We are in Michael’s boyfriend’s apartment, getting into Michael’s boyfriend’s bag. Michael is gay before anyone else in Pittsburgh. He wears scarves and earrings with hoops and looks beautiful but doesn’t act like a priss. People talk behind his back and he knows it but doesn’t seem to care because he’s not insecure, it’s just who he is.
We’ve never met his boyfriend; he stays in the back of the apartment. He calls out orders to Michael and Michael responds right away. We have to be careful with his boyfriend’s bong because it’s from the 70s, it’s one of those skull and snake bongs with eyeballs and horns and claws. It doesn’t look like you could break it even if you wanted to.
I am on the sofa next to Michael and my girlfriend is on the other side of the coffee table, on a chair. She’s looking at me funny because she knows we’re going to get high and when we do, she goes crazy in bed. It’s better when we’re high because everything feels different.
Michael is meticulous with the weed, separating the small stems and breaking the bud into little pieces, making a campfire. A bundle of faggots. He offers us a drink and brings a pitcher of ice water. We are going out later, after we get high.
Damon is the first among us with kids, the only one, in fact. But because they’re hippies, he and his wife (or partner) are okay lighting up around the kid and none of us knows better or thinks it’s wrong. The kid moves around my apartment touching things and we watch him from ground level.
Damon plays guitar and pares his fingernails and leaves the clippings on my coffee table when we leave. He puts bills up on telephone poles with a stapler gun announcing his project, which no one understands. He has a brand and a look to his project but it’s unclear what it is, something Vaudevillian and circus-like.
Pittsburgh is a hotbed of artists coming in and out of the café, flocking there like crows cawing, smoking, shitting all over the sidewalk. Many of them are there all day, some you only see in the morning because they’re actually doing art in their apartments, the rest of the day. Like Bill Wissell, the welder, who makes contorted bugs out of steel and puts them up in his windows, like it’s Halloween, all year-round.
Or Rick Bach, who plays guitar on the street even though he can play shows and make a living, he’s that good. He has a rockabilly outfit called Hellbelly and it’s as much fun watching them as it is hearing them, even more so, because they all look like real freaks and rock stars with their fucked up hair and sunglasses and beer-drinking right there, on the street.
I have a video camera and film them at Rick’s apartment. It’s a kind of Thing to get invited into Rick’s apartment. He even has an intercom so you have to announce who’s there and when they describe me they have to repeat my name a couple times and say, the guy who runs the open mic at Arabica.
There is an older guy they call Horsey at Rick’s, and he is wasted beyond measure. They are baiting Horsey to do bad things, and Horsey is happy to please. Horsey is likely homeless and slurs even when he’s not drunk. He never comes in to the shop because he doesn’t have any money. They get him high and he sings and takes his clothes off and we all laugh, I film it.
Beanloaf is there too: Beanloaf looks like Charles Manson, with the hair and the far-off eyes, and the stone-cast face. They say he smoked his mother’s ashes once, and I believe it.
And others from the Circus Apocalypse, who can get out of strait jackets and run across broken glass barefooted, and eat large, live bugs. These are the people I want to associate with, I think, because they are making something out of their minds for other people’s enjoyment, just making it up and living it. There is no separation between the two worlds. This time is like a dream and we are all moving through it in that way you do in dreams, when you know it’s about to end and you’ll try hard to remember it the next day, convinced it means something you should pay attention to.