Backstory

The two poems from today, proposition/ and church/ deserve a little more explanation than I’ve given them because they are both true stories and the poetry is opaque unless I explain a few things.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I was a denizen of Seattle in the heyday of the grunge movement (but not part of the grunge movement). Though I could have largely cared less about grunge at the time, I did take advantage of the fetish and goth scene, scenes that were — for all practical purposes — interwoven so much as to be inseparable. Add those to main subcultures to a even more sub-subculture of living vampires, and you can imagine the scene (I think).

I personally had a hard time taking the vamps too seriously — their expensive dentures looked a bit clunky and it took genuine practice to not speak with a lisp with them in. Which, of course, few of them took the time to do. And, with AIDS just barely surpassing its first decade, their profession for drinking each other’s blood seemed both campy and dangerous. I typically laughed behind my hand and shook my head for them taking the whole spook business far, far, far too serious. They were a small group, but also largely inseparable from the fetish/goth crowd, for obvious reasons.

Anyway, the best places to go dance to goth music was the fetish clubs. Point blank, if it wasn’t a fetish club, you weren’t going to hear gothic music. Period. Zero discussion. There were no “goth nights” at other clubs.

And fetish clubs had two types of cover charges: one for “tourists”, which was triple what they charged the regulars (I think $15 to the $5). The way to avoid the tourist rates was to dress fetish. The judge of whether you were fetish enough was left to the bouncer collecting cover. No debate. And standard goth attire was not considered fetish enough.

So I got around to buying myself a pair of PVC slacks, the kind that hide absolutely nothing about what is or not under the PVC. I was dancing all the time back then to get my mind of my problems as an alternative to alcohol (my first time going sober). It was probably the time I looked my best because of it, so I could pour myself into those PVC trousers and not scare folks or look frumpy.

While I was walking home from an all-night eatery after clubbing, I walked though the Regrade Park in downtown Seattle (I walked EVERYWHERE, and I walked a lot). The park was a few blocks from my studio apartment and a place frequented by streetwalkers. While I paraphrased what the hooker said (it’s been years and my memory is a bit faulty), she did invite me to let her peel me like a banana and told me that she would do it gratis. While that might have been a tempting offer to some folks, I’m not one who’s all that interested in what you find on the streets and I just smiled and walked away. She seemed offended.


The second real-life poem of the day was really done on a lark.

I hadn’t found out about a concert that The Church was putting on at a local theater until a few days beforehand and the show was, without question, completely and totally sold out. I didn’t have the cash to worry too much about it, having spent my spare change on a case of ramen and swinging past the local Brugger’s bakery for some three-day-old bagels they had kindly left me in several layers of parchment bag on top of their trash dumpster. Yeah… I was poor AF those days, though those old bagels tasted damn good when you could grab them.

Any remaining cash I had would have gone for smokes, but there was not enough remaining, so I was largely smokeless. That meant, of course, hanging out at the concert venue ahead of the show to beg smokes off of friends who were going to the show. Which was successful, to a point. Then they wised up and realized I was stashing the spares in my breast pocket and only smoking about a third of what I was bumming.

Lo and behold, I wasn’t the only one desperate to bum smokes — so was my casual friend named Aaron. I at least had a crashpad, but I think Aaron only had a place to crash when folks pitied his condition and let him borrow the couch. Otherwise, I think his home was the bridge going over some railroad tracks. Everyone loved Aaron. He was one of those harmless guys who always had an easy laugh. Girls loved hugging and kissing Aaron and he always seemed uncomfortable about the attention he got. But he wasn’t afraid to use it to his advantage.

So Aaron and I bumped into each other and asked each other for smokes. And the friends we had really caught on to both of our scams and refused to give us anything more. Aaron invited me to go to greener pastures closer to downtown Minneapolis. Naturally, not having anything better to do with zilch cash, I joined.

So, we started walking downtown during the onset of rush hour and panhandled a bit. “Got a smoke? Spare a quarter?”

Pretty soon, we not only had several packs worth of cigarettes between us, but we had amassed something on the order of $45, I shit you not. I asked Aaron how we should spend our gains, thinking he’d want a cut and split for some food. Instead, he looked at me slyly. “Let’s go back to the concert and see if we can score more smokes. And… if they have any rush tickets, let’s see motherfucking The Church.”

I was down with that.

In case you don’t know, sometimes a venue will hold a fraction of tickets for people to either pick up (if reserved, but not purchased) or for “special guests” of the band.

We wore out that ticket booth person by asking every five or ten minutes before the show if there were any rush tickets up for sale. Finally she said, “Yes, dammit. I have tickets. That’ll be $40 for two.”

We snatched them up, expecting nosebleed seats and not caring. The venue, by the way, was the old Guthrie theater, known for it’s “thrust” stage for play productions and the audience sat around the stage in a big horseshoe. “Nosebleed” at the Guthrie meant you might have a partially obstructed view in the back row, but you didn’t need binoculars to see the band up close and personal. There were no bad seats.

Much to our surprise, these rush tickets must have been for VIPs, because they were in the third row, center section. The band could have spit on us and be hard pressed to miss. Two bedraggled, dirty and unwashed dirtballs who’d been bumming smokes and cash all afternoon managed primo seats, which pissed off our friends to no end, many of whom had aforementioned “nosebleed seats”.

Part way through the show, the band told us they were going to do a couple of live shoots for the video for Reptile. Unfortunately, we’d have to listen to the same song two-to-four times. Please try to look like you are having fun each cut. Unfortunately, my ass!

So we whooped it up and jumped around like idiots, two guys who didn’t have two nickles to rub together between them, having a merry old time while they filmed it, possibly too merry.

And, if you look closely at the video, the cuts from stage right have a hippie-looking freak with brown hair and a gutterpunk with a half-hawk jumping up and down and looking like they are trying to slamdance in theater chairs. I was the one with the hippie thing going on.

I met one of my girlfriends of the time after the show, only she wasn’t my girlfriend yet. All summer long, when the video would come on, she’d scream that her boyfriend was in that video and make them watch. Which only pissed them off even more, because they couldn’t quite figure out how a dirtball like me was dating their beauty-pageant sweetheart. But that’s another tale.

3 thoughts on “Backstory

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