Since a disposable razor is obviously the kind of thing you can hold up a plane with, and I only came here with hand luggage, for the last week shaving hasn’t really been a thing. I could have bought a razor when I arrived, but compared to sitting on park benches thinking DEEP IMPORTANT THOUGHTS and wandering around the streets, it was pretty low down my list of priorities.
In fact if I were to do a photo-journal of at all it would probably be of this, my slow change into wild man of the woods. Firstly all my hair will grow very long and matted, my skin will become entirely scabbed over with mosquito bites and turn into a single callous, my eyes will go yellow, half of my teeth with fall out rotten, and the other half will turn into inch long spikes. My chest will broaden, my back will hunch over. My toes will become long and prehensile.
My own personal grooming aside, the lyric is of course from this song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KaWSOlASWc which, thematically, is one of the most interesting and relevant songs for my project that I’ve come across so far.
For those unfamiliar with it, Walk on the Wild Side chronicles the various Trans* women who came from across the States to New York, and to Andy Warhol’s ‘Factory’ in the 1960s. (As well as Joe Dallesandro, whose crotch was made famous by the Rolling Stones Album, Sticky Fingers.)
Its easy to see why “the Factory” was an appealing place to be for those marginalized by the rest of society, and if Walk on the Wild Side had just told the story of their migration it would still be a really interesting song. But its better than that, of course, because instead of simply relating the journeys of these women, in the first few lines he draws a parallel between changes in gender and changes in spatial location. “Holly came from Miami, FLA
Hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she.”
The linking of female body with landscape is nothing new (for those looking for an example of it done in a particularly creepy and objectifying way look up pretty much anything by Neruda). However by relocating the movement to the woman, instead of the man traversing her she is given ownership over both her body and the real landscape it is compared to. (In Walk, this is the whole of the United States.)
Woman here is not maplike, instead she is the one who cuts across the map, and equally she is not one who simply exists in relation to male desire, she controls and shapes her body to fit her own identification. Much as I love the Kinks, Lola, the other great song about Trans* Women of the 1970s (and which came out the year before) the punchline is very much “a heterosexual Man can actually be attracted to a non cis woman, christ!”
In Walk on the Wild Side the male gaze is only brought in later (especially significant given the the far too often conflation of sexuality with gender identity) at the close of the verse. “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” was allegedly what Trans* prostitutes said to prospective clients, but in the context of the first verse it becomes more. After cataloguing the journey of Holly Woodlawn, the observer is invited to, in some sense, share it, to also “take a walk.” Sex (even sex which has been paid for) becomes not a transaction between explorer and landscape to be discovered, but shared movement.
(Something else which plays with these themes, albeit in a less overt way, is this film http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transamerica_(film) and you should all go and watch it because its brilliant.)
The last night I spent in New York, I went to the Stonewall Inn. For those in need of a history lesson you can get it here, because I’m sick of typing.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonewall_riots Wikipedia is actually very good on this. “The Stonewall Inn, at the time, was owned by the Mafia. It catered to an assortment of patrons, but it was known to be popular with the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, representatives of a newly self-aware transgender community, effeminate young men, male prostitutes, and homeless youth. Police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn, and attracted a crowd that was incited to riot. Tensions between New York City police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and again several nights later. Within weeks, Village residents quickly organized into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.”
The Stonewall Inn now is a pretty big disappointment. On the outside the name is written up in what look like multicoloured Christmas lights, and the inside is full of very bored looking people playing pool and spreading themselves across the bar. Upstairs is Karaoke but at 11.30 it is still empty. I decided to spend the night in another club in Greenwich Village (which reminds me a lot of Jericho), but since it didn’t do much to contribute to the narrative unity of this post it was basically wasted as a night out. (That was a joke, for the record.) Before that, however, I spent the day in Brooklyn.
I wandered around the streets for a long time before finding Greenwood Cemetery. Greenwood is such a legitimate tourist destination they even give you a map in the gate to show you where all the famous people are buried, so I’m not even being a weirdo for wanting to visit. Outside the main entrance to the street is the “Made in Brooklyn Bakery” and the combination of the two remind of of this poem, by Tony Harrison. http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/marked-with-d/
The cemetery gets pretty good marks. It is huge, with loads of rolling hills, trees and lakes. The graves are placed orderly, but not neatly. I like it a lot, though its more grieving parents than horror film.
In the afternoon I went to Coney Island, which is a pretty horrible place. I went on the big wheel which, though it only goes round twice per ticket, got stuck for a good ten minutes while I was at the top for some reason. I sat up there and fantasized about which rides full of happy screaming people I would annihilate first, god like. I destroy, I destroy, I destroy. It was a good afternoon.