We--my lover, Michael. and I--would wake at 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning, drink coffee so strong a spoon could stand in it, take an herbal remedy called "Chi power" which was supposed to be a natural amphetamine,roll other herbal remedies, and head out--our hearts racing for obvious reasons--to the Garage.
En route, the streets were largely empty, but occasionally some or another hulking male beauty (broadway dancer, ballet dancer, modern dancer, weightlifter, swimmer) could be
spied hastening to the bare lightbulb and corrugated tin door that lead to the ramp which lead to the ticket office--only club members admitted!--and from there to the entry room where many gorgeous semi-nude
dancers stood on the periphery of the dance floor, and from there to the dance floor, and a protracted
ecstasy of being subsumed in the rhythm of hiphop under the hypnogogic tutelage of DJ Larry Levan.
For me, a furrowed intellectual (deep into weightlifting, none-the-less) it was a revelation, and I took
as much pride when the best dancers of Brooklyn admitted me into their clan as I did when a
Pulitzer prize winning poet complimented a poem of mine.
I had come into this rejuvenescent quasi-adolescent realm late, in my '30's. My '20's had
been squandered in philosophical quandaries and bouts of metaphysical anguish, and I was bent
on making up for lost time. My relationship with M. was what might be described as a highly
corrupted monogamy, moreover--more than once this or that rivetting satellite on the dance floor
ended up in our bed, undergoing a drugged menage a trois to the Faure Barcarolles in the later
part of the morning. It was joy until it ceased to be fun.
The Paradise Garage has entered art history as the purview of Keith Haring, who we often saw there
in his unmistakable glasses, writhing among the black boys. Much of his iconography was inspired
by the dancers on the dance floor.Those crowds of jiggling pictograms began there.
We would also see Robert Mapplethorpe cruising the bar, looking like a camera on its tripod himself,
his legs akimbo, scanning the crowd for his next model. A great many of the models of his
photographs were found there, and some I knew.
There was a time when those shining hours palled. I remember when the reprise of a song heard too often
suddenly halted me. I was tired of this particular aquarium. News of the Virus was spreading, furthermore, not so fast as the Virus, alas, but enough to graze our circle. The sight of someone adored from afar grown suddenly gaunt,of one and then another rapid disappearance from the scene was cause to re-think easy love, to investigate pre-cautionary measures, to restrict the magic circle, and--in my case--to step out of it altogether. Suddenly, I became a caregiver rather than a boyfriend.
Many years later, I dreamed of the Paradise Garage. It was a part of Paradise, just as it had been advertised, the part of paradise where to be young, beautiful, and queer is sacred. I saw an array
of faces (and bodies, for that matter) not to be forgotten. Some internal camera of my own had recorded
them, the ten thousand thousand lovers.
I remembered Keith Haring,too, and decided to make a scroll of the thousands on the dance floor using
pictograms as a friendly nod to him. Allan Mc Collum's rooms of thousands of slightly variable objects
was another inspiration--one of my objectives was never to duplicate a pictogram.
The pictogram drawings underwent a number of permutations. At first they happened on a grid.
Later, I made them into something which I hoped would shimmer the way calligraphy in Arabic shimmers on a Mirhab.
At times, I experimented with how many pictograms I could get on a small piece of paper.
Or if I could put a series of drawings inside another.
Or if I could layer a drawing over another one.
This and the drawing below it are layered over a grid/pictogram
The four drawings which follow this are colored over a two layer grid/pictogram
. Below is a four layered pictogram drawing. As in polyphonic music, the questions is how many "voices" can be orchestrated and "heard"--how legible is the first and second and third layer in relationship to the fourth?
I also did a series of pictographic drawings on two layers of aluminum screening that had been enameled white; below is one.
These were not done to a recitation of the names of Allah, but are more Buddhist in origin--- each pictogram represents a prayer for all sentient beings. These were begun in 2009 and resumed intermittantly through 2012.