Friday, March 2, 2007

Flashback 13

My life was not supposed to go this way.

A picture of me twelve years ago: stupid happy grin, sitting in the Mars Bar on Second Avenue, NYC, banging my head to the melodies of Lubricated Goat or some other goddamned alt-rock band, lacking the wisdom to refuse free drinks from the bartender, and only just recently sober enough to cut that ratty ponytail I'd let grow down to the middle of my back. If the barstool next to me had told me I would soon fall in love with a woman from a faraway land, I would have blinked, conjured up a vision of an Asian seductress--which were highly coveted accessories for white East Village hipster males in those days--and then I would have returned to the grinning of my grin.

I really thought I was a good dancer. I made a lot of money writing about rock stars for slick magazines. I slept with beautiful women. Someone in my position could only smirk at the prospect of hooking up with a Teutonic: German was the language of Mike Myers skits on Saturday Night Live, and "Eurotrash" was a pejorative for any young New Yorker who was truly with it. To people like me, Germans were the tightest, up-whitest people on the planet. If I had known that Austrians speak German, too--and I didn't--then I would have thought the same of them.

My prejudice, like others more and less insidious, was a lazy one. But it was also a disconnect from my life up to that minute. I'd grown up in Texas, and had defined myself by hating country music, racism and the Dallas Cowboys. As soon as I was old enough to watch public television, I fell for some of the weird old movies they would show, particularly The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Metropolis. When I got a bit older, I became a photographer because I saw pictures by Europeans like Robert Frank, Man Ray and Moholy-Nagy.

Austin, the most liberal town in Texas, was a good place for effete snobs, which was what I was becoming, but it wasn't old enough for me. It didn't have a real downtown, and whenever I went to towns that did, like Dallas, I mistook tall buildings for cosmopolitanism, and I swooned. All of this stuff--buildings with scars, the shadows and robots of German Expressionism, being part of a 'salon,' trading ideas about Art, and trading women too!--seemed unspeakably desirable to me. Literally unspeakable: I don't know if I ever told anyone else that I loved all this Euro-goop. It was just a lavender haze in my brain. An ideal.

Maybe Dr. Phil would say I just wanted to be someone else. But I liked myself just fine. I knew I was a suburban middle class kid, and I liked liking hard rock and pinball and the Rocky Mountains and all sorts of other goofy American shit. By the time I was twenty-five, I had even started liking country music a bit.

Then I saw New York City. I moved there a little more than a year later. I got lucky and I started writing for two dollars a word. And I stayed in New York for eighteen years.

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