Published Mar 01, 2000I'm on an Air Transat flight to Vancouver, shooing away a squawking chicken that is running loose in the aisle. The inside of this huge jetliner looks like a cheap coffee maker. The plastic components strain and shudder as we dive suddenly to avoid colliding with another plane from an equally cheap Canadian airline with substandard radar equipment. And to top it all of, the in-flight movie is Remember the Titans.
Actually, with the sound turned down, Remember the Titans is really great pornography. Both the white and black male members of the high school football team in this movie are super hot, and in one scene, which is indecipherable without the dialogue I refuse on principle to pay five dollars for the headset two of the whities aggressively lock lips as the black boys go into a frenzy. I for one am getting a boner.
This potentially ill-advised trip to Vancouver is the first one for me since the last ill-advised trip to Vancouver I took last August. Actually, that turned out to be a very memorable two weeks, despite the fact that I can't remember much about it. I swear if I didn't write things down and take pictures, I wouldn't remember anything at all.
My excuse for visiting the loveliest yet harshest of Canadian cities this time is an invitation from local artist Frederick (that's with two W's) Cummings, who has scrimped and saved plane fare to bring me out to participate in an art show at Video In. In the column I wrote about my last trip, I may have inadvertently mentioned a story about Fwedewick that I'd heard somewhere concerning a little voluntary manslaughter he may or may not have committed when he was a teenager, a tale which turned out to be false and whose publication drove his poor mother to tears. For the past week or so I've had the lingering suspicion that Fwedewick has concocted an elaborate scheme to bring me out west so that he can assassinate me for besmirching his good name. I have decided to come anyway, because eventually we must all come face to face with our assassins. I'm relieved when my host for my five day stay, Sebastian, a dashing young Polish man, hands my a flyer for the event when he picks me up at the airport, proving that everything is legit I hope.
Sebastian drives me to his house off Commercial Drive and shows me his bedroom one wall of which is papered with a tropical island scene from Homo Depot which he has generously offered me to use during my stay. After I take a nap under the palm trees, Fwedewick drops over and the cartoons begin. We are joined by local sensation Michael Venus of the House of Venus, hairdresser extraordinaire by day and stunning drag queen by night who hosts Sunday nights at some lounge. He's looking very left coast casual in his Dallas cowboys baseball hat and street clothes.
We hit the town, and the town hits back. Our first stop, as always, is the Dufferin Tavern, just in time to catch the last stripper a black man with a big cowboy hat and a small dick. Only in Vancouver. Then we head to the Odyssey, a rather nondescript gay watering hole with a heated patio and friendly drug dealers. It's not hard to get skis in this international port, and I'm not talking about downhill or cross-country. ("Skis" is what my young graffiti friends in New York call cocaine: coke = snow = skis. Get it?) The coke in Vancouver is as pure as snow, and not cut with laxatives or cheap dope like it often is in Toronto and New York. It's so civilized. We descend into the bowels of Vancouver after hours, but I won't gore you with the bore-y details. Fwedewick ends up leaving his bag in the trunk of a taxi, which contains a lot of the material he's been preparing for the last two months for the art show he's putting on the following two nights. He's pretty philosophical about it though.
The next couple of days are spent preparing, Lucy-and-Ethel-style, for the big multi-media extravaganza that Fwedewick has masterminded. Such preparations largely involve me sitting in the car listening to the radio while Fwedewick and Sebastian lug huge pieces of art and equipment in and out of the trunk and the backseat. Since my recent trip to New York, where I was researching a story about graffiti kids for Vice magazine, I have been obliged to stay up all night doing drugs with the wild children and sleep until late into the afternoon. Consequently I try not to strain myself too much. I haven't seen the sun in quite some time very shadow of the vampire. A friend suggested that I should move to the Arctic Circle so that I can at least experience an hour or two of sunshine each day.
After the dress rehearsal, we end up back at the Duff where I espy a hot young man sporting a tight white wife beater and backwards baseball cap in the transparent smoking room. Our eyes lock for a brief moment as I pass through to the stripper room. Later at the bar we strike up a conversation. As it turns out, he is also a graffiti kid, and like my New York pals, was once in maximum security lockdown for two years for various indiscretions, arrested three days after his eighteenth birthday. He also used to be a pro skateboarder with big sponsors, but his career was cut short when he and his Ducati were mowed down by a reckless motorist. The doctors told him that he would never walk again, but he was back stolling in six months, boarding again in a year. He tells me that even his mother is a fan of my work, which is very Vancouver. Two other people on my trip, including a gorgeous graffiti writer named Smasha who offers to ink me for free, inform me that their mothers love me. It warms my cockles.
Unfortunately I can't go into too much detail about the time I spend with the graffiti kid because his mother might be reading this, not to mention his 18 year old fiancé. (When Fwedewick's mother heard that I was in town, she asked him to bring me over so that she could ring my scrawny neck.) Anyway, you can get your mind out of the gutter, because it was all very innocent. Not everything is about sex you know. Although I do have some rather special photographs of him posing in front of some palm trees and a blue lagoon.
As we're watching three strippers in a row at the Dufferin with micro-penises, the graffiti kid turns to me and says, "My dick is bigger than the three of theirs combined." That's what I like to hear.
The art show is fun, as all art shows should be, with all sorts of dirty super 8 and found footage of nuclear bombs going off and photography of transexuals and lewd performance art and whatnot. Fwedewick, who is always carrying a round a can of ravioli or something for his dinner, but never has a can opener, gets up on stage and, among other things, empties a can of pork and beans into his underwear. Now that's what I call art. I've been roped into giving an artist's talk, so I deliver the same routine I came up with for a speaking gig at the ICA in London in December, about how I inadvertently became a pornographer without ever really intending or even wanting to. I show clips from my movies, half of which have been pulled from all the shelves in British Columbia over the years. The audience is really receptive and earnest, and a lot of people come up to me and tell me how much they love what I do and that I changed their lives and prevented them from committing suicide and whatnot. It kind of makes me feel like slitting my own wrists.
I'm feeling exhausted and anti-social and am about to leave when this drunken woman in an alarmingly low-cut purple blouse who had been heckling Fwedewick during his performance asks me if I'll accompany her to the bank machine. She's kind of psychotic, but then the beauty of Vancouver is that you can be completely certifiable and nobody notices. Although she had been bending my ear earlier about how she loves to video tape herself naked in the house masturbating and God knows what else, I agree to chaperone her because we're in a deserted, industrial part of town where there could be marauding truckloads of lumberjacks looking for a quick gang bang. She drops her credit card twelve times on the way to the bank - I know because I count - and then spends ten minutes trying to get into the machine and another ten trying to get the money. She takes out six hundred dollars by mistake instead of sixty, and on the way back to the art space waves it around in the air proclaiming how dangerous it is to be walking around with that much money, despite my quiet admonitions for her to put the wad in her purse. I suggest to Fwedewick that he roll her to pay for the outstanding debts incurred by the show, but I don't think he got around to it.
The rest of the weekend is spent lollygagging around doing not much of anything productive, aside from having lunch with famous writer Michael Turner, who is writing a script for me to direct. Later that night outside the Dufferin, Fwedewick gets busted for painting his tag on some drab alley wall that definitely needed some colour anyway. He's despondent, but I assure him that it's an absolute coup, that he's arrived as a spray painter. That cheers him up a little.
On Sunday Sebastian drives me up to Whistler so I can see the mountains. When we get there we sit in a bar and pose as snowboard instructors. It's gay ski week, so this faggot anesthesiologist from San Diego tries to pick us up for a three-way, but we decline because he looks kind of AIDS-y. (I'm sure he's perfectly disease free, but some gay men insist on styling themselves like AIDS victims anyway. It's AIDS chic.) I eat poutine in the rain instead.
That night we attend the swan song of Michael Venus' club, which is packed. For some reason I'm a celebrity in Vancouver, so people are lining up to talk to me even if they don't know who I am. One girl asks me what band I'm in, and when I try to explain I'm not a musician she nods politely and then asks me what band I'm in again. All week Fwedewick has been protecting me from the hoi polloi; whenever somebody comes within ten feet of me, he snaps at them, "stop gushing!" or "starfucker!" It's kind of like having a bodyguard, albeit like the one who attacked David Spade with a stun gun. The drag queens here are tall and statuesque and harsh, named after concentration camps and war-torn cities: Treblinka, Beirut. Or at least that's what I hear in my drunken state. And if that isn't what they're called, it should be.