Published Nov 01, 2000What to write for the 100th anniversary of Exclaim!? Gee, it doesn't seem like 100 years since I started writing this scandalous, sordid little column or on second thought, maybe it does. For the sake of accuracy, it was in fact last century, not a century ago, when I was approached by Hal Kelly, the original arts editor of Canada's new free music magazine, to write a monthly dispatch about whatever happened to be on my mind. As I was smack dab in the middle of a quasi-nervous breakdown at the time, the results were somewhat uneven at first, to be charitable. But eventually I settled into what might be described as a style, and the words began to flow a little more fluidly. Now, sometimes sitting down to write it is a chore, other times it's therapy, still other times it's almost enjoyable, or on the verge of being enjoyable. But whatever it is, being allowed to write about anything I want without censure has been a definite plus. So for this anniversary issue, I guess I'll just continue to do what I do best: blab.
This month, it's a chore. I've just returned from six weeks on the road, and all I want to do is to continue to take drugs and have sex like the rock star I was destined to become but never did, and retreat into a little hedonistic plastic bubble. Unfortunately, I've never been able to indulge my more Dionysian impulses without an accompanying truck load of guilt, and I'm not even Catholic. Add to this the fact that I'm too old to handle the side effects of such behaviour anymore without heavy consequences (why, I ask myself daily, from a purely ontological point of view, does pleasure have to result, the morning after, in such pain?), and add that I am starting to reach a point of spiritual reckoning, peering daily into the abyss, and you have a recipe for disaster. It's also hard to get motivated when one believes, as I do now, that the world is at a cultural, spiritual, and moral nadir. What is the point of contributing? I guess I just have to continue slogging along, trudging through all the bullshit.
The first question I am asked in Vancouver, when I arrive directly from the airport at a party thrown in my honour, is "acid or ecstasy?" It is, in fact, a drink that I need, so I ask for a mere martini instead. The Helen Pitt Gallery, which has sponsored my trip here, is going through a bit of a financial crisis, so it has only been after several flight delays and cancellations that I've managed to materialise at all. So I guess we're celebrating, not that they need much of an excuse in this, the west coast capital of bliss. The host of the party, a far-out city planner in a perpetual state of poppers, is known for his whacked out weekend blasts, and they've come out of the woodwork to observe the visiting dignitary, dig. I just want to know where my goddamn hotel is.
I eventually succumb to the numb of ecstasy, and end up showing old super 8 movies of myself jerking off and getting fucked on the bedroom wall for all to see. I make the acquaintance of a local painter who as a juvenile delinquent, I will later overhear, once threw a Molotov cocktail into the bed of his gay foster parents while they were sleeping. Dying ensued. I told you gay parenting doesn't work. He seems like a nice enough fellow, even though his paintings do make Heironymous Bosch look like Norman Rockwell. I also strike up a conversation with a tiny cute blond youth who informs me he is one-sixteenth First Nations, of the Metis variety, which confers some status in this neck of the woods. His boyfriend is a Peruvian hunk with the body of a Greek god when I'm introduced to him a feel like I might be about to explode, like the Chicken Lady. I discover he is bisexual (only recently recruited to our team by the little Metis), owns a pet white python, and once made his living as a merman in a huge tank of water in a Mexico City night club. I'll spend the rest of my trip trying to manoeuvre him into a Honcho shoot, but to no avail.
I also get reacquainted with my oldest Vancouver friend, the son of a wealthy family who own various restaurants and bars and much real estate. He's recently gone back on the needle after a four year hiatus, and has just bailed on rehab, so it's a little bittersweet. He used to be a dancer with the most amazing body, with which he used to mercilessly tease and torture me when I was young and virginal, but now he's a little dumpy. A few days later he'll be driving me to my gallery in his utility vehicle, pulling a syringe out of the glove box, and shooting up with one hand on the wheel. Welcome to Vancouver. He extracts a little blood into another syringe and gives it to me, suggesting that I spurt it on some of my photographs. He always was avant-garde.
I leave the party with the Metis and the murderer and end up dancing till dawn at The World, the dance club where the Peruvian dream boat works as a doorman. Honey Dijon, the black New York drag queen DJ, is spinning, so I have a nice celebrity chat with her. The music is great, but there are way too many circuit queens in attendance. I hate those fucking fishing hats. Not only are most of them dressed in age-inappropriate clothing, but some are also even done up like twinnies. I snap pictures of the circuit freaks as if I'm in a zoo, which I am.
Fast forward a few days and I'm out on the town with my gallerist, who does a lot of acid, and some of his friends. One fellow is very trench coat Mafia, with his bleached blond hair and floor length black leather trench coat. He hails from Thornhill, went through the Toronto punk scene but rejected it for its pretentiousness especially the Goofs and ended up, as so many disillusioned easterners do, in the rainy oasis of Vancouver. He works for a feisty little Russian woman who owns a vintage clothing store, with whom we end up in the karaoke room of the infamous Dufferin Tavern. Apparently she only ever performs "Those Were the Days," and always half a beat off the rhythm. Later we bop over to a straight jazz bar, but are soon eighty-sixed for smoking pot. We linger outside and complain about the fascist bouncers while passing around our last cigarette like a joint. When the trench coat kid starts to vandalise a pay phone, it's time to leave.
I'm staying at the Royal hotel on Granville Street, which isn't very. Royal, that is. There's no actual toilet or shower in my room or anything, so peeing in the sink is once again the order of the day, like it was in Poland last month. There's a tavern attached to the hotel in the same style as a few other establishments on this strip a large open room filled with tables and chairs and leathery men getting shit-faced bringing to mind Toronto's great Yonge Street taverns of yesteryear, the St. Charles and the Paramount. Excuse me while I take a nostalgic snort of amyl nitrate.
On my nights off I sit in my comfortable yet lonely room and log onto the internet via my trusty laptop. The chat rooms seem much more amenable to making sexual rendezvous than those in chilly Toronto, and sure enough I immediately hook up with an environmental lobbyist with a hot body and a big dick. He's just returned from a gruelling totem pole raising ceremony up in the interior of BC, at which a gay Swedish couple returned a pole that their country had swiped from the natives last century. He doesn't do drugs, except, of course for poppers, which for most gay men qualify somehow less as a drug as some intermittent alternative to oxygen, but seems to be on some kind of natural, Rocky Mountain high. Vancouver.
Most people in Vancouver seem like they're either a former or future member of a cult, and the next guy I hook up with on the net is no exception. He's a Japanese escort originally from Okinawa who was raised in Mexico City and therefore speaks very fluent Spanish. Strangely, in this, the drug capital of North America, he doesn't do drugs either, but acts like he's in a permanent state of euphoria anyway. As I happen to be under the influence of some ecstasy left over from my arrival party, we end up having sex for many hours, well into the following rainy afternoon. He's usually a bottom but makes an exception in my case. He's very muscular and has those sturdy, hairy thighs that Japanese men sometimes have that drive me crazy. He fucks me so well that in my current state I don't even notice I've come until well after the fact, while he keeps on pumping. It's nice to get fucked by a guy with a relatively small cock for a change. Less wear and tear. He says he's going to become a stewardess.
Everything is beginning to become a bit of a blur. How often have I made that statement in the past 100 years? How long can I continue this Jekyll and Hyde existence? A goodly percentage of my friends my age, and some younger, are already in AA or NA or whatever A happens to be fashionable at the time. But will I ever be able to get past step two of the 12 steps, surrendering my will to a higher power? Or am I destined forever to remain like Kate Reid as Clair in Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance not a alcoholic, but merely wilful? To some, the question is only academic.