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INFERNO Katy Perry’s Guy

ERIKA LINDER Punk Couture

The Extremist Manifesto

NICK ZEDD

Remembering

LOU REED

photo by ALLEN GINSBERG

Anger Management

BRIAN BUTLER

FASHION RODARTE ZANA BAYNE VIVIENNE WESTWOOD Introducing CORAL CASTILLO JOSHUA MADDOX LITERATURE Urban Appalachia Tales From the Red Holler

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PUBLISHER’S LETTER Dear friends,

Our mission is simple. We want to add another type of voice to the world We believe that this voice is a vital one, a unique written and visual language that has been long gone from publishing. We aren’t saying it has never been around before now. You see it on occasion in many different titles. You know it when you see it, because it has impact. It’s a reminder of who you are, who I am. It is sometimes a voice of reason, sometimes an “AHA” or an “AH”. But Black & Grey is this voice ALL THE TIME. We don’t want a mass-produced and mass-marketed visual language in our pages. We think you are too sophisticated for that, and our readership is too savvy to be taken in by dishonesty and the obfuscation of glorious, messy, startling reality. We want to be THE honest, straight-up cultural barometer. We think you and our readers deserve that. We think you want that. The noblest function of art is to raise the level of human consciousness on this planet and to celebrate and enrich our lives. We oppose the idea that most people can’t understand art, and the view that the fewer people that understand art the greater it is, and that if nobody understands it at all, it must be a masterpiece. You know that is bullshit, and so do we. We work against that premise. Yves Saint Laurent once said of fashion “although not a true art, needed artists to survive.” From the visual intensity of film, street art and photography, and the sophisticated storytelling of a modern writer - we explore it. We want to make the great majority of the people respond to the highest ideas that exist in society - and at the same time, give you something that is worth keeping after the season is over. There is always that intimate personal level, we aren’t afraid of it. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, we avoid self-aggrandizing, but we take our mission very seriously. We are not innately left or right, black or white – if you look at issues clearly are they that immovable? We love fashion, but don’t follow the seasonal trends. We look for what moves us, and what moves you - we think that’s important. BLACK AND GREY is a perspective, a point of view, a filter or lens that we deliver our world through to our readers and more - the world. Thank you for allowing us to do this, again. Wherever we are, thank you for being with us. Welcome to this issue, we call it, “INFERNO.” Onward,

Bil Brown Founder/Publisher, Editor-In-Chief Black & Grey magazine Los Angeles, California BLACKANDGREYMAGAZINE

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Vo l u m e 3 n u m b e r 1

Publisher/Editor-in-chief Editor

Bil Brown

John Branscum Managing

Creative Directors

Bil Brown

Editor

Michael Burchek III

Kent Cothron

Christopher Alvarez

Art Director Drew Pluta Stylists

Lina O’Connor

Joshua Maddox

Coral Castillo

Brittany Belz

Featuring Erika Linder Charlotte Stokely Chelsea Rae Kit Reeve Jen Foley Brianna Garcia Alicia Vigil Mia Kerr Ashley Smith Noot Seer James Franco Paz de la Heurta Nettie Harris Laura Via Allis K Joseph Michael Rose Tessa Frances Photographers Bil Brown Olivier Zahm Roberto Aguliar Brian Ziff Jorge Kremer Allen Henson Michael Simmons Christopher Alvarez Joshua Maddox Writers

John Li Branscum Bil Brown Nick Zedd Yasmine Kittles Wayne Lee Thomas Susan Woodring Marilyn Liu Nicole Blackman Kim Fowley

Special Thanks

Nicole Blackman Anne Waldman Michael Donovan NEXT BMG DNA LA models VISION Elite London Ford Paris Todd Pendu Zana Bayne MILK studios Shannon and William Dean

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TOC INFERNO Pretty Little Things

Roberto Aguilar

Entertaining Strangers Look

Gemma Flemming

Greta

Brian Ziff

Tryst

Allen Henson

Divorce

John Li Branscum

Bil Brown

Laudnum

Jorge Kremer

The Bartzabel Working

Brian Butler

Fashion Week Communique The Extremist Manifesto Lust & Lies

Bil Brown & Jason Stoneking

Nick Zedd

Brianna Garcia

Ballenka Susan Woodring Babylon Working

Brian Butler

The Adventures of Breasts Jubilee

Erika Linder

The Dragon Manual INFERNO No Why

Marilyn Liu

Wayne Lee Thomas

Bil Brown

Yasmine Kittles

Clint Catalyst AFTERWARD

photo by Olivier Zahm

photos by Dirk Mal

The LOU REED Factor

photo by Allen Ginsberg

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FERNO “Tu lascerai ogne cosa diletta più caramente; e questo è quello strale che l’arco de lo essilio pria saetta.” - Dante Alighieri

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Charlotte Stokely underwear American Apparel tee Original Tomboy by Alicia Hardesty photos Bil Brown

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FA S H I O N A R T

Kit & Jen are wearing Vivienne Westwood

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Pretty Little Things

models Kit Reeve, Jen Foley stylist Lina O’Conor photos Roberto Aguilar mua Jo Sugar (Dermalogica and Armani) hair Akos Bodi

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FICTION

ENTERTAINING STRANGERS by JOHN LI BRANSCUM

To admit a belief in demons is not encouraged in polite society ---

much like a belief in fairies, marital swinging, or (in the circles that I run in) free market capitalism. If you make such an admission, you will not be invited to parties. You will not be left alone with children or pets. You will not be asked for romantic advice. But I have seen them. In fact, my family has a long history with demons. Imagine this: The night air of Big Flat, Arkansas filled with country sounds and the silence of no near neighbors. My freshly married parents snoring like hogs, exhausted from their jobs --- my father’s hard day of hauling hay for Uncle Harold and Mom’s job at the Tyson chicken factory which made her cry at night and come home smelling of singed hair, where she wrestled chickens out of drawer-like cages and burned their beaks to stubs. Mountain fog, wet and opaque, drifts around the cows and the hills, coils into the wheel wells of the trucks, drapes over the handlebars of the primered dune buggy, and makes the sink holes steam. My father, handsome, apple-cheeked, and curly-haired, wakes up. He’s heard something. He tunes into his surroundings. The electric generator rhythmically thumping like a wet towel smacking metal, the crickets chirping, the groaning of the trailer as it slowly sinks into the earth as all things must. And then there it is again. A voice calling his name. He touches my mother’s cheek to see if she’s awake. She’s not. “Johnny,” the voice calls. The voice sounds like my mother’s, but she’s asleep beside him. Yet, peering into the darkness, impossibly he makes out her shadowed face in the doorway that separates the bedroom from the kitchen. But no, it’s not. Not her face. It’s a hungry face, hungry like he’s never seen a human face before. “Johnny,” the voice calls. My father puts his feet on the cold floor, thinks better of it. It is not my mother. It is something disguised as my mother. Terrified, he shakes her awake. “I heard something,” he says. She wakes briefly, mumbles, and falls back asleep. He curls around her protectively for the rest of the night. When he tells me about this years later in a room full of grimy peeling floor tiles that he’s sharing with another alkie/drifter in Corpus Christi, I think of the legend of the doppelganger, literally the double walker, a manifestation of one’s dark side that roams around on its own accord --much like our thousand thousand dream selves conduct their strange transactions at night.

In some accounts, the doppelganger is not evil but a product of a spiritual trauma that has temporarily separated the spirit from the body. For example, the English metaphysical poet, John Donne, claimed to have seen his wife’s doppelganger in 1612 in Paris, on the same night as the stillbirth of their daughter. Similarly, Abraham Lincoln was haunted by a double image of himself in the mirror preceding his assassination. One of the reflections looked dead. *** I was/I am terrified of demons. Not only of familial ones which I suspect might nestle inside me like burgeoning cancer cells but of demons infesting the house, creeping into my body, and jettisoning my soul for good and always. Sometimes, when I hear a strange noise in the dark, I recite the exorcism prayer that had been said over my sister Shirley Jean as the family minister, the perfectly named Mr. Able, pressed his hand to her forehead. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, I rebuke thee.” When I was a teenager, several nights a week I would battle demons for the possession of my body. I suffered from what is called “sleep paralysis with hypnagogic hallucinations.” This impressively clinical phrase refers to a state where your brain gets caught between its sleeping and waking modes. Whatever the chemical is that paralyzes your body while you dream (thus allowing the same nerve signals to fire as if you were awake) flooded my system so that I couldn’t move. At the same time I was perfectly aware of the minute details of the room in which I lay, dream imagery in the form of demons would fill my visual field. Their coming would be heralded by a humming noise which I thought then was the wall that separated the everyday realm from the spiritual one --- like an electric fence God had put up. Anyone can hear this humming noise, though nobody is sure what it is. Some people think it’s simply air doing weird things in the aural canals. Other people think it’s the electrical charge of one’s own body. Whatever it is, if you focus on the faint humming, it becomes steadily louder. I myself would focus on it against my will. If I tried to ignore it, this made me even more conscious of it. Soon I was as hypnotized as a chicken by a straight line drawn in front of it, and then my body would freeze up. When it did, I panicked, because at the same time it froze I felt something approaching. Squinting into the darkness of the room, I could make out a cloudy form --- an eye here, a tooth there, but nothing else. I was sure of one thing. That whatever this spirit was, BLACKANDGREYMAGAZINE

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it wanted to destroy my soul and take over my body. I tried telling myself that it was simply a “hypnogogic hallucination” but the phrase which had seemed so comforting and reasonable before I went to sleep sounded ridiculous now. I knew for sure, in that state, that it was a demon. Frantically, I would try to wake myself, convinced that if I could just move a finger, just that, and break my paralysis, I’d be safe. The figure drifted closer. “In the name---” I mentally intoned and tried harder to move a finger. “Of Jesus Christ of Nazareth---” I could feel its presence now – a tingling. I willed for someone to come in my room and wake me. “---I rebuke thee.” It was over me now like the lid of a coffin. Miraculously, I always broke out of my paralysis right before my body was taken. Still, I felt the same degree of terror each time this event occurred. Of course, I knew then, I know now, that it was simply a brain blip. Yet did this mean that was all it was? Love after all can be considered spiritually, biochemically, electrically, or psychoanalytically --- without any of the dimensions of its existence invalidating the others. Who knows what further dimensions or ways of looking at love will come to fruition in the centuries ahead? Wasn’t it possible that getting caught between waking and sleeping made you aware of another realm and, what’s more, made the denizens of the other realm aware of you? The hypnagogic explanation just answered “how” but not “what” or “why.” Out of the countless people I’ve talked to who’ve suffered the same thing --- atheists and religious people alike --- their “sleep paralysis” also generally took the form of being menaced by evil spirits. This struck me as quite a coincidence. When you considered dreams themselves, that what you saw in them was highly individual --dependent on what you ate that day, what happened at the office, what you and your girlfriend argued about, and whether or not the news had announced yet another new strain of apocalyptic flu --- why should the dream imagery associated with sleep paralysis be any different? What struck me as even more strange is that you found this connection both cross culturally and cross temporally. In cultures as varied as Icelandic, Malaysian, Pakistani, Ethiopian, Chinese, and Turkish, experiences like mine are also attributed to demonic attack. In Greek culture, the demon is called “Mara”, “Vrahnas”, or “Varypnas”. In Yoruba culture (where the event is called “ogun oru” which means nocturnal warfare), the sufferer resists the infiltration of body and psyche through Christian prayers or other exorcism rituals much like I was attempting to do. And apparently sometimes the demons won. In Filipino culture, “bangungut” or sudden unexplained death syndrome has traditionally been attributed to such states and a vast number of Hmong Indians have died in their sleep, prompting the Centers for Disease Control to create the term “Sudden Unexpected Nocturnal Death Syndrome.” The more I read up on the phenomenon, the more the stan30

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“I saw one of them,” Bill says.

dard textbook explanation seemed lacking. The African “witch riding your back” and the American Southern “the hag riding your back” alike conjured the Medieval belief that succubae and incubi haunted the night and attacked sleepers. Why this consistency unless there was something to the idea? Of course as a fairly rational human being, I’m inclined to reject the existence of demons. But reason is a surface phenomenon like hoar ice. Beneath reason are parts of the psyche that do not care what reason has to say. *** When I’m about nine, we move to University Estates on the outer fringes of Elizabethtown, into the ugliest brick house there, to be closer to stepfather Gary’s job at the highway department. The yard has the mange, bare spots punctuated by sickly looking grass, and the driveway is tilted to one side and cracked down the middle as if our house is the Bizarro version of the other houses in the neighborhood. At his work, Gary meets a young guy named Bill who comes over to supper a few times and then one day pulls a small silver trailer into the yard, chained to his impressively exact replica of the General Lee. Bill’s a sweet, stocky country boy with a soft moustache who wears flannel shirts and jeans. Women are prone to get crushes on him, but he blushes easily and becomes tongue-tied around them. Bill and I become quick friends for some reason --- possibly the boyishness in him responding the boyishness in me --- and I often pester him to drive me to creek where we go fishing for mudsuckers. At this time in my life, I’ve decided to become a great artist, particularly an illustrator of robots and rocket ships. But while these are perfect subjects for my rudimentary two-dimensional skills, I become bored and move on to demons. I draw them: demons with two heads, demons with horns, demons with eyes on their chest, with snake tails, demons that look like women who look like men, with blue eyes and brown, demons with six wings and farm animal heads. One morning, I show Bill a sheaf of my drawings. He sips his coffee, dips a piece of coffee-cake in, and scans the colorful array of creatures. “Mmmm,” he says patiently. “That’s good. Real good, John.” That seems to be the end of it. A bit of show and tell. A few mumbled words of praise. But then, later that night, Bill returns. He’s white as a sheet and shaking. “What is it?” Asks my mother. She draws close to him and touches him on the arm. I’ve seen her staring out of the kitchen window longingly as his trailer sometimes.


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“Saw one of what?” She asks.

“I saw one of them,” Bill says. “Saw one of what?” She asks. “I saw one of John Ervin’s demons on the road when I was driving home.” I am filled with an incredible sense of power and amazement but this turns to fear. I conclude that one has to be careful what one draws or says, that the ink of the world we use for our private creations can spill over for it is borrowed ink. *** Purely spiritual beings, including demons, occur in the mythology of nearly every culture. There is Crocell, one of the seventy-two demons constrained by King Solomon, who manifests as an enigmatic, geometry-teaching being who is also in charge of warming bodies of water. There are the extremely polite, cucumber-loving Japanese Kabba who have depressions on their heads filled with magical water. To defeat them, you simply need to bow and, when they bow in return, the water empties and they are rendered immobile until it refills. I consider many of the religious ideas I was exposed to as a child --- Noah’s flood, the travails of Job --- as now simply instructive myths. But demons? Once you become acquainted with history, with the universe of bizarre ideas and concepts that mark the turning of the ages, the existence of spirits becomes less difficult to swallow. After all, how much of this immense universe are we able to comprehend much less perceive? Considering the question of extraterrestrial life, the physicist Michio Kaku commented that we would be as unlikely to recognize evidence of it as an ant would be to understand that the superhighway running past nearby was an artifact of superior intelligence. Up to the Middle Ages, the contention that monsters --- so tiny that they’re invisible unless you look at them with a magic eyeglass --- exist and can invade the body to cause physical or mental illness would have been considered a belief in demons. In 16th century Japan, human illness was commonly believed to be the work of such tiny malevolent creatures. Harikikigaki, a book of medical knowledge written in 1568, introduces 63 of these beings and describes how to fight them with acupuncture and herbal remedies. One might frame these similarities so that a story is told where a more enlightened understanding of microscopic life has replaced a previous, backwards superstitious belief in demons. But it seems to me, one could equally say that we have instead proven the existence of a particular subclass of demon. Mental illness is now understood to be a

result of both mental trauma and genetic aberrations --- a perfect storm of bad luck. But why couldn’t demonic influence also be involved? The Torah speaks of the dybbuk, a spirit that attachés itself to a like-minded person who possesses the same strengths or weakness the dybbuk did when alive. It encourages evil impulses or good impulses depending on the nature of the dybbuk. Say you have homicidal urges, but would never have the courage to act upon them. Along comes a dybbuk drawn to the energies of these particular emotions, a dybbuk who has in fact committed murder, who acting on a sort of repetition compulsion pushes you to commit murder. Conversely, in the case of those who achieve greatness, the dybbuk theory proposes that a good dybbuk pushes you to achieve your loftiest aspirations, and that the dybbuk leaves once you have achieved them because it’s gotten its energy payoff. This is supposedly why people fall into a depression after reaching a hard-won goal. The dybbuk has left the house. I like the idea of dybbuks. I like that they are not seen as essentially good or evil but as amoral feeding machines, like tropical fish that devour other fish. But what I really like about them is that to think of this class of demons brings up the nature of influence in general, of how one consciousness may be influenced and, to some extent, possessed by another. Isn’t this what reading literature is ultimately about --- acts of opening ourselves to a momentary possession by another consciousness? To such an extent in fact that we become unconscious of our own lives? True, this phenomenon has become unremarkable because it’s an everyday occurrence. But is it unremarkable? Isn’t it instead a little bit eerie? Of course, one might argue that an internal spirit of this sort is not technically a demon, but then the question of whether demons are internal --- not real in some fashion --- or external is not a question that would have occurred to all people at all times. In heavily Platonic influenced cultures, the internal and the external were considered ultimately the same. And if you say that spirits are all in the head, what does that phrase mean now that physics has established that at rock bottom all of reality is an enmeshed field of light, or now that sociologists tell us that in the end all we know is what’s in our heads? In psychoanalysis, one sees a nod toward the dismantling of the inside/outside distinction in the fact that Sigmund Freud’s infamous id, ego, and superego, repackages the idea of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on another, via recapitulating the old Kabalistic idea that human beings have three souls: the “Nefesh” --- the lower animal soul, the “Ruah” ---- an intermediate principle associated with the conscience or intellect, and the “Neshamah” --- the Divine Spark. And too the writer William S. Burroughs thought of words and ideas themselves as a kind of virus transBLACKANDGREYMAGAZINE

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mitted from one person to another ---- a virus which colored our perception of reality. For example, if you grow up being told that a woman is nothing more than a “hole”, this idea gets into your head. It infiltrates the mind’s filter, grows like cancer, and one day you wake up and no longer see an equal human being in front of you, but rather a slightly dirty thing to be used. You get possessed by a thought form. *** My parents’ belief system included demons. They believed demons existed just as they believed rocks that needed to be shoveled out of the field existed, just as trees with fruit that fell to the ground when ripe existed, just as tapeworms which could crawl out of a little girl’s behind existed. Like the spiritual belief systems of most people, theirs was a hodge-podge of traditional religious doctrine, passed down family stories, folk tradition, and personal experience. They believed demons existed because they believed spirits existed, personalities unhampered by bodies, of which there were as many types and breeds as there were of mammals. We’d heard plenty of evidence after all. Shortly after their mother left them, the goody two-shoes Schwartz boys spoke of a furious knocking in their room one night and a burnt handprint that appeared on their wall --- all of which their father, a beefy car salesman, claimed to have witnessed as well. Another girl, a broad-faced girl that looked as if she belonged in the nineteenth century on the prairie, saw a floating head that looked like her grandfather and may or may not have been him. It liked to watch her when she undressed at night. Although I listened to my mother’s warnings about demons with the same seriousness I listened to her warnings about child molesters and water moccasins, I was not convinced of their reality until that night with Shirley Jean. Shirley Jean and I slept in the same room in a huge, drafty house on the corner of Stewart Street. Later, the house would be bought for an Iranian family by a local Christian church. A bit after that, it would burn down in a fire when the water heater exploded. Our room was not really a room. It was a doorless space between the kitchen and the living room which also housed the bathroom at one end. We both had narrow beds. Both of these beds had used mattresses, interestingly stained by previous generations of bed wetters. Shirley Jean’s bed however, because she her-

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self wet the bed, was also lined with a tiny baby blue blanket that spread on top of her sheet. The blanket was connected to a battery. The alarm would go off if she began to pee. Sometimes, I furtively poured a glass on water of her crotch after she was asleep to convince her that she had wet herself. I lay in bed one night, waiting to go to sleep, listening to the lulling sound of traffic moving down Stewart Street. Across from me, Shirley Jean was talking to herself, a duality of voices conversing back and forth. “They have to pay,” said one Shirley Jean. “I know it,” said another Shirley Jean in a much different, more childlike voice. “What are you going to do?” Asked the first voice. “I’ll cut myself,” said the second. “Or kill them. And then they’ll be sorry.” As I listened to this conversation, I grew increasingly afraid. While Shirley Jean’s therapist had explained that the voices which schizophrenics vocalized were in all our heads just to a lesser degree, this did not soothe me. What did it mean to have voices in our heads? Why did adults talk like this was normal? Were we more than one person or did different personalities just hang out inside us? Were we literally full of spirits? As I thought over these questions, the idea of evil spirits --- literally disembodied malevolent personalities ---- didn’t seem the least bit ridiculous or like one of those crazy things that only happened in the times of the Bible. I rolled toward Shirley Jean and glared across the tiny distance between our beds. “Shut up. Or I’ll whack you.” Her voice dropped to a low murmur then but I still watched her warily as I tried to fall asleep. When I was almost asleep, something happened. I saw a long dark shadow, utterly featureless, stand up from Shirley Jean’s body as it remained in the bed. The shadow was darker than the night darkness of the room. It was darker than the color black itself. It was an absolute absence of light. It was the opposite of a definition. I held my breath as the shadow rose up to the ceiling and then drifted toward the window. At this point, I shut my eyes, convincing myself that as I long as I did not look at the shadow that it would not look at me. In this way, I fell asleep.


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FA S H I O N A R T

LOOK photos by Gemma Fleming BLACKANDGREYMAGAZINE

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Greta photos by

Brian Ziff FA S H I O N A R T

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FA S H I O N A R T

Allen Henson, Photos Alex Shera, Stylist Annabel Dehaven | ABTP, MUA Christina Buzas | ABTP, Hair Michael Rose, Tessa, Frances, Models

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DIVORCE FA S H I O N A R T

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ASHLEY SMITH photos by Bil Brown


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LAUDNUM FA S H I O N A R T

PHOTOS BY JORGE KREMER MODEL SABRINA RUCKER

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ANTECEDENTS | A R T C U LT U R E INFERNO

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\\THE BARTZABEL WORKING BRIAN BUTLER

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AINFERNO NTECEDENTS | A R T C U LT U R E

\\THE BARTZABEL WORKING, a performance by filmmaker and artist BRIAN BUTLER. Based on a ceremonial evocation of the spirit of Mars, first written and performed in London in 1910 by the famed British occultist Aleister Crowley, the ritual later became part of Los Angeles history in 1946 when Jet Propulsion Laboratory rocket scientist and Crowley protégé Jack Parsons conducted his own version of this rite, with the intention of placing a martial curse on a pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard. THE BARTZABEL WORKING was performed by BRIAN BUTLER, JAMES FRANCO, NOOT SEAR and supported by a large crowd at the L&M arts exhibition near the original location where the Los Angeles evocation was performed in Venice, CA. Photos by Bil Brown

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Fashion Week COMMUNIQUE

NYFW 2013 PFW 2013 by Bil Brown and Jason Stoneking

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“Who needs more fashion and is - Suzy Menkes, in a column in

What is it all for? The pomp and circumstance when the designers barely have time to do more than address their buyers. Is it for the editors, the hundreds of them, the stylists, the bloggers? Is it for an industry that is finally accepting it’s changed game, it’s not the way it used to be. Not at all.

Wixon, Cara, Karlie, they all know thier jobs. And Dianae Von knows hers. Are we there for jobs, are we there becaue we have an interest in what these designers this art that is not an art at all, this culture of what we wear - a personal visual communication - do we know what it means.

“Who needs more fashion and is gagging for yet another show>” says Suzy Menkes in a column in T: The Times Style Magazine. And who indeed NEEDS this? On the street the slew of photographers trying their hand at street style? Does Bob Cunningham need it when he has already been deemed a legend for his camera work and chase in a blue blazer running down the street after onlookers, a good guy, he knows his job. Carine Roitfeld, Anna Wintour, Lindsey

In the last few years it’s been a show about getting attention by any means, or rather hundreds of shows, in New York over 350 were estimated this year. We pick through the chatter to find the voices and visions of who might be picked as the best of the best this year. This is a torrential downpour, a storm of voices in New York. Maybe Sandy couldn’t be more obstructive. Maybe our society, brought together by Instagram or Tumblr, Facebook, maybe we an

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s gagging for yet another show?” T: The Times Style Magazine

or the drum & bass. IT was a good show because it said something. It said. “we are willing to do what we want and find our for ourself what we think is cool. Do we even need it’s okay”. It said to the editors, the design controlers, the you any more Anna? When a Yahoo exec says that there are CDFA, it said. “I come from Los Angeles and this is what I no professional photographers anymore, you look around grew up with.” It was a dare, maybe unintentional, but it was the street and maybe, just maybe, with the wacky dress of a dare to be yourself. some and the plethora of 3K cameras that sure, Yahoo might be right. This is something else. It’s not about the magazines But the clothes were horrid, you say, isn’t that the point? getting a preview of the clothes anymore. It’s not about the selling season or next season. It’s more instant, and there are No, I don’t think it is. I don’t think these shows in New York, too many players to watch this year. So we choose a few. We London, Milan, or Paris are about the clothes anymore. I choose the ones who stand out. We choose the ones that say, think they have long been something else. Some say it is the culture of fashion, well maybe it is. Ask yourself what that one way or another, “LOOK THIS WAY.” culture is and what it could be and how it can go on like this Marc Jacobs did fall in spring, whoa SHOCKING. Rodarte or maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t need to. Maybe it needs a went outside of the norm and did hood-rat couture and was re-boot. Maybe it needs to be... unapologetic with Anna , Corine , Terry, and Herb Ritz in the audience. I was in the audience too. IT was a good show. Different. Not becuase of the lights, the fortran grid structure runway, BLACKANDGREYMAGAZINE

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Paris Fashion Week

by Jason Stillking Photos by Leslie McAllister

What was sadder than anything else was how few people there were who, f people who walked in with the big red invitations didn’t look particularly thr event still didn’t add up to twice the number of guards who were keeping us When an old friend of mine asked me to go check out a Paris Fashion Week event for Black & Grey Magazine, I didn’t know quite what to expect. And yet somehow, maybe I expected too much. Full disclosure: I don’t actually know anything about fashion. But I do know that Paris Fashion Week is generally a madhouse, and that events have a reputation for being impossible to get into. A year or two ago, while walking home from somewhere, my girlfriend Leslie and I were involuntarily detoured from our route by a distance of several blocks due to one of these events. When we asked the people at the back of the sprawling crowd what exactly they were all sprawling around, they told us that Kanye West was debuting his new clothing line inside. I was too surprised to figure out whether or not I should act surprised. So this year, when I got the call that I’d be covering Fashion Week, I prepared myself as if for the front row at a concert. I brought a water bottle, a notebook and an extra shirt. I dragged Leslie along, to capture the expected pandemonium with her camera, and I stuck some cookies in my pocket just in case we got hungry. The show we went to was the roll-out of Yohji Yamamoto’s 2014 spring/summer line at the Palais Omnisport de Paris-Bercy. I had heard Yamamoto’s name before, and I had been to full-scale rock concerts at Bercy, so I anticipated a relatively major happening. Lines, ropes, cops, reporters, the whole culture-meets-industry shebang. Maybe we’d even get a helicopter fly-by? I reminded Leslie to bring the good flash. I was thinking that we should make an effort to get there early, if we wanted to get anywhere near the building and see what was going on, but in Paris, anything even close to on time is early. We showed up at 8:20 for the 8:30 show and there was hardly a soul in sight.

to glimpse the socially awkward gender-confused adults after whom they were struggling so frantically to model themselves. There were barely enough of these poor kids to line the short length of metal fencing that had been placed between them and their temporary mecca, but for some reason they were deemed to warrant an almost one-to-one ratio of security personnel. I wasn’t too intimidated by the crowd size, and nobody was in line at the actual entrance point, so I figured I wouldn’t have too much trouble just walking on in. Especially not with Leslie’s big, importantlooking camera rig in tow. So I strode somewhat casually up to a sign that said “Press,” glanced up at it quite intentionally, and then proceeded through the opening in the fence. Immediately I was swarmed by the goon-bots. One of them asked me if I had an invitation. “Of course not,” I assured them, jerking my head toward the press sign. “I’m not here for fun. I’m covering this thing for Black & Grey Magazine.” Then one of them asked me where my press pass was. I mustered a condescending chuckle. “Are you serious?” I replied. “Who wears a press pass?” Nevertheless, they insisted, they needed to see it. I pointed to Leslie’s camera and barked, “That thing cost three thousand dollars! I could make a press pass at Copy Top for two or three bucks. Why would that make any difference?” One of the bots seemed mildly swayed by this argument, but as a pack they weren’t having it. I shrugged in exasperation and faked a couple of urgent-sounding phone calls to headquarters, but still nothing doing. So I thanked them for doing such a great job that they’d prevented me from doing mine.

And then we just stood out there, in a vast and desolate concrete lot, wondering what to do next. Me, Leslie, the There were, however, ten or fifteen identically black-clad troupe of desperate gangly adolescents, the little strip of industry goon-bots protecting the gate from about twenty- fencing, and the platoon of snooty in-crowd taskmasters, or-so socially awkward, gender-confused teenagers who silently reciting their internal self-congratulations for would seemingly have done anything for their chance having defended an entranceway against the mighty force 76

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for either personal or professional reasons, actually wanted to get inside. The rilled to be there. And the full number of those of us who were frozen out of the s there.

of the clearly dangerous mob that amassed before them. Around this time, a few college kids with cameras showed up and started doing roughly what we were doing: waiting for the occasional moment when a tall, thin woman would arrive with too-big eyes, too-small legs, jacked-up hair and a couple of body guards. This would set off a half dozen flash bulbs and a brief scattering of oohs and aahs from the kids leaning on the fence. Around 8:45, some more people started milling around, and within a few more minutes the crowd by the fence suddenly swelled to almost a hundred, all waiting in line behind the kids who’d been there from the start. I thought for a moment that maybe this happening was about to catch fire. I wondered if I had just been getting a firsthand literal experience of that familiar (surely Parisian) phrase “fashionably late.” But then one of the goon-bots called out a reminder that the line for those with invitations was open, and about eighty of the people produced large, red invitation cards, moved around the twenty desperate kids pressed behind the metal fence, and went inside. This again left only us, the original group of kids, and the additional handful of pimple-faced camera toters to whose company we, as unaccredited journalists, had apparently been relegated.

desirable to attend than there was any actual desire going into attending it. I don’t know what the big deal is supposed to be about Yamamoto, but as far as I could see this year, he’s certainly no Kanye. And I don’t really know what the big deal is supposed to be about Kanye. We hung around a little bit longer to see if anything else interesting would happen, or if any fabulous-looking late arrivals would saunter by and make for good photo ops, but another fifteen minutes passed without any other incidents of note. The other camera people left, a handful of little kids on scooters paused to gawk at us, a homeless guy wandered by without taking notice. Finally, at 9pm, the head goonbot made an announcement that there would be no more entry, even with invitation. At this, the group of desperate kids finally gave up and dispersed. A few more straggling invitation holders appeared from nowhere on cue and scurried inside. And then, with nothing left to cover, we dispersed too, feeling not too much the wiser for our brush with high fashion.

I wondered if maybe the image making about Fashion Week is just as important to the overall mythology as the image making that goes on in the design studios. Perhaps the whole mystique of fashion really doesn’t amount to anything more than the wall it erects between the fantasy of acceptance and the few dozen maladjusted kids who don’t What was sadder than anything else was how few people feel that they can access that fantasy. And maybe even the there were who, for either personal or professional reasons, fantasy itself is dying for lack of enough new flesh and blood. actually wanted to get inside. The people who walked in But then again, the next day we saw in the news that there with the big red invitations didn’t look particularly thrilled were hordes of people crushing the front doors over at the to be there. And the full number of those of us who were Gaultier thing. So maybe there’s some hope for the fashion frozen out of the event still didn’t add up to twice the industry yet. Maybe it’s just Yamamoto who’s missing the number of guards who were keeping us there. It seemed like boat. Or the kids who chose his show to attend. Or maybe there was a lot more effort going into making the event look it’s just me. It can’t possibly be all of us… can it? BLACKANDGREYMAGAZINE

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THE EXTREMIST MANIFESTO by NICK ZEDD

Now that contemporary art, a system that stands for privi- theory rewarded by dominant culture would have us believe lege, nepotism and political connections is finally dying, get that history is objective when in fact its subjective nature is out of the fucking way. based on hierarchical systems of exploitation benefiting a global elite. We who have been locked out of your galleries, museums and art holes… ignored, reviled and cast aside for having Extremist art is non-metaphysical, based on the senses. convictions (and belonging to the wrong class) are the voice of the future. We spit on the fashionable insignificance of It establishes the human body as the ultimate arbiter, the today’s culture. We puke on moderation, a generation’s component that allocates wisdom. fashionable irony and deliberately boring contemporary In an empirical sense, extremist art is a unified confirmaart. We shit on your chronic timidity and your tamed and tion of one’s resistance to and transcendence of status quo domesticated notion of what art can be. thinking. The time has come for a rupture, a break, and an honest method of digging our way out of the manure of contemporary art. Your system is spineless and must be replaced. Those who are proud of being imperceptible are lost.

The Simulation imposed upon us by shadow governments and hidden elites must be exposed and destroyed. That includes a cancerous art establishment based on commerce and the malignant dictums of predatory capitalism that negates individual breakthroughs based on lived experience. Todays gatekeepers remind us that painting is dead and if Non-referential, non-simulated breakthroughs are accomthat’s the case, then so must be photography, movies, music, plished by plunging into life and grabbing it by the balls. writing, sculpture, performance and all human creativity. This means taking chances, offending people, causing The logical implication of curatorial culture’s hierarchical alarms to go off and generally disturbing the equilibrium in dominance is the negation and replacement of the individu- a strategic manner. al with a neutered clone. Academia’s curatorial class, we are told, are god-like. They determine history. Their choices are We are the new extremists, armed with a vision to see showered upon us from above. The fact that breakthroughs through the charade imposed upon us by the gatekeepers in history are the exclusive domain of the AMATEUR (a of consensus reality, who manage a mass hallucination we lone individual who invents and innovates) is beyond the choose to reject. double-think reality tunnel of the insulated curator. Todays Ours is the art of bad taste, which blots out and destroys curatorial elite have determined that passion, anger and your system of lies and self-delusion. For too long the sheep conviction are replaced with ironic indifference, a stance of among us have been rewarded for their subservience to a self removal, an evasion, a retreat into the herd. With sheep- bankrupt system of lies. like acquiescence, a generation of followers have emerged with no point of view, afraid to stand for anything, yet pre- WE SHIT ON GOD. BECAUSE THERE ARE NO GODS tending to be fearless while hiding behind an ironic indif- AND THERE NEVER HAVE BEEN. ference that amounts to a compulsion to conform. The follower artist’s philosophy is one of capitulation. ALL SYSTEMS OF TOTALITARIAN CONTROL MUST Through capitulation the follower is conditioned to antic- BE SUBVERTED AND DESTROYED. HUMAN FREEipate and grovel for the expectation of inclusion into the DOM DEMANDS VIGILANCE AND RESISTANCE TO world of high culture and it’s attendant material rewards. HIERARCHIES, WHETHER IMPOSED BY REVOLUTIONARIES OR COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARIES. WE What the followers, apologists and their gatekeeping mas- ARE FOR ACCELERATED EVOLUTION ters fail to understand is the essential non-differentiation THAT SUPERCEDES REVOLUTION. between high and low art. Today’s smut is tomorrow’s fine WE ARE EXTREMISTS UTILIZING PROVOCATION, art. The profane, with the passage of time becomes sacred. ENLIGHTENMENT, HATE AND LOVE. Having suffered under a reactionary ontological hermeneu- WE WILL UNITE OPPOSITES. tics for the last fifty years, the extremist movement constitutes an emergent phenomena which is more than the sum c. Nick Zedd 3/6/2013 of the processes from which it has emerged. Interpretation

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& T S U L

HOLLYWOOD’S DEVILISH SONGSTRESS BRIANNA GARCIA SHOT 80

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& LIES

T BY BIL BROWN FASHIONS BY MADDOX LEATHER, INSIDUOUS AND HALCYON BLACKANDGREYMAGAZINE

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MADDOX LEATHER CINCHER, DRESS BY HALCYON HORNS BY SATAN.

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MADDOX LEATHER CINCHER, DRESS BY HALCYON HORNS BY SATAN.

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TOP AND BELT BY MADDOX LETHER, RIPPED TIGHTS BRIANNA’S OWN. JACKET BY INSIDUOUS.

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MADDOX LEATHER CINCHER, NECKLACE AND CHAIN MAIL GLOVE. PANTS AND TOP BY HALCYON. BOOK, ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

BRIANNA GARCIA IS THE LEAD SINGER OF LUST AND LIES,

A LOS ANGELES BAND THAT HAS NO REMORSE IN REVEALING ITS SATANISM BACKGROUND. LAVEY WOULD BE PROUD. SATANISM TO GARCIA IS FREEDOM TO EXPRESS WHO YOU REALLY ARE.

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Satanism encourages any form of sexual expression you may desire, so long as it hurts no one else. If all parties involved are mature adults who willingly take full responsibility for their actions and voluntarily engage in a given form of sexual expression - even if it is generally considered taboo - then there is no reason for them to repress their sexual inclinations. _ANTON SALVADOR LAVEY

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NETTIE HARRIS photographed by Bil Brown styled by Gunnar Deatherage 92

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BALLENKA

As a little girl, I often followed my father to the back of the store and down the thin-carpet steps to snoop among the mannequin parts in the basement. I was very small—barely thirty inches tall at the age of five—and I couldn’t see into the green canvas bins. Instead, I saw the bins from below and imagined the broken lines and odd angles of flesh-colored plastic limbs coming out the top, over my head, were the boughs of magical trees. Trees made from mannequin parts. Once he selected the mannequin pieces, a jumble of arms and legs, middles and heads, he hefted them onto his shoulder and carried them up the stairs to the main floor. I scampered silently behind, watching as he hauled his load to one of the display windows. He whistled while he twisted and popped the mannequin parts together. The legs screwed into the smooth, bellybutton-less torso which bloomed into breasts, shoulders, then tapered away, the thin, high neck, the bald head, the unblinking eyes. He dressed her, arranging a silk blouse on her shoulders, his thick, freckled fingers plucking at the fabric. He buttoned and smoothed, then pulled a tweed, pink-weave skirt up, over her legs, her hips. He zipped it in the back, turned her around, blinked at the doll under his hands. Stepped back, appraising. Eyes closed, as reverential as prayer. He placed a wig of glossy reddish hair on her head and fitted her toeless feet with high-heeled sandals, cherry-colored. He pronounced her beautiful.

by Susan Woodring

eyes. He caressed her shoulder. You, he told her, are a dream. Behind the department store, downtown Ruby dropped off into a field of scratchy green maintained by the county, and beyond the field lay our house, a shack made of rough-timber and stapled tar paper. Beyond that, finally, the woods. There was a slow, deep creek there, and then more woods— woods all the way to Tennessee, the old ladies said. But I dreamed there was a different kind of woods deep inside. Just beyond what we could see. An unreal woods. One made of plastic body parts, topped with hairy Spanish moss, blown in from the southerner climes. The air inside the plastic woods smelled humid and salty and warm, like the beach. The wind whistled thinly through the shiny, flesh-colored trees. When it rained, the mannequin hands cupped the water. He had always been the display man, years before I or any of my sisters were born. The store was fashioned to look like a Georgian mansion and Daddy put a mannequin, sometimes two, in every one of those windows. From the street, we looked like a house of dolls. It has been this way since the beginning, my mother sighed. She had once been a great beauty, delicate and pink-skinned and blonde. But she had given each of my sisters a portion of her looks, piece by piece, until by the time I, the youngest, was born, there was nothing left for either of us. My mother’s face was drained of her beauty, her skin yellow-gray, pebbled, her body too thin, somewhat awkwardly pieced together at the joints.

Without breaking his gaze, he said to me, Someday, she will be yours.

My sisters, all much older than I, grew up, married, and left, and by the time I was five years old, following after Daddy into the basement, there were only the four of us He meant the mannequin, lovely and calm and forever-still, left: Daddy, Mama, me, and Ninny Dee, my father’s mothand the store. The whole grand palace. Maybe he also meant er. We each had our designations within the store. Mama Main Street, bustling below, and, beyond that, all the hous- tended the cosmetics counter and sold jewelry. Ninny Dee, es, every street, every car trundling along. Perhaps every ancient thing, waddled among the racks of nubby cotton beautiful thing. The store was youthful and prosperous and nylon in lady’s apparel. She kept a pin cushion strapped then, forever fixed-in-place, like the mannequins, and my to her wrist and a measuring tape draped around her neck father believed he owned all of these things. In a sense, he so she could provide on-the-spot alterations. I sold ladies’ did: for Daddy, beholding a thing was a means of possessing intimates and kept the gloves display case, hopping on and it. off and up a system of step stools and rolling ladders, me scrambling up to the counter, punching the buttons on the This is heaven, he said. He nudged a wisp of hair out of her register. Daddy, the manager and owner, dressed the manBLACKANDGREYMAGAZINE

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nequins and sold shoes. We were Finch’s Department Store, at the top of Ginger Street in Ruby, a college town in the mountains of North Carolina. Our story was the glory of the downtown region. College girls and society matrons came in on conveyer belts, dolls to be dressed. We fitted them in cocktail dresses and ball gowns, pearls. In those days, the old, rich ladies summering in the mountains came in to test our stockings by touching them to their tongues. Real silk, I was told, tasted like dirt, or greenish; it tasted the way tomato vines smelled. We had real, dirt-scented silk. And rounders of airy pastel satin and deep gold and black and red Spanish velvets. We stocked white gloves in every size, every length, from everyday shorts, where finely knobbed wrists were exposed, to above-the-elbow formals. Our ladies’ arms were rendered perfect and white, like candles.

and loved me and made himself visible to me. Later, he explained it this way: I had eyes to see, ears to hear. In his soundless way of talking, invisible currents emanating from his tender brown eyes, he said: Sit. I was too afraid to speak, but I did as he told me. I found a rock nearer the water. We said nothing more for a while, and finally, me so curious, my fears dissipating—I sensed my creek monster was there to love me, those eyes—I touched my naked tiny, chubby foot to his back. He made his gurgling sound, said, Ah, child.

I spoke aloud then, whispering into the shivers and sighs of the water trickling through, across the bare-hard cold of the creek-bed rocks. I asked his name, told him mine. He wanted me to keep my toes on his back, barely submerged, he of slippery, sea-mammal skin, purple in the bright of mid-day, deep slate as the sun slipped away. I rested my feet on his It was around this time, when white gloves were still in fash- thick-skinned coolness and leaned back, into the sand. He ion, when ladies came in wanting Alabama silk—taffeta— said, I am eighty-four million years old. Oh, I said. That is and all-weather, space-age polyester, when my father was very old. I was a simple-hearted child. happy, a renowned display-man genius, when my mother, beauty just vanished, yet tilted her face forward a bit when There was a story Daddy liked to tell. talking to a man, as if she were offering him something, in the time after my sisters had left, before I grew to be near- Once upon a time, he was a boy, dirt-poor, riding on a ly three feet tall, that I, flouncing about in the real woods, train. The train clicked down the tracks east towards the discovered my creek thing. My cetacean from primordial coast. Daddy slept. He dreamed of the lumpy green mountimes. My bright-water, cow-eyed beast. tains behind him rising up, then bowing down, curling into themselves. It was the way of my father’s dreams, always. It happened on a Sunday, when the store was closed. I stole Everything in the natural world shifted in size and shape, away, as I often did in the rich, busy days of my childhood, everything melted, sprouted upwards, downwards, the sky and pressed as deep into the woods as I dared. Picture me: compressing into an acorn in his hand, the scrubby insects small enough to hide in a thicket of weeds, dry, scratchy from the dirt swelling into gods rushing through the clouds hair like straw, pink, freckly face. I was rough, like a thing like the wind. dug from the earth, me the diminutive girl who sold slippery, white underclothes, tumbling now, unhindered, into When he woke, a youngish businessman in a green suit was the trees. standing in the aisle of the train at my father’s elbow. He was holding a bottle of champagne by the neck, his own I came to the gold-bottomed, gray-watered creek, and hand gripping the back of my father’s seat to steady himself though I’d been there a million times before, it was now against the sway of the train. May I sit? The man asked. My that I saw it. Him. My water beast. He was an amorphous father was fourteen years old, on his way to visit his ailing dark thing in the water, a liquid thing, pliable and huge; he grandfather, the passing landscape full of timber yards and took the shape of the creek bottom and only his eyes came small towns huddled around the train junctions. Furniture staring at me from above the water. Startled, I held fast a factories burping purple smoke into the air. Foul-smelling moment, several steps away, until finally, drawing courage, paper mills. Backyard clothing lines. Not knowing what I took a few steps towards him. to say, he nodded to the man, and when the man settled into the seat and opened the bottle of champagne, popping Eyes like sorrow, my monster. Ancient, large and round the cork off into his open hand. My father took a swig. The and hurting. An enormous, sleek, rubbery body, mammali- champagne was in a green bottle with a green label which, an and ocean-going. Misplaced. My Ballenka cared for me in turn, had gold lettering. When he drank it, it was crisp from the very beginning. From that first moment, me, the and sweet on my father’s tongue. The man was called Mr. tiniest, scrappiest, ugliest thing, he loved me. He saw me Cooley, and he loved the mountains. You’re a mountain 94

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boy, he said to my father, and my father nodded though this didn’t seem necessary. Mr. Cooley wasn’t asking him anything. Instead, the stranger settled back into his seat and stared down at the bottle in his hand. I have a small fortune to dispose of, the man said. My father nodded again, still not knowing what to say. The man cleared his throat, took another drink of his champagne, offered my daddy some more. This time, Daddy declined, and Mr. Cooley chuckled, then asked, What are your ambitions in this world, son? In that moment—just like that—Finch’s Department Store was conceived. Daddy opened his mouth and out it came: I want to own a department store, he said. I want to fill it mostly with women’s goods. Lovely things. I want, he told the mythic Mr. Cooley, a character I spent much of my growing up imagining, I want silk and pink chiffon. Where had my daddy, the son of a lumberjack, heard the word chiffon? Silk? What did my daddy know of silk? But Mr. Cooley, who swallowed the rest of the champagne in a single draught, who slumped down in his train seat and smiled lazily—greasily, my father would later describe the rich man’s smile, dark and slick and fleshy—said he could tell from looking at him, my daddy in his dungarees and best shoes, that he was a man of promise. That Finch’s Department store would come to be exactly as my father envisioned it. The stranger, drunk on the champagne, jostled by the train, nodded once then drew his checkbook out of his green jacket pocket. I returned often, me sitting at the creek, pointed toes stroking his rubbery flesh. I leaned back into the sand, bright sun exploding in little blue zigzags against my closed eyelids. We went on this way for years. For the longest time my creek monster, my Ballenka, asked nothing more of me, only my abnormally tiny feet on his slick, monster back. This, he said, is true love. Only that we see each other, only that we touch. After a number of years of good fortune and easy living, once the store began to thin a bit, to outlive its old glory, Daddy began to worry Mr. Cooley would return. The startup money, he said, had been a gift, but he couldn’t settle his mind, not now that sales were beginning to slip. Mr. Cooley, he was certain, would return to collect on his investment. Daddy fretted, his hands working the air like he was dressing an invisible mannequin. That’s how much the store meant to him—he couldn’t make himself stop. My mother, who suffered more and more from a number of pale infirmities—weak blood, she claimed—kept a half-dozen doc-

tors on a string. They met her in the back room, where the coffee was, and laid their bare hands on her back to feel the in-and-out of her breathing. Daddy, still sculpting mannequins in the air, asked me, Who gives that kind of a gift? Is there anyone who would truly give such a gift and expect nothing in return? As I grew, turned eight, nine, ten, every thought I had, near or away from him, I spoke into the bovine gentleness, the perfect roundness—just above the dark water–of my Ballenka’s eyes. At the store, that season—fall—the fashions changed. Overnight, it seemed. One day, open-toe patent-leather sandals were in fashion, and then, before the season was even finished, thick-heeled pumps with garish gold buckles were in all the magazines. Unearthly orange. Pea green. Mustard yellow. Our customers wore them in from other places, requested we order some for them. Daddy hated these, said they were intrusive. Too showy, he said, but he obliged his customers, and when it came time to put his orders in for spring, he ordered coarse blue pantsuits in wicked cotton. Neck-ties for women. Cowboy boots. He had to, he said. Of course, Daddy, I answered him, and wished I’d held back a single black velvet dress. For myself, in case I ever grew. Inside my mind, I told Ballenka: I hate those shoes. I wanted the red pumps we used to sell, the little black ballet shoes with bows on them. But they were gone. Obsolete. Also gone: shirt-waist dresses in periwinkle-blue, frothy ball gowns, velvet capes. Instead, come April, our windows were full of Daddy’s girls swathed in faux-bohemian batiks. Pioneer-girl calico. Knit plaids. Billowy thin-cotton blouses. Jeans. Never, I told Ballenka. I would never dress my dolls that way. I meant Daddy’s mannequins. I know, my Ballenka said. Little whale. He sighed in his silent way. He closed his enormous brown eyes for a long moment, then, rolling back his heavy lids, looked at me. I know, he said again. In the winter the snow on the streets glowed soft blue under the moon. Daddy’s favorite stillness. Ninny Dee looped purple ribbons with tiny silver bells attached around the store, the windows, the racks, the jewelry counter. It was only now, in the coldest months, that my mama smoked, her standing by her register at closing time to total her receipts, a thin white cigarette gripped at the corner of her mouth. She blinked down at the papers. Daddy swept the floors. Ninny Dee kept watch at one of the windows. Daddy said, The end is coming. Mr. Cooley is coming back to collect. BLACKANDGREYMAGAZINE

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My Ballenka began pulling his bulk out of the water. Just shifting closer, leaning on his side onto the sand. His broad shiny back glistened there in the weakening sunshine. Big, but not as huge as I’d expected, now that more than just his eyes, the dolphin-ish slope of his head, were exposed. No longer distorted by the way light moved through water. He didn’t take the shape and size of the long, deep creek, as I had once believed. Instead, he was like a ballooned walrus. Still: huge, huge eyes. The sky turned orange now, just past supper, when I stole away to visit my monster. I lifted my skirt and extended by bare legs across his back, my head back, hair trailing in the dirt. I grew tired, lying there, talking the way we did, our consciouses connected, the sun sinking further down, further away, the earth spinning me and Ballenka and my daddy and my ill, once-pretty mama away from it. The orange going purple, the trees around us dark, and then, finally, everything was black. Often, I slept the whole night out there, my bare legs spread across my Ballenka, his cool slickness growing warm and comfortable beneath me, me sinking into his soft mass. Ballenka, I told him once late into the night when we were both asleep. Now, at night, it felt that way, like we communicated right through our sleep. My soul meeting his there in the open darkness. The store is in trouble, I said. Ballenka, I whispered-thought, the end is drawing near. No more silk. No more pearls. My monster, slow beast, was quiet for a long moment. He had told me how very old he was, how many geological ages he’d survived there, in his creek, undetected. How few people he’d seen over the course of his millions of years, and that I was now the first to see him. He made his gurgly-happy sound: this was because I loved him. I loved him before I knew him. That, he said, is the miracle of you. You love without seeing, my monster told me. You love without knowing, he said. Now, after a long pause, he spoke. No more pearls, he said at last, agreeing with me. He sighed, the heaviest sound in the world, my monster and his sea-lungs. His tremendous, primordial, unknown size. Before my father disappeared, he and the others–my grandmother, my mother and her weak heart, her clutch of doctors—he told me there was a part he’d left out. Something he hadn’t told me about the man in the green suit on the train. The one who appeared just after my father had dreamt of mountains dissolving into pools of dirt and grass. Mr. Cooley, holding that green champagne bottle, everything about him green, everything lush, everything wealthy, prophesied on my daddy’s life. He said, You will have five beauti96

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ful daughters and one who is freakishly small—as tiny as a thimble. The five beautiful daughters will leave you one at a time, each to a prosperous, handsome husband, but the last, the tiny doll of a daughter, she will stay until the end. When she leaves you, everything will be gone. The man in the green suit had been young and vigorous when he’d sat down, but now, a few hours into their journey, his hair was streaked with gray. There was a long, deep line between his eyes. The aging man frowned. When he spoke again, his voice sounded gravelly and worn. He said, But I do see the promise in you, mountain boy. Despite the unhappy end he’d just assigned him. He shrugged. By the time the train reached the coast, where my father and Mr. Cooley parted, Mr. Cooley’s words were thin and faintly warbled, as if they’d come whistling through a hollow, reedy place. He bid my daddy good-bye, issued his good wishes, his gnarled, age-spotted hand touching the brim of his hat. At the end, the university students only came in for Halloween party props and lipstick. To walk crookedly through the racks and elbow each other into the rounders of geriatric cardigans. Seek-sucker raincoats. Broad-strapped mammoth-cupped braziers, still my department. On the streets, we saw them dressed in our old things. What they’d found in the thrift shops and altered, cutting the old, cloud taffeta dresses into vests to wear over their grunge-band t-shirts. They wore the ugly polyester pants we’d sold when I was an adolescent, in shades of brown and mustard, with thick-soled combat boots from Germany. On their ears, the girls and boys alike wore tiny brass chains attached to dollheads—other castoffs, I imagined—and there were chords of telephone wire wrapped so snuggly around their throats I worried their faces would go blue right in front of me. These were deadly trends, the decapitated Barbie doll heads, the telephone wires. We passed them, my mother and I, carrying the money bag down to the bank at closing time or going out for a quick sandwich, and I sometimes caught the gaze of one of them. Our eyes locked then flicked away. I barely came to their waists; they didn’t know if they should look at me or not. Finally, during Finch’s last days, the very old were the only ones who shopped without irony in our store. The blandest and chalkiest of the old ladies, crows picking at the racks, narrowing their peeked little eyes at our goods. They tested the fabric between their thumbs and forefingers; it has always been this way with the old women, with the cacklers, the ancient ones who used to run our silk stockings through their teeth. The same women who, years earlier, had smiled glumly at my father’s girls, clucking their tongues at the expensive fashions. They had shepherded their own daughters


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inside. Pearls, they used to tell them. Your father—though he doesn’t know it yet, wink, wink—is buying you a string of pearls. Once, my daddy, in a last-ditch effort to keep me, offered to order me a new set of clothes. Silk, he said. Crushed red velvet. A pantsuit, a dress, a robe. Whatever I liked. He lifted me onto one of the mannequin’s pedestals in front of the east upstairs window and took Ninny Dee’s old tape measure in his hands. The measure was inaccurate now for the times it had been inadvertently snipped while my grandmother held it across the hems and sleeve cuffs she cut, for the years it had been pulled across so many bust lines, so many waists, its intricate, vinyl-covered fibers stretched. I looked down through the window and into the street. I looked beyond, saw the old dripping mountains of my daddy’s boyhood dreams. Daddy put the measuring tape down a minute before starting. He cupped my elbow. He touched my chin with his fingers. I looked up at him and, for an instant, I saw in my daddy’s pale-lashed blinking eyes the exquisite gentle intelligence of my Ballenka. We stood looking at each other for a long time, frozen, before I finally jumped down and skipped away, my dead grandmother’s measuring tape in a limp pile at my daddy’s feet.

monster, sleeping below as darkly and completely as death. We were one flesh now, unbroken. My spirit withdrew. I climbed out of the plastic forest, flew east, towards the store. For the longest time, I hovered above, afraid to enter. Already, I could hardly remember my corporal life. My life of changefulness, of nylon panties and, years and years ago, of fine white gloves. Finally, I swooped down, glimpsed through the dark windows, naked, half-assembled mannequins inside, my father, fellow spirit, adjusting their poses, dropping invisible blouses over their shoulders, brushing their invisible warm-cinnamon wig-hair. He smiled at the naked, bald-eyed mannequin beneath his hands. You are a dream, he said. It was a moment we’d lived many times before, in ages past. We’d been here, at this window, an infinite number of times. This, Daddy said, is heaven.

I came inside through the window, swept past my father. Mr. Cooley was there, standing a few paces back at my mother’s old jewelry counter, the glass top cracked, webbed intricately across, the trinkets inside long gone, only a few errant price tags left, the back of an earring, a dropped necklace clasp. He waved a hand at me. Lifted his gentle, huge eyes at me, my creek monster taking on the liquid shape of a dead man’s spirit, said, Child. We were together now, one flesh in I sunk completely into my creek monster, my little whale. the creek, one spirit in the department store, remembering I lay my entire body across his slick, rubbery-purple back, our human lives. We’d repeated this scene a million times, and finally I was completely absorbed. Inside him. We slept me and my monster. Everything that had ever happened that way for years. had happened again. The life of the entire planet on a loop, the two of us watching it. I drew close to my Ballenka—he When I awoke, rousing inside Ballenka’s striated, pink-mus- smelled of the plastic forest, of the sea—and together, ghost cled belly, I put my hands against the spaces around me, test- to ghost, we watched my father piece the parts together. We ing the boundaries of my balloon-like confines. I couldn’t saw him exhale, touch the shoulder of his newly-wrought tear my way out, but instead, I pushed up, hard, straining mannequin. He stepped back to gaze at her, to take pleasure through the bubble-gum pink darkness, and emerged in a in what he’d created. hiccup. The fresh air smelled like rain. It smelled the way real silk tasted. I caught a clip of buoyant air and rose. Leaving my Ballenka sleeping there by the creek, I drifted above, across the fields. I pressed deep into the woods on the other side of the creek, swooping through the boughs of the tall trees, breaking out into the blue. Perfect blue, gold sunshine canopy, and below, there, the forest I’d imagined as a child. It was real now, beneath me: the plastic tree-limb trees, a woods made of mannequin parts, hoary Spanish moss strewn across like clumps of tangled hair. I reached out to touch the shiny, flesh-colored arms legs, the toeless feet, beautifully tapered long-fingered hands, the scratchy, plentiful moss, but my own hand passed right through them. I couldn’t touch. I was bodiless, a spirit. I’d left my human body inside my BLACKANDGREYMAGAZINE

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Hair Suits and Animal Skins

NOTES FROM THE CLOSET: OBSERVATIONS

OF A FASHION ANTHROPOLOGIST

by John Li Branscum

I’ve been shocked recently by the disappearance of a certain something, which is perhaps as radically doom-foretelling as the disappearance of honeybees and frogs, as of species of Hendrix-hued rainforest orchids as delicate as tissue paper. I’m talking of course about body hair. For most of my life, I’ve been down with depilation. No nipple hairs for me, thank you (although it is a convenient way to floss). And yeaaaah, I think I’ll skip on the patchily carpeted backs. But, hey, I try not to be an oppressor, willy-nilly imposing my ideas of beauty on others without recompense. I try to keep things even. So while I’m one of those degenerates who aesthetically prefer trimmed underarms and legs that are less hairy than mine, I also in the spirit of quid-pro-quo regularly get my back (ouch) and chest (double ouch) waxed and take a razor to my other bits, so that I shine as pink and bare, and full of joie de vivre as a very high baby mouse. I’m not the only dude who does so. According to the Daily Californian, 58 to 78% of men remove body hair (excluding facial hair), as compared to 70 to 88% of women. There’s good reason for this too. In an admittedly heterosexist survey (apologies) of 10,000 women in Germany and Switzerland, it was found that 70 to 80% of younger women prefer men Barbie doll smooth. But in the last couple of years I’ve begun to rethink this position. Maybe it was about the 100th or so time I’d seen the latest infant-bare pubis in the boudoir and then subsequent-

ly had to change my daughter’s diaper. Maybe it was mid stroke as I led a razor down the craggy walnut lines of my balls. Maybe it was because I finally had to admit those guys in My Morning Jacket were kind of sexy after all. My first question was why? Hair removal’s not new. Long before the bizarrely named King Camp Gilette unleashed his razor on the world and Harper’s Bazaar magazine (in 1915) featured (gasp!) a model wearing a sleeveless dress and armpits as bare as a smile, we were conducting a war on hair. Flint blades have been discovered that date back to 30,000 BC, along with sharpened rocks, shark teeth, and volcanic glass, all used to etch-a-sketch hair away. For the early Egyptians, a smooth and hairless body was a beautiful one, especially for the upper classes. They used primitive depilatory creams and kicked off the waxing trend with “sugaring,” the application of bees wax and honey to the skin, which was then ripped away along with wispy pelts thanks to a strip of cloth pressed against the paste. For the Greeks, never ones to avert their gaze from a “comely” boy, a smooth, hairless body, as of those immortalized in many statues, exemplified youth and beauty, and again class. The Romans, as they did in most things, slavishly and creepily followed the Greeks. The historian of hair removal, Russel Adams, notes that the bearded man became the symbol of slavery, servitude and barbarism throughout the Roman Empire. As for the barbarian outlands, Julius

Caesar (101-44 BC) writes that, “The Britons shave every part of their body except their head and upper lip.” And during the Elizabethan age, women plucked their eyebrows and forehead hair to foster gigantic pale foreheads, adopting that Cupidic big-headed baby look so popular in the modern age in certain parts of Japan and Mississippi. Mothers even rubbed walnut oil, vinegar, and cat feces on their children’s foreheads to prevent hair growth (“Mama, no! No!”). Even those perennial American poster children for living au natural, Native Americans, tweezed away facial hair between halves of a clam shell. But what about pubic hair? What about those articles in Vogue, Elle, and The Guardian, which claim that a deforested pubis is simply a pathetic mimicry of the latest thing porn stars aren’t wearing? Well, they be tripping. Pubic hair removal goes as far back as any other sort. Muhammad, for example, instructed Muslim women to remove pubic hair, as well as underarm hair. Young Roman girls began removing pubic hair as soon as it appeared, using special tweezers, “volsella” and depilatory creams or waxing pitch. In 1520, Bassano de Zra wrote, “The Turks consider it sinful when a woman lets the hair on her private parts grow. As soon as a woman feels the hair is growing, she hurries to the public bath to have it removed.” While there’s more than a little gender bias in this history, another survey, this time of undergraduates in Australia, conducted in 2008, found that 76% of females, 82% of gay men, and 66% of BLACKANDGREYMAGAZINE

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Well, they be tripping. Pubic hair removal goes as far back as any other sort. Muhammad, for example, instructed Muslim women to remove pubic hair, as well as underarm hair. Young Roman girls began removing pubic hair as soon as it appeared, using special tweezers, “volsella” and depilatory creams or waxing pitch.

straight men had removed their pubic hair at least once. So what are we to make of this? There’s the class thing obviously. To be hairless is to be civilized is to be not animal. But underlying this is something more. To be hairless is to be of high status, yes, but this in turn is to be closer to spirit than animal flesh. Ancient Egyptian priests shaved or depilated all over daily, for example, so as to present a “pure” body before the images of the gods. And head-shaving is a part of Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jainist, and Hindu traditions. But here’s the thing. Here we are. We attempt to quite literally strip the animal from ourselves. We shave our faces, our genitals, our underarms, and wax our backs and chests. We cover up our animal smells with perfume, bare our canines only in ironic friendly greeting or certain Merlot and Barry White moments. On the surface, we seem to desperately want to have more in common with the sun than other animals. But then we start to miss it. Miss being animals. So this is what we do. After scraping and shaving and scrubbing our animal-ness away, we put it back on, caught in an eternal schizophrenic double-bind, so that the perfumes we put on to cover our animal stink invariably contain a healthy dollop 104

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of “musk,” and we don tight leather pants and furry underwear on our otherwise bare bodies. We pull on winter hats with fur trim and faux horns and ears, slip our fingers into leather gloves as snug as paws. We return via fashion to that we rejected. It makes me think that perhaps it’s time we quit rejecting it. As my fiancé puts it, when describing how she feels when wearing a fox stole, “I feel like a fox. Secretly, I feel superior.” Disclaimer: The author includes himself in all references to Americans, people, the human race, etc. and thus means to not imply that he is in way superior to his culture but, rather, alternatively gleefully and sorrowfully a part of its paradoxical complexity.


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STILLS FROM THE FILM BABALON WORKING BY BRIAN BUTLER Filmed on location in Mala Strana, Prague, Czech Republic and Los Angeles. California. BLACKANDGREYMAGAZINE

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The Adventures of Breasts by Marilyn Liu

Having a little brother doesn’t mean squat if you can’t perform experiments on him. And so it was that I and my best friend, Jane Jessica Portman, were thrilled when momma said she was going to Krakow for the summer to learn geomancy from a Siberian shaman and that she would leave us, mature girls of seventeen, in charge of Mikey.

little men in tuxedos bitter about all his money and possessing an inordinate love of comic books. He also had one of the very biggest crushes on Jane Jessica and would have performed ritual hari kari, in the way of sumarai, if she asked him to. We know because the summer before we’d barely stopped him in time.

Jane Jessica Portman, counter to the laws of nature, possessed both a highly evolved sense of fashion and beauty and great intelligence. The former she owed to her mother; the latter she owed to her mother’s long-ago affair with a Princeton astrophysicist. The stars stayed in Jessica’s blood; the idea of purity and light and heavenly bodies. Jane Jessica wanted to be a plastic surgeon. To cleanse the body of deformities and blemishes; to restore God’s image to the universe.

Mikey scowled. “What do you want?”

“Ugliness is a handicap,” she said with tears in her eyes. “As debilitating, as crippling as lupus or muscular dystrophy. Ugly children are beaten more, gain less satisfactory employment, and have higher rates of depression. I will stamp this abomination out! Looks don’t count? Who says? Good-looking people, that’s who. Ungrateful people.”

“I brought some candy for you,” crooned Jane Jessica. A terrible pig, Mikey melted on the spot. She opened her hand and allowed him to take one of the small powder-blue pills. Every night thereafter we’d make him undress and slowly turn around like a runway model. It was two weeks before Mikey started to show signs. A swelling occurred on his right breast, as ripe as a plum. We increased the dosage until there were two swellings. We told no one of course. But we watched in marvel as they swelled beyond our wildest imaginations.

To prepare herself for her medical career, she read medical journals. It was in one of them that she came across the phenomena of gynecomastia. I can’t explain a lot about it because I don’t understand a lot myself. In a nutshell according to Jane Jessica, if you feed men estrogen or it shoots up when they’re old and gross they grow breasts. One breast = unilateral gynecomastia. Two breasts = bilateral gynecomastia.

Being real Americans, we all love breasts. In Latin America, mind you, the buttocks are the physical centerpiece. There the subtle graduations between apple and cantaloupe apple are noted with serious attention. A special system of description has developed for rating buttocks ranging from ham1 to ham7, ham7 being the best rating. My breasts were rather small though with nice pointy nipples. Jane Jessica had the classic larger breast with the slightly smeared aureole and granulated nipples like raspberries. Mikey’s though? There was a case in Minneapolis, circa 1973, where a man- We vied for the right to wash them with a soft warm rag and ufacturer of Flintstones Chewablestm also happened to soap in the morning. Mikey kicked, scratched, and bit to manufacture birth control pills. Well, the same stamping keep them to himself. He loved them you see. machine was used to punch out both pills and a minute amount of estrogen contaminated Fred, Barney, Betty, Wil- Since they appeared, his GI Joes were left untouched. Even ma, and even Dino. Suddenly all across Minneapolis lit- Jane Jessica took back seat to Mikey’s breasts. At night, we’d tle boys were turning up with pink, walnut-sized breasts. be woken by a light turned on and find him in front of the Traumatized they were as they all pointed at each other and bathroom mirror — in awe, religious terror on his face, beshouted “Yicky!” The trauma bit worried Jane Jessica and fore the breasts. For the Hindus, a worshipper is sanctified I but we marked this down to a lack of positive social rein- not by conversion or spiritual crisis but simply by taking forcement. “darsan,” the physical act of seeing the divine. Mikey never stopped touching them. When we went out we’d bind them “Mikey,” we called and he came toddling in, sullen, pudge- with an ace bandage and hold his hands tightly on either faced, only eight-years-old but doomed to be one of those side of him. BLACKANDGREYMAGAZINE

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fruit and yogurt. He was worried about the health of his “Mikey,” we said in response to his pudgy amazement. breasts and Jane Jessica had unwisely told him about the “How does it feel?” recommended diet for maintaining skin elasticity and the proper fat to muscle ratio. At night, he began doing a yoga His mouth groped for the right syllables but no words came. exercise called “mashing dates,” where he massaged his He put both hands on them, palms flat, as if touching the breasts by cupping and uncupping them in a semi-circuvelvety muzzles of unicorns. We were a little bit jealous of lar direction; twice each way. Then the last draw. One night them of course. Ours were nice but his . . . ? They were Mikey disappeared. proud and fierce like the heads of bobcats. What we were truly jealous of though was his love for them. If we could We were frantic. “Have you seen him?” We called out to love our bodies like that . . . his little sticky-fingered friends. They shook their heads like dumb animals, saying they thought he was in the HimalaAt first, we had to work extra hard to keep Mikey’s friends yas, and went back to rolling their boogers or looking for away. Dirty faced, they showed up at the door with sweaty dead things to poke with a stick. “Mikey!” I shouted up and fingers and that sugar-coma glaze in their eyes. “Where’s down our street. With dawning horror, I realized I loved the Mikey? Can he play kickball? Can he come to the Godzilla little monster. movie-thon?” They were little boys and so we didn’t have the time to explain that there were more important things We searched all the likely hangouts of breasts: beach and than kicking balls and watching Japanese men stumble boardwalk; college bar and honky tonk. We peered inside around in rubber suits. These more important things were sporty convertibles in case he might be hiding there. We called breasts. The hardest person to get rid of was Ms. Eu- were just about to give up when we heard a couple of guys banks whom mother hired to give Mikey mothering once talking excitedly. Mumble, mumble, bazoombas, said one. a week, hugs and zoo trips and talking about his feelings Mumble, mumble, ta-tas, exclaimed the other. — that sort of Oprah indoctrination. Mikey, we told all of them, has gone on an exotic trip with his own special “Hey,” I shouted in reflex, ready to give them a piece of guide, a fierce Sikh who juggles swords. Right now, even mind but then realized with a mix of relief and disappointas we speak, he is in the Himalayas, on the broad back of ment that they weren’t looking at us. But then who . . . suda yak. An experience like that we told them can change a denly, ahead I saw the sign: Steady Eddie’s Topless Circus person forever. So don’t be surprised if Mikey’s a little dif- and Bar. ferent when he gets back. The little boys swallowed this like warm cocoa. Ms. Eubanks was harder to convince, mother He was alone on the stage. He had never looked so beaufigures being innately suspicious sorts. But we told her our tiful. Cast in halogen. His cheeks and sullen lips and long mother decided this would help further his socialization eyelashes were gorgeous. There was something of cast and multicultural sensitivity and she seemed satisfied. After iron to his potbelly. But the beauty were the breasts, each a few weeks, there were no more visitors and Mikey, busty stamped with a polychrome pasty, bouncing in harmony Mikey, Mikey boom boom, Tits Mikey, lay on his back on to ACDC’s “Who’s Got Big Balls,” which blared from the the living floor plunking tunes off his nipples as we watched wall speakers. Even the hustlers with their $200 dollar drink General Hospital. specials and lyrca skirts (each stamped with the smiling kitty logo) were frozen, beholding Mikey’s breasts. Mikey was We were just beginning our second month of experimen- suddenly just an appendage you see. The breasts were what tation, taking ample snapshots and recording a journal for counted. I could tell he was frightened. Because his breasts, a JAMA article that Jane Jessica wanted to write after the they weren’t him; they had their own mind. They bounced appropriate amount of time had passed, when Mikey be- and jiggled and dragged him around the stage like a sack gan to get an attitude. Before he liked to wear T-shirts with of rocks. He looked exhausted, dehydrated, the blank zomthe usual pre-pubescent menagerie: Pokemon, Snoopy, and bie look of someone having a flying dream in a tornado. scenes from Star Wars. Now, however, he started snatching Around the waistband of his Osh Kosh B’Gosh jeans, stickmy shirts, the slightly see-through Prada ones. He’d inten- ing to his sweaty belly, was a wreath, a crown of not one tionally leave two buttons undone at the top. “You’re not dollar bills but fives and twenties and even a few fifty dollar going out like that, young man,” I told him. “No way.” He bills poking out like the feathered headdress of Quetzlcoatl. started screaming and lay down on the floor kicking his feet, looking like nothing more than a deranged jazzerciser. It took Jane Jessica elbowing me to bring me out of my “Effing prima donna,” said Jane Jessica, who had of late been daze. We rushed the stage and before the rest of the audiconsidering dermatology over plastic surgery. ence knew what had hit them, ran out into the night. I took out the Lakers hoodie I’d brought and made Mikey decent Also he refused to eat his cereal. Instead he wanted a grape- again; and then we caught a bus home. That was the last day

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Mikey got any pills. He wasn’t quite the same afterward. He spent a few months in quiet despondency and took to reading Avon Romances which would be more properly entitled “The Adventures of Breasts.” Mother thought he might be gay, and had a heart-to-heart with him where she told him that it was perfectly fine and many of the world’s most brilliant feng shui masters were queer as bent sticks. There was even a special camp for special little boys like him in upstate New York and if he wanted to . . . but no, he didn’t. Inside those Avon novels, breasts bounced and squeezed and boosted; they hypnotized and mesmerized and turned the world into what it was meant to be— their playground. No pain while jogging, no unsightly blue veins, no nipple hairs or stretch marks. They nestled against satin and silk. Underwire was never even whispered. When Mikey hit puberty, he took up weightlifting, developing a special affection for flies and bench presses. Huge he became, but gentle. His breasts weren’t quite what he had had. They rather had the look of cement. I knew he must miss the softness. Still he lavished nearly the same amount of affection on them that he had held for his boyhood breasts. We became quite close after that summer. I now knew what tragedy was and performed no further experiments. Final results: There is loss.

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The Dragon Manual by Wayne Lee Thomas

Before you buy a dragon, give other people and their dragons a once-over first. Seek out a dragon owner who grins ear-to-ear, one who’s got a buzz cut, long nose, plenty of acne on his face, and wears blue jeans and an orange T-shirt. Watch him walking his dragon down Hancock Street, the chain dragon leash in his right hand and a large plastic KFC bag in his other. Admire his dragon’s beauty. Notice the aqua hide and scales. Wonder about its abnormality: pink fur on its rump and hind legs. Observe how the dragon— its master always seven or so paces behind—automatically stops for a ‘Yield’ sign and then, also on its own volition, sits at two consecutive red lights.

pointy dragon eyes. Smell your dragon. Love her tart dragon scent. Grab her wings and, in one quick motion, rip them off so she can’t fly away. Hear her wail: vrrrraaarrrrhh rhh rhh! Then cuddle her and tell her she’s the “perfect dragon.” Tickle her ears. Name her Sally.

Travel to a decaying chicken farm in Gainsville. Ask the burly man in the tin-roofed slaughterhouse for a lady named Moe. When she appears, see a big woman in her fifties, a wart on her nostril, no teeth, and an abundance of jetblack hair tied in a bun behind her head. Make her smile; acknowledge that Moe is quite a jarring name for such a beautiful woman. Get the dragon for free.

Purchase dragon diapers. When Sally poops or pees outside, reward her with chicken.

Retrieve the tape measurer still lying on the floor. Gauge Sally’s height: one foot, nine inches tall. Realize she’ll grow a lot bigger. Kick Doug, your roommate, out of the apartment. Present Sally with his old bedroom.

Set the thermostat at an even 82 degrees. Let Sally have lots of water and dragon food. Play with Sally at least twice a day in thirty-minute increments. Find out that Dungeons and Dragons doesn’t work with a real dragon. ImDon’t look at the dragon until you get it home; keep it in itate your favorite sound that she makes: vlah the square wooden crate with air holes. Find a tape mea- vlah vleeeh vleeeh. Learn “the hard way” not surer. Measure the crate and be proud that your estimation to pull her tail too hard. Beg Sally to stop was dead-on: three feet on every side. Carefully remove the chewing on the coffee table. crate’s lid. Meet your dragon for the first time. Pick it up, let it wiggle in your hands and lick your face. On a whim, teach her how to breath fire. Work Look at its genitalia and discover she’s a girl. Inspect her hard to keep her from ever doing it again. yellow hide and scales, maroon wings, puffy belly, and When she singes the hair on your legs, feel unsettled. When the apartment complex burns down, say your goodbyes.

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Yasmine Kittles photo by Olivier Zahm

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NO WHY by

Yasmine Kittles

There is no “why.” There can be no “why.” This is, because, as an artist, there is no option. This is, because this is. Plagued as we may be, we are blessed in that we are, in truth, a minority. Many will claim to be, but the “lifers” remain that- “lifers”- the sole true artists. The true artists that exist to create and create to exist. A rarity. An endangered species. Because we have committed ourselves- not by choice- to be honest. To show the world the way we see things- knowing full well that the way we see things does not fit the societal “norms” that guarantee us a shield of safety. There is no safety. There is no net. There is only what is and where it has fallen within us. We are the only true thing that can cause genuine change- in sight, in thought, in heart, in the honest depths within one another. The word “why” can not be used. It is until we have understood that the only person we can please is ourselves can we be truly honest. It is not until then that our art is as real as our hearts and as raw and honest and most difficultly- as vulnerable as we can be. Our need to be understood replaced with our need to express. Our only growth through expression and our expression through creation. Growth only achieved as knowledge of ways in which to create can be understood. Growth without greed or self-righteousness- both indicating a stunted growth, indicating insecurity. Realizing we are all a product of our environment. We must accept that we have been affected by society in every way- by our surroundings, by our family, by our regions of growth, by school, by our influences, by everything. We are a product of all of those things. Some we shun. Some inspire us. We are a product of all of those. Each person’s experience with those factors will be different. We are all different. So, not one of us should ever “sound” the same. We should never be afraid of sounding differently, but we should be afraid of not being true to that sound. That sound is what we are. It will never sound the same as another. Every sound is music. Every line is art. Every thought important. Every word a thoughtful beauty. Every mistake subconsciously beautiful in its honesty. Every silence saying more than words in its honesty. There is no right and wrong. There are no rules. The only rule is that there are none. …And that there can be no “why.”

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CLINT CATALYST photos by DIRK MAL

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Black & Grey magazine VOLUME 3 number 1 PREVIEW  

INFERNO published on the Old Gaelic holiday of SAMHAIN is the beginning of the third volume of fashion art and literature periodical Black &...

Black & Grey magazine VOLUME 3 number 1 PREVIEW  

INFERNO published on the Old Gaelic holiday of SAMHAIN is the beginning of the third volume of fashion art and literature periodical Black &...

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