c 1994 by Robert Patrick
all rights reserved
The characters, settings, and events of this book are entirely fictitious, and no resemblance to any extant or extinct person, place, or thing is intended.
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Be warned that the novel contains frank language and erotic scenes.
by Robert Patrick
for Patrick Angus
April 04, 1988
Late Christian Era
Window Table 101
Phebe’s Bar and Grill
Bowery at East Fourth
New York City NY 10014
To: Mr. Franklin P. Anderson
Orbit Ensemble Theatre
Wherever In Hell
I know it’s on the West Side
Thank you for your very proper letter thanking me for mine thanking God for making you Artistic Director of Orbit Ensemble at last. Please don’t thank me for thanking you for thanking me. We can’t keep not meeting like this. I attribute the formality of your reply to your having dictated it to some yuppie spy at Orbit, surely only to take advantage of corporate postage. Still squirreling, are you? You can take the boy out of Off-Off Broadway, but not the Off-Off Broadway out of the boy (I most piteously pray).
Or perhaps your propriety was in response to my addressing you as “Franklin.” Please, a mere wandering playwright can’t call the Autistic Director of America’s Major Drama Supermart “Klin,” can he?
Or can I? Well, “Klin,” then. Again. Klin, I am as tickled as a kid with a dildo to know that you are at last in charge after twenty years of ass-, boot-, and apple- -kissing, -licking, and -polishing at that sell-out Byzantine whore-hive.
I wondered who’d slither up the rungs when I saw in the Scoop (no less!) that Cap had abdicated “to do some real living now when time may be short for us all.” Took fear of the Big Bug to make him unhand American theatre, huh? (Or did he, as rumor smiles, simply leave it flat for his first solid offer to direct films?) And Burn, no doubt, is too Burned-out to focus on other playwrights’ fantasies, and Willy and Peggy are in telly, and Viv and Rod are with God or in the sod. Leaves only Cinderella you. “Loyal” to “royal” in twenty twirls around the sun.
And I see you’re actually producing a gay play–about A.I.D.S., of course. That should work for your subscription audience: They love to see us dying of a withering disease.
Got time at the top to read long letters? Beware. I have the motive, the means, and the opportunity: I have twenty years of vintage bile, just fermenting to boiling point; I have Flair pens and Prism notebooks from every school where I’ve ever lectured on The Origins of Underground Theatre, and I have diddledy-squat-zilch else to do. I caught my latest producer today, you see, pick-pocketing the big bucks my latest, late, play raised to benefit that new gay high school; she chose to close our show rather than face audit; and since I returned to New York only to benefit the kids, here I sit idol-idle, reflecting in the glass wall of Phebe’s Bar and Grill, sucking my coffee and blowing my Kool while schools of topical, tropical punks flush by.
Phebe’s used to be full of Off-Off Broadway artists; now it’s full of the audience for the Drama Loft’s non-verbal theatre–and of course you can’t talk to them. One could write a play, of course. One always has. One could commence one’s Later Works. But later, Works. Yes, it’s happened. Right this way, see the ruins: Mister Mass Production disdains to add a new butter-pat to the pyramid of fame. For the first time since the dawn when we hauled Burn’s first set into the Buono, I don’t want to write a play, please. How will Off-Off Broadway survive? As a mess of grant-grubbing grind-houses weekly auditioning swill for the Pig Time, which is all it’s been for a decade now anyway, that’s how!
Oh, Klin, how did it get like this? It didn’t start like this. It started as the Espresso Buono, for Christ’s sake. How did the first free art-theatre world in human history fall into the paws of foundation-fondling pickpockets? Once we would have blamed it on their advanced age, but these grubs are our age (which I choose to think of as “twice twenty-five,” thanks). Some of them actually knelt beside us at the birth, and now–like the bruised bum currently sliming my glass wall with his rainbow nose–they’re panhandling for endowments like they’d never passed an honest hat!
Woops. Probably not the way to rave to someone just elevated to head honcho-hood at a hit-and-run haven like Orbit, hey?
Oh, Klin, Klin, Klin, is it as bad there as rumor smiles and smiles it is? I don’t know, you know. Remember how Burn answered when his first fans said his plays were true to life? “Are they? Hey, I don’t know. I don’t live. I’m an obsessive invert recluse who spends all his time alone, trying to write well. Did I guess right? Is it lifelike? Is life like that?” That’s me, back from two-score years tramping the Earth as Johnny Theatreseed, winning plaques for “encouraging high-school theatre and youth,” asking you, who spent that duodecade subscribing audiences to Orbit: “Is it awful there? How awful is it?” Willy and Peggy stake me to lavish lunches and never mention their years in the Orbit gears; I can’t ask them. And I haven’t talked with Burn and Cap since our Barbaric Big Quarrel (or Bar. B. Q.) when y’all first announced Orbit; I can’t ask them. Can I ask you? I can ask you. I ask you: Is Orbit the Capitalist harem and Freudian torture-chamber that its rejects report? Do y’all do unto others only to get even for the dreck you feel you have to do? Is life like that? Must it stay like that?
Everyone knows Twinkies and petroleum are poison, but we also know the economy would collapse on us if such killer industries closed. We’d rather fry Mohammedans than try electric cars. Is it like that with the yuppie-drivel industry, too? Would they stop subscribing if y’all stopped underwriting their masochistic narcissism? The late Orbit plays I’ve read, even Burn’s, tell them, “You, you are the center of existence; your childhood disappointments are the only important things in the universe; but none of them is so bad it can’t be solved by one winsome chat.”
Is gloop therapy the last task of the Western poet? Or is it still possible to rake through the trash and the cash, make a clearing, build a campfire, and start something simple and loving, honest and kind?
Yes, like the Buono. Hell, I can say it. Like the Espresso Buono. It did happen, you know, only half our lives ago, about halfway between our current opposing glass houses. A stone’s throw. We threw some of the first stones. We were part of it. Parts of it. It was real. Is real. Certainly real-er than this clattering dive I’m cluttering-up now. I’m eating only because they let me run a tab. Which they never try to collect. Because I made this dump world-famous once, you know. But why, as they said at the top of the Tower of Babel, start on another story? I want to remember the Buono.
Hell, I choose to remember the Buono. Barred and grilled, reflecting on dayglo punks and rainbow bums, glaring back at a sun like an enflamed dickhead setting at your end of Fourth Street, stranded among obits and orbits, Flairs and Prisms, grounds and ashes, emitting puns like pawns, I recall the Buono!