from A Poet In Center City


Not all of the Highwire Free School shows were big ones. We would do series of modest shows between the larger shows. The Bats were an all-girl band we wanted to book, so we did. John and I did a bunch of schmooze routines with them, at Tritone and elsewhere, and John and I were both in love with Tobi, an old friend of Trish's and mine who played keyboards (and also painted). Tobi was tiny, an elf, with exquisite bone-structure in her face, chestnut hair, and bright blue eyes. Of the Bats, she was the most natural as a Free School person. By this time, we had a new system going at the Highwire, by which the factory room and the main space would be used simultaneously. The night the Bats played, we had poets reading on a raised dais in the factory room. The factory room had high ceilings, but was darker, danker, and more private than the main space- a perfect place to smoke up or hook up. The poets were Temple kids, and one stuck out for us immediately, especially to John; a buxom, olive-skinned Latina named Lena. If I sensed I would beat John to Tobi, he would certainly beat me to Lena, who liked his looseness over my rigor. Christopher and I were attempting to perfect a new way of combining poetry with visual imagery; he projected images on a screen behind me as I read that night. Frankly, we were both bored with dry poetry readings (no matter how attractive the participants), and this was our way of extending their range. Headed towards 2005, John's characteristic looseness was the keynote mood. Even if it meant that Christopher and I had to up the ante to six drinks per night out.


Baptiste Spurn had a birthday party at around this time at his studio at 13th and Carpenter. I wound up being the only Free School guy there. The four of us each had different sectors to work, and Baptiste's was one of mine. At the time, Baptiste had a menage situation going; he was living, not only with a stripper/burlesque artist named Lissy but with a couch-surfing teenage runaway named Anastasia. Anastasia was a wild child. She later tried to jump from one of the Highwire windows. That night, she insisted that everyone strip. We were passing around a bottle of Stoli; people were downing three or four shots at a time from the bottle. I decided to do them one better and down seven. For about fifteen minutes, I felt an overpowering sense of swirling ecstasy. Then, I got hit with a wave of nausea so intense I almost fainted. Everyone was very drunk and very stoned; I managed to drag my pile of clothes to the side of the circle and put them on. I didn't want to vomit all over the studio. I knew myself to be performing what was, for me, the greatest Intoxication Feat of all time- despite all the vodka-shots, I walked all the way from Thirteenth and Carpenter to Twenty-First and Race at 2 a.m. without puking. If I spent the rest of the night violently ill, I had done the right thing by the Free School; saved face before the big Intoxication Heavyweights of the Free School nexus, and entered the charmed circle (with John and Ricky) of the alcohol poisoned.