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Old 04-07-10, 04:07 PM   #1
martin ewen
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Lurk Chicago, part 3 final

Pt 1

Pt 2

PART 3 Chicago

Next morning I woke early and wrestled with my hangover. I got on the phone.

"Yes may I have a Hot Toddy please. Oh, OK, 2 fluid ounces of bog average whisky, 2 fluid ounces of boiling water and a half teaspoon of honey, a dash of lemon and between 5 and 15 cloves. Nuke them I don't care but I want them close to boiling when they come through the door, yeah make that two. Thanks very much."

A trolley was wheeled in, two shot glasses sat in a steaming copper heater. I tipped, he went, I drank, sipping appreciatively, then ordered a heavy breakfast, gorged and went back to sleep.

Woke again mid afternoon, ordered a brace of juices and smoothies, time to fluid up before massive sweating.

Finally used the typewriter. Killed a couple of hours recounting an amazing story an Icelandic bartender had told me a couple of months prior. There is an internal symmetry because Iceland was the last time I had lived off free room service. I liked linking the surreality.

I got myself in order, shower shave etc; Then did that thing which is peculiar to me; I got my shit together. Triangle and chimer,/check/ scary baby doll,/check/ plastic flies,/check/ singular juggling ball,/check/ pen with different colored pop-top,/check/magnifying glass,/check/hand held mirror,/check/ industrial tinsel,/check/ medium size bathroom towel, /check/flyswat,/check/tankhelmet,/check/ makeup,/check/ gaffer-tape,/check,/shin-pads,/check/ tips of stilts,/check/stilt tighten,/check/Costume,/check.

I was about to go to a soiree of some mogul who started his career as a radio DJ and had evolved/devolved into spectacular financial carnivore in the 80's/90's.

He held a party every year, around 300 hundred guests.

The year before he had got special dispensation from the powers that be to have his party-goers meet in their own cars at set locations and then follow the second white line drawn on certain streets and roads to the party.

The guy had new white lines lay-ed just to direct people to his shindig, which, the year before was in the large rented circus soleit tent, flown in from wherever.

The patron had a complete branch of his operations dedicated to these parties full time.

This year the line up was, James brown, Aretha Franklyn and a 300 strong choir, Redmoon theatre, myself and a concrete suited slowmoving statue with a camera in his hand and an open laptop strapped to his back, who walked slowly and took pictures all night. [When everyone left, down the main hall, all the stills he had taken were there framed and for the picking] getting ahead of myself here, I'm just walking in.

The foyer was a vast ancient American social esophagus, It's been part of America's dream of itself since 1926.

Personally this foyer reminded me of the scary piano player in a Thailand hotel I stayed at who crooned meaninglessly with demonic chipmunk cheer and whose cracks in her smotheringly thick facial foundation had me imagining spiders living in her face. But that's just me.

Briefly looked into the ballroom. A sushi chef [the James Brown of sushi chefs no doubt] had his own island with the most expensive large fish on ice money could buy.

There was a Da Vinci helicopter rigged in the ceiling, Redmoon theatre were using that. There were a few other food islands, you had to browse yourself, there were waiters as backup for those unused to not being waited on.

I went up to my lair to get ready, no puppy, no cheerleaders, no therapist, there was ice, various softdrinks and someone must have accidentally left a joint on the table.

I put it away, it messes with my timing and for a non vocal performer timing is prime, then stretched for 30 minutes, spent a further 40 getting makeup and stilts on, a luxury, I can be ready in 15 ,and then made my way down a variety of carpeted steps from my belfry to the event just before the first arrivals.

The place was abuzz and these things usually are, with formally dressed waiters and waitresses and highly strung caterers doing that self important theatre that is their stock in trade.

The guests some more formal than others, began to arrive.

My first bamboozlement was that, apart from the evening gown wearing women, everyone was made to wear orange T shirts given to them upon entry. They were told it was so that staff could identify them.

It made no sense to me. I thought it could have been some ridiculous American affectation but the surprise on the guests faces as they donned dumb bright Tshirts put paid to that idea. I figured it was the host simply being an overbearing asshole right off the bat.

"Hi welcome to my party, do what you're told, I'm in charge and as there's too many of you to actually kiss my ass you get to wear this Tshirt to show yourselves and me where the power lies in our arrangement."

Made me feel a bit sorry for them. Not good, pity is my enemy however insecure people are my stock in trade so it balanced out.

Most of the guests struck me as a little overawed, a little off balance. I thought the guest list must have been political rather than fraternal, interesting. That would give me a great deal more leeway in where the line denoting acceptable behavior by me might lie.

I spent the evening ridiculing folk, mimicking them cruelly, glaring at them with malicious disdain, dumping tinsel on their heads leaving small post-it notes stuck to them that read,

"If you can read this you're not as drunk as me." and, "I've been mocked...and it's not the first time." and dancing.

Aretha Franklin and her 300 strong choir opened the evening, 150 each side in the balconies with her and band onstage. The strange thing about the dynamic, well one of the strange things about the dynamic was that the audience were presented with the acts without advance notice. They didn't know who would be performing, it was all a surprise.

Only 300 guests in such a big space meant that critical mass and the usual group dynamic where people gel via common passion, expectation and a certain mutuality was missing.

Still, a good set and I didn't let the vague group discomfort inhibit my need to boogie. I'm a paid acerbic lubricant after all.

This was followed by Redmoon theatre, a Chicago based arts collective that specialises in visual spectacle.

The Di Vinci helicopter descended on cue piloted by the protagonist who then had various adventures with dry ice and groups of dark and somber stilt creatures and strangely clad musicians. [sigh]

They were good and I actually worked with them a year later throughout Chicago as a principle in a show that played the airport, the museum and various eclectic venues but having myself graduated from a dark and somber stilt performance group [Stalker] some 10 years before I used their set to rest and grab some liquid.

I did like the way they integrated their show into the midst of the party-goers.

Waiters and waitresses bustled, hither and thither, a few canny guests had taken the seating vacated by the departed choir for an overhead view. I made a point of visiting them and trying to conduct them in some choral manner. Sometimes others annoyance to me is a sweet nectar.

I negotiated my way downstairs again as Redmoon climaxed. Dry ice hung in the air as they took their bows and left.

Now James Brown was next. But James Brown isn't the kind of guy who shuffles onstage and whispers, " Hello, my name is James, I hope you're all well, here's a song I wrote."

James band play for 20 minutes without him, building up atmosphere, building up expectation and then some pre-James takes the stage and hypes the imminent James.






The guests, mostly ultra-rich sophisticates, did their very best to simulate a passionate rabble, an uphill battle and the pre-James tried as hard as they did to convince himself that his efforts were working.

I thought to myself at the time that if the crowds collective enthusiasm was an erect penis and long enough it would still be soft enough to tuck backwards and attempt self sodomy. My bizarre musings were curtailed by the appearance on stage of JAMES BROWN.

Now James was old. That's true. But James was also the right kind of old. The 'don't give a shit about being old' kind of old.

He was a master, he had the moves, all the signature vocals, his own tight band and a commitment to original excellence.

Personally I had no problem immersing myself in his real live, here and now, legendary groove.

Having stilts on usually means you are given room to move and if I do say so myself I move well.

James gave it his all and it was the least I could do to try and keep up.

"Living in AMERICA."

I can't really recall the specifics. I remember he collapsed sweating at the end and the pre-james picked him up and he shrugged it all off and did his encore. A classic piece of theatre he had made his own.

I was spent for real. I'd been up 3 hours, paced myself well and spent the last 40 minutes on turbo. My job was done.

I made my way back to my dressing room, showered and went on a backstage trawl, met Redmoon, exchanged numbers and chatted. I figured James and Aretha were well gone. They were.

Back out front of stage some apparently well known local coverband were winding down the night.

I had a pass rather than a bright Tshirt and started ordering drinks and food and getting it delivered to a particular table. I then used that table as a half way point, transferring the goods back to my dressing room in shifts and filling an empty suitcase I'd brought with booty to be taken back to the Hotel. Old habits die hard.

I packed up, cleaned up my room after myself, [another old habit] then discovered I'd run out of cigarettes.

I hunted down my boss, got thanked for the work and he arranged for security to accompany me across the road to a bar to buy some. I crossed the road with my personal man mountain, we got peered at though bullet proof glass and buzzed into what anywhere else in the world would simply be a downtrodden seedy bar full of downtrodden seedy people.

It struck me that the point of all this protection was that the neighbourhood itself was more dangerous than the bar and that made me recognise how dumb I'd been the evening before strolling round the hood like a neon dipstick.

I got my cigs, stood outside the Ballroom, got my nicotine fix and smoked half a joint before popping back inside to grab my stuff and taxi out of there.

I make a point of not hanging round too long after the gig, the impression you have better things to do I find is ultimately more important than actually having anything better to do.

This time I let the bellboys take it all, I went up to my room, sorted out my sweaty stuff and rang the front desk for some late night laundry.

Laid my purloined food and drink about artfully and I confess I scattered industrial quantities of leftover tinsel over furniture and carpet.

I was leaving the next evening.

I'm quite happy in my own company and spent the next few hours eating and drinking merrily.

I looked down from my window at the greater downtown Chicago and marvelled at the life I lead.

I flew out the next day.

Last edited by martin ewen; 04-07-10 at 04:10 PM.
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