Wednesday, May 14, 1997
Wow, I'm listening to the radio. In the dark. Last time I did this was college. No, wait, it was back in high school. Used to listen to "Magic 96" FM in Tampa night after night. Songs like Wildfire, Killing Me Softly With His Songs, Sometimes When We Touch. The first time I heard Sometimes When We Touch I clung to the radio for days waiting for them to play it again.
Magic 96 played the same 100 or so songs, with an occasional "Oldy" from Otis Redding every couple of hours, night after night.
I taped the songs. Sometimes taped entire evenings spent listening, tapes I would never to listen to even once. In those days, taping songs and records was more about accumulating material and having some kind of legacy of those nights spent with the radio then it was about ever deriving any enjoyment from the recordings.
Tonight, it's some Atlanta radio station coming through the clock radio I brought down from New York, and which I brought to New York from Oberlin, having brought it to Oberlin from Tampa. The more I type, the louder the radio seems, and the less I can concentrate on what I'm typing. I'm drinking beer and scratching my balls and in between these sentences I'm staring up at the darkness which comes before the walls around me.
Ah, it's Star 94 FM. They're playing songs I seem to recognize, by performers and bands I can not name.
I'm sitting on the floor of my rented room at this rooming house on Piedmont Ave. in Atlanta, Georgia 30309. This building is a quiet, modest, seedy little place. This is the cheapest room that was available when I got here on Sunday afternoon. Have not had any trouble with anyone, but someone at my new place of work seems to have had a bad experience here a few years ago.
To find a place like this adequate, and to in fact find it kind of endearing, I have to question my desire to live in anything better. Recently put a deposit down on a very nice apartment in a very classy building located less than a mile from here. In fact, I can (just barely) see the building which I will occupy by June 3 from the window of this room. It is a high-rise, with elaborate and to me absurd amenities. It will cost about the same as did that asshole of an apartment I just left (half-furnished) in New York 10021.
I like this radio. It seems to make the evening go more slowly. Most of the lovers I've had have objected to me turning on the radio or playing Philip Glass CDs while we spent those hours and hours together.
I could never bring myself to ask them why. Though I know that one woman I was with at Oberlin could not stand any music of Philip Glass. I think it's perfect music for those times.
When I worked at Tower Records on West 66th Street, we would play music by Philip Glass. Arias and excerpts from his Trilogy of Operas that started with Einstein On The Beach, continued with Akhnaten and ended with Satyagraha. Elderly women would hear the music and come to the counter to ask what this music was. One time (which I remember very clearly) a group of 4 women who appeared to be in their mid-60's (not elderly) approached the counter. The music playing was the "Hymn To the Sun God" from Akhnaten. One of the women said "This is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard in my life." The woman right behind her said "Who could the composer be?" And another woman said "This is so beautiful."
I said "It's an opera by Philip Glass."
With those last two words, the expressions on their faces instantly changed. The woman in the front blanched. She stuck her tongue out and succinctly jerked her head back, noticeably dislocating her wig. The woman behind her made a "Blech" kind of noise, something between a burp and a barf. The other two women covered their mouths and turned away from the counter. I think they left the place immediately.
It felt like racism. But in matters of "high culture," most patrons consider themselves beyond common bigotry.
I think it was Samuel Johnson who most adroitly defined a "patron." He defined a patron as someone who would throw you a liferaft or a life preserver or a boat or anything within their means to help you get to shore. But once you made it to shore the patron would turn away and act as if they did not know you. Had never heard of you.
I have so much to talk about tonight. The phone here sucks. Dial-up connections seem OK, but talking to Maggy last night was a staticy, hissy and whizzy kind of experience, forcing us to remark that we were not destined to speak that night. But we talked anyway. For a long time. And during that time I forgot how cranky and pissed off I'd been all night up until then.
It's not so much crankiness as it is homesickness. I am certainly homesick for New York already. This whole day I sat around feeling sorry for myself wishing the food here (not to mention the coffee) was better. It is almost certainly just a phase. During my first full week here I wrote to some friends (who are tolerant of my manic outbursts) and proclaimed that I might want to stay here "Forever!"
They advised caution. One of them said "Whoa!" Another ignored the whole thing. The rest were somewhere inbetween, gently poo-pooing my adolescent silliness.
My aunt is the sorriest, most hopeless and stinking drunk I have ever been around. I stink of liquour having spent a week in that house. She was drunk at 8:00 in the morning. She was drunk at noon. She is drunk right now (it is 10:05pm, in case you keep track). She drinks scotch and whisky and bourbon and rum from the moment she wakes up tot he moment she stumbles off and passes out. She gets up early and sits her big fat ass down in the TV room and she talks to herself right out loud. I thought it was safe to walk in because I thought she was on the fucking telephone. But she was not. She was clutching her coffee cup and waiting for me to wake up and show myself so she could start into her daily psycho-blabber of "Hey, sugar!" "I never thought I'd like you, but I do!" "You're all right, Mark. You're all right." "You know we lost Dean." "I may have lost my son Dean, but I got my precious here. This man is sweetness." "I am NOT a Thomas. I say what I want to say. I am NOT a Thomas. I am a Prince. P-R-I-N-C-E. Thomases sit there and don't say shit. Baby, I talk a mile a minute." And then she would stroke the back of my head and I would almost fucking vomit.
That was about the extent of her repertoire. If I was totally sober right now I'd be more pissed off about it all. I'd be pissed off about her bear-hugging me and declaring me a "suitable replacement" for her dead son (my cousin Dean).
Goddmit, alcoholism is contagious. I never drank as much in one week as in that one week. (Almost entirely Guinness on tap, incidentally.)
OK, I'm starting to get pissed off again. I'm cooling my feet under the fan on the back of this computer. I should not talk about the week I lived for no rent at my aunt and uncle's place. Rather, this is my fourth beer tonight, and I can not articulate anger or confusion when in this condition. I just want to laugh and sit around and sing songs and lie in bed when I get like this.
It was a very, very, very bad week, though. It was as close as I ever came to physically assaulting and openly cursing someone, demanding that they just fuck off and leave me alone, jumping up and down and attempting to wipe all trace of them off me.
Oh, I remember something I was going to say a few paragraphs back. Which is that I remember sitting at home alone in 1991 listening to the radio the night Mikhail Gorbechev purportedly resigned from his office. In fact, he was kidnapped. It was sad news anyway, no matter how obviously bogus the news report. I stilll have the New York Times which headlined "Gorbachev Resigns, Ending Communism's 72-year Reign." Or something equally momentous but suitably erudite.
I can't hardly see the monitor from here. Or the keyboard. It's very, very dark in here. And I am so tired. A woman I slept with many, many times is paging me on IRC. Wants to know what city I'm in these days. I am in Atlanta, Georgia 30309. Piedmont Avenue. Uh-huh. I have to lie down.
(anything you type will replace the above commentary)