Originally published on June 11, 1999
Peggy once held down that same night auditor's job at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Peachtree way back in the early Eighties, although to those of us still dangling her memory chains, it seems like yesterday's music, always with us, cotton soft protection against the white light of a permanent game of trenches. Every cuticle of horsepower in RCH management and grunt services, starting with the owner himself, shined of pride, sliced butter like the most tapered of gay blades, rolled with a sophisticated childishness she admired in herself, so Mother always referred to herselfnot as the token female (having owned that role before) but ratherthe token straight, always sharing a laugh with her accommodating lads, sharing their jokes as an surrogate, even honorary insider. As a woman in constant struggle and a woman of a certain breeding, she had always prided herself (there's that word again) the longsuffering supportive mother of a high-strung gay son, my youngest sibling, John. Yes, she was of tolerance and empathy, she told the world, however misguided and self-indulgent she often was in presenting this deceptive image of herself.
In factMother was on the job when I took respite on her sofa at the Howell House a mere hundred steps away. This move of mine began a rather quick but import six weeks era of great reading, writing, and window gazing at the street below, little else to drag me into action, after wheeling into the great Georgia capital city from Corpus Christi, poor, thin, desperate for a sneeze and my own artistic statement to initiate my transition from stiff to standard bearer, or something worse.
Home was a sixth floor, corner, modestly appointed, mid-scale one bedroom apartment in a Midtown Atlanta eighteen floor highrise. Mother lived there rentfree in exchange for her services, straight up for acting as the senior-citizens coordinator in a building demographic just over 50% extremely geriatric.
The Ritz-Carlton towered over Peachtree directly across the street from the fabulous and famous Fox Theatre, where "Gone With the Wind" premiered back in the 40s at the height of Hollywood glamour. Tucked into the street level corner of the hotel was famed Alex Cooley's Electric Ballroom, now under new management and dubbed the Agora Ballroom. I never saw a show at either.
On the Fox side of the block only a parking lot and Third Street separated the elegantly ornate old theatre where I watched the moneyed classes pour into the streets after soaking up bands like the Stray Cats, the Go Gos and Elvis Costello (whom I had already seen in Houston five years earlier when I was a still a stakeout chief flush with cash). And me six flights up wishing and twitching I'd had the money to go, but once accepting I'd missed the show, miffed I had no camera to mark the spatial moment of my desires.
Beautiful people playing ugly, ugly people playing beautiful, each marked for the glory of the times screaming bloody murder at the winds of freedom flung out to every dick-n-jane exercising the basic American youth ritual of bringing down a rock show, a right fought for and won about the time I was busy being born in 1955. But pacing barefoot in carpet along the sixth floor corner windows, I peered out.
Blank gazing, I had nothing to do but generate assumptions, skirt ripping, roaring assumptions about these oddball and crazy people as they laughed and skipped and coughed and cursed, perched from on high pined the pointless I. Though I was young for my age, I was already 26. And yet, though I was old for my age, I was only 26.
A zetetic heritage group had recently saved the Fox from the demise of public demolition, which to Old Atlanta seemed more a personal humiliation than an urban renewal project, which gave them just enough gravitas to gird themselves for the fight they were panting for. The grand theatre, still in decent shape with a spit of glistening in her eye, yet aching for major repairs was then owned by a notorious porn mobster headed to jail who was threatening to bulldoze the landmark to spite the city as well as raise funds for his own empire quest. Rumor was Southern Bell wanted to erect another 'scraper on the spot.
One block west on Third and West Peachtree stood the 688 Club, the only only punk club in the city at the time. Punk as in cheap. Cheap tickets. Cheap beer. This was the only life I had for those six weeks rocking out on Jason and the Nashville Scorchers, as this powerful crew were originally called. The Georgia Satellites, as THEY were then known. Pylon. REM. The Swimming Pool Q's. Richard Hell. The Restraints. Punk and nasty. Ample nights bled into all night dream sessions quickening into stark frightening unfulfilling stations.
Fashionably thug ugly Chris Wood, the diabetic skinhead lead singer of the Restraints always squeezed off an insulin syringe into his bald skull at some spectacular point in a song during every show. He had a local hit single, an S&M ballad called Whacka Whacka Whacka, where he usually tried, and often successfully to pull a babe onto the stage for a whacking. When the fuss had ended, the girl in suburban clothing was scratched and torn, ass was bared. This was eyeball to eyeball punk rock Atlanta 1982-styled, pre-Genitorturers-GWAR-Mentors razorsharp breakout jones.
I heard through the Carol Jean Reed grape I guess two years later, my first year in DC, that Wood had been convicted of murder, and was in prison for a long string, and that was that. Diabetes and minor rock stardom wasn't enough for this guy. He wanted more more more whacka whacka whacka. But true to the myth he was a soft-talking nice guy when we drank a few beers together at some jukebox bar in the area which offered up the Whacka single before he pushed off into the ether of yet another fame flameout...
Pushing up skin on occasion a few more blocks up West Peachtree at the kindler, gentler, most quaint Bistro was a glitterpunk lesbian band called the Lipstick Stains. The L-Stains, along with another queer band called Weeweepole featuring a pre-drag Ru Paul jacked our jetsons once or twice a week, so the awakening had never been richer or more frivolous for me during my previously coarse life. Packing it up for the Lipstick Stains were three girlz & a boy who knew how to throw pajama parties at the Bistro, doing so with a flourish unique to the scene back in the day, and not a moment too soon as I began digging at the roots of my umbrella...
But that was then, this is now, so pray tell, what on God's black and blue is going on between Matthew Manus the night auditor and Kubhlai the life counselor, father of eight, and moral consciousness of our group? Does it concern me, GT, the SWORG, the changing of the guard, the seasons, the starch I've never had spray my underwear, what?
Oh yes, I almost forgot, after a number of months, three, four maybe, the gay brigade eventually ran my mother off the job to replace her with another of an endless parade of fey boys. She was notably upset at the time, really digging the convenience and prestigious atmosphere of the office, but she shoved on, kept her senior-citizens duties at the Howell Howell for another couple of years or so, and was still kicking up the dust of all her detractors...
The gay mafia clandestine machine, like all special interest power machines, lives on to stroke its unrelenting agenda ...
[My mother does not.]