Contact High

Spent the evening working on the album art for Liebling Farbe and editing my Interview with a Vampire movie. I redid the fadeout so that it’s shorter, and I took out about a minute in the beginning, where Tom Cruise is swishing around aimlessly with yellow eyes. Now it’s about six minutes of Tom and Brad writhing on the ground, commencing with Tom sucking loudly on Brad’s neck. The scene is looped for 70 minutes, the contrast on the last 30 becoming less and less, until the picture is completely washed out. I still don’t have a name for it. Snake thinks it should be called Interview with a Beefcake, but I’m not so sure. I’m not showing it at his place on 9th and A anymore. He had enough of the hipsters coming in twos, gawking at the bunk bed where he and his wife slept on top and his son, N. on the bottom. Snake had rigged it so N.’s bunk folded into a couch, which is where the patrons sat to watch the flick. I thought that reclining beneath that top bunk provided a nice, homey vibe—like being in a well built clubhouse. Everything was very clean and for two bucks there was the added bonus of getting a contact high off of the spliffs Snake chain-smoked. He never offered and glared at anyone presumptuous enough to ask. After a week and a half, enough was enough and the run was over. Besides, Snake played the first showing of the movie at 3PM and N., his son, was getting sick of missing Pokemon everyday. This, I completely understood. I’m at my fucking day job so I miss Pokemon everyday and it pisses me off. We could have changed it to a later time but it seemed more trouble than it was worth to photocopy a new stack of adverts. I hate “corrections” flyers.

On Sunday I cleaned out Snake’s basement studio as part of our agreement for letting me use his pad. He’s got the single room storefront apartment upstairs and his tiny silkscreen studio in the basement. In order to get to the studio, you’ve got to go out of the store and open the door to the apartment building lobby. Once in, there’s a door immediately on the right with a No Trespassing sign affixed to it with dirty tape that leads to the basement. After braving the rickety stairs, you enter a complete disaster zone of silk-screens of Mao and the American flag with dollar bills instead of stars, ink cans, newspapers, newsprint rolls, plastic orange hangers, T-shirts, rags, cat litter, cigarette and spliff butts, cardboard coffee cups, rags, magazines, TriBecca T-shirt supplier order slips, and cardboard boxes stacked in haphazard pyramids. The windows looking out on the gutter are covered in a grime so yellow it’s green and the air smells like cat piss—a double whammy of claustrophobia inducers. I’d been down there before, but only for a few minutes—in the winter. Sunday was unseasonably warm, so by mid afternoon the stink rose up in fat waves. I hobbled around with the collar of my Triple 5 Soul T-shirt stretched over my face, flattening the cardboard boxes into stacks of two dimensional squares that I then tied together with a piece of twine. I emptied them of the balled up newspaper pages covered in flaking old ink (getting a twist in my stomach as I glanced over the pre-9/11 headline fluff) and dumped whatever debris had sunk to the bottom into a Hefty bag. There were old takeout containers from the BBQ Ribs place on 1st, as well as pretzel thin mouse bones that the cat had long since picked clean. Hardened balls of gray mouse hair were all over the floor, rolling around like tumbleweed in a ramshackle desert town.

Judging by the appearance of his workspace, you might think that Snake was completely haphazard in his T-shirt making, but it was actually just the opposite. From the creation of a collage of images to be photocopied in B&W to the size of the silkscreen processed at Pearl Paint to the consistency of the ink spread across the screen—everything was done according to the highest levels of exactitude. He sold specific orders wholesale, to places like Trash and Vaudeville. When he did a job he was all business, stroking the ink again and again across the screen, dub blasting on the boombox, not a movement wasted. Watching him I got the feeling that he had been in the service—he had that non-emotional grim determination thing going on that I associated with military types—but I never asked. He’d been making T-shirts since ’84, when he and a friend decided to sell T-shirts spray painted with the American flag on the Fourth of July. “We were on acid,” he said, in between tokes, “It was a punk thing to do, but it made money so I figured what the hell. I did that flag thing on shirts before anyone else, now look around.”

I stood with my filthy hands on my hips beneath the sidewalk opening. If Snake had a bodega or a proper shop, this is where his stock would be delivered. Instead it was little more than a ventilation hole. Shadows of people walking by passed over me; from my vantage point, I couldn’t make out more than a swinging hand or the hem of a dress. Their voices came through loud, but not clear—the words were muddled, as though they were in another room. Suddenly I wanted desperately to know what they were saying—moreover what was behind it, the thoughts and the feeling. Perhaps the cat piss and paint fumes were getting to me. I’d always read about sliding along the surface of things—everyone from Bret Easton Ellis, Andy Warhol and Roland Barthe. Inauthentic being—getting lost in the everydayness of the world—Heidegger. I knew what it meant, but until that moment I’d never actually felt the world as a diamond dusted glossy page. There were no thought canyons to travel to the bottom of—no unseen force behind the pasteboard mask. All was flat; all was already present. The most we could hope for was a momentary interruption, like a flicker in a fluorescent light that is otherwise never shut off. The darkness can’t be willed—in the same way that you can’t go on a trip out west to “discover yourself”. Experience happens when you don’t plan for it. Taking drugs makes you believe that you can make it happen, but that was the thing about taking drugs. They formed a layer of wax around my brain and then carved paths through it, so there was the illusion of depth—the illusion of self discovery. But when it was all over, all I did was come back to where I started.

So which Liebling Farbe do you like?

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