When I walk my little dog, I fear I look like Mickey Rourke. Not Mickey Rourke exactly, but someone like that. Someone buying heroin.
Today I’m buying heroin. Joe “ran out”—sure, man. What can I say, he’s never been too good at sharing. Locked himself in his apartment; totally lost it; off joining soft cults to pad the breakdown. Kali Yuga’s coming. That’s what the internet says, he says, and he’s been writing out theories like if he stops his prong will explode. I don’t know. I haven’t hung around writers in months and it feels constructive. The best thing a writer can do is not hang out with other writers. That’s what Gary Indiana, the writer, says.
“You owe me a thousand dollars,” my dealer says, texting for the thirtieth time.
In my situation, a person might want to win the lottery. My want has turned to need. In fact, it’s imperative I win the lottery. Yet another reason I’ve avoided writers: for the most part, they have horrible luck, and very little money.
I’m on the train reading Gary’s old book. Rent Boy. What’s obvious from the story, is that it’s this unlucky constitution of writers that leads them to joining scenes. They can’t catch a break. Their rich parents paid for the MFA, now they need to look like someone. “He’s really talented or really committed to the delusion he is,” main character Danny says. They go to readings and parties and make the right friends. Strength in delusional numbers.
Well, I could use the insulation. I’m going to need to start blending in if I want to keep my ass intact and attached to my body. Definitely can’t be looking like Mickey Rourke out here on the street.
Off to Clandestino.
I get to the bar and slide into a table. Get out my copy of Rent Boy, start reading as a disguise. No one talks to the asshole reading. I’m like the guy with the guitar. At the party. Everyone’s here. No one’s just one thing. They’re not writers, they’re actor/screenwriters. They’re sociopath perfumers. They have family money and wear duck hunting hats. I head to the bathroom.
“This scene is a whore house. People get into it, desperately. To get out of it what they can.”
Three fat lines, down the schnoz. Immediately, I’m feeling better. More than myself. A lot of the people here want to curate their lives down to the salad. They want a big rubber-stamp-say on “myself.” A nice clean way to fit into the scene. But, I read, hiding out in stall, there’s an “indifference of the Cosmos to the feeble efforts of human beings to organize life.”
Gary Indiana has never been a part of a scene and he’s come out just fine. In fact, he’s having a resurgence right now. Just got interviewed in the New York Times, for Christ sake. He’s made a career out of exile.
On the first page of Rent Boy, he famously (allegedly) calls Kathy Acker a cunt. This book is more than a disguise. It’s a roadmap to do this thing without any hideous schmoozing.
All you have to do is kill all your friends. Betray your family. Eat alone. That’s how you become a writer now.
My dealer texts me: “I know what you are.” Which is pretty rich, because I don’t even know that.
How to blend in?
Christian Lorentzen said, somewhat recently, that the dominant style in American literature is careerism. He has a big career so he doesn’t speak to me. Right now, I’m grateful for that.
As every poor unconnected person does these days, I’ve had to learn how to hustle.
“Between the life of hustling and everything else there is a kind of invisible barrier.” Danny from the book says that. In obscurity, you have to be many different types of people. To sneak inside many different rooms.
I’m in this room, blending in. Don’t think my dealer could recognize me if he tried. I think about how I’m going to pay him. I use my body to snort more lines. My body lets me use it. Maybe I could be a rent boy. I’m sure me and my body could come to an understanding. As I think it over, Josie the model shoots amphetamines straight through her jeans.
I like to hang out with models. Models, like Chip in Rent Boy, understand the “strange desires of men.” They live a life of the body.
There are three models at my table. Clandestino is a place I visit to see the devil in real time. So I know how to make friends, if and when that’s surely needed. In Rent Boy, there’s the Emerson Club. They all hunt there, want to be there. They do anything.
Everyone is trying to belong. Trying to find a break, something to free them of everyday life. I’m chugging Pepto Bismol.
Rich Kid Bobby walks in. He’s very drunk.
“‘Who wants to blow a Rothko painting?’” he asks, seeing me with the book, offering his favorite quote.
He squeezes into the booth. Everyone’s getting a jumbo dose of life story, when I start to drift off. Every time I’m around a richoid these days, I get the overwhelming urge to try and extort them. I won’t actually extort anyone, probably, but it’s a fun little game. I demand they give me ten thousand dollars, then watch their faces. It’s fun. You get to see them try and guess if the revolution has started. Who knows, maybe.
“Give me a thousand dollars,” I say to Rich Kid Bobby. He’s in the middle of a sermon about the benefits of eating raw carrots. Twenty-six minutes, nothing but carrots. Everyone needs an identity. An identity fits you into the scene. The scene turns you into something. And besides, “you have to be a pretty big whore to have any type of monument built to you these days.” I’m sure he’s in a K-hole.
He stares at me.
Gets out his wallet.
Gives it to me.
I can’t believe it.
I feel like a new man. I can pay my debt. I can be free. But, I can also go see Joe and buy the heroin he says he doesn’t have.
What would Chip do, I think, reading a page. Early on in the book, he’s established as the big time hustler. He uses everything at his body’s disposal. He lives a life of the body. It’s not some abstraction. He wants to be someone in New York.
Do I want to be someone? My dealer texts me that he will find me and it won’t be good. Says it’s now fifteen hundred.
You live on too long as one thing and you become associated with it. A scene can attach itself to you. Turn you into something. If you’re not careful, you’ll wind up going to the New School, paying 3,300 a month for rent.
I’m getting paranoid, so I leave Clandestino. I follow one of the girls over to Beckett’s. He’s having another final party. Maybe the thirteenth now. She wants to check out the scene there.
Down the hole.
All the sudden, I’m sitting on a couch talking about Franzen—who I’ve never read and never will. I’m smiling, dabbing my finger in speed, thinking about going to the New School.
This is why you need a plan. Danny had a plan, in Rent Boy.
Let’s go do more lines, one of the models says. Hallelujah. A plan has come down. She’s modeled for Eckhaus Latta, and everyone associates her with that. She’s wearing a very small T-shirt from Hollywood Gifts: Make yourself hard to kill.
Recently, in Interview Magazine, Gary said America is hobbled by our worship of “exceptionalism.” We think exceptionalism can make us someone, a person who can’t be destroyed. But I know, because Gary knows, the real ass you sell is your soul. You sell it to be in the group. And don’t get it back.
On the way home, I’m listening to Suicide’s “Ghost Rider.” I get a text from Jon Lindsey that some kid passed out in their own puke at Café Forgot. I scroll and read that Uncensored NYC got in trouble for talking nice about Celiné, the writer, on their radio show. Because yes, Celiné was French, but for a bit he was also a Nazi.
I’m glad I’m not a part of that scene.
I decide I don’t want to belong or have a career. People with careers can have them taken away. Somebodies can be found. So congratulations to me, I guess.
In the end, I buy an old skimmer from Joe. And just a little heroin. I want my stories and life to blend together, until they’re inseparable. I realize if Gary didn’t live the way he did, away from the scenes, he might not have met people with Russian eggs full of coke, scat queens, tricks who rip John’s anuses with their unclipped toes. He wouldn’t have got all those good stories to write about.
My dealer texts me again. A skull and eggplant and I think I know what he means. But he won’t find me. Not after tonight, all the scenes.
I walk down the street with my dog.