9/16/14

"I TRIED TO PLAY IT STRAIGHT"

Ahead of the new Comme des Garçons collections being shown Next Saturday in Paris, I want to talk about this new handbag that CdG matriarch Rei Kawakubo designed for Louis Vuitton, as part of their ‘Celebrating Monogram’ series, which features a series of collaborations with fashion, art and design luminaries reinventing the iconic LV monogram. The collection includes collaborations with: Karl Lagerfeld, Frank Gehry, Cindy Sherman, Marc Newson, Christian Louboutin and Rei Kawakubo. You can see the complete collection HERE. The press notes indicate that there's a slight precedent for this, as Vuitton celebrated their 1996 centenary collection by including collaborations with Azzedine Alaïa, Manolo Blahnik, Romeo Gigli, Helmut Lang, Isaac Mizrahi, Sybilla and Vivienne Westwood. That one sounds cute, no?

This isn't Miss Rei-K's first time tangling with Vuitton, of course. She put together a daffy little collection of mutant handbags, deformed little monster pouches and purses back in 2008, when she approached LVMH with the idea of a collaboration to celebrate Vuitton's 30th anniversary in Japan.



Those handbags were gorgeous, and so precious that one's still baffled and finding any of their pricing information. You couldn't just go buy one. You couldn't call the store and order one. You had to go to one of the specified limited CdG x LVHM "shop-in-shop" locations, officially order your preferred bag, and then pay for it in advance of them being made and then shipped out to your local Vuitton dealership, or some such thing. The story of that collection goes that Kawakubo had been so "excited" to see Vuitton opening in Tokyo in 1978, it had seemed to her to usher in some new sense of optimism or excitement that French luxury fashion brands were expanding into the Japanese market. That's a nice thought, but I do struggle to envision Kawakubo getting particularly excited about shopping, excited about purses. I do like thinking of her in 1978 though. At that point, Comme des Garçons had developed a fairly cultish following in Japan, her followers already known as カラス族 ("Karasu-zoku" or "Gang of Black Crows"). In 1978 she had yet to show her work in Paris, and it's nice to think of her encountering a brand-spanking new Vuitton boutique in Tokyo and getting "excited" about the cross-cultural implications of designing and promoting luxury. She referred to her 2008 collaboration with Vuitton as a collection of "party bags" to celebrate the brand's 30 years in Japan. Does Rei Kawakubo seem like someone who often thinks about or talks about "parties"? Here's a photo of Rei Kawakubo and former LVMH CEO Yves Carelle (RIP) together at the launch of the Vuitton x CdG collection in 2008:


Party Girl

ANYWAYS. The 'Celebrating Monogram' collection features the collaborators describing their work, posing with the finished product (Cindy Sherman wears the new Spring collection by Ghesquière in her portrait), and providing a brief on their inspirations for their collaboration, perhaps a behind-the-scenes picture or two. Kawakubo dispenses with the formalities and the celebrity worship, naturally. Nobody who's even remotely familiar with her work or her approach to marketing would bat an eye at the fact that for her photo, she's had a pencil drawing hung behind the handbag instead of posing with it, or the fact that there are no behind the scenes photos, duh.

On her inspiration for this collaboration:
"Breaking the traditional Louis Vuitton Monogram was the premise of this one work—which was to find something that would be new, some kind of new value. Although there are various ways of breaking to create something new, this time I tried to play it straight: I simply made some holes in the fabric of the bag. I generally like small bags."

I'm really curious about the translation here. Did she actually say "play it straight"? Is that an idiom that resonates in Japanese, or French? For that matter, you know homegirl knows a thing or two about her LGBT brethren, and you know Miss Thing speaks much more English than she lets on. The idea of "straightness" as it relates to the work of Rei Kawakubo. I'm off on a tailspin about this. Anyway, here's what "playing it straight" means, to Rei Kawakubo, in 2014. Here is her "Bag with Holes":



Just fucking cut holes in the damn thing, right? I love that for Kawakubo, "playing it straight" means not, y'know, coming up with some fussy twisted shape (a la Gehry) or fucking with some oversized or conceptual "sport-y" silhouette like Lagerfeld and Newson. No, for Rei Kawakubo, "playing it straight" means just slashing holes right through the bag, so that you can see through it. The bonded interior lining "to keep belongings secure" seems like something the higher-ups at LVMH insisted on, for the sake of practicality. Kawakubo notes that she generally likes small bags. This is a red herring, CdG has never just been about Kawakubo creating clothes that she wanted to wear. That's what Comme des Garçons Robe de Chambre (which has since become Comme des Garçons Comme des Garçons, or "Comme Comme") is for: to recreate her own wardrobe. Yeah, usually Kawakubo is rocking one of the vintage wallet-sized purses, or one of the teensy Paco Rabanne chain-mail collaboration purses. I doubt we'd see her, even at a "party", rocking this huge flat thing with holes slashed out of it. I don't think so. I love that this is her way of paying tribute to, somehow reckoning with Vuitton's "heritage." And yeah, it is something new, I guess.

"I feel," says Kawakubo, "that Louis Vuitton is the house that most beautifully and skilfully transforms what is tradition into what is now. Yet I always approach all of my work in a way that is exactly the same: I look to create something new."

SO, again, she's being kind of a punk here: Yes, Vuitton is all about tradition and history and making history relevant. That's all well and good, but Kawakubo, lest y'all forget, has one mandate, the same one Ezra Pound pounded: Make it New.

Continuing on, she says: "When designing the bag for this project, I was looking for some new design, something that hadn’t been done before, something within the limits of possibility."

These are certainly new. Hear me out: these aren't the randomly applied fraying holes she used to great acclaim in the early 1980s in the garments Suzy Menkes so charmingly dubbed "Swiss-cheese sweaters". No, these holes are artisanal, super-deliberate, a form or decoration. These holes are the concept of embroidery doggedly purse pursued to their logical conclusion. They seem reminiscent of the crafted holes cut out of the Comme des Garçons Homme Plus Fall/Winter 2014 collection, the "Holy Jacket" collection, which featured these stylish little kicks:



These are new, these are a new way of exploring texture, shape, volume. And embedded in the design is an implicit indictment of the luxury and tradition Kawakubo claims to have been to taken by, back in 1978. This is her trying to "Play it Straight": don't fuss with any kind of fancy shape, color, material or process: just find a new way to ask philosophical questions about materials, history. Play it straight, right? Just carve a fucking hole in the precious object. For Kawakubo, "playing it straight" means literally ripping the thing a new orifice.

But let's back up for a second. Her stated goal here was to keep to her usual modus operandi of finding a way to make something new, and she also notes that in addition to newness, she was looking to design "something within the limits of possibility." Possible how exactly? Possible as in practical? This is the woman who famously designed chairs that weren't really designed for, you know, sitting as such. Maybe she means "possibility" in terms of something that could, physically, exist in our reality at this time. Or maybe she's referring to "the realm of possibility" in another way.



I don't know if these collaboration pieces will be as hard to buy as the last time she tangled with LVMH, but out of the six artists chosen to design new products for this collection, Kawakubo's contribution with a suggested retail price of $2790.00 USD, is the cheapest one in the collection.

9/15/14

Reporter Boys

Friday night after my chores and my day job and my gym, I went to Printed Matter for the issue launch party for Gay Goth Scene #3. They haven't put out an issue in over ten years, but the zine's editors Raven and Bones (a.k.a. Joel Gibb and Paul P) are right on time, in terms of giving the children what we want. Perfect Little Daniel and I went, because B0DYH1GH is absolutely a gay goth band, and we weren't disappointed. The new zine is spooky and cute, and a positively diabolically delightful addition to anyone's archive.



After the zine party we went out to eat at Taim, then I went home to change clothes watch cartoons. I headed out to the new party "GIRLS" which was the inaugural party for the new Williamsburg gay bay LOVEGUN It was produced by the rightfully legendary Frankie Sharp, and featured the line-up of all your favorite Night Club Dolls as co-hosts, DJs, performers, personalities. BIG thanks to Sam B. and Bailey S. for getting me listed and Eli for the encouragement to go to the front of the line and admit that I was on a guest list.

The party was fun and cute and really really fucking crowded. I'm surprised I didn't know more people there. I probably did, in fact, but it was just so dang crowded. A really cool space, and I'm excited to see what comes of it. I always like a new gay spot withing hobbling distance of my lair. I went out for a cigarette and texted with miss Kayla, who was around the corner so I went to go hang out with her at Jawn and Peter's house nearby. We drank Jager and watched music videos and talked about New Orleans and gentrification and pop stars and gossip. They're journalists so they're really funny and know a lot of cool things. It's their job to know those things and to tell them, that's their job. We screwed up our courage and went back to Lovegun at 3am and it was cute, way less crowded, a fun time. Dancing in the upstairs lounge with all the kids, getting down to new records. It was a very auspicious feeling. A lovely new moment.

Saturday was hard, because I was hungover. I went grocery shopping, in the rain. I went out to lunch. I saw The Material Image at Marianne Boesky uptown. It's curated Debra Singer and includes Michele Abeles, Lucas Blalock, Sam Falls, Ryan Foerster, Amy Granat, Rachel Harrison, Leslie Hewitt, John Houck, Barbara Kasten, Jason Loebs, Nick Mauss, Ken Okiishi, Arthur Ou, Anthony Pearson, Marina Pinsky, Mariah Robertson, Matt Saunders, and Chris Wiley.



I liked the show. I like all art shows that happen in Upper East Side townhouses. Maybe that's not fair. My favorite piece, the creator of which I didn't actually ever nail down (sorry!) was a window shade that had the bars of the window-frame stenciled into it, as if by having been exposed to sunlight. Then it was flipped upside down for a nifty little "Hail Satan" trick. You can see it on the right hand side of the installation shot above. No but seriously the show is sober, smart, not too pretty and not too funny. A strong if unobtrusive play on physicality, history, space. I was thinking about the idea of the "living archive" and the mechanical production of art. I was thinking, at the show, about how everything came together, how the artists and the curator must have organized their thinking about the work, the flow through the house, the colors, etc. Certainly worth seeing and definitely worth the trip uptown. At the opening, I could not for the life of me score a glass of wine, but I did see some fancy art patron ladies rocking the same Eileen Fisher harem pants I wore to great acclaim this past week in Provincetown. When I shuffled to the beach-front hotel patio for morning coffee I was the envy of everyone there.

From there, I headed downtown to see the Voir Dire*, the first U.S. solo exhibition by Cyril Duval, at Johannes Vogt Gallery. I sure did like this show a lot. It made me think about how sometimes I'm so naive. I, and I think a lot of people like me (as well as people unlike me) have a tendency to sort of gloss over or willfully refuse to see a sinister aesthetic. To me, the show was light, playful, poppy fun. Of course, spending more than two seconds looking at anything Duval has ever done would start to disabuse a body of such optimism. I'm not saying it was mean; I'm saying it was toothsome. How can I describe the show? It was like gummy candy. It was chewy, its textures surprisingly tougher than it's putative flavors. I was really into the assemblages of debatably real retail detritus. The reappropriation of McDonalds' sweeteners, songs, imagery was nice, but I feel a little inured to the electric revelation of horror below the Golden Arches. Maybe it's because I grew up in America. Maybe it's because I obsessively ate fast-food for the first half of my life, maybe it's because I became a vegetarian and haven't touched it since. I'd almost rather have seen a fictional fast food company, something a little less loud. But I suppose that's the point. The show is super gorgeous, unsettling and kind of kinky. Like dating an Earth sign. HIGHly recommended.


item idem, Super Gospel Rap 2014

In contrast to the Boesky gallery girls, the Duval opening was packed with downtown kids rocking their clubwear-inspired Designer Duds. I saw more than a few boys rocking the boots, the coats, whatever, from the Raf Simons and Sterling Ruby collection. I love both Simons and Sterling but the new collection hasn't really stirred anything in me. Certainly, though, they're clothes you could wear from the art opening to the nightclub. For that familiar journey-- they have you covered.

Went back home to recuperate a minute, then back up to the city, to Midtown no less, to meet up with my buddy Steven (Another journalist, actually. Another reporter). We went to Ladyfag's new party Holy Mountain. The trick was that if you RSVPed, you could get in for free before 11:30pm. We did so but were met with a line like I haven't seen in a while. We barely made it inside by, like 12:30, at which point we all had to pay the cover, which kind of sucked, but I get it. The party itself, the space, was MASSIVE. Multiple rooms to bounce between, dark alleyways. It felt like I was always on the stairs, like some kind of M.C. Escher painting but with house music.

After much searching and many random versions of the same drink ordered at each of the four different bars, we found the Jade Room, where Juliana Huxtable and Rizzla were DJing. I got there right as Juliana was DJaneing a rad remix of No Doubt's "Don't Speak" which was frankly fantastic.



I made out with this cute boy, it was weird. Drunk people at nightclubs think we're being so romantic but I think it probably did not seem that way to anyone looking on. I wore this old old Marc by Marc t-shirt (I know) from like... Before the recession? OLD. It looked good in the ubiquitous black lights. I saw a few people who seed to be invisible black shapes, but when they turned around the white drop-stitches on the back of their shirts, the non-logo logo of Maison Martin Margiela, glowed in the blacklights.

On our way out of the club at 3am, we found a drink ticket on the sidewalk. I kind of thought this was a sign that I was meant to go back into the club and wait in another line for another drink I surely didn't need, but instead we offered the ticket to a group of improbably young partiers, decked out in their sportswear finest, who snatched it up with nary a thank you. Harrumph.

Sunday I woke up to a literally perfect blue wonderful day. I walked over the bridge and listened, finally, to the new Blonde Redhead album, Barragan. I've been obsessed with them lately, rediscovering Penny Sparkle and Misery Is A Butterfly and just remembering how much I loved them I high school, college, forever. The new record is a little funky, but not too funky. Like... a little bit 70s, Prog? I can't really describe it. It's like a more angular less fun Mazzy Star. It sounds sort of folksy, like Goldfrapp's new record? Like an electric version of that. It's not really familiar, easy, fair or useful to try to categorize. I can only compare things to things that I know.



I went uptown to go window shopping at Barney's. I'm planning a little change to my look, and I'm in the market for a red sweater. I saw a nice Margiela one, a cotton sweatshirt, but I can't justify the $500 price tag. Sure, they have it in a darker shade and a size too big for a third of the price on Yoox, but I can't even. I think instead, I might cop a nice FANMAIL sweatshirt from their Fall 14 collection, since their new collection features this really nice red:


From the FAMNAIL A/W 14 lookbook lensed, as usual, by boy genius Milan Zrnic.

Anyway, it was a gorgeous day, I took myself to lunch at Zabar's, having my favorite, their gazpacho for probably the last time this season, I guess.  Then to Sadie Benning's new solo show Patterns at Callicoon Fine Arts. The show was smart and sweet, included a luxurious green carpet, falling somewhere between AstroTurf and suburban den. From the gallery's press release: "Each work proposes a way out of prescriptive orders even while they formally articulate those orders."

Indeed! I'm always into stripes, polka dots, patterns as a way of dressing, expressing and contextualizing myself. I was inspired by Benning's use of treacly, Fimo-like materials and anxiously outdated color palettes. Look: I'm obsessed with the 70s as anyone can be that didn't live through it, but when you show a pattern of mustard yellow next to black next to burnt sienna, you're saying something about colonialism and the cosmically planned obsolescence of the EuroZone and no one can tell me differently. The patterns are about how they fail, how they grow. The patterns are like the rings inside of a tree: a tool for measurement, but a living document, an organically disruptive "order". I saw so many friends at the opening too. I spent most of the night talking with people about those Kate Bush shows in London and who we would drop that amount of money to go see. Melissa said Roxy Music, if it included Brian Eno. I said Sade, maybe? I don't know. Living in New York I'm so spoiled with getting to see the best fucking performers. Like the Raincoats. I fucking saw the god damned Raincoats. There's nothing to top that, really.

After the opening I went up to the East Village for drinks, and I ran into Xenia, looking so fab. It was one of those days where I felt so happy and lucky to live in New York, where I get to see so much cool stuff, for free, and I kept running into fantastic friends I love.

Went to Boiler Room where the jukebox is always good because they let anyone play whatever. Someone put on The Misfits' "Where Eagles Dare"



Then they put on a lot of Eminem. (Menime? Menemy.)

Got home pretty late and had a rough time waking up this morning! I'm supposed to go to a thing tonight, a journalist's birthday party tonight. I'm so tired though. I might go anyway.

To get the inside scoop.

9/11/14

It's Free, it's for me

I.

The last few days sure were great. I left New York in a kind of a dark place, or a weird place. New York is a dark and weird place, no? Thursday night I saw my friend Ben's brilliant show, I went to a couple of parties, felt weird about it. Friday I got my eyes examined, picked out new glasses, it's a new thing that's happening. I went to the fashion week event at Dover St. Market, drank some wine and thought about buying literally everything form the new BLACk CdG collection. Then I went downtown to Joshua Smith's art opening at Essex Flowers. It was really great, his work is hilarious and surprisingly poignant/topical, very cheeky and very cool. I had a blast. I met up with Bobo and Meli Darko and we all decamped back to my house in Brooklyn to order sandwiches and hang out on my floor, listening to the Andrea True connection. Fell asleep kind of early, feeling myself soften. Saturday I woke up, puttered around the house, went and got a haircut and came back to the house, dyed my hair blond for MAPPLETHORPE, and puttered around some more. Eventually I met up with Paps and Lola at that bar near our house for some beers. I think maybe I drank cider, I'm not sure. I had plans that night but I felt really bad (dentro de mi corazón), so I shamefully canceled my plans and bopped around by myself, deliberately. It's as if they need a new word for this; it's not actually called a shipwreck if you do it on purpose, right? Sunday I woke up early and went to the gym and did a modicum of errand-running, but nowhere near as much as I ought to have done. Eventually scraped myself together enough for Bushwig, which was fantastic. I had so so so much fun. I sang the new song I added to MAPPLETHORPE, a cover of Team Dresch's "Musical Fanzine". I don't know if the crowd got it or liked it. I never know. I saw some people there I like a lot and got to hang out, I talked to my ex for a while, it was sweet. I definitely drank too much. Here was my look at Bushwig:



II.

I have this thing, it's like my big complaint about Fashion Week. It's not that I wish I was involved in the Fashion World-- though I do wish that-- it's that there's all these open bars and I want a piece of it. If there's anything free, it feels like it's going to waste, and I want to help avoid waste. I feel entitled to anything that's free or being given out to people just because. I'm a person, I deserve it too. I won't bore everyone with the story of how I came to perform on the Bushwig bill, but it's pretty much along these lines. Also, they had drink tickets for the performers so I definitely drank all of my free drinks as if I was actually thirsty which I wasn't. Because they're free, they're for me.

It's like at this party I was at a few weeks ago, or these events I've been to in the last month. There's this thing that happens when people get super creepy and selfish about hoarding. I mean hoarding things like attention, fantasy, drugs, clothes, magick, belief, time, power, etc. I've been in rooms lately where there seems to be a vibe of people demonstrating how full they are, how sated they are, how glad they are not to have to share. I mean, this is the other thing I hate about fashion week parties; it's ABOUT not letting people in. The whole point, it feels like, it seems to me, is that I don't get to go in. The fun thing about drugs is you can use them in front of other people who maybe ask for some and you can say "No, I don't really have much left." or you can say "Oh I only have enough for me." It's annoying, it's a scarcity thinking thing. Or like, to let me know that you have cool plans, a cool project, you're invited to a cool party later, you had so much fun last night, because you want me to know that you have it/had it, and I don't have it and can't have it.

Let's be real, this is a kind of insecurity. The having to remind you that they have something you don't, that you should be envious of them. Actual Power Functions by Remaining Invisible. If you have to remind someone how cool you are, then you're not very cool, right? The more evolved, rational, compassionate and mature way of thinking is to simply ignore this-- I know, really it's not a function of me. I'm no less deserving of free champagne and gift bags than anyone else. I know that, I can say that even though I'm so insecure. But what is the response then? I've ignored it and responded to it and I've outgrown it. There's a kind of weirdly dysfunctional, sinister thing there. I don't know. How did I get there from someone bragging about how fucked up they got. Maybe you see my point?

Like, this image:



Who the fuck cares, right? I'm being serious-- who the fuck cares if someone calls themselves an artist, a curator, deep, an intellectual, whatever? What does that take away from you? As if there're only so many artists that can exist, as if the integrity of the category "artist" depends on us being so proactive about who is and who is not allowed to claim it. It's this thing where, in the ostensible search for meaning, truth, actual real comprehensive collective consciousness, we end up being cops. It's this thing of "They say they're an artist but they're not really an artist they just want to be thought of as an artist." I really chafe at that. What this says to me is "I got mine, you get yours." It's a kind of "enlightened" republican thinking, where if you've "worked really hard" to get your so-called security, if you've put in the blood sweat and tears and your ivy league liberal arts enclave, then you get to be entitled about not sharing, you're above reproach because you made your own fortune. It's so silly and selfish, I hate this.

III.

So Sunday night I came home very very drunk from my free drinks. Nauseous, even. I was curled around the toilet when I remembered that I had ordered Thai food as I do every Sunday night. I got the Thai food and ate it and kept it down. I passed out. I woke up only a few hours later to hurriedly pack for my trip up to Provincetown.

I met up with Erin and Matt and Colin and Amber and Nath-Ann and we all took the 7am train to Boston. I got shushed by someone on the train, before even leaving the station, because we were evidently on the quiet car. The guy was really passive-aggressive and mean, it did upset me, I gotta say. We got to Boston, had some sandwiches, then got on the ferry, where I was reprimanded again for sitting backwards in one of the seats.

What is it with pathetic white men who seem to get off on trying to publicly shame or humiliate me? I mean, I realize maybe I present in a kind of threatening way-- I'm tall, I have European features and can have a loud voice. I'm effeminate, I sometimes wear gaudy clothes. But I'm really nice! I seem to be a target for white men's ire, I don't know why.

SO on the ferry, they announced that it would be a choppy ride. I've never been seasick in my life so I didn't pay it much mind. Amber and I split a bottle of very expensive but not very good (very overpriced) champagne on the ferry, thinking that the bubbles would keep our stomach settled during the trip. Not so much. I didn't puke but other people definitely did. It got very weird on that boat. I was basically choking back vomit the entire second half of the ride.

Anyway we made it into glorious Provincetown and went to the hotel, then sound checked, ate dinner and did the opening night cabaret of the Afterglow festival. I had a blast. It's such a supreme honor to get to go to Provincetown, let alone as part such a fantastic festival. I was in the company of some of my favorite performers, and I met so many fantastic new people whose work I didn't know or didn't know well. It was so magical and I felt and still feel actually overwhelmed with gratitude and joy for being part of it.

On the opening night there was a really cool gala for the festival performers and the organizers/sponsors/attendees. It was so fucking fancy and chic and nice. And oh yeah, it was in Provincetown so at sunset the sky looks like this:



I performed on Tuesday night, right after the brilliant debut of Stella Starsky's first one-woman show, and opening for Erin Markey. I was in heaven. I really was. I had a small but sweet audience and I did MAPPLETHORPE and it was nowhere near as hard and painful as I thought it'd be. I think everyone pretty much got what I was doing. Performing at the Crown & Anchor as part of the Afterglow fest, performing MAPPLETHORPE in this context, was truly a perfect dream come true. Nothing can fuck with that.  I've so loved seeing the other performers on the bill, and am very sad to be missing the second half of the festival, as I am. On the plus side, we're doing a big group reunion bill at Joe's Pub on 9/21, more on that soon. I hung out on Wednesday with my friends Marya and Jane in Truro, then my friend David back in Provincetown. The people there have for the most part (99.999999%) been so overwhelmingly welcoming and inclusive and sweet to me. It's really funny.

At night we went to this fun party called FAG BASH in Ptown, there were lots of cute boys and girls, none of whom particularly wanted to make my acquaintance. That's okay though because I did actually get cruised real deep slow and heavy by a cute boy on a bike in Provincetown the other day, and he was cruising me so intently that I honestly had no idea what was happening. I'm so insecure and out of it that I was about ready to compose a tweet about how some hot guy on a bike keeps following me and smiling at me and saying hi and calling me ginger, like assuming he was making fun of me, trying to mock me, and then realized I should have, you know, tried to marry him and stay in Provincetown forever. Anyway back to FAG BASH-- my favorite new york band WITCH CAMP performed and were fantastic. I am so obsessed with them. I'm heartbroken to miss their show on Sunday night. Eventually the crowd thinned out and I started walking home. I was soon joined by Amber and Nath Ann of Witch Camp who offered to ride their bikes while I walked. It was perfect. It was a really perfect moment.

IV.

I left New York in a kind of a dark mood. I've been in a dark mood a lot lately. Probably for a lot of reasons. I feel so happy for this week, though. I made a note to myself-- remember, the next time you feel freaked out and lonely. The next time you feel anxious and worried. The next time you feel like some random white dude is taking his anger with his mom out on you-- remember how it felt and how it looked and how it sounded to walk down Commercial Street in Provincetown, all alone, at the end of summer, with nothing but a just-barely-past Full Moon to light your way.

I feel like there are some things I need to be a little bit more explicit about. I thought I knew about generosity. I thought I knew about how to make someone understand something, but in fact I've been repeating the same mistakes I complain about here and elsewhere.

I'm ready to tell you.
I'm ready to be real. I'm ready to ask you.

9/4/14

Festival Circuit

Rode the train this morning with the black-clad masses. Not the Fashion Week crowd, the folks who hail cabs for them. Or, hail cabs for the people who don't already have personal drivers. You know. A kind of sub-class. Black cotton separates, fake silk. Chunky rubber flats comma fake gold  accent jewelry.I'm listening to Fugazi. Bobo once sagely recommended listening to Fugazi when you're feeling frustrated.

Feel a bit like I'm losing my trip on reality. It's like my summer was-- my summer was from July 25th or so. I've been on vacation and I'm still on vacation. But

It's 2014 and creative professionals have to work on our vacations. We're always on the clock. So I'm doing some shows. I'm actually it's not work I'm actually thrilled and beyond grateful/excited to be playing these shows. FESTIVALS.

ME ON THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT THIS WEEK/END:

This weekend I'm performing at Bushwig. I perform Sunday at 6:02PM (18:02, natch), on the outdoor stage. Al fresco. I'm excited about that because to my mind this means sunglasses and a cigarette won't be seen as like, superperformative, which is good because they're not (not when I'm doing them). I'm really excited! I'm just singing one song, the new one I'm adding to MAPPLETHORPE.

And then Monday morning I'm catching the train up to Boston to take a boat to Provincetown for the beloved Afterglow Festival. I'll be there Monday night for the opening night variety show, then performing the next night, Tuesday 9/9 at 7:30pm at the Crown & Anchor.

I need to figure out what to wear, what to pack, for festival circuit. What do people wear at festivals? I wish there was an article to direct me! At afterglow, I'll be performing my solo show MAPPLETHORPE and I'm so thrilled to be opening for my hero Erin Markey.

I saw Erin the other night at the benefit party for the House of Larreon Lookbook event, featuring snapshots from the forthcoming lookbook for both House of Larreon and Larry Krone Brand-- both conceptual fashion houses designed by brilliant artist Larry Krone. I'm really into his work because he makes performance costumes and fashion for some of my favorite artists in New York, many of whom are in the lookbook: Molly Pope, Erin Markey, Cole Escola, Becca Blackwell, Kathleen Hanna, Neal Medlyn, and of course Bridget Everett. The photos were taken by Todd Oldham and are available for sale on eBay HERE. This is also a benefit for the Rock Camp for Girls, so it's a good reason to buy the pictures.

I want to buy the clothes. I want the clothes. Right, you guys. It's fashion week. This is stressful for me, because for me, fashion week is the week of me hearing about but not getting into a lot of cool parties. But I always feel like I'm excluded so maybe NYFW just highlights it. Getting dressed is hard tho. I want to go home after work and change my outfit before heading out. After work I have to go to an art opening, then my analyst, then grab something to eat, then seeing the brilliant Ben Rimalower's new show Bad With Money opening tonight at Duplex, then going to a Fashion Week party, then going to another Fashion Week Party. So I need a new outfit that is sexy and durable. ANd I have to run home to put it on very quickly before going back to Manhattan.

Went to that cool Judy Chicago show with the Duchess last week, showing Judy's early work. Can I say that Judy Chicago is maybe my Bob Dylan? Her navigation through modernism feels to me the way that people seem to feel about Bob Dylan's navigation through rock and roll, the 1960s, etc. I loved the show and I'm so glad I went.

Last week, I went to Providence for B and M's beautiful wedding. Had a hilarious and strange time. Ask me about it some time. Hey-- someone from my life, remind me to write it all down some time, about the wedding. Came home, celebrated Bobo's birthday. Having a great time, as always.

Today's Beyoncé's birthday. It's B DAY:


Summer is slipping away! After Ptown next week my summer really is over and I have a zillion projects to work on.

But first, Festival Circuit. But before that? Costume change and multiple busy party event night.
Here I go.

8/18/14

Garlands

I got off work on Friday afternoon early, but it didn't even feel like work because I was working from home. I went to Vanessa's for lunch and had that wasabi noodle salad PLD gets, and it was really spicy and made my nose run. I came home and napped and puttered around, feeling frustrated that everything starts so late at night. I went to Nowhere bar to see WITCH CAMP's DJ set. WITCH CAMP is, naturally, Isis (Nath Ann Carrera) & Isis (Amber Martin). They're definitely my favorite DJs in New York right now. We don't need to have the same favorite everything, but if you want to here obscure 60s psychedelia, feminist punk rock gems, prog-rock orgiastic anthems, balls-deep soul and satanic disco, theirs is the party you need to be at. I got there right at the beginning at 10pm when they were getting set up. I drank some Jägermeister to get excited, but then I had to leave to rush downtown.

Here's a picture of Isis and Isis behind the ones and twos:



After some dancing and chatting I ran downtown to the Bureau of General Services Queer Division for Gio Black Peter's art opening: "The Night Gardener". It featured some glory hole portraits, drawings, paintings and photos he's been working on in the last year, and it also featured a king of play, a theater piece he made called "the Longest Night of the Year" and it was read/performed by: Gio Black Peter, Susanne Oberbeck (a.k.a. No Bra), Brian Kenny, Gage of the Boone, Max Steele, and Jordan Hall, with music by composer Gordon Beeferman. I was totally thrilled and honored to be included in this project and I hope I did okay! Everyone in it is obviously a fantastic artist in their own right, and it was a really cool if somewhat short little performance. Brian Kenny's performance particularly impressed me, I knew he'd bust something wonderful out. I've been a fan of Gio's work since before I ever met him, and to see his new stuff is really cool. The piece was kind of abstract, dark and funny. Sardonic. And weirdly musical, jarring, funny and... I don't know. Scary? He's like Brecht. I think of GBP as being a punk in the same way I think Brecht was a punk. It's not really about flamboyance or the posturing of rebellion, so much as a really engaged kind of curiosity about human nature and how to measure it by adding power, society, history, etc. It was rad. I never thought my life would include, like, just casually going to see one friend DJ then be in some cool performance art piece downtown. I felt very lucky and I still feel very lucky.

After the performance and the opening we went to Gio's house to hang out and I played with his and Neil's cat 2 Shy, who I am totally in love with an obsessed with. I took dozens of photos of us together but this is the best one:



I sneaked back uptown to 14th St. to catch the very last call of Witch Camp. Like book-ends or something, then I got home. Saturday I was mostly lazy. I went to the gym early and spent the rest of the day laying around my house, before meeting my old college chum Marcus for coffee down by the waterfront. I love that man.

Then I went on up to Thrust, a performance series organized by Ruby and Julia. The last one I went to featured miss Tommy, this one featured Kayla and Anthony and it was so cool! It was on a gorgeous rooftop in Williamsburg, right after sunset. A really cool mix of performances, writers/readers, musicians, and a cool crowd. I had a blast. So much of a blast that we stayed on the roof (which belonged to a friend of one of the organizers) until almost 1 or 2 in the morning? It was kind of silly. Stopped by GAG! at Metro and that was reliably cute, right.

Sunday got off to a slightly rough start but was soon chugging along swimmingly thanks to the fact that I got to spend it hanging out with birthday girl Julia a.k.a. Jiddy No-No a.k.a. Ewok Vixen. I picked her up in Greenpoint and then we met up with our dear friend Isabelle at the Reynard where we got very fancy drinks and fancy food. I had a peach sandwich that was grilled peaches and almond butter and a weird stinky cheese. It was so good. We also had some Lillet. THEN we met up with Jiddy's Dad who had been record shopping in Greenpoint at Ramona's where they really do make the best negronis anywhere. We came back to Jiddy's house and hung out for a bit more and I took this cute photo of her there:



I came home and watched movies and ate Thai food and passed out. Woke up this morning and immediately got annoyed by reading FaceBook. Then I realized I don't have to-- I don't have to read it, I don't have to get annoyed. None of it, everything is optional. Instead I meditated and then made breakfast and that was pretty great. This is wisdom in action! Tonight I'm going grocery shopping, then to the gym, then to rehearse MAPPLETHORPE and some other songs at the Spectrum. Then maybe to sleep. We'll see.

Some thoughts about secrecy. How there's no way to talk about certain things without going a little but nuts about it. Or without incriminating yourself. Thinking also this thing about friendship, or familiar people, how there's that thing when she's touching you in a way while she talks to you on your back, you hips, whispering in your ear for the first time. I forgot I started writing a poem a few months ago and put it away but I found it again this morning saved on my phone on the train and I was so happy to see it.

8/15/14

Deep Cuts / What is a Man

I went with Max B to see miss Amber Martin's show at Joe's Pub on Tuesday. I am totally in love with and obsessed with Amber Martin. I think she's a comic genius, a shockingly empathetic and intuitive performer, and she posses truly magnificent gifts. I don't know what to say. I'd like to write books about her. I'm such a fanboy. Anyway, her show was a series of songs she loves and has grown up with, and she sort of told her story through her love of music. It showed. There's such a palpable difference between someone doing something because they want to be cute or make some point about their prowess, and someone doing something because they love it. Amber Martin is a fan of what she calls the "deep cut"; she prefers to cover songs you've maybe never heard of, but definitely should seek out. This is why she's such a great DJ: she has fantastic taste in music and an encyclopedic knowledge of music history, and an earnest and electric curiosity about how artists work, how people convey emotions. But there's also a subtler point here, too; by choosing these "deep cuts", Amber superimposes herself, her taste, her story, her technique, onto the songs. It may not matter that you haven't heard this Andrea True Connection song before, because if you do track down the LP, you'll still compare it to Amber's version. Amber lives in the past and the present and the future at the same time. It's a tricky thing, this thing of letting love guide you through space/time. It's hard, not everyone can do it. Amber believes that you can, and she invites you to join her. I loved her show and I love Amber Martin and she is a genius. She talked a bit about being a witch, how she was born into a secret lineage of witches. I thought: that's right. She also practices Rock and Roll, which is becoming an ever-more arcane and occult practice. She knows the Old Ways of Heavy Metal. Rock on. Blessed Be.

After the show, Max B and I hung out with Amber and Jill and Rob and Brett in the upstairs at Joe's, congratulating everyone and falling in love. Then we went to Acme, which was cute, because we danced to Vanity 6's "Nasty Girl" and that's maybe one of my favorite songs in the world. Max B and I took a cab to Queeraoke and had fun there until last call.

The next day I woke up hungover, ate some californian chex mix and went to the Issey Miyake sample sale. I got there later than I wanted to, since it was only open from 8am-3pm. I saw a guy enter the building at the same time as me. We nervously waited for the elevator. He was much more nervous than I was. "I thought there'd be a line. I'm so surprised..." he said. I grunted in response because I was hungover. "I mean, I wanted to come before lunch." He needn't have worried. We got to the space and it was huge, tons and tons and tons of clothes, but not a lot for men. Not terribly crowded either. I was getting into it, starting to feel my west coast oats, if you get my drift. The men's selection was small, there was a real chatty guy (maybe he worked there, or he was an assistant to one of the customers) who sighed and whimpered to me that there were slim  pickings for men. Right, but like... what's a man, right? I saw groups and pairs of fashion cogniscenti guys, the type of men who wear long skirts, trying on the so-called "women's" pieces. Most of the customers were older white women. There were some younger people like me, but for the most part, it was people who were just sprucing up their wardrobe. That was the cool and weird thing about this. It was a sample sale from a luxury designer, whose clothes were very expensive, even marked down 75%, and the people that came to the sample sale were... regulars. These were women I overheard, over and over and over again, who were replacing their favorite pieces. "I have that one but in a skirt, so I'm getting the top." or "I've had this one for years, it's old, so I wanted another one. I love it." It was nuts. They were talking about $1000 polyester dresses. Marked down to $250, but still. One sweet looking woman watched me try on a jacket and said "Oh, sorry-- I'm just looking at you because I'm shopping for my son." I wish my mom would shop for me at Issey Miyake and I bet she wishes she could too. I wanted a jacket or coat but there weren't many that looked like they'd fit me. So I found lots of crazy pants. You know me, I love a fussy bottom. I found a pair of circle-cut Pleats Please trousers with dark navy blue fur. A kind of fake polyester wool. They're amazing. I know they're amazing because multiple people tried to take them away form me. Some customers would wistfully eye them and say "Oh, those are so...nice..." as I walked past them. Others would stop me and ask if I was getting them, if they could try them on real quick. One woman, a lovely older lady who looked like she collected art and probably had a good sense of humor but not right at that second, reached out and tried to grab them out of my hands. She hissed "Those aren't men's pants, are they? I don't think those are men's." And like, okay; point well taken. But again, what's a man? I got the pants. I love them and they were exorbitant. Happy Birthday to Myself.

Last night I saw Molly Pope perform at 42 West. I love her on such a deep level that it's hard to find a cogent way of talking about her. She's hilarious, poignant, deeply nuanced, intelligent and... I don't know, breathtaking. I love seeing Molly perform. There is no one who sings like her. Her sense of humor and humanity and gravitas is scintillating and I had such the best time at her show. She's performing at 42 West the next couple of Thursdays this month, and you should go.

On my way there I finally had a chance to go to Ur Head Is Mine, a series of performances and happenings curated by Yolene and Yulan Grant at AC Art Institute Gallery. Really bummed that I hadn't been able to make it to the previous performances, but was glad to see this one and definitely will come back. The roster of performances is a wonderful cross-section, folks from NYC and elsewhere, and it's always nice to have a capital A Art space to play in. Last night I saw Christopher Udemezue perform, and was struck as always by the way he negotiates complexity onstage. I've seen him perform a few times, and it's always different, but yet heartbreakingly related. It was a rewarding, frightening, sad and scary week to see this work. I don't know what to say other than I'm glad I did see it, as I always am, and especially this week.

Feeling weird about America this week. Here is a clip from MAPPLETHORPE sort of tangentially related:



So, the thinking is: the cops won't necessarily always protect you. Furthermore, the cops could sometimes be out to get you. Specifically black people and specifically kids and specifically poor people. There is no security, the power of protection is not absolutely good. We don't and never have lived in a world where that can be relied on. Your disappointment with discovering this is on you. The reality is awful. I don't know what to do about it. How to think about it. It's not, I realize, about police brutality. And it's not about gun control, either. Not just that. It's about racism, it's about who gets to live and who gets to die, who gets to be a person. Who gets killed as a possible threat, and who gets sympathy as "mentally ill". Who gets to be safe. Who gets the benefit of the doubt. Who does the doubting. What, again, is a man. Who gets to be human.

It's Friday and I'm only working a half day, from home. I'm going to go out to lunch and then I'm going to Gio Black Peter's opening at the Bureau of General Services Queer Division. His new show is called The Night Gardener and it includes a play he's written called "The Longest Night of the Year" and I'm in the play! And we're performing it at midnight tonight. So I'm going to have to take a nap or something before then.

8/12/14

One of the new neighbors is moving. This guy I would sometimes see in the neighborhood, on my way to or from the train. I see him a lot at the gym. He's not the most attractive person I'd ever seen, but he's local. I don't want to be rude. He's cute. He definitely doesn't think I'm cute though. I've seen him on Grindr and said hi to him to no response. He lives around the corner from me. I'd sometimes see him at gay bars, with a dude who I think is less attractive than me. He seems to have similar interests. I think we could have been friends. Anyway, I've often felt kind of humiliated running into him because I run into him a lot, and he clearly isn't interested in me, and it's been a kind of frequent reminder of something. Shame? Anyway, through the serendipity of social networks I came across one of his pages and saw that he's moving. So maybe that chapter is closed.

I was hanging out over the weekend with someone and talking about this Bushwick drag coterie. You know, these bristly young Brooklyn drag queens. It's possible to become a kind of a star in this fairly specific way. Internet famous or something. I was telling the person I was with (who I have a fantastic and 100% unrequited crush on, it's awesome) so I feel like a voyeur to this Bushwick drag moment. They're all nice to me, they generally make really cool and radical and interesting work, and I'm so grateful to be living in New York right now to get to see it. To the extent that my schedule and old bones allow me to. But I said, you know, that they're totally separate from me. That I don't really know any of them, it's kind of like a high school clique or something. i don't mean that in a mean way-- I just mean that they're a circle of friends and I'm not part of it but I still want to go to their shows and give them tips and applaud, etc. The person I was wish kind of scoffed and said "Right, but I'm sure they know who you are. They must," They mustn't, tho. There's no reason for them to. I don't want anyone to know me.

Later, the next day, last weekend, I was out for a jog with another friend, and I don't know how it came up but he made some kind of encouraging remark. I was saying I didn't think I could do something, I felt pessimistic, and he said "Oh come on, you're Max Steele!" I responded: "I'm not though. I'm really not. It's not like that."

I don't feel like me, but I think that's for the best. If you did feel like you, that could be scary.
I was frustrated today but now I'm not anymore.

8/11/14

Burns

Where did the summer go. I've eaten it. I've dried it out, ground it into a powder and snorted it. I've stirred it into my yogurt, smeared it on my sunburn. How has it been three weeks? I went to Seattle, and then I went to Alameda, and then I came back to New York and I turned 30.



I flew from a very bad mood straight to SeaTac airport and into the arms of my best friend Bobo. We hung out at her apartment in Capitol Hill all weekend. She works in a restaurant and all of her friends work in restaurants, so everywhere we went people kept giving us free food, free coffee, free cocktails or something. It was lovely. Seattle was gorgeous. It didn't smell like ANYTHING. Literally every place was blooming with strange, wonderful and gorgeous plants. I hung out with Bobo's can Nino (named after Nina Simone before his gender had been discovered) and fell in love with him. I ate very well. We went out to five bars in one night and we went to a karaoke bar and I sang the Barbra Streisand version of "Stoney End" and nobody got it but I got it and I gave it to them.

Went to a very woo-woo yoga class with Bobo on my last day in town, it was lovely. We talked a lot about "sourcing" the Earth's energy in order to provide stability for our practice, while we opened our hips to access our previously hidden potential, and uncover buried memories. There was some call-and-response chanting in Sanskrit. A far cry from the bicycle crunches of NYC yoga.

Flew down to Alameda, drank Courvoisier on the plane because it was full of screaming babies. Had so much fun hanging out with my freaky and fabulous parents. We celebrated my dad's birthday and ate too much fantastic food all week.

I was reunited with my old friend MayGay in Berkeley, we hung out and climbed around town. He looked fantastic, as always. I also saw my birthday twin homegirl Sam/Appaloosa, ditto great to see her. We've known each other since we were 14 or so-- Like, half out lives. What a funny feeling.

Maygay and I went and danced at Aunt Charlie's for the Tubesteak Connection party, but we were the only ones there. Bus Station John was the DJ. We were there early. It was cute. I hung out with my friend Grey. I spent an afternoon hanging out with Rumi from the Cockettes. I did a really tremendous amount of shopping at thrift stories. So much so that I had to mail my treasures home, I couldn't tote them on the plane.



I had only a few and fleeting bratty moments. As I naturally do whenever I'm with my parents. Becoming, again, a baby, for a few moments at a time, whenever I'm back in the same dynamic.

I came back last Sunday morning and went to go see the voluptuous Horror of Karen Black perform in Thompkins Square park, and got a haircut in the East Village. Then I spent basically all of last week celebrating my 30th birthday, on various levels. On Tuesday I went to karaoke with Sister Pico. On Wednesday I went to that Queer Cocktail Party with the queer artists. Thursday, my actual bday, I went to Zabar's, to CdG (to buy perfume ONLY, jeez) and out to dinner with Erin and Ben, then to See Jeffery and Cole's show. After that I went to Julius to see lovely baby bday twin Brian, who was celebrating his birth there as well. Friday I worked from home then hosted an epick birthday part at the Hose with Jessica, another darling Bday twin and my neighbor. The party was fun! A little overwhelming but great.

I'm skipping over a lot because I don't want to have to track down photos. The rest of the weekend I spent in a daze, feeling sorry for myself and indulging in every appetite I could.

I'm toying with the idea of quitting smoking. I'm going to a dermatologist tomorrow night, and I'm making an eye exam appointment this week. I am ready for love. I'm hungry. I'm going to rehearse tonight for MAPPLETHORPE, for the performance at Afterglow in Provincetown in a month. It feels strange. I painted my nails for the party, something I haven't done in a long time.

What else. I feel okay.

7/14/14

People Beautiful

Had a good, recreational weekend. Lots of fun and killing time. Not a lot of stress. Not a lot of anxiety, it didn't feel like, which was a good change. I was killing time and I wandered into an overpriced vintage store, and this song was playing:



I guess I'm sort of getting into the Andrews Sisters. This morning there was a guy on the train-- he's sometimes on the L during the morning rush hour, often yelling about Christianity and the sins of homosexuality. The sin of not following Gods Plan for your gender. It reminded me of this video Juliana Luecking made starring Johanna Fateman. from her People are a Trip series:



I also wish I had a crazy religion I could sing about. As if to compete? This morning the guy on the train had a new routine. He was harping pretty hard on weed, on pleasure. He kept reiterating how when you get to Hell, you'll retain all five of your senses. And that Hell is a torture of all five senses. Like, implying that Hell would smell really bad, would taste bad, or something. I never think of that when I think of Hell. I wasn't raised Christian, so I haven't really thought much about Hell, or, for that matter, Heaven.

Talking about imagining Hell and Heaven, though, reminds me of this performance and speech. Marilyn Manson makes a good point here, as he so often did back in the day:


This weekend I was at Metropolitan for this party, and a group of really dressed-up (very Fashionable) young boys were shyly but enthusiastically going assez-JAMBON on the makeshift dancefloor when this song came on. Isn't that nuts? I told my friends, I never in a million years thought this would be my life. I wanted to say: dear 13 year-old Max. Someday you'll be at a gay bar in Brooklyn and you'll see porn stars and twinks dancing really hard to "The Beautiful People/" Unbelievable.

Usually, if we're dancing to Beautiful People, it's the Barbara Tucker song:


Or, the Hardrive song that samples it:



Thinking about Manson and how he cuts a bit of a different figure these days.



Over the weekend was some fun understanding. I wanna go into details but I feel like it'd be uncouth.

Maybe I should say that I was both disappointed and thrilled, angry and happy at the same time. Yesterday was pretty perfect. I woke up (hungover), went to the gym, had brunch with Spooky aka Joseph Keckler whom I miss and love very much, and then went to see William Johnson and Nayland Blake read at the Bower Poetry Club. Sister Pico joined me, it was lovely. I went window shopping and met up with PLD when she got off work. I came home and vigorously cleaned my room, ordered take-out, watched anime and hand-washed my designed denim before passing out. I feel okay. I'm really to show you.



That's the funny and fucked up thin about so-called "beautiful people" right? Is that everyone is beautiful if you look long enough. Ugliness is a myth.

7/11/14

"I CAN JUST LEAVE, OR SAY IT'S NOT A BIG DEAL, I'M JUST A SINGER."

Lana Del Rey might not be a Feminist but I do think she is a Buddhist. I mean, I think she's a Feminist, too. I'm actually not that into men saying what is or isn't Feminism. I think Feminism can be understood to be something you do, rather than something you are. And Lana Del Rey doesn't want to do that. We could say that Feminism is about seeing and knowing that women are human beings, and Lana Del Rey says she's not interested in that. Then what, we might wonder, is interested in? People, she says. It's always about meeting the right person, being so fascinated by the people she meets. Strangers, lovers, whoever. She is endlessly interested in, gestures towards disappearing into other people. She's fascinated and obsessed with understanding people. Meeting someone who understands her. Being unguarded, vulnerable around other people. This seems to me a kind of Buddhist way of thinking. She may not believe that women are people but she does seem to believe that Buddhas are people, that all people have the ability to achieve understanding, and through the connection forged by understanding, transcendence.

In that recent interview with the Guardian:
Del Rey likes to describe the more tumultuous periods of her life in romantic terms: she says she'd often spend her nights wandering around New York – "West Side Highway, Lower East Side, parts of Brooklyn" – meeting strangers and seeing where the night took them. "I was inspired by Dylan's stories of meeting people and making music after you met them. I met a lot of singers, painters, bikers passing through. They were friends, or sometimes more. All people I was really interested in on impact." 
It sounds pretty dangerous. 
"Yeah, I was lucky, but I also have strong intuition." 
Does she still do it? 
"Sometimes." 
Does anyone ever say: "Hang on … you're Lana Del Rey!" 
"Sometimes they do. About half the time they do, half the time they don't. If they know who I am I can just leave, or I say it's not a big deal, I'm just a singer." 
Are they not surprised to see you out wandering the streets? 
"If I'm in LA then maybe. If I'm in Omaha, maybe not." 
When she was 18, Del Rey's darker experiences – she has talked about being alcoholic – prompted her to take up outreach work helping those addicted to drugs or alcohol. It's something she describes as her true calling and something she still does when she gets the chance. 
"I live in Koreatown on the edge of Hancock Park [in LA], so I do different things where and when I can. It's not just people with mental illness on the streets, but also people who, throughout the years, have lost identification information, that sort of thing. And I know what to do, I know how I can help, because I was that person."
She sees the good in everyone, she wants to know what everyone is like. If she feels recognized she can "just leave, or say it's not a big deal, she's just a singer." Isn't the image of Lana wandering around, just meeting people, interesting? She feels unbound to any situation, because she has good intuition. She wants to help drug addicted indigents because she was that person.

Is Lana Del Rey the Great American Buddhist Pop Star?







The thing of the Prince, the trust-fund kid who comes into contact with death, with aging, with disease and poverty, then becomes an ascetic in search of enlightenment. This could roughly be Lana's story too. I mean no disrespect to anyone's belief system or religion in asking this. I'm serious though-- if we can see that the possibility for cultivating Buddha-nature exists in everyone, I'd imagine it exists for Lana Del Rey, and that her exploration of it, conscious or not, regardless of what she calls it, can be recognized as such.

And the cool thing is, becoming famous isn't the same as enlightenment. She's totally ambivalent about her position in the world. She says in that interview that she wishes she was dead already. That she hasn't enjoyed being a pop star or being famous at all.  I think that's good. I don't think it's good when pop stars are pretending to be miserable, or celebrating misery. She's not doing that. She's just saying that being famous isn't an end in an of itself, it's not the same thing as being at peace, or happy, or content. Being famous, being "known" is not the same thing as knowledge. It's not a big deal, she's just a singer. She's making music about, you know, people "on impact".

She's trying to understand mortality. She reminds us, as you must know, that we are Born to Die.

A quote from Siddhartha Gautama in the Dhammapada:
Pare ca na vijananti
mayamettha yamamase
ye ca tattha vijananti
tato sammanti medhaga.
"People, other than the wise, do not realize, "We in this world must all die," (and, not realizing it, continue their quarrels). The wise realize it and thereby their quarrels cease."

Thus far, not much of Lana Del Rey's work seems to be about settling quarrels so much as realizing that we must die. This is an important part of the message but it's not the only part. I hope she sticks around to tell us about settling quarrels.

7/8/14

Three Nine

I'm wearing a tight t-shirt. This shirt from that awful boutique with the sexist ads and the 70s nostalgia. I used to wear this shirt at least twice a week. That's the thing; I hold onto shit forever. It's tight. Is it that I've gained weight? Has the shirt shrunk? Maybe I just used to wear tighter clothing as matter of course.

I was reading my Astrobarry horoscope yesterday and it said that good news was on the way and to sit tight until next week. What a nice thought. Who doesn't like good luck.

And yesterday I felt like things were oddly going well. I was surprised to hear from you. To hear back. A pleasant surprise. This weekend was a killer, a good one.

Thursday night I performed at T.B.A. at Bizarre. It was a very cute show, hosted by Merrie Cherry. I sang a slow, "Reggae" version of Kylie's "Breathe", introducing it as a song about sex advice. I mean.

At the end of my song, I said "Give it up for Merrie Cherry you guys!" Because she had introduced me and was the host. No. In fact the NEXT announcer was someone else, who began with "Give it up for Max Steele! I'm not Merrie Cherry, but give it up for..." And introduced the next performer. But the ANNOUNCER hadn't been introduced. I fucked up the introductions. Is this a drag show thing? How did I not get this? It felt like the one thing I could possibly have fucked up. That, and the song. I think people felt ok about my performance. I always think that, so I made MAPPLETHORPE to be this thing of, like, expanding the space for doubt. So in a way, if you're not into the song, that's kind of okay and kind of the correct response and you're kind of rewarded for that. I don't know if any or everyone gets it, what I'm doing. But you never know, so. I hung out at Bizarre a while then came home to have a nightcap with Miss Jessica Paps.

Friday I went to the gym and lazily tidied up around my room, taking naps and feeling good. I met up with PLD and Lola and we went to Xara's art opening near the house. We caught the fever to see the fireworks so Lola and I went to her old apartments roof to try to see. We sort of saw them, and definitely saw everyone else's fireworks. It was like EVERYONE had fireworks. All these rooftop explosions. After the roof Lola and I and her lil sister's new room mate met up with The Other Max at Ryan and Matthew's amazing house. They had fantastic punch and I had a lot. Plus champagne. Ok. Them we went to Lester's birthday party at a bar called The Bar. It was a dance party. There were lasers. There were these fancy margaritas with watermelon ice cubes, it was weird. I didn't wait for the ice cube to melt into an edible piece of watermelon but I probably could have. I also saw a boy with this adorable backpack there:



SO cute, right? OK so then R from SF, Other Max, and Lola and I took a car to 11:11 in the City. We talked about how the basement dance floor, through the secret door, is so cool and weird. And kind of scary! It's a tiny very dark room in an unlit basement with no windows. Other Max said it felt like a death trap sometimes. But there's AC and great music and more lazers, so it's fun so we went. We got there and paid the shameful cover charge and hung out upstairs because the basement wasn't ready yet. Saw Neon at her Bottle Table. Said hello to all the kids. They had a live drummer. It was a cute fun time.

Eventually they let us into the basement. That part was fun and crowded/sexy, until someone lit off a 4th of July Sparkler IN THE BASEMENT. I actually blocked this out and had to be reminded about it the next day. Why was it a big deal? Oh yeah-- because it was a tiny basement secret room full of drunk people with no windows or anything and there were sparklers going off. Crazy and wild, indeed. We all had our fill right around then, and some poor soul, doubtlessly raised by wolves (and very impolite wolves) happened to cut Miss Lola in line for the ladies room.

Well. Folks should know better than that. She lit into him and rightly so and chased him out of the club and into a cab. Fearsome and righteous and my hero! We all walked to the train home.

Saturday I woke up, I went to the gym, I went to Vanessa's Dumplings, I watered the houseplants, I visited the cats I'm catsitting, and I went to go look at the sale at Dover Street Market. Nothing I could afford to afford. I want all of the GANRYU everything. I wish they had the denim. I want the GANRYU denim, and the sharkskin printed t-shirts. Who cares. Went to a BBQ at Opinion Gallery and saw tons of cute fun kids, Neon and Juliana on the grill, well into the night. I ate some kebabs and had some drinks. Epic Bed-Stuy roof, tons of music and laughs. Good times, you know? Other Max and I went to this party nearby, BE CUTE. Indeed it was, full of cute queer weirdos from other parts of Brooklyn besides Williamsburg. Stayed there for longer than I would have wanted to, went to GAG! at Metropolitan and stayed there as well long than I initially would have thought. Got (surprise surprise) a Hana sandwich and passed out.

Sunday I did cat duty then spent the day hanging out with Miss Jiddy No No. We had Apferol spritzes and Negronis and wandered around Bushwick, getting outdoor drinks and processing our feelings. Perfect and lazy and lovely. I came home and watched Galaxy Express 999.



Last night I went to Hot Fruit to see deer heart Joey Hansom of the band GODMOTHER who's visiting from Berlin. He performed three songs and definitely knocked my socks off. Really really fantastic music. I went to bed much later than I normally do (on a Monday!) but feel kind of ok for it. Going to go to cat duty for the last night, then go out to dinner, and try to get up at 5am tomorrow to go to the gym again before work.

I'm in a weird, unlucky mood. But also feel kind of excited, about some other things, too, so.

7/3/14

TBT & TBA

I'm doing a fun show tonight at Bizarre in Bushwick. It's called TBA and it's hosted by Merrie Cherry. The other performers tonight are Charlene, Sparklez, Aja Nicole Marie, Rify Royalty, Boy Georgia, DJ OTTER. I'm really excited to perform at this, with such cool people. I'm going to be doing a short sex workshop and then singing a classic gay anthem which is also a reggae song about bottoming. It's a new number I've never done before. I think the cover is like $5 and it's suggested donation and you should come! It'll be cute.

Here's a flyer for the show:



Someone (hopefully jokingly) referred to me online as a sex symbol. I thought "Oh God." I thought "That's fucked up." There's no response to this. I'm flattered and flabbergasted. It's that picture, a photo taken by Sebastian Kim of yrs truly, for Interview. As any regular reader of this blog probably knows. This photo, above, is a classic Throwback Thursday. I feel like I kind of look the same, right? Maybe not. This photo is five years old. It's actually older; it didn't come out until 2009 but it was taken in 2008, right before my 24th birthday. That's an important detail, because in order to be in the magazine's "Discoveries" section, in order to be a "Discovery" you had to be under 24 years old. And I was just barely under 24 years old when the photo was taken. By two days. I'm obviously hesitant to put too much stock in anything, but suffice it to say that this photo was a cool picture of me to have out in the world, and also kind of fictionalized and magickally unreal. That outfit, for example, I didn't choose. They had pulled a really cute Jil Sander look from the Fall 2008 collection for me but it didn't fit. So we went with this look, about which the photographer said "Depeche Mode". It was cute. I loved it. It's kind of fake, and if I am a sex symbol it's because of this photo, maybe. Or maybe this photo was because I was a sex symbol, I was go-go dancing at the time. And writing Scorcher. If I am a sex symbol it's because I believe in the aesthetic value of disappointment. Of disappointing men. I advertise myself a certain way. No, I don't advertise so much as refuse to correct people. Guys. At least initially. You think you can have sex with me, but you can't. And the anger you feel about it-- that anger feels righteous, but it's not. Or, maybe it used to be, but it's not anymore. I'm here to tell you.

Punk is about destroying symbols, codes, conventions. Replacing them with new ones too, of course, eventually, but the breaking down is the genesis. Chaos is the creation myth.

If I'm a sex symbol it's because I'm really angry. I'm seething. If I'm a sex symbol then it's for the wrong reasons. If I'm a sex symbol, then it's hollow. If I'm a sex symbol then anyone could be one, it's purely circumstantial, meaningless. If I'm a sex symbol then it's up for grabs, because I like to share (at least with my friends). If I'm a sex symbol then there's no hope for any of us. If I'm a sex symbol then there's no such thing. If I'm a sex symbol then Pinocchio. If I'm a sex symbol then
Hey



Gepetto



Where'd you put it?



Oh Gepetto



Poor boy

7/2/14

Chick-a-Cherry Cola Lime

Kinda obsessed with Lana Del Rey's new record. I wasn't so interested in her before but now I am. I'm really into how much of a weirdo she is, as a cultural figure. Like, she kind of disappeared, from America at least, over the last two years, and now she's back with a new record, and it's great, and she's in a bad fucking mood. In a recent interview with the Guardian, she says: "I wish I was dead already." I saw some people online say that this is irresponsible of a pop star to say, that she's encouraging people to kill themselves. I'm not so sure of that, but I'm not in her (or anyone's) demo. I think it's pretty interesting that she is portraying a fundamental ambivalence. She's ambivalent about being a pop star, a singer, an artist. She's ambivalent about being alive at all. That's kind of freaky, right? Like even someone like Lana Del Rey, who is young and talented and successful and beautiful, even someone who has it all, the way she does, she still feels like she wants to die. Okay, so maybe being a pop star isn't a salve for wishing you were dead. I suppose I already knew that? I feel like this is an important reminder, she's giving us. She also talks about wandering the streets of New York, Los Angeles and Omaha, just meeting strangers and seeing where they take her.

My favorite song on Ultraviolence is "Florida Kilos." But you know, it's like one of those things where your favorite song changes all the time/over time. Here's the B0DYH1GH remix:



Reading on the toilet in New York Magazine the article on the life and mostly death of Steve Crohn. I fucking hate this shit: the article seems to imply that for an aging gay man in New York City who does not have money, who doesn't have a fancy job or some hot-shit sexy career, maybe, for those people, suicide is an option. This article is irresponsible and disgusting. It reminded me of the piece on the suicide of the self-help therapist Bob Bergeron in the Times a couple years ago.

This thing of not being up to the task of living. Of romanticizing suicide and death. This thing of romanticizing loneliness. It seems like suicide, at least in these two articles, is the logical conclusion for the loneliness and isolation of being queer, being an old queer. This thing of, well, you're not cute or young or rich so what use is there in being alive? I think maybe I'm projecting a little bit because I'm none of those things and am furious at the idea that I'd be better off killing myself. It's as painfully obscene an idea as I can think of and all the more painful and threatening for the air of inexorability with which we talk about queer suicide. Of course, we say. Finding out another queer person has killed themselves, people say "of course". This is the wrong way to talk about death, the wrong way to understand suicide. We're on the wrong side of it, so I guess we can't understand it.

I am trying to articulate why I like it when Lana Del Rey talks about wanting to be dead, and why I dislike it when actual people die. I guess it's about the role of art, the role of curiosity, the fake social aspect. The actual community tragedy aspect.

I was thinking to myself recently that there really is a time, was a time, when things used to be different. I was at the gym yesterday thinking about some memory that seemed so long ago but was probably just a few years ago. "Oh," I thought "that was back when I used to have feelings like a normal person."

Is it possible to ruin something by association? Is it possible to save something by association. TIME: I think, THE SONG SAVER. or MEMORY: THE SONG RUINER. I'm always struck by how my experience of music is so radically transformed by where and when I heard something, who it reminds me of, etc. For example, I hadn't heard this remix until recently:



You know, that can't be true. I must have heard it at some point. Somewhere. I've certainly heard the original. But now I like this song. Now this song means something to me, I guess.

Sunday was pride and I played a cute show ta the Bureau. I sand Taja Sevelle's "Love is Contagious" after claiming it as a 1980s AIDS-related Queer Anthem. I got to tell Jim Fouratt thank you for rioting at Stonewall all those years ago. I had a nice time. I ran into Caroline and Jessie at a bar afterward. I didn't go out Sunday night. Pride is always kind of a let-down for me. I pretty much always have a bad time. I don't do good with enforced fun. I always feel excluded, every day pretty much, so on that day I feel even more excluded. I didn't have the cash to party like a madman anyway. Nor the energy.

Saturday I did a reading at Popsickle during the day, and hung out with Teebs and Kayla and we drank rose at her friend's uncles apartment in Dumbo. The reading went ok I guess. Mostly a straight crowd. No one came up to me to tell me anything afterward. People don't have to like me, it's okay. I was really really hungover. After my reading I went to the Bureau to see a bill where Teebs was reading. Lots of cute people there. Hung out with some cool art girls and kind of flirted with this boy, but like I found out he already knew a bunch of people I know. Later on in the night, I buried one hatched. I feel good. I felt good about feeling good with someone. Twice on Saturday I introduced myself to people and they were like "Max....?" waiting for my last name.

I feel like a crazy person. I feel like maybe people think of me in a certain way, in certain ways. They think of me as Max Steele. I don't know what these associations are. Even if they tell me. I feel like I never get to be a person. Sometimes it's positive associations, sometimes now. Almost always it feels like it has nothing to do with me. So it makes it hard, in a way, to meet people. To try to get to know someone.

Because they say they know me already. They already know about me.
Twice in the last month I tried to ask people out, who declined. It was a weird thing where they seemed to allude to something about me as the reason but wouldn't say what it was. That I'm a performer. That I'm Max Steele. Can't you just say that you think I'm stupid, that you think I'm unattractive, that you don't like my art or my sense of humor. Why does it have to be this vague thing of me just being inherently unworthy. Why does it have to be a thing that I should somehow already know about, right?

This is all to say that on Friday night I got really drunk and really dark. I was in a bad motherfucking mood. I wanted to play that show so bad, and I wasn't asked to. And I could have bullied my way onto the bill, and kind of almost did, but it was more trouble than it was worth. I really wanted to be invited, by someone, somewhere. And I was, but it didn't feel like enough. Do you ever see the darkness coming? I saw it. I said: "Ok here comes a bad mood" and it sure did. I ended the night with friends though, drinking to excess, kissing and saying nice things to each other. Everything seemed fine. People were trying to be nice to me.

But I felt dark and bad and ugly. I felt heartbroken in my heart.
It's been a rough springtime. And the springtime has lasted many years now.

And I keep hearing new songs and falling in love with them and then ruining them. And then rediscovering old songs.

Thursday I went to Mattachine and I danced a lot and I felt good, then. I didn't feel so bad. And so now it's been almost a week and I'm almost all better. I'm afraid to admit what hurts or what I want because I'm worried it could manifest itself or be used against me. All I want, though, is to be included, to have someone like me or want to spend time with me. I think I maybe give off a different impression: that I'm aloof, that I don't care, that I'm mean. Do you know me? Those aren't true things.

Tonight I'm going to go hang out with some cats and then I'm going to a poetry reading and I'm going to hug my friends and I'm not going to be scared of being alone tonight.

I went to the gym this morning and I was late because I was looking for an mp3 of that Bjork remix and I couldn't find one.

6/25/14

Three working song titles for unwritten songs

#1: ABSENT



Is it okay to say I've been sick? Is that an okay reason to explain why I've taken so long to get back to people.

I wanted to update about a bunch of things but I was sad and weird recently. I guess it's been two weeks. More? I played a bunch of shows, they were pretty much fantastic. I've had some difficult moments. What are you going to do. I want to catch up but I can't catch up. I was talking to my shrink, talking to my friends about how I don't want to blog about anything, I don't want to talk about anything, I don't want to do anything until I can resolve my feelings around this person I knew who passed away recently. We weren't close, I wouldn't even call us friends. It feels disrespectful and invasive to memorialize them, to make their death about me. Let's just say there was someone I knew and looked up to and they're gone and although we were very far from close or intimate in any way, although we only met each other a handful of times, and although I've unfortunately lost a few people I was actually close to, this person's passing really threw me. It made me feel like I had nothing to talk about except how sad I was they're gone, and I had no right to say that at all, so why even start. I've put a lid on this for the time being. Know that I was thinking about some things, but decided to wait until I had a real thing to say about them.  Is this what we mean when we say "holding the space"?

I wasn't sick, I was sad. I was just disappointed. I was going through some stuff I made a few years ago and was totally, totally blown away by how different the voice of the person making it was. I seemed so immature! I think that's nice; progress. Incremental development. But still, I feel like such a fucking baby sometimes when it comes to disappointment: I didn't get this thing I talked myself into wanting and so I keep just turning it over and over in my head.

It's so fucked up and beautiful how disappointment is really just a clarification of desire. How pain is a necessary component of pleasure. How one's ability (okay, my ability) to desire and work towards intimacy is only understood by the constant return to loneliness.

I guess we don't like that word.


#2: BAD COP



The thing of, like, being the one that you know but don't feel good about. You don't want to let me know, you don't want to just say, or just thank me, for doing something you liked. It's like-- I was out with an artist friend of mine who is the same age as me, and we ran into a younger artist person and I introduced them to my friend, I didn't know if they'd formally met before. And the younger artist was very sweet, and told my friend how they'd seen their work when they first moved to the City and they were really into it. I didn't actually hear this, I wasn't listening in on their conversation (I was talking to someone else) but it is that thing of, like, that's really sweet and I felt kind of jealous. Not jealous; it was another object lesson in something I'm doing/not doing or being/not being. I don't have those conversations with people, you know? I'm not the one that, even were it true in such a situation, that you would want to tell that to. I am the Bad Cop. I'm the person who people say is stuck up, snobby, an asshole, because I didn't remember someone's name after meeting them once before, at a nightclub. You know, meanwhile, the person who's name I don't remember doesn't actually know anything about me beyond my name. It's a straw man thing. I feel bad. This is pessimism taking over. I guess it's not how I actually feel but like finding evidence of a dark hunch.

Bad Cops and Dark Hunches. Do you think in terms of song titles?

No, I just mean that I feel like I'm stuck in this role I've adoped for myself where I have to be the Bad Cop. Where I have to be the one most uncomfortable, most impossible to like person in the room. It's stupid. I often feel like this is the only way I get places, is as a punching bag. "Well, we'll need someone at the party to be really resentful of, let's get Billy." Jesus doesn't want me for a sunbeam he wants me for a scapegoat. This is gross, maybe. A running list of demands, of complaints. Why do I do this to myself. "Surely, you think, they must need someone to be the catalog model for these dunce hats. You look so good in them. You really do."


#3: WHOLESALE



This has been coming up a lot lately, for me. The idea of wholesale versus retail pricing. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that part of this is the fact that department stores are having their summer sales, and my gadfly self is always on some kind of calculation. Surely, the t-shirt that sells for $70 when 70% off-- it must cost much much less than that to manufacture it, right? What is the best deal I can get? How long should I wait to buy something. This thing of buying in bulk, calculating the cost. The more you buy, the lower the price. This is the thing of wholesale that gets me. If you bought enough of them, shouldn't they be free? No, it's about getting to the absolute minimum with the supplier. A more perfect transaction. A negotiation. There's the inherent value in something, and the inherent value that only we know and keep to ourselves.

I suppose what I'm thinking about, again, is worthiness. You can only stand up for yourself, demand more for yourself, if you think you're worth it. I'm just so skeptical of feeling worthy, because if I was it'd be different, materially. It would feel different, right? To be good, to be happy, to have your shit together. Surely, it must feel different. Surely if I feel so fucked up, it must mean that I'm not actually good. It's that thing of accepting the face value. If they charge so much for it, it must be worth it. But of course this is a lie. The price is part of the design, right?

And then again, that truism: Nobody pays retail. You know what? I'm a nobody. I pay retail. I don't want something to exist just for the sake of making people look stupid. If those are the stakes (and they nearly always are) then I volunteer to be the stupid person. I volunteer to overpay. I volunteer to test the plank; let me see if I can bounce off of the bottom of the ocean. I want to be the one. Why, why am I so theoretically interested in suffering, in being an example of badness. I'm not a superhero, more like a minor hero. A virtuous villain sidekick. I'm that one who eats the poison so no one else has to. And it sucks. I just want someone to share it with, to remind me I don't have to.