We were supposed to see Rectal Warlord and Menstrosity play tonight at O’Cayz, but it’s not an all-ages, it’s for some inexplicable reason 21-and-over, so we’re turned away at the door by an extremely rude and aggressive woman wearing a studded leather jacket and a green mohawk.

Fuck it: we’ll wander around until something happens. We drive across town and park in a ramp near the main drag by the university campus and mope around the cafes and bookstores and record stores and discover there’s an entire army of leather-jacketed, green-mohawked women marching around the city, yelling about something and throwing fliers all over, but I don’t think it’s apartheid like normal because I think that’s mostly over with. I can scantly make out what one’s screaming, something about something called the Hivv or maybe it’s the Hive (some kind of clandestine terrorist organization?), and that’s followed with screams like people are fucking dying okay they’re fucking dying it’s 1992 and people are still dying and I’m like whoa that fucking sucks. I will remain vigilantly against and on the lookout for The Hive. I will try to conquer death

Strolling past a building with a marquee that reads The Experimental Buttsex Theater, which is next to an avant-garde knick-knack store; in fact, it’s surrounded by avant-garde knick-knack stores, and they seem to line nearly every street in this city interrupted on occasion by weird foreign restaurants from places I don’t even think are real (like Afghanistan) and there’s a guy outside who resembles a much younger and somehow even gayer John Waters moonlighting as a Miami Vice extra, and he flips the fuck out on us and screams that we’re late, and just starts pulling us inside and shoving us toward what he refers to as “the stage.”

It’s a room that has no seats or any distinction between it and “the stage” apart from a drawn black curtain, which he starts hissing at, pointing at, snapping his fingers, telling us to get ready to open it, to dim the lights, freaking out that he has to do everything himself before swishing off to the back of the room and pouting with his arms crossed. The seating area is covered in what look like gym mats which are themselves covered with people who look like they might be from France or something. Their stares linger, pensive and threatened, then they avert their eyes and resume discussions about shit I have never heard of in my entire fucking life. My jacket attracts some second glances; an army surplus field jacket on the left sleeve of which I’ve written the word KILL and very cleverly. The K and Ls are in blue and the I is in red and white stripes and looks like a pistol cartridge with the dot on the I being a star, something I saw in a comic book.

It finally dawns on us that he has mistaken us for stagehands, a not unkind interpretation of our image; we could be roadies, for sure. Maybe we’ll get some scratch for this. I dunno. Whatever. It’s more fun than wandering around with no purpose at all. I start directing the crew around, you on the lights, us on the curtain, and so forth, then through a hand signal initiated by me, a hush comes over the crowd and the curtain parts. We are upright and alert, and I have a strange interest in seeing whatever is about to happen.

A woman who is apparently supposed to resemble Marilyn Monroe, a position supported by the fact that she introduces herself as Marilyn Monroe, takes the stage and delivers some kind of artistic monologue which is so impenetrable to me I have to wonder if she might be kidding, then I see the nodding, knowing, approving faces of the crowd as they lightly stroke their chins and squint intently and softly whisper or hum particles of understanding like hmm or ah how hard and fully they get this and I realize she is in fact serious. I nevertheless though totally involuntarily cough after she reads a line containing the phrase vaginal politics; as a result, her performance hiccups slightly and the crowd douses me with silent, stared opprobrium to which I respond by pretending nothing happened.

Her first monologue ends; she withdraws from the stage and is replaced by a group of performers wearing these felt bodysuits that look like bellows or accordions with just their blank faces exposed. They stomp around the stage in some sort of organized, patterned movement resembling cross-country skiing, the bellows opening and closing like Slinkies descending stairwells, from time to time grunting, roaring, or otherwise shouting some type of sound salad, or perhaps it’s French, to judge by how the crowd continues to vigorously nod its assent.

It may be hallucinatory fatigue, it may be entirely real, I swear I see a dude dressed like a ninja with a giant vaudeville hook sneaking around at the edges of the stage. He spies me and starts waving, beckoning me to join him. I shake my head no, quickly and nervously as the crowd again takes issue with my disruptions. He finally gives me the finger and a dismissive, disappointed wave, and sulks out through the back door behind the stage.

In any event, the felt accordion people leave the stage and are replaced by Marilyn, and this cycle repeats itself until at least two hours elapse and they at last take the stage together and bow deeply and the crowd rushes to its feet, some of its members weeping deeply, others commenting on the analogues with Beckett or its adaptability or its poignancy or whatever, and the applause sustains itself for easily five minutes.

Then the crowd files out slowly, and the cast retreats to another door at the back of the stage. Being that we are now part of the production, I and my friends follow the cast through the door.

They’re having a small party and it’s pretty artistic, with lots of people dressed like extras from Beetlejuice or like they’re from France or New York or Mars after they’ve changed out of their felt bellows suits and they’re all just sitting around in each other’s laps and making out and getting into a little light dryhumping, sometimes in groups of three or four. I just bum around, nodding and smiling, giving people high fives which they don’t respond to or seem confused by and the John Waters guy asks me if I’d like a glass of wine.

Thinking he’s kidding, I laugh and say, No, gimme a fuckin’ beer, dude.

Thinking I’m kidding, he laughs and says, Oh my God, honey, you are just delicious, and hands me a glass of wine before kissing some Russian-sounding mime woman on both sides of her face like in the movies. I sniff the wine, nearly vomit, hand it off to a guy passing by me who is dressed like someone from the cast of V. Beyond him, a strikingly alive and vividly green potted palm is standing in a corner, and hiding behind it is the ninja guy again, aggressively beckoning me with waves of his hand. I again shake my head no quickly, hoping no one sees me or him, and then I just turn my back on him. I hear a shearing sound and turn back around to discover he’s cut the plant in two with his ninja sword, right down the middle, and each half gently and slowly falls out to the sides of the pot.

Then I’m standing next to a buffet filled with what could be snacks or could also be some sort of art project culled from a hospital dumpster, debating whether to hazard it’s the first, when some other foreign-sounding mime woman approaches me. She introduces herself and I reply I didn’t think you people were allowed to talk. She squints at the ground a second, shakes her head with her eyes closed, then asks me whom I’m here with.

Um, the dude at the door.


Yeah, my buddy Justin.

She stares a bit quizzically.

We go way back.

Then she asks my name and I tell her and she asks me what I do, a question I actually don’t understand at first, then realize she thinks I’m an adult with some kind of job or purpose.

Oh, you know, well, I like I had this stagehand gig going tonight but my real passion is…poetry.

This actually seems to interest her, and she crosses one leg over the other at the ankles and leans toward me at the waist to ask what I’m working on.

Just…some side projects.

Like what?

Like…my new poem.

What’s it about?

You know…vagina politics.

Hmm. What’s it titled?

The Stabbin’ Cabin, I blurt out without thinking.

Is it…a narrative poem? Like…a sort of genre fiction poem? she asks, frowning.

Yeah…I like a lot of different genres, I reply.

And narration, I also say.

Are you…from around here? she asks, suddenly terrified, wincing. Like…from this state?

No. Canada, I say hurriedly. I’m from Canada. The…uh…cool part of Canada.

She studies my face, in fact my entirety from head to toe, for quite a long time before saying anything else, wearing a look on her face that is some sort of confusion or indecision.

Are you a character in your poem? she asks.

No, I answer, without any hesitation.

Would you like to know what I do?

Yeah, sure, I tell her.

I’m also an experimental artist. My media is largely the necessary detritus of modern life, re-juxtaposed from its original and often benign intents and purposes into critical spaces that afford for the examination of need and uselessness against the matrices of perceptions of desire and utility.

That’s…that’s pretty fuckin’ cool, I say, honestly kind of not kidding in large part because I can’t tell if she is, or even if she’s still speaking any language I might recognize.

Would you like to see examples of my work?

Yeah, totally.

She leads me to a smaller room next to this one and flicks on the overhead lights. It’s largely empty save for two small pedestals in the center, each of which contains an object that I can’t identify at this distance and resembles an art classroom at an elementary school but without any chairs or tables. She walks toward the pedestals and beckons me closer.

The first is a crumpled brown paper bag.

Wow, I say. How much does something like this go for?

She winces again and takes her time lighting a cigarette before saying, It is obviously priceless.

I stand there in utter befuddlement, internally cursing myself for throwing away a fortune in art every time I finish my lunch.

She then points at the other pedestal.

It seems to be a bar of soap with some kind of black, scraggly wire sticking out of it.

Is that like…spy soap or something?

Her eyes widen with a friendly curiosity.

Like, with a microphone so you can spy on people in the shower?

No, but that’s actually a great fucking idea, she says, producing a small notebook from her back pocket and furiously scribbling something into it. That’s actually a great fucking idea for an entire series on concepts of privacy and knowing, she adds before making another lengthier entry in the notebook.

I don’t understand what the wire is, I tell her.

It’s not a wire, she says.

What is it, then? I ask, pushing my face to within about a half-inch of the bar of soap.

This work is titled Pussy Hair on Soap No. 12.

My head rockets backward so quickly I almost fall over. I try to recover and politely continue the conversation.

So…there’s like…what…nine more of these?

Her mouth falls open in a strange frown like she wants to express disappointment but cannot quite muster the necessary effort.

Or like ten or whatever.

Her head starts vibrating lightly as her eyes squint.

Or…seven…I start to say, and just trail off.

She takes one last, long pull off of the cigarette before dropping it on the bare wooden floor and crushing it with a high-heeled boot, then looking at me the way grocery shoppers examine food labels. I am overwhelmed with terror at the prospect of her trying to dryhump me.

Instead, she turns toward the door suddenly, then asks if I hear anything. I don’t, but she walks closer to it and I follow, and the sounds of some kind of fracas become audible. I am sure I hear Jeff’s voice carrying over all others, buffeted by quite a bit of high-pitched shrieking which I’m unsure is human.

It turns out to be human after all, it is in fact Justin, cowering in the corner with all the other crew and cast members as Jeff bellows something about someone touching his butt while he was nodding off in the corner. Eddie and the others have braved the deli trays and seem to be enjoying them, indifferent to the commotion.

You were fuckin’ touching my butt, Jeff hollers.

It was a broomstick. I was just trying to wake you. I thought you were the c-c-custodial staff, s-sleeping on the job, Justin insists.

Do I look like a fuckin’ janitor? Jeff demands, wearing a jean jacket covered in Kreator patches and spikes, and there’s a long pause while the art crowd looks him over before conceding they are unable to reach any kind of conclusion in that regard.

I look at the foreign mime lady and tell her, I’m not really into poetry.

She arches one eyebrow.

I whisper a follow-up remark into her ear and she nearly dies of laughter.