Shut Up, Little Man!

From “South of Market” to Hollywood : Stories and anecdotes : Shut Up, Little Man!

« Back to stories list

From “South of Market” to Hollywood —

celebrating a breton's birthday
Eddie Lee adrift on Andre
Breton's birthday. Seattle, 1994

In the Fall of 1994 I lost my mind. I was living in Hong Kong, writing for hours every day, drifting the streets, and dreaming up a glorious future for myself and my beloved friends. But, somehow, the molecularity of my being shifted. The thought-patterns went skewed and my entire nervous system jammed in a clenched energetic blitz. My normal powers of concentration were lost amidst a barrage of scattered bits of images and staccato thoughts. I didn’t sleep more than 4 hours for forty straight days. The Hong Kong Streets - overloaded with automobiles and buses, flooded with clambering humans, endlessly dense with loud sharp sounds - began to puncture and shred me as if I was composed of tissue paper. It was a decidedly dangerous place to melt down. All of my usual coping mechanisms -- my surefire methods of recalibrating and reconfiguring myself -- failed. So, knowing that inner space is often a manifestation of outer space, I felt I had no option than to shift locales to affect a possible shift of my internal landscape. I had two loving beautiful friends in New York, so I set my sights on moving there. I bought an airline ticket and caught a plane. My ticket allowed me to stop in Seattle - a city I knew well and loved - and so I stopped off to see some friends and to break up the interminable long flight from Hong Kong to New York. I would never make it to New York.

My life didn’t get any less weird in Seattle, but it was certainly less abrasive, less shocking, more soothing to the nerves than Hong Kong had been. The rain fell endlessly. I fell in with an old comrade, Isaac Sanchez. Soon after my arrival he and I set about creating a social firestorm. I changed my name to Arturo Swan. I grew my hair as long as I could. We set out to create a counter-life, a life of joy, pleasure, play, and provocation. We generated our own micro-language, a heavily coded discourse rich in metaphor and symbolism. We deliberately slept through the daylight hours and embraced the long dense rainy nights of the northwestern winter; on a typical day we arose at 3 PM and we went to sleep between 5AM and 6AM. The days were filled with drifting the streets, interacting with strangers, the archetype game, and re-working billboards. We moved into a flophouse in the Ravenna district and shared a tiny room for $120/month. Our housemates were three: The first was a veritable middle-aged misfit named Robbie who slept in his clothes on the floor of his bedroom. He didn’t have a bed and besides it would never have fit. Instead, the small floorspace was crowded with antiquated but working computers upon which he engaged in simulated Chess games, three games at a time. The second roommate lived on the other side of the wall. His name was Curtis. He was an African-American in his early forties with a long process hairdo. He worked as a janitor at the neighborhood high school. As we would soon find out, Curtis liked to party. His paychecks magically transformed into weekends jacked to the gills on crack cocaine and prostitutes. The first few hours of a Friday night were sound mosaics of grunts and wild giggles. Then, when the nasty crack comedown set in, the evening was splintered by screaming and hateful harangues - not unlike sped-up versions of the old Peter and Raymond days. The third roommate was a gentle giant named Tom. Tom lived in the only room upstairs in the attic. Tom was a sweet, soft-spoken 350-pound rounded doughboy with longish dark curly brown hair. Tom repeatedly got shit-faced drunk and lost his keys. I think drunken key loss was his official hobby.

this article continued »