- America's 99 problems, a ranked list.
- A map showing which bands enjoy the most outsized support in each American state.
So no, I did not go up to the church and ask for directions and risk being kidnapped into an 80's horror novel. The entire world was telling me to fuck that noise, so that's precisely what I did. I noped right out of there, went to the fruit-stand and had them write me new directions down on a tourist map of the area like a reasonable person. I followed that, got to the tire place, had the tire replaced, turned my music up loud, then drove straight to Ballard, two hours late yet weirdly relieved.
The first person I was visiting in Washington was a stranger I met on-line. I didn’t want to arrive and immediately risk sympathy, so I updated my OKCupid profile so I seemed slightly less crazy and pinged a few people before leaving Canada. "Hey, wanna hang out?" The usual let's get into trouble sort of note. Someone named Matthew replied. He sent me his address and we made plans for dinner.
I like Ballard. It's a neat little neighborhood populated with restaurants, bars, and coffee shops that I think of as friendly places. It is most notable in my personal mythology for housing the Tractor Tavern, the venue that annually hosts Mike as That 1 Guy when he's not playing at Neumos. (It is from that focal point that my explorations have expanded, so my knowledge of the place is mostly based on the hours of 9 pm to 9 am and may not be useful to everybody.)
The restaurant wasn't ready for us, so I brought Matthew to a gelateria I especially like, and we got a couple of cones and parked in the window to chat and wait. He was telling me about his time in Naples when our conversation was interrupted by someone walking by in a bright red costume. "That guy looks familiar," I said, but wasn't entirely sure. Maybe we had met at a party? Then another costumed person walked past carrying a giant red banner and he looked familiar too. Nah. What are the odds? It’s probably my programming. Costume = Interesting = My Attention. Then Jay Benham walked past and I banged on the glass.
Seattle, population 3 million. And out of the entire city, where I know an entirely of 50 to 100 people by sight and only half that by name, I had stumbled across the Kaos Kids. Or rather, they had stumbled across me. An aptly named and truly riotous Burning Man group if there ever was one, they were romping through Ballard on a Pisces themed Birthday Scavenger Hunt, stuffing themselves into unlikely places and taking absurd pictures with wooden sculptures of fish. Each team was led by a Pisces. The bright red team belonged to my buddy Big Dirty Sean.
So, though Naples sounded fascinating, I swept Matthew into their wake and accepted my new post as Sean’s red-team photographer. Wouldn’t you?
Soon we were on our way to The Kiss Cafe, where someone kissed Matthew in front of the sign, “we need a stranger!”, and the phone booth, into which we crammed the entire team, and the totem pole, where we piled everyone into an inevitable tower. But first, before we found any of those things, we encountered Tony & Jordan across the street! Tony, my ex, now lives in San Francisco. I cannot fathom the odds. They had come up for the birthday weekend. Surprise! At no point did either one of us know we were going to be in the same place at the same time.
Always a fun moment, getting to explain that the fellow across the street lifting his kilt and flashing his cock at your group is one of your favourite exes. Awesome. (Thank you, Tony. You bring the party.) As first introductions go, it could have been worse, but it might have been difficult to make it any better.
Next Matthew and I bailed for dinner, an easy thing at a Mexican place we both liked, and then I peeled off to reconnect with Kaos and Tony & Jordan at The Grizzled Wizard, a nerdly bar their friends run in Wallingford. Sugar came to meet me there and we chatted for awhile, leaning in to each other against the volume of the music, for comfort from our recent break-ups, for warmth and care and affection. I brought expensive chocolate and we caught up around the melting, gooey stuff. It is always a pleasure to see her. She had to run off to a dance festival, though, and I was stealing Tony & Jordan away as well, off to the onesie-themed Capitol Hill bar crawl.
I recently spent a week and a half in Seattle attempting to take care of Tony, who just had all four of his wisdom teeth yanked out. It was, oddly, good times, even though I was sleeping on a cot on the floor and he was drifting in and out of hazy clouds of drug-hammered pain. As a bonus I tried get something new done every day, like hauling all the art downtown to be framed or finally getting the upholstery cleaned, that would improve his life but that he’d never get around to doing himself. I’m not sure how much success there was to be found in a week, but at least the surface changes were drastic. (Now if only I could bring the same zeal to my own housekeeping).
We also went to Seacompression together with Aleks, (who wore my Sputnik costume, ten points for giving it to a Russian to wear!), and danced our fool selves into exhaustion. The art there was amazing, as expected, but where we spent the most time was fairly simple, a boat filled with pillows that sat on the ground between three of the bars, stocked with two bamboo fishing rods and a bucket of “bait”, doughnuts, cookies with holes in the middle, and pretzels. It was surprisingly comfortable, (lending credence to my one-day-in-forever plan of using a small, hanging boat as a bed), and a ridiculously fun way to make new friends. I was hooked in with a chocolate doughnut, but when it was my turn I found the best return was in the cookies. Less of a commitment.
Tony and I leave for New York tonight. Here is our itinerary so far. Please, if you’re around, come join us! Make plans with us! Take over our question marks!
Aside from the shows and an overwhelming desire to eat at Shopsin’s, (I Like Killing Flies), our itinerary is very open. We figure any unaccounted chunks of time can be filled with sillies from the ZoomDoggle Fun List NYC.
6 am – Arrival.
Noon – Lunch with Mordicai.
7 pm – Sleep No More. Punchdrunk, a British site-specific theater company, has taken over three abandoned warehouses and crafted them into an insanely detailed, art deco, film noir, one hundred room Hitchcockian hotel, for a haunting, immersive performance loosely shadowed on Macbeth. The level of detail sounds astounding, especially given the wide range of rooms, (everything from a sweets shop to a hospital room, and the witches have a rave). According to the NY Times review, “everyone who attends “Sleep No More” is required to wear (and keep on) a Venetian carnival-style mask. You are also asked not to utter a word during the two and a half hours you are given to follow the characters of your choice from room to room. But you are encouraged to poke around in corners and trunks and bookcases, and allowed to get as close as (in)decency permits to the lithe-bodied denizens of this chic spook house. (Just don’t touch them, though they may well reach out and touch you.)”.
?? – Walk along Highline park.
8 pm – Dances of Vice presents their 4th Anniversary bash, Enchantment Under The Sea, a Back To The Future-esque 50’s themed junior/senior prom at Morningside Castle. A teaser from GeekChicDaily says, “… like Marty McFly’s hand, tickets will vanish fast. Don’t be a slacker. Get yours before the clocktower strikes the 11th hour. It’s gonna be heavy.”*
?? – Visit CB I Hate Perfume.
5 pm – The COILHOUSE Black & White & Red All Over Fundraising Ball at the velvet drenched Red Lotus Room in Brooklyn, featuring music and spectacle galore from people like Kim Boekbinder, Brian Viglione of the Dresdon Dolls, Molly Crabapple, Jessica Joslin, Muffinhead, and the Purevile! Girls. “A Love Letter To Alternative Culture” come to life! This just might turn out to be the party of the year.*
7 pm – Fuerza Bruta, an extraordinary show, absurd, messy, and very, very fun. There’s bright lights, loud music, dancing, confetti drop bombs, explosions, someone gets shot, it rains indoors, and a swimming pool comes down from the ceiling. It’s kind of A Thing. I loved it when I saw it in May, (thanks to Duncan for telling me about it), and now Tony is determined that we go.
9 pm – Back to the Coilhouse Ball!
Noon – Lunch with Mordicai.
5 pm – Departure.
*There’s a special $25 package deal available for general admission to both Enchantment Under The Sea and The Black & White & Red All Over Ball.
The New York whirlwind weekend seems to have sprouted wings! It just so happens that Dances Of Vice is throwing a party the Saturday we’re there, Enchantment Under The Sea, a 50’s prom themed gala at Morningside Castle, and then the Coilhouse crew has just scheduled their Black & White & Red All Over Fundraising Ball for the Sunday! Given that I planned this about as carefully as a drunken carpenter, this is brilliant luck. Apparently there couldn’t be better timing!
Today’s other good news: I’ve scored a ride to Burning Man with my friend Jordan.
“Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” – Paul Brandt
As unlikely and unexpected as it might be, I have even more good news! Not only am I going to Burning Man, I’m going back to New York. Not as time-serious a trip as last time, but a weekend jaunt concocted just to see the PunchDrunk show, Sleep No More, an astoundingly intricate 100 room retelling of Macbeth.
Ridiculous, a bit, as it was playing while I was there, but I didn’t find out until after my trip, when Mordicai attended then posted about it, so now I’m flying all the way back just to see it! It’s wiping out my emergency savings and much of what I earned as the photographer at Mishka’s wedding, but I figure that after three years of scraping, living in crazy poverty to pay back Heart of the World, it’s about damned time I starve for a good reason, something that makes me happy instead of twisting me bitter. It also helps that I’ve been managing to move forward with surprising rapidity with Burning Man prep. Though I’ll still probably be scrounging until the last minute, (still no ride, still nowhere set to camp, etc), I think it will all be okay. I don’t think there’s going to be any reason to panic.
In a lucky turn, Tony’s going to come with me, which also makes my heart glad. I was willing to go alone, but I suspect it might have been a little bit of a tragedy, as Sleep No More is designed, down to the last bit of insane writing on the wall, to every minuscule atom of splendid performance, to be shared. Everyone that goes in walks a different path, discovers different scenes, finds different hidden treasures. Everyone gets a unique narrative, an incredible, very personal experience, so it’s extra important to be able to share. (I would probably go twice if I could even remotely afford it). I’m also getting contact lenses for the first time, all proper like, just so I can wear the mask. I’ve only worn them once before, found the learning curve to be a little bit crazy, but this time, I can barely wait. I’ve been dancing everywhere, ever since we booked our tickets.
We fly out of Seattle late Thursday evening, and arrive first thing, the morning of Aug 19th. (We’re staying in Greenwich and leaving Monday evening.) We have tickets to the Friday, 7 pm, Sleep No More show, and for the Sunday’s Fuerza Bruta, (because Tony wanted to see it, after my rave reviews). Besides that, we have nothing planned.
Are you there, too? What are you up to that weekend? Let’s visit!
Rise Up Fallen Angel, an imaginary exploitation film poster.
Yesterday was a good day. It started fraught with computer problems, the stupid sort that feel like steel wool endlessly scrubbing against the back of your eyes, but ended on a high note, with a visit to A. that left me feeling better than I have in weeks, to the point where I caught myself beaming at strangers all the way home, waving a broken stick of flowers I picked up off the ground. Oh dopamine, how I have missed you. It’s left me feeling super productive and significantly less like I’ve been crushed by steel plates. Not quite myself again, but a step in the right direction. I got up at eight and have been working on neglected tasks ever since, answering e-mail, putting away laundry, calling people, making plans, and continuing to tackle the broken hard-drives of idiotic doom*.
*First I could see the hard-drive, but not interact with it, then after Joshua worked on it an hour, it was discovered that the case was too old to be supported by Win7. Then, after the case was swapped, the drive, ostensibly a terabyte, refused to show up as anything but 1Gb, while the SeaGate software specifically meant to fix such errors has refused to run. Kill it with fire.
There’s been other good news, too. Tony’s going to be in town this weekend, up for a visit with me and Tamea, and staying here on Friday, the better for dancing and Saturday breakfast together. Apparently I’m being paid for my gig with The Short Story Long this weekend and my antique bureau should be selling soon, too, (see all my listings), which should go a distance towards clearing away my credit card bill and getting me down to Seattle for my NYC trip.
Unemployment has left me financially devastated this past year, so it will be especially delicious to finally shoot down some debts. To wit: EI sends me monthly letters, asking me to pay them back over a grand. ICBC calls every three weeks, reminding me to pay off $100 in fare evasion tickets someone put in my name while I was in Montreal. My credit card’s maxed out, a slow death that one, used up on groceries. I finally did all my taxes, dating back ten years, (minus 2010 and 2011), but through the magic of interest, late fees, and general tax evils, even after living below the poverty line for a decade, I still owe them $70. It seems like the worst part of being poor is that the system is set up to keep you there.
But back to the good stuff! David was just promoted to manager of the Yaletown Book Warehouse! Not only will he be finally making a living wage, soon he’ll be able to start saving to go back to school to be a primatologist. Related to books, but more personally, I got to meet Zsuzsi Gartner, one of my favourite authors, at her book launch for Better Living Through Plastic Explosives. She’s going to be doing a reading at the VPL main branch on May 11th that I’ve decided I cannot miss. Also, the Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret is hosting a pay-what-you-can, tickets-only-at-the-door show at the Roundhouse on Sunday, 2 pm. Would anyone like to come with?
The space shuttle Discovery had its final launch today. I watched from home, glued to my laptop screen, as the entire process played out over live streaming video from Florida, while Tony watched it with me over messenger, cheering for the crew from his Microsoft office in Redmond. We were a small slice of the future right then, together though separate, witnessing history through now common technology, eyes on an image televised live from the side of a rocket roaring with fire into outer space. The number of viewers at the foot of the screen declared that we’d shared the experience with over 30,000 other people. Beautiful. With that number there and Tony’s words on the screen, it was the first time in almost a week that I haven’t felt lonely.
Tonight consists of unpacking similarly to how yesterday was shaped around fitting things into suitcases, all things fractal, unfolding to limitless depths on the edge of a very great height, hands outstretched, my girlish heart aflutter, all wind, gravity, and power. A small break-down, page turned, chapter ended, an entire new book about to be written. I left much behind, small pieces of furniture, antiques, black and red, a crafted library of films, the gentle framework of an entire life, another city, an origami of possibilities, the word home engraved in stones. We rested briefly in the midst of scouring the apartment for my things, a dove outside, pure in the middle of a flock of pigeons, white like bone against a blue sky.
Today I cried for my city and fell in love a little bit and felt a weight on my heart as thick and suffocating as any poem. I was held, I was rejected, I cried for my city and in that moment was everything. This is the new, this place of surprise comfort and reliability, this strange mix of invisibility suddenly reversed, of truth and beauty bombs, no secrets, no delay. The new, but inevitable, even as I claimed it is not, as I tripped and fell, yet was caught. “Everything else is just filling in details.” I am afraid, but inside my concern seems to be freedom, seems to be a map of what I remember being, the word thrive, crackling, the electric incredible. Deep in the center of things, essential, past the pain, there is still strength.
Continuing to sell books, continuing to list new pieces of my apartment for sale. Tony’s things are almost all gone, the only things left are whatever’s still in the laundry. Every item that leaves my house lifts my spirits a little more. Gradually the mess, a fairly accurate way to judge my stress levels, is melting away as my life emerges from the chaos, the bones of a future beginning to show.