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[whitespace] Millie bites the Big Apple

By Millie

It's Millie's second week in New York, and he's beginning to get a feel for it. As David Byrne says, "This ain't no party/This ain't no disco/This ain't no foolin' around." New Yorkers like it when you show a little backbone. Bare your teeth. Millie's in New York trying to scare up some work--looking up friends who don't remember him and making calls on people who have no time for him. All around him--car horns, barkers, radios and rain; people chattering, cars zooming, sirens screaming; people baring their teeth. Sensory overload on 34th Street.

Millie steals into the Whitney Museum for a respite and to check out Breathe, the new installation by renowned Butoh performers Eiko and Koma, the two artists everyone's been buzzing about. Butoh is that crazy Japanese performance dance style--excruciatingly slow movement, distorted grotesque expressions--the sort of stuff they take entirely too seriously in basements all over San Francisco. It's dance minimalism in response to the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Millie hopes Eiko and Koma have a sense of humor.

Upon entering the darkened gallery, Millie promptly bangs into someone sitting on the floor. It's pitch black, so Millie's eyes take a few minutes to adjust. There's a pool of dim light taking up one side of the gallery. The gallery floor is covered with leaves, sticks and branches. It's the scary sort of place Millie avoids by sticking to concrete environments. Millie sits on a small bench and stares out into the swamp and waits--like everyone else--for something to happen. Ten minutes go by. Just as Millie is about to doze off he notices, near the back of the gallery--a shape, a form, a naked body rolled onto its side lying in the dim light. Everyone's staring at this body, just lying there in the muck.

Millie thinks, "911?" The body twitches. An arm slowly rises and then falls again. Then nothing, for at least five minutes. Then the arm again, and this time the shoulder rises and falls as well. The body is slowly, grotesquely moving across the swamp. The lights fade in and out as if heavy branches are swaying overhead. Just like nature, it's beautiful and unsettling all at once.

Millie watches as this naked body (Eiko?) and then another one from the side (Koma?) roll and contort through the leaves in a slow, deformed dance. Time slows down. The sprawling city outside disappears, and the day simply slips away. Millie is transfixed by every little movement, sitting there in a trance for more than two hours. Eiko and Koma are there for seven hours every day. After a few days running around New York, rolling around naked in a little artificial forest somehow makes perfect sense.

The following is Millie's New York list. Keep it handy for upcoming visits. Florant, the all-night French diner frequented by drag queen hustlers and the late, late crowd; Sean Lennon (really!); Geraldine Ferraro attempting to unseat New York Senator Al D'Amato; English comedian Eddie Izzard's Dress to Kill at the Westbeth; San Francisco transplants Kiki and Herb, the glam-rock lounge singers every Thursday night at Flamingo East in the Village; the biggest parade in New York, the Puerto Rican Day Parade (ignore the Seinfeld episode--it's a blast!); the Mix festival, the world's only queer alternative video fest upcoming in the fall; and the Delta Water Shuttle from La Guardia for only $15, a rare find in New York City--a deal.

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From the July 13-26, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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