Hello, friend! C’mon, let’s hop into a time machine, and go back to December 2011 so I can give you a tour of my witchy bedroom. Step lively, one and all! And don’t forget your hazmat suit.
As soon as you step in, to the right you’ll notice a bookcase. On the top shelf is a mystical shrine. There’s a photo of my dead grandmother, some teeth and feathers in a jar my friend found in a bolivian witch market, and about a dozen candles which have burned and melted into the bookshelf. I decorated this book case with an assortment of playing cards, and paper cut-outs of B-Movie posters (I just tape them to the surfaces, because who the hell has time for a frame?) There are also various books and journals piled up haphazardly, with random scraps of scribbled paper falling out of them. Some of them say things like “Genital Crab Races: New Olympic Event?” or “I got a big bulge in my jeggings.” Note: I have no idea what any of this shit is referencing, and yet I hold on to the hope that one day I will understand.
Along the wall, next to the book case is a wine-colored sheet tacked to the wall. I hot glue-gunned rhinestones and stars to it and have used it as a backdrop for my many of my world-famous videos
Directly facing you is my bed–That is to say, a few random mattresses piled like dusty pancakes on the floor. Just ignore the huge dark stains THEY ARE NOT blood stains or skid marks but ink, INK I TELL YOU. I’d developed the nasty habit of falling asleep in bed with an open pen. But I never have the budget to replace my bedding, and besides, I never have any overnight guests, so it really doesn’t matter anyway.
Moving along to the left, there is a beautiful solid oak desk given to me by some nice old gays who made me promise to take care of it. (Of course, I did not). Ontop of the desk rests an old eMac computer which doesn’t really work, and makes a high-pitched keening sound when it is on, much like a tweaker at 4:00 am. The desk is caked with coffee-stains, food splatters, and weed resin. There are two or three moldy coffee mugs on the desk next to a box of tampons (my friend rachel m. said to me on her last visit: “you know how long it’s been since you got laid, when you’ve got a box of tampons on your desk.”) Under the desk are more journals, sketches, random scribbled ideas, junk mail, and dirty socks. Above the desk hangs some janky old christmas lights; they create a festive ambiance.
Next to my desk is a lamp, with a torn piece of fabric tossed over it for dramatic (witchy red light!) effects. The fabric has been burned by the lightbulb a few times. Just move the burned pieces to the back and ignore that it’s a fire hazard BECAUSE IT LOOKS SO COOL!
Moving along counterclockwise, you’ll find a chest of drawers with a broken handle. On top of the chest is a giant aquarium, which I have used to house any number of art installations: an island of toy crabs huddled under a disco ball, a genie bottle with a scary doll head stuck in it, and one time in a minimalist phase, a lone can of tuna fish. The water in the aquarium is changed only when I start to notice mold scum. Which is pretty much never because I don’t notice shit like that. I’m telling you know, I’m a gross-out human being.
Ontop of the aquarium sits a broken toy planetarium that I repurposed into a prop bong for a video. The prop bong has a fake severed hand in it, along with a luchador mask.
Thus concludes my tour. Thank you all for coming! And now let us travel briefly back to 2015, for a Purell bath and a shot of listerine, and then hop in the time machine to July, 2010.
Notes from Oz
In July, 2010, the night before I started my new job in the Tenderloin, I threw a party to celebrate my last day of being unemployed. However, my mood was, shall we say, less than festive? As I stood in my kitchen, preparing my famous three layer jello salad, a bitterness began to seep into my guts. Here I’d had one shitkicking year of freedom, working on endless creative projects, all with the hopes that I’d finally find my lucky break and avoid being shackled once again, to a regular 9-5 desk job like all the other miserable bastards out there. And while I had accumulated an impressive portfolio of videos videos , screenplays, blogs , and a small, but loyal fan club of drag queens, miscreants and perverts, I felt defeated.
Looking into my future, I saw an endless expanse of desks, rush hour commutes, angry customers, crazy bosses, malfunctioning printers, ringing telephones, and piles of paperwork. Polices, procedures, meetings, death.
And I wept. I wept into my creamy whipped topping.
But later that evening, my mood lifted! This is because I have awesome friends, and they never fail to cheer me up. That night, I received two amazing gifts. I’m not generally a superstitious person, except when it comes to heartfelt gifts. I believe they are somehow divining instruments from heaven, and things I should seriously ponder on a poetic level while grooving on kind bud.
Anyway, gift # 1 was an elaborately decorated cake, which featured a woodland scene. In the middle of the cake, was a blue frosting river. At the foot of the river was a little explorer, at the beginning of a journey. All along the river were little animals: snakes, lions, deer, elephants, and cows.
Gift # 2 was a bedazzled glass boot, filled with cranberry vodka mix.
“Oh shit! It’s the Wizard of Oz!” I exclaimed, gleefully. (My all time favorite movie, by the way) “See? Here’s my ruby slipper, and here’s the yellow brick road–except, it’s a blue frosting river, of course. And all of these little animals are going to be the new friends I make in the Tenderloin.”
Amazing how a slice of cake, and few shots of cranberry vodka from a bedazzled boot can change a perspective. All at once, I felt at peace. I was simply going to be in “Oz” –a crazy upside-down place full of friendly singing midgets, and dancing scarecrows! No matter what happened, no matter how dark and ugly, I would remind myself that I will one day go “home” and this will all be one crazy story I’d tell one day, over a hearty country breakfast of grits and hard tack. (Or in a blog.)
The Oz metaphor helped me greatly through my first six months or so of my job in the Tenderloin. I viewed every bizarre thing that happened, every insane person I encountered, with detached amusement. I even began to write Mark Twain- style “Notes from Oz” letters to my dear friend Gina, who’d moved away to Florida, detailing all of the wacky shit I met in, or around that office. Here’s an excerpt, from my first month:
Greetings from Oz, Gina! Here is what I’ve observed in only my first week of working here:
- A man outside the office, violently threatening another man with a cup-and-ball game!
- A woman making diarrheas in front of Norwegian tourists and then vomiting into her diarrheas!
- A client who stashes all our paperwork we give her “in her titty” yet still manages to miss every single one of her doctors appointments.
- A drunk man shouting at himself in our bathroom
- A client who is a depressed ex-surgeon who tried to kill himself by inducing a cardiac arrest that looks like a natural death, so his children can get his insurance money.
- A client plagued by a talking peanut butter sandwich that sits on her shoulder, singing the national anthem nonstop.
Here’s another excerpt, from six months later. Still trying to stay detached.
The job itself continues to be challenging as fuck, Gina, but I treat it like a form of character-building yoga. Every day I am presented with a new challenge: where will I sit? will we run out of toilet paper? am I losing my mind or is my co-worker playing tracks from his experimental nightmare-inducing CD? Why does the screaming lady on McAllister scream every tuesday afternoon at three o’clock? Will the ex-con I am accompanying to a dr. appointment stab me in the head like he stabbed that shop-clerk years ago? Always an adventure, Gina. Always an adventure.
One year later, every other employee that worked there when I started was fired or quit or went insane, and the only two jackoffs remaining in Oz, were me, and the office manager, Leo. (name changed). I inherited all of our cases, and my workload went from demanding, to insane. On top of all this hot mess, like a blood clot on a cupcake, I fell in love with the Office Manager, Leo. It wasn’t a giggly office flirtation. There were no happy hours that trailed off into gropings we awkwardly regretted later. There were no dreamy sighs aired over the water cooler. It was raw, hot, and gouging, and it exploded me from the inside-out.
Here’s an excerpt to Gina, from July, 2011:
If this were national geographic, I’d say what’s happening between me and Leo is a courtship ritual between two very mutually attracted people who cannot, for very concrete reasons (he is my boss, he has a girlfriend) actively mate. Our courtship rituals thus far consist of: name-calling, teasing, threats of physical violence, (“i’m going to kick you in the face”), throwing staplers at each other, sharing cooking secrets, making each other gifts out of office supplies and hiding them in eachothers desks, psychoanalyzing each other, and re-hashing episodes of Little House on the Prairie. At times I wish he would just go away, but he’s up in my crack 24/7, Gina, God help me! The more I ignore him and tell him to get outta my face, the more he delightedly teases me. He even called me a bitch one day, and you know what? I have not been that turned on since, like, the 90’s.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to hold on to the Oz metaphor for much longer than a year. Shit just started getting way too real. Oz was a whimsical, fantastical place! Sure, it had flying monkeys and a wicked witch. But the make-up and technicolor were so obviously fake. My Oz was much darker, and, the “wacky” characters I’d detailed in my “Notes from Oz” letters to Gina were real people who had very real, and tragically debilitating physical/mental health issues. Homeless men and women. Veterans. Parolees. Survivors of appalling violence. And it was my job to read their medical and psychiatric records to scour them for evidence. The more I read their stories, and the better I got to know these clients personally, the deeper I sank. It was extraordinarily humbling, and transformative time, to say the least. Also, depressing as fuck.
By December 2011, I was skidding off the rails. I stopped doing art projects. I didn’t see people. I drank wine, alone in my bedroom nightly, trying to exorcise the accumulated misery I’d absorbed: both the human misery I encountered by day, in our clients and neighborhood, and the misery in my own heart being madly in love with a man I knew I’d never get to french. It was a sadsack year. At some point, I just stopped fighting it. If this darkness wanted to swallow me, then, hell, who was I to intervene? Don’t we shy away from the darkness a little too quickly? It’s much easier to find a distraction–shopping, drugs, workaholism, internet, TV, or a new lover. But I believe the darkness is just as important as illumination, in forming strength of character in a person. The problem is, it kind of sucks to be there, so nobody wants to stay except masochists. Fortunately, I am a masochist, so I plugged my nose, shouted cowabunga, and dove directly into the belly of the beast. For awhile, I found peace; understanding nothing and being defined by nothing. I woke up, I did my job, felt my big feelings, wept in the bathroom, and went home to stretch and dance it off to disco. Then I did it all over again.
After what felt like a thousand days and nights, I grew restless. I started to miss my old life, of antics and schemes. But when you’re that far in the belly of the beast, and actively being digested, you know the only way out, don’t you? Yep, through the old poop chute. And the only way to get the beast to poop is to feed it lots of fiber.
I’ve done many things in my life that some might consider daring, or just plain weird and stupid. I have danced naked on a beach in nothing but a beard beard, while my friends filmed me. have stood on stage, in front of a hundreds of people, doing rap songs about prostate cancer awareness. But I have never, ever done anything so wild, so radical, as purging my closet. Suddenly, a speck of light appeared in the darkness. The beast farted, and I wanted to continue the agitation process with more cleaning and purging, because it felt like the right thing to do. Perhaps this was the metaphorical metamucil I needed to feed the beast, to get it to poop me out. My problem, of course, was that I had absolutely zero skills in this department. I may have been a creative savant, but I was a homesteading flunkee.
So the saying goes: “When the student is ready, the teachers will appear.” And luckily, I had to look no further than two of my best friends, Adriana and Julie, who are, in addition to being fun-loving, great to talk to, and solidly rad, are also anal retentive neat freaks of the highest order.
“I want to learn more of the house shit,” I told them, one evening, over drinks. “The closet purge is just a start. I want to completely redo my whole bedroom, and continue on through the whole house. I want A CLEANING REVOLUTION!”
Fortunately, my birthday was just around the corner. And so, my kind, and loving friends decided to gift me with a complete bedroom makeover, which included a deep clean and a paint job.
“See, your bedroom, is like your vagina,” explained Adriana. “You want to have an nice clean vag, and not a vag full of crumpled kleenexes and cat hair vomit crust. We will help you, and show you our ways. But you’re going to have to prepare your room first before we come over, and clear everything out.”
“Okay,” I said, not having ANY idea what I was in for. “I can do that.”
“Well shit,” said Julie. “ Let’s make it happen.”