a gorgeous photomontage from an ‘80’s party movie. In perfect harmony with the music, row after row of neon-colored party people shook and stirred to the vibrations of the sound. It was like each tableaux had been cut and paste into the picture, just a layer above the next one.

            After all this time of wading through empty dancefloors, replete with withered old beards, and aged Silver Lake gays way past their irony, I had returned to the other side to a packed dancefloor filled with moving people. Finally: Some Life!

            I was surrounded by dancing 20 something freaks and I was back. And the music! Oh the Music! Josh Peace did the unimaginable: he played actual songs. Not endless clamor and clangor, not 1970’s Afrikaans hits, and no “revivalist” disco bullshit. Britney Spears. M.I.A. ‘Lil Kim. David Banner. It had been so long since I could close my eyes and take off that it took me a little to readjust. But once I did, it was all muscle memory from there.

            I started to notice the crowd. There was a huge delegation of young neo- Club Kids. These boys all saw or read Party Monster at a time of great influence in their lives, and have taken to paying tribute to it every few Tuesdays in Hollywood. There was a chiseled black boy who wore nothing but liquid leather tights and heels. Another had blue lipstick, denim shorts, and platform boots. Another wore a gray charmeuse dress and no wig. During some of the slower songs, they would clear space(my space) and start voguing like it was their job. By whipping around animatronically, falling on their calves, and snapping dramatically, these boys clearly felt like they were holding court. Suffice it to say, I was instantly competitive with this rabble of semi-costumed goons. What is it about them that bothers me? I’ve done just about everything they have, from bombing with nonsensical costumes to fighting for attention on a dancefloor that doesn’t really care. Am I just jealous? I’d like to think that I resent this new guard for their lack of originality. If my generation is expected to make something out of the corporate cesspool of our gay times, can’t we mount a more novel attack? Look, none of these kids are going to be Michael Alig because none of them have the chutzpah to start their own parties, create a new costume theory, or change the game completely. They’re just kind of crashing. And what’s more, I don’t like Voguing. It turns dancing into a complete performance, without any of the joy or the selflessness of just feeling like a fucking idiot.

            But I’ll have to make peace with these boys soon. As of now, they’re all I’ve got.

            On one of the tables, there shimmied a buff Andrew Christian Model in Clark Kent glasses and boy shorts. Next to him, an old club promoter gave his boyfriend a lapdance. To his right, a fully tattooed, mustachioed Pacific Islander lost his mind to the music. This loony tunes level of diversity makes Evita an instant classic. You may not fit in, but neither does anyone else.

            I took my spot by a studded pillar and made myself comfortable. I was so comfortable that I kept thinking that I was seeing someone I knew. Is that my old college roommate, only hotter? Is that my ex-personal trainer? Is that Roseanne’s Sister?

            I was with my countrymen, and the DJ was mashing up M.I.A.’s “Bamboo Banga” with Britney’s “Big Fat Bass.” Nothing could bother me. Not even monogamists. At least not for the first five minutes of this mood.

            There was a gorgeous young man of Arab descent. He wasn’t that tall, but he had a certain solidness to his figure that made him irresistible. He danced gracefully, but only for the entertainment of his friends. I smiled and let him go.

            A stunning Japanese Drag Queen with luscious ambre hair and glowing pink lips bumped into me. She smelled like wintergreen mint and raspberries.

            “You smell so good,” I said, pretending to be drunk.

            “How old are you?” she asked.

            “22.”

            “But you’re so little,” she smiled.

            When you are in your own head, or your own blog, you tend to lose perspective. When someone tells me I look like a teenager, it can often throw me off, especially when I claim to be shutting things down as the virtuoso ClubScholar. Most of the time, I feel like I have experienced it all and that it was nothing compared to what the last generation went through. As I count down to 23, I worry that I may be starting a new, grim, chapter of my life in which I become responsible, learn how to be a competent worker, and function in a healthy relationship. But maybe, if I’m lucky, I’m just at the beginning. It’s possible that in seven years I can see the version of myself that was mouthing ‘Lil Kim lyrics with his back to the wall and his hands on his thighs and laugh at how he hadn’t seen nothing yet. Perhaps the true party is yet to begin, and I’m just waiting things out until my six pack materializes or I come into an inheritance.

            I feel old, because I live in a city designed for old people. I am happy that I’m becoming a real person who can function in society and take on some responsibility. But if I have to spend another year of this blog complaining about how much nightlife sucks in this town, I can guarantee I’m not going to be much fun at 24.

            But here’s the thing: if I can be surprised by a simple Tuesday night at Evita, then maybe I don’t know anything at all. And if I don’t know anything at all, then maybe I really can be as young as I look under those pink laser lights.

            

seeking relief

            There are times when I feel like I’ve completed something; that I can finally feel carefree. But it is more often that I am crippled by an equal yet opposite pang of nervous fear. It’s as if my daily self-disappointment, neurosis, anger with those I live with and regularly encounter, and sexual urge all bubble up in one sealed tank. I had the best writing night of my life on Wednesday: my mind was rushing so far beyond my hands that I knew I could take to the skies if I wanted it. But on Friday, at 11:00, I was nearly shaking with an unnamable, unmistakable anxiety.

            Cat sitting wasn’t doing it. Writing wasn’t happening. Sleep wasn’t an option. So I headed out. I had fallen upon some fringe Queer party via facebook. Tonight would be the grand opening of the Pleasuredome party at the Virgil Bar. I had been to the Virgil once before to see Kristin Schaal’s comedy hour. It is no huge bar, but it has a nice open area and an old timey stage. The facebook event page promised live performances and the divine revelation of Drew Droege, the brilliant comedian besides those youtube Chloe Sevigny videos.

I listened to the Scissor Sisters’ Night Work on the ride there. “Invisible Light” opened a tunnel of psychedelic sound as I watched wayward Nightwalkers flood past my window.

You have to understand that the Virgil is not a Queer bar by any means. It’s just a bar. Upon entering, patrons can either turn left and head towards the dancefloor/stage area, in a room of its own, or they can walk to the right and go to the bar area. Unfortunately, this divergence led to a sad, inevitable segregation.

There wasn’t a drop of Technicolor blood in the bar room. Sluts in heels sat with hipster dudes who had their hair just so. Twenty something male actors with thin cheeks and nice clavicles sat with their buddies and stared out longingly. This was NOT my room. I turned back in horror and tried to take the other way in. I felt like I was deciding which way to go in any scene of The Goonies.         

The Pleasuredome made itself more obvious. Sure, it was no costume ball, but by the sound of the pulsing 80’s pop and the look of fair skinned faigalehs, it was definitely a safe place to be. A lot of straight people were in the room and a lot of Silverlake guys were just standing there with beers. I didn’t like the space because there were nearly no surfaces for me to rest my back on. I was getting scared. Finally, I spotted a pillar and latched on for dear life. I actually let out a sigh and started congratulating myself. The nerves were on.

 On the far wall, a montage of 80’s and 90’s phantasmagoria flashed by, putting me in an immediate trans. There were shots of He-Man, Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf, Super Nintendo Commercials, and Pump Sneakers. I was transfixed. When I did break off from it, I peered around the room at the scores of flannel wearing buffoons, decked out with thick rimmed glasses and heavy beards. How soon will it be before we watch nostalgic videos of this look and laugh at its pretentious ineptitude?

Chloe herself materialized on stage in gold sneakers, tights, and white sunglasses. She was perfection.

“Good Evening America America, I’m Chloe Sevigny,” she said. “It has recently come to my attention that I love art.” I realized early on that I was the only one in the bar who actually understood this mastermind, because there were very few laughs.

“I’d like to thank you for not attending Co-a-chella,” she said. “If I wanted to see a freaky pussy dance around in feathers, I’d call Clea Duvall.”

Chloe introduced some band called Father Tiger. They didn’t even spell Tiger in an interesting way. They were good and the lead singer was cute but they weren’t actually the kind of act you’d pay money to see at a party called the Pleasuredome. I could have seen them at the Virgil any day of the week. How was this night different from any other night?

More heteros – in heels no less- kept flooding the place. By now, you’d have to look hard to realize what kind of party this was. The music was getting more ‘80’s metal than anything, and the dancing was sparse. I was so thrown.

I had descended into a shadow state of blithe observation. The photographer took pictures of me, but I wouldn’t smile.

Some gay came up to me.

“My name is Dylan,” he said.

“I’m David.”

“I think you’re really cute,” he said.

“Where are we?” I asked honestly.

“It’s cool! We came to see the band,” he replied.

“Yeah, but like who are these people?” I was demanding to know.

“I don’t know,” he said. He thought that I was drunk, which I got off on.

“No, but like who are they? Where did they come from?”
            “I don’t know.”

“I’m so confused,” I said, and walked out of the party.

I went to Akbar after and toured around, but was similarly dissatisfied. But I felt uncommonly serene. Sure, I didn’t dance until sweat dripped down my neck. I didn’t meet anyone who took me away. I didn’t get into an altercation with a gender performer. But I felt better. I can’t smoke cigarettes, though I’d love to. I don’t really drink. Meeting men is difficult. Perhaps being out is my release. I need to find myself somewhere new and dark and packed and just ride the current until I feel like I am out of my own body, just a little bit. I can feel something outside of myself. 

the white void

I was so very excited to go to my first warehouse party in Los Angeles. Ram Jam came out of nowhere for me: I’d never heard of it, which is an increasingly rare sentence when it comes to this dark town. I was ready to take a tremendous step in a new direction. I couldn’t dance at Bootie L.A. that night, because I had fallen on my face the night before and hurt my knee. But I knew I could still dance. All I wanted was to enter an endless expanse and just shake my head until it melted and popped.

My gray-hair dye job went pretty well. It’s silver, alright, but it’s also got tints of blue and violet coming in. It’s kind of got a “Judy Dench after Assisted Living Aquatics Class” feeling. But I was pleased with it. I knew very well when I dyed my hair that I would no longer be receiving attention from men. That’s the deal: if you want to violate what precious little “masculinity” you have, then you should be prepared to be a pariah.

The party was held in the depths of Silver Lake, in one of those impossible side streets that make you wonder how big the world actually is. I have this idea that I know LA, or at least I know what there is to know about it. But with every back road, the city proves itself more formidable.

 I followed the trail of bearded homos to a large studio. So it wasn’t a warehouse. It was a soundstage. That’s alright, I guess. The front porch was packed with polished, handsome men in tight t-shirts and oval glasses. I went inside.

I entered a perfect white cube with curved edges. It was like that mod apartment from Absolutely Fabulous. But it kept going up and around, endlessly, in stunning cinemascope. Under bright anbaric lighting, Janky vintage independent films projected onto the speckle walls. On white boxes, older go-go dancers strutted around in leather underwear and ram horns. I’m really happy that the Gay men of Silverlake want to take a stand against crippling social norms and make their go-go dancers hairy chested. Wow. What a coup.

Look, the place was unique and the men were perfectly packaged, but, like in any other Gay party in L.A., we were standing around and listening to lounge music. There were no songs. I couldn’t dance. And what’s more, with the insane asylum lighting baring down upon me, I felt exposed. It was as if a giant crane claw was going to fall out of the white void and choose me next for some sick game.

I was alone. I couldn’t drift away and fade into the darkness of the scene. There was no song lyric to pull me out of my body and into the ether. I was contained in this flabby coil for all to see. I walked around in circles around the party like an idiot savant for about half an hour. I periodically checked my phone for something so I looked like I had what to do. This wasn’t a night out – this was like a real person’s party. There was no dancing, no wild revelry. Sure, some men were shirtless, making out, and doing some form of dancing, but otherwise the theme of the party was human interaction. It was unbearable. I looked around the scene and thought: What if I crawled up in the Gods and turned on Ace of Base? What would happen? Would the place explode into jubilant dancing, with gays crawling out of the woodwork to throw their hands in the air for Sweden? Or would these grizzly beasts run back into hibernation? Who could say: it was just a fantasy.

A primal fear overcame me. I didn’t dare leave, lest I miss out on something unknowable and impending, but I couldn’t hide anywhere either. So I just stood in place – bug eyed and paralyzed, waiting for a cue. After a few minutes, a decent looking Englishman in a well-fit t-shirt approached me and struck up conversation. He had little body hair and very clear skin.

“You’re not like other guys in L.A.,” he said. “You’ve got pale skin, like milk. You’re not all tan and athletic like they are.” My plan all along.

            “And you look like a chicken breast,” I told him, “all pink and clean.” I went on to tell him that all British people are pasty looking and that anyone who lives in Culver City is boring. He defended himself well, pointing to the picture of Henry Cavill on my phone.

            We talked a little. It didn’t thrill me, but it at least buoyed me. I let him lick my neck and tell me about how when I’m older I won’t be so neurotic.

            I found out the hard way later that this Englishman lives alone with his pet spider. He can never touch it, as its venom is highly poisonous. Once a year, the spider breaks out of its skin and crawls out larger. He keeps the skin, just to track the Spider’s development. The spider sits in the dark and doesn’t regard his owner. The Englishman believes him to be the perfect pet.

            From what I’ve seen it is becoming apparent that I am going to have to go through some horrific trauma before I reach 30 that will turn me into a demented, simple-minded lump of pectorals and mouthwash, because at the current rate, I’m just not lost enough to be one of these guys. What went wrong with these men? Is there something wrong with me that I don’t fit in? Are these men really as plain as I think they are? Or is it perhaps that I am not getting what I want out of this world, and it’s time for me to look someplace else?

            I want to go to a dark basement party where there’s paint in buckets and broken Kanye Sunglasses in girls’ hair. I want to get a little feces stain on my tanktop. I want to dance so close to so many people that we accidentally enter one another. I want to rock my body on a dancefloor for so many hours that I need a quarter pounder at 4 AM. I want to lose myself. I want to feel everything – and nothing – at once. I’m 22. I need to learn my place. There are no hot gay 22 year olds. And what’s more, they don’t go out. At least, they don’t go out enough to form their own voice and create a scene of their own. No, the gay universe is ruled by the well-maintained elderly. I should let them have it. They deserve to enjoy this while it lasts. They’ve got the bodies, and we don’t.

            It’s time for me to stop complaining. I need to leave behind the world of nice one-bedroom apartments, pet spiders, and instagram photos of brunch and pursue sloppy parties made for my age. I may have to leave behind my Gay nation to find these new terrains, but it may be a worthy trade off to finally respect my youth. The age of standing around has not begun yet for me. It’s time to crack through the white walls.

            

To Tumblr, Love Pixel Union