Riding with Jesus Part III: a badbadbad tour blog
Mariah Carey slumming in Weird America
Editor’s Note: Jesús Ángel Garcia, author of “badbadbad,” is blogging his book tour. This is his third installment.
Sex, Dance & Drink in Austin & New Orleans
You know you’re in the middle of Nowhere, U.S.A., when the only grocery in town is Lowe’s, and Lowe’s of the sparkling home-improvement rep is dingy floors, barren shelves, zombie cashiers. That’s Ft. Stockton, Texas, a choice sleepover between Tucson and Austin. A few miles east from there off I-10, the motels are $27.99 per night and you can buy a house for $599. Billboards for the American Dream? Signs of the Fallen Empire? I didn’t feel the need to find out. With a tank full of cheap gas, I was gunning for Weird America, where the girls are reared on bloody beef and the beer tastes like pee.
Tourists and locals alike proselytize the city bumper sticker — “Keep Austin Weird” — which stems from a ballot measure introduced by the Chamber of Commerce in the early ’90s to lure trust-fund babies to max out credit cards on “exotic” body shots and novelty tattoos. But who am I to judge? I’m from San Francisco. Weird is not part of my vocabulary.
1. Austin’s only summer reader: Adam, first man and proprietor of Sailor’s Grave Ink. 2. Dollar shots? Lingerie party? Dollar shots.
Allegedly, there’s a literary scene here, but I was told it disappears in summer when English majors crawl home to detox from a tough semester deconstructing the merits of PBR in Post-9/11 Academia. A scene that relies on mass-market hipsterism and itinerant coeds for its lifeblood sounds more like a diversion from studies than a refuge for writers, but maybe that’s just me projecting: I was feeling no love for badbadbad in Austin until I met Adam on the street outside his shop. “You read novels?” I said. He tossed me ten bucks to support, as he put it, my “weird project.”
I wasn’t able to set up an Austin show in advance, so I planned to hit a couple of open mics, play a few songs off the novel’s soundtrack, but I bailed after seeing the lack of respect for musicians, who are everywhere in this town and seemed to be taken for granted despite world-class talent like this guitarist I met over chicken-fried steak at Paradise Cafe. Luis Bañuelos had something like 36 shows lined up in the next month. I showed him my book. He showed me this video:
Video: Luis Bañuelos vying for Rodrigo y Gabriela’s fanbase.
Outside of the legendary Red River Street venues like Stubb’s and Emo’s, live music seems to serve as background noise for overdrinking, drunk texting and updating facebook statuses: Dooooood lingerie party at paradise dollar shots. You’d think bottle-blonde amazons in negligees pouring 100-proof gulps of heaven might somehow entertain if not enlighten, but it felt more like a marketing gimmick no one enjoyed, least of all the half-clothed. Better times would be found on the street and in the clubs:
Video: Overdrinking rock ’n’ reel in the Texas capital.
Thanks to a poke from Karen the Small Press Librarian, who just published one of the most thorough reviews of my novel yet, I called on indie bookshop Domy (and Waterloo Records) before heading out of town. The buyers in both places were open to, let’s say, the unique qualities of badbadbad (after I double-assured Domy my work wasn’t pushing a “Christian agenda”) and they each purchased outright — no consignment, praise Jeeeeesus! — a couple of books and book/CD combos. There’s a smart idea, I now thought: pitch the local retailers in every city on the tour. New Orleans, for one, would surely embrace the badbadbadness.
1, 2, & 3. Hard-drinking lit lovers at Antenna Gallery.
Wrong. It seems all anyone wants to do in NOLA is drink and dance and fuck in front of a live audience. The bookshops had no interest in non-consignment, the locals spent their money exclusively on drinks, and the exhibitionists were out in force: dry humping in a cage at the Dungeon; flashing ass, thong and hot-pink lips on the wind-up bull at Bourbon Cowboy; performing naked blood rituals with wannabe vampires at The Garlic Stake (where, incidentally, I chowed on the rawest, raddest cut of rib-eye ever). Fantasy is reality on Bourbon Street at least. A ragged old hen there tried to wave me into a pit where she promised, “World-class sex acts!” I was like, what are they gonna do that I haven’t done myself? I said, darlin’, I’ve got your world-class sex. Wanna buy this book? She said she didn’t read.
1. Hannah Miet & Jesus Angel Garcia: Live Nude Words. 2. Melissa & Leah, pre-show fashion consultants (“No jacket, loose shirt”) with the ghost of Mamie Van Doren.
So alright, New Orlins (don’t say New Or-leans, nor N’awlins) was a good badbadbad town for the full-blown multimedia jam. I shared the mic with the irrepressible Hannah Miet, Brooklyn native interning at the local daily newspaper, and we went with the “Live Nude Words, Music & Movies!” bill at Antenna Gallery, a sweet space in a quiet neighborhood where all the seats were filled with artists and art lovers, one of whom, Leah Meltzer, joined me on stage for a cold reading of a romantic scene from the novel. When she came to the word “pussy,” she said, “It.” When I asked her about this later, she said she wanted to say “cunt.” She gave me her phone number.
1. Yoni Worship: Hannah Miet & a new friend.
Ms. Miet opened the show with a piece from a book she’s writing about her brother who suffers from a complicated relationship with reality. He’d be right at home in New Orleans, I thought, as she described teaching him as a teenager how a penis goes in (and out) of a vagina. On second thought, the city would eat him alive. Not his sister, though.
Notice in the photo to the left how boys gaze in wide wonder, almost religious veneration, when up-close with The Vulva — we all do this — while girls of the equal-opportunity persuasion like Ms. Miet go right for the clit. This may be why heterosexual relationships are such a challenge to sustain. They often start from the lofty heights of goddess worship and end with arguments about dishes, laundry and who left their hair in the drain. Make no mistake, Hannah Miet is a goddess: poet, essayist, journalist, fearless grad student in a discipline that’s on its way out as a viable career choice. Her intellect and eloquence will always trump any hair she may shed in the shower. She’s one of the first real-feeling people I met on Twitter way back when. I’m doing this tour, in part, to see if the digital personas match the flesh-and-blood. So far, not bad at all.
* * * * *
Playlist highlights from the 100-degree highway: “Ramblin’ Man,” X, Fiona Apple and this:
Next up: On being blown off the stage in Nashville and hot times in the ATL.
— Jesús Ángel García is on the road with badbadbad, a transmedia novel, sponsored by Domy Books, Waterloo Records and tchoupitoulas chicken, courtesy of Bobby Hilliard. News, reviews and literary booze here.