The Dearaindrop kids— Joe, Laura, and Billy— were magnanimous enough to have invited me onstage with them (as their “writer”), for a panel on the “Ecstatic Aesthetic,” alongside such fine people as Gary Panter, Fred Tomaselli, Joshua White, and host Alex Grey. The common-denominating “Ecstatic Aesthetic” that we were all there to discuss was supposed to be the newish, pulsing maximalism that many unfortunately cornered into the heading “psychedelia.” Some of the featured folks were well-known as “psychedelic artists”— often fired and inspired by pharmacological means. Others, like Gary Panter, were more known for weird comix and the weirder set of Pee-Wee’s playhouse. So we got a lot of fielded questions turning into run-ons about the Constitution and cognitive liberty, and plenty of woos and claps whenever acid or whatever was mentioned.
I had little to say about drugs. Not that I have no opinions or insights into the matter. Drug Philosophy has just been overplayed; especially in a room of self-described “tripsters.” And I didn’t want to add to the clot of opinions. I wanted to talk about what I call the “American Baroque,” the aesthetic sensibility brought to a sizzle by the dearraindrop kids— the reason I had been so eager to write about their stuff in the first place, under titles like “The Bullet Form History of a Cluttered and Colorful American Mythos.” A new American Mythos, emerging out of the swim of symbols that kids like Joe, Billy, and Laura— among others— were working in. It was also really stuffy in the “Chapel of the Sacred Mirrors.” Packed with hundreds of people at fifteen dollars a head.
So I chimed in about visual language and excess, but sat quietly playing with Milo the cockerspaniel during questions about “entheogens” or work methods. A good way to measure it is: if the chemicals are, in truth, being used as tools and means, then we can talk about the products or revelations or ends, rather than the means themselves. I don’t know. What I learned from drugs— at least from drugs that have a Sublime, unlike cocaine— I could always translate in lucid, everyday experience, even if it was primarily epistemological or about perception. I always had something solid. Most panelists took this angle; that drugs or no, their projects remained the same.
Then we left the conference and had to take a taxi back; because the car was towed to some hell in hidden Manhattan.
I fucked around a bit the next day before climbing onboard the FungWa Chinatown Express (further foreshadowing of the rise of the sleeping dragon) and was delivered safely and happily back in Philadelphia PA by seven or eight.
New York irks me. From what I can tell, it is the single most overhyped city in the world. I get wired for a fantastic time then always leave just a little disappointed. Philadelphia should aspire to be the great anti-New York, or maybe just the great un-New York, a counterbalance to the self-seriousness, professionalism, poshness, and nearly universal money-think in that city. New York is always so busy it bores me. Hipsterism is endemic. People talk about “shoots” and shoe prices at parties. Really alienating stuff.
Okay, okay. Sourness aside, New York is actually a very good city, full of wonderful, beautiful people. It’s just not as good and wonderful as it’s supposed to be. I want Philadelphia to be my Dream City: playful, brilliant, welcoming, hopelessly unprofessional, cheap, uncouth, internationalist without being trop chic or full of fashionisti— Philadelphia can play the sloppy, overeducated college student to New York’s headhunting youngpro. Philadelphia will be logically organized, then, like a university rather than a consulting firm. More like a playground than a crappy hundred-dollar bar with a name like “Rouge” or “Denim”— both of which actually exist in Philadelphia. I want Philadelphia to be a city that runs on energy rather than money, speaking an entirely different language than the galleries, clothiers, and absolutely fabulous from Manhattan and Williamsburg. Philadelphia could one day be the world capital of Rad, if only things fall the right way.