Pleasure / Pain (Round 1 : Page 8)

August 2nd, 2007

The chapel/dance floor is mostly deserted, as the action/services here are a strictly nighttime affair, but the Holy DJ is installed behind the Eternal Turntables, spinning the electronic hymns of the faith, and five or six psychedelic dervishes are still furiously contorting their way to dance enlightenment, with and without glowsticks, before him. Holoprojectors cast animated abstractions on every crevice of every wall, and multicolored lasers pierce the thick cloud of haze emitting from what I presume is the Sacred Smoke Machine.

A dozen or so sleeping kids are scattered across the room, passed out on various couches, mattresses, bean bags, and each other, in spite of the deafening beat. Well, devoted religious vigils can be exhausting, and the extremely pious are in no condition to move after a long night of partying/worship…

The dancers are in worlds of their own, oblivious, and it seems both futile and bad form to disturb the clergyman in the midst of administering the rites, no matter how small his flock. I play tourist, this being my maiden visit to the sanctuary. At night they have to check ID, to qualify for the noise permit, but no law bars me from entering now. It’s just there’s normally no point in showing up during daylight.

Fortunately, the church part of it is set up like a museum, with placards giving the lofty designation for each item, as well as a brief description for the uninitiated like me, or perhaps merely for the author’s own amusement.

A variety of capricious idols span the rear perimeter, sculpted in cartoonish, drug-induced gaudiness that reminds me vaguely of ventriloquist dummies: Discowood, the gay patron god of funky beats and sparkly clothes; Vibia, the holy goddess of group energy; Emceemion, the dusky god of hip-hop; Euphorias and Expansia, god and goddess of being high, portrayed as intertwined, blissful mates charged by their followers with providing heavenly intervention to ensure highest quality for the lowest price.

And in a pantheon equally diverse, but populated by grim, hideous figures instead of plastic-jeweled, friendly caricatures of the ravers themselves, lay the demons of the cult, perhaps not honored as greatly, but acknowledged equally in all their bare evil: Addictica, with a monkey’s face and bearing a chain; Policius, tapping a baton against his gloved hand; Avaricius, symbolizing the greed that ruins a party from within; and Skankhoe, the hated succubus of sexually transmitted disease.

Between the two rival camps, and directly opposite the actual set currently in use, sit the Turntables of Truth. On the left pad, closest to the gods and goddesses, is a white vinyl record which reads, “PLEASURE”. Its counterpart is black and reads, somewhat predictably, “PAIN”. I lift the near disc to peek beneath it-mostly to see if this relic is an example of the fabled Technic 1200-and discover to my somewhat enlightening surprise that the flipside is black and marked “PAIN” as well. These kids aren’t as dumb as they look.

Intrigued, I lift the icon and inspect it closely, wondering momentarily if I’m not committing some kind of blasphemy by handling it, and deciding it will be all right as long as I’m careful not to scratch. After all, if the record weren’t meant to be removed, it wouldn’t have an instructional message on the other side.

The grooves begin at no particular point that can be discerned close to the edge; or I should say groove, since as I understand it there is only one on each side. I have, of course, seen a vinyl record before, but not for a very, very long time, since before I had evolved from taker to giver. This transformation changes the way you think about everything. For instance, as a man I had only the most peripheral awareness of the monthly period and chiefly regarded it as a bloody inconvenient hiatus from sex, or, occasionally, with relief, subsequent to some careless unprotected implantation. My world has doubled since then.The blood flows from my source as the world within me mirrors the moon as she grows and diminshes. The universe has subtler, lusher layers of meaning now.

So with feminine fingers I caress the vinyl with fresh wonder, and see in its parallel lines a truth I have been struggling to comprehend: my relationship to Victor. We are different tracks on the same album.

And the ego, the “I” of self-awareness-that is the needle, moving ever forward in time despite staying in the same place. Wherever metal meets vinyl is the only song that matters. What’s playing right now is Amanda, and what I do is the melody.

Sri Lakshmi, Goddess of Fortune, be my DJ now.

I promise myself I will return at a less hectic juncture to explore the electronic mysteries of the techno-music cult; but I am several years late for a vital appointment, and am eager for my rendezvous with the only group of people that won’t think my head is cracked. I have things to figure out.

The church has an exit-only side door toward the back (actually, a disabled fire-alarm door), and I avail myself of it without arousing the claxons of hell. Frankly, I doubt it would be heard over the music, anyway; the kids would just think it was something on the next cut.

As my eyes adjust painfully to the midday glare, I note with gratitude that the cops have vanished, and with mixed feelings that the boy I owe a kiss to has gone as well. Of course, he didn’t fulfill his end of the bargain, and I had been viewing the payoff with trepidation and revulsion in any case; but I am somehow miffed that he had found something else to so easily distract him, demonstrating how transient and superficial, perfunctory, even, his interest had been. I had puffed myself up quite a bit on his shallow display of lust.

Here. Now. Focus! I command myself. This is no time to get distracted by ambiguous emotions like a silly, sexually confused schoolgirl. I have to rise above what I am.

I am about three blocks from the Institute for Genetic Notification- also known, but only to members, as the Order of the Wheel. Quite possibly the only legitimate institution left on the strip.

Triskaidekaphobia Anonymous, at 1313 Illustration, seems deserted; but the Arthur J. Fonzerelli Teleddiction Recovery Center, which consumes the entire rest of the block, is packed, the line of tube junkies seeking help curling off into the street.

As is the Chris Farley Memorial Center for Compounding Corpulence, a fatties’ club that takes up the complete fifteen hundred block of Illustration. The banner overhead the specially widened doorway
proudly announces, “Working ÔRound the Clock to Make the World a Fatter Place” above, “all- you-can-eat, 24-7. (Members Only!) The bigger you are, the smaller we look!”

The Row appears to have become a thriving venue since my last visit before I was born, and it strikes the old capitalist in me as somewhat sad that no profit is permitted to be reaped from all this traffic.

Then again, maybe old C.B. isn’t keeping a proper tab on his tenants these days, after all, and black-market trade in currency is rampant under the guise of altruism. How else to explain the hawker outside of something called the Cult of the Day Cafe, mimicking his sleazy forebears from evangelical revival tents, vaudeville and burlesque productions, practically kidnapping wandering pedestrians and inducting them, bewildered, into today’s special: The Moonies, according to the chalkboard easel.

Tomorrow’s feature: Narcotics Anonymous.

The better portion of the first floor of 1620 Illustration Avenue is, as I remembered, home to the Radical Front of Shiva’s Sword, a nuclear-war advocacy group remotely related to Hinduism. They rent the space primarily because it includes what was originally the basement and is now, of course, an impressively stocked bomb shelter. I peer inside the giant ballroom-originally intended to be a J.C. Penny’s-and spot the poster proclaiming, superimposed on a dramatic image of Ground Zero’s ballooning mushroom cloud, the common-sense slogan, “WHY NOT JUST GET IT OVER WITH?”

Why not, indeed. Images of pale, skeletal girls with acne on their faces and razor slashes on their forearms and rope burns about their necks.

Join us. Why cling so hard to life, when, as Buddha say, existence is suffering? If, as Sarah insisted, we are tied to the world by only a crass addiction to flesh, why not…kick the habit?

Just why was I in such a big hurry to come back here, anyway? She’s gone. That pretty much makes this spin around the Wheel a write-off. If I want to be anywhere near her age in the next life, it’s time to clip my thread short. Isn’t the duty of a lover to follow, like Orpheus, into Hell itself to recover a lost soul mate? And the worst that might happen to me is New Jersey.

No, the worst would be growing up right next door to each other and never knowing who we’d been. Flying off randomly onto the Wheel will only ensure losing each other again.

But the Order can tell me, I realize. They can tell me where she’s gone and where I’ll go, just like before, and this time I’ll do it for love not money and maybe it will it work better this time. The karma will be cleaner.

I bound up the stairs with renewed enthusiasm. Sarah! You silly bitch, if you’d just waited, we could have done this together. When I finally catch up to you, I’m gonna smack your shit upside your head for leaving me like that.

But that won’t be for at least another fifteen years.

I check the office directory in the lobby for nostalgia’s sake. The owner, who in addition to his other virtues is a superstitious numerology- conscious kook, lets the tenants choose whatever suite number pleases them, without any reference to floor or order. “Significance,” he would pant in a tone which dripped with an amplified sense of it. “Only the significance of the number should matter…”

Suite 42 is still the headquarters for the Children of Dent, a Douglas Adams fanatic club; suite 49 is occupied by the offices of the Tristero Postal Conspiracy, while suite 23 is now rented by something called the Bavarian Illuminati, since the Discordians have moved into the Robert Anton Wilson Conspiracy Complex. Must have something to do with donuts. But they can’t be a donut company, because how could that be non-profit? Maybe something to do with the historical preservation of donuts.

There’s a problem, however, when I reach number 18 at the end of the familiar lonely hall. The door reads, to my extreme dismay, Melvin P. Utz, Mutual Life.

If you’ve been following, that’s not what I expect to see.

~ )))0((( ~

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