Mark Allen's Top Three for 1/17/05:
1. War of the Inner Worlds (pt.1)
I always loved that episode of "Seinfeld" where the building association of the apartment building Jerry lives in decides to put photographs of all the tenants (with names under them) in the lobby, so all the neighbors can begin to recognize one another, for security, and also to create a more friendly atmosphere where people say hello and greet one another. And then the "friendliness" gets so out of control, with Jerry having to stop and have a blasé conversation with every single person who stops him in the hall, and all the women now expecting a big greeting kiss on the lips every time then run into him, that he puts his foot down and lets everyone know that he will no longer be having boring conversations with people in the hallway, or letting every woman in the building kiss him hello... because it's just ruining is life. And the rest of the tenants become so angry at him for rebelling against their new fascistic friendliness code, that they all ban together to ignore him and cause trouble for him in the building.
The whole scenario sort of reminds me of this guy that lives in my building. And I am going to share the first half of my story about him in this week's "Top Ten" ...and reveal to you the real reason why I dislike him so much in next week's entry: part 2 of: WAR OF THE INNER WORLDS!!!
This guy is a 50-something (maybe 60) guy who has a very normal face, a little beat-down by life maybe, perhaps a touch of mongoloidism. From what I have gathered over the years, he works menial jobs, but his big dream is to make it as a singer songwriter. One of the rooms in his apartment is stacked floor to ceiling with instruments and recording equipment. Really old and dusty instruments and recording equipment. I used to have a friend that lived right next to him, and he told me that he heard this guy practicing his "pop" tunes all the time... and that he was so awful, he couldn't sing at all but tried to sing very "professionally" so it was ten times worse... and the music he wrote was so derivative and shallow and boring that my friend said he would descend into deep depressions and actually have to leave his apartment if exposed to this guy's artistic vision through the drywall for more than a few hours. One time my friend made the mistake of going next door and asking him to "please keep it down" and this turned out to be a big mistake because, before he knew what had happened, my friend found himself sitting in this guy's bedroom, amongst all the instruments and recording equipment, a captive (literally) audience of one, having to listen first hand to this guy play a guitar and sing. My friend said he couldn't think of a word to describe how bad his music was, and that the strain on his face from trying not to not bursting into tears and screaming was matched only by the pain that was being inflicted on his ears.
Now if this 50-something guy is going to make it singing pop tunes... he's a little more than past his prime don't you think? He needs something more than a horrible voice and terrible taste and no talent... right? What about a winning personality? Dude! This guy has that totally covered! Did someone say entertainment?! Want an unforgettable social experience in the hallway? Want an encounter with a person that will remind you of how wonderful and funny human beings can be? Want to witness raw natural comedic talent on a daily basis? This guy has it in pointy spades... at least he thinks he does... or tries to.
This guy must have seen Robin Williams' stand-up routine on "The Tonight Show" during his developmental years as a child and literally thought it was the most funny, brilliant, perfect thing ever... and he never forgot it. He has this really desperate, frantic way of treating everyone he encounters as a willing audience to some kind of comedy routine-ish "social hi-jinx" kind-of friendliness that I guess he thinks is very important to making the world a more "wonderful" place, and making him an unforgettable person. When you pass him in the hall he tries really, really hard to be "goofy" and "funny" and put on this kind of I'm-gonna-cheer-you-up-esque routine. He painfully tries to say or do some kind of one-liner that will just "make your day." He literally blocks you and goes on this tirade of happiness that is so bombastic that you can't get past, or get a word in edgewise - or even establish your own personality or identity in any way at all. It's like his goal (in his mind) is to bombard you with one-liners until you stop, smile, and reflect in warm wonderment that "human beings really can be wonderful people despite this crazy, mixed-up world we live in ya'know."
His "routine" when you encounter him in the hall is always something like this: "Hey there oh hey hi how's it going? Oh heh-heh... pardon me am I in the way!" [feigns exaggerated English accent] "Oh excuse me! Mr. Hall Monitor... pass please!" [drops English accent] "Oh no I'm just kidding... oh stop, pay toll!" [places arm out in front of you, literally blocking your way, like a car barricade toll thing] "Heh heh, no really... I salute my hall monitor!" [gives salute sign and click heels to you] "No... bring us a shrubbery! Haha!" [English Monty Python accent again] "Ha ha! No, so have a good day fellow building liver... oops... did I say 'liver?'... perhaps I meant appendix! Haha! No... I mean 'dweller' right? But not troll-like dweller... haha! Just fellow New Yorkian right? Haha! Paul right? Paul?" [drops 'performance' face and literally outstretches both arms to greet you like he's almost begging for something]. And it's literally like that... non-stop, full vocal volume, every time you encounter him. While he does all this he literally blocks you from passing with his own body and waving arms.... like there's a ticker tape coming out of his mouth with no stops or spaces in-between, he literally gives you no time or space to say anything or even react. And trust me... that's only about 1% of his act... which would literally go on for hours right there in the hall as you're holding your bag of groceries and trying to open your apartment door with your keys. You literally have to run away to get him to stop... but you can't for some reason. And did you hear how he calls me "Paul?" I have told him a couple of times, in the nicest way possible, that my name is Mark, not Paul... but he still calls me Paul... maybe it's a "joke."
He forces his apocalyptically insecure personality on everyone because he has a fear of being rejected. You have to pay attention to this walking personality disorder because he's right there addressing you directly, and if you don't... then you just end up looking kind of like a cad.
I have been an unwilling audience to this guy's non-stop cabaret of friendly pain for almost a decade now, as has everyone else in our building. Now... you probably think I'm being a little cynical in complaining about this guy right? You think that, yea, he may be a little annoying... but at least he's interesting, and at least he's trying to be friendly, right? You think I sound like a real scrooge, right? Well... I always smile and say hello to him, and I have never once shown any signs of annoyance and disgust. But, I'll tell you that I actually deeply dislike this guy very much... as do many of the people in my building (and the building next door to mine) for reasons that have nothing to do with his overly-friendly terroristic tendencies, or his awful music. This is something that I have learned about this guy slowly, over the years of living in my building with him as a neighbor. Something he does that is one of the very roots of evil in society (and has been for all of humanity). And once you hear about it, you may actually be shocked that I have never once not smiled and said hello and been a willing audience to this guy's antics. And that thing, that reason I and so many other secretly dislike him, as well as an examination of why it's so hard to express our dislike (and probably the main reason he acts the way he does), will all be revealed and discussed in part 2 of: WAR OF THE INNER WORLDS...
War of the Inner Worlds (pt. 2)
Let's call the guy that I described having to deal with in "War of the Inner Worlds" (part 1)... hmmmm... let's refer to him from this point on as "Mr. Friendly."
My first run in with "Mr. Friendly's" dark side, and the reason that I feel so conflicted about being friendly with him when he berates me and others in the hallway with his obnoxious comedy routine, was at a simple rooftop party on top of the building next to mine.
I have a friend that lives on one of the top floor apartments of the next door building (which is separated from our building by a small courtyard) who throws these events up on the roof, like once every couple of months. They are always on Saturday nights, and last from about 6pm until just before midnight. They consisted of artists and bands and performance groups that want to perform for a small, appreciative audience on a seventh-story rooftop in the middle of Manhattan under a starry, summer sky. The volume of music and noise at these events is always kept low, the organizer (my friend) always ends everything well before midnight, and there is no charge to attend, and everyone is welcome.
Now, you probably never guessed it before when I described this odd, obnoxiously friendly 50-something struggling musician named "Mr. Friendly," but "Mr. Friendly" has a really big problem with people making live music. I mean, a serious, serious, problem. Such a serious problem that when he encounters it, his obnoxious friendliness turns into obnoxious deadly rage and he literally turns into a one-man heat-seaking missile who's target is the source of that live music. You really have to experience it first hand to even comprehend the personality change.
Now, before you think this guy's problem is with "noise pollution," think again. Trust me.
In addition to these rooftop events I mentioned, there were (and are), LOTS AND LOTS of other parties going on around the neighborhood, on other rooftops (sometimes the same one) throughout the warm months. These parties involve the same kinds of numbers of people, and the usual loud volumes of voices, and yelling and laughter and music (think of the crowded piano party that happens in the penthouse courtyard apartment in Hitchcock's 'Rear Window'). This is normal for downtown NYC.
The one difference these other events have with the rooftop performance events is that the music accompaniment at them is always pre-recorded, either on a stereo system or something... or in a few cases a DJ playing CDs.
Now let me also tell you that the wide downtown street I live on is a high-traffic area, and not just on weekend nights. My latin-heavy neighborhood is also very loud when it comes to cars stopping at the intersections blasting spanish music from their stereos. Not to mention the bazillion other loud things associated with a downtown NYC neighborhood.
And as we all know, the volume level of parties in NYC too, is often loud. In the warm months you can often hear them from the street, if there isn't enough noise already around to block them out already. This is because, as we all know, at a party, as each song comes on the stereo someone inevitably ends up screaming "Oh my God I love this song!" and runs over the the volume knob to crank it up "just a little bit." And, of course, after a few hours of different individuals doing this, the volume of the stereo has hit 1,000,000,000 and is rattling the concrete on the streets below (not to mention the building) and no one cares because it's a celebration and everyone's having a good time... right? Plus it's (probably) a weekend night and this is New York... right?
"Mr. Friendly" couldn't care less about this kind of noise... even right in his own building. He attends those parties with pre-recorded music gleefully... hell, he's probably the one turning up the stereo. "Mr. Friendly" does not have a problem with a party with a loud stereo or CDs or even a DJ.
Have an exact same type of event within earshot of "Mr. Friendly" ...only with live music (especially of the unusual sort), and you have lit "Mr. Friendly's" fuse. "Mr. Friendly" goes apeshit.
This is "Mr. Friendly's" weird problem. And our problem with his problem is that he is not warm and centered in his shell of insanity until he has "fixed" that problem that is his but becomes ours. He is pro-active and vindictive in his dislike of people doing things he dislikes (and those dislikes make sense to no one in the real world). He is a trouble-maker in the most pathetic and pointless way possible. He is a solo warrior in a crap shoot, a brain-less malfunctioning, headless tadpole, who's playing a child's game and will do whatever it takes to beat everybody's brains out until he's king of the molehill.
The first time I saw "Mr. Friendly's" scary spastic side, was at one of the performance nights on the rooftop of the building next to mine. The band Deerhoof was playing. The party was pretty crowded, and everyone was having a good time. It was a beautiful, active, loud, summer evening in the noisy 'hood.
Now if you're familiar with Deerhoof you know they have a really noisy, wacky, sloppy kind of rock sound. Not loud... just bizarre and fun.
Fun to everyone except "Mr. Friendly" that is...
After Deerhoof completed one number, to much applause (even from the windows of the people in the project buildings across the street who yelled 'Rock on whitey!') ...they went into another skronky number, and suddenly, out of nowhere... "Mr. Friendly" came storming out of the roof door - in a very UN-friendly way I might add - and pushed his way through the crowd and literally walked into the area where Deerhoof was playing and stood there and started shaking his head at the guitarist/vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki like a nursery school teacher would scold a child. Matsuzaki, who was kind of already crouched down on the ground playing and screaming, just kept playing and looking up at him, wondering who the hell he was... so did everybody. It seemed like part of the show. It was one of the funniest rock moments I've ever witnessed. Matsuzaki continued - smiling and unfazed, but "Mr. Friendly" meant business. He stormed off the stage and through the smatterings of people at the event, shouting "Who's in charge here!" He eventually found my friend and got into some kind of heated debate with him abut the "noise problem."
Now the contrast in "Mr. Friendly's" apocalyptically friendly hallway persona was like black and white. In the hallway during the day, he's all desperate smiles and a pathetic comedy routine... pleading to win your approval. When he's trying to shut down kids playing live music... it's the exact opposite. Or is it? Could it be the same need for control that fuels both impulses? Is it a total contrast in behavior? Or is it exactly the same? You say tomato, I say psycho.
Speaking of vegetables, did I mention his face was corpuscle beet red during this anti-music fit? He looked terrified and filled with the kind of panic and screaming you see on those photographs of little kids sitting on Santa's lap at the mall who aren't too happy about to be there. His persona projected "fight of flight" skittishness and "menace by default." He was terrified and clamoring for control of the situation.
As he just stood there flailing his arms and shaking his fingers at my confused friend, the band continued to play. After my friend was unsuccessful in getting him to try and calm down, and more and more people started to stare in disbelief, "Mr. Friendly" stormed away from him, right through the band (walking across the stage again), threw his arms in the air like a screeching child having a shopping mall tantrum... then flung open the door leading to the stairwell again and disappeared. What a performance! Did I mention this guy is in his 50's?
People were kind of laughing, smiling... no one knew what to think... and many people thought it was part of the performance. The band kept playing (they had never stopped) and it seemed like just one brief moment in time that had been burned into everyone's retinas. But about a minute later... "Mr. Friendly" reappeared behind the band and said something inaudible as he shook his finger at everyone in the direction of the band and audience, then disappeared into the doorway again. It was really surreal.
Then... about an hour later, after Deerhoof was done and another band had begun (about 9pm), the police showed up. "Mr. Friendly" was leading two reluctant-looking policemen onto the roof... and literally started pointing out the members of the band to them. The cops warned my friend to turn the noise down, and he promptly did. The cops and "Mr. Friendly" left.
Ahhh... but it was not over! About an hour later, into some weird electronic guy's set, the cops and "Mr. Friendly" showed up again. The dumb ax dropped, and the cops dutifully told everyone that they had to exit the roof.
As everyone (including the bands who were scheduled to play) walked down the long stairwell and out onto the sidewalk, wondering what had happened... "Mr. Friendly" was, literally, standing out there in front of the door, on the sidewalk, shaking his finger and telling everyone, no joke "I know who you are and what you are doing is wrong!" Huh? While he was standing there doing this, all around us were car alarms, people running down the street screaming, car stereos blasting... so much noise going on that you couldn't even hear his scolds.
What happened to the hallway comedy routine? Where were the smiles and one-liners? Where have all the flowers gone?
Later, I found out from my friend who organized the event, that "Mr. Friendly" had made such a bombastic complaint to the police, that they showed up and had no choice but to tell people to leave since it was an officially classified as an outdoor performance or something like that, and plus the fact that "Mr. Friendly" had complained twice.
My friend said that "Mr. Friendly" found his phone number and left a few creepy, bully-ing messages on his machine about having "sick" music parties on his roof... so my friend actually lodged a complaint against him and it turned into some kind of ongoing battle or something. According to my friend, and again this is just hearsay, but apparently no one in the neighborhood had complained except "Mr. Friendly" ...who really seemed to have a sore spot against people getting together and making unusual music who were not 50-something. He came to some kind of agreement with, or got instruction from, the cops to have these parties (after he filed for some kind of permit, blah, blah...) and having to go through whoever he was able to go through to get permission and fighting "Mr. Friendly," it was revealed that the only complaints that were ever called into the police precinct were from "Mr. Friendly" himself. "D-oh!"
So there were several more incident at my friend's performance nights... with "Mr. Friendly" making frequent appearances and trying to cause trouble and berating the guests and acts. It was like absurdist theater. People began to expect him to arrive, and were never disappointed because he always showed up to "ruin" the party. But only if live music was being played. He never got the parties shut down again (although once he did, but I'm not sure exactly why).
I once saw Bunny Brains perform at one of these rooftop things, and when "Mr. Friendly" showed up to lodge his usual ranting slapstick conniption fit... the guy from Bunny Brains started recording "Mr. Friendly's" voice (he was of course standing right in front of the lead singer's space - his usual tactic) and feeding it through their sampler/loop thing and his screaming became part of the music. Oh yea, I took some photos that night, here they are. Can you spot "Mr. Friendly?"
Ahhhh... but here's more "Mr. Friendly" information for you! It gets more incriminating:
One time around 2003 there was a rooftop party on the roof of my building. And this party had a stereo system on the roof for music. I went up there and was hanging out... and who shows up but "Mr. Friendly" himself! Now, his reputation as "the guy who keeps trying to shut down the performance parties on the roof next door" was now widespread and legendary. Everyone at the party was treating him with the same evasive condensation... but he remained unfazed... walking from circle of people to circle of people doing his "Mr. Friendly" routine for them until they eventually walked away (it usual took just under a minute) upon which time he would then gravitate to another group while holding his big plastic cup of beer in his hand. Pretty soon he was trying to pick up girls. You can imagine their reactions.
At one point I was talking to the guy who threw the party about "Mr. Friendly" and was like "...you know that guy's story right" and he was like "Yea... yea... I know about him." So, at the point where someone finally literally walked over to "Mr. Friendly" and said "Aren't you the asshole who shut down those parties on the roof next door because you didn't like the music?" it wasn't a surprise that "Mr. Friendly" dropped his "friendly" act and took the manner of a slightly drunk, lecturing clown (you know the type, there's one at every party) and started spouting on about "appropriate noise levels" All the while there was a speaker right next to him blaring, and I mean blaring, HOT-97fm. Weird.
But then... the guy throwing the party had a little announcement to make. He turned down the stereo (did I mention how blaring-ly loud it was?) and announced that he and his band were going to perform for everybody. Suddenly, to my best recollection, "Mr. Friendly" quickly disappeared into his hidey hole to prepare for battle.
About an hour later the guy and his friends had set up their instruments and amps and, as the sun was setting behind us over New Jersey, he thanked everyone as they broke into their cover version of Mudhoney's "Touch Me I'm Sick." Everyone started dancing around and having a good time.
Now... this guy and his friend's band equipment was really, really shitty... so they could barely get any volume at all out of it... all you could really hear was the drums. And, again, mind you, the salsa music coming out of the cars on the street downstairs was literally twice as loud. But before the song comes to a close and we can all clap... who comes charging through the crowd right up to the stage and up to the guy who was throwing the party (and singing lead)? Yep... you guessed it! His second appearance of the evening (and his second personality?) ...like a beet-red Oscar the Grouch straight outta his trash can, a transformed "Mr. Friendly" charged through the crowd (who were all about half his age), all fists and elbows and mental issues, and proceeded to berate the guy singing lead (who was throwing the party). Of course... the band stopped and a moronic argument between the two of them began. A collective "...aauuugghhh!" was groaned by the crowd as everyone went back to conversing. At this point I left and went back to my apartment to watch "King of the Hill." I wasn't surprised when I heard the band start up again about a half hour later (the roof is two floors above me and my windows were open) and then stop after (surprise!) the police arrived.
However... this time things were different. The guy who throws the performance parties at the building next door and got involved, and also "Mr. Friendly" (who was, again, the sole complainer about the 'loud' band playing on the roof) was slightly intoxicated. Note to "Mr. Friendly:" if you are trying to sway the cops to your way of thinking, do not be inebriated.
However, I heard the band start up again after the cops left. And I heard "Mr. Friendly's" door two floors below me continually slam shut like he was a little kid throwing a tantrum running in and out of his bedroom and slamming the door to make an impression on his parents. I was literally waiting to hear a gunshot. Did I mention that this guy is in his 50's?
One time on our block, in front of my building, we had a true test of "Mr. Friendly's" inner world... there was some kind of city-sponsored block party, a kind of "take back the neighborhood from inner city crime" thing, like the kind of thing that Al Sharpton shows up and speaks at (except he wasn't there). Anyway... they had a big banner stretched over the closed-off street saying "Take Back Out Streets" and HOT-97fm was there with one of their vans, pumping music out of it and I think one of the DJs was there broadcasting live, they had local restaurants from around the area offering free spanish food and taxi drivers with tables offering (surprise!) Indian food. Entenmann's even had a table where they were giving away pound cakes. There were some clowns and a martial arts demonstration and a cotton candy booth and free ice cream cones from McDonald's. The local fire department came and showed the kids all their axes and hoses and stuff. The police came and showed off two of their horses, and let people ride them. They also had a (no joke) trailer with a lab set up where you could get a free HIV test and health information. Party!
Anyway, this was around the time the Republican National Convention was in town so of course they had the anti-terrorist helicopters circling the city all day long, sweeping low and scaring the hell out of everybody. At one point, literally, one of the copters swept really low and scared one of the horses, who had a little girl on it... and the horse got spooked and kind of charged a little bit down the street headed right for the free HIV test van, but someone at the cotton candy booth was able to stop it before it trampled on the table full of "Living with HIV" brochures. A thrilling little moment of near disaster at the "take back our streets" rally. Whew!
Anywho... one thing I forgot to mention about this rally was that there was a massive stage set up, with... get this, musical acts performing! That's right... bands! Some of them playing rock music! Mmm-hmmmm! Yep! And this got you-know-who coming out of his apartment to survey the performances. Would he keep his cool? Would he explode at other people performing live music on a stage on our street? Not a party or an "art" thing, but some sort of official thing set up by the city?
Now the acts they had on stage were the absolute worst. I mean the kind of bands that I guess play in sports bars or local events... bands that do cover versions and stuff. They also had some real stuff that was OK, like a Harlem men's choir and I think a Dominican musical act that had jugglers. There were NO rap acts (which the demographic of my neighborhood would have loved) because I think that would kind of defeat the theme of the festival... don't wanna get the teens too riled up!
Anyway... I watched the whole thing from my fire escape... and sure enough "Mr. Friendly" came out to survey the scene as soon as the low, loud siren calls of "a live band" hit the open air and made it to his ears. I literally watched him walk out of his apartment and make a b-line straight for the stage, where he stood very close and watched two of the bands with great interest. I was literally expecting a moment like at the end of Robert Altman's "Nashville" ...except "Mr. Friendly" would have played the assassin and the Barbara Harris character... shooting the lead singer and then also hoping onto the stage to sing everyone to sleep amongst the chaos. His moment in the sun! But... alas, I think the event was a little too "official" to allow him an outburst. He knew when he was beat. He got his free Entenmann's cake and went back to his apartment. Whew!
I mean... how insane and bizarre is this guy? How nuts do you have to be before you're institutionalized? He obviously has some very serious... phobia(?) of kids getting together and making live music.
A stereo system blaring? He's there no problem (and hoping to score some jail bait). A live band? He turns into a psycho-clown. It has nothing to do with "noise in the neighborhood" ...this guy has a psychological disorder. He has very deep-seated insecurities that manifest themselves in pathological ways, and that are obviously based on his strangely tragic quest to become a musician himself.
Much time has passed, and "Mr. Friendly" won a few battles but ultimately lost the war. My friend still continues to have his wonderful rooftop performance series events in the summer months, and there have been one or two live bands on my roof as well (as well as other buildings in the neighborhood). During these moments, I celebrate... but I and others collectively imagine "Mr. Friendly" is downstairs crying and screaming into his pillow, on his bed in the middle of his room, surrounded by all his thousands of dollars worth of failed music equipment. I just hope he's not making a pipe bomb out of his 4-track.
Anyway... that's why I'm conflicted about being nice to this churl-ish scrooge-y Grinch who has such an in-your-face, desperate friendly demeanor in the hallways (which continue non-stop in-between all the live music-ruining tirades). Half of my conflict is because I think, no I know, he's mean and selfish behind his grinning death mask, and the other half is suspicion that he's insane... and as we all know you should never proffer sympathy to the mentally ill, because it is a bottomless pit.
This is the type of person that causes a lot of unnecessary problems in the world. They are naive, angry, insecure and angry at other people in the world that they have deluded ideas about. They feel they have to push their value systems on everyone else, and when they are met with (obvious) resistance, they become pro-active in their rage and get the law involved and look for rule point-checking stuff to try and "shut down" the imaginary offenders. And a lot of time... these people get their way. It's kind of like that episode of The Simpsons where Marge gets so angry about cartoons that she thinks are too violent for kids, that she goes on a one-woman crusade and succeeds in getting the creators of the "Itchy and Scratchy" cartoon show to trim the blood and gore in their kid's TV show. The episode goes on and on and comes full circle, exposing all the sides of censorship and blah, blah, blah... and eventually everything goes back to the way it had always been, and everyone realizes they were happy all along, and Marge concludes with the famous lines "I guess I learned that one person really can make a difference! But, well... most of the time they probably shouldn't." Except I don't think "Mr. Friendly" will ever learn that lesson.
So this is my own little War of the Inner Worlds with this clown. He'll continue to berate me in the hallways with his awful comedy routines... I'll continue to just kind of deal with it in the way that I normally do. I'll retain the memory of this total ass's ways, but will probably just smile at him and pass by. Perhaps everything will just go back to the way it always was and everyone will realize they were happy all along. It's just another tiny microcosm within an unimaginable macrocosm... one more tiny little War of the Inner Worlds.
2. The ongoing mega-wattage power of Rex Booth - through "Michael's Memoirs"
I was floored and mesmerized by Rex Booth's website (RexsWorld.com) when I first stumbled upon it some time around 1996 or so (when the internet was still very new to me). I had never seen anything like it before, and had never really thought that something like what he had created could be possible.
He was this really good looking guy, who lived in this really great apartment in San Francisco, and had a website with his writings and stuff, and a webcam that watched his every move (that even followed him to local cafes and bars... even to a local center where he taught night classes on web design). He also had a daily internet radio show on GayBC, connected to his site, that he broadcast from his apartment (on cam) almost every day.
The entire site was centered around him, but was also interactive as it allowed others to converse and contribute within the realm he had created, via message boards and chat rooms and phone call-ins to his show. It was like and entire media center, with a Warholian twist, run out of one guy's apartment, with him as the delicious, gooey core. There was a weird kind of entrepreneurial genius to the whole thing, a kind of nascent art form that seemed to have been pulled right out of the air by him. It was like Ted Turner in Wonderland.
Experiencing Rex's site was the entire reason that I learned how to make my own website, and I think his site was the sole inspiration for many others.
Rex and I got to interact a bit through the internet over the next couple of years after that, much to my thrill. I always watched what he was doing with great interest. I remember the first time I ever talked to him on the phone I was sort of nervous. I eventually got to meet Rex in 2001 while in California, where he graciously welcomed me into his home (he was briefly dislocated in Bakersfield, CA before finally heading to Chicago) and we visited, and he had me on his radio show (if you search through his site you can find an mp3 of the whole thing... and you can hear my voice literally change over the course of the first hour as I loose my nervousness). Afterwards we stayed up all night talking about stuff... it was like having a slumber party with one of your idols.
I recently went back to Rex's site after not visiting it for a while... and found it had gone through a lot of permutations... but was ultimately awestruck, once again, by a new addition he has added. Rex has started to transcribe and upload his childhood diaries that he began as a wee gay teen way back in 1981 (titled 'Michael's Memoirs' as was his name, amongst many he has used all the way up to 'Rex')... that connect all the way up to his online diary that he begun on his site when it first started around 1996 or so.
You can start reading "Michael's Memoirs" from the beginning here (it starts in 1981, at the bottom of the page). They eventually become "Rex's Rambles" which is the title they had when he started his site, and they go up to today. There are a few holes in it, the whole thing hasn't been uploaded... but it's mostly there.
It's like that movie "7 Up" in confused, gay, teenage, online diary form. I've honestly never seen anything like this on the web before. Sure there are tons of gay-centric online diaries from confused kids... but not ones that begin back in 1981(!) and go all the way up to a full grown man today... who's still writing them.
Turning through the reflected written word of Rex's teenage world in the early 80's is a wonder... especially if you are of the same age and ilk as Rex, and can identify with the time and emotions. His writings reveal a rich inner life, hilarious wars with himself, and a striking breadth and depth of people he knew and experienced on many emotional plateaus. God... my life back then seems like one sentence on a piece of paper in comparison. Speaking of paper, Rex has even scanned some of the pages of his diaries where he made little collages. You know you're dealing with a gay kid who grew up in the 80's when one page of his diary has a cut-out photo off a sweaty GQ male model from the UnderGear catalogue, and the words "Cocteau Twins" meticulously penciled on the next page.
And yes of course parts of the earliest entries are absurd and hilarious, if only endearingly so (this one from 1986, when he was calling himself 'Dane,' is a particular favorite so far... although I've only made it up to 1988 so who knows what's in store). A life fully examined in retrospect is a neat freak's worst nightmare, am I right? It's just someone's gloriously ragged, roller coaster-y and totally honest life story - the most ineffable thing in the world - communicated in words. And it doesn't hurt that the particular person attached to this story is highly unique, either. So if you're gay, and hovering somewhere in your thirties... go read Rex's "Michael's Memoirs" and experience a thrilling, uncensored trip into someone else's patchwork past ...as you're forced to feed on your own memory lane.
3. I turned my cam back on
In case you hadn't noticed. It was mostly due to being re-inspired by the guy I mention above... but also I just kind of felt like it. Enjoy!
Mark Allen's Top Ten for 1/9/05:
Reality has been trying to bash my front door down with a battering ram this week, and I've had to once again trick it into the back yard so it can fall into the bottomless pit I dug for it (it falls for it every time!) Unfortunately this means that there has simply been no time to bash away at my keyboard for your reading "pleasure" this week. However, here is a series of ten links to things and people that I have found interesting of late. I hope you enjoy them. "War of the Inner Worlds pt. 2" will go up next week:
ALSO: You may have noticed that, very recently, a few things have made it from my "Top Ten" entries into "primary rotation" - now linked on my front page. Those things are also located/linked directly below. In a few of the cases (particularly the first one) I have practically re-created and re-written them from the ground up:
See you next week!
Copyright 2005 Mark Allen
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