Artist David Wojnarowicz’s thirty or so journals are stored in a pair of boxes in New York University’s Fales Library. Folders of loose photographs, tickets, and postcards are also included, as is an oversize wall calendar, sparsely annotated by Wojnarowicz, of the type one might find in the gift shop of the American Museum of Natural History (triceratops rooting in lush surrounds). “Series 1,” as this lot of the David Wojnarowicz Collection is designated, feels like a grouping of keepsakes: These are items in and by means of which Wojnarowicz marked, from 1970 to 1991, time’s passing. In 1992, he died at the age of thirty-seven.
The journals were also meant for publication and display. Composition books predominate, though there are larger spiral-bound notebooks and one three-ring binder. The covers are occasionally embellished with collage or a holographic sticker. Wojnarowicz interleaves clippings, print ads, band flyers. Pages are pasted over with typescript, newsprint, photocopies of photographs, handwritten notes, redacted poems. The journals were a location in which Wojnarowicz prepared—by means of plans, lists, sketches—work he would later execute in other media, and they were also a site for work. As they themselves self-consciously narrate, these books were a constant in the practice of a peripatetic artist who painted out of doors, who traveled, who regarded homelessness as inherent to humanity (what in one entry he refers to as “the matter of having no home”).
Wojnarowicz made extensive use of the text of his journals, excerpting and reworking sections to create essayistic pieces that appear in Close to the Knives and Memories That Smell like Gasoline. He wrote with his body as witness, vehicle, and recording device: For The Waterfront Journals, for instance, he conducted interviews with people he met on the streets of American cities before “transcribing” monologues from memory, perhaps fictionalizing. In this sense, the kinds of experience with which Wojnarowicz was concerned could not be rendered untrue by the embroidery of art; as the artist once said in an interview with Nan Goldin, “I grew up realizing and believing there’s no difference between fantasy and reality. I always believed that my fantasies were stored pieces of information.”1
Of his diary accounts of sex at the West Side piers and elsewhere, Wojnarowicz told Sylvère Lotringer:
I remember when I first started becoming more and more aware of AIDS. And here I am sitting with all these journals, looking at them in total disgust. … And now, years later, I realize I shifted again and want these
It is with this in mind that one reads Wojnarowicz’s accounts of anonymous sex, his cinematic reflection of the encounter. Many of the selections I have made here, then, are graphic—perhaps more so than other previously published excerpts from the journals. There are also mundane episodes. We see a Manhattan that barely resembles our own. And we see Wojnarowicz at work, taking photos of hell in an alley (homelessness, refuse) or visiting an editor at the Soho Weekly News, the paper that would first publish his “Rimbaud in New York” series. I have wanted to show both the explicitness and the everydayness of Wojnarowicz’s writing practice, as it is in this meeting of the extraordinary and the routine that one finds the crucible of the artist’s personal myth.
I have also included “Dateline for Retrospective Catalog.” This sketch, written in list form, is a draft of a text that appeared in a catalogue of Wojnarowicz’s work from 1979 to 1990, Tongues of Flame. The published work, in paragraphs, is titled “Biographical Dateline,” and it expands the outline’s pithy notes. For example, what in the preparatory document is “Stabbed Steven: lizard tail in hand in police station” becomes, in “Biographical Dateline,”
If the draft “Dateline for Retrospective Catalog” lacks detail and standard syntax, it makes up for this in economy of expression, as a sort of episodic poem.
There is much that has been left out. Without mentioning the mass of writing and illustration that remains unpublished in the journals, it has also not been possible to preserve all of Wojnarowicz’s handwritten punctuation, his use of ellipses, spaces, and dashes of varying length. For this reason, one may look forward to Fales’s completion of a digitization project of the journals, at which time these will be viewable in their entirety online. (Additionally, from November 18 of this year until February 12, 2012, the Brooklyn Museum will host the exhibition “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” formerly presented at the National Portrait Gallery, here emphatically including Wojnarowicz’s 1985–87 film A Fire in My Belly.)
DATELINE FOR RETROSPECTIVE CATALOG
BORN 1954 REDBANK/NEW JERSEY
LIVING WITH MRS. HITESMAN – SON HAS GATOR
IN SINK FEEDS IT WORMS. BEATINGS + PIANO PLAYING
DAD KIDNAPS US. PLANE TO DETROIT
CHICKEN FARM. CRAZY DOG IN BASEMENT
TOADS UNDER BARREL. (FAMILY SUICIDES)
WOMAN WITH REMOVABLE PINKY
MAN IN GARAGE: DEAD MOUSE
GRANDMA + ANGELS (MORNING IN DOORWAYS
MAN + WIFE/GUN/COPS/SPECTACLE
FROG MURDERS IN WOODS
BATHING WITH GIRL IN POND IN UNDERWEAR
THOUGHT MAIL BOXES KNEW PEOPLE BY FIRST NAME
PAPER SCULPTURES/ LOVE LETTERS
CATERPILLARS IN KITCHEN
STABBED NEXTDOOR NEIGHBOR
LYING DOWN ON HILL HIGHWAY TO STOP
16 WHEEL RIGS (TRUCKS)
FLOOD/LEAVE SCHOOL/WORKERS IN LUMBER CAMP
ZOMBIE FILMS IN FIREHOUSE
FIRST VISION OF DEATH (SABER SCENE IN PIRATE
MOVIE) (DESCRIBE PHYSICAL SENSATION)
FOUND ENORMOUS FUNGUS IN FOREST—BROUGHT IT TO
SCHOOL W WAGON CLASS TO CLASS
FROG MURDERS IN WOODS
BATHING WITH GIRL IN POND IN UNDERWEAR
TURTLE POND REEDS ‘VISION’ – WHOLE EARTH TO THE
HORIZON WAS WATER + ANIMALS – THIS HAUNTED ME
KID WHO DIDN’T KNOW MONEY DENOMINATIONS
WE’D SELL FROGS TO HIM 1-20 dollars
His hand drifted like an interstate car smooth wheels in sound passing over my hips and sliding down over my belly and massaging warm motions over my legs. “I feel extremely stoned,” he said. “Yes I’ve been to France and back several times,” I said. Lights from the posts flooding leaves and pushing further shadows over our shoulders and the metallic voice from a patrol car saying GET THE FUCK OUTTA THE PARK and the scattering of walking bodies bump and drifting like images out of a hallucinated UN CHANT D’AMOUR free of prison bars and stone rooms but the same sexual drift, the consciousness of it all the angular body motions through the night evolving with shadows and light and merging with darkness again, just pale shades of arms and shirts or trousers or anything light or white but like a grainy film, we left on the ramp of the promenade and moved through the streets I didn’t know exactly where we were going: “I wish we had a place to go where there was no one,” he said. “I’m so excited I remember once I made love with you and it was something I never forgot and now there’s nowhere to go.” We passed corners swept beneath leaves of short trees, then were passed by autos and pale grimacing faces behind dark glass, legs shifting on stoops, windows being opened above our heads, lights clicking off soundlessly in buildings and ancient doormen moving out of apartment house lobbies into a rectangle of light and taxis thumping passengerless over potholes and street creases and directions changing. We move down into a lane of cobbled stones with a sectioned-off area of flowing grass and benches, wild looking characters sitting around drinking wine and whiskey out of paperbags and feathers in headbands of crushed hats sliding over their heads, the regalia of street people, hoods from Arkansas and southern towns where jazz is a staple like food for the body, a release of hunger, something to release hunger in. Frame focusings of the head that set camera stills through the eyes, actions frozen and light patterns on walkways, gleaming on benches and highways, the mysterious glare of the bridge lights, the flashing of time in the sky, all frozen like a photograph then shifting suddenly after you’ve moved away another ten or so steps; shifting, relocating and freezing up again, as if the head goes blind for unspeakable seconds, goes blind and relocates with visions, stoned as hell: my eyes hurt, a voice, disembodied, rises in the ears in passage, IF I WAS YOU I’D GET THE HELL OUTTA HERE WHILE I CAN, the head jerking mercilessly, where was the direction of that voice, who said it to whom, what is the aim of it, passed along the post office, streets dead all around suddenly fifty people all lounging against the walls and white stone steps, a truck parked amidst all the cars gleaming silent autos, truck with opened sideboard, hotdogs steaming on a gas heated grill, people buying food stuffs, others smoking weed, others drifting along the walls murmuring, postal workers on a break from the evening’s sorting of mail, from the unloading docks where large aluminum trucks glide up andcartons and sacks of heavy cloth filled with unspoken words come sailing through the night landing with a bodily thump. We moved through a series of parkside streets and my head functioned strangely, landscapes lifting and pushing and rearranging and a sliding sound of wind and night and highway autos and moving bodies a huge black man looming up, didn’t see him ’til I almost slammed into him, shouting, “What the hell you mean: LO MAN!!” and the sense of fear in angry sounds don’t know who he’s talking to and the sense of violence continually in the air after drifting in the cities of France, the sense of assimilated anger and rage and hard times, down into this valley, a long concaved landscape of benches and pathways and grass and dirt walkways and glittering lights with a claustrophobic sense ruling the atmosphere, unbreathing or restricted intake of breath, cigarettes lifted to the lips heating the lungs, the expansion of the chest in movement, I took large long breaths, expanded my chest, let it all out slowly, becoming aware of the body, the sleeplessness of things, dark figures on benches, crowds of guys, reefer smoldering in the darkness, the gurgle of liquids, the shuffle of feet scraping walkways, sudden emergences of shapes flashing across the walkway, the looming of a body next to ya’, the sudden emergence of shape eating space, the framing of vision taking time to rearrange and readjust to new movements. Kept wondering what was laced into that weed, the thought of it overpowering for a second, flash of fear and then the passing of it, the continual attempt at rearranging the focus of the eye to react sooner to the intake of landscape, change and the continual emergence of shape and space. Walking on this dirt path heading in a back tracking fashion, I was yelling inside my head just couldn’t take the tension of it groups of kids, gang members flashing across the slopes and disappearing behind walls of trees, the flashing back into a tribal sense, a ritual of weapons—long clubs and heavy sticks held like javelins in the fist, the movements of heads shifting back and forth like clockwork—we came to this large bush or small group of trees, bush trees, the worn dirt path moving right into the center of them, we pushed inside—tree branches hitting me in the face pulling at my shirt, twin lines of light from the illuminated sides of trees filtering in like sunlight reflected from a passing mirror or shards of glass, burning in the eyes from a moment, the glitter of it against the darkness of the interior, no place to move further, the bent over fashion I had to move in, too tall to stand up straight, standing up straight my head would be above the bushes or else did get my face scratched up from the thick tangle of branches, sense of fear, of humility, of the obviousness of our being there, the whole fuckin’ place illuminated on all sides so that all eyes saw us push thru into the dark interior, he dropped to his knees and pulled open my pants, took me into his mouth and there was that spark in the belly, started getting hard and then thrashing sounds, could see through the bushes on all sides young guys surrounding us, two of them, only see their legs and parts of their bodies, only see these glimpses through the thick leaves and branches, a clicking sound and two cigarette lighters flaming, illuminating some of the interior of the trees, the slow shock awareness of voices murmuring and guys bending down trying to peer into the darkness, this guy with his mouth around my cock, the sound of metal like a steel bar or two pipes hitting together, the sound of it, the group out there looking like some gang members, like Savage Skulls or something, the sound of the pipes banging, the cigarette lighters floating in the darkness surrounded by halos of light in attempt to illuminate the interior of the bushes, flashed in the meaning of the word forms: SEX PISTOLS—the sense of linking two life forces together, the whole pleasure of sex or of lovemaking, the slide of the body in contact with another body, the release of senses, that headspace we all move into, abandonment of heavy senses, the flight aerial like planes in Mexican skies, the motion of all senses, of touch sight breathing motion coming and merging together, the head flights and the loosening of structured thought, the abandonment of fears and longings, the embrace of the sense of limitless movement of erotic sounds and smells and tastes and skin being touched against skin, this man’s heavy muscular arms wrapped around my waist and legs, the movement of his lips and face below me, the sea of movement and the pressure in the stomach in the abdomen and the surge of excitement in the cock in the bloodstream, all of this smacking like an auto collision jet screaming wind whistling crash into the sense of death, death looming big outside the bushes, the whisper of trousers as guys move about, crouching down, trying to penetrate the darkness of the bushes, flicking lighters to illuminate us, trying to see what and who is in here, knowing all the while what’s going on, will they rush in and stab us—what weapons are there in those pockets and hands, a dollar and loose coins in my pocket, no money otherwise, what will it be like to get smacked in the head with a pipe, skull broken open blood pumping running with silent scream on my face mouth wide open wide wordless soundless terror, this man below me pushing on my cock, getting out of control, excitement rushing up my legs trembling legs arms frozen on his head and shoulders lights moving outside the bushes, fear gripping and rising in my throat like a fist of passion, fear and sexual excitement crashing over and over, death and sex smashing like endless crashes of automobiles, fiery bomb blast, screaming cinders of metal and flesh and glass projectiles flashing through night and life and skies and darkening visions and in the midst of this suffocating terror I came wildly like body jerking and bumping and shaking and vision distorting, relocating, slides in a projector machine slipping down into place over and over, lights swaying and darkness assuming a special terror, no longer balanced by the erasing excitement of passion, no longer crashing in stone walls but now just so vividly and simply on its own; lying there in its own entirety.
EAST BRUNSWICK N.J.
BURNING THE MILK MONEY
Neighbors WHO CALLED US COMMUNISTS–
HOW THIS REPEATEDLY HAPPENED LATER IN NYC
– WHAT COMMUNISTS WERE
LOG CABINS IN WOODS (RUN AWAY FROM HOME)
– XMAS DAD FORGOT US AT SHOPPING CENTER
FROZEN TURTLES/COPS/DINER WAITRESS
– STOLE SKATEBOARD FROM RICH KID
GANGS. TOLD ME WE SHOULDN’T GO NEAR “THOSE BOYS. BAD
BOYS” BOBBY-PIN GUNS SHOOT SQUIRRELS.
HOMOSEXUALITY. THOUGHT BABIES WERE SHAT.
MILES OF DIRT TUNNELS WE CONSTRUCTED.
WASPS ON STRINGS/THREADS
STEALING TEACHERS POCKETBOOKS
BEATLES PERIOD: FLEETING FAME: SWAMP WIGS
SOLITUDE IN WOODS: SITTING IN TREES FARMER ON
TRACTOR HYPNO DISK IN WHEAT FIRST
SCENE IN HOUSE WITH OLDER GUY (19 YEAR OLD)
DAD DRUNK TRIES TO MOLEST ME.
DANNY INBUSHES. BLOODIED HIS NOSE LATER.
CATHOLIC SCHOOL SHIT: FILMS OF FOREIGN FOODS;
CATERPILLARS WORMS GRASSHOPERS ETC.
THROWN OUT BECAUSE REFUSE TO PAY OFF THE
RED-FACE ORANGUTANG MOTHER SUPERIOR
– RECURRING DREAM: SWIM INTO CAVE:
– GUNS FIRED @ CEILING BY DAD
RABBIT KILLED + FED TO US
PET BIRD KILLED
STEVE TORTURING ANIMALS
NUNS/MEDICINE BALL IN FIELDS
BURGLARIES OF LIBRARIAN COIN BOY
KENNEDYS ASSASSINATION: DAD MAKES US
CRY AT T.V. FUNERAL
DADS COLLECTION WWII BOOKS 4 VOL. SET
T.V. GUIDE SOAPY SHOWER MAN AD
DAD DRUNK: PAINT BY NUMBERS “MASTERPIECE”
MOON/LAMPPOST SCENE (telescope)
COW ROUTINE IN PASTURE (crab apples)
POND: 6 LEGGED FROGS
ANTS: MISMATCHED HEADS
MRS TAIPAN: AFTERNOON BELCH (2 CASES BEER A DAY)
FIRST SUPER-8 MOVIE – MUMMY FROM
CYLINDRICAL BACKYWARD POOL – LOTS OF
CATSUP (MY IDEA) ENDLESS CATSUP SCENES
– FIND DOLORES
TRIP TO NYC FOR DAY (M.O.M.A.)
and its effect on me)
(years later emotional reading there for
“day without art”)
DRUNK DAD SENDS US TO NYC ON BUS
FIRST MOLESTATION: PROMISE OF $
took it and ran (economics lesson)
Guy RCA Building Saw ourselves
on T.V. (Stats on heterosexual
SEX EXPERIENCE: DREAM OF EJACULATION
1 week later guy uptown in park.
broke bottle. he took me home —
him in car. me on bus. Polaroid.
AFTERWARDS: WRITTEN ON FACE?
HANG BY FINGERTIPS FROM ROOFTOP.
DAD RETURNS OCCASIONALLY: MENACING
ANTHONY ROOFTOP SEX. ALLEYWAYS.
BOILER ROOMS ETC.
A hermaphrodite was scrawled on the wall near the broken window—lines of rain slowing to a halt, lines of water ruling dark linear patterns in the image: a cartoon female face with large teeth protruding from painted lips, dark hair falling over unbalanced shoulders and two large sagging breasts like old geographic photos, an ancient native and a half-erect penis crowned with hair swinging between two high-heeled legs. I moved toward the stranger in the leather jacket, the brief motion of his body eyes and hands a brief shuffle in the vacant room, the swirling of dark fine shadows on the corners, the space of his movements, all contributed to erasing the formality of being strangers, we eased toward one another and my jacket swung loose and to the side; blue colors of light, blue moving effortlessly over his face, the red glow of the skin making the hands luminous as they passed over my legs to my crotch. I slipped my hand between his shirt and smooth chest, fingers touching lightly to his nipples as he rubbed slow and hard with his hand, I felt his neck and grew hard and he unzipped my trousers, drew them down slightly, a strong palm beneath my balls, face lowering slowly as he squatted and took me into his mouth. I bent my torso forward and rolled my hands down the linings of his collar, smoothed out the shadows and the heat of his skin, felt my blood had been removed, boiled slowly and then replaced, warm currents in the forehead and stomach, sleep rolling outside in the hallways in coils like rope, he stood up briefly as I tongued his chest, running my lips over his belly and chest, sucking at his nipples caressing his smooth sides his arms encased in leather, the leather becoming an extension of his flesh only in the way that belongs to men who have graceful animal movements and sexual energies running through their corded arms and legs.
I felt a sweat run down my body in the cold air as is the case, rare that it is, when I’m in the company of a man like this, a culminating sense of time and age and direction coasting on a single track toward walls of life lived, felt naked as I came, and grabbed his shoulders and shook him violently, ramming my cock into his mouth with each movement, grabbed his hair between my fingers and stroked his face and neck and skull and embraced his back and shoulders and blew out shadows and bleak visions of sky and rain and water and blew out delirium from the base of my skull, felt heavy and lightweight simultaneously, felt a pitch of heat in my chest and belly, from his nose to his feet, said: whoa…really good and I blushed slightly, all these unspoken sentences at the tip of my tongue—wanted to run my fingers down his sides and did so. An old man hovered nearby in the room extending his hands toward us like a vision of time or time as it exists. The guy with the leather jacket said his name was Jerry, he was from Texas, now in Philly, soon to move to New York. I found myself seized in a sense of regret as we touched hands and parted down the dark hallways, the hermaphrodite peering once over our shoulders like some guardian of the senses. Wished I could be in Texas with him not panting displaced senses of time and distance. Felt my hands on this man’s belly, the soft bulges of his muscles, the rosy brown nipples, the skin so cool and white it rolled red with blue veins, soft corded arms with rock-like muscles the sense of them beneath stiff black leather, the movement of his ocean arms in turning, the drift of the forearms disappearing beneath my over hanging shirt, beneath my shirt, his fingers tracing slightly on the exposed curve of my buttocks. The view of the top of his head, the drift of black shining locks of hair in motion, my white fingers disappearing in the folds, sliding across the top of his chest—the sense in departure being futile; it’s contained in the erotic sense of the meeting, the sense of strangers being broken down in a series of movements, the sense of being strangers both heightened and dismantled simultaneously—the futility in that the senses culminating from the movements having to be abandoned to the void, to the walls of the warehouse, to the drift sway of numerous other strangers, to the eyes of the hermaphrodite being whipped by the rain, a desire for continuance or exploration being denied by time or place.
MUSEUM NATURAL HISTORY: walk
thru siberia (sheep meadow in winter)
Central park fish kills all our tropical fish.
Plan heists of star of India/Hope
(cursed) (midnight swim in ocean: manta ray)
FLORIDA: scorpions/rattler etc.
almost killed self in motel bathroom.
IT TAKES A THIEF. practiced shoplifting
hollow books etc.
Stabbed Steven: lizard tail in police
central park fish killed all our tropical fish
– Walk thru Siberia (sheep meadow central
park to mus. Nat hist.
– planning heists of Star of India
also cursed jewel HOPE DIAMOND
– Florida almost killed self in motel bathroom
– It takes a thief practicing thieving
hollow books etc.
– Stabbed Steve – lizard tail in hand in police station midnight swim manta ray
– FIRST DEMO 5th AVE ANTI-VIETNAM guy with burned doll
– later falling apart construction workers
– hanging by fingertips from roof beat up people
– ART AWARD MEDAL JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL KENT STATE
– TIMES SQUARE AUGUSTA GEORGIA
– Angela Davis print in Battle Acts KING
– first ‘girl’ scene in balcony ASSASSINATED
– mafia guy with gun MALCOM X
– mark disparaged [?] in high school ETC.
John: trailer set on fire |
ride up side brother who died sniffing couldn’t go
of skyscraper others do poison to
others sniffing HAREM
DUMPING SUPER BALLS OVER EMPIRE STATE BUILDING
– men in Times Square try to murder me
Huberts museum presidents on pins
– stole all turtles from woolworths let go in Central PARK
– Stole alligator from Macys pet shop
– Salvation army major “we dont help people like you.”
– didn’t run away/thought Long Island
was between NYC + California
– dumbwaiters in Apt. buildings
– glue sniffing John + Me on jet runway – we get blown down by take off jets Amanda
– atlantic city remember gorilla woman
– Jones beach locker room diving horse
– kick the pants routines: detective badge
– hustling stories
rape + drugged also: sailor story (emilios notes)
– boy scout leader years later in G.A.A.
– movie house AGE 16/17
“THE RIVER?” its not the Homo
– crispin glover: hero perverse but the society in
– HITCHING TRAINS sword swallower which he lives
– sexscenes et al. ex-con on train.
– age 21 genets chant d’amour
attempted cross-country trip on
bicycle. Never rode one
since age 11
USA panthers 21
ANTI-war demo. etc. chicago 9
and school stuff destroyed by
Met John by the Silver Dollar—we stepped inside and had some coffee and food—I took shots from the hip of ragged backcountry punks with chains and leather jackets and ragged hair. Also one of bald man in leather sitting at booth, the back of his skull reflected in large mirror—don’t know if they’ll come out—chance shots. We checked out the pier after coffee and walked among the others for a while. Then headed back out and toward the east side. In Washington Square Park some people were wrapping the arch with giant bandages sorta like a Christo—further east past 3rd Ave Bowery rain fell from the sky from one large and dark thunderhead creating a double rainbow against the sun-illumined red stone tenements—street scenes with cans gleaming in the dusty afternoon and people hanging out on stoops and chatting in white t-shirts.
Up around East 3rd St. turning the corner I set my camera range for a couple of yards and we walked up through the mob outside the Hells Angels Clubhouse—I had planned to take shots from the hip but rapidly changed my mind as too many people were about and there was too big a chance that I’d get snagged by one of them. It was like some southern backwoods stoop transported to the Lower East Side N.Y.C. A few women in loose cotton dresses and T-shirts hanging out on benches or stoops and little ragged kids with pink cheeks and grubby hands running back and forth, dogs lying panting with dusty street—some couple of Angels thick arms hanging out of cut-off denims and grizzled jaws, opened a trunk of a white Pontiac and lifted a spare tire and flung it rolling to the ground and stood around it talking. Across the street a warehouse sized door had been blocked up with cinderblocks and the Angels had with black spray paint transformed it into a massive headstone for some fallen Angel.
Afterwards we went to Extra Place—a side street alleyway where I’d taken trash photos days previously. We walked around and the alleyway was laid out in an “L”–shape—in the back among wet newspapers and rotting fish lay some guy—for the longest time I thought he was a sack of discarded clothes—’til I saw a leg protruding among the trash. I shot it from various angles—not photos of the whole guy—just the part of him that brought into realization his existence there.
Coming back around into the street section of the alleyway I set my camera down on the ground as John wanted me to take a photo of him with his camera. As I took the shot I heard this guttural voice yell: “If I find you been takin’ pictures of my pal back there you’ll be in trouble!” I turned in time to see this huge bum with a gigantic beer gut making his way among the trash toward us. I had just smoked some reefer and my head was leaning in odd directions. I turned and made for my camera and picked it up saying: “I just took photos of the trash laying around here—none of your buddy.” “Yeah,” he said, “I better not find out you been taking photos of him or you’re in for trouble. We’re sick of you people comin’ down here and making money off of us.” “Hey look man,” I said, “there ain’t nobody gonna take my photos—I don’t make a living off them—I never sold one.” “Yeah, you say. Don’t give me that shit!” he said. “I’m telling you straight, I do this, take these pictures for myself not to sell.”
“Look,” he said “You wanna do a story you write about the fucking conditions down here. Tell ’em what’s going on—how we’re being treated down here—forced to live and sleep in the streets! See—you people don’t realize it—we got lawsuits against the city going on right now—we already won our first lawsuit—now we got another one coming up in the fucking courts—there ain’t no fucking room down here for no one—total of 800 beds on the Island and down in the 3rd St. Men’s Shelter combined, and there’s 1600 men left over who can’t find a bed to sleep in—they stopped giving out coupons for some of those hotels. Like the Palace—now there’s all these fucking kids coming down into the neighborhood 16–25 years old—now you tell me what the fuck they’re doing down here, sleeping in these hotels—these kids can work—they could get themselves an apartment instead of takin’ up the space in the fucking hotels. You fuckin’ tell people about that—tell them how half of these men can’t get even welfare—or SSI—tell ’em how most of us can’t even get any work—welfare tells us to get lost—everyone tells us to get lost. Look at this—I can’t work, I can’t get no job and I can’t get no benefits…” He had lifted up his sweaty stained t-shirt to reveal some horror. It looked like a giant baboon’s ass—the protruding bowl of his belly had been hacked neatly down the center with an axe or a surgeon’s blade—some medieval doctor’s play—in the recesses of the cleavage was this white crusty stuff like flakes of fish scales—I got embarrassed and turned away and looked either at the ground or at his face. Finally he lowered his shirt and I gazed at the shape of it, what it contained as he spoke.
“I can’t get no work like this, write about this—tell ’em about the fact there’s a man sleeping on the streets down here who’s 86 years old and he can’t get social security or benefits of any kind. You know you won’t read about anything like that in the fucking papers. See—that’s my buddy sleeping in the back—he’s up on Houston St. every day washing windows for a fuckin’ 25c—this is the only place we can sleep without worrying about getting beat up—them kids come down here take away the beds in our hotels get all fucked up and take us off for our money—my partner and I got ten dollars each panhandling all day—it’s in my pocket—I go out and panhandle while he sleeps in the alley and I watch out for him—now I’m on my way to wake him up—then he’ll go out and panhandle and I’ll catch some sleep—this ten dollars goes out for tomorrow morning’s wine.”
He suddenly looked up and over at John and said: “You think it’s funny—eh?” John said: “No.”
“Yeah and what you got that smile on your face for.”
John: “I don’t think it’s funny—I know you’re directin’ that stuff toward me about not working etc. Well I do work.” The guy started grumbling about John having a guilty conscience and I stood there reeling both with the horror of the guy’s stomach and the intensity of being ripped and undergoing those visuals and the depressing nature of the guy’s rap. “Look,” I said, “if you’re serious about writing that up—I’ll come down with a tape recorder and you can repeat the same things and I’ll type it up—okay?”
He said, “Okay; good—you do that—I’m up around here all the time—either hanging out on Houston St or back here in the alleyway okay?” I said: Fine and asked him his name. “Maurice _______” I shook his thick hand and told him my name—“Okay then I’ll be back with that recorder okay?” “Yeah,” he said and for a moment he looked apologetic—it struck me, that sense in his face and he didn’t even hit me up for coins so I figured there was a seriousness in his words and intent. He said: “Have a good weekend,” and I replied: “You too,” turning away feeling the extreme absurdity of that reply—goddamn the very sense of it all. He turned the corner of the alleyway and disappeared to where his sleeping buddy lay. John and I traded glances and continued on with our photographs. We came upon this big juicy fishhead lying on the concrete with enormous flies tracing erratic steps all over its shining surface. John had color film, me, black and white, and we zeroed in on it clicking away—next thing I know someone else entered the alleyway—this South American guy in a pressed pink shirt and beige acrylic slacks, a gleaming watchband on his wrist. He walked toward us and stopped by my elbow, rubbed a stiff finger against his brow and said: “Yeah…uh…yeah, we got to clean up this lot, do something about this lot…” He rambled on in this fashion and I know the fucker was sweating that we might be from the press doing a story on the filthy conditions of his alleyway. One thing real weird that I had noticed was that all the fish I had photographed last week—mounds of them rotting in the grey rains—had today been just masses of fine bones—the rats had stripped them clean. I let the guy sweat—he continued rambling on and finally dropped the crap and said, “What are you going to do with the pictures?” I was still ripped from the weed—I said: “Look man—I’m taking these photos for myself. I like the way the light and forms are—the contrasts in objects around here—don’t worry—I’m doing it for my own interest—ain’t doing anything else with them.” John and I figured we better cut out—leaving the guy behind going through his conceived charade of kicking about the lot and formulating plans for its cleanup. A couple tough-looking Italian kids stopped in the alley to take a piss and mouth off as we were leaving.
MAY 7TH SPENT THE AFTERNOON DEVELOPING photos—most in the Rimbaud series—others from the “shoot-from-hip” series—excited about them, they’re fine images semi-ghostly bald men in leather eating in restaurants faces whirling with darkness reflected in opposite mirrors. Developing the Rimbaud series for the afternoon meeting at SOHO NEWS offices with Sarah Longacre—had written to her about her edited “Centerfold” and asked if she’d be interested in looking at the series. She’d written back saying : “Sounds Great! let me see them.”
So four o’clock rolls around—½ hour till the meeting—I finished up in the darkroom I rent on Prince Street from some old walrus ex-ship captain fella who has tons of shots of Mexico on the studio walls. A real grumpy fart. Paid him his fee and split to a nearby Cafeteria for some coffee and a cigarette—spread photos out—selected best printed ones and then headed on over to the B’WAY offices.
Receptionist asked me to walk to the rear of the building where the offices were—ones for production and other stuff—looked like an exciting place to work—new wave handbills and graphics spread all over the surfaces of the walls—seedy looking lot who worked there—in a great way though. Sarah looked surprisingly straight—I mean kind of—I don’t know how to explain it—but a scrubbed appearance—very interesting looking—blonde with a green blouse sweatshirt—white pants plastic shoes (half of this could well be imagined)—asked me to sit at a nearby desk ’til she was finished with some other guy—then pulled up a chair and asked me: “Why don’t you tell me something about them before you show them to me”—I looked blank for a moment—not knowing exactly what I should say—not knowing clearly what to say. I explained that it was a vision of Rimbaud with what was known of his sensibilities, only here in New York at this time and place in History. What he’d got into, what areas he’d be drawn to (all the while in my head that fuckin’ photo of him in Coney Island underneath the paper maché monster and the photo of him masturbating—revolving about in the grey screen of mind.) We got interrupted at this point with some semi-tough looking guy—street savvy in adolescent way—he comes running up saying “Sarah, listen you’re the only one I can think to ask—I need to get a hold of a hypodermic by tonight for a photograph (A Story/Exposé was in the works for the paper on the sudden influx into the country of cheap Iranian heroin)—he went in to explain he wanted to take a photo of an Ayotollah Khomeinie dart board with a needle sticking in it like a dart—blood oozing down the face etc. —Sarah responded seriously: “Oh sure—okay—well, I’m gonna be busy this afternoon but stop by my house tonight and I’ll drop a handful out the window.” I burst out laughing—then the kid split and I got back to the photos—she had some good reactions/positive reactions to the photos—she kept shaking her head in a kind of amazement at them and when she got to the Rimbaud shooting up with a hypo—she said—“Hey, is it possible that we use this for something other than the centerfold?” I said: “Yeah sure and maybe I have something else you can use”—I reached into my bag and withdrew the 2 photos I had developed of John “shooting up” in his Ludlow St. place. Fine images those. So, she said she had to show them all to the editor and he had final say on the Centerfold etc. She said she liked the photos—thought they were great and “very strong” and that she hoped it was possible to run them. We made a date to talk to each other the next day by phone. She said a meeting was scheduled and if it wasn’t cancelled then we could find out probably by then—in the meantime I agreed to extract selections of the “Illuminations” to run as text with the photos. Whew!
Willie + me RECURRING DREAM
HOTEL SEX BATHROOM
experiments: recording cut-up street sounds
later sitting in refrigerator
box and doing playbacks
(later use this in BAND)
also in Public Illumination
6 recording devices
in 2 minute loops
or 30 second loops
– ill attempts at mugging
lesbian separatist house near B.A.M.
warehouse Wille later
HALFWAY HOUSE scenes turns crazy
Stealing animals: Pauls hotel room
fake psychiatrist papers
rips me off
– Syd: lawyer/illness on streets
RECURRING DREAMS TORNADOES
+ TIDAL WAVES.
And that last morning in Paris as we headed along the highway in the car headed for the airport at nine o’clock in the morning all I can remember seeing is the clouds, white gathering shapes coasting the sky above treetops and roofs and as hard as I try I cannot remember anything else, remembering nothing that I’d seen but the clouds, continuous clouds … and after checking into the airport and seeing the bag drifting off down a rubber treaded ramp after an hour of waiting among dense crowds and angry people and flustered airlines employees I took his hand suddenly and told him to come with me. Minutes earlier I had gone down a staircase looking for a bathroom and found myself in an interdit section steel railings and stone steps and cheap paint, and two floors below was an employees bathroom with no one around. He followed me through the doors and down the stairs and someone had turned off the lights in the restroom but the door was still wide open so we stepped into the dark shadows and shut the door half way—we could hear voices travelling down the halls, the maze of unseen hallways beyond the door, the stillness shattered by a click of a high heel or the shuffle of shoes or the dropping of some papers or object on the floor, the sounds coming slow and occasionally never really sure how close they were.
He walked over to me where I was standing half within a small toilet cubicle and he bent forward at the waist, his hand drifting up and encircling mine, moving up and grasping my arms, my biceps with a nervous calm intent. I was standing within the darker shadows of the cubicle within the shadows of the room seeing over his left shoulder a portion of large mirror that reflected the half-open doorway: a blaze of light fluorescent and granular uttering from the hallway; over his right shoulder the door from another view: a jutting rectangle of black shadow as deep as the shadows in the cubicle easing around the frame of my back and light illuminating the edges of the door and slowly falling into the air of the room. I felt his hand loosen its grip on my shoulder as his tongue entered my mouth laying itself across the rough surface of mine; his hand drifting down and bumping against the rough cloth of my trousers. I felt the imperceptible click of his thumbnail as it made contact with my belt buckle and I slowly moved to unfasten his at the same time.
I was stroking him with a palmful of spit and squeezing occasionally as his head moved down my other hand within a mass of black curls: my body tense and alert for any minute sound, lightening as voices curled around the corners of the halls, feeling the silence of the room move around slowly with our leaning and thrusting, anxiousness and pleasure tightening like a tourniquet on our throats and temples. His prick was hot and dense in my palm; his arms placed around my waist and back so I could feel the flood surging between and beneath the muscles, feeling as if his arms were filled with a hot surging liquid like water balloons with an unknown density, like large cocks bumping soundlessly against my body and they turned slow like something spinning in slow motion which brought my body around, my back which was previously in the darker shadows now revealed in the halflight of the door and my head turned so I could hardly see the mirror and his head moved down so that his hair brushed against my lower back, all of this soundlessly and I felt his tongue burrow in between my legs, in the crack of my ass and I saw myself leaning forward resting my hands first on my bent knees then on the hard cool surface of the toilet bowl and I heard him straighten up and his fingers moistened with spit creased my ass and with a steady pressing movement he entered me. I remembered suddenly when he first buggered me out in Normandy in the silence of the stone house and the fields under moonlight and cows lowing in the far-off barns, and my head was sweaty and buried in a moist pillow and I had one arm down folded by my head, another arm underneath me with my fist curled and moistened with spit so I could ram it like an asshole or a mouth and another arm under my arm and around my waist: his arm holding me and squeezing the muscles of my solar plexus so that I thought to myself, said to myself in an uttered breath, a hoarse sigh covering the sound of the words: I’m getting buggered by a French tough, and I could see the brown outline of a tensed abdomen, arms and legs swinging freely and the fluted line of his chest, of some chest in the darkness of a side street or a garden with the scent of cologne among the trees wafting like perfume and the sound of bars along a waterfront and the dipping sigh of a roped vessel and galleys and this sudden movement of some unknown guy (I still knew almost nothing of him at this time) slipping his brown cock between the folds of cloth in his trousers and entering me without words, the smell of rope and sweat and the subtle throbbing of muscle as he came; and the splash of fluid in my wetted palm.
FIRST WAREHOUSE PIECES
– Arthur Rimbaud in N.Y.
– Heroin film: Jesse Hultberg
Danceteria Brian Butterick
Castelli action installation
Plus: woolworths firing squad
macys ” ”
photo series planned
Public illumination gallery
Art SOHO Milliken first sex images
ruined work (rust water)
– Naked pictures in Christadora
investor’s tour interrupted
pool with 25 years water
National Security Agency
Black Panther posters
– LIVED IN PARIS/NORMANDY
FOR A YEAR (Death Dream Michaels baby)
– ’79 RIMBAUD IN N.Y. PHOTO
START OF WAREHOUSE PAINTINGS
– ’79–’82 HEROIN FILM (UNFINISHED) IN WAREHOUSE
MOSTLY IN WRITINGS (+ SOME PHOTOS)
DAY + NIGHT
TIL TORN DOWN
– LIVED AS FARMER ’70/’71
almost run over by truck
driven by boss/viet vet.
Intentional murder attempt.
– ATLANTIC CITY SCENES W/ OLDER BLACK GUY
– FREIGHT HOPPING ETC.
GREYHOUND BUS TRIPS
MEX. BORDER TOWNS
I pulled into a cul-de-sac on the road leading through the town park and noticed a pull off that allowed me to turn the car around in a parking position and face the traffic going by for a Saturday drive. A small truck with an old man driving and pulling a cart filled with hay and little kids screaming at pedestrians and wandering geese came by with lights flashing at a crawl. Behind the truck was a line of cars, souped-up hot rods with girls with big hair and teens/guys with biceps and t-shirts. The second car I saw a face turn toward me for an extended moment and the driver swung his head twice toward where I sat parked and idling. I kicked the brake lights twice and he turned out and around further back around the lake. I turned the gears and pulled out and followed him and by the time I reached the edge of the lake he had turned around in a U-turn and was gliding slowly back toward me. I stopped and pulled over and looked casually interested in him as he went by; he was in his early thirties dark hair sports shirt and a sexy face like a baseball player. He disappeared out of sight from my rear view mirror and I waited some minutes until he eventually returned. Before he did, a skinny girl with college clothes walked by the side of the road and looked at me with a mixture of apprehension and self-consciousness.
The guy swung back and turned up ahead onto a road I had never followed before and I signaled and pulled out and followed at a distance around various side streets down a long hill ’til he turned off into a small road that entered an extension of the park. There was a tiny nature trail that went about a hundred yards into a forest before it became some suburban back lawn. He had parked already and walked up a slight grassy incline to a low set concrete hut that contained a couple of toilets. Families in the near distance at the top of the knoll were standing around a heavily smoking barbeque pit and little kids ran around in the gathering dusk yelling and throwing leaves. I stepped into the rest room, enough room for two stalls and a sink, and the stranger was in the farthest stall. I entered the one next to him and could just see the top of his head and I stepped to the urinal and began to piss. There was a small tear in the metal wall like the flap of an envelope and it was surrounded by inked up messages like: TAKE SECOND TURN AFTER BRIDGE NEXT TO LAKE EVERY EVENING AT 5:30 BLUE CAR 8" DICK SAFE DISCREET FUN and SHOW YOUR HARDON AT THE RESTROOM DOOR FOR BLOWJOB I realized the guy in the next booth was bending down. I couldn’t see the top of his head so I figured he was looking through the hole in the metal so I waved my hard-on at him in tiny little hey there gestures and he straightened back up. I guessed it was my turn so I leaned over and through the opening I could see his suntanned hands a gold ring unzipped jeans and a striped shirt riding up over a hefty and hard cock. The hand wiggled the dick so it bounced up and down. I stood up and he glanced over at me standing on tip-toes. Suddenly there was a noise at the entrance and a little kid about seven came in and the guy zipped up and left and I could hear the sound of the toilet top slamming down and the sound of a little kid tinkling. I left and the guy was back in his car in the tiny lot the sounds of the barbeque filling the hiss of autumn trees. Some mother yelling: Hey! to some kid or another. The guy stayed in his car glancing at me now and then. I walked down the nature path and hit a place where there were more than two trees in one patch of ground. A park service vehicle pulled in a road across the small ditch where the heavy rains and drainage flowed in worse weather. I watched the gold fall light drift down the trees and cover the lawns of the tiny white trash suburban houses with a soft glow. I felt like I was in a movie made by the U.S. government of American life. A chain of honking geese flew in formation in the distance the vague echoes of their cries falling down variously around me and the others in the vicinity. A white dog bounced across a lawn after a red squirrel. For a moment in time I could think about the belief some people have in this country that we have freedom or rights or possibilities of a good life. But the scene was so thoroughly made up of American symbols and myths that I almost burst out laughing when I felt like shouting fuck you just to marvel at the sound of it cutting through the early evening illusion of comforts and safety. The guy was behind me and he walked past a few steps and then turned around after realizing the path didn’t go much further. I commented on it and he laughed and walked back toward his car. A muscle fag with two white poodles in a pick-up truck coasted in, took off our clothes with his eyes, and did a U-turn and left. I walked over to the driver’s windows and told him I thought I knew a place where we could be alone and would he follow me. He nodded yes and started his motor. I knew of some industrial site I had found in my wandering that might be okay. Lots of abandoned warehouses and loading docks and tiny rooms falling apart in darkness. I led the way out of the lot and aimed in the general direction I thought it was in and ended up getting lost in a sudden trailer park village that was excruciatingly neat with trimmed flower beds and bushes and lawns; I continued on ’til we hit farms and cornfields that gathered the last light from the sky and threw it around. At a stop sign I left my car and went back to him: “Look, I got lost,” I said, “But you wanna still follow me? I think I can still find a place.” He said okay. I continued on and eventually found myself on the western edge of town and crossing an almost abandoned bridge where a bus ride had once taken me through. There were abandoned Amtrak buildings that were falling to ruin, half the road was blocked off, and there was a small parking lot just the other side of the bridge where I pulled in. When he parked I went over to his car and he had his dick out and it was hard. "I’d sure like to sit with you,” I said. “But I think under this bridge would be better.” He looked around and nodded and got out locking his door. I was holding a map for a prop in case anyone was watching to that point. I tossed it back into my car and we descended the hillside to the railroad tracks and walked along some vacant structures built beneath the bridge. Missing windows here or there were inviting but it also looked like a trespassing charge if the cops showed up, or else some bum might be living there. There were some small alleys between the buildings and pigeons flapped out from the overpass girders breaking the silence and tension in a sharp unsettling way. We were silent and looking this way or that—at some point I found a building with just the lower half of the door left on a hinge. It was locked and wouldn’t swing open. I was leaning in to look at the interior when I heard a sound of bike wheels and a little kid in jeans and a blue shirt rode by along the tracks and stood up from his seat to pedal harder as if we were dangerous. “A little kid on a bike,” the guy murmured. “Yeah, I know,” I said. Across the tracks past the end of the alley seated on the vine-filled hillside was a crumbling little shack just big enough for a railman to stand in and wave a lantern out the window at a passing train one night years ago before the nation went bankrupt. We crossed the three sets of rails and entered the hut. Anyone watching from the factory windows would know what was up. Inside on a pile of wood and debris the guy pulled open his belt and lifted his dick and balls out of his underwear. I closed the door slightly and did the same. I reached under his shirt and let my cool hands glide up his warm belly, then his chest and then pulled his shirt up by the front ’til one nipple was revealed which I leaned over and drew into my mouth rubbing it with my tongue glazing it with saliva. I pulled on his dick ’til it was hard and throbbing and let one hand drift around the back of his body underneath his shirt and slowly draw circles with my palm over his lower back and up around and over his shoulder blades and lightly squeezing his waist and his thighs and blowing hot breath down the length of his dick. When I went back up to his nipple he helped bare it and I licked at it ‘til I heard a sigh and I stepped back and he was suddenly coming: “Shit!” and I watched remembering how it once tasted years ago. I rubbed his side and shoulders briefly and said, “A lot of tension huh?” and we went back up the hillside to our cars. As he was getting into his he said for the benefit of any neighbors looking out their windows, “Damn, guess I won’t find that hub cap after all.” I got into my car wishing I could have kissed him, tasting his warm tongue.
Lighter fluid? It was maybe mineral oil, baby oil that soft childhood smell of it, that dislocation of memory—Where do memories go when they’re gone when they disappear and die waiting to resurface? What is it about the qualities of rain, the sadness implicit in it when we are too dry and exhausted to weep or too fearful to weep because to blur the vision is to set up an entrance for all that we fear, to all that we might feel and rain is fearful the sound of it masking footsteps? Car wheels in the grit and loam of the sandy road. Cop cars, suspicious neighbors, curious vehicles. He said, “All I can say is this is intense that’s the only word for this: intense.” Then he laughed he had just finished coming all over my belly and I was rubbing it in with my right hand and working my dick ’til it shot on top of his load.
Will my death be terrible and difficult? Will I let go easily as a body among the waves or the reeds of a pond will I sink below the surface of life like a swimmer whose feet become entangled in the undulating weeds. Will I be embraced by all those who have gone before me? Will I be loved before I go will I know it? Will I turn to stone like a grey dot in the field will I burrow into the dream of the earth, the humming of the motorworks. Will I speak in numbers or symbols will I shock myself by dying when I feel it is time, not waiting a moment longer than necessary?