subdermal september

by melpomene whitehead

One Saturday morning in August I stumbled home some time after sunrise. I groped my bleary-eyed way to my bathroom and removed my dried up little contact lenses. I looked up to grab the Duane Reade brand multipurpose solution, and I noticed little black dots littering my ceiling. "What the fuck...," I thought, and grabbed my glasses. 35 flies, with 35 millions eyes, were looking down at me. Fuck! My bathroom was like Calcutta, or the Amityville Horror minus the blood. And luckily none of the flies were telling me "Get out!" No, they were saying, "Where da food, bitch?"I was baffled. All the other bugs know the food is in the kitchen... No matter. I've never dealt with flies before! I knew not what to do! I had to wait until the hardware store opened to buy some fly strips, the insect equivalent of the glue trap. But I have no anthropomorphized feelings for flies, oddly enough. I got "flying insect spray" also, but that must be some sort of cologne, as I would spray it directly on the bugs and naught would happen. The first day the strips enticed about 15 of the legion, and I had a swatting rate of 2-3 a day. There are even now as we speak (or I type, you read) a few buzzing around (like Lux Interior! I'm the human fly, I say bzz, bzz, bzz... I have96 tears and 96 eyes), keeping the cats entertained. As if tv isn't enough.

So, the flies were just one more weird thing in a whole weird summer, and I finally decided, on the advice of Peter Bernard's dead cat Merv, to do a banishing spell. Merv came to Peter in a dream and recommended it. I gave up on spells some time in the early 90s, and so I couldn't locate my grimoire (aka, my copy of The Supermarket Sorceress), so I looked online. When I used to practice you had to get your spells the old-fashioned way--from Llewellyn books purchased at Enchantments. Things are much easier now. I found a simple banishing spell that I felt might work for me, and luckily, the moon was waning and about to turn black. Hell, would Merv tell me to do something if the time wasn't right? Of course not. Well, the next day I had the strangest experience--I went to Dunkin Donuts, and the 'ground control to major tom.counter guy was pleasant! Of course, it could have been my tacky ensemble... Then, on my way to see a lecture by Ray Strano about mind machines, I was approached by a woman on the L train. She looked interesting--dyed black hair, slender, dressed creatively--but what she said almost made me fall over. "Do you wear a size 5 1/2 shoe?," she asked. What sort of question is that?? But the weird thing is I do. So I laughed and said yes. It turned out she had some shoes to sell--she was selling her wares out of doors but was harassed by the police, and now she had all this stuff and wanted to get rid of some of it before she went home. I got a lovely pair of brown suede Bottecellis, a bridal veil, and a Jerry Garcia tie which I'll give to someone who wears ties. Nora! Nora! Nora! My new angel. The encounter was so strange it really brightened my day. I mean, c'mon! I was on the L train trying on shoes! It was crazy...

The fly strips/glue trap analogy above of course refers to Saint Reverend Jen (, whom I had the pleasure of seeing this summer in her one woman show Urban Elf at Collective Unconscious. She calls herself the Sex Symbol for the Insane, and, predictably, the audience was packed with slacker/hipster-doofus doods, including one who looked remarkably like Dave Eggers. St. Jen, in her lovely ingenuous way, talked about Trolls, The Christmas That Almost Wasn't, and her horrible appendectomy experience. She performed two songs about rats--one rap number, and then a very moving one about glue traps that described in horrific detail the terrors of being caught. Jen has got to be among the most charming art stars, and her material is very very funny. She also was in Nick Zedd's recent film, Thus Spake Zarathrustra, and collaborated with him on another new film, Elf Panties. Jen hosts an open mike anti-slam at CU every Wednesday, so try to get there this fall.

There were so many strange events this summer, but one of the stranger was the two day electonic vs analog fest, Unity Gain, at Chashama. Day one, July 17, was plagued with weird electrical problems. When I got there, almost all the lights were out and all I could see was RJ's face illuminated by a cigarette. Wait! What the hell is RJ doing here??? I thought I was hallucinating, but no, he was playing with Darryl Hell that night. Or he tried to anyway. At various points the electricity came on and people would play for 10 or 15 minutes until everything zapped out again. It was bizarre, and I felt like were were all waiting to be released from school. Apparently the second night went off much better. But when people got to play it was great. Darryl Hell kicked ass, and the video set up, with live video by Maze = Nancy Meli Walker, Vishwanath (Owen) Bush, and Benton-C Bainbridge was spectac.

Last summer, I spent almost every Saturday at PS 1's Warm Up, getting drunk on $4 Bklyns and lounging in the sauna. This summer, I only made it there once, and that was part of the film crew for Michael Portnoy's piece Stranger Games. I wished I'd gotten to participate tho. It looked fun. 100 or so people crowded into a room, in pairs. You couldn't stand with a friend, you had to pair off with a stranger. There were envelopes on the floor, between each pair, with instructions. Hijinx ensued. Groups of non-English speakers were obviously confused, but what can ya do? They attempted to follow along. People had to hop, or talk about certain topics, and then at the end you got to write your own instructions and try to get others to follow them. Everyone had to go outside at that point, and try to rope non-participants into the game. When it was all over, I hooked up with Simone, who was splashing around the pool holding her skirt between her legs like she was an Italian grape stomper. She confessed that she made up her own rules in the Stranger Game from the beginning. Figures! Later that night I went to the last free103point9 party of the summer, Brooklyn House Party, with performances by Emil Beaulieau, Crank Sturgeon, Madame Chao, Ortho, and KleverVice. Emil B. had a turntable outfitted with a weird device that turned records into trash, and he danced around and named all his compositions things like, "Baby! Your Hair Looks Terrific!" Later his partner came out, set up a ladder and some plastic sheeting, and ran into the audience. Then he threatened a Hello Kitty doll. "NO!," I screamed. Not Hello Kitty! But kitty was safe. Later, the reformed Kitty killer passed around cheese puffs. While we sat upstairs, my cohort Tom wondered how DJs do the strange things they do these days with records. "This DJ could be playing an instrument!," he said. Yes, an instrument of destruction.. it was KleverVice, up to her old/new tricks. Ms Vice is spinning every Thursday at Grounded at Open Air (121 St Marks Pl, the dark doors next to Stingy Lulu's)--it's free, it's got a/c... it's so cooool. You will laugh at some of the stuff she plays, like that weird cover of "Africa." Kick it, Kleva! I should lend her some of my ALF flexi-disks.

One Friday in August a friend of mine called and told me to meet him at this address, and I get there and it's someone's apartment, and I don't know anyone, and everyone there looks like a lawyer. He claimed there'd be some, I dunno, stuff! But soon there was. Rey Loki, who plays in Transport, had organized a odd art event with ambient music and funny art in the bathrooms. Guess who else plays in Transport--Ken Wharton, whom I keep running into. Someone had brought him an old, and I mean old, turntable with a velvety disk platter and speeds down to 16 and up to 78. Transport works with tape loops of found sounds, obscure objects, and ephemera making disturbing and charming music. Khristian Weeks also performed that night, with some massively remixed folk songs.

It stopped raining on Thursday August 23 long enough for me to get all my video equipment from the A train to the Knitting Factory. But then I had to fight my way through the throngs of doofuses waiting to see Lee Renaldo to the ticket booth (why is the Knit set up so poorly? they have this ticket booth, which you have to utilize no matter where you want to go if you want to see a show, in this ridiculously narrow area where people loiter while waiting for the show on the main stage. Move the damn booth, people! I know people who've left rather than push to the booth. Old Office and Alterknit bands suffer). Kyle Lapidus, half of the happy Tali and Kyle couple, just back from their honeymoon, was looking dapper in a slick poncho trying to make his way downstairs). The Real Band opened up with some ten second screaming thrash songs with names like "I Love Indie Rock" (in honor, no doubt, of the show upstairs). Then Newton from Philly, dressed oddly in bee-suits and masks, making their own mosh pit, having food fights, wrestling with monitors and other equipment... I've personally never been to a wilder show at the Alterknit, but there was something very disturbing. There was a group of about 5 people sitting in a circle, all ignoring the bands, scribbling in pads, drawing... one was writing music. Sometimes one or another would be holding his ears. I figured they must be here to see Madame Chao ( and his special brand of video chaos. Well, somehow these self-involved weirdos managed to ignore the entire Madame Chao show, which must have been quite difficult, as loud and assaultive as it was. Madame is amazing, doing live video mix with very abrasive music, letting up on the fast cuts only to smoke a well-timed cigarette. Later I was speaking to Gary from The Real Band ("Gary means diarrhea in Japanese," he volunteered) about the Madame, wondering how it is exactly that he does his stuff. "He'll never give you a straight answer. He'll just eat his frogs legs and shake his head and smile." What? Did he really say "eat his frogs legs"?

Monday August 27, I went to univesity. Well, Daevid Allen's University of Errors ( You know the name, right? You're wondering from where... he's the guy who started Gong and Soft Machine! Yes, he's older than you're dad (and mine too, for that matter), but he's crazy, so it's ok. They play space rock and the audience was predictably peppered with young girls in bandanas who got lost on their way to Wetlands. Don't get me wrong--this band is oodles of fun. Very energetic and humorous with decent and unpredictable songs. But what was the deal with all the young girls? Were they their children? Seriously, they looked like extras from That 70s Show. One chick, who stood adoringly at the foot of the stage, even had the flat red hair.

Melpomene's Fall Book Report:

American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty by Michael W. Cuneo (Doubleday, $24.95) is a well-researched study into the modern exorcisms. I always think of Roman Catholic ceremonies when I think of expelling demons--blame The Exorcist, or, more likely, blame the fact that I grew up on Staten Island. And the official Roman Catholic church stance is that demonic possession is rare, and exorcisms even rarer still. But there are tons of exorcisms going on every day all over the country. If you think you have a devil, you can get an exorcism, but you're going to have to settle for a Pentecostal one. The power of Satan compels you to at least read this book while you slurp your Chai at B&N. Evil!

The Center of Things
by Jenny McPhee (Doubleday, $22.95) is a sweet romance about a writer's fixation with a dying movie star. While Marie researches the life of Nora Mars for her inevitable obit, she also muses about her true love, quantum physics, and tries to figure out what turn she took to make this universe come into being. Marie gets wrapped up in Nora's convoluted lifelike a San Loco taco loco. Jenny McPhee is my new she-ro; she got the name of the American Museum of Natural History correct! Most authors refer to it as the Museum of Natural History or (horrors!) the Natural History Museum. Hurray for Jenny!

Peter Gethers has written several books about his funny-eared cat Norton, and his latest one will be his last, as, alas Norton has died. Norton seems quite charming, but, in The Cat Who'll Live Forever (Broadway Books, $22.95) Gethers spends half the book name-dropping and it's not particularly interesting. I read some of the book to my cat Mungo, who insisted I must be leaving out the good stuff. "Norton goes places, but the book goes nowhere!," was Mungo's review. Co-cat Henrey's ears perked up when I mentioned that Norton lived near the Washington Sq. Park dog run, but that's because he thought it was a dog track. Henrey's got a gambling problem. Back to the book... later on Norton gets ill, and the book takes on the air of another annoying book about a sick person, Joseph Heller's No Laughing Matter. Heller contracted the same stupid illness I did (demyelinating polyneuropahy, or Guillian-Barre) only he got the acute form, which is better, plus he was rich, and he gets chinese food in the hospital delivered by Mario Puzo, and he married his nurse. I got fat on prednisone, went into anaphylactic shock, dealt with the insurance company for years... whine whine whine. Anyway, Gethers, who complains at the beginning of the book how he's such a stickler for proper grammar, calls broccoli rabe broccoli rape. What? oh, I'm sorry, maybe spelling doesn't count. And why does he capitalize "Garlic, Onion and Pepperoni Pizza"? I feel for whomever had to copyedit this book, as I'm sure all their corrections were nixed. I was not reading extra-critically due to the comment about the grammar, and I still found some errors. Poor Norton. Well, at least he got to travel around and get stroked, which is better than most cats, and most people, get.

Myla Goldberg's Bee Season is finally out in paperback, and this is one scholbook you'll want to read. Unassuming and exceedingly average Elly is suddenly thrust into the highly competitive world of spelling bees. Along the way her mother goes crazy, her brother becomes a hari krishna, and Elly learns about kabala. It's a lovely story about the quest for enlightenment.