London, England


The Crucified Rabbit In Fishnet Stockings

By Rasp Thorne

“Naw mate, not like that, give it here, give it, this is the way to really do it…” a hand with chipped black-and-orange nails stickin’ out of white cutoff kid gloves intrudes my downward grading vision and snatches the tiny bottle of butyl nitrite crammed neath my nose and slams it down a bit too hard on the bar causing spittle-like droplets to fall, spread out and evaporate leaving little acetone craters on the scraped lacquered wood. The rush rises an’ swarms my head then drops with the warped motion of a speed-bump to heat infest my chest an’ pulse through my loins like a sadistic and unattainable wet dream. I clutch my hand between my legs and shudder, fucken poppers always make me horny, make ya wanna stick yer prick in any old hole and this is not the place to feel such things. I look up at James once the heat recedes and see him blowing on the Lucky Strike he’s just dipped into the bottle. He has a rubber pig snout on and is dressed only in a stained pale blue bonnet and as of yet not wet diaper. That and the kid gloves and a nookie on a piece of twine that hangs down to his stomach.

“This ‘ere is how ya do it. Snort!” He says, leaning in too close an’ shaking it in front of my face before grabbing a mini jack-o-lantern off the bar an’ lighting up from the tea candle inside. He heaves in sucken a good quarter of it down to a mean looking conic ember like a spear just pulled from a forge. He shoves it at me. I avert my head. It’s too fucken early for this shit and I’ve already got a half pint of Bells an’ a few ciders sloshing ‘round in my gut an’ I’m already forgetting the basics like why the fuck am I at this tranny bar an’ why is James here too an’ why the fuck when it’s eight thirty on Halloween are we the only ones in here besides the bartender?
Then it spikes me like Jesus.

“Where’s my fucken crucifix?” I blurt to Chloe or Joey or whoever it is who’s mini-skirted yet still wigless and is angrily smathering pale pink lipstick on in front of the bar mirror.

“Ya mean the one right in front of you?” he chirps back in the bitchy tone that beer gut stubbled trannies are wont to take. I ignore him and look ahead and sure enough right to the side of the register is my crucifix, stuck into polished purple rocks and bloated sea monkeys of a fluid-filled fishless goldfish bowl. There really is no merit for that bartender’s bitchy tone for I could of sat here the whole goddamn night and not have recognized the thing being that it’s been utterly transformed from a three and a half foot piece of rotted fencepost to the bead and lube and popper and g-string strung shrine now glistening before me.

“Get that fucken blond wig offa there. We all know Jesus was a brunette…” I grumble, slightly pissed off that I’d lent it to Stella Guru for her Mary Magdalene oil painting. God knows how it ended up here.

“Here you go Raspy,” Chloe or Joey purrs taking the last thong off of it and snapping it into the fruit fly hovered trash. “We’ve had all sorts of fun with it. Amanda just snatched it from behind the bar the other night and did this whole big performance piece off the cuff to that Lady Gaga song, you know the one that’s all Ra ra Na na na-a! Ra Ra Na na na na-a! of course she was totally brain-caned but really, when she’s on she is quite….”

I grab the crucifix and lug it over to my trash can and strap it onto the dolly with pound-store bungee cords.

“Hey James, man, I gotta go.”

“Where? Snort!!!” he snorts.

“Torture Garden.”

“Where, Mass Brixton?”

“Naw down by London Bridge I think, Essay-somethin’”

“SE-One,” Joey-Chloe sneers at me.

“Yeah, there. Give me a hand with this shit really quick?” I say wheeling the dolly towards the bottom of the stairs. He pulls his snout off and sucks down the rest of his popper soaked smoke and shuffles over to where I’m standing. I don’t bother saying goodbye to the bartender who’s too immersed making wide O’s with his mouth in the bar mirror to notice. We go up the stairs and set the dolly down on the pavement. A crowd of squealing teenage girls dressed like tacky fluorescent whores with pink and green tutus blast by us, their too high heels clacking the cracked pavement, their lips smacking loudly between interjected shrills. It is Halloween after all but a whole group of teenage whores?

“What are they sposed to be? The Neon Sluts of the East End?”

“It’s a hen party mate.”

“Don’t look like hens to me, maybe chickenheads. All right, I gotta get goin’’. Runnin’ late already”

“How ya getting there.”

“Q’s driving. We’re doing a walkaround thing together at TG an’ then I’m going to Barden’s to do  the staplegun thing ‘round midnight or 1 or so.”

“Might see you at Barden’s later. There a list?”

“Yeah but it’s Duncan’s night anyways so you’re fine. All right, later.” I say starting to drag the dolly away from the neon Moustache behind me.

“Later Rasp.” I hear over my shoulder followed by a booming rutting pig snort that makes me shudder inwardly and scratch the back of my neck.

I walk down Stoke Newington Highstreet past a plethora of drunks and kebab shops, a middle-aged man wobbling around with a half-filled pint glass an’ a baldcap stretched over his head, a cheap white T-shirt stretched over his paunch with scrawled writing from a black sharpie declaring: “JANE GOODY DIED FOR YOUR SINS”. He sees me blast by with my crucifix and blurts out at me to stop, I barge on as if I hadn’t heard him straight through the hens and past the smoking turks on the benches outside of the Queen of Lansdowne. I feel ill and not in the mood for any of this. I come up to Barden’s and it’s already starting to kick off, a line of skeletons in drainpipes are filing down the stairs. I hate those fucken stairs.

I swing a left before I hit the Rio and pull out my phone and call Q. I tell her to meet me in the street ‘cause we’re going to be late an’ I’m not going to drag my garbage can up the three floors to Wendy’s flat. I reach the house number and roll a cigarette, smoke waiting, looking at the clock on my phone every other drag or so. Four minutes pass and my thumb is on the send button to call her again when I hear something banging against the door and a slight whimper. The door creeks open and I’m met by the torso and head of an emaciated mannequin with rouge painted lips.

“Hey Raspy, how are you?” She chirps fresh faced and sober per usual. I stomp out my cigarette, I feel like vomiting.

“Doin’ good…great… Ya ready?”

“Yes   I    am. Just been playing with Bellona here.”

“Hey ya Bellona,” I quip to the mannequin torso being placed delicately into the trunk of the car. I throw the trash can and crucifix into the back seat and we get in the car and pull away.

“How’s the Misses?” she asks.

“Misses is good,” I say, “up north with the Ghosts.”

“O right, that makes sense, Halloween.”

“Yep, so ya know how to get to this place…” I ask her praying she does knowing that we’re running late.

“Sort of. It’s by London Bridge right?”

“I guess so. I have no idea. By Shunt or something.”

“Oh OK. What time are we on?”

“Well, we’re s’posed to be there by nine and get ready and be prepared to start walking around by ten or so.”

“What time is it now?”

“I don’t know, it’s uh, fuck man, it’s eight fifty. How long does it take to get there ya think?”

“O I don’t know… maybe half an hour… forty-five minutes? Will you roll me a fag please? There should be some blue Rizla’s in the pouch there…” she hums airily, floating on her own cloud, like a sun drenched California girl but with pasty skin and a slightly posh accent.

“Fuck. We shouldda left earlier.”

“Yeah… There’s filters in my purse here…”

“Fuck it,” I grunt. “We’ll be fine. We’ll make up some excuse. Are you pretty much ready to go once we’re there?”

“Not really. It takes me awhile to put Bellona on, and my makeup and wigs…”

“Ah fuck it,” I say, licking the glue on the paper before twisting it together and handing it to her.

“I’m gonna do my makeup right now. O shit! I got whiskey here too…”

It’s half past ten when we finally cut in front of the massive line of assorted fetishists and cybersluts, leashed tanned muscle heads and leggy formidable kinked out nurses. It doesn’t matter for a moment that it’s Halloween – everyone’s always dressed up here, you can’t even get in if you’re not pimped out to a T, which as of now, I’m not. I push my way through dragging my now squeaking dolly, Q is right behind me with her torso and bag. She’s never been here before and I see worry lines squiggling like thin worms throughout her face. The people in the line are complaining that we’re cutting in front, saying that we look like ‘wankers’ and whatnot, I ignore them scowling and barge on through. A short stocky bouncer with a cueball head grabs me hard on the shoulder and pushes me back a few steps.

“Where you think yer goin’ mate? Huh? Whats the hurry here? There’s a whole queue waiting…”

“I’m performing tonight” I jut in to his visible chagrin,“We’re performing and we’re running a bit late I just got to get in there quick and…”

He looks me up and down then at my face scrawled with choppily applied base and one shade of cheap greasy crimson lipstick smeared on my lips and cheeks and below my eyes.

“Hey mate I don’t care. You can’t just run into here like that. Ya gotta have some manners and patience. It’s all ‘bout the respect ‘innit?” he says with a cocky cockney accent shit smiling at me like he’s a big man. Fucken Napoleons. I take a breath and smile.

“Sorry mate. Sorry ‘bout that. Just in a bit of rush is all. My name is Rasp Thorne and this here is Q. We’re on the list. All right?”

He stands back like he’s taught me the lesson of the fucken century and me an’ Q rush in. We grab our wrist bands from the front-of-house girl who sees me in my street clothes and kindergarten make-up and checks with her friend to see if I’m really meant to be performing. Fucken fetish fascists. She sneeringly slides me the wristbands through the window. We grab our things and head towards security. It’s then I remember that I haven’t properly stashed the whiskey, it’s right near the top, right next to the blue plastic bag that the rabbit is wrapped in. Fuck.

I quickly tromp through the metal detector with my head down, trying to conceal the the dolly being pulled behind me. A huge security guard with bad aftershave and a cyborg earplug rushes up and says that he needs to search through the “bin.” I show him my performer’s wristband and tell him that I working, that I’m an art-eest, that I have to go right now. He won’t budge and he reaches down and starts trying to undo a bungee chord, I keep on trying to walk but he jerks it back angrily. Luckily Doreen sees me and rushes up and tells the security guard that it’s OK, that I’m working. He lets go and turns away tapping his cyborg ear and acting as if he just received a message from INTERPOL.

“Follow me,” she says tersely as she leads us through the sparse crowd of early comers back to the green room. “You’re late.”

“I know,” I say, sliding into my repertoire, “Sorry ‘bout that, the fucken traffic was terrible and I had to pick up my crucifix an’…” She walks us through a strobe lit corridor where there are three muscle bound men wearing butcher frocks and rubber pig masks, each one is standing behind his own little counter busily hacking up red meat with cleavers and hanging it onto meathooks. It smells awful. We reach the end and pass through the dungeon and cage room and more cyborg bored security guards until we’re finally led into the green room which is nothing more than a concrete storage space with a few mirrors and a ratty couch in it. There are kegs of beer lining the wall. An assorted gang of slashed stripper corpses and fully suited blow-up dolls with donut hole mouths are milling about.

“Here are your drink tickets,” she says handing me and Q exactly three each. “You’re performing out by the entrance of the cabaret room, straight back through the pig corridor, past the chapel and right there on the corner. There’s a little raised go-go stage. Just do walkaround for awhile and end up there. Two hours then you’re done. You’re supposed to be out there already, before it gets too crammed.”

“I know, I’m sorry, parking took forever an’ this fucken crucifix….”

She doesn’t waste the time to roll her eyes, just turns and rushes out muttering something into her walky-talky. Me and Q get changed quickly. I already have my fishnets on under my pants so I just pull on the silver sparkled g-string I got in Primark in Blackpool and lace up my brand new fetish boots thinking to myself: “don’t break these ones, don’t do it, the heels always fucken break, just take it easy.” With a shoestring I tie up my leather vest, attach the noose to the top of the crucifix and smear some more lipstick and eyeshadow onto my face. I strap the jawless goathead on top of my head so that the top row of teeth are just above my line of vision. There’s little dixie cups full of stage blood that the corpses are pouring all over their tits and cunts and thighs, I grab one and pour it down my chin and neck.

“You ready? We gotta get out there. She’s a bit pissed off.”

“Almost, would you do me up really quick?”

I go behind her and grab the strings that come off the mannequin torso and tie it tightly at the small of her back. She’s naked beneath it except for an apron that helps disguise the mannequin from her torso.

“Free blood,” I say holding a cup out to her. She dips her fingers into it cup and smears it under her eyes and across her mouth.

“Alright. Let’s do this shit and get outta here, I’ve got to get back to Dalston.”

I pull out the skinned rabbit I got from the butcher next to Off-Broadway and put it in the noose hanging off the crucifix. I snug the noose tight beneath its arms so they are spread outward with the head bobbing up and down. It’s mostly thawed out by now but it’s still a bit stiff and chilly. The butcher cut the floppy ears off so it looks remarkably like a cat, long, lean and muscly except with a pointed snout of sharp teeth at the end of its elongated head.

We head out into the growing crowd of awkwardly strutting sissyboys and SS clad men grave and chiseled with straight razor shorn faces, fully clad gimps jerked around on dog leads,  japanese dollies in breastless PVC catsuits, trojan warriors, asphyxiated ponies, a man in a bear suit with an enormous erection flopping about in the air. I always find it funny performing at Torture Garden, like I’m always there to out-freak the freaks which seems like it’d be hard to do especially in a ragtag outfit that I use for all my SPAR HORNET gigs which pales in comparison to what most of them are bound in but then again I do have a staplegun and a bad attitude, a skinned lynched rabbit on the end of my crucifix and a trash can full of nails, porn, a hammer and chains not to mention the poppers and a whole pint of whiskey just waiting to be picked up and played with…

By the time we leave two hours later the whiskey’s long gone, there’s a large goosebump on the right side of my head and you probably couldn’t tell from all the fake blood but my chest is bleeding and covered in tiny punctures. But at least my motherfucken heels didn’t break. Q is exhausted and doesn’t have the patience to even try to use the drink tickets. She doesn’t like it here an’ I can’t blame her, the club is swarmed, at capacity, and we couldn’t even take a break much less make it off our stage to walkaround. We just tromped and crawled around in our area, muckin’ about spitting whiskey an’ brimstone and posing in whatever tableau vivants came into our heads. I accidentally hit some top in the head with the lid of the trash can that I was swingin’ around on a chain but he was musclebound and tan in skimpy plastic bondage gear with a bunch of his butt boys and wanted to look tough so he just laughed at me and flexed his pecs like the Hulk and kept on walking by. Learnt that most freaks, even the hardcore ones, tend to turn into squirmin’ babies when confronted with a skinned creature. I saw some of them pointing at me while complaining to the producer of the club who always books me, but he doesn’t give a fuck. He loves it. I think.
I split the cash with Q and not wanting to wait to find the car or get lost driving back I decide to grab a cab from one of the dark eyed men who hang around the back alley ogling the smokers forced outside in their dungeon garb and lingerie. I tell the driver to: “take me to Barden’s Boudoir, Dalston Lane I think, Dalston Lane or Stoke Newington Road… What?….I don’ know man, fuck, you’re the driver, yeah, close to the butcher strip, yeah yeah over by the Rio but a lil’ further than that…” As he drove off from the club I could see him darting his eyes up to the rearview mirrors an’ looking at all of that finely clad pussy turning into blurry black dots behind him. When I’d approached the cab he was goggle eyed and grinning maniacally and didn’t even ask me where I was going until me and my trash can and crucifix were fully inside the cab. It was only when I told him where to go that he realized that I wasn’t a tipsy trashily clad woman but in fact a very drunken dude in stripper boots who was bleeding and coughing and in a terrible rush who keeps on yelling at him to change the radio station. Poor guy. I kinda feel for him, I’d prefer a sexy little damaged thing in the back of my car too, I decide to stop being so pushy and try to connect, I fish through my vest and find the little bottle of Liquid Gold and unscrew the cap and inhale deeply, I groan quietly and lean forward clutching myself again, after the rush subsides I feel nice and loose I look up and ask him his name. “Mohammed” he utters gruffly barely above his breath.

“Where’re ya from?”

“Pakistan.”

“Ahh Pak-i-stan! Cool! That’s grrrrr-eat! N-never been dere ‘fore myself. ‘Sit nice there? – Yeah? – Hot I bet, right, really fucken hot I fucken hate the heat myself I do, yeah, too much, ya know ‘Nahlins too fucken hot by June and when its July jus’ forget about it, yeah wait, is ‘at it, no, yeah it’s comin’ up, no n-n-not there yeah ya can stop yeah, right here, no, n-no right here yes, YES SIR! R-r-right behind that b-blue car there!” I say cramming a twenty pound note through the change slot. I’m owed a pound forty something back but he doesn’t even do me the courtesy of pretending to hand it back, he just pockets it and avoids looking at me as I open the door and struggle in my heels to pull the dolly out. I slam the door shut and drunkenly blow him a kiss.

“Hasta la pasta Mohammed!” I say and lurch into the street clipping the mirror of a swerving cab with one of the arms of the crucifix. I run across the road as fast as my heels will carry me not looking back to see if it stopped.

I get to the entrance of Barden’s and it’s swarmed outside with smoking hipsters garbed in various demonic and witchy array. I battle my way through them, leading with the goathead, my hasidic rockstar jacket hangs open like a robe flashing my glitter g-string. I get a few looks from the cooler-than-thous, this isn’t TG after all, but I’m way past the point of giving a fuck and I grunt and snarl and curse my way in. I reach the top of the stairs and start the descent, again pushing past the punters who are butt-to-nut on the left side waiting to get in allowing a small passage on the right for the smokers to get out. The bouncer, some massive Jamaican in a black suit, is already pissed at me for interrupting the flow of traffic and asks what I’m doing. I tell him I’m performing that I am an art-eest. He asks my name, I say Rasp Thorne he calls over to the drunken goth door girl who I vaguely know and yells: “You got Ralph Torn on dee list. Ralph Torn!”

She sees me and sloppily waves me in. I push past him and he grabs the dolly..

“What’s in dee bin!” he demands.

“O nothin’, nothin’ at all man, jus’ props an’ porno ya know…for dee show-” I mutter off-handedly, sick of it all an’ in need of a drink or wake up juice or a good slap in the face.

“Let me see! Open it up!” he yells, grabbing the dolly from me. I realize that there’s no whiskey left to left to hide.

“Go for it bro…” I say, smiling at the prospect of seeing his reaction. He pries the lid off and is met by a nasty beaver shot of a big-ass black bent over mama. He gazes at it vacantly at first then I see his eyes smolder over with rage. He glares up at me.

“What dee fuck is dis!”

“I thinks that’s a Lonely Housewife b-b-but could be a Assman lady, hard to t-tell without…”

He juts his hand deeper in and pulls up the blue plastic bag.

“What dis!” he yells with a dash of excitement mixed into his anger, creaming his pants as if he’s found some contraband.

“What you got here!”

He plunges his hand into it and pulls out the skinned rabbit which is now covered in glitter and whiskey and God knows what, his arms limp and broken, the tongue danglin’ between his bashed teeth.

“What dee fuck!” he yelps in a high tone, wincing and droppin’ it back into the trash can.

“Well, its a skinned r-r-rabbit, ya know, like dee Easter Bunny…”

“O there you are! Smashing! I d-didn’t think yer were g-gonna m-make it!” Orion shouts into my face.

“Here g-grab yer yer bin an’ put it backstage.”

I grab the lid and put it back on top of the “bin.” The bouncer is looking at his slimy hand and is shaking his head a little too slowly for me to dare say anything else to him.

“Let him be drunk boy, let him be,” I think to myself.

I go backstage and there’s some burlesque chick putting on titty-tape who looks up at me appalled that I should have the audacity to walk in on her.

“Hey, I’m Ralph,” I grin, leering at her. “Don’t worry, I’m an art-teest too.” I flash her my fishnet leg and boots, suddenly I’m gay and everything is fine. You might think I’m gay baby but you got no idea… I think to myself. I ditch the trash can and go back out to the bar which is way too busy, about three people deep. I push through and fish around in my pocket and give the bartender one of my drink tickets.

“What’s this for?” he asks.

“I don’t care, a cider or a pint of Kronenbourg.” I say.

“No, this isn’t good here, this is for…”

“It’s a fucken drink ticket! Jus’ give me whatever I don’ care. Give me a fucken Budvar or somethin, I don’t know.”

He gives it back to me and asks some guy standing next to me for his order. I’m about to get irate when Orion grabs me.

“Hey, you uh r-ready to go?” he says.

“What, right fucken now?”

“Yeah man, it’s t-time to go. Yer al-already l-late but it’s all right ‘cause everything is a b-bit late tonight.”

“They won’t take my fucken drink tickets here…”

“Wh-what drink tickets? I haven’t g-given ya any yet.”

“Then wh-what the fuck are these r-r-right here!” I say pulling out my drink tickets.

“Those are from, wh-what does it say, SE-One…”

“O. I see. That makes p-perfect sense now…” I say dropping the tickets to the floor.

“Are you all right,” Orion asks a tinge of skepticism intruding his already shaky voice, unsure if I can pull off a show.

“I’m fucken great,” I say and cough and clap my hands trying to invigorate myself, “Let’s do this shit man… Ya got any wake up juice on ya? C’mon, I know ya do…”

“Yeah, al-allright, let’s d-do it quick, yer on in two songs.”

“K.”

We wrestle through the crowd and go backstage. The burlesque chick is gluing on long eyelashes.

“Hey Orion and…”

“Ralph…” I say.

“Rasp,” Orion says.

“Yeah whatever. Let’s do it.” Orion pours out a decent sized little mound of whitish-yellowish coke. It doesn’t look like much but theres gotta be something in it for he’s already stuttering more than usual and he’s got the jaw jitters.

“There, do it all,” he says, handing me a cut off straw that looks like it’s from either KFC or Burger King. I do it all in a sniff. It stings like a bitch but does something. My head clears to a lesser fog and a song ends. The burlesque chick is either livid or terrified.

“You’re on after this next record. Did you give DJ Rizzo yer CD yet?”

Fuck. Did I bring it? Did I forget again? I shove my hand deep into the trash can and fish around through the assorted mess. I pull up nothing except a handful of porn and a sticky nail.

“Fuck!” I yell. Orion’s not happy.

“W-well, can ya d-do it to somethin’ else? Fuck man…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, d-don’ don’ worry, jus’ uh, p-p-put on a, ah don’ fucken, p-put on Lust for Life or R-r-r-rock an’ Roll Nigger or somethin’. Cramps works too,” I say, suddenly very awake from the blow and shock of not having my music.

“All right. Ar-are you r-ready?”

“Yep. Uh, jus’ p-put the trash can in the c-center of the s-stage for me.”

“You m-mean the bin?”

“No, not the bin, my fucken trash can….”

“All right.” he says and leaves with can.

Human Fly comes on and I know that doesn’t give me a helluva lot of time. I gaze up reluctantly into the mirror and I’m met by a rancid creature. Glitter and bruises, base and blood. Fuck it. Fuck it all.

“Are you OK Ralph.” Miss Tits asks me, condescendingly concerned in her showgirl sequins and sobriety. God she’s got a great ass, crimson garter-belt to boot.

“No. Ahm’ not. Ahm’ definitely not f-fucken OK.” I spit at her. Lust for Life thuds on and I hump the crucifix onto my shoulder and charge goathead first out of the dressing room through the crowd and hurl myself onto the stage.

As I limp (a heel broke) back into the green room about four or so minutes later I’ve got a painted lady stapled to each side of my chest and I can’t stop spitting and dry heaving. The rabbit had spun out of the noose into the crowd towards the end of the song when I’s swinging it around like a lasso and as I was taking my pseudo-bow on my knees someone threw it back at me and like a rabid dog playing catch I snatched it in mid-air with my teeth. I surprised myself with that one, it was like a feral instinct but as I left the stage with it still clenched in my teeth I thought of where it’d been that night and how it tasted and spit it out puking a bit in my mouth before swallowing it back down.

Miss Tits is still in there and she recoils at the sight of me and realizes that maybe she doesn’t need to actually apply a fifth layer of lipstick or re-dot her beauty marks, that it might be a better idea if she traded the precious calm of the green room for the horde of rowdy punters outside. She’s glancing at me through the mirror, darting her now elongated eyelashes down each time I meet them. I slump into a chair and start peeling away the porn and extracting the staples out of my chest, that’s the worst part, when they come out. The right side of my chest is fine and only trickling a few drops of blood but on the left breast over my tattoo I’ve got a mild gusher that isn’t quite clotting.

“Ya gotta b-baby wipe?” I ask her begrudgingly. She opens up a compartment in her makeup kit and hands me a pack of facial wipes.

“Thanks.” I say as I start dabbing.

“Why do you do that?” she says in very high and curt tone.

“Do what?”

“That!” she exclaims pointing to one of the pictures I peeled off which I notice for the first time is a Barely Legal girl with a cock crammed in her mouth, there’s a staple stuck through her lip and the shaft as if joining them together, a tiny circle of red surrounds it. It makes me a bit sick. I look up at the starlet and drop my attitude, lost for words.

“I donna. I r-r-really…don’t…know. I jus’ do it for some reason.” I grab the picture and crumple it up.

“What’s yer name anyways?” I ask her.

“Sasha.” she says and I detect a slight Russian or possibly Polish lilt for the first time.

“Miss Sasha Sashay.”

“Howdy. Nice to meet you. Thanks for the wipes.” I say. Orion comes in with my trash can and crucifix.

“Be-jaysus! That was fucken twisted! How’d that r-r-rabbit taste?” he says.

“G-great.” I say, retching again at the thought of it. “Can I g-get some fucken dr-drink tickets now? Ya have any vodka or whiskey b-back here that I can pour on m-m-my chest ya see it helps to d-disinfect…”

It’s past four when a motley pack of us stagger up the stairs of Barden’s and head across the street to where Orion lives. I realized in the dressing room that in my rush I’d left my normal clothes in the green room at Torture Garden and now I’m stuck in these fucken painful torn fishnets and ridiculous chintzy g-string. I’m sick of this shit. This fishnet thing has gotta stop, it’s not like I’m a fucken tranny anyways. I’m also, besides the tights, barefoot, the broken heel having proved too much to deal with after all. The idea is to drop my trash can off at Orion’s, see if he’s got any clothes I can borrow, do a line or two then jump in a cab and go to the lock-in at The Stags Head. We trudge all the way up his stairs, call a cab, cut up a few lines and the cab calls back directly and is already waiting for us downstairs before Orion gets a chance to look for some pants or boots that I can wear.

“Ah f-fuck it m-man, it’s Halloween, ya-you’ll be fine, ev’ryone’s dr-dressed up.”

“Yer na-na-na-not even fucken even dr-drressed up ya fucker, yer b-barely jus’ have yer fucken eyeliner shit on…”

“Well n-n-no, b-but everyone else is, so uh, l-let’s go…” He says gumming the bag we just finished.

“Jeshusfuckenchristtits…all right then, fuck it fuck it all let’s jus’ go let’s jus’…”

By the time the cab finally rolls up in front of The Stag’s Head I’m seeing triple despite the blow. I jump out of the cab and run up to the door which is locked and start pounding on it like a caveman. Orion whisper-shouts: “Sh-shut up Rasp! Ch-chill out, they’re coming!” as he gets out of the cab with his cellphone clutched to his ear. The door creeks open and there stands a skeletal Max peeping through the crack as if he is the guardian to some Dalston Black Mass. He checks that it’s just our little crew before opening it fully and letting us in. It’s completely dead silent inside, no music or voices, no bartender, but there’s a heavy haze of cigarette smoke saturating the air. The door shuts and is bolted then as a switch was flipped the music blasts on and a throng of people in various degrees of costume dress and undress appear out of the back room where they were hiding. We go the bar and a pint of cider is placed in front of me along with a huge shot of Jamesons. Shot glasses tink and the whiskey goes and I don’t know much anymore. It’s all just drunken snippets, the flashes, the terrors, The Pogues are playing and a girl shrieks out cigarette smoke which looks like her soul departing, I’m doing a jig on the bar and feel something neath my foot then I’m falling backward and there’s blackness before I’m pounding on a piano and being battered on the head by some sloppy bitch screaming in my ear to “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”, long lines of coke on top of a sordid toilet lid and someone yelling at me to put the “FUCKEN CUE DOWN AN’ LEAVE IT!” more whiskey, the emergence of cigars, a red satin devil swinging on the pooltable light, another toilet, swirls, a bright bathtub, laughter, a tin of beer exploding foam, the contemplation of gravity and then there’s Shane McGowan again singing, screaming, blurting like a warthog curses and prayers into the darkness.I wake up on Orion’s couch with a large pot placed on the ground near my head. It’s still empty save for some dried linguini caked on the sides which probably means I had a good puking session before completely passing out. I miss my wife. Two more days. Goddamnit it all. The sun is white and hideous and the speakers are still pouring forth The Pogues. I feel remarkably clear in my head and can tell by my noxious exhales that I’m still drunk, my tongue is an evil thing, wretched and reeking and dry, it tastes of cigarette butts an’ that sickly sweet taste of vomit. I bolt up from the couch and go to the bathroom and squeeze a long line of Colgate into my mouth, cut it with a sip of water and sit down on the toilet, swishing, averting my eyes from the dirty kitty litter box to the mini stuffed rabbit perched on top of the medicine cabinet viciously peering down, as if judging me. I finish pissing and spit the toothpaste into the bowl, toe-tap the handle, watch the water spiral, my head following it’s movement like a springheaded doll. I go back out to the living room and start surveying the wreckage. There’s a gnawed upon donut stuck onto a devil’s horn on the wicker chair, a smeared vanity mirror with tongue lick traces running up and down and all around it, seven empty bottles of Teachers most with cigarettes staining the bottoms rusty black, a dozen or so red wine bottles, a few white, tins of beer and cider splattered all about and overflowing from the “bin”. The “bin”, the “bin”, that rings a bell, that means something…fuck.

I scramble back into the hall that leads to the bathroom and start looking around, franticly sifting through all the junk piled up for my trash can. I know I’d brought it up after Barden’s ‘cause I remember how much of a bitch it was getting it up the stairs but the question is did I bring it to The Stags Head? Why would I? I can’t see it. It aint there. It’s simply gone. Again. Again and again. All my props and makeup, my staplegun, my goathead- gone. This happens a lot and I’m fucken sick of it. I start to slip into the self-hatred slump telling myself I have to stop drinking so fucken much that I’m just wasting my fucken life pissing it away like I’ve done ever since I’s twelve. I go in the kitchen and fish through the mini-fridge for a hidden beer. Luckily I find one, well, a cider, Strongbow at that, stashed way in the back behind ginger beer and what looks like the remnants of a kebab. I crack it open and it must of awoken Orion for I can here shuffling and knocking about in his loft bed above me. He comes down his ladder, disheveled and groaning, still in his drainpipes and wife-beater. His eyes are squinting like little white pin dots lost in a nightmare of black grease paint and mascara. He sees me standing there dejected in the kitchen grasping the cider in my hand.

“Are there any more of those lying around?” he asks in a fragile voice while he straighten’s out his libertine mustache.

I just shake my head and take a deep swig and hand it to him. He doesn’t ask why I’m pissed off, probably can barely see me in the first place. I go back to the couch and turn up the music before turning it down quick because I hear a woman let out a shrill scream. I hear the front door slam and Rabbit, Orion’s roommate stomps into the kitchen.

“What the fuck is that doing out there! What the fuck is it!” she screams at Orion standing there with the can clutched in his hand. We look at her silently, both of us not ready for the wrath of Rabbit. She’s as hungover and ragged as we are dressed in the remnants of what I gather was a horny unicorn.

“Is that my last fucking Strongbow too!” she rages. Orion offers it to her but she doesn’t take it. He finally stutters out loud:

“W-what thing are you talking about? Where?”

She stomps out back towards the door and throws it open.

“This is what I’m fucking talking about! This fucking bin in the fucking hallway an’ whatever is fucking in it is fucking disgusting!”

I get up and we go out to the hallway and sure enough there it is, strapped to the dolly right in front of the door.

“Fuck yeah!” I say, “It’s still here!”

“What the fuck is in there Rasp!” Rabbit snarls.

“What?” I say stooping down and taking off the lid with a flourish. An acrid odor of rot an’ blood pours up outta the trash can and into my face and throughout the hall, I look down and there are already tiny maggots going to work on the eyes and extremities of the skinned and pulverized rabbit that’s laying there on top wrapped in the cunts and titties of whats left of the shredded porno mags.

“WHAT – IS – THAT!” she screams, recoiling from the stench. I slam the lid back onto it and close my eyes for a moment trying not to vomit again. My stomach settles and I secure the lid with a bungee chord before standing up and sheepishly looking at her.

“Well Rabbit, it’s a… it’s uh… a rabbit. I’s uh usin’ it last n in uh for a gig…” I try to contain the smile but I’m still drunk and I can’t and Orion laughs and turns away and I fall apart and the laughter echoes throughout the high stairwell. Rabbit blazes her eyes and turns from us and stomps back into the flat and slams her door. We go back inside unsuccessfully trying to stifle ourselves, leaving the trash can in the hallway. I go and quickly pull on my boots, the broken one is barely worth even putting on but I do anyways. I’m still in the awful fishnets and g-string but I’d rather just get out of here now then to ask Orion to find some dirty “trousers”, my hasidic jacket almost stretches to my boots anyways so ya can’t real see ‘em, just my shattered fetish boots. Orion is also stealthily pulling on layers of clothing and his jacket.

“Pub?” he asks as if it were actually a question.

“Yepper. Coach & Horses?”

“Naw, The Rochester. Two pounds a pint, can smoke in the back too.”

I grab the Strongbow that was left on the counter and drain it, wince. He pulls on his leather and we run out the door, me grabbing the trash can and humping it down the three flights of stairs. We get outside and the November air hit’s my legs and face like the wake up slap I was yearning for last night. As we trudge along the litter strewn pavement I can’t help but think I’ve forgotten something.  I know my clothes are at TG most likely never to be seen again but still something feels amiss. I’m racking my rent brain ’til I reach the bench outside the pub where I passed the fat Jane Goody lookalike.

“Fuck!” I scream, stopping in my tracks and staring down at the ground.

“What? W-what’s goin’ on now? C’mon, it’s fucken freezing man, let’s go.”

“Fuck it.” I say, resuming my limping gait. “What time does Barden’s open. I’ve gotta swing by and pick up my crucifix.”

Locations in London

The Moustache Bar
58 Stoke Newington High Street
London N16 7XB, United Kingdom

www.myspace.com/moustachebar

Barden’s Boudoir
38-44 Stoke Newington Road
N16 7XJ

-Now Closed-

Rio Cinema
107 Kingsland High Street
London E8 2PB, United Kingdom
020 7241 9410

www.riocinema.ndirect.co.uk

Shunt
20 Stainer Street
London SE1 9RL, United Kingdom

020 7378 7776
www.shunt.co.uk

SE-One
41-43 St. Thomas Street
London SE1 3QX, United Kingdom

-Now Closed-

Torture Garden
www.torturegarden.com

Off Broadway
63-65 Broadway Market
London E8 4PH, United Kingdom

020 7241 2786
www.offbroadway.org.uk

The Stag’s Head
55 Orsman Road
London N1 5RA, United Kingdom

-Now Closed-

The Coach & Horses
178 Stoke Newington High Street
London N16 7JL, United Kingdom

020 7254 6697
Google Maps

The Rochester
145 Stoke Newington High Street
London N16 0NY, United Kingdom

020 7249 6016
Google Maps


Paris, France

Two Tits and Six Hands

By Carrie Tee

Photos By Sarrah Danziger

If you don’t think Paris was made for love…maybe you can relate to a night like this.

When I “woke up” at seven o’clock Friday morning, I had a plan. From  the crazy hills of Montmartre, my ass needed to find itself in a seat at the Sorbonne, Latin Quarter, way across the city. Morning-sex had left me unsatisfied and even more exhausted than I already was. I stumbled down the steep cobblestone streets with the thought of Stam sleeping soundly, keeping me awake with jealousy. My partner, in addition to stealing the covers and pushing me off the bed, had a snoring problem, and I, in addition to not enjoying being cold, falling on the floor, or the sound of weed-whackers, had chronic insomnia. I’d stop short of calling us an ideal couple. It was going to be a long day. I knew it would start in a stuffy classroom, but thankfully the paltry air held no notion as to what corner of Paris the night would unravel.

View From Pompidou

 

Around the block of Stam’s flat are a few of Montmartre’s beloved charms and tourists traps: Moulin RougeSacré-Cœur, and that damned café from Amélie, Café des Deux Moulins. Luckily the sun was too low for the fanny-packers to be snapping photos. I wasn’t especially in the mood to shove past people blocking the sidewalks, fumbling with  cameras, and trying to unfold-maps and find what was right-side-up.

My class was around the corner from Shakespeare & Co, which Hemmingway, Pound, Fitzgerald and Joyce used to haunt. Every expat knows that “writers” can sleep for free between the book stacks upstairs. However, I bet the bed-bugs and swarms of tourists make this a little less than cozy. I decided to study between the classrooms and the bookstore in the wee garden that surrounds St. Julien le Pauvre Church. Amid flowers and hobos and in the shadow of Notre Dame’s spires, I tried my best to comprehend the agreement of French verb tenses in complex and hypothetical phrases. Snooze! I wanted to cover myself with Le Monde and doze off like one of the hobos.

After two hours of this pronoun and verb and si clause shit, I wanted to sleep. I really didn’t want to go back to Montmartre to see Stam, and we had no plans to hang anyway. I also really didn’t want to go back to my flat out in the suburbs.  But at least out in the suburbs, there would be no one wheezing in my ear. So I told Stam I needed to go home and sleep. He sounded annoyed and I will probably never know why or if he was or not…one of life’s great mysteries.

What can I tell you about Melun, where I live? Well, I don’t actually live in Melun. My village is such a tiny little thing that it’s not worth mentioning. Neither is Melun. But the area does have two of the most impressive chateaux around, Fontainebleau and Vaux le Vicomte(upon which Versailles is based), both worth visiting. There are also the Fontainebleau forests, famous for hiking and prostitution. But none of this makes taking the RER way out there very interesting.

The ride home seemed eternal and my nap was a failure. Internet trolling revealed that Turbo Fruits had a gig at Point Ephémère. A former construction depot, Point FMR was taken over by an artists collective and now houses art exhibitions, studio spaces, a big concert hall and a large patio that sprawls out onto Canal St. Martin. All the hip young things line that canal on summer nights like weeds, drinking in clusters until the wee hours. The option of cheap bodega beer along the water there isn’t a bad back up plan or after hours spot.

 

 

We found the Turbo Fruits show was free; now all we needed was a  little male company.

Sophie and I spent all afternoon loly-gagging, making ourselves pretty, casting a net out for options. Some guys we had met earlier in the week were down for a bit of fun. We had picked the fellows up in the splendidly dilapidated gardens of La Miroiterie, the oldest squat in Paris. The place is known for punk, hardcore, and noise shows, as well as its free store. That night, we had decided to splurge five big ones for a show, but the door ended up being pay-what-you-can. This was definitely a good thing considering that  Total Abuse, the band we went to see, had canceled and we had already climbed all the way up that damned hill with tallboys in hand. So we tossed a euro to the doorman for both of us and snuck around, checking out zines and records, enjoying what was essentially a big garden party. Shows there are played in a sweaty cement box, and seeing as the French hardcore bands had been nothing to write home about, we mostly stayed outside. There was a guy next to us that had been speaking in English on his phone. When he hung up, Sophie said, “Hey, where you from?” Cameron was from Austin and also there to see the canceled band. We bummed out together for a second, talked about the short he had just shopped-around at Cannes, and bullshitted about how cool Berlin is. He had seemed more interested in addressing Sophie, so I started talking to Cam’s buddies, Trevor and James, who had approached the three of us during our conversation with Cam. I had noticed Trevor out in the street before… and I certainly didn’t mind seeing him up close. The two Aussies were soon going from Paris to Milan. On bike. They looked like the type that would do that, the type that would be in a crusty spot in Paris questioning what they were doing in Paris. I told them they seemed unhappy and they raised their moping, little heads to look at each other.  It was the only time they had cracked a smile all night. They seemed really stressed, really tired, and really bored. They said they’d yet to have a decent time in this city. We exchanged numbers and I had hoped something would come up before they left. We decided we would all hook back up on Friday.

Now it was Friday, and Sophie gave Cameron a call. He was going to the Pop-in, a hipster dive full of Brits and smelly live shows. I called Trevor and James, but they had some dinner thing. We planned to meet them all sometime later, somewhere along the canal. The sun was going down when we finally left our flat, and Sophie was enchanted with the magic-hour sunlight over the green fields, the skies still bright blue and everything smelling of lavender. The big city was a short ride away, but we were worlds apart. Sophie and I missed our train and bought flasks of gin and whiskey in the corner shop to whittle away the 30 minute wait. Bullshit with Stam was stressing me out. He wouldn’t commit to meeting anywhere and just kept saying, “call when you get in and we’ll see.” Then he called and said he felt like going out right away, so he was seeing what his other friends were up to.

Charming.

 
La Miroiterie

 

We hopped off the metro at Jaures and talked about how the above-ground metro and all the highway overpasses are a bit reminiscent of Brooklyn. It’s probably a reason I like this area; it’s a bit industrial, a bit grimy, and doesn’t have any set style. It’s a mass of every taste and every ethnicity, and lots of cool graffiti. I love it, but I don’t love the boldness of guys in the area. They follow an offer to buy hash with an offer to fuck them, as though their shitty stashes were the hottest things going. The more romantically inclined fellas, nuance the deal with a proposition for a massage.

We trotted down the huge staircase and out of the metal turn-style, and I did feel for a second like we were hopping out in Bushwick, about to swing around the corner to the Market Hotel. Before I could really get caught in melancholic nostalgia, a brigade of yellow-shirted police officers and police vans came charging down the avenue in front of us. A stream of roller skaters started behind them. We took out our cameras and snapped the seemingly endless flow of skaters, gliding through the perfect early-summer night. All the trains and subway transfers we kept missing that night suddenly seemed like a blessing. Nothing is better than being perfectly on time for something totally unplanned.

 
We headed out to find a place to pee, having the good luck to pick a bar selling cans of cheep beer to take away, a brilliant idea in this convenience-store desert. We stocked up and went over to Point Ephémère. The terrace was overflowing as ever, the canal was teaming, and the Aussies called to say they were on the way.

I called Stam and told him where we were. He’d ended up drinking on the canal with a friend, and we were to meet up. He described where they were. I was a bit drunk and have no sense of orientation, anyway, so this wasn’t great. “What playground, what bridge?” I asked. I had no fucking idea what he was talking about. Regardless, we had our biker friends on the way, so for the moment we waited along one of the main intersections. Sophie and I were continually harassed by people trying to sell us beer or drink our liquor, telling us how lovely we were or calling us bitches when we refused to give them a cigarette or let them take a puff…. Really, sorry herpes mouth, but that’s a no.

I saw James’ tie-dye shirt first, then the two of them slowing their bikes and scanning the crowds. I tried to get their attention and almost yelled the wrong name. In any case, Trevor what’s-his-face was looking way finer than I remembered. The cap and hoodie he had at the show were gone, showing off long messy locks and ripped arms. The tattoos and the mustache, tight black pants…it was hopeless. I might have tried harder to remember Stam, but after the ungodly sleepless night and him being weird about meeting up and being bitchy in general, well, it gave me too much room to reconsider. Did I need any room or was I already reconsidering?

I still had to figure out where the fuck Stam was. Did he just happen to come here, or come because I told him I was gonna come here? Did he even want to see me? Was he being a douche for the expressed purpose of being a douche?

At first it seemed harmless getting us all together this night, but it could have been the gin interpreting for my tired mind. The mention of “my guy” sent the biker dudes running off to get beers (a.k.a. have an emergency bro-chat). When they came back, they seemed a bit bummed and said they couldn’t stay long, that they had to get up early and all. Sophie and I had some girl-talk while they were gone, and I think everybody knew the score, which was that no one was going to score. I don’t remember a damn thing anybody said, I just remember Trevor’s accent and ridiculously sexy, puppy-eye combination rendering me senseless.

Point Ephémère

 

I called Stam again. We talked forever. Maybe a lot of it was my poor French, but I still couldn’t figure out where in the fuck they were. Then I thought I understood where they were. Sophie and I walked up steps, over a bridge, down more steps and found a dead-end that reeked of piss. I apparently had been very wrong. I asked some guys down piss-alley if they knew about this playground area that Stam had described, but no one had a clue.

One more angry talk with Stam, who knew exactly where we were. He knew I was struggling to understand what mystical little bridge they were located under that’s next to some imaginary playground, yet not once did he offer to just come find us. He opted instead to start shouting directions at me.

This made things slightly awkward. Obligingly the boys dragged their bikes as we tried to find “my guy”. Trevor knew I was pissed at my man. But nonetheless I was trying to find him. This situation is what the French call la lose. It’s a shitty situation in which everybody probably looses, but it remains kinda funny. This is more or less the description of my life.

Eventually the guys took off. As he left, Trevor said, “Will I see you again, if I come back to Paris?” along with the worst killer puppy-eyes and sweet tender hug. Neither of us wanted to say goodbye.

Now, Sophie wasn’t so keen on finding Stam: “Why the fuck couldn’t he just come get us, and why the fuck is he so mad at you when you’re trying to find him. And you went all the way to his place from the suburbs last night just to see him, and now he can’t even walk one minute to find you?” It was true. I went to class the day before, came home to rest and shower, went all the way back to Paris in a cracked out, tired state just to see my man. Then I didn’t sleep again because of him, and now I was exhausted and pissed. And for what? mediocre sex and a totally non-committal relationship? I could do better…but what is better, again?

I stared at Trevor’s number in my phone as Sophie went off and I listened, each second my stomach turning more with a strange cocktail of irritation, gin, beer and butterflies. The butterflies were winning and the liquid courage took hold. I dialed. “Hello?” his voice said: “I was expecting you.”

We miraculously got the last metro out of Jaures, miraculously caught our connection just in time, and made it to Hotel de Ville where the guys, not so miraculously, had agreed to wait for us. We were in Central Paris, where the Seine was polluted with a much different type of crowd: younger, maybe slightly less hip and over-excited when breaking bottles and creating a mess. Sophie talked about finding Cameron, who was across the river in this fancy cocktail bar. She added that I owed her one as we approached Hotel de Ville. I knew it.

We settled in once again along the water. The boys had found some wine, so we sipped as I sat knee to knee with Trevor. I felt the tension of the evening melting away at last. I kept trying to peer over to see if Sophie was okay, but she and James seemed to be having a lively conversation and I never even caught her gaze.

Hormones were preventing Trevor and me from saying anything terribly interesting, or at least I prefer to blame hormones. We were waiting for the big K-I-S-S and that was about it. Sophie later said that she saw our heads getting closer and then couldn’t see me anymore. Yes, I had disappeared into a dangerous state of blind teenage lust, aided by alcohol, spitefulness, and an accent. I often bag these fragile musician guys, but having this solid block of man to play with was incredibly sexy.  His kiss was a bit too eager, his embrace a bit too rough, but it was the distraction I neededif things were slow and gentle, I would think about what I was doing, which was having fun, and then I wouldn’t be having it anymore. Joy is so ephemeral for young foolish things.

Drinking along the Seine is one of my favorite past times. It’s free, interesting figures keep popping up, and no shitty song is ever going to come on and bring you down. The only problem is the lack of toilets. After shooting down Trevor’s idea for me to take a leak under the bridge (yeah, that’s a dude thing), we wandered back up the steps and around Ile-St-Louise in search of a toilet.

I’ve played this game before. Bars are closing, chairs are being stacked, workers are starting to illegally light up smokes inside as they clean. FUCK NO, you can’t use the bathroom. Everyone has just cleaned the bathroom. Sorry, but we’ve got bridges for that, Madame.

So we go down some side-streets to look for a quiet alley. The early hours are romantic in central Paristhe reflections on the river, the shadows and silhouettes, the whimsical street lamps, the dead streets. But it was less romantic hunting for a grimy alley in which to take a piss. There was a promising candidate, full of parked cars and crates, but no people. Trevor walked me a ways and, instead of using the privacy of the spot for the original objective, he pulled me in tight. He leaned against a van and had his arms around me, the same semi-desperate tongue pushing even stronger. His hands were down my pants and I regretted having left my purse down by the Seine, especially when he guided my hand down toward his open fly…I could work with that. No matter, he came ready, and reached in his pocket. As I heard the plastic tearing, I suddenly lost focus. Someone came down the street, and we had to cool it a second. It was one thing to have a condom in your bag, but really, in your front pocket? Wait, who is this guy again? I only got his name figured out this morning.

It was like waking up sober after falling asleep in a drunken stupor. It wasn’t my last night in Paris. I didn’t need to grab this night by the balls, pull the dawn down from the horizon. I don’t know what exactly happened, but the moment was lost. The wandering soul that passed by was like a rock skipping on a placid lake suddenly we saw the water rippling in front of us just before our boots got wet.

We went back. “Where were you guys?”“Looking for a place to piss.” Everyone was tired, everything was cool and soggy, and the metro was about to reopen. It was time to go home. The boys got on their bikes, and Sophie and I decided to walk to Gare de Lyon.

Over the river, the sun was beginning to flicker and suddenly the city had repented its dirty, lascivious ways and was back to its charming self, buttons redone, hair combed. The view of Bastille in the distance, back-lit by the lightening sky, began erasing my fatigue. We left at sunset and were headed home at sunriseeverything seemed to be in its right place. I was excited at the prospect of a hot shower and lying down in my little white room, way way out in the suburbs. The train would be quiet and we would be back safely in no time. But first, we would have to wait it out in the station, watching the times and towns shifting on the huge departure boards.

Gare de Lyon

 

Of course there are sketchy guys hanging around outside a train station at 5am. One bothered us for a cigarette. He kept telling us, “no problem, tranquil. Me, tranquil, no problem,” which is something all the fucking creepers say to the ladies, usually accentuated with “vous êtes vraiment charmante.”  Yes, so charming, in fact, that I wouldn’t be wasting an iota of that precious shit on your ass. BYE.

I really was dying of thirst and this guy said, “What you want?” We were standing by a vending machine and he pulled out a bunch of change. Thirst. All that was on my mind. He said, “I’ll get you whatever you want, but first, come take a picture with me.” To do anything in France, you must submit passport sized photos and, because of that, booths are all over the place. I have been asked by lots of tourists, mainly Japanese guys, to take a photo with them. It didn’t matter much to me at this pointI had no change and sure, a bottle of water for a picture, why not? Stranger things have happenedand what better way to top off the morning than some PG prostitution?

Sophie took off somewhere and we went in the booth.

The guy put me on his lap. Then he kept trying to get me closer to an uncomfortable area. “Just put the change in,” I said.  He fumbled with the coins, and then tried to pull my face close to his, fondled my breasts with a free hand. I somehow grabbed some of his coins and threw them in his face.

I found Sophie at the station’s café. It was just opening. The waiter said: “What, you want to use the toilet?”  I said, “No, no,” in a defeated voice. Then he turned friendly and said: “What do you need?” French people love this game…I said, “Just a glass of water.” As he went to fetch it, Mr. Fondles showed up with a bottle in his hand. At the same moment, the waiter came back with the glass. The creep made a motion to take it, the waiter seemed confused. I took the bottle of water, pointed to the waiter and said, “You give that glass back to him!” and took off. Water water, everywhere, and way too many creeps.

I had had it. Twenty-four hours ago, I was in bed with my man, a guy who more or less respected me as a human. A few hours ago, I was nearly getting busy in an alley way with a stranger. And now I had just been felt up by some cretin against my will. The day had digressed steadily…too many hands for two tiny tits. We’d seen the full spectrum from boyfriend figure, to random fling, to assault. The last instance was stupidity, but that’s what I get for not assuming every guy is a total piece of scum. The other two guys, well, that’s Paris, that’s me, that’s being twenty something.

“If you don’t think Paris was made for love, give Paris one more chance,” sang Jonathan Richman with the Modern Lovers. That’s one line that was in my head when we finally boarded the train home. The other comes from Naughty by Nature: “There ain’t no room for relationships, there’s just room to hit it”.  Somewhere between these two lines, between night and day, between the wicked city and noble countryside, on my tranquil train in a lonesome cubby, I was hiding.

And that’s how I like it. For now.

Locations in Paris

Moulin Rouge
82 Boulevard de Clichy
75018 Paris, France
01 53 09 82 82

www.moulinrouge.fr
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Sacré-Cœur
35 Rue du Chevalier de La Barre
75018 Paris, France

01 53 41 89 00
www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com
-
Café des Deux Moulins
15 Rue Lepic
75018 Paris, France

01 42 54 90 50‎
Google Maps
-
Shakespeare and Company
37 Rue de la Bûcherie
75005 Paris, France

01 43 25 40 93
www.shakespeareandcompany.com
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St. Julien le Pauvre Church
79 Rue Galande
75005 Paris, France

01 43 29 09 09
www.sjlpmelkites.org
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Fontainebleau
Place du Général de Gaulle
77300 Fontainebleau, France

01 60 71 50 60
www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr
-
Vaux le Vicomte
Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte
77950 Maincy, France‎

01 64 14 41 90‎
www.vaux-le-vicomte.com
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Point Ephémère
Quai de Valmy
75010 Paris, France

01 40 34 02 48
www.pointephemere.org
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La Miroiterie
88 rue de Ménilmontant
75020 Paris, France

Google Maps
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Pop In
105 Rue Amelot
75011 Paris, France

01 48 05 56 11
www.popin.fr


Bands Featured

Turbo Fruits
www.myspace.com/turbofruits
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Total Abuse
www.myspace.com/totalabuse


Cabaret Embassy (Casablanca, Morocco)

The Things They Never Knew

By Bobby Rich

Photos by Sarrah Danziger

It was late for the hotel and everyone was asleep except the American couple who sat sharing shots of whiskey and anisee on their bed. The paint on their walls was chipping off and the florescent light-bulb overhead had no shade and was suspended from the ceiling only by the electric wires that powered it. The room had a small window at the far side of it that looked onto the terrace, which had no street view because rooms were built around it. To have any type of natural light in their room, one would have to open the door, and even then it was not direct. The American couple kept taking shot after shot from their small glass cups that were normally used by Moroccans for tea and coffee. Sam kept on the bottle of anisee, holding up her cup to the electric light as she poured in the water. And Richard held the bottle of whiskey in one hand and his cup in the other since he didn’t take much time between shots, unless he was ready for a cigarette. They were quiet for the most part, looking at the floor or the ugly wall ahead, and then Richard said:

“Do you want to go out tonight? It is your last night in Morocco and Casablanca is supposed to be a party town.”

“Is it supposed to be?” she said mockingly.

“Well, that’s what I hear. Plus you saw the gay couple romantically kissing and walking hand in hand at the Hassan Two Mosque today. That was a first in Morocco! The people must be less repressed here.”

“I mean, where exactly would you want to go?”

“You know as much as I do about this town. I don’t know, we’ll take out the motorcycle and see what we find.”

“The patron is going to hate us. She already told us the curfew is midnight.”

“That’s nothing ten dirham can’t fix.”

The motorcycle was silver and reflected the night sky wonderfully. Richard had bought it from a friend of his in Marrakech, and he planned to sell it before he left the country. It had fifteen hundred original miles on it which Sam and him had put on together, but after tomorrow how ever many more miles the bike would accumulate would be put on only by Richard. He pushed the bike to the middle of the plaza away from the entrance of the Hotel des Amis, kick-started it, and then said: “I love these women here! I told you that curfew was nothing a small bribe couldn’t change. To think, we’re only paying an equivalent of three-fifty each to stay here. The Western world has it all wrong, Sam. Whoever started charging eighty bucks for a hotel room a night in America was a fucking crook!”

Sam didn’t say anything.

As they drove through the winding alleys of the medina, Sam held on tight to Richard. It is possible that she did this because she was cold, but it was the look on her face which made one think she was doing this to savor her last feelings of love for this man. Her eyes were closed, her lips were slightly parted with the faint hint of a smile, and she pressed her cheek warmly against his back. Sometimes Richard could have sworn that he heard her sigh, and at other times it seemed that she was rubbing herself against him. If she was he didn’t want to know, not because he wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening but because he knew if he talked about it he would ruin the moment for her. So he continued to drive looking straight ahead, driving faster and faster as he felt her wriggling behind him. They were now outside of the medina going down the Atlantic Coast, and he tried not to pay attention to anything but the road. And when he finally heard her let out a subtle moan and loosen her grip, he slowed down the bike for the first time, turned around, and started toward Boulevard Mohammed el Hansali and Boulevard Mohammed V, which was outside the medina. He didn’t know of any clubs there, but he had seen many flashing lights when they drove past ten minutes previous and thought it would be a good place to look.

They drove down Mohammed V and decided they would go to the first club they saw. Richard seemed to not only be physically drunk but mentally drunk as well. Any time he stopped at a red light, which only was when certain death seemed inevitable, he would rev his engine until the light turned green. And when it did he would kick his bike into first and speed away even faster than the crazy Moroccan drivers. Sam told him to slow down, but he couldn’t get a hold of himself. And when he saw the first club with flashing lights he swerved into oncoming traffic, squeezed between the moving cars and the parked ones, rode up onto the sidewalk, somehow managed to stop the bike smoothly, and then jumped off it with his keys in hand before Sam could even scream from fright. Sam did not seem impressed.

The club had a cover charge of fifty dirham, which is an equivalent to five Euros, and this seemed a bit pricey to the couple. “Do you mind if I go take a look?” asked Richard. The door man let him in and Sam stood outside looking at the sign above the doorman which read: CABARET EMBASSY. She thought this club was located in a strange place. It was right next to a Kentucky Fried Chicken. She was also surprised by the fact that she hadn’t noticed it before, because it was right behind the Cafe de France, which is the most noticeable cafe outside the medina. But, of course, this club was always closed during the day and looked like a little hole-in-the-wall joint even now when it was open. The couple had walked by it many times and had never taken a second glance at it.

Richard came back and said, “This place is wild. We should go in.”

“I don’t really have fifty dirham to spend. I only have thirty now, and I’ll need it for food before I go to the airport tomorrow. I’ll walk home and see you when you get back.”

“No, you can’t do that. You’ll disturb the patron! Since it’s your last night I’ll pay for it. And really, the cover isn’t bad and plus it comes with a drink.”

They walked to the doorman and Richard handed him the hundred, and then the couple walked down the stairs into the basement, split apart a black, velvet curtain and heard a blast of electric sound. “Isn’t this great!” Sam looked over the crowd. Everybody had their arms up in the air dancing in a way she hadn’t seen before. There were women everywhere wearing short little dresses and smoking hookah with the men at their tables, and they were drinking beer too. This was the first time Sam had seen this kind of female behavior in Morocco, and she figured Richard must have been correct when he said people were less repressed in Casa. “What do you want to drink?”

Sam said, “A whiskey.”

“You go get a table and I’ll be right back.”

Richard found Sam over in the corner and laid a whiskey in front of her. She took a sip and said thank you. She looked over the scene again with a crooked kind of smile. Richard had taken note of what the other men were doing and started to dance the way they were. It seemed to be natural with the kind of music he was hearing. Sam started watching him and then snapped out of the trance she was in. “Those guys over there…” She pointed to the next table, “are New Yorkers. They introduced themselves to me when I sat down.”

Richard looked at the stage. Everybody seemed incredibly drunk to him. The men were getting on stage and dancing with the fat women singers with their arms in the air and shaking their bodies like worms. Richard thought they looked possessed. He didn’t know what was going on or what he was hearing, so he leaned over on the banquet toward the next table and started conversation.

Salam alaikum.”

“Alaikum salam,” Said one man from the group of five who sat closest to Richard.

“Hey, my girlfriend over here says you are from New York.”

“Yeah, we’ve all been living in New York for twenty years. Where’re you two from?”

“We’re from New York too. Bushwick area. Where you from?”

“Astoria.”

“Nice. Yeah, me and my friends like to go there. Play some backgammon, smoke some hookah. We actually almost lived in Astoria once.”

Sam chimed in: “We didn’t almost live there. Honestly this place was uninhabitable,” Sam said to the other man. “It was a basement in someone’s laundry room. It was a railroad apartment in a dungeon. We could see this beautiful backyard but the door was sealed with cement; and only the people upstairs could use it. It wasn’t fit for human beings! You’d have to pay me to live there.”

“Well, it was nine hundred a month for a two bedroom,” Richard said to the man. “I would have lived there.”

“Two bedroom?” said Sam scornfully. “One room was a hallway, and the other was a closet you couldn’t even stand up in.”

“Anyway, I would have lived there,” Richard reiterated. “How long are you in town for?”

“We’re going to stay for a couple months, visit the family, you know?”

“Cool, live it up for a bit, eh? Is this a club you come to often?”

“Naw, it’s our friend’s birthday.” He pointed to one in his group. He blew out some smoke from a hookah and then said, “you want some?”.

“Yeah,” said Richard.

“We like to come here for a couple months every year. Come back to the homeland. How long are you two staying for?”

“We’ve been in Morocco for a month. Sam is leaving tomorrow, but I’m here for a while longer. Say, what’s the name of this music?”

“It’s called Chaabi. It means popular, but It’s country and  mountain music.”

Sam hadn’t been listening to them. She was surveying the crowd again, and then some kind of greater understanding occurred and she pulled at Richard’s sleeve.

“What is it?”

“Ask him if these women are prostitutes. I keep seeing them go from table to table.”

“You think all of these women are prostitutes?” Richard looked around the room with a new pair of eyes. Why were they all wearing these trashy looking, sequin sparkling mini-dresses? Why had they all applied such heavy make-up? And yes, why were they jumping from table to table, talking to almost every man in the bar?

Richard leaned over toward the man. “Wait, are all these women prostitutes?”

The man didn’t even look around. “Yes, every woman who is in this club is a prostitute.”

“Really?”

Sam pulled Richard’s sleeve again. “Ask him how much they are.”

“Hey, man.” Richard handed him back the hookah. “How much are one of these girls?”

“Why, you want one?” He laughed.

“She wants to know.” And Richard looked over at Sam.

“Damn, you get down like that?”

“Naw, she’s just curious.”

“Well, for me they are about three hundred. For you, probably about six hundred, all night. They have different prices for foreigners.”

“All night, eh?” said Richard curiously. “Wait.” He leaned over to Sam. “He says they cost three hundred for him; six hundred for us.” Richard leaned back over to the man. “Wait, so this is a normal practice?”

“Yeah, all over the place.”

“Would you say all women who go to bars are prostitutes?”

“I wouldn’t say one hundred percent, but probably about eighty percent are.”

“Crazy! I never knew that.” He went back over to Sam. “He says all of these women are definitely prostitutes, and about eighty percent of all women in bars are prostitutes.”

The couple polished off their whiskeys. “Wow,” said Sam. She looked all around. “This is amazing.” On stage nothing had changed. The blue Christmas lights were still flashing , drunken men were still dancing, but the women singers seemed to have forgotten they were singing and were now just drinking beers on the side. Sam pulled out her camera and started filming.

The man saw what Sam was doing and leaned toward Richard. “What is she doing?”

“We’re journalists. We write for a website that covers cultural music. We want to get some footage for an article.”

“You shouldn’t do that,” he said. “These people have families and, you know, different identities in the day.”

“Don’t worry,” said Richard. “Our audience is predominantly American. Everybody’s identity will be protected.”

The man seemed not to like this response, but he sat back in his seat and continued to smoke his hookah. Some prostitute had the demon running through her and went on a rampage, hopping from man to man, swinging her head in circles like a rocker. Sam quickly started to film her when she attacked one drunken soul who sat near them. The man from Queens looked over at the couple with little respect as Sam filmed the woman.

Sam said, “I’m having such a great time, and now I have to leave Morocco. I’m sad. I wish I could stay.”

Richard looked at the scene around him, the prostitute hopping onto another man, the crowd drunk and falling on the floor, the man next to them giving the evil eye, and then Richard said, “Trust me, I think it’s better this way.”

Locations In Casablanca

Hôtel des Amis
12 Rue Markazia
Casablanca, Morocco

Google Maps
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Cabaret Embassy
2 Boulevard Mohammed V
Casablanca, Morocco

Google Maps
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Cafe de France
Boulevard Mohammed V
Casablanca, Morocco

Google Maps



Chicago, Illinois

These Are the Things We Have Always Been Doing

By John Thurgood

So, ten minutes into the bike ride, it starts raining. But really raining. And out of nowhere. Me and Julio, we’re in front of a psychiatric ward when it starts coming down, so we ride over to their metal awning for shelter, but the wind is really thrashing. The awning doesn’t do much to keep us dry, and the over-washed, button-up t-shirt I’m wearing isn’t doing much to cut the wind either.

Standing there, not sure how long this storm is going to last, we try to figure out what to do, when the door to the psych ward opens and a squirrely eyed janitor invites us in. He’s not wearing a uniform, and the only reason I assume he’s the janitor is because he’s holding a walkie-talkie. He leans his whole body into the weight of the door to hold it open. It’s a little weird that he doesn’t just step outside, like he can’t break the threshold or something.

“What about our bikes?” Julio asks.

“Sure, bring ’em in.”

He waves us in, and we follow, struggling to get our bikes through the heavy metal door.

The lobby is bright, and everything—the linoleum, the painted cinder walls, and the cheap ceiling panels—are a sterile white that makes the whole place look stiff and uncomfortable.

“You boys sure did pick a bad time to ride your bikes. You don’t check the weather reports?” The janitor stands with his arms crossed over his chest, a little righteous.

We mumble that we don’t, and I look around at the posters lining the lobby walls. They’re all white poster board with magic maker and glitter. The writing is squiggly and riddled with spelling errors.

“What is this place?” I ask.

“It’s a psychiatric ward for autistic children.” Then he goes into a long argument defending the need for long-term care for autistic children. I had heard about it on This American Life, so I understand where the guy is coming from, and resist the temptation to bring up the TAL episode—I don’t want to sound insensitive. And from the look on the guys face, it doesn’t seem like he gets this opportunity very often. So, I listen while he talks his job up, and glance around the lobby, somewhat disappointed that this scenario hadn’t turned into an H. P. Lovecraft novel but a learning experience, instead. I usually welcome both, equally.

Julio is the first to notice the rain letting up. The janitor is a little disappointed that we have to go. I’m not sure what he had planned, but I guess standing around shooting the shit is better than cleaning up vomit or whatever duties he was avoiding by standing down here talking with us.

Outside, the streets are glistening from the streetlights reflecting off the freshly wet asphalt and shallow puddles. There is still a slight drizzle, but we start riding anyway. We were headed to a show at the Empty Bottle when the rain started, and we are going to miss the first band for sure now—we were already a little late before we got caught up in the storm.

The Strange Boys are playing, a band that I don’t care too much about, but Julio is really into. They add a southern mojo hand to SF’s garage sound that, I guess, really does it for a few people. They’re pretty popular anyway, and I always see their records at Reckless but seem to pass them up for something else every time.

The cool thing about it raining is that when we get to the Bottle, we find a spot to lock-up right in front.

There’s a nice little restaurant next door to the Bottle called Bite Café. I guess it’s ran by the guys at Empty Bottle. But while we’re locking up, the singer from the Ponys comes out, looks around, then goes back inside.

“Hey, that was the dude from the Ponys,” Julio kind of laughs.

“Why didn’t you ask him about CB2?”

Julio works at Crate & Barrel’s sister company, CB2, which is basically a cheaper version of the former. They make dorm room furniture and weird knick-knacks. But, for the past few months, Julio has been trying to get bands to come into their warehouse to play a show. It’s kind of a great idea, but he’s had little luck with it so far.

“Yeah,” Julio says, shrugging, “I haven’t sent them an email about it, but I probably should.”

When we get inside, the first band is already off stage, and the crowd is well into its shift to the bar. Julio offers to buy first drinks, and ten minutes later, he comes back with Old Milwaukee.

The Empty Bottle has been around for a little less than ten years, and before that it was another venue with a different name and owner. But at one point it must have been a store front or someone’s apartment, because the layout of the place is somewhat unconventional. The entrance opens to what I assume was once a living room, where a pool table now sits and a table for merch. Two arcade games are in the corner. That room leads to a hall of disheveled brick with a Mrs. Pacman game and a few doorways to the main room with the stage and bar. It’s an interesting set-up, and they always have some type of whiskey and beer special for five bucks. So, music aside, I would go there anyway.

The next band to get on stage is White Fence, which is basically Tim Presley wiggling around with a guitar strapped to his chest. I kind of love it, and so does most everyone in the crowd. He looks like an unkempt businessman that at one point lost his way, and now croons about it.

At one point in the show someone yells out, “What kind of pants are those?”

Presley replies, “They’re Docker’s,” and somehow makes it sound sexy, which pretty much sums-up their whole performance.

White Fence plays their set, and two Old Milwaukees later, the Strange Boys take to the stage.

Julio makes his way up to the front before it gets too crowded, and I follow. While the band is getting ready we position ourselves in front of one of the microphones. I don’t normally like to stand right up front, but Julio is really into the band, so what the hell, I do it anyway.

Ryan Sambol steps up to the mic in front of us, and thanks White Fence and the band before them, then talks a little about his day while tuning his guitar. The crowd starts to fill-in. And then the band opens with “Poem Party.”

The Strange Boys are a little younger than Julio and I, and they’re all strapping young men. When Sambol sings, he takes on a sort of heavy, bedroom glare that I’m sure is meant for the teenage girls swarming the stage and not me and Julio. So, it’s a little weird that we’re standing directly in front of him.

Awkwardness aside, they play a great set, and afterward Julio and I step outside to enjoy an after-show cigarette. On the way out, Julio buys a White Fence cassette tape. It’s of a live show they did in LA. There are only 200 copies, a collectable, but I suspect he bought it only because it was recorded onto a cassette.

He’s holding the tape, looking it over as we walk to our bikes. He says something about the tape being cool, and I agree and take out a cigarette and light it.

He asks me for a cigarette, I give him one, plus my lighter, and we stand there for a while taking in the sweet, humid smell of a summer night in Chicago.

After a few drags, Sambol dashes out of the venue, chasing down the hot tamale guy.  When he walks back, he’s carrying a plastic sack of tamales in one hand and munching on one in the other. We wave him over.

Introductions all around. He no doubt recognizes us as the dudes swarming the stage and pins us as a pair of fanatics.

Sambol takes a bit of tamale, looks at a sliver of pepper dangling from the end and with a full mouth asks, “What do you think that is?”

“Pshh,” Julio says, “that’s not the real tamale guy. Those things are tiny.” He laughs.

“Hey, it’s food, though.” Sambol raises the bag of tamales. “And right now they taste just like I want them to.”

We compliment him on the show and his mild success, and he tells us a little about the tour so far, then Julio breeches the CB2 topic. Julio had emailed someone in the band about it, but judging by the look on Sambol’s face, it was not him.

“Yeah, they said there just wasn’t enough time this time,” Julio says. “But next time you should; for sure, you should definitely stop in.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. We’re playing a show in Milwaukee tomorrow night.” Sambol takes out another tamale. “It sounds fun, though. What is it again? A radio station?”

Julio laughs. “No man, it’s a studio, an artist’s studio for CB2.”

Julio walks around a clear explanation of what CB2 actually is, and Sambol munches on his tamale, obviously confused but willing to listen, probably still thinking we’re fanatics.

Finally, I cut Julio off, and plainly state that CB2 is the sister company of Crate & Barrel. They make dorm room furniture and knick knacks.

Sambol smiles. “So wait a minute. You want us to play at the store?”

“No,” Julio says, “at the studio.”

“You’d be playing for the office, kind of,” I add.

There is an awkward pause.

“Whoa, I thought you guys were a radio station. Whoa, that’s kind of weird.”

“But it’s an interesting space,” Julio adds.

Sambol takes another bit of tamale. “And you guys will be recording this?”

“Sure. We can record it. Maybe arrange something with the corporate office. You guys could be sponsors or something. I’ve been talking to other bands about it. Thee Oh Sees and Sandwiches. I think Sandwiches might do it.”

Sambol thinks it over.

A girl runs over with an album. I see her at shows all the time. When King Khan played she jumped up on stage and made out with him, then did it again, like seven more times. It got weird. Her album has signatures all over it from the rest of the band, and she asks Sambol to sign it.

After he signs, he turns back to us, and after a second says, “Man, that’s a hard sell.”

Apparently it is, so Julio drops the subject, and we talk about Austin for a while, because The Strange Boys are living there right now. Then Sambol heads back into the Bottle, and we unlock our bikes and head over to Estelle’s for burgers and a beer.

Estelle’s is right on the corner of North and Damen, where the two streets cross Milwaukee, The Six Corners. It’s the busiest intersection in Wicker Park, and one of the busiest in the whole city.

I’ve been told by a few people that ten years ago Wicker Park was a rough part of town. There’s a scene from an old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie called Red Heat that shows The Six Corners before all the condos and martini bars went in. It was pretty bleak. I interviewed Ron Seymour of Ron Seymour Photography for a project once. His studio has been on that corner since ’88, and he said when he first moved in, he couldn’t walk outside after six. You just didn’t do it. Two friends of his were mugged and killed. One was stabbed and the other was beaten to death. Now, there’s an American Appearal just down from his studio, the first one to open in the Midwest. It stays open until nine. There’s also a Levi’s store, an Urban Outfitters, and a slew of music venues and bars. It basically Chicago’s version of an outdoor mall, and normally I would never go over to that part of town, but Estelle’s is the only place to get a decent burger and a beer past one a.m., so Julio and I lock our bikes up on some scaffolding across the street and go inside and sit at the bar.

My friend Chiara texted me while we were at the show, so I text her back. She’s at Pancho’s in Logan Square. Some friends of hers are in town from Baltimore, and they’re playing a show. She texts back that the show is over, and she’ll meet us at Estelle’s.

The burgers here are probably shipped frozen, but the buns they use are pretty good and the veggies are fresh, and they usually have a good IPA in a can for three or four bucks.

Me and Julio order. Harold and Maude is playing on the TV behind the bar, so we watch that for a while. Julio has never seen it, so I try to explain why the kid is running around with an old lady, but I realize I don’t know what I’m talking about so I just say it’s a good movie and that he should check it out.

It’s a weekday so Estelle’s isn’t all that crowded. There is a group of accountants standing at the bar just down from us, and behind us in a booth is a middle-aged guy with what is most likely a hooker. The rest of the bar is modestly filled with similar folks, bottle-necking as it gets closer to the door.

Chiara shows up while we’re halfway through our burgers, and joins us at the bar. We work together at Nightwood in Pilsen, so we talk about that for a while. Julio is clearly uninterested, and watches the movie.

Chiara moved to Chicago to do a post-back in visual art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her work uses a lot of fabric and three-dimensional shapes. She’s really into embroidery. She also has a bunch of funny tattoos that she refuses to fill-in, like a bandaid and a polar bear among others. They’re all outlines, so it basically looks like she screenprinted her arm with cookie cutters.

We finish eating and decide to head over to the lakefront. Outside, the streets are crowded with lingerers, even though the two a.m. bars let out a half hour ago. Most of them are clutching phones to the sides of their heads, trying to get a hold of something better than just going home, I guess. Taxis are swarming The Six Corners, too. This is their golden hour.  And above everyone’s head, the L clatters up to the Damen stop.

We take North Avenue over to the lake, which we quickly realize is a mistake. North lacks bike lanes, and hasn’t been re-tarred since the fires, or so it seems. The traffic sucks, too, and I almost get hit by a taxis that pulls out in front of me.

We take the North Avenue tunnel under Lake Shore Drive, and ride over to the cement docks. A few kids are swimming off the dock down by the Chess Pavilion, and the water looks really inviting, especially after that bike ride down North. Chiara is clearly thinking about it. Julio is starring off at the John Hancock Building and the wave of skyscrapers looming just a few blocks south. This is a weird part of Chicago, where the lake meets the city. There are two beaches on either side of the docks and up north past the pavilion, Lincoln Park sprawls outward into a grassy preserve.

Swimming off the dock is something I would have done regularly if I had grown up in Chicago—in my underwear, naked, whatever. But now it just seems cheesy. To jump in now would only be forcing a sense of adventure, and I see the same lackluster resignation on the faces of Chiara and Julio.

I ask if they want to jump in anyway. Chiara smiles and nods, and Julio picks up his bike.

“I think I’m gonna head back and drink a few beers,” Julio says.

I try to get him to stay, but he won’t have it, so he takes off and me and Chiara strip down to our skivvies and jump into the frigid depths of Lake Michigan.

The water is dark, and I can’t tell how deep it is. Looking outward, it seems endless, like the ocean, and I start to wonder if there are any Buick-sized catfish or equally large crawdads lurking down by my feet, waiting to pull under an early morning swimmer.

The cold water feels great, and me and Chiara make-out a little as we tread around.

There’s a yellow ladder up the side of the dock, and we use it to climb out. We jump in a few more times, then get dressed. As we gather some sort of plan, a K-9 unit drives by on the bike path. Five minutes earlier, they would have given us tickets or told us to leave. Good timing, I guess.

We head down the bike path and take the tunnel over to Michigan Avenue. There is something strange about swimming in one of great North America lakes, then, right after, riding down the six lane thoroughfare of Chicago’s busiest shopping district. Like I said, it’s a weird part of Chicago.

We ride down to Chiara’s. She lives in Bridgeport, and once we get through downtown we cross over to State Street, take Archer through Chinatown and then end up in her neighborhood. It’s a nice ride, and the streets are empty.

We stash our bikes in Chiara’s basement, and head up to her roof. Some friends of hers gave her a few home brews, so we take a bottle each up with us. The beers turn out to be terrible, but we drink them anyway, and spend the rest of the night up there looking out over the pitched roofs of residential south Chicago, talking and doing whatever until the sun pops up in the east.

Locations in Chicago

Empty Bottle
1035 N. Western Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60622
(773) 276-3600
emptybottle.com

Bite Cafe
1039 N. Western Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60622
(773) 395-2483
bitecafechicago.com

Reckless Records
26 N. Broadway
Chicago, Illinois 60657
(773) 404-5080
reckless.com

Estelle’s
2013 W. North Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60647
(773) 782-0450
estelleschicago.com

Ronald Seymour Inc.
1625 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60647
(773) 235-0161
ronseymour.com

Pancho’s
2202 N. California Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60647
(773) 384-1865
Google Maps

Nightwood
2119 S. Halsted Street
Chicago, Illinois 60608
(312) 526-3385
nightwoodrestaurant.com



St. Nicks Pub (New York City, New York)

African Nights

By Richard Prins

Not that I wasn’t a Columbia student when I first came to St. Nick’s Pub in 2005; my Swahili professor had suggested the venue for its Africa Night every Saturday, and we made an outing of it, a couple students each from the intermediate and advanced classes. The novelty of socializing with my academic peers convinced me to forgo memorizing a speech I’d have to give in Albany the following afternoon.

I played the native New Yorker and directed our crew of aspiring white Africanists to 149th Street. I had already developed instinctive grudges against my freshman class for their collective reticence to cross 125th. These weren’t first-years; they actually spoke passable Swahili, enjambed entire sentences between our English conversation, and had visited East Africa and done more than ogle exotic animals. They had dreadlocks, and dashikis brighter than my tie-dye, which I also envied as we reached the bright red billboard ST NICK’S PUB and walked down the steps into a tiny narrow bar where instruments were being dragged on stage. Guitars, a bass, a saxophonist with a backwards Yankees hat; what exactly made this African, I wondered.


The waitress in the leopard-skin skirt made us aware of the two-dollar table charge (the complimentary barstools were all taken, and it didn’t occur to us to stand) as well as the two-drink minimum. I asked for coffee, thinking I could stay up all night to memorize my speech, but there was none, so I got a Guinness because I knew what it was. As an 18-year-old unfamiliar with bar etiquette, I didn’t tip. The guitarist’s arpeggios sounded like the Sahara; he sang in smiling tongues even we polyglots couldn’t speak. My colleague stood to dance; I knew soon I’d have to rise to this occasion. She demonstrated the popular dance style of every country she’d ever visited, finishing on our common interest, Tanzania, “Where it’s all in the hips,” and her own percolated. She was electric. Her thickest fuzzy dreadlock bitchslapped my face, and I made a mental note to figure out one day whether my hips were mobile. They were by the time I ran into her a couple years later at a tourist club in Dar es Salaam and chased her across the dance floor like a dying man might chase a pulse.

“I can’t dance like that.” I stood. “But I do a pretty decent hippie-on-acid impression.”

“Acid is for innocents!” she laughed as the keyboardist took a break to dance with her. I let myself be guided towards joy by a second beer and the hollow detonations of a talking drum wedged in an old man’s armpit, which he beat with a stick. What did it matter if I would be speechless tomorrow before a crowd of young activists? The night was coming to life, and my limbs and torso were exploring new rhythmic contortions. Musical guests cycled on and off stage. A Cuban came and blew a shining trumpet – his fedora looked so classy it’s a sin he wasn’t simultaneously smoking a cigar. The waitress recited a lush slam poem; a drunk squealed briefly on a clarinet but was politely ushered off stage. A bald man took over on vocals and sang a song that made us sit back down so we could brace ourselves for its griotic power. Years later I would recognize the song as “N’Toman,” by Salif Keita’s first Afropop supergroup, Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux, and still relish its buoyant refrain.

At 2am the musicians took a smoke break in the backyard patio; mindful of my 9am bus ride to Albany, I said I had to leave. Surprisingly enough, my colleagues wished to follow. It was snowing fluffily. I scooped an armful of it off a brownstone’s ledge and dumped it in her dreads on the way to the 1 train. That was the last time I ever snowed someone. I woke in the morning to a phone call from Albany – there was a blizzard, so I could keep on sleeping.

I only make the trip up to 149th Street a couple Saturdays a year, usually when I’m trying to show off the venue to new friends. I dance so hard they pull me on stage when they can’t find another willing male; I let saxophone solos pinprick my brain and gasp in wonderment; I empty my wallet tipping the band and downing overpriced sugary blonde ales; I wake up the next afternoon and can hardly walk to the kitchen for water because my hips are shaken raw; I fulminate with mirth and pride at everything I’ve acquired from my multiple trysts with the Motherland. An ability to sing along to lyrics whose meaning I don’t know. To greet the Senegalese patrons in Wolof, which has the best “hello” in the world: “Wow-wow!” Wolof’s also the etymological source for words like hip, dig, cool. I’ve put effort into my Africanness, dammit, and Africa Night is my reward. The spiritual nature of the experience becomes only more exquisite.

Exquisite isn’t always a good thing. Exquisite pain, for example. Exquisite disappointment. But I would prefer to experience something exquisite than not. To finger the jagged grain, as Ralph Ellison put it. Unfortunately, most people would prefer a pinch in the cheek to a slap in the face. And I hope they all get fucked in the ass by Lenny Kravitz.

Tonight I have to go there (in order to write this here article). It’s been almost a year (since I spent most of the year frequenting even wilder clubs in Tanzania) so I need a refresher. I was going to go with a fellow St. Nick’s enthusiast who I could sleep with afterwards, but she got invited out to Long Island for the weekend. The last time I went to St. Nick’s, I went alone; I had just extricated myself from a long-term relationship so I was cultivating solitude. I’m not anymore; a sweat-drenched dashiki already makes me conspicuous – I don’t also want to be conspicuously alone. I left a facebook status asking if anyone wanted to see some African music; everyone was either uninterested, or they thought I was inviting them on a no-expenses-paid trip to Dar es Salaam, because the only response I got was from a long-lost friend in Texas informing me that she hula-hoops at a drum circle every Wednesday. So I polish off some Jim Beam after brushing my teeth (bad idea) but before getting on the subway (good idea) and spend the trip listening to South African jazz and Maasai hip hop on my iPod, muttering to myself about how so goddamn many people are interested in African music, or intrigued by it, or feel generally positive and groovy towards it, but so few make any effort to know it. Other than the occasional dreadlocked drum circle or viewing of Fela! – The Musical. Not that both aren’t awesome, in their own way – but what does one really discover? One should see music as Vasco de Gama saw continents!… rape & pillage optional.

Try naming a historical character cooler than Frank Serpico. Sure, they exist, but it’s hard to top a hobo-looking, ballet-enthusiast cop who single-handedly exposed the extent of corruption in the 1970s NYPD and was nearly assassinated by his colleagues in retribution. There’s a reason for the non sequitur; he once said something that I would be remiss not to quote when writing about music. Al Pacino interviewed Serpico before portraying him in the 1973 film of his life, and one of his most pressing questions to the whistle-blower was, why did you do it? Why did you testify against police corruption when the entire NYPD had made it clear you would do so at risk of your life?

Serpico’s reply: “Well, Al, I don’t know. I guess I would have to say it would be because… if I didn’t, who would I be when I listened to a piece of music?”

I like this notion that we are someone when we listen to music; that music acts as a reflective conscience by forcing us to confront our own humanity.

That’s pretentious; I could have just written, isn’t what Frank Serpico said just the most fucking beautiful thing you’ve ever heard? and left it at that.

But I want to know who you will be when you listen to a piece of music. Are you waiting for the spirit to feel you up? Is your untouchedness innocent or lonely, and when it writhes are you also an electric snake, and do you coil through your own spininess? Or shed your skin and flicker your tongue at tomorrow’s edge where each beat is a horizon? Or slither away from all the heroic acts you didn’t perform?

Important questions, these. And who am I each time I venture Uptown, sipping whiskeyed ice tea on the subway so I won’t have to buy too many of their drinks, so I won’t have to feel the letdown of sobriety as I enter the orgy of music, will only feel electricity crossing the diaspora between their instruments and my body? Who am I that Africa Night at St. Nick’s Pub is my favorite music in the city?

“No matter who you are, or where you come from, you are an African,” repeats the guitarist each time he dispatches the tip jar through the crowd – bills which will later be tossed one by one at the musicians. (One must always tip the griot directly. Why do the hunters always defeat the lions in the stories? I once heard asked. Because the lions aren’t the ones telling the stories.)

A text message arrives from a musician friend as the train is rolling over the Manhattan Bridge…  was goin’ on tonight? Probably saw my facebook post – he digs African music. He should dig St. Nick’s – who knows if I ever told him about the place. He should also dig God – he has a lot of spirit inside him, but won’t recognize it as Jesus. We tripped on 2C-E once in high school; he thought he had been poisoned and began calling everyone he knew so he could pin his death on me. Meanwhile I wandered into the bathroom to urinate and felt a supernaturally powerful orgasm rushing through my urethra; it knocked me back on the ground and piss rivulets dribbled in my pubic hair. If he hadn’t been so afraid, God could have touched his genitals too, I frequently remind him; he assures me that my peculiar religiosity is a symptom of schizophrenia, and the public usually takes his side in this ongoing argument.

He asks what the cover is, but the train’s crossed the bridge and entered the tunnel, so I have to get off at Grand to tell him it’s free (not mentioning the astronomical price of a beer) and get back on the next D.

And step into the narrowness and blinkering Christmas lights; the cackling in English, white French, black French, et al. No music yet at midnight, but every barstool and chair lining the wall is taken; the wall is festooned with a collage of photos – as if we’re in the bedroom of a 14-year-old girl who’s got the hots for Charlie Parker. No room to stand without my tote bag from Tanzania getting whacked by the waitress’s beer deliveries.

The only people who come here alone are African. You can walk into a pub posse-less in Africa and emerge with lifelong friends. I suppose it’s a theoretical possibility in America, but I don’t know anyone who makes a practice of it.

By 12:15 I’ve nervously sipped away the entirety of my Sugar Hill and only the percussionist is seated on stage. I would say TIA but that’s for honkie tourists. They put “No Woman No Cry” on the jukebox, which I find offensively obvious, though everyone else seems to enjoy it, and a group is singing along to the “Hey hey” in the chorus. A 21-stringed calabash is placed in front of the drumset, the kora-player rocking short, choppy dreads to contrast with the big lady bassist’s back-length tapestries.

Check my phone; no reply from my friend. Probably thought I was going to poison him again.

With a cascading clash of notes. The guitar & kora entangling like two lovers’ inner thighs. On their way to Harlem, they pass the nomadic pastures of the Tuareg and Peul, zig-zag through the heyday of the Mande Empire, raft down the Gambia River, make an unfortunate detour in Brazil for a bossa nova, land in the South and send everything they learn back home via a passenger pigeon nesting in James Brown’s hairdo.

A pierced-eared pansy is dancing better than me. Stiffer competition than usual in the white-boy-ass-shaking contest. Usually I’m the ringer, but that’s when I have girls with me that want to be hit on by the musicians. The chords become major when they sidestep to Nigeria for Prince Nico Mbarga’s “Sweet Mother,” and reach down to South Africa for “Pata Pata,” without the clicks.

I’m singing along to the Xhosa lyrics when he trills homosexually in my ear, “What are you doing here!”

“I just like the music,” I shrug, and somehow feel like I just gave a lame excuse, in the vein of I only read porno for the articles. His hand is on my far hip and the other one asks my hand for a dance. I let him have it, but let it go limp. I don’t know how to politely explain that I’m not very gay, so I don’t dance with dudes at Africa Night.

The chords of the keyboard pull a cord coiled taut around my heart. A sad flash of lightning that knows unbearable joy coruscates from the guitarist’s face and fingers. A djembe strikes midnight, thirty minutes late. There is not enough room to dance between the bodies but I do anyway, though some dressed-up dickhead keeps tapping my shoulder and frowning because I’ve stepped on his overshined shoes. The birth cries of blues are wailed by this small stage; I can’t tell if the top-shelf liquors are rocking to the bass or only appear to be moving due to the flickering reflection of Christmas lights. I fork over eight bucks for another Sugar Hill, and pitch my tote bag at two folded chairs in the corner, with an unapologetic shrug to the ostensible Columbia students whose shoulders I tossed it over.

Despite their svelte sweaters and impeccably-trimmed beards, I can’t help wondering where tonight might send them…. It was less than five years ago that these sonic explosions dispatched me across the ocean to study indigenous music at the University of Dar es Salaam, to traipse to Chamwino to listen to Kigogo choirs, to jet-set to jazz festivals in Cape Town, to ride with local stars to Dodoma & rap in Swahili, and to chase my favorite bands around Mwenge and Sinza.

Anything, anywhere, to figure out who I am when I listen to a piece of music.

Location In New York City

St. Nick’s Pub [closed]
773 Saint Nicholas Avenue
New York, NY 10031-3925

(212) 283-9728
http://www.stnicksjazzpub.net


Goodbye Blue Monday (Brooklyn, New York)

By Steve Trimboli

Thought and Memory on our sidewalk, MAKE MUSIC NEW YORK 2010


this past monday afternoon had a three-hour open window in my day and if you know me, you know exactly what i did with that time.
hint-hint.

i’ve been engulfed in the gulf. i can’t stop watching ongoing developments just as i couldn’t stop watching those jets fly into those buildings back then.
i call it “trainwreck mystification.”

the week it happened, sixty-five-plus days ago, i told a friend that this was going to be bigger than the twin towers because it will play out to be mass murder on a decades-long scale by white guys with a smart logo and thousand-dollar suits who speak our language – sorry scared white guys, it’s a bunch of your own this time and i’m wondering how you’ll justify this horror, but i know you’ll have no problem – and if anyone thinks human loss is more precious than the things around us, think again.
murder (or manslaughter) is a crime, whether driven by political ideology, greed or contempt.
humanity’s sense of entitlement knows no bounds.
that’s at the core of religion, but that’s just an opinion.
i have plenty.
three thousand people died on september 11th and thousands more will have gotten their lives shortened by their selflessness for pitching in and caring about what happened.
there’s a lot of wheezing going on around NYC as a result of that day.
in the gulf, miraculously, only eleven people died on the Deepwater Horizon on april 20th, which was horrible because of the arrogance of that corporation – but the overwhelming promise of long-term tragedy will, over time, eclipse the trade center numbers.
if i owned a farm, i’d bet it.
which brings to mind…. april 20th…. isn’t that hitler’s birthday? you mean there’s no white-trash supremacists out there toasting or trying to secure a link between the black president’s agenda, the führer’s dreams for the schwarzcommanders as spoken of in pynchon’s “gravity’s rainbow“….. (or was that “V”)?
if you let them sit side by side on a shelf in your own mind for thirty-odd years, it becomes one big book.
everything becomes one-big-book.
maybe it’s time to revisit those titles again so i could drop pynchon’s name with focused certainty.
….or would hitler’s birthday cause tea party conservative confusion – whether to bury the president or praise him……

but i digress.
i was somewhere about crime and punishment (or the lack thereof).
i was somewhere, skirting the oily shores of corporate crime, moral hazard and the first meeting i had with that grifting lizard who looks like omar sharif and sounds like eduardo ciannelli, in months and months, who, this day, had in tow the suit of ayn rand, the author of the biggest, longest-running comedy on mars, “atlas shrugged,” the book written by the lizard who made a meal and suit out of ayn rand when she signed the hollywood deal for “the fountainhead,” got a big check and was gobbled up – literally – in 1955.
the lizard who wore ayn rand wrote “atlas shrugged,” in addition to being hilarious on their planet, was taken as gospel by many faithful on earth, spurring a movement that would be co-opted, corrupted, conned, fattened and devoured by the lizards who live life no differently from ginger rogers, who once told me this;
“a girl’s gotta eat.”
that lizard guy (the one who sounds like eduardo ciannelli and looks like omar sharif) told me last year that they’re still getting tremendous mileage (or tonnage….i think it was tonnage) out of “atlas shrugged” and the humans who buy into it.
he then made a point of telling me, “wait till that angelina jolie plays dagny taggart – it’s gonna be a feeding-frenzy in lizard-land, you betcha,”
…..but i’ve drifted way off base.

the point being, humanity means as much to that lizard guy (you know the one i’m talking about) as a can of starkist tuna means to you. speaking of tuna, you might notice a spike in tuna futures soon, what with the big Oops down there.
i wonder if there are tuna futures. i wonder if tuna HAS a future.
probably as much of a future as we have.
p.s. – i don’t think we have a future, or at least, i don’t think humanity deserves one.

if this is your first visit here, it’s all about the food chain.
if you still don’t know what i’m talking about, google “the grifting lizards from mars,” or hit these two links;
hi-dee hi-dee ho addresses more of what i’m talking about, but ken lay; martian lizard is the genesis of this balderdash.
there are mountains of hubbub between then and now.

i’m writing this to be offered in a friend’s blog about “the underground” (whatever that means these days) and by virtue of the fact that goodbye blue monday is remote enough to maintain such underground-ness for five-plus years (more or less).
for us, mainstream could signal failure.
why travel way out here for the same shit you can get at your local pub?
i’d prefer to fail doing something….”other than.”
goodbye blue monday is “other than.”

i won’t write much about this place because i am genetically disposed to automatically having it become a pitch for money, performance gear, kitchen equipment and just as recent as today, a free or really cheap car.
there, i did it.
i also can’t help grinning at the term “underground” because as i write this i am preparing to post it onto an open source information clusterfuck of word and imagery, not that “underground” isn’t valid.
i just tend to think that the whereabouts of osama bin-laden is “underground.”
and subway systems are “underground.”
besides, how “underground” are you once you’ve made it into Vogue Italia? (we made it last october)

i was interviewed by an documentarian a couple of weeks back.
at one point she asked me if i was an original-equipment new yorker;
if i was born and raised here – and when i replied “yes,” my plumage sprouted wondrous colors and rays of light sparkled and glimmered on and around me in the afternoon sun.
“there’s plenty of us,” i said.
i explained that i didn’t ride up the empire state building’s elevator until 1984 when i was thirty (laughing uproariously with a headful of acid) – but i DID have lunch on the 82nd floor of the unfinished, un-windowed twin towers when i worked at 90 west street in 1974 when i was twenty.
do you know what i’m saying?
that was being a new yorker, i guess, back then.
….and as our interview went on, she asked me about my experience with the music and art scene in NYC.
so as not to offer spoiler alerts, i’ll say that i’ve been part of the bar and club scene that stretches from the late 60’s, through disco, punk and whatever else that is or was up to now and because i believed i had/have an artistic bent, i did “art” and continue to do so, though i have no documentation other than the things i’ve done and continue to do.

i never read “on the road”, but i imagine it had to do with being young, indestructible (seemingly, until otherwise proven), eternal (ditto), rebellious (double-ditto), passionate (ditto squared) and maybe self-centered (“pi” times ditto to the third power).
my “road” book was “fear and loathing in las vegas” and more accurately for me, “screaming bloodily down the highway of oblivion,” the title (that i just made up) of my own book that no one wants but is available in fits and starts on my blog and at myspace.com/scrapbar.

……so the conversation with the documentarians went on, centering on why i did what i did in bushwick and my answer was “i just did,” and quickly added that there’s no place where anyone can “begin” anymore.
i took them to the backyard and showed them “the other stage” where we do acoustic, electronic and experimental music and films.

i told them that here at goodbye blue monday there is no 22-year-old numbnut passing judgement on anyone’s musical statement or artistic direction when they ask to perform.
that we simply say “yes.”
….that my only hope is performers show they care by inviting a few friends to support the house.
i understand the limitations of nyc venues. i’m not knocking them.
they can’t do what we do anymore and haven’t been able to in decades. that they have to shuffle bands in and out, get door-counts and charges, and even steal a percentage of people’s merch and more.
new york city can’t afford to be creative unless you’re connected with a group of swells or have dad’s black american express card tattooed to your bank account, and even then the deck is generally stacked by PR and shmoozer’s professionale.
this isn’t an indictment, it’s just the way it is.
the village voice voted us the best place for new music and performance in 2007. six months later i was in their offices, arguing.
i asked them why they didn’t ever list the shows we did here on their calendar – ever – and was told that “editorial” didn’t believe anyone who played here “mattered.”
i explained that i even ADVERTISED with them.
it didn’t matter.
there was a new issue of the voice laying open on a table in front of us and my eyes were drawn to an ad for a show sponsored by “the fillmore at irving plaza (whatever the fuck THAT means) and the village voice.”
there was a list of six musical acts slated for this show. i pointed at the ad and said, “what? i have to have names like these to get a rise out of those douchebags in editorial?”
and the person i was arguing with looked down and said, “well… yes.”
and i pointed at three of these names and stated with strong certainty that these bands all played on my stage over a year ago.
“so what we’re saying here is once it matters to you, it matters. it doesn’t matter that they may have cut their teeth in my stage, you shit!”
i stopped advertising with them.
and that’s what the music scene is in new york city.
last week, three years later, i was informed that village voice editorial has decided to list us in their calendar.
this was followed by a pitch to start advertising with them.
whatever…..
don’t eat the brown acid – it’s really little pebbles of ka-ka.

in 1985, allen ginsberg walked down into a bar i was building at 116 macdougal street and asked me “do you know where you are?” and before i could offer my wiseass reply, he excitedly told me the history of the place, it being the original “village gaslight.”
he told me about dave van ronk and careers started from bob dylan to bill cosby and loads of other stuff.
it excited him to pour his past out and lay it on the same floor i was currently using to spray six-foot flourescent light tubes with day-glo blue krylon paint.
i would later learn that “cafe wha” – across the street – ran an open stage every day with booked acts at night and everyone worked “the hat.”
was this in my mind when i began out here in bushwick?
i don’t think so.
i’m not very good on “plans” and maybe that’s not a good thing, but no one i knew was running their businesses with slide rules and graph paper when i was a kid, though i admit i wasn’t looking.
me and math never got along, anyway.
i told the documentarians that now is more punk than ever, that the gradual dissolution of the recording industry as i knew it was a good thing and that i never lived in a time of such startling creativity.
i also qualified this by saying that it’s just an opinion by “a musically-challenged writer with a short attention-span who did way too much of whatever he could get his hands on for far too long a time.”
that would be me.

i prefer to talk about near and dead-death experiences, my extraordinary friend’s rendezvous with my late, sainted-irish mother whom she never knew till they chatted briefly on the corner of Eternity boulevard and Hallelujah avenue;
….the “gulf-coast oil window” and when it will despoil the beach where me, maxx (my dog), the giant tire i befriended some years ago and those lizard people i keep mentioning meet on an almost weekly basis and where i can get a clean shot at “the eighth-electro-plasma-ocean of the ninth dimension” where i mingle with the comings and goings of everyone who ever came or went, who matter and anti-matter and who i hold, will hold or ever held in my electronic sputterings near, dear and otherwise to me.

instead of this, i can tell you about our booking policies, backline list and cheese you with goodbye blue monday’s history, but if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s on the website/blog.

see this thing just below here?

nuclear missiles used to be mounted on these things as they waiting and waited for something to happen.
i live my life waiting for something to happen.
it always does.

Location In Brooklyn

Goodbye Blue Monday
1087 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11221-3013

(718) 453-6343
www.goodbye-blue-monday.com

Bands Featured

Thought and Memory
www.myspace.com/thoughtandmemorymusic


Tandem (Brooklyn, New York)

A Visiting Friend

By David Detroit

Seeing as I’m a relatively lazy, unemployed, welfare muncher these days, I generally don’t make a lot of effort to get exotic with my nights out. I’m sure there’s amazing shit going on in Queens, Harlem, The Bronx, and anywhere else for that matter. It’s fucking New York City, there’s shit popping everywhere. But that shit is too far away from my home base, and a night out is often a gamble. Since it’s been a fairly laid back summer, I’ve been staying local to where I live, Bushwick. Yes, Bushwick, the neighborhood you’ve probably heard of by now. Or “East Williamsburg,” as the realtors call it. Bushwick is the place where evil gentrifiers such as myself don’t have to quite worry about displacing any true community, because Bushwick, historically, has never really held any kind of specific community, unlike Bed-Stuy, which has a significant amount of history and culture intertwined into it’s streets. Bushwick is just a poor dilapidated neighborhood, that seems to be undergoing a rapid amount of ‘gentrification’. I find the word gentrification to be inherently racist, as it often denotes white people, and as if all white people are part of some fucking ‘gentry’. I’m a dirt-poor, fucking white nigger from the sticks, and there’s not much ‘gentile’ about me, other than my education, which I’m up to my ears in debt for. So yeah, I’m some poor white guy who moved to Bushwick, and if some realtor asshole wants to use my broke ‘hipster’ ass as a selling point for the neighborhood, it’s not my fucking fault if this place turns into condos. It’s that relator’s fault, and the property owner’s fault, because I’ll get driven out of the community too. I just need a cheap place to live, where the statistics of me getting murdered are relatively low. So here I am, in Bushwick. And last I checked, it’s a free countryso fuck anyone who tries to tell you where you should live.

And so, being the lazy fuck I am, and not having a lot of money, not wanting to leave the neighborhood, and not wanting to get murdered, my options are fairly limited with bars and venues to visit. I generally like all the spots that my fellow Bushwick exploitationists tend to congregate, such as Northeast Kingdom, Life Cafe, Goodbye Blue Monday, Wreck Room, Wyckoff Starr, The Archive, Kings County, and the new Bodega wine and beer bar. Not to mention all the various house parties in the neighborhood. But in the past year, I’ve found that out of anywhere local I tend to enjoy myself at the new spot Tandem the most.

Tandem

Tandem has only been around for a year, it’s off the beaten path in Bushwick, near Knickerbocker and Troutman, and upon first glance it seemed like pure evil. Such a sleekly designed bar and restaurant in the middle of the fucking ‘ghetto’ will surely drive property value up triple in the coming years. But you know what? I don’t care anymore. That’s right, I don’t care if this place displaces every resident within it’s radius. In NYC, when a new bar applies to start in a neighborhood, they have to hold a town hall meeting, and if the community objects against it, they can’t set up shop. So, the community didn’t object, and Tandem set up shop. It’s as simple as that. If the community had a problem with this bar they should have stopped it, because they could have. FOR FREE. It’s the responsibility of a community to understand these situations, and just like me, they’re lazy and negligent. So fuck it, let what happens happen….

And to fully expand on the brutal amount of gentrification I’m willing to invite to the neighborhood, my tale this month is about the odd bender I had with my future lawyer, Josh. Josh is Harvard educated, currently studying law at The University of Chicago, and I’m totally encouraging him to move here after he graduates. You know why? Because I like being around smart people, smart people tend to be interesting, and Ivy League educated people tend to be smart. And Josh so happens to be a fucking working class dude who worked his way up through academia the hard way, working as a property inspector for several years. And fuck anyone who’s going to tell people like us where to live and where not to live. But despite his education, he’s relatively poor too. But not for long, that lucky fuck. I should have went to law school….

Anyway, this past week, I haven’t had a phone. I recently went on an all expenses paid trip to Fire Island with my girl and my buddy’s ex-girlfriend in the hopes of having a wild orgy in paradise. Pretty awful, I know, but what can I say? Upon excitedly jumping into the Atlantic Ocean for the first time all summer, I felt my phone writhing in vibratory death in my left pocket. Not to mention, my girl got incredibly sick and had to be rushed to the hospital.

Anyway, the same day as we’re leaving the island, Josh is coming from the airport, and he ends up losing all his luggage at the airport, and we can only communicate via instant message. My girl is going to bed, and she’s fine after the asthma attack from twelve hours previous, and knows that I’ve been planning for Josh to come visit for over a month. I feel kind of reluctant leaving, if anything happens, but she persists on me going out with my old friend. He gets to the house around 11pm, and wants to immediately eat somewhere nearby that’s really tasty. After walking to Wreck Room, Life Cafe and Robertas, which are all closing the kitchen as we arrive, he ends up getting a hot pastrami sandwich at Brooklyn Natural, but they totally lather it in mayonnaise, which royally fucks it up.

Now, Josh tends to have some of the best taste of anyone I know. Appreciating most of the same punk and indie rock I do, and hating most of the punk and indie rock I do, enjoys good food, good liquor, good films, good books, good art, good conversation, and good women. Just sitting outside on Bogart, Josh can’t help but eyeball all the pretty women walking to and fro, despite him being in a big-time relationship. Neither can I, ugh…. He wants to go to a good bar nearby, and catch up about things. The choice is obviously Tandem. I mean, Kings County is cool too, along with the other places I mentioned, but Josh tends to be quite the particular alcoholic, and Kings County doesn’t quite cut it with their selection.

So we walk along, and grab a road brew at a local bodega, where the clerk/owner gives Josh only two bucks back from his twenty. The clerk kindly apologizes, and I remind Josh that he’s gotta keep on his feet here. The clerk could have honestly been mistaken, there’s no way of knowing. We drink road brews as I ramble on about the various disasters on Fire Island, and we come to Tandem. Generally, I’d probably be carrying a small flask with me to any bar, during this economic crisis I’m in. I probably shouldn’t be drinking at all. But Josh, on this very night, has officially completed all the work in his first year of law school so celebrations are in order. And god-damn do I wish I could buy him a few rounds, as I have a long and awesome history with Josh. He’s a very generous soul, and I desperately want to pay back that generosity someday.

So we walk in, and to my surprise, it’s a totally gay party, which I haven’t seen at Tandem thus far. A couple dudes are totally on the bar only in g-strings, dancing away. It makes sense, since the Pride Parade is coming up this next weekend. I ask Josh if it’s cool, testing to see how homophobic he may or may not be, but he’s down to hang. Which is rad, because at this point at 12am, I don’t really want to leave the neighborhood, and I’m not the straightest guy that ever lived either. Not that I’m looking to meet anyone, by ANY means, but I certainly don’t care if dudes shake their asses in front of me. For whatever reason, I think most people can tell we’re straight, so we don’t really get hit on.

We take a look at the liquor selection tonight, me and Josh both being whiskey drinkers. Josh insists on getting us both a Buffalo Trace. He drinks his whiskey neat, I drink mine with a little ice. Josh is immediately impressed by our bartender’s pour, which is almost the equivalent of two drinks. Good thing too, because that type of whiskey usually costs ten bucks or more a glass. Throughout the night, we end up each drinking Woodford Reserve, Michter’s, Basil Hayden’s, Maccallan (I forgot the year), and Knob Creek. To top it off, after drinking twelve total drinks of the best top shelf whiskeys in the joint, the bartender actually discounts the tab quite a bit, just because she’s rad. Now, some bar owners might think that this is not profitable for a bar, but I argue the other way. If you hook up your customers, they’re going to keep coming back, and they’re going to keep spending money. And they’re going to bring all their friends to come, and spend their money. So hook up your customers. Trust me, it works.

Okay, let me discuss a little about Tandem. I remember seeing this bar under construction while apartment hunting a year and a half ago. I honestly regret not trying to get a job there when it first opened. Upon opening, me and my girl went in and got a delicious meal of artichoke dip, mac and cheese, and a kale salad. The food was absolutely delicious, great in every way. But the portions were a little too small, given the price, but whatever. That’s life in the big city. I went back again for a solitary brunch one morning, and got a dish that had ham, eggs, cheese, in a bread-like souffle (I forgot what it’s called). It was really good.  And then one night, I went to Tandem for my friend’s zine party, and it was pretty rad, but still felt like just a neighborhood bar. But finally, a few months later, I went to a dance party on a Friday night, and it was the best dance party I’ve ever been to in NYC. Hands down. Better than Rubalaud, better than Ghetto Goth, better than Wierd, Misshapes, Mind Your Own Business, Smiths Night, better than any house party, loft party, night club, or any other fucking party I’ve been to in NYC. I’m convinced that Tandem has the best dance floor in NYC.

Tandem Dance Floor

But why you ask? The reason is the architecture of this venue. Tandem has a general bar in the front, with bar stools and tables, where people can eat till 11pm and drink till 4am. There’s also a private sort of area in the middle, which is great for make out sessions, or to have a long-winded and obnoxious discussion with your old friend (it’s multi-functional). Then, there’s a back dance room, which is set far off from the other parts. And there is NO seating, a really heavy duty fog machine, and a light machine. But really, what gets me, is every time I’ve been there, it’s incredibly dark. And when a dance floor is both incredibly dark and there isn’t a bunch of haters sitting in chairs judging people, the party can get going. Not to mention, there’s a fairly eclectic group of people in the bar and on the dance floor, which I tend to prefer. I don’t dance much these days, as my black girlfriend consistently has laughed at how white my dance moves can be. But almost every time I go to Tandem, I dance. It’s too dark for anyone to really see what you’re doing. So it’s perfect for both the incredibly confident and the incredibly self-conscious person to dance. Sadly, at this point, the dance parties are only on Friday and Saturday nights. Good DJs too, if you dig vintage dance music (I certainly do).

Tandem is the only club I will go to on a Friday or Saturday night. Every bar and night club in Manhattan SUCKS on Fridays and Saturdays; every single one is packed with jerks. A lot of them suck in Brooklyn too. The only options are house parties, art events, or Tandem, in my book. On this particular night, there was a ton of dancing in the back room, and I recognized this one girl who was only wearing hot pants, but shied away from small talk with her. Josh and I opted to just sit around and chat in the middle room. Nothing entirely crazy happened, just me and Josh discussing music and art for hours upon end, getting incredibly drunk, closing down the bar. Then we stumbled to a bodega, got a few more beers, ate breakfast sandwiches and drank beers in Maria Hernandez park as the sun came up, and ended up passing out. One of my friends that night, had invited me to a really wild party with tons of cocaine, drugs, women getting naked, and soul music. He showed me pictures the next day, and was bummed I didn’t come. It would have been fun, don’t get me wrong, but who knows? Maybe I would have done some shit I would regret later. Most importantly, I wouldn’t have gotten to catch up with my friend, I wouldn’t have heard about all the rad law school shit he’s learning, and how he might fight evil property owners in the future. In my book, an insightful conversation beats a crazy party hands down. At Tandem, you can accomplish both.

Locations in Brooklyn

Tandem Bar
236 Troutman Street
Brooklyn, NY 11237

(718) 386-2369
http://tandembar.net
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Northeast Kingdom
18 Wyckoff Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237-2635

(718) 386-3864
http://north-eastkingdom.com
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Life Cafe
983 Flushing Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11206-4792

(718) 386-1133
http://lifecafe.com
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Goodbye Blue Monday
1087 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY 11221-3013

(718) 453-6343
http://www.goodbyeblue.com/wordpress
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Wreck Room
940 Flushing Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11206-4706

(718) 418-6347
http://www.wreckroombrooklyn.com
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Wyckoff Starr
30 Wyckoff Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237-2646

(718) 484-9766
Google Maps
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The Archive Cafe and Independent Video Store
49 Bogart Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206

(718) 381-1944
Google Maps
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Kings County
49 Bogart Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206-3836

(718) 418-8823
Google Maps
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Bodega
24 Saint Nicholas Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11237

(646) 924-8488
http://thebodegawinebar.wordpress.com
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Roberta’s Pizza
261 Moore Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206-3816

(718) 417-1118
http://www.robertaspizza.com