Tuesday, July 4 2000
Sometimes when I smoke pot, especially that cheap schwaggy stuff I just happened to have smoked today, I feel remorseful about things. For example, maybe I was a little harsh on my erstwhile employer yesterday. After all, unprincipled corporate greed-heads are people too. Whether it's vicious skinheads or would-be captains of the new economy, I always end up feeling a certain amount of compassion for the targets of my unflattering scrutiny.
Today there was a July 4th party down at the Dr. Susan Block studio, to which I'll probably start referring as "the studio." It was a more-or-less employees-only affair, but since I'd actually be something like an unpaid intern if I ever did anything other than drink booze there, I was invited as well.
All the usual suspects were there except for Norma the big blond dominatrix, who isn't an employee. Most essential of all was Mario (builder of the infamous Bondage Cross), who tended the barbecue back in the alley. He proved his worth when the ribs came out. I wish I had the words to describe the way they tasted, but I'm at a loss. Among other flavors, they were sort of salty, but not excessively so. Sophie, if she kept a website documenting her life, would probably spend most of this entry talking about how good those ribs were. Here she is gnawing on one of the many bones that soon littered the floor around the bar area.
There were a couple new people present, including a young white woman from Hollywood dressed in nothing but dyed red hair and slip; she's a new intern who just started today. She's also one few people in Los Angeles who can commute to work, using the new 4.6 billion dollar light rail line connecting downtown with the San Fernando Valley. When we came in she was blaring some especially noisy Nirvana.
The other new person was a quiet young black man, also an intern. His job had him going over dozens of receipts and doing something vaguely clerical. But his story was much more complicated than a simple love for dreary paperwork. Out in back was a sporty red car he's been fixing up and customizing. Its principle feature was a set of electric-powered hydraulics which could make the car's body lurch upward and downward over any combination of its wheels. Its range of vertical motion was something like twelve inches, and it could climb or descend that full range in an instant. Finally I could see first-hand how cars are made to rock forwards and backwards in those hip-hop videos I've seen on MTV. The mechanism driving these hydraulics was a spotless & shiny network of tubes and pumps powered by four twelve volt car batteries. This mechanism took up the entire trunk space. It was so marvelous, unnecessary and impractical, I couldn't get enough of it. I just stood there laughing and laughing and hoping he'd do it some more. Conversely, across the alley and beyond the concertina wire, on the balconies of a brick apartment building darkened by age, most of the male population, all of them Mexicans, was standing there with mouths agape to witness such a wondrous spectacle.
Later on, Kim was dancing with the hydraulic car guy and he told her that this was the first time he'd ever danced with a girl. Either he's younger than he looks or he's bigger dork than I am!
For some reason, throughout the party Kim spent the bulk of her time socializing with Samantha, the young daughter of the other Kim who is the curator of the Dr. Block Erotic Art Gallery. (To minimize confusion, my Kim has been calling herself "Kamala" whenever she comes to the studio.) They were dancing and playing and falling down and all kinds of stuff. When Kim cut her knee in the grime of the alleyway, I warned her that crabgrass might take root in her injury.
Under mainstream Puritanical American morality, the Dr Block's Studio would be considered, to put it mildly, an odd place to raise a child. Over and over we're told that sexual imagery is a horribly detrimental thing for kids, starting them out on an (always unspecified) road to ruin. But in an erotic art gallery, erotic objects and imagery are difficult things to avoid, so why bother trying? As aspects of Samantha's world, the dildos, nude mannequins and pictures of pussies are inert and benign and of no great interest. She certainly doesn't pay any particular attention to them. (When I was her age, I would have been the same way.) If more people in America had such well-adjusted views, think of the energy that would suddenly be available for tackling important issues!
At some point in the evening, Jolie jokingly told me that American Express was the preferred credit card of boyfriends, since it is not accepted everywhere. What better excuse to be a cheapskate and let the date pick up the tab than a restaurant which only accepts VISA?
On the bar was Mario's copy of Madonna's book Sex, signed by Madonna of course. It gave me a flashback to the unsigned copy of Sex that gradually deterioriated with everything else at Big Fun. With its metal cover, the book looks like it was designed to survive the coming nuclear holocaust, but Max pointed out how flimsy and poorly engineered the spiral binding was. "Damn ad designers!" Later Jolie, Kim and I were arguing about whether or not Sex harmed Madonna's career. We all ended up agreeing that it probably solidified her somewhat in the pantheon of eternal artists. You have to shock people if you want to end up there, and from all accounts people were shocked when Sex was published back in the early 90s.
We'd been snacking on ribs and such, but when dinner finally came, it was a Thanksgiving-style sit-down affair, and the centerpiece was a salad built around a cucumber that had been carved to resemble a slightly-larger-than-life (modesty being a virtue) circumcised penis.
Graffiti in the alley.
Kim and Samantha playing in the alley.
From left: Max, Mario, Kim and Jolie, in the alley as barbecue is prepared.
One of those backrub chains that occasionally form. From left: Dr. Block, Samantha, the new girl (I forget her name), Jolie, and Kim (Kamala). In the foreground is Joseph, the studio's accountant.
Concertina wire guards precious property from alley riff raff such as myself.
From left: Joseph the accountant, Jolie, Max, Mario, Samantha and Kim.
A view of downtown Los Angeles skyscrapers from the alley.
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