After passing the ill-begotten hooch to Lynne (lead singer for the Swamp
Goblyns, or Bloody Mary by the lexicon of libations), Jean (Pink Lady, a concoction of gin, lemon juice, a dash of grenadine
and an egg white, a name that suited her frothy charms) and her sexually ambiguous and cadaverous friend from Chicago that
I remember only as Rob Roy (scotch, sweet vermouth, bitters to taste and a maraschino cherry), we hardly made a dent - in
the bottle that is, not our sobriety, which was fully dented, dinged, cracked and crashed by this point.
Our gracious host, an acquaintance of a soon-to-be ex-friend, was appalled
by our transgression and quite firmly told us to leave. "Take the bottle with you," he said in self-righteous disgust, showing
us the door.
It was midnight as the elevator carried us down to the street. Pink Lady
brought in the New Year by puking on the elevator carpet. The doors opened, we spilled out. It was time for the Dive.
It was not really a dive, like the Holland Bar in the Holland Welfare Hotel
on 42nd Street. It was a club, but it felt like a clubhouse. We knew the reactionary bands that played '60s garage punk on
its small stage. We knew the audiences that danced in their retro-fashions to those bands. We were that audience: then we
became one of those bands.
My old girlfiend Liz danced on a raised platform stage right of the bands
in a mini-dress, her long hair hanging down over her face. She won the Halloween Costume Contest at the Dive by dressing as
she always did. We all tried to look mod, but I looked like a mess. My mop of hair dyed black. My aviator glasses slipping
down my long nose. My green polka dot, women's hip-hugger pants sliding down my "fag hips," as Grandma called them.
I was dressed in festive polyester as we pulled up to the Dive. There were
two black women outside, which was unusual. The club wasn't segregated, but for all intents and purposes it might as well
have been. The '60s garage punk revival was predominantly white and Jewish.
These girls were niether, but they were drunk, which was the price of entry
(though high was legal tender as well). One was so drunk, she solicited sex from every man and woman loitering outside the
club to the embarrassment of her slightly less soused mate.
Music was coming out from the front doors of the Dive. It was hot and crowded
inside. The Cheepskates or the Outta' Place or one of the perennial house bands was playing. It was cold outside, but I had
a magnum of bourbon barely hidden inside my overcoat to keep me warm. It wasn't the first time I snuck alcohol into the club,
but this was my boldest attempt. I looked pregnant and guilty.
I was ushered into the club without question.
Was this the night I met Willie, who would become the bassist in my next
band with Lynne, Da Willys? No, that was another time, after a Swamp Goblyns gig, where Willie expressed his appreciation
at our lack of musical skills by handing us torn blotters of LSD from his sweaty palm.
Willie ended up staying at my apartment on West 19th Street, keeping the
icebox packed with cold beer and the turntable spinning with vinyl from Midnight Records. That, however, is another story.
This story concludes with a mind-altering experience far more abrasive than the strongest dose of acid.
Making my way through the celebratory crowd, I noticed that Kir was not
with us. I looked down the neck of the magnum that I had been passing around like communion, half expecting to see him floating
in the dregs of the bourbon. He was not there. He was nowhere in the club.
Pink Lady and I went outside to look for him. We didn't have to look far.
Kir was just beyond the entrance of the Dive, under the awning. He was half sprawled on the sidewalk and half fallen in the
gutter. He was on top of the black girl.
They weren't making love, though Kir's bare ass was pumping suggestively
into the hopefully warm and certainly inviting crotch of his drunken conquest. They were making something but what that
something was, was frankly too much for my mind to process.
It wasn't that I was drunk, though I was very drunk. I blame the brain,
which is a lazy organ that uses mental shorthand to draw order from the chaos of nature. The brain in essence categorizes
the familiar - from a door to a sunset - so that we may recognize it quickly and easily rather then repeatedly try and assemble
the buzz of atoms that make up our world into something that makes sense.
When I walked out from the familiar Dive to the familiar street my
brain was programmed to see the familiar concrete and taxicabs, buildings and pedestrians, but not an intimate sexual act
between a man and a woman. Perhaps if I was used to stumbling upon rape scenes, or if I opened the door of a brothel, such
a sight might have been familiar and therefore register. Here, in this context, it scrambled my mind.
I saw Kir pumping his primitive lust into this drunken vessel, but my brain
responded to the data sent to it by my wide-open eyes with static. I mechanically turned around and walked back into the Dive
with its swirling psychedelic sights and sounds, far more reasonable to my short-circuiting gray matter.
Now Pink Lady was missing. It was as if reality was being systematically
erased and I would eventually find myself alone in a white padded cell (that, too, is another story).
Grabbing the reigns of my bucking consciousness, I forced myself back outside
to confront the breakdown of my senses. Kir was still riding his smashed plaything and Pink Lady had joined them. She leaned
beside the copulating couple and suggested in a quiet and calm voice that they move to the adjacent parking lot.
Pink Lady and I returned to the Dive and the soothing balm of bourbon,
while Kir continued his carnal ravishing in reletive seclusion. Pink Lady earned my respect for her ability to act coolly
under pressure, while I acknowledged my youth and inexperience in the ways of debauchery.
The night played out well for Lynne and myself. I recovered from my mental
breakdown and we followed the Outta' Place's Michael Chandler to some after-party where the magnum of bourbon was finally
laid to rest.
(I first met Chandler at the Dive, drinking at the bar one afternoon. He
knew we would become friends because I had long bangs that covered my pied eyes.)
Rob Roy got alcohol poisoning and Pink Lady had to rush him to the hospital.
Her altruism blanched under the harsh florescent lights of a pre-dawn emergency room.
Kir was mugged on his way home. He woke up the next morning with his wallet
and camera gone, his face discolored with bruises and a vague discomfort between his legs.
The Dive lasted a couple more New Years before taking a final dive.
And who am I? They called me Manhattan, which is like a Rob Roy, only with
bourbon instead of scotch and without the need for triage.