We woke up the next day with just enough time get our goth makeup off and get to the airport, both of us still buzzing on dex residuals. Flying on standby, I’m a nervous wreck–even if I get on this flight, there’s nothing that says I can’t get bumped at any of the layovers and get stuck in some shitty midwestern city. Julie has a full fare ticket and gets on the flight no problem and of course, sigh, nothing’s easy, there’s no room for me. Pleading my story to three ticket agents finally gets me on a flight from Orlando to Austin to Phoenix to LA. Six hours later I make it to LAX.
As nervous as I made myself during the flight, LA turns out to be no different from the rest of the world, just a little bigger and more of it. I meet my cousin at the gate. We get along well, him being a closeted homosexual, and me being….me, the two black sheep of the family find a bit of refuge in at least one other person accepting of nontraditional lifestyles. A real find in the midst of conservative Presbyterianism and clean livin’–my great grandmother is 98 and still kicking. He’s doing well as a pediatric psychologist and his first act as host is to take us to a restaurant that would have wiped out both Julie and I for the expense of one meal. Bob turns out to be a real sweetheart.
The next day he takes us around LA, I’m impressed with seeing the Larry Flynt Publishing building and the feeling of apathetic anarchy with which it resonates. We take in Venice Beach, Julie is not well traveled and finds pleasure in dipping her toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. The air is cool here; so light and cool you feel as though you’re at elevation, but the ocean is right there in front of you to remind you of sea level. Sidewalk performers, muscle men, a country guitarist playing in boots, his underwear and a cowboy hat, the hip hop dancers that talk more smack than anything else. It’s a hippie climate, chain smoking headshops. Some guy is blowing glass in the back of a store with dreds grown and planted by his parents. The artwork is amazing– Tiffiny eat your heart out; but I doubt the Met will ever have a glass blown bong section.
Goddamn telepath nausea on MelJude; nervous energy making me sick. I have no fucking clue. Everything you could ever want to buy on the Avenue: Gothic walmarts, vampire killing kits, plush satin, or would you prefer that in leather?….Raverific, girls changing in public inviting commentary on transparent tits…..Vinyl, rooms of it, you spinning hip hop or New Republic?….You know, that one Troggs album of live shit songs, everybody’s heard that….What a steal! Only $3,800 for a barbie belt….
We’ll have to pass back by MelJude before we leave.
Like I said, Bob is spoiling us and gives us keys to his BMW to explore the LA nightlife. We’d picked up some flyers on MelJude about some Gothic Ball at a place called Coven 13. Get dressed, show Bob what I look like in makeup, and we’re off.
The place turns out to be a rented music hall with a vast open floor packed full of the glamfam goth presence. More people for genera then I’d ever seen congregated at one place compounded for the vanity factor. Elaborate hoop skirts, wedding dresses, 19th-century gowns, faces painted for tragedy, fanning themselves with lace….”oh, the vapors” ….and the girls were in labored costume as well. The mood was surprisingly elated, almost jovial, much different from the scene back home. There was no hiding in shadows and introspective dancing; everyone is more…available.
First thing I notice is that not a god damn person is smoking. Turns out you can’t really smoke anywhere indoors in California and eventually we find out where to go. Corralled into a velvet roped pen just outside the building, big enough for twenty people but holding forty. Little conversation, but more physical communication.
Surprisingly, everything in L.A. closes down at 2:00AM. But we wouldn’t get out without at least one scrawny little boy picking a fight with a 200lb bouncer. Ah, soooooo dramatic.
We searched desperately for a hook up after the place closed down without success. Who would have thought LA closed down at 2:00AM? Just as well though. Took us two hours to find our way back through the rorschach ink blot pictogram Los Angeles refers to as its freeway system.
Bob, being the most wonderful host a boy ever had, refuses to disturb our sleep but rather leaves us a note (and a carefully drawn map) for us to meet him and his friend for lunch. We throw ourselves together and get to downtown Pasedena a little early to stroll through true yuppie fashion stores at true yuppie prices. It’s about time for lunch, and right on time we meet Bob and his friend Fernando. Fernando (not surprisingly) turns out to be an outspokenly gay, latin psychiatrist. He has a wonderful bluntness to him, prepared to lay everything out on the line.
“…yes, I’d definitely like something from the breakfast menu…hey, you know what would go great with lunch? This great little drink of champagne in orange juice! Yes, one for each of us, thank you…so, Thomas, I guess you’re the only one in Bob’s family who’s like…you know…ok with Bob’s being gay, like…a faggot?”
Bob blushes, “Fernando!” And then he laughs, “Well, I always thought that out of our family, Jack would probably understand me.”
Fernando directs me again facetiously, “Oh…I’m sorry….so you do understand him then?”
Bob had never actually told me flat out that he was gay (although he never had to) so Fernando is making me smile, “Well, you see Fernando, I understand all of my relatives, the difference is that I enjoy Bob.”
He gives a gracious smile, and continues with the small talk, “So how do you guys like L.A.? What have you done so far?”
Julie takes over for a bit telling him what we’ve seen and how much we’re enjoying ourselves and lunch continues quite congenially. Of course, Fernando being the character that he is, doesn’t let us get away without commenting on how some of the men passing by would possibly be suitable for Bob as well as getting my sunglasses off to see how California pot was treating me. Except for the insecurity of being intellectually incompetent, I’m able to be some version of my true self around Bob. Him letting down his guard via Fernando I took as quite an endearing gesture as well. Of course he picked up the tab and Julie and I scurried off as the meter was running out where we parked his BMW. Gotta love Bob.
We rambled through Pasedena a bit more and headed back to the house. Jet lag was kicking our ass, and a three hour nap ensued. Woke up just in time to check the LA Weekly for the gothic scene that night, get painted, and get out.
The club advertised itself as an industrial/progressive playground with go-go dancers. Got there a little early, took drugs, and waited in the car for the doors to open. We were in the not-so-seedy part of Sunset Blvd. (if there is such a thing) and the more we looked at the outside of the club, the more it seemed like a strip bar. Trashy pinkness and tinted windows. Well, the buzz crept up on us and we knew one thing for sure- there was no turning back now. How bad could industrial stripping be?
The doors opened and a line formed of mostly mexican raver kids, which gave us some relief in the fact that at least it probably wasn’t a nudy bar. Finally got in after a long, pretentious line, and the deception of the LA Weekly claimed two more victims. To say the least, this was no gothic bar.
Big dance floor, mostly 80’s tunes and techno, not a bad crowd, just not the crowd we expected. Past the dance floor and onto the stage lived the drag queens and real girls stripping at the pole. It was actually kind of a romantic scene as no one seemed to pay any attention to the strippers; they were concentrating on their own dancing and drinking and so forth….a field of heads bouncing in concert…after about an hour or two we were probably ready to go. Good thing they found us.
Someone behind me tugging my shoulder, “Hey!!”
Turn around and two figures in dark makeup stood there greeting us like we were old friends. Dayve and Tricia. Shake hands, Julie is pretty drunk and is far more affectionate with Tricia, Dayve and I discuss over the music how we were both tricked by the LA Weekly into showing up, and the group decides to go outside for a smoke.
“Get your cancer sticks outta here!”
Never smoke too close to Californian Bouncers.
Just a little conversation and I find myself immersed in common links with these people. Dayve comes straight out of a Kerouac photograph, the walking dead of the Beatnik movement; Tricia is too smart for her white trash upbringing and ex-speed addiction (only because she can’t find any). We decide to blow the ‘Mexican raver drag queen club?’ for a coffeehouse and they take us to (get ready for love, Burroughs fans) the ‘Nova Express Cafe’. Needless to say, kharma explosion.
Julie had a bit too much fun and puked in Dayve’s truck on the way. Amazing lack of loathing but rather full of compassion, Dayve gave no consideration to anything but Julie’s well being. The cafe was mostly an effervescent blue with black lights making the menus glow. Our new friends gave us info on a sure-thing gothic night in Long Beach, and seemed excited to meet us there. Rare human connection, an hour of conversation. We made it back to the beamer safe and sound, with only that damned freeway system yet to contend with in what would be considered a “mostly sober” state.
Slept most of the next day except for a short excursion out to MelJude. Bobby drew us out a map to Long Beach which turned out to be about an hour’s drive from Pasedena. Probably the most sober we’d been at night the entire trip and the hour to Long Beach turned into two. Needless to say, we got really fuckin’ lost. Bob had told us jokingly, before we left, not to wind up in South Central. Well it wasn’t very fuckin’ funny right now. After some toll booth directions and a full tank of paranoia, we found the place. It was some weird chinese restaurant converted into a prom-esque dungeon with a bar in the middle. Pretty sparse inside, which turns outside into the smoking corral where the life of the scene seems to be developing. Everyone’s outside, including the transsexual guitarist/singer for the industrial band who is topless to show of his/her new estrogen injected breasts. Tragedy and prepubescence…not an entirely new concept, but…we found our connections from the previous night who know this place well…social butterflies. Introductions to all the beautifully shy boys, the este lauder girl, the liquid cocaine girl, and the brawling token irish boy?….
Time passes and intoxicates…but we’ve got to get home. The shuttle to the airport shows up at Bob’s place in a few hours and I think we still have some packing to do. Blow kisses goodbye and set to the highway. We find our way back just in time still on residuals of the super conscious.
Bob wakes up to get us out the door on time (and pay for the shuttle) so it’s a warm hug and an attempt to get sober before reaching the airport. It’s almost five in the morning, just enough time to change our clothes in the airport bathrooms, meet the check-in counter with somewhat articulate english, and six hours to Orlando. This whole experience went far too smoothly for the normal course of operational life. I smell some sort of cosmic retribution in future breezes. Hell no I don’t trust it…