it began as two cigarettes for as many unfortunate DJs.
it is a wonderful thing to be bored silly with friends, who will sit with you, silently, as you all stare at the walls, or the sea. it is a wonderful thing to have friends who will stand with you silently, as you watch cute young people dancing to horrible beats, or the interior of the club, or its lighting, the rapid combination of strobe and colored lamps that blur the edges of everyone, to the beat, so much like being in a car accident at night, the details of crashing pushed together by the flashes of bad lighting, inside and out, yet the drift of the whole experience unmistakable: disaster. when you know it's going to happen to you, it can be delicious to watch it unfold, let one's eye be caught by those blurry edges, let the sliding around you coalesce while you decide exactly what kind of drift you are seeing.
i'd not seen anyone corkscrew their spine like that, to the beat, since london. god, if only little red corvette would come on right now. if only i could be in england at the moment. i would jump out there, shake and spin like a pro, too, the way a body can move after a long massage, or i last did in london, for an admirer or two, to that particular song, letting it all hang out in a familiar country. and here i was, in such alien american territory, so unlike my long-lost brothers in england, where i could let it hang out with family, here i was a true foreigner: unfamiliar gay-dance music, frightening clothing, scary faces. yet i remembered that i like these unfamiliar environments too. it's a challenge that i face, a fear, or perhaps simply a lazy inertia, that i've seen keep me from doing so many thing. i know it like my own face, or the taste of the cigarette i was smoking. i have learned to make myself get in there. and with friends (family) it can be fun.
and i was about to jump in, and i knew why. it was a lot to absorb. the anticipation of it made me so suddenly excited my eyes began to water, my throat tightened. actually the interior of my throat was shaking; i don't think even jennie saw it; i know for certain this dancing queen didn't. i began to raise the cigarette very slowly, carefully, like i was a smoking robot queen, a simulatron of capote or warhol, and in doing so was able to push the excitement deeper. the smoldering stick was a leash: i would not dance until it was finished: i would not finish the cigarette anytime soon. someone would later say that desire ends in satisfaction, and, so premonitioned, i was prolonging my desire, like the beach resisting the rising tide at night, the dark waves spilling around the small dunes, engulfing the ridgelike sand walls, slowly eroding them from behind, with only the long lines of white foam to signal that something is disappearing, and something taking its place. the endless transition between two absolutes. i could not for my life remember why i had been so upset last week.
i tried to smoke even more slowly, slower than the cigarette would burn. the need to fight a battle i was going to lose, but lose to great satisfaction, sparked new ideas, ones some would probably call hallucinations. my eyes began to tear up as i watched the young guy's actions, deforming his body, revealing his lean muscles under an athletic shirt, in time. my hand began to shake, a little from fear, and i was only halfway through. i do not usually smoke. the young guy was in, and i wanted to go in. he had never been to london, i wanted to take him. his leaning body, ever falling: god he even reminded me of when aaron hit that guy with his bat, how he fell to the sidewalk, arms and feet in the wrong place once down, the whole thing a rhythm, a hit, that took up a shirt's tails and revealed the guy's muscles through a sudden twist. i could feel my pants getting tight.
so many of my lovers would give so much to see me like this, about ready to lose it while only standing and smoking, getting ready with only my eyes, all the while holding myself down, like a dog holding his own collar. and looking at the sea at night, i could finally tell you i loved you, middle of the alphabet man, two states away.
my first architecture professor said it to me: the worst part of a charette is the feeling of isolation. at the time, i had no idea what he was talking about, because i was in a room with other architecture students. my idea of paradise.
of course, i have a life now. architectural charette means i have less time for living that life. life is on hold. and with no boyfriend to bring me dinner, i'm left to get my kicks by going to my favorite thai restaurant for the third time this week and fill up on some manhattan bachelor comfort food. while there, sitting in the window, looking at all the people at the street fair on ninth avenue, i get really blue, seeing all these people with nothing better to do than buy bad pillows, strings of cheap beads, and delicious fried oreos. what happened to my life, what spat me here, eddied in a swirl of glorious work that keeps me trapped for weeks on end?
for me, that work is usually produced in the office, with a client, in a continuum of contact. it is only design competitions where one is trapped, alone or with your collaborators (who are sick of seeing you after day three), and the only thing you have to look forward to is meals. even email brings little solace: an invitation to a party or a "hey, where have you been?" is enough to make me feel that my life is in a rut.
in fact, it's only on charette where life universally sucks. no matter that your professional career has never looked better, or if you have an idea for this competition you personally are in love with, one that could actually win the competition you are entering, given the right confluence of juror moods, color selection, and whatever is running in the new york times that weekend. perhaps it's the hourly infusion of caffeine, the excess of sugar pops and entenmen's softee powdered donuts (too far to go for the tasty gourmet donut factory donuts at my favorite coffee shop), or the need to relieve myself several times a day, but from this seat, on this monitor, with this dirty mousepad, it all looks pretty bleak. no boyfriend, no time to look, therefore no life.
this charette comes one week after my last rugby weekend, one that saw me score my first tries. (actually, i scored a hat trick. it was very much like my dreams about scoring, except johnny wilkinson wasn't in the try zone to hug and kiss me, with tongue). the rush of camaraderie--either half-nude on the bus driving us around that day, or at the eagle drinking 7 beers out of a guy's boot (when one scores a hat trick, there is just that much more drinking to do)--has been replaced by a chamber devoid of even an echo, a chamber known as MY LIFE. (hey, you are supposed to laugh now, but i can't: too much caffeine, and i'm lonely. laugh for me.) and so, my little family of homo athletes is suddenly disappeared, and i have no choice but to be lonely, even if i have occasional design company in the form of one of my collaborators, also a rugger.
these ideas about my life, ideas that seem strange or silly at other periods, or i should say this single fixation, that of boyfriend, comes at me from all angles, and to some probably betrays delirium. but it's so very, very real!! if i visit the johnny wilkinson homepage often enough, he will eventually come over and say hi. REFRESH...REFRESH...REFRESH...
i love this project enough to distract myself from more erratic thoughts (like these) but it's a constant struggle: why do i always feel so fucking alone? why are my loves so distant? and when will i finally fall in love with a man who can love me back?
okay, time's up. deadline approaches.
i never used to be one of those people who was constantly plugged into their music. in fact, i used to resent those folk: there are so many wonderful sounds in the city, why would you want to pull yourself out of them and just put your tracks in their stead?
of course, now i look at someone with a CD player and think HA! only sixteen tracks.
the city speaks. the sounds, from people or machines, create an environmental whole, one that appears to emanate from the streets, the avenues, their intersections, or from the faces of the buildings lining those streets and avenues, or their lobbies and apartments and offices, or below ground, the trains, the stations, the platforms. and all the people everywhere.
the sound of traffic, of rain on concrete, delivery trucks, construction cranes, buses braking, the hudson washing its manhattan sea wall, a construction dumpster being removed at 3am, a bar closing at 4, the C chugging into the canal street station, an old 2/3 express screeching through the 23rd street station, its doors rattling open at 14th or 34th, the people arguing about getting into the door at rush hour, the couple discussing their love affair in french.
to overlay one's music atop this orchestration--a set of vibrations always in some kind of time--is as presumptuous as correcting a stranger's grammar: it begs the comment that one should really become a better listener first, and ask a multitude of questions, before saying anything.
after some time, one begins to hear the absences. there are gaps in the click track which change the song as much as the hits do. the pause in my reply when a stranger yells "just jump the fucking turnstile", the soundless transaction of buying coffee from the familiar pakistani deli guy, the quiet way you turn your phone to face the person sitting next to you on the train in order to show them the time, or how your phone never rings with the call of a lover during the magic hour of 10 to 11 pm.
but this Little Device is relentless in its desire to convince me to listen to it, too. inside is an audio density to rival that of the city. it wants me to ignore the yo-yo of loudness and silence and pay attention to its stream of songs. it marvels me the wonders of simple juxtaposition. that is its one and only trick. it is a trick i am predisposed to, true, but it is perhaps more attractive to me that it is a trick this Little Pill will never give up on. consistency is its own reward, and one that speaks to my heart, because it is as close as the device can get to habit. in fact, after all my city-listening practice, i often times go well beyond a willing suspension of disbelief, and let myself fully mistake randomness for intention.
a night sky's stars are beautiful too, and true, so why not the fourteen hundred song shuffle?
the city is completely indifferent to my reverie. this is its charm, ever and always. it oftentimes intrudes on my device-listening, making it impossible to hear anything on any E train (the one i'm most often on) because of a consistent and high-pitched intercom buzz, or in any station on the 1/9 line. conditions streetside vary from completely quiet to completely full, oftentimes swinging between these states several times a minute. yet, when my secret escapes from the city's sounds are allowed to happen, it turns out that the brilliant connections Little Power makes are inextricable from the places at which they happen. the city pulls me back again: a sequence of movement, like turning to take the first leap up a subway's stair, causes the transition between song tracks to click together, which in turn causes an emotional sequence to surface. it could be anything, bliss or despair, don't care. it can make me fall over.
this Little Thing is trouble at times. yet again, i can relate to it. it tugs at the city's riposte. the city in turn recedes, its reality split apart by a confluence of songs with words which open up entirely alien scapes. i'm going to work, down an escalator, but instead step off onto ohio fields, or become seated in the interior of an automobile, or am in the orbit of some dying planet. i really could end up anywhere.
i only have a limited number of songs. without its tug and tie to the city, the limited number of combinations would be uninteresting. sometimes i grow tired.
what continues to hold me, like a vine, or a wedding ring, is my ongoing need to be the performer. i never disappear in this tug-of-war. in fact, i choose to be the star of the show, over and over, every single song ever. i am the Beatles (John), Lou Reed, Black Francis, Kim Deal, Pete Shelley, Sarah Cracknell, Dudley Klute, Grace Jones, Gary Numan, Jeff Tweedy, Prince, Missy, Aaliyah, Roxanne Shante, Sheila E, or any one of a hundred and seventy four band leaders. it's why i rarely use this Little Lovelie in my apartment: i need an audience. and they always go wild.
2. moving forward
ps all work in this domain is copyright chad the minx.