Saturday, July 23, 2011

hell's angels, homm(e)o-sexuals, violence, and meaning

I'm sitting in my regular coffee shop. And everything is more or less the same as it always is. But somehow I feel strange. I intended to write about my first night at a job I had a long time ago now. The story resonates with me. But somehow suddenly a small change in expectations and I can't seem to focus. Everything feels a little bit off. And this time there is no real pleasure in it. Well maybe there is a kind of pleasure in channeling the beginning of The Lost Boys: faces look ugly; people seem wicked. I guess if I want to inhabit an insecure place, on the edge of an experiential abyss, I should just learn to embrace these moments.

When I was swimming this evening, there came a point when my heart rate was too elevated, my arms felt like weights, my chest was tight, I was cramping, and I knew if I just pushed through that the physiology wouldn't change much, but my understanding of it would.

Many times when I sit down to write or paint, I am filled with anxiety. It could just be that I have an overdeveloped fight or flight response. Or that I have some kind of nervous disorder. Or it could be that looking at yourself, looking back at you, can be terrifying.


In the mid nineties I was dating a stripper in San Francisco. I had just dropped out of art school and every night I would show up on my motorbike to pick her up. I was a slight, thoughtful, self-important punk kid full of piercings and a little bit of the appearance of a fighter. And since I seemed like a nice guy, this guy who hung out at the strip club and managed another night club offered me a job as a bouncer.

Despite my appearance, I was more or less terrified. I hadn't been in a fight in years and somehow had manged to pose/ talk my way out of every conflict I had encountered. It's not quite right to say I was terrified: I went to a skinhead show in Paris in drag, you can imagine how that went over; my friends had to keep me from getting into a fight in the Pigalle subway with half a dozen soccer hooligans who called me a poofta; in Knoxville in the 80s a good friend kept me from getting killed by a couple of “Outlaws” who didn't appreciate the finer points of my outfit . . . But despite all this I was still kind of terrified. But now that I think about, it wasn't that I was terrified of fighting. I was terrified of being alive. It was a time in my life when I could barely manage to leave the house … but that's a different story.

I took the job and he told me to show up to the bar on Wednesday night at 8 0'clock. I had done a few months of Jujitsu when I was, like, 12, so I tried to remember what I once didn't really even know. And then I went to work.

My first night as a bouncer was a Hell's Angels benefit. House of Pain was playing. 



We were not responsible for security per se, the HAs were taking care of that. Our only responsibility was to protect the club's liquor license. A lot of things happened that night. There were fights everywhere. But my job, my only job, was to sit at a pair of exit doors and keep anyone who didn't look like a Hell's Angel (or a hanger on) from leaving with their drinks.

In the middle of House of Pain's set, I looked over towards the bar and there was a group of Hell's Angels in a circle kicking a young black  kid in the head and back. (I mention his race because that is the only thing he had done wrong). He was on the floor in the fetal position bleeding. And they kept kicking him. I didn't really stop to think about what to do. I looked left and right to try and find someone on our staff. I got on the radio and called for back up. No one came. So I walked over, calmly, to the group of Angels and started talking to them. I said something like “hey guys, just let me throw him out.”  I'm sure I sounded like a little fairy talking to a herd of buffalo. Of course no one listened. I got pushed/ punched around a bit. Obviously, I didn't start swinging. When it became clear that these guys were lost is their racist blood lust, I did the only other thing I could do.

I pushed my way inside of them. I covered the kid with my body; told him to relax. He was bleeding out from a rather nasty looking laceration on the side of his neck and several impact cuts on his head. I applied pressure to the cut on his neck and started trying to pick him up. He was tiny. Maybe he weighed 140 pounds or so. The younger guys in the circle were kicking and punching me, and I stumbled a couple of times. Fortunately, some of the older guys recognized me as Trocadero staff and pulled their brothers off of me. I got the kid to the door and walked him down the sidewalk a few paces towards the line of police cars at the end of the block.

Then he was gone.
I hate bullies. I hate people who are needlessly cruel. But  I understand the appeal of what these racist fucks were doing. In their performance of violence (as Bataille suggests) they find (a kind of) god and community and agency. And almost all of their activities are homm(e)o-sexual.

I dated (not really dated, was fucking) a young fashion designer around this same time, who was also dating one of the Hell's Angels. (It's good for me that he never found out who I was. He was also a semi-pro boxer). She used to tell me stories of what it was like hanging out in the club house... being a possession on display. I think she was a little like me, and doing this for the transgressive experience of being wholly objectified and dehumanized. And she found pleasure and even meaning in it.  But it was clear from the way ______ reacted when he found out she was seeing someone else that behind the fists, and colors, and bluster, and blood rested an insecure boy parading a phallus around to solidify his place in a hierarchy. I am certainly not suggesting he wasn't a badass. Instead I'm suggesting that every badass is a faggot sublimating limp-dicks through violence.

I do actually believe something near this. You can read a (my) close(ish) reading  of Irigaray's homm(e)o-sexuals hidden in this post,  here.

In some respects I think this limp-dick insecurity is somewhat unavoidable. In the primeval development of our consciousness, as told by Bataille and Nietzsche anyway, the need to work/ live communally required the concealment/control of violence through language/ culture. And this response to the excess of life and death, this response to the will-to-power, is also apparent in Kristeva's abject and Irigaray's fag and Becker's denial and … The point is that we are all of us driven to deny/ master the messy, fluid, contradictory impulses of death – of the feminine. And no wonder us men (must?) perform like unusually rabid/ intellectual apes (this statement is actually unfair to apes whose capacity for cruelty pales in comparison with ours; and it's inaccurate, but it sounds good) … It's too bad it's so much fun pretending to be a badass, 'cause we're on a suicidal trajectory that for most of the world, most of the time is nothing but misery.

I'm definitely not a badass. I have learned to fight a little since that night long ago in San Francisco. But I've still lost just about every fight I've ever been in. Part of the problem is I can't pick a fight. And I can't fight someone who appears weaker or less trained than me, it just doesn't seem sporting. And so it means that I only end up fighting the guys who are willing to swing at me … and they can usually fight.   But, mostly the problem is I'm just not very good at it.  Win or loose though, I have yet to be in fight (or a relationship for that matter, I'm not very good at those either) I haven't enjoyed.

During that Hell's Angels benefit I became a slightly different person. I discovered my ideal job in my ideal place. Nowhere else have I encountered  the same mix of sex (that night as I was getting on my motorbike to go home some incredibly cute club-chick hopped on the back of my bike ...), violence, comedy and tragedy. All of life comes down to these moments, sometimes.

I like to imagine how much I would enjoy myself today if The Trocadero Transfer hadn't closed, if I hadn't been evicted from my cheap storefront studio in the Mission to make room for yuppies from the Mid-West, if I were still friends with the East Bay Rats MC, if life hadn't interjected ...

me and a motorbike in that era

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