Mark Allen's Top Ten for 1/20/03:
*WARNING: This was typed under the influence of highly toxic paint fumes
**NOTE: This phone call actually occurred

1: Painting my apartment

    Now comrades, with a chunky mixture of under-overexaggerated-humbleness and enormously and heroically subdued self-satisfaction, I am going to relay to you the story of how I made my surroundings more beautiful while also pondering the paths not taken in my life - and then ended that personal journey by calling my ex-boyfriend in the middle of the night while high as Hell on toxic paint fumes and rambling like a retarded muppet.

    Life is about choices.

    Did you know that there are hundreds of shades of white that you can choose from to paint the walls of your apartment in? When I picked out my paint I decided I wanted the most blinding white I could find. My color choice was "Ping Pong White". They should call it "Glaucoma-Inducing, Will-Make-You-See-Like-Helen-Keller White" because when the sun shines through the many windows in my apartment, it now looks like George Lucas' "THX-1138" or maybe that white, glowing Mike TeeVee room in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory".

    BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: mimicking the movies. I remember my friend Gregory once painted his entire apartment white and he disappeared into a "white void" for several days. He literally disappeared and Sammy and I didn't hear from him for days. He had systematically painted away every hint of shadow in his living space... covered up every place light could be absorbed into... the reverse of a black hole. Carl Sagan would have been stupefied and passed out from sheer shock. Talk about anal. Gregory called me a few days after he had disappeared into the white void that he created inside his apartment. His voice sounded real echo-y on the phone. He was actually calling me from the void! Then someone (thankfully) tracked some scuff marks on his newly painted floor and he magically appeared again. Sometimes doing a really good job at something can be dangerous... you can get swallowed up by a force that defies all we know about the laws of time and space. I remember thinking this during my very recent painting job on my apartment... when I started to count the molecules between the window sill and the actual glass... you know... using masking tape to make sure I got the line of new paint just right... getting all the details squared away perfectly. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: getting all the details right and leaving no loose ends.

    Wait... where was I? Oh yea... painting my apartment. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: staying on track. Picking a path and sticking to it all the way to the end. If a job is worth doing it's worth doing right.

    You know that text on the paint can that says "Warning: Use only in a WELL VENTILATED area only. Inhaling paint fumes can be dangerous to your health."? Well... Winters in New York city can be really rough, and we are having a record bitter cold Winter this year. So my idea of well ventilated was to crack one window. Just a crack. Speaking of crack... I think I now know what it's like to smoke it. Just leaving one window cracked and setting up a system of fans in your apartment to blow all the fumes around creates an interesting ventilation situation that allows your lungs to envelop and absorb toxic fumes very quickly and then efficiently absorb them into your blood stream and deliver them to your brain. Why take pills? Wow... I like that phrase; "ventilation situation" That could be a cool band name. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: coming up with great band names for bands you never form.

    I've always wanted to be a "breatharian". Just for the thrill of it. Do you know what a "breatharian" is? It's someone who doesn't need to eat food or take in fluids and believes that they can get everything they need to sustain themselves by the light, air and energy around them. I looked a breatharian web site and discovered that long-term breatharians, through a life-time of disciplined breatharianism, claim to have the ability to perform "bi-locationism" (or the ability to be in two places at once), materialize and dematerialize at will, fly through the air, maintain their body temperature while sitting in the snow, increasing and decrease their heartbeat at will, and so on. And do you know what? They are right! I could do all these things in a mere few hours of performing sealed-apartment-windows-painting breatharianism. Pretty soon painting your apartment hardly seems like work at all! That's thanks to my new-found breatharian techniques.

    BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: making work fun. And learning cool new stuff. And traveling to other dimensions. Who ever thought that a tedious back-breaking chore like painting your apartment could feel like spinning strands of glistening heavy metal in heavenly, sun-drenched clouds with nude cherubs or floating in a spaceship to the moon with talking panda bears made of glitter while gravity goes all nonsense? I think I saw Gregory's ghost in the white void... somewhere... or maybe his ghost was the white void itself and the real him was the doorway to that void which was actually the exit that let down my throat and into the universe that lives inside all of us... which is interconnected... by THE WHITE VOID! YES! You know Gregory was right to find that white void and take a journey AND I was correct to get so anal about the line between the window pane and the glass that I got out my microscope and started actually dividing by molecules. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: finding the connections in things and seeing how everything is interconnected. I guess the most anal people in the world are the ones who count the molecules. Does that make nanotechnologists the most anal people of all? They want to control the laws of molecules... which are the laws of time and space itself. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: finding out who's the most anal. You know who's pretty anal? My ex-cyber boyfriend Bryan.

    Okay I was drinking Diet Coke the whole time and I think I had a cheeseburger at one point. So I cheated. Breatharians are such phonies. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: finding and exposing phonies! I guess all paint-huffers are really breatharians at heart. I guess I'm not a breatharian after all... just a paint huffer with big dreams. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: having dreams.

    You know how they say you should never look directly at the flame of a blow torch without one of those very heavy goggle mask things? That's what the walls of my apartment are like now. Or starting to look like, since I haven't finished painting. Oh by the way... I took the wall down. It's so bright in here now I'll have to wear a welding mask just to make coffee in the morning in my brand new pristine apartment. Yep...  God it looks fucking great. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: looking good. Because if you look good... you FEEL good!

    Inhaling paint fumes for 12 straight hours while you're painting your apartment sure makes you feel good. It's actually highly productive too... you become so addicted to to the experience that you can't stop. I was just going to do some touch-ups... but due to my fume-induced speed-y euphoria I decided to paint EVERY WALL and EVERY CORNER and EVERY INCH OF CEILING... TWO COATS! Now I'm doing that whole molecule counting thing on all the edges that I discussed above. If you can turn hard work and a strong discipline into something as addictive as crack or heroin then it's win-win! BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: making pain your friend and ruling the world.

    It all started last Monday when the super finally delivered the paint I had ordered (they offered to paint it for free but I kind-of didn't like the idea so I said I would do it myself if they provided all the supplies). I begrudgingly began the chore with all widows in my apartment wide open. But "B-R-R-R-R-R!" So I decided it might be a good idea to paint while wearing a coat, gloves and a hat. But since I don't have any of those things that I don't want speckled with paint... so I decided that those warnings on those paint cans were pretty much just for show anyway (just like those warnings for nausea and heart failure on those TV ads for herpes medicine are) and I shut my windows... cranked up the heater... set up the fans... and got to work a painting the walls! Pretty soon I noticed that I had an amazing attention to detail... and a kind of euphoric sense, as well as increased energy. Not necessarily the kind of energy you get from good nutrition and being well rested... but the kind of "rush"-y, superficial, high-octane energy you get from over the counter diet medication. I noticed that my intent to do a very good job increased as did my intent to pierce the ether and uncover what the meaning of "what the meaning of" was. I've experimented with most recreational drugs... mostly in high school, college and then later in my warped, wild days of New York nightlife in the 1990's... so let's just say that I'm not a user... but I have the experience to make comparisons and highly educated guesses. I would say that an extreme paint fume high lies somewhere between mushrooms and speed. You feel hollow-ly energetic and focused, but also giddily delightful in noticing your surroundings - which can border on slight hallucination-y. Make sense? It did to me at the time. Of course all drugs make sense at the time you're doing them. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: making sense.

    Looking back on the experience... I realize that my experience gave me a little mini-vacation from my normal state of being... which allowed me to escape my usual mental system of checks and balances and allowed me to view my life from a totally FRESH and NEW perspective. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: getting perspective. As the paint fumes took their toll and I began to learn all sorts of new things about my body and my mind.. I began to think about my life.

    I've thought of writing a book called "A Guide To Uncomfortable Living" or "How To Live 100 Lies". I mean... where am I going with all this? My life I mean, not this rant. What is it all adding up to? I run my own massage therapy business... and I make enough to get by... but barely enough. Why am I not some super-sucessful freak like some of the trust-fund weirdoes I know in New York? Did you know that Jim and I are literally a hair's breath away from deciding to move to California? It's true. I mean what does New York have to offer me right now except frozen dog shit on the sidewalks?

    Do you know Jim has this friend that is just a few years older than us that makes paintings of panda bears painted out of glitter that he sells for gazillion dollars a piece and he sells A LOT of them? He sells so many of them that his accountant recently contacted his gallery and told him to stop selling so many because if he made any more money his taxes would go through the roof? Do you know this guy then took all his glitter-painted-panda-bear money and bought an old victorian style house on the top of some hill in upstate New York somewhere and decided it would be fun to paint every inch of the outside of it completely black... you know... as "art". It caused such a commotion in the town that cars literally line up for miles at the bottom of the hill to get a good look at it and take pictures and it was actually featured on the front page of The New York Times Style section a few months ago? Now they guy is going to sell the house as sculpture to some Japanese art collector... sell it as "art". FOR ANOTHER GAZILLION DOLLARS!!!! Did you know that this guy and his boyfriend's original apartment is just down the street from me? He's so rich now that he still keeps the old apartment! Just to have it! Maybe he'd let me paint it for him so I can get high off the fumes... it's all I have left. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: realizing what you have left and grabbing it.

    I mean this guy is already a successful painter and he decides to shift some of his funds around by buying a house upstate and then paints the whole thing black for fun and it becomes such a mind-blowing oddity that it ends up in The New York Times and he sells it for A GAZILLION DOLLARS! Meanwhile Jim and I are counting our pennies to buy one bottle of Guinness beer to share... for our dinner. God... I mean how do I get in on this random merry-go-round of luck? I'm so talented that recordings of my farts should be on the Billboard Top 40 but here I am not even able to afford to be able to get my computer out of the shop... again. I always tell Jim that I am so talented and full of money making potential that I wish some well-respected visionary would just contact me and say "I can see that you are full of ideas and are obviously lacking in funds to get these ideas off the ground... here's a check for $100,000. Thank you for your time." Jim usually responds by telling me to answer my cell phone because it's someone calling to schedule a massage session. God are my hands getting muscle-y from massaging so much. And for what? To pay all my bills and then be broke? Where's my painted-black victorian style house just for the Hell of it in The New York Times worth a gazillion dollars? Hmmmmm?

    Actually, did you know I may write about the guy who makes glitter panda paintings and black victorian house sculptures for my first writing gig for Artforum magazine? Yep! A well-respected visionary from The New York Times, who likes my web site, recently contacted me and set up that gig for me. Did you know that I am so pathologically grateful to this well-respected visionary for doing this for me that I could shit glitter onto a canvas in the shape of a mammal? In fact, I'm so grateful to this guy that when he offered to take me to said magazine's Christmas party... I ended up getting the flu and having to cancel the day before! Isn't that nice of me? All the Eve Harringtons of the world and maybe even a few Phoebes were at that party networking their asses off and I'm at home with the flu in my newly-painted and paid for apartment being nursed back to health by a loved one (Jim) who cares deeply about me. I'm such a fucking loser. My first piece for Artforum should be in one of their Spring issues. I haven't even talked to the panda painting black million dollar house guy yet. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: writing about the other people who are doing the things you will never do.

    Speaking of people, actually Jim and I are trying to be more social. First, we cracked our inner Unabomber by crashing a going-away party (which was filled with real live people) for Jim's longtime friend and ex-Fagbash member Paul (aka: DJ Snax), who's moving to Berlin. It was fun. I've known Paul a long time too actually. I actually did pretty good talking to real live people. I was looking at some red haired guy who I thought was just another young, scrawny East Village type... and later I learned it was Jim Foetus. Which makes sense since Paul is now in his band. Oops, sorry I just dropped something. At one point I kind of flew into a mini panic when Jim left my side and went to get some vodka. I was in a swivel chair and when he walked away I literally started to turn and face the computer monitor in the room (which was turned off). BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT:  embracing automatic responses. But instead of talking to a blank computer monitor though, I got to meet Jim's other longtime friend Amy. Amy works at a lesbian-centric sex toy shop and is full of stories about the weirdoes that come in there sometimes. Within the first ten minutes of meeting her she shared a story about her "ass"-plorer adventures with her girlfriend and her fear of enemas even though she considers herself an "ass"-plorer (Jim, Paul and I were all 'huh?') and the time the super in her building talked his way into her apartment and proceeded to teach her how exactly to make crack (it turns out the process is very similar to making rock candy) which they then smoked and she got so freaked out that she gave him a nice guitar just to get him to leave. Amy is hilarious and wonderful. Amy is the kind of girl you want to introduce to mom. I mean for real... just to screw with them. She seems to know everyone in New York and is one of those people that seems plugged into every scene within a 50 mile radius. The following night she took Jim and I to some new electro-centric party in Brooklyn thrown by that guy Spencer Product. World (in)famous photographer Ryan McGinley was the DJ. Oops sorry I just dropped something again. It was fun. Since Amy knows everyone in the world she dashed off to mingle like the world was about to end and... do you know what Jim and I, the ones who are trying to be more social, did? First we counted out pennies so we could afford a bottle of Guinness beer to split. Then we sat in the corner away from the massive room filled with beautiful people who were all mingling like the world was on fire and we drank and French kissed. You know what looks funny? Jim and I in a corner of a dark room full of socializing people... sharing one beer and French kissing and not talking to anyone. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: spending time alone with loved ones.

    Did you know that a bunch of people from World of Wonder are coming all the way from Los Angeles to my apartment this Monday to interview me about my whole "objectum-sexuality" thing I had going on with my computer during my cyber relationship with my ex-boyfriend Bryan? I guess they are interested in the whole thing about not having to interact with real people and falling in love with your computer because it's the only thing you have "real" relationships with people through. You know... that's the whole thing I am trying to overcome with Jim. Anyways... I'm happy to crawl back into that cubby hole of non-reality to be on TV! BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: doing and saying anything just to be on television. Even digital cable. They are coming this Monday. Yep. It's for some digital cable show they produce, called "Paul Allen's Tech TV". I don't even have my real computer because I can't afford to get it out of the shop (again) so I have to make due with Jim's laptop and my cam... which I don't even know if it will work or not yet. That's gonna make me look like a real computer whiz during the interview. Maybe it will make me look like a genius for creating such a web site and everything with such small equipment. If I can get the cam working I'll turn it on and broadcast from my bed while they interview me. I hope it looks like Good Morning Fucking America in here. Maybe the lights will heat up the apartment. God we're having a cold winter.

    My next piece for NPR is literally sitting on the conveyor belt waiting to air during the Academy Award hype time. It's called "I Suffered Stendhal Syndrome At Universal Studios Hollywood!". As soon as it does air... the long version will go up on my site... just like this one did. Did you know that so many people keep changing positions at the position at NRP's "All Things Considered" that spotted me in the first place that I am very scared of getting "lost" by each new person?

    Why does every blessing I get have to come with a curse attached? Maybe everyone has curses attached to their blessings... maybe it's just that I blab about them too much... even to myself.

    I'm the type to let it all out... too much even. I mean, some people I know keep their asses so clean I swear they must wipe with Bounce anti-static cling dryer sheets.

    I'm the one that, when something embarrassing happens to me - no matter how pathologically humiliating - I immediately get right on the horn and tell everyone I know about it. Even then I usually exaggerate it to sound MORE hysterical. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: being a good storyteller. Over time I think I've built up a tolerance so I have to create more and more elaborate embarrassing life moments that get closer and closer to that "scary edge". No wonder I spend so much time hanging out at the twilight of the mind... or pretending to. Or pretending to pretend to.

    Of course I think all my flubs are hi-fucking-lareous (I wonder if anyone else does?) ...I think all my life's traumatic, slapstick mistakes should be hung in gold rococo frames and exhibited in the Louvre forever. They're art. Hard core art. Maybe I'm just compensating (overcompensating?) for all the parts of my life that I perceive (or feel that others perceive) as boring... the most unspeakable life mistake ever.

    So while the paint fumes were in full effect and I was literally floating like an X-men with a paint roller in hand thinking about all the things I just discussed above... and kind of getting hallucinagenically depressed about the state of my life... I decided to do the only logical thing: call my ex-boyfriend, Bryan, on the telephone!**

    BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: calling your ex-boyfriend on the telephone in the middle of the night while zonked out of your mind on massive amounts of paint fumes. Especially if you haven't spoken to him in about 8 months and are feeling vulnerable and self-conscious. Life can be so beautiful. He is my ex-boyfriend in a mostly cyber-relationship kind of way. Still... he is my ex, before Jim I suppose.

    You know that thing you do sometimes when you are dialing someone's phone number and then the phone is ringing on your end and you are waiting for them or their machine to pick up? You know how you can sometimes run through little rehearsals in your head about how the beginning of the phone conversation is going to go? You picture what the person on the other end is going to say and you kind of mini-rehearse what your responses will be? It usually all gets blown to Hell when the other person picks up. But if you're speeding out of your mind like a paint huffer then then the line that separates what's going on in your head and what's happening outside of it starts to get all scribbly.

    "Hello Mark Allen." Bryan said as he picked up the phone. Apparently he was doing some late-night shopping at Wallgreen's in Austin, Texas (his place of residence - Austin, not Wallgreen's itself).

    What happened next was kind of embarrassing. But I blame the paint fumes and the paint fumes only. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT I THINK IT'S ALL ABOUT: placing blame on things that can't defend themselves... like paint fumes. You know that little rehearsal conversation I had in my head? The kind you are not supposed to speak out loud? Well I just kind of... ran down the list of possible conversation openers that I had collected in my head in the few moments it had taken me to dial the phone. Instead of just picking from one... I decided to just run down my list of responses to things that Bryan might ask me in the opening moments of our conversation. Keep in mind that Bryan has only said "Hello Mark Allen." at this point... and nothing else. And I am running down this list of polite things to say complete with overly polite vocal inflections... while Bryan is silent. So the conversation started like this:

Bryan: "Hello Mark Allen."

Mark: "Hi!" (friendly, loud tone),

Mark: "How are you!?" (completely different tone - loud again, and overly chirpily inquisitive - slightly feminine)

Mark: "Uh-huh! I'm fine!" (completely different tone - friendly serious, politely resigned - keep in mind that Bryan hasn't even asked me how I'm doing)

Mark: "Well I just decided to call y-y-y-o-o-o-u-u-u..." (completely different tone - still chirp-y but toned down a bit more)

Mark: "Oh... you know... the same old thing I guess... just kind of... living..." (completely different tone - a bit more serious but still mock-chirpy - becoming more aware of the fact that I have just blurted out about five responses to questions that my ex-boyfriend whom I decided to call in the middle of the night after not speaking for months while also completely high on paint fumes has not even asked me and how embarrassing a disaster this it is quickly turning into)

Bryan: "?" (stupefied silence)

    (more below...)

    I'll spare you the rest of the gruesome details. Trust me... watching an autopsy film would be more enjoyable. I proceeded to rattle off everything I could think of in my life that was classifiable as an accomplishment in my eyes, to Bryan... to which he responded with polite friendliness. I then compared to latest "Lord of the Rings" film to The History Channel, talked at length about $20,000 glitter panda paintings and $1,000,000 painted-black victorian-style houses in The New York Times, used the phrases "Luxor Hotel" and "sphincter" in the same sentence without laughing, talked a lot about how broke I was, and hinted about how rich I thought he probably was. I think the "low"light of the apocalyptic, high-as-a-kite phone call came when I actually blurted out... very loudly... "BRYAN, I DIDN'T CALL YOU TO TALK ABOUT MY NEW BOYFRIEND JIM!" for no reason.

    I didn't even bother to mention to Bryan that I was painting my apartment while I was talking to him. All the time I was doing my Mary Hartman impersonation for him... in the background all you heard was the "p-p-p-f-f-f-t-t-t-t! p-p-p-f-f-f-t-t-t-t! p-p-p-f-f-f-t-t-t-t!" of the paint roller rolling sticky paint against the wall and me huffing and puffing out of breath between embarrassing sentences because I kept climbing up and down and up and down the ladder because I was painting the ceiling at the time... in a frenzied drug rush. Plus I probably sounded even MORE breathy since I had the phone tucked under my ear as I needed both hands to paint with. He probably thought I was masturbating while on crack while talking to him. Though I must say, Bryan was very polite during the whole audio puppet show. Bryan's a nice guy.

    After I did my impersonation of Anna Nicole Smith/Sybil/Mary Hartman/Inspector Clouseau for a baffled Bryan I hung up the phone... threw up into my paint tray. Continued to paint anyway... then... somehow... lost consciousness.

    Life is about choices.



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