a dystopian work in progress – fear & loathing as america burns.

there was a time last week, was it last week? it’s so hard to say these days. but there was a time last week when bolton’s first drip, drip, drips first started to fall that i thought and even said that donnie’s time had probably come, that republicans wouldn’t be able to hold on that much longer, that once public sentiment shifted to support allowing more evidence and witnesses — say, to the tune of seventy-two per cent or so, that they’d turn, just like they did with nixon. there was too much at stake, i tried to reason. but none of this would come to pass, as you well know.

i set out to watch like the engaged and well-educated citizen i am, but found myself continually enraged and disheartened by the unending cascade of treachery, thievery, and scandal, which, let’s face it, i already experience daily existing as an artist/worker in late capitalism america. first it was turtle mitchie’s limiting access to the press with his big brother senate cam — democracy dies in darkness, jeff bezos likes to say. and then the parade of pissant arguments from the likes of mr. underwear and mr. kenny starr that every first year law student down to the high school drop out taking an intro to constitutional law at some run down city college knows is complete fucking bullshit. i know this because i was once that high school drop out. donnie’s claims of a perfect call followed by republicans telling us, yep, he did it, oh well ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

i didn’t have the heart to shut it all off completely, so i limited myself to media commentary like the engaged and well-educated citizen i am, finally putting my $43k and counting uc berkeley media studies degree to work, and in a futile act of self preservation, let the actual trial drone on and on and on in the background on a tolerably low volume, basically almost on mute while i occupied myself with other things.


it really is amazing what you can accomplish with a stack of newspaper clippings, mod podge, and a found canvas, discovered around the corner at eleven o’clock at night on your way home from work after smoking a good sativa. as an artist existing in late capitalism america, i’ll take my materials where i can get them. the sound of the scissor cutting paper, the deeper sound the glossies make versus the lighter sound of newspaper, laying them out, making adjustments, focusing in my mind drifted to other things, but what i cannot tell you, my working meditative, a delightful white noise om of art delivering me from the very american acid trip of terror i found myself laying out on the canvas before me.

every trip gets to the point, though, where you’re just, like, enough already, and you try to will your brain to shut off whatever it is you’re hallucinating at the moment, but it’s just no use because you’ve dropped acid, dummy, and the chemical remains in control. only in this case it is not lsd but the small percentage of american psychos who have taken us all hostage.


i try to take hope where i can get it, some times more successful than others. it’s hard not to let that man get you down, but there’s too much to fight for and too much at stake now. i’ve always said that, but it takes on a deeper meaning having found my great love, them and our little family now always prominent in my mind.

i’d read elizabeth warren over that trial’s dark days, her words reflecting my own story, at times, providing another salve to our great american nightmare, confirming the votes i’ll make in march and november. i’d been for sanders back in ’16, even wrote his name in that november. but bernie’s not out on the stump this year saying the names of murdered trans women of color. and even if he did? we’d still be better served with him in the senate, ushering in waves upon waves of future aocs as we embark upon trying to wake america from her nightmare trip.

eliabeth warren phone bank; iowa caucuses, 3 february 2020.

i signed up to phone bank for the hour that hardball with chris matthews is on, because who wants to be subjected to his shouting and sprays of spittle after being subjected to dump truck donnie’s tirades day after day after day for the last five years? does anybody even watch that show, anyway? it was quite the illuminating exercise, though, i must say. direct participation is an interesting scene. lots of clicks and voicemails, of course. a few bernie folx, pleasant and thoughtful in their answers. i spoke with a woman who, at that very moment was sitting with other warren voters at her local caucus and with a democrat who railed on the party’s so-called “treatment” of trump, who went on to say that her “father would be ashamed that we treated a president like that.” i even spoke with a trump voter. well, not so much spoke with as received a shouted laundry list of the president’s lies and accusations, the kind which end up receiving four pinocchios or whatever the fuck on politifact.

the truth is we have more in common than differences. the problem is the american psychos living in donnie’s alternate reality, bent on steering us all off of the precipice. nothing fit and yet they did acquit. and now here we are…

a dystopian work in progress.

love in the dystopia — fear & loathing as america burns.

dystopia: (n.) an imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.


bay area political discourse.

it’s been a fucking trip, hasn’t it? watching it all unfold before our eyes in real time, streaming twenty-four seven on msnbc, through our feeds, blinks and notifies with another breaking news blip that you, being woke, will now question because you won’t know before you click where the fuck it’s even coming from, these days. and by fucking trip i mean fucking disturbing and by watching it all unfold i mean watching america burn while congress stands around with their proverbial dick in their hand. like. what in the actual fuck is even happening? is this thing on and are these motherfuckers even listening?


fuck, no, clearly, given they’re about to shove another so-called sure shot down our throats for 2020 which is what got us here in the first place. the prospect of which is terrifying, quite frankly, given the present state of fucked-up affairs and the fact that i’m not straight. and not cis. and not rich. and it’s not just dump truck donnie and his band of merry crooks and mascot turtle.


la sylvia is watching.

it is toddlers in cages, rounded up and then separated as their family members seek refuge here — answers to the question yet to be asked, where were they radicalized?; it is north k and russia and the strait of hormuz with war hawks at the helm, chomping at their bits; it is a pride month in which we’re assaulted, in which we’ve died in custody, in which the feed blips again with yet another murder of yet another trans woman of color. i’ve been sitting here almost every day, staring at the blank field before me, wanting to say something, anything, scream out into the ether, but find myself feeling the weight of this fucked-up pride while an ad for the rainbow edition of listerine scrolls by, available in the rainbow section at target, the rainbow section at walgreens, the rainbow section at your local safeway, whichever you prefer.


planning.

yet every morning i’m blessed by their beautiful, loving eyes, their hands and their mind and their art that all fill me and find myself grateful amongst the ruins, the ruins of our country and the ruins of my last year. wax together over coffee & news, the same at theirs as at mine, progression and fury and masked revolution, theory and art — my very great love. found in the dystopia.


breath day chart, from c, my love.

“At least we’re alive to see it,” one of us once said.


a panel by my love & i.

i laid out my angst for them the other day, this angst mixed with joy and with anger, wonder at the miracle of beautiful Us amongst This.

“i’m worried about you,” they said.

they didn’t have to say more. i knew what they meant and i knew what i must do. just as i knew the night we made our first piece.


boos.

i’d pointed out the ross in emeryville as we drove past,

“that’s where they got us, when we went out for mike brown.”

“i would go out there with you.”

“i know you would.”

“and when the time came, i’d take your hand and we’d go.”


this is love in the dystopia.

all images — photographed by pan ellington.

life and death in one hour.

tiny book #1, ca. 2000 – 2006 // photographed by pan ellington.

i first wrote this line on the very first page of the very first tiny notebook i ever carried. begun years ago, the specific number of which i will forgo mentioning here. it was one of those lines that tend to pop into the mind of writers, seemingly out of nowhere, not related to or brought on by anything in particular, or so i thought at the time. i’d written it down for no other reason other than the fact that it sounded cool. and because it sounded like the truth to me. i see now that it more than sounded.


ordinary friday afternoon. i’m in third grade, preparing for our weekly jaunt down the hallway and around the bend to the music room for mrs. jennings’ class. which was at two, school let out at two-thirty, our teacher always had us get our bookbags ready to go home beforehand. i happened to glance out the window as i gathered my things and saw that harry’s van was parked outside.

“he’s a half hour early,” i remember thinking. “weird.”

and then. over the intercom. the school secretary’s voice,

“mandy young, please report to sister mary’s office.”

sister mary was the principal, so no surprise when a couple of classmates teased over my shoulder,

“ooh. busted.”

i walked the short distance from my classroom down the hall to the school office and remember the feeling of the secretary’s hand on the back of my shoulder, on the green plaid strap of my jumper, gently guiding the way.


ordinary sunday afternoon, this one marking the end of a local civic light opera run, one of the few back then i hadn’t worked. i’d shown up to work strike–dismantling rented scenery and set pieces after the last performance, then loading it back onto the truck. i’d taken a load off in the cage in front of the rails to peruse the show program, on the ogle prowl for cute chorus girls.


ordinary late night, riding an mta bus east on western, having decided “fuck it” after waiting too long for the train at willowbrook station. i was zoning out, people watching, grateful to be past usc, probably just ten minutes or so from home in ktown. we all might have seen it at once, a crowd of people spilling out onto the sidewalk and into the street. and then the bus slowed. and then the bus stopped.


ordinary sunday morning, woken slowly, puttering around, sipping coffee while waiting for my toast to pop when i checked my messages, “call me as soon as you get this.” variations on the same theme from more than one of my friends.


ordinary saturday morning. fallen asleep on the couch, i’d woke just after three and stretched myself up off the couch, stumbling off towards the bathroom.


rainy wednesday night. i’d shown up thinking it’d be a class, a seminar sort of thing in which they’d tell you what to put where and send you on your way, just the first step on a path made of many, then left knowing it was done, that it would be filed in two days, that there would be no court fees for me. my god. what?

i looked down at the time on the schedule. five minutes, the next bus forty-five later. oh, fuck. i don’t know the neighborhood, street names, which way is which, and the rain just makes it worse. with the way the ac’s been running i have no fucking time to spare.

rain is pouring down in sheets and i can’t see anything. across the street. yeah, that sign ain’t a bus stop. and there it is, my fucking number across the way, at the light about to turn green across my way. forty-five fucking minutes, there’s no way i’m missing this bus.

i wait for a break in traffic and don’t bother waving. there’s the break and i’m out in the street. and then. out of the darkness, parting falling sheets of water, this car. that stops short just in time. i know it’s close, too close. but i just have to get to this bus. and i do. and when i’m aboard i think to myself out loud,

“life and death in one hour.”

flashes, one right after the other.

finding elizabeth gone. life and death in one hour.

the news told to me that break had died the night before at nocturnal wonderland. the towers would fall the following week. life and death in one hour.

the driver screaming, “HIT THE DECK!!” before the big guns opened up on each other and the driver peeled out the tires on western. life and death in one hour.

opening the program for chorus girls and finding instead those words: dedicated to the memory of marc munoz. life and death in one hour.

walking into sister mary’s office, seeing harry, and hearing his words, “your mother’s died.” life and death in one hour.

the haunting nature of the words i never said.

i stepped out into the still falling sheets, ‘brella down, i tilt my head back and wept.

“goddamn.”

and then laugh my way up to the platform to wait for the richmond train home.


a not so ordinary wednesday morning when the phone rings.

“fuck. it’s the judge.”

we’d been playing phone tag the past few. i’d missed one of the signatures. i’d gone in expecting it’d be just another step out of, not many, at the very least, a few. i walked out, though, and it was done. three orders in my hands that said it was done, decreed it done. life and death in one hour.

decree, 10 april 2019 // photographed by pan ellington.

i stepped out into the sun that day, the hour still morning, holding myself from my want– to share this with them right away, them in my home waiting for my return, well nested in my heart, from that first glance i saw of them across shattuck.

those flashes, those hours propelling me forward, out of the blue and into the pink. knowing again that death is no end. that they all are a part of me now as i begin writing something new.

#amwriting // photographed by pan ellington.

corporate shills & the infinite sadness — fear and loathing as america burns.


I’d been scrolling absentmindedly through my Facebook feed one Sunday afternoon, that most magnificent medium in this technological age for the dastardly motives and political psyops of bad actors, both State and alt-reich, alike — as one does, because just like everybody else, or at least most woke folk, it’s one thing to expound on this shit, but to actually close down out of principle is another matter, entirely. I happened upon a photo a friend from L.A. had posted: a Bird scooter left haphazardly in the middle of a liquor store in Santa Monica somewhere, the caption something like,

Some fool left a Bird scooter in the middle of the store! lol.

with a crying laughing emoji at the end to drive home his point. I perused the smattering of innocuous comments before writing,

Whenever I see those things, I toss them in the street.

My statement was not hyperbole.


Well, actually, it was. In truth I walked it over and placed it there. Now, I realize that such an act would likely be considered radical by most folx I know either way. And I get it. But then I’d point out, you know, the chaotic nature of the company’s particular method of “disruption,” to use the parlance of the Silicon Valley tech bro— the dumping of scooters into unsuspecting municipalities, disregard for rider safety, disregard for whichever new problem that’ll rear it’s ugly head today. I’m not the only one to hold this view, either. I never had a chance to point out any of this to him, though, because he called me an asshole. And who wants to point anything out to someone who just called you an asshole? Other than the fact that he just called me an asshole. Not directly, you understand.

You’re an asshole, Pan, if you pull shit like that. Like, you don’t disrupt by disrupting like that.

Apparently, he failed to see the irony of writing this comment under a photo of a Bird scooter left haphazardly in the middle of a liquor store. Some folx are really taking the whole corporations are people thing to heart, I guess.


mcdonald’s rise and rave, promo card.

It wasn’t long before or after that that I suffered yet another corporate assault by Facebook feed, this time involving the quote, unquote McDonald’s Rise and Rave, an early morning marketing stunt that not only happened, but one attended by someone I know from our time spent playing in the L.A. rave scene, back in the day, as they say.

This was the year 2000, it’s scope not anywhere near what it’s grown into today. Or devolved from, depending upon your view. Illegal warehouse parties at the advent of Web 2.0, you still had to call some random local number to hear the recording to get the map point location, which was where you bought your ticket and got directions to the site. The numbers were always changing, to stay one step ahead of the quote unquote law. Needless to say, you really had to be plugged in to get the latest number from whomever it was gotten from and that was never me. I was just lucky to know lots of folx that were.

Nineteen years later, there he was, the old friend who’d dress up in costume when we’d go out, called never by his birth name, always by his rave name, even to this day. Well, there he was posing gleefully at seven o’clock in the morning with a bacon, egg, & cheese in front of neon golden arches, glow sticks dangling from his neck. At seven o’clock ay, back then, we’d just be streaming out of the warehouse, the music having stopped, stacks of glossy handbills upon our cars, most with remixed corporate logos, the scene’s gleeful subversion of those recognizable symbols of capitalism into knowing nods to drug culture, sex culture, our culture. I couldn’t help but consider the possibility my friend had been this corporate shill all along and that I just didn’t or wouldn’t see it. Or maybe it’s just another one of those fucked-up things about growing up, I don’t fucking know.


freddie mercury & his partner, jim hutton; photographer unknown.

And before or after THAT, because who can really keep track of actual time these days, having to exist in this neverending American Acid Trip of Terror — Bohemian Rhapsody, the smash hit, award winning Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic film everyone is wetting their pants over. You might have read some of the myriad of stories about it in the news: Sacha Baron Cohen leaving the project, Bryan Singer getting fired three quarters of the way through, the profile of the guy who made Rami Malek’s prosthetic teeth, GLAAD rescinding their media award nomination following Bryan Singer’s pedophilliac sex scandal.

While some of these issues warrant discussion more than others, my beef here is with the narrative, itself — written with input from original band members to craft a legacy palatable enough for the PG-13 rating guaranteeing the widest audience possible, Mercury’s queerness is straightwashed, his straight relationship elevated over his queer, timing his AIDS diagnosis to predate Queen’s iconic Live Aid performance, the framing of his behavior and illness within a moralistic context from the heterosexual’s perspective.

I watched my newsfeed fill with pants wetting and praise, mainly from straight folk, comments ranging from trite,

Rami Malek IS Freddie Mercury.

To the passive aggressive,

To everyone who says this movie isn’t “gay” enough, I say, it IS gay. And it is beautiful.

I kept my thoughts to myself, though, limiting my comment on the matter to posting the occasional article link, a snarky comment here and there, until I came upon a montage, titled “Your Week Presented by Freddie Mercury.” The video cycles through the days of the week, presenting a different clip of Freddie to match each day. Each clip in the montage is decidedly gay, Freddie flagging leather daddy, full out glam rock, high camp, full on DRAG. But the day most particularly striking to me is Saturday with it’s clips from what looks to be a private party hosted by Mercury and his longtime partner, Jim Hutton, featuring shots of well shaped, g-stringed asses, Mercury dancing suggestively with and kissing men, the entire coterie dressed in decadent costumes.

I reposted the montage with this caption,

“any of this make it into the film just curious”

and the hashtag

#wontbeerased

I wasn’t looking for a fight. It’s just not the style, manner, or custom I’m down to get behind online. I thought maybe, though, someone’d pipe up to me like this:

Hey, Pan! I see you posting these things about Bohemian Rhapsody. So, what’s your beef, kid?

But, alas, it was not meant to be.

This time. Yet another friend from yet another of my lives — this one my Studio life.

“It sure did! I work for the studio that produced it, and am very proud of this film.”

Perhaps this could open into a discussion, between members of the Tribe, between friends.

“what of the critiques i’ve read from our community?”

I’ll refrain from quoting her paragraph at length here, suffice it to say, it was clear between mention of Mercury’s privacy around his orientation, a claim of historical accuracy, while framing it as “a celebration of Freddie and of Queen, not a biography of Freddie and his sexual orientation,” she even threw in an “in fact” and “furthermore” for good measure — well, it was clear that she had no interest in a free and open exchange with me.


I worked for the same Studio once upon a time. Like I said, another life…

It was one of the cutaways the show is famous for, a short clip of a joke totally unrelated to the plot of the episode, seemingly included for a cheap, frat boy laugh and for no other reason, I heard it for the first time at the table read around the Family Guy conference room table. My heart sunk with a wave of nausea as the people around me laughed and guffawed. There weren’t many of us, but there were enough that I couldn’t understand why the writers and show runners would do this. We were out at work and we were all friends with them. Fellow Gen X-ers, I thought that they loved us. I guess they weren’t as touched by Pedro Zamora back then as the rest of us were.


They say the personal is political, and it is. I realize my view is shaped completely by my first coming out in 1992 and the death of my best friend from AIDS five years later. AIDS, though, itself, is always political, now as it was then, and never exists in a vacuum. One can argue the stigma around HIV/AIDS has lessened and point to wider acceptance of LGBTQ folk to explain away cheap jokes made. One can argue, too, that Mercury was never out and never “sought to be” “a gay/queer icon,” and while that may be true, we must recognize, too, the context in which Freddie made his choices — 1970 to 1991, around heterosexual bandmates, and from a complex, rather intolerant cultural background. By all means, celebrate Queen and the music, but then refrain from the Rami Malek IS Freddie Mercury centering of the film and it’s marketing. I realize, though, that to do that ignores yet another truth. Because, let’s be honest — who knows Brian May except as the guy in the band with the Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook hair.

a grippa film screens for ‘ya.

i was feeling under the weather this week and spent a good deal of time in front of the widescreen, hence this epic rec post instead of the usual, rather skimpy posts on the dastardly facebook page. i’m also finding myself cutting back on the news, because i don’t know about you, but for me it’s just gotten too flipping stressful watching america implode in real time on msnbc.


*streaming on hulu.

The Gospel According to Andre’. // i recognize the fact that much about the fashion industry is problematic. but i can recognize, too, the art and beauty created around it, in clothing and imagery, even in what is written and said about it. enter andre’ leon talley. the film follows his journey from the US south, first as a receptionist at warhol’s factory, then on to vogue under anna wintour. *highlight: wintour waxing poetic on talley’s talents & virtues and those of lgbtq folx, generally.*

*streaming on hulu.

Kusama – Infinity. // painful story, beautiful art. and always a lovely surprise to find the concentration of genius here. it’s always been a fascination for me, though here it takes a dark turn – in the form of men appropriating kusama’s ideas as their own…


*streaming on hulu.

That Summer. // concentration of genius again, in this we see the seeds of the mayles brothers’ Grey Gardens with the likes of capote, warhol, et cetera et cetera romping around the hamptons. a must see for the queers, especially.


*streaming on netflix.

L.A. 92. // research for my next novel, i try to consume as much media as i can from the era i’m writing, hence. that said, i do love my docs these days and this one is truly a remarkable work, comprised of both news and first person footage, you’ll watch it all unfold, almost in real time…


so, there you have it.

’til we meet again, my friends.

–p.