Catapult is a platform founded in 2015 by Elizabeth Koch, with the mission of publishing “stories that celebrate life…Stories that reveal all the layers—the sinews and hairy knuckles, the iron and meat of history and influence…stories that land us squarely, concretely, in someone else’s shoes.”
My first essay for the platform was a chance to unpack my distinctly non-linear career path, to contextualize sex work as labor, and to outline how my stint as a traveling salesman has fueled my creativity.
Having serpentined through many art/finance divides, I find that this unlikely gig sustains my writing practice in ways large and small. I love traveling through my territory, and the places and spaces it affords for writing: Amtrak and commuter rail cars, airplanes, small-town coffeehouses, anonymous motels. I feel something akin to Maya Angelou, who said of writing in hotels, “I go into the room and I feel as if all my beliefs are suspended. I value the perspective on my environment I’ve gained from getting to know the 400-mile radius around me.”
I was on the bill for this celebration of the life and work of Dean Johnson, in support of an upcoming feature documentary from Lola Rocknrolla. I opened the second set by delivering the Living Dean Manifesto, and then reading excerpts from “Raunch Daddy,” the second story in Worker Names. From the manifesto:
There was a spiritual component to Dean’s lifelong work, all of it, the parties, the music, the drag, the performance, the hustle. In 2007, the Times quoted me saying,“Dean was a New York landmark, like a tall tower or a tourist attraction.” Today I’m gonna tell you something else about Dean that you weren’t ready for back then: Dean was a Pagan God. His irreverence was absolutely necessary and his fury was holy: Fuck thermo-nuclear war, fuck Mary Tyler Moore (I mean, rest in peace Mary Tyler Moore, but also fuck Mary Tyler Moore.) Big Red was the God in charge of dislodging the Judeo-Christian hold on the sacred, with its tedious cycles of guilt, castigation, and redemption. We are sacred. This gathering is sacred. Music, dance, celebration: sacred. Sex is sacred, drugs are a sacrament, prostitutes and artists are sacred, our naked bodies are sacred, queer people are sacred.
The reading took place at the charming Charmers Cafe in the Jarvis Square neighborhood of Chicago. The excerpt I read ended with these lines:
Something about seeing this aristocratic British man tied to his throne with his own silk had soothed him, like the synchronized click of jail door magnets on multiple strike plates. Behold my colonizer!
For this mash-up of two Club Cumming events, Reading for Filth got naked for Drink and Draw. Sketchpads out! I gave a read-aloud version of my essay on kink published by the Rumpus:
…I act out a shadow play of a naked and fearless man confronting the reign of solitude. He wants to see it conquered, and I want a warm new hostage. He sees it with his eyes, his deep stare containing the vastness of the night sky. He feels it in his soft, vulnerable places, as I detect his silent pulsing above traffic and sirens. He inhales the scent of conquest flowing from my glands, as I lay claim to more dark territory.
Our founder Dean Johnson died in Washington, D.C. ten years ago to the day. Some of you here knew him and some of you didn’t so let’s pay tribute! East Village legend. Dean and the Weenies–seminal queercore band. He rocked drag on his tall skinny punk frame– the original bald queen. He faced homophobia in the music industry. As he wrote in his blog:
On the night of the Summer Solstice, I filled in at the 🌈 PRIDE edition of Reading for Filth at Eastern Bloc. Told the story of being a gay sperm donor in my twenties:
Nurse Stern, who was separated from me by a Lucite wall, just like in a money bank, slid a stack of porn magazines and a little cup through the deal tray. The porn was all hetero, of course–one issue of Juggs, a Leg Show, the one on the bottom pretty hardcore. I wordlessly pushed the porn back at her, keeping the cup. We glared at each other for a hot minute through the speak hole, then she pointed towards a small room with a bench and a counter.
Reading for Filth is back at a new venue–– the transitioning Eastern Bloc (soon to be Alan Cumming’s aptly-named venture, Club Cumming). For the 4/26 inaugural reading, I brought “Raunch Daddy” a short epistolary:
All is illusion except for your odor, mi norteño. Let me also remind you that it’s quite inconvenient–given my populist and anti-imperialist leanings–to be so enraptured by your capitalist body.
I was cast in the live storytelling event RISK! which is produced and hosted by the balls-out Kevin Allison. The show was at the Theatre Fairmount in Mile-End. Any excuse to visit MTL, NYC’s cooler sluttier older sister who speaks French. Told the story of smuggling my ex across the 49th parallel back in the 90’s. Podcast:
Dominick Reading for Filth is an illustrated chapbook with transcripts from live readings, published September 2013. Available in the US, UK and Europe from CreateSpace at the link.
From: “R U Available?” p. 59:
I’m willing to put it all out there, to own it, to be my whole self. I’m able to love this person with this story, today. In fact, I’m ready to love all the people who figure into this story: earnest President Obama, the feckless Bush administration, the angry teabagger mob, my dead sugar daddy, Dean Johnson, the Republican Undertaker, Arpad Miklos, the obese fisting bottom, the Caribbean cock gobbler, diligent, focused HedMaster, that hot mess from New Jersey, Gabriel, his Brazilian dentist, slutty Christian, Emo Boy, and the inscrutable Nurse Freddy. May you be honest, may your teeth be straight and may you love, care for and comfort everyone in your lives.
So to the question: “R U available?” The answer is: a little more each day.