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Getting Older With Iggy Pop


I hadn't seen Iggy Pop since I'd gotten sober.


And I hadn't seen Tracy Goodheart up close since a party more than a decade ago, 3 years after that teenage one-night stand.  Dex got the tickets and invited her, all of us now living in San Francisco.  It was friend Dex who told me she worked in the clothing store I had already sneaked past a good month ago.  That's when I saw her dressing the mannequin in the window, her own hair pulled back in severity, face lined in bitterness of divorce, bottom spread in a skirt to hide it.  A heat had seized me for days until I saw her, that eternal hope that this would be it, my soul-mate I pretended to disdain, my heart-link, my next big fling at least.  But seeing her in that window killed the fantasy.


Now we stood in the Fillmore waiting for Iggy Pop to take the stage, and I was allowed in the discreet lighting to examine her as she talked with Dex.


She was a big fan as I was a big fan, a taste for Iggy Pop we'd both developed in the years that followed that Santa Cruz college party of Buff Winger's, where he turned the dorm lounge into a huge maze, a honeycombed tent of black vinyl.  Buff, now a successful stand-up comic, used to throw naked parties that might never be equaled in my life, even as I somehow had the strange fortune to get picked up by Tracy Goodheart that night in '72, a campus queen of cheerleader shag that, 16 years after she drew me closer in the dark and I came too soon (then relating horror films until dawn), I could still see in her face, mainly the green eyes of a color rarely found, not even in the false color of contact lenses that were all the rage of 1988 (so that people resembled extras from some zombie picture), and the exquisite chiseling of her features that reminded me that this was one of the most beautiful women I had ever had sex with (when I was 19 - now nearly 35), and I wondered if she would in fact be the most beautiful woman I ever had sex with in my entire life, as if it mattered with her face of divorce and her stand-offish fear and her manner of "Are you man enough to fix me?" and her casual mention of the neurosurgeon she met "who was interesting" meaning that Dex and I were not candidates to be that future husband 2.  Dex himself with a crush on her that had lasted 16 years and not even a one-night stand where he came too quick, although it was debatable which was a better fate in the vastness, for she had rejected me age 19 even as I went to pick up that short story I had written to show her what I thought my true self, begging for understanding where I now hopefully begged to understand, but when I saw her at the Iggy Pop concert I thought back on giving her that short story and the ache of creeping horror that perhaps very little had changed for any of us except the encroachment, the war with bitterness that I had side-stepped only by leaving Los Angeles where I had tried to be a screenwriter and now healed up with a Tibetan lama living with him in a meditation center in the Haight.  Dex himself, back from Paris where he'd worked at being a rock'n'roller, before that, his own stint in L.A. where he'd worked on god-awful BEAST, a wild animal picture that took years to finish (Dex a film editor), and the film so miserable it was never released, sending Dex on to Paris where he preferred rock to film.  Now he was back in S.F. plinking his guitar into a portastudio, still with ambition, even as his hair grayed and receded, though his body still firm as a hero's, a martial artist with the physique to show it, his face miraculously like the Clint Eastwood he had admired as a teen.  Myself of dyed black hair and ninja flat-top, thinning at the crown of the skull, face still boyish but for how long, no career in sight now that L.A. was abandoned, kicking around as a temp word processor, finishing a secret novel, WILD KINGDOM, though frightened if it too were rejected, dating a woman who drove a motorcycle, bused tables and had a Chinese demon dog tattooed on her left shoulder blade and I liked her for all three of these things, perhaps only "art trash" understood me, the modern 1988 post-beatness reminiscent of 1948, when again it was important to belong to society and make money, not that I hadn't tried, I had just slipped through the cracks, I didn't know how to be a yuppie, though I did know a good demon dog when I saw one.


And now here to see Iggy Pop, who'd been around since the early '70s, and since then, his own age 41, with a huge underground following, promoted even by international superstar David Bowie for a good decade, but he was just too weird to catch on big like the talents that had imitated him for years.  Iggy Pop the Original Punk, known for his impossible gymnastics and incandescent madness on stage, used to cut himself up in his youth, later to bleed from the nose on talk shows with coke abuse.  Now he was said to be clean and sober, and photos showed him grinning and healthy, even as I myself had been 2 and a 1/2 years without a drink or drug and the same was said of me, that I no longer looked haunted or bloated, as the canned music before he took the stage played Tuxedomoon's "No Tears for the Creatures of the Night" and Plastic Betrand, both essential some 8 years earlier making me thrash on the floor of an underground gay bar on "Breeder's Night", a fish too stoned to know it was dying.


Again I had just too much of a history, suddenly things were catching up, and I wondered where I'd be in another 10 years, Nepal?  A cabin somewhere?  Or myself with the (new happy) family that had eluded me even as those married now with rich lawyer husbands might find themselves despairing in a decade.


Best not to think of any of it, as I stole another sidelong glance at the perfect chiseled features of Tracy, her once-magnificent torso covered in literally layers of clothing that still did not break a bead of sweat on her movie star brow in the tight humidity of the Fillmore.  We stood up in a side balcony, having staked our territory and endured "Sonic Heaven", an L.A. band of vague Heavy Metal and Stones pretensions, with an impossible lead singer of swagger that reminded me again of history, my own efforts at being a poet rocker some 8 years ago, my own band that had practiced in fungused wet rehearsal spaces of stained and burned rugs and a thousand beer cans, mostly mine, our pathetic 45 I still had a closet of, a song which used the title "Devils's Sundance", an underground film by Joe Madd (not-his-real-name), himself a ceremonial magician who threatened to hex me if I used the title and after a psychic attack nightmare and in general deference to his rep as indeed capable of hex, I backed down.  I stayed away from devils now, unless they were tattooed on a woman's body.  A macho line, but in fact it made the women macho to my own femmed-out self that could weep at the sight of a dead cat on the road.  I was looking for balance.


But a wave of excitement - some Tasmanian devil had whirled out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon and hit the stage.  I thought - what, another opening act?  In fact, I couldn't recognize Iggy, his body maybe 10 pounds scrawnier, his hair longer and bleached blond as it had been in his early days with the Stooges, but with two-inch roots and dried to stiff straw.  His face - so gaunt, drawn and horsy I didn't recognize him.  His body - amazingly rock-hard and youthful but that scarecrow face was at once breath-taking and unnerving in its ravaged poetry, a Mt. Rushmore of rock, and he spun his body and kicked up his heels literally between his shoulder blades like some gremlin in zero gravity and seized the mike to mesmerize the punk audience that had found him 16 years after he'd been with the Stooges and I wrestled with Tracy in a warm dark of vinyl. 


Iggy's behavior truly seemed like a madman's, but at the same time it was history again, an orphan of rock that perhaps would fade from this finest moment, his last album had still not shot him into the charts and it was obvious from that face that there were few years left for breaking in.  He would be reminisced and discovered like Poe.  And perhaps with Poe's fate, even as he yelled at being that atom age orphan, "Forgotten boy!" he shrieked with a true Hamlet-like intensity, over and over again, so that I felt tears hot on my face and amazed how this rock 'n roll moment had affected me, it was his Brando truth, it was true of me, true of the entire audience who had been drawn to see him, it slipped through our fingers and the fingers grew stiff.


But Iggy wasn't stiff.  He threw himself into the audience twice, beating his chest and flicking his long tongue in a parody of cunnilingus, exhorting his audience to lick his "brown asshole".


And then it was done, and the audience, whipped up into a rather ugly need, pushed out of the Fillmore like New York subway rush hour, and I knew if I slipped, I would be stomped very possibly to death.


I told Dex and Tracy I had to get up before dawn.  I had the shrine bowls to fill with water back at the lama's.  This dichotomy might have intrigued an demon dog woman, but it didn't intrigue Tracy, who's heart beat for surgeons and yet she was drawn to monsters like Iggy, though she had whispered to me in a brief moment of allowed closeness, "I don't think he's clean anymore," and no, he did not appear clean, in fact his performance suggested someone completely crazed on speed, as did his haggard whippet face and body, and I thought as I filled those shrine bowls before dawn: good luck Iggy Pop - take care Dex - Tracy, may you find your man - even as the bowls filled in the flickering candles with a sepia brass glow.



 [Originally published in NHS 2001, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs01/olmsted.html.]