A Fistful of Cuties
The gang resumes its campaign of urban acid mind terrorism guerilla war with a series of shootings, bombings, and assassinations
This is a work of fiction. Any names or characters, businesses or places, events or incidents, are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Little Italy, Mulberry Street, Nighttime. It’s the day that the New York Times piece on Beckett’s came out and Tai and I are at Manero’s for a party for a finance-themed litmag that doesn’t exist yet. Ellie is there because she is hosting and is somehow associated with the magazine and when I meet her she apologizes for being inarticulate because the shrooms she just took are now kicking in. A bunch of the Cutiepie NFT people are there, as is this Daily Beast scene beat reporter Helen Holmes. Tai and I are talking to this dude Aidan who makes Cutiepie NFT-associated streetwear and is by far my friendliest contact in the Cutiepie crowd, a group whose attitudes toward my writing range from suspicious to outright hostile. He tells us about the big upcoming event they’re doing for NFT week—which, in any case, will be much more lowkey than last year—a party at Mehanata that’s going to be happening simultaneously with this other Cutiepie rave in Tokyo. He’s been shipping a lot of stuff to Asia lately. Aidan and Tai start talking about baseball. Another Cutiepie guy, Luke, one of Aidan’s homies who also makes streetwear and will be DJing at the Mehanata party, strikes up conversation with me.
“I bet you feel snubbed by the New York Times piece not mentioning you,” he tells me. I tell him I’m not too concerned about that because I’ve got a piece on the whole Beckett’s thing coming out in two days and it will contrast with the Times piece enough that it’s better that Tai and I only appear as anonymous faces in the ensemble picture. Luke tells me that he thinks my writing is better now that it’s more objective, rather than being critical or opinionated.
Shortly afterward, I’m outside in the courtyard with Tai, who is now introduced to Luke, and somehow we’re having a conversation about the longhouse, which I semi-ironically call a good thing. The downtown scene is one big longhouse, and Tai and I are two of its enforcers. Luke agrees that we’re living in the longhouse, but he says that he’s a supporter of the patriarchy, though it doesn’t really make a difference anyway because the women have all the power, namely by controlling the access to sex. Luke tells us that he has a very big sex drive and that he wishes he could be gay because gay men have a utopian sexuality that completely removes the problem of feminine desire. Gay men can just get right to the penetrative fucking, with none of the whining and sentimentality that characterizes women. Unfortunately for him, he’s 100 percent straight, not even a little bi.
“Well, I’m sorry to hear that, because women do have a lot to offer,” Tai says.
“I ain’t proud of it,” he says, “I’m also a very possessive lover.”
“Interesting… maybe it’s not your fault,” Tai says with somewhat uncharacteristic pity, “maybe it’s society.”
Luke says that the afters is going to be at his place in Brooklyn, and he starts explaining to Tai the concept of the afters, the small party after a larger event to which only a select group of guests is invited. He’s got a good spot and the afters for this gang are always there and we should come tonight. Then he goes off to get another drink.
“I take it we’re going to the patriarchy lounge later?” I ask Tai.
“How’d you get him to just start spilling all that? I feel like we hinted to him that in our ideal society he’d be shot, and then he just grabbed a shovel and gladly started digging himself a grave.”
“I think he knows me from Twitter. In fact, I think we fought on Twitter. So it’s like he has a bit of an axe to grind with me, but it’s also really distorted through scene clout politics and stuff, so his flex on us comes out being, like, inviting us to his party spot he’s really proud of while making sure we’re very aware that it’s not a ‘feminist space’ and whatnot.”
Tai has a pretty unhinged Twitter presence and is always tweeting stuff like how all the woman-hating downtown fascist pig rapists need to be taken out and shot like Old Yeller. If you just look at her timeline she just seems like some crazy bitch on the internet, but I think it rules and she has just this swag I need to keep this writing interesting, so she’s become a consistent companion in exploring all the scene stuff. We’ve got a sort of good cop bad cop routine, and she’s the bad cop. I often can tell when characters who’ve grown pretty comfortable with me are thrown off by Tai, and they often end up saying things that they probably wouldn’t say if they were just talking to me. They often seem to think that I’m really a reactionary elitist under the left-wing exterior, I’m a college-educated white cis man who has some affinity for trolling and aestheticized violence, so it’s only a matter of time before I accept my class destiny and return to my true fascist social embodiment. But Tai, the lumpen punk hapa skinhead maoist feminazi, is beyond saving.
The party has been winding down and I ask Ellie if the afters for this thing is really at that Luke guy’s place or if that’s just for the Cutiepie crew.
“That’s what those guys are saying. I’m thinking about going but I’m not sure.”
“Tai and I are planning to go. Luke tells us that he’s a big fan of the patriarchy and that he’s a possessive lover, so it sounds like I need to check this place out.”
“Oh… huh! Interesting. Maybe I’ll go, I’m not sure… but I’ll see you there if I do!” And then Ellie heads off.
Before we had gotten to Manero’s this evening, I had been working on “The Rabbits” all day and had just sent Tai the latest draft before leaving my apartment, and she had read it by the time we met up.
“I’m actually wondering if I should mask Ellie’s character a bit in the new piece,” I say to Tai, “I asked her if she was cool with using her name and she said sure, but that was also before I had actually finished it and realized how biting it’d be.”
“Why? You basically just say she’s hot and interesting, which is the most flattering thing you can say about any of these people.”
“Right, it’s not the sexual objectification that’s the issue, it’s the shit-stirring. Perhaps she understood our warning about tonight—‘some of you are alright, don’t go to the afterparty, there’s gonna be a Substack’—but I can’t tell if she catches on to all the conflict going on just beneath the surface. We’ve got this little Kacey Musgraves over here and I feel like I’m strapping a suicide vest to her so that I can assassinate Beckett before his bourgeois art cult gets too entrenched. If I had asked her to become a martyr for the cause of killing every charismatic-yet-visionless right-opportunist nepo baby failson in the city, I’m not sure she’d agree.”
We end up talking about how sick it would be if someone actually did blow up Beckett’s, even if we were both to die in the blast. We imagine the West Village bourgeoisie clucking away as they gobble up their exquisite dinners outside at the fancy restaurant next door, and having the debris rain down on them: Beckett’s severed wrist with his Rolex watch, Christian Lorentzen’s cirrhotic liver, assorted limbs to be identified by their stick-and-poke tattoos, dozens of shriveled useless penises, Hestia cigarettes, issues of The Mars Review of Books...
Williamsburg, Bedford Ave, Nighttime. Tai and I took our sweet time getting to the patriarchy lounge and now we’re there, I’m grinding up weed out back with Tai and Aidan and Luke and some other people and there’s a party inside with a bunch of others I haven’t met yet. Tai is talking about baseball again, she’s a big Dodgers fan and she wants to see them play the Mets at Citi Field sometime this year. Luke mentions how that’s the place where he saw Dead and Company, the current incarnation of the Grateful Dead with John Mayer in it. Tai says something about how she thinks John Mayer sucks and that he can’t ever truly replace Jerry Garcia. This flips a switch in Luke, and he starts going real hard in the paint for the guy. John Mayer is actually a really great guitarist, he says, he’s a really cool guy as evidenced by the fact that the Grateful Dead hang out with him, he used to be friends with Dave Chappelle you know, and it’s actually really fitting that he’d be playing with the Grateful Dead. Tai is not convinced, and she says that letting John Mayer in the band reflects poorly on the Grateful Dead more than anything. But Luke will not be satisfied until he gets Tai’s acquiescence on the John Mayer question. He claims that John Mayer is the greatest guitarist of his era, and on these grounds the man deserves to be part of the Grateful Dead. His argument is a mix of grandiose claims about John Mayer’s artistic significance and intimations that he personally knows the guy and that he’s really fucking cool. Tai is not letting this get past her—sorry, John Mayer sucks, he’s just lame, he’s corny as hell, the only people who would think he’s cool are 13-year-old girls from 15 years ago who didn’t know any better at the time—and she doesn’t really try to convince him with some sound logical argument so much as make clear that she’ll never be convinced and that’s that. It’s a discussion that would be immediately defused by Luke agreeing to disagree, like yeah whatever this guy saw Dead and Co and he thought John Mayer was fine in it, okay, moving on. But he’s totally glitching right now, his dialogue tree is going in circles, he’s making the same points about John Mayer being really cool trust me he’s really cool he used to hang out with Dave Chapelle he’s just an awesome guy. Not only that, he’s also getting up in Tai’s face, which is a feat because we’re sitting outside in lawn chairs that are spaced out pretty far apart from each other. At one point he invokes his ownership of the residence and alludes to his right to kick us out if Tai doesn’t accept John Mayer playing in the Grateful Dead. Eventually Aidan tries to give Luke an off-ramp by connecting the corniness of John Mayer to the softboy sex appeal of someone like Drake—like yeah maybe he’s lame but there are superstars who can be sexy in a lame way—but Luke misses the subtext and flips it with a declaration that John Mayer is actually more culturally significant than Drake. John Mayer is in the Grateful Dead, whereas Drake is in Degrassi. What an outrageous claim, Tai says, Drake is a mover and shaker whose influence in contemporary hip hop is pretty much indisputable even if you don’t particularly like his music. Luke ends up making the Drake–John Mayer connection Aidan was hinting at but it’s reframed as suggesting that John Mayer is really cool precisely because he grooms underage girls with Drake’s signature softboy sleaze, they’re both based underage girl enjoyers, like it’s a privilege reserved for a powerful sophisticated elite, and Tai just needs to learn how to accept “cringe” in her life. The tension builds up to a point where Tai just says, “okay, you’re right, maybe the Grateful Dead and John Mayer do fit together … because the Grateful Dead FUCKING SUCK!” It’s perfectly timed and hilarious and definitely should shut down this conversation but Luke takes her declaration literally, “clearly you don’t appreciate one of the greatest bands of all time,” and Tai is like “I’m a musician, I play rock music, I’m literally wearing a Grateful Dead shirt right now [she is wearing a tie-dye steal your face shirt with a Dodgers logo in the place of the lightning bolt], I pretty much study this shit,” and he finally seems to be satisfied with the invocation of her rock n roll expertise. The tension dissipates and everyone eases off their six-shooters. I haven’t said a word this entire time, I’m just watching, eyes wide like that meme of Matthew McConaughey smoking in True Detective, it's hard to tell if joining the conversation on Tai’s side—as a man—would even help, or if it would just make things worse, no need to disrupt the balance and risk making Luke feel like we’re ganging up on him at his own place. I feel like he’s gotten so caught up in Tai that he’s forgotten I’m still there and still dangerous. In any case, Tai has this totally under control, real tough girl shit.
Aidan leads the conversation back to calmer waters and Luke sits back for a bit. Luke is wearing a white denim jacket with patches sewn in with logos of the bands Cocteau Twins, Nine Inch Nails, New Order, and some others in that vein. It’s a cold early spring night with intense wind. Luke asks if any of us have ever gone through the text messages on our phones and accidentally texted something to an unknown number thinking that it was someone other than it really was. No one quite relates to this, and we ask him to explain what he actually means. He tells us that he had just been idly scrolling through his text message conversations on his phone and had opened up one conversation with a number of a girl he had once hooked up with. Since he had never entered her name as a contact, his text conversation with her had appeared as one with a random number among many other conversations with random numbers. He had just sent this particular number a text asking what’s up and inviting the person over to hang out, and she said yes and is coming over—but then he had scrolled up in the conversation and realized it’s some other girl that he didn’t actually intend to text, and now he’s dreading this girl’s arrival. After his explanation, the group still finds this scenario unrelatable. He shows us lewd pictures that this girl had sent him. “She’s kinda hot I guess, but she’s so annoying… and ugh, she’s on her way right now.” We’re all cold and the wind is howling and we all decide to go inside. Inside there are maybe a dozen people across the various rooms of the apartment and Tai and I sit on a couch in the living room and watch a college lacrosse game that’s playing on the TV. UVA versus Maryland. As we’re watching the game, we overhear Corey, a tech writer who also seems to be the court philosopher of the Cutiepie NFT crowd, talk about Bataille and the accursed share and how Silicon Valley has the most altruistic elite class in world history and that it is their utmost ethical duty to spend lavishly on geoengineering projects and NFTs. Luke comes in and turns off the lacrosse game. “Now this is fucking catnip to autists,” he says as he switches the television to a video of airplanes landing at Heathrow airport. Still trippy, we sink into the couch and zone out to the airplanes landing accompanied by Corey’s lecture on Bataille. “Jesus… these ominous, unsettling machines,” Tai says to me, “full of sweaty people who’ve been sitting for God knows how long, in choking discomfort, all just to land at fucking Heathrow. The fucking UK. TERF island! How miserable.” Luke starts telling the others about the girl he thoughtlessly invited, and then he checks his phone—she’s at the door right now! Tai rolls her eyes in complete disgust: “We have got to get out of here before I take it upon myself to let that poor girl know what that absolute dog was saying about her.” We catch a glimpse of her as we head out.
Crown Heights, Nostrand Ave, Daytime. Gasda is weirdly happy when I publish “The Rabbits,” which I wasn’t expecting because I quoted him pretty extensively after he had specifically told me not to. I had no other choice. What he was saying about Beckett’s “heterotopia” is probably the most perceptive shit I’ve ever heard come out of his mouth. Including all that would disrupt the image of a frictionless relationship between him and Beckett presented by the New York Times. It was exactly what I needed to tie the whole piece together. But I was so convinced that Gasda was going to be tight about this—probably because I had overestimated how much he cares about what Beckett thinks of him—that I consciously made him sound more gangster than he really is, gave him this smug satisfaction that everything is going according to his devious master plan, and implied that he can actually manage to one-up me somehow (he would never be able to sense Crumps’ melancholic yearning and existential weariness with “the sweet life” because there is none, I’m an ice-cold killer). Not that I care whether Gasda is annoyed at me, but the piece essentially makes a bet that Gasda will be more relevant than Beckett, so it would just be unsavvy to get myself locked out of his scene while saying that. I had also removed one of Tai’s lines that satirized and undercut Gasda’s claim to actually be “above it all.”
So Gasda texts me the day it comes out saying that he’s amused by the whole fictional quotes thing and I’m like, well that’s one less thing to worry about. Then a bit later I hear from Cassidy, and she’s saying that her landlord won’t be renewing the lease on her apartment because he had read the Substack and had interpreted “Olympia’s opium den” to mean Cassidy’s apartment, and that the Substack is supposedly evidence of all the partying and drug use going on there which also apparently lines up with some noise complaints, and that I’m basically responsible for this. This I was not expecting, especially since the drug use is like the least reprehensible thing going on in that particular Substack scene. I text this to Tai and she immediately responds “this has Gasda written all over it.” A week later Tai and I go to the Brooklyn Center for Theater Research, aka Gasda’s new Greenpoint loft theater space, to check in on that crowd. Gasda seems pretty chipper but Cassidy and Lorentzen are both totally pissed at us, though we can sort of tell that Cassidy wants to talk to us like normal but is trying to maintain her angry front. As we’re talking to Gasda, Tai asks about the loft where Cassidy has been living (and, recently, Lorentzen), which had also been a rehearsal space for various projects. Gasda answers something like, “yep, done with that spot, won’t be paying that rent anymore, now all the theater stuff will be here in this space.”
“Exactly what I thought,” Tai says to me afterward, “Gasda’s been on the lease for Cassidy’s place this whole time and has wanted to get out of it because he just sees it as this spot for her to do cocaine all night and receive her numerous lovers—and the Crumpstack finally gave him the opportunity to do so! It revealed that she is still doing cocaine, which she apparently has been lying to Gasda about. No doubt he was going to do this anyway, but now he has an excuse—and someone to take the blame.”
“That diabolical cuckold!” I exclaim, “He defiles my beautiful art by deploying it toward his petty patriarchal ends! No wonder he was delighted. Here I am, worrying about offending Gasda with a quote that makes him sound cool, all while he’s planning some nefarious power play to consolidate his assets and exercise punitive, moralizing control over his ex! And that fool Cassidy—that night at ‘Olympia’s opium den,’ after boasting about how my Substack got her laid, she insisted I read her inane manifesto on why manipulating people is so erotic, as if that isn’t the very source of her own misery and helplessness! May God save the poor souls unfortunate enough to find themselves ensnared in their love triangles—the folly and vanity of these theater kids truly knows no bounds! When they hate-fuck each other after their sessions of intense abuse, they imagine themselves making love to my prose…”
Crown Heights, Nostrand Ave, Daytime. Scrolling on my phone. The normies in the comments for the New York Times Instagram post about the Beckett’s story have immediately caught on to the scene’s class/race/sex politics:
“Why are they all white…” “Clearly a diverse establishment.” “Sounds like a very pretentious and white rich kids kinda place.” “Were they taking skull measurements at the door?” “There’s no Black people cos we sure as heck ain’t going to some 53-year-old white dude’s apartment to discuss Shakespeare and watch a porno. That just sounds like a serial killer movie plot.” “Do they allow non-whites?” “This annoys me.” “The gold Rolex tells me all I need to know.” “Safe space for white people.” “People this hot don’t make art.” “An artist collective that has no black and brown people is just a country club.” “Cult vibes.” “Are they the underclass or are they privileged? You can’t be both.” “And like an old ‘Friends’ episode, not a single Black or even brown face in sight. Simply inexcusable during these times and hard to believe that it’s not by design. Wow.”
Some commenters are asking “who is that hot guy in the first picture,” and then George Olesky jumps in the replies like “hi its me :)” …
Even after the whole goodbye Times feature, I see some posts on Instagram advertising more upcoming events at Beckett’s, including a screening of Betsey Brown’s film Actors…
LES, Essex Street, Nighttime. Tai and I are coming up on acid in a bar in the basement of the Essex Street Market while they’re playing the end of Moulin Rouge! on the projector and I have this preliminary trip insight that the villainous Duke of Monroth (played by Richard Roxburgh), who lusts after the beautiful cabaret actress and courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman), sort of resembles Gasda. The Duke’s plan to kill his romantic rival, the young English poet Christian (Ewan McGregor), is foiled and then the movie ends and then the bartenders put on Scarface. “Now this is the vibe we need to get ready for this Cutiepie party,” I tell Tai as Tony Montana (Al Pacino) watches his friend get dismembered with a chainsaw. We then saddle up the palominos after the scene where Tony Montana dances with the Miami drug kingpin’s wife Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer) and then hobble on down kaleidoscopic Delancey Street, third eyes pointing us toward Mehanata. Tai is wearing an Andy Warhol pop-art Marilyn Monroe print dress. “You gotta wear the opps,” she says.
We get to Mehanata and it seems kind of dead from the outside so we decide to stand on the other side of Ludlow Street and watch as people go in. It’s still pretty early, almost midnight. Most of the people we observe are pulling up in fat squads of cis-hetero white and Asian guys, and the ratio of guys to girls in these crews is probably like a dozen to one. Most of them have either a slovenly tech worker casual or normie buttoned-up rich kid Patagonia vest look but some of them are sporting expensive-looking streetwear pieces. There are a few familiar faces I recognize from the De Vere Ball or parties at Beckett’s. I also notice “the gooner.” On the internet, many of these types make a whole subculture out of their flamboyant “schizoposting,” but when they gather in person they pretty much look like unremarkable law-abiding taxpayers, especially when juxtaposed with the ambient freakiness of the Lower East Side. This party doesn’t seem to have the same “crossroads of subcultures” feeling that the NFT week parties had last year, when the crypto world was flush with cash and people were claiming that NFTs were the future of nightlife, and that proof of ownership would eventually be a requirement to get into the parties.
We’re supposed to meet up with Kitty here and Tai gets a text from her saying that she’s already inside so we finally go in. The bar area is packed but the dance floor is clear. We run into Kitty and then we run into Aidan, who is listed as one of this party’s hosts on the flyer. I’m sipping water by the bar looking around at people I recognize: Luke the John Mayer stan from the other night, the dude who recognized me and called me a cuck the first time I ever went to Clandestino and met Dean Kissick, this other playwright named Hector who kinda does Gasda’s thing but with more dogwhistles, Corey the Cutiepie NFT court philosopher, a notoriously unhinged schizoposter named Wolfgang that Aidan tells me is “the nicest guy you’ll ever meet,” miscellaneous haters I remember from the big struggle session last year—a bunch of the small-time reactionary scene operators, not really any of the bigshots.
The most interesting character we encounter is this dude John Michael, henceforth JM. This guy looks like he could be any other weirdo in the Cutiepie gang, and in fact he actually resembles Corey somewhat—tall, disheveled white autodidact who wears ironic(?) baseball hats and generally just looks like a crazy tech nerd. But JM is a ronin, you’ll never see him running around with a crew, he hates all these downtown scene fascist gentrifier racist posers, he calls himself a communist and somehow tries to take that stance seriously—a true lone wolf in the scene. He’s like the actual “schizoposter” in that he’s constantly trying to beef with scenesters and he makes these Instagram stories denouncing them for being the shit-eating bootlickers they are in warped theoryspeak text that feels almost Angelicist but is explicitly against all things Angelicism. He does have a lot of interesting ideas but zero savvy communicating them, he’s confrontational and has no interest in flattering people, so most of his Instagram posts have less than ten likes. He especially hates people who amass huge audiences. He’s an outsider who floats around New York and whispers his insights in the ear of whoever is willing to listen to him at the moment, and that sometimes means my ear. For a while I had been ignoring him because he had a manic phase and went off on Ulysse Carriere aka “Catboy Deleuze” / “inherent_itgirl” / etc. about some absurdist meme bit they (Ulysse) were doing on Instagram at that time and then Ulysse (who is also notoriously abrasive) took offense and responded in kind and then demanded that JM be banned from some discussion panel about Marx’s early work hosted by Matt Donovan in NYC that Ulysse was participating in through video call (Ulysse lives in Montreal), and then JM was saying that I was backing him in this beef which I did not agree to so I just ended up passively taking Ulysse’s side and ignoring JM, and JM obviously got pissed at me because he saw that as the easy way out and that I showed myself to be just another downtown scene poser sycophant who isn’t willing to call people out for their bullshit. Either way, JM’s beef with Ulysse was never going to be the hill I die on. After a while JM cooled down and we’ve been on better terms since. JM also briefly had some beef with Tai when he called her critique of heterosexualism pure bitter resentment and then Tai answered that the belief that women can only critique patriarchal sexual dynamics from a place of bitter resentment is essentially saying that women are mad because they can’t get laid which is rape culture 101 and that JM should check himself before he wrecks himself—and to his credit he did indeed check himself. He’s got some toxic masculinity that can come with mental illness but he’s definitely still capable of good faith critical self-reflection. In short, Tai and I both think that JM is a wildcard who can be difficult to deal with, but we fuck with his combative energy.
The density of opps in the club gets a bit overwhelming so the group (Tai, JM, Kitty, Saltypickles, Aidan, myself) goes outside to smoke. As we’re smoking, I notice the guy who runs the “Women Posting Their L’s” Twitter account, who is also listed on the flyer as a host of this party. I mention this to Tai and she’s like “Are you serious? That piece of shit is here? I’m going to shoot that motherfucker.” Tai’s got serious beef with that guy and she always used to quote tweet the usual woman-hating bullshit he posts until she got blocked for calling him a fat imbecile and comparing him to an unbaked roll. “Yeah, I think that’s the guy,” I say, “I can’t remember if I’m getting him confused for Lo-fi Republican, but he’s definitely one of our opps.” Tai and I’s conversation is sort of detached from the other people in the group, who are floating around just outside earshot. Right as we’re talking about the Women Posting Their L’s guy, Aidan floats into the conversation and is like “Yep, that’s him, he’s my roommate,” and with that revelation Tai’s opinion of Aidan immediately plummets. I realize I had already heard about this—in fact, I had first met Aidan a year ago at this Cutiepie NFT week event at their place uptown, so I kind of always knew of him as the relatively more chill guy in a sus crew, although I had forgotten the Women Posting Their L’s detail among all the rest of last year’s excitement. I was in no position to give him shit for that at the time, since I was still an outsider in the early stages of developing a basic social map of the scene. I never ended up having much friction with him because I only wrote about the Cutiepie NFT stuff in passing. Tai met him more recently and knows of him under the more neutral-to-friendly context of the Crumps/Saltypickles extended network of downtown scene drug people, though she was starting to get a little suspicious of his associates after the John Mayer incident. But now, Tai is making it clear that the moment of friction with Aidan has arrived. “You live with that misogynistic piece of shit? I can’t believe I’m just learning this now.” I can tell that Aidan is already regretting saying this, but with Tai around this antagonism I had managed to avoid was bound to come out sooner or later.
Aidan tries to save face a bit, James (the Women Posting Their L’s guy) is actually a really nice guy, it’s all in good fun, it’s all wholesome, he’s really not a big hater, he’s actually engaged to be married, and so on. Tai is utterly unimpressed by this, the weak “wholesome” excuse a sure sign of blood in the water, and she glares at him with straight-up disdain. I am absorbing all of Aidan’s discomfort as he glances at me in the hope that I’ll give him some way out, but there’s nothing. I can’t undercut Tai’s righteous indignation and try to change the subject or something.
“Who are you guys talking about?” JM chimes in. It’s hard to tell at first how much he’s been paying attention.
“My roommate’s Twitter account.”
“And what’s his Twitter account?”
“It’s a Twitter account called ‘Women Posting Their L’s.’”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“It’s a Twitter account called ‘Women Posting Their L’s.’”
“And what’s that?”
“You know, he reposts content of like, women posting their L’s.”
“What does that mean?”
“He reposts like, content and stuff of women doing embarrassing things, posting it, it’s funny.”
“How many followers does this account have?”
It seems to dawn on Aidan that JM is setting him up.
“Hundreds of thousands.”
“What’d you say?”
“Hundreds of thousands, like 600 thousand, I think.”
Once JM is done making Aidan spell it all out, he goes in for the kill. He starts going off about how he thinks it’s really fucked up how people amass such huge followings by spreading such a disgusting message, shit like that is pretty much exactly what’s wrong with the world these days, it’s not funny at all, it’s totally wack, and he straight up hates this shit, it’s fucking pathetic. JM is totally indifferent to Aidan’s obvious embarrassment—at his own party!—and in fact it almost seems to compel him even further. I can’t tell if JM actually cares about the Women Posting Their L’s guy or if he’s just seizing the opportune moment to flout the scene’s social decorum and channel his resentment into smoking this guy for the hell of it. Once there’s a pause, Aidan dips out and goes back inside. Without missing a beat, JM turns to me.
“I saw you cringing there, Crumps. What, were you embarrassed or something? Did you think that was all cringe?”
I’m tripping hard right now and it’s taking me a second to gather my thoughts.
“Damn,” Tai says, “that was intense.”
“Yeah, I think that really revealed a lot,” JM says, still looking right at me, “I think it revealed a lot about our characters. Crumps especially.”
“Alright, settle down, cowboy,” I say, “I wasn’t about to stop Tai from righteously excoriating Aidan for his wack homies. I had to absorb all of his visceral unease while you were on your psycho sigma male shit. It was brutal. But it was also impressive. Perhaps I’ve underestimated you.”
“Right, well, you’re no quick draw, that’s for sure.”
Tai and I decide it’s time to leave, we’ve seen enough and we’ve just burned one of our friendliest contacts at a party full of opps. Kitty and Saltypickles have missed the fireworks entirely—we tell them we’re heading out, they’re staying behind for a bit longer. We let JM roll with us for the night and start wandering around the LES in search of a comfortable park bench to post up and smoke weed. JM does not smoke weed because he says it makes him psychotic.
“Hanging out with that crowd just isn’t the same when it’s not at Beckett’s,” I say, “it’s not as much fun when it isn’t lubricated by the hotties and the more… socially adept. That spot definitely made everyone look way cooler.”
“Doesn’t that just mean that Beckett’s legitimized the fascists by giving them cover, giving them a plausibly neutral space to mingle with all the young artist and writers?” JM asks.
“Right, for sure. I guess that’s so obvious I’ve started to take it for granted. That’s why Yarvin won that Shakespeare/De Vere debate at Beckett’s against Gasda, who took the whole affair much more seriously. Gasda was earnestly trying to defend the timeless integrity of middle-class genius, which is so typical of him, whereas Yarvin’s whole point was basically that hip boho coffeehouses are great spots for the poet-spy agents of the ruling class to test out their fascist psyops. It sounds like some grandiose delusion but is pretty much exactly what he was doing. Yarvin is a bumbling idiot nerd but somehow he manages to come to the real insight that his leisure is political.”
“You come from that same DC-area deep-state class background as Yarvin does, Crumps. And you’re certainly a poet-spy of sorts, traversing the same house of illusions, playing the same ridiculous bourgeois socialite game in your free time, when you aren’t copyediting some World Bank report, that is. Maybe you don’t do it so clumsily, but what’s the end goal, really? How do we know you’re not a fed?”
“You don’t, I guess. I don’t know. It’s not like my alleged handlers would have me wearing a wire for this, but you can check me anyway. I guess you just have to take my word for it that I resent the world I come from, and that I’ll be clever enough to channel that resentment into becoming a genuine class traitor somehow, rather than an unwitting saboteur who sows discord in the Real Movement.”
JM turns to Tai. He trusts her more because she’s more visibly punk and she didn’t go to college. “What do you think, Tai? Is Crumps a fed?”
Tai looks at me, cherishing this moment of critical reflection. “I think he’s clean.”
“Hmm. Very well.”
We end up hanging out with JM for like five hours. JM asks us a bunch of questions that we’re way too trippy to answer, such as asking us to define “network spirituality,” which is the quasi-religion of the Angelicism and Cutiepie movements. “I don’t know man, that’s our opps’ concept, not ours. It’s just some bullshit about how they worship social media.” (Eventually on Twitter I come across a definition of “network spirituality” offered by the original founder of Cutiepie, who has been cancelled for grooming a “harem of e-girls” and encouraging them into self-harm and eating disorders: “Network spirituality is the futurist embrace of experiential hyperreality found in the web's accelerated networks, a lens in which to efficiently (& safely) engage lucid virtuality, and the internalization of its new cultural modes and mores … Proper interaction with Cutiepie involves the trance separation of real abstract thought and accelerates externalisation into pure intuition, embodying the network and unselfconsciously drawing out truths from the collective noosphere.”)
JM explains to Tai the story of how he inspired Gasda’s Dimes Square play, a story I’ve heard before, but it’s a long one with too many details for me to remember now in its entirely, but I’ll try to sum it up the best I can. Back in like 2021 or so JM used to live in this apartment in Dimes Square, like right there, a skip and a jump away from Clandestino, and he’d host these happenings with a small but colorful crowd of people that included Gasda, Cassidy, and Cassidy’s ex who goes by both Derek and Joseph (Tai knows the guy by the former name and JM the latter, it takes a while for them to realize that they’re both talking about the same person) and some other bohemian layabout and skater types, so he got to see when Gasda and Cassidy were first flirting with each other, Gasda used to crash on his couch all the time, this apartment was funded with the money from JM’s low-effort tech job (at Amazon or something?) so he was able to fill this apartment with tons of theory books, it was JM who took Gasda to Clando for the first time, JM was the one who knew “Dimes Square” was about to blow up and become the next big thing, he encouraged Gasda to write a play about this (Gasda was basically languishing in obscurity at the time), and JM had this idea of Dimes Square being like some revolutionary social critique, but Gasda just took it and cut out all the revolutionary avant-garde potential and basically made it this sitcom chamber drama about Gasda’s own bourgeois social climber anxieties—Gasda’s a reactionary but he’s not a fascist, by the way, JM says, he’s ultimately just a liberal, though that doesn’t make his and Cassidy’s fixation on their warped notion of “Beauty” any less grotesque—eventually the nascent JM loft scene fell apart and JM left New York and went back to Georgia, where he’s from, and then he was in a mental institution, and meanwhile Gasda’s play was blowing up and getting media attention, and then JM left the mental institution and came back to New York, it was around that time when I first met JM, at a bar in Greenpoint after one of Gasda’s plays, Gasda had invited me to come hang out with him and his theater troupe (we had only made peace with each other like maybe like a week or so before that), Gasda was calling JM “Cassandra” that night—cursed with the gift of prophecy that no one believes.
At like 5AM we all go to a diner on Houston Street and eat breakfast food. Afterward, JM goes back to his current place in Harlem, and Tai and I go back to Brooklyn. “We definitely need to pay Gasda a visit sometime soon,” I tell her, “let’s see if he corroborates this story.” I watch the sunrise from my rooftop when I get home.
Greenpoint, Huron Street, Nighttime. It’s the night of the first real performance of Matt Gasda’s Afters, the not-really-a-sequel to Dimes Square. It’s technically a “preview,” not the premiere, which will be in two days. We pull up to Gasda’s new theater loft, where we meet a woman who is checking everyone’s tickets.
“What are your names?”
“We don’t have any tickets. Could you just tell Gasda that Crumps and Tai are outside?”
“Ok, he’s up there somewhere. We’re sold out, but we’ll maybe we’ll have some extra space. I’m not sure. We’ll have to see.”
“That’s fine, thank you, we can wait here.”
We step back and wait on the sidewalk.
“Think he’ll let us in?” I ask Tai.
“Definitely,” Tai says.
“Well, if he doesn’t, that’d be a power move. I’d be impressed. We’d have to wait around at Twins Lounge and come back after the play. I can’t go home without talking to him about JM.”
“That would definitely be a power move. But he’ll let us in.”
“It was right not to buy the tickets. Our names would be on the list and he’d know we’re coming. He checks that shit, he’d be prepared. We always gotta keep him on his toes.”
About ten minutes later Gasda comes outside, dressed in his usual “dark academia” menswear look.
“I knew you two would show up tonight. I even considered texting you, but I was busy, and I figured it was unnecessary. Evidently it was. You need content, lest the Spring of Narcissus run dry.”
We both send token payments to the Venmo account for the Brooklyn Center for Theater Research and go on inside.
Tai and I had seen the reading of Afters they did at Beckett’s back in the winter, back when the script was still a rough working draft and they had a discussion session after the reading where people offered feedback. Cassidy staged a miniature coup over her creative disagreements with Gasda and it was really funny to watch. I remember thinking that there wasn’t enough friction and scene-political machination, which was a strength of the original Dimes Square. This was especially apparent in Christian Lorentzen’s character, Dave, who in the Actors draft reading had become a famous and successful novelist, so he was happy and no longer had much reason to be mean to the people he’s hanging out with, which prevented the character from being funny or interesting. To make things worse, Lorentzen’s line delivery was loud and so drawn out that it derailed the pacing of the second act, which was already poorly paced to begin with. It felt like it was going on forever and Gasda wouldn’t let people smoke cigarettes during the performances even though Beckett would permit it. Tai kept groaning next to me in the audience, “ugh will this guy fucking shut up?”
The energy tonight is much better from the start, and there’s probably more to it than just the difference between a script reading and a full performance. The cast is in good form, there’s good chemistry, some lines that felt flat in the first reading now sound much wittier, they’re getting better at incorporating the stage music to cinematic effect, and the audience seems to be having a good time. In one first act highlight, Cassidy’s character thoughtlessly invites both this guy she’s seeing and her ex-boyfriend over at the same time, and then she ends up in a fight with the ex (who is paying for her apartment) about how she’s been lying to him about her cocaine use—an expression of the pre-existing underlying tension that was then projected onto the Crumpstack as the thespians’ messy drama unfolded in real time over the past few weeks. It gives a great image to accompany to Cassidy’s text on the eros of manipulation, we observe googly-eyed Cassidy as she brings her voice up like two octaves: “Do you still love me?” and then Gasda’s preppy self-insert character in a Harvard Rowing vest, dramatically: “No.” And then in the second act, when Lorentzen’s character (whose part is now far better than it was in the reading) gives Cassidy’s character shit, “maybe you wouldn’t have all these stupid problems if your boyfriend wasn’t Nancy Reagan…” looking right at Gasda in the audience as he emphasizes that. It’s juicy! And Lorentzen’s lines are mostly improvised, so there’s no way Gasda had that one in the script. There’s apparently a lot of improvisation from the whole cast, they’re calling the script “more of a score, really,” which is unusual for Gasda because he’s a notorious stickler about actors memorizing his meticulously crafted lines and delivering them the way they were written. Maybe he’s loosened up a little, which seems to work.
Gasda is in high spirits when we get a chance to talk to him on the loft’s roof after the play. His new play wasn’t a complete disaster, Meg Spectre got him the hookup to some Fernet-Branca rep and now they’re promoting the drink even more aggressively than before, and in the morning Gasda will be going to New Haven with Lorentzen to give a talk at Yale about his work. Things seem to be going well. I tell him I’ve got a character dossier I need help filling out, concerning a guy from his past named John Michael.
“Oh boy,” he says, bracing himself, “John Michael, yes, I know him. It makes sense you’d run into him by now. It’s all coming back around.”
“Yes, well, I already met him last spring at one of the Greenpoint bars with the rest of your troupe,” I say. “But we’ve had a more recent encounter with him. He’s very interesting…” Gasda looks somewhat concerned, “but it was a good encounter,” I add, “he’s cool, we like him,” and then he looks relieved. I realize I just made a mistake showing my cards too early, I should’ve kept him thinking JM was our opp, I just closed off a potentially interesting dialogue tree, but whatever, now it’s too late.
Gasda confirms that it was from the scene that had gathered in JM’s Lower East Side apartment back in 2021, that’s all true, JM had told Gasda about “Dimes Square” and that it was going to be the next big thing, it really was JM who brought him to Clandestino and the other hotspots, JM’s loft was almost sort of like Beckett’s, but smaller, there weren’t really as many drugs as at Beckett’s (“I mean, Tai and I are sort of a part of that…”), it was more cigarettes and alcohol, but he had this vision of it being a some real revolutionary thing that will change the world, he had all this money from his tech job and he didn’t have to work very much, he’s a computer genius, he’s really more of a math and tech guy than a “writer,” but he wanted to curate a world of writers and artists, he bought tons of books with that money, more than any of us could possibly read, he thought he was going to find the answer to how to make Dimes Square the seed of the revolution in those books, he thought that a place like Beckett’s wasn’t living up to its true potential, he thought that they should be hanging the bourgeoisie from the ceilings, right next to all those chairs.
“Hanging the bourgeoisie from the ceiling of Beckett’s… now is that really such a bad idea?”
“You would think that... But he really did believe, or still believes, that we just need to make the correct Beckett’s. If only everyone at Beckett’s listened to JM, they’d all transform into revolutionary militants and they’d put on revolutionary happenings and the revolution would spread like wildfire. That’s sort of what you seemed to be calling for when you first reviewed Dimes Square, which obviously would’ve resonated with JM, but as your work has developed and taken more novelistic directions, I think this has been shown to be a very ‘non-Crumpsian’ position. Your revolution happens elsewhere, you seek other kinds of situations, other kinds of intensities. You don’t seem very concerned with making ‘the perfect Beckett’s’ at all.”
We tell Gasda the story about JM at Mehanata. When we get to the climax, he seems unimpressed. I repeat for emphasis—the setup, the execution, the sudden turn to critique the more “clouted” master. “It was epic,” I declare. But Gasda seems to perceive the situation that Tai and I believe expresses some proto-revolutionary liminal intensity as merely indicating how JM wastes his time telling everyone else how to do things without being able to write or orchestrate something substantial himself—he shouldn’t be so difficult, it’s annoying and ultimately pretty pointless, and isn’t he supposed to be on the same side as Crumps anyway? A fascinating difference in perception from these two overlapping autofictionists.
Bed-Stuy, Fulton Street, Daybreak. I’m sitting on the floor at Tai’s place and she’s telling me the things she’ll buy once she secures the bag: two new tattoos, one of a cockroach and one of a praying mantis, a gun, round trip tickets to Tokyo, a motorcycle, a vintage Chanel for her mom, two tickets for every game of the Mets vs. Dodgers series at Citi Field (she’ll bring a different homie every time), a nice bottle of mezcal with the nasty worm at the bottom, and a chihuahua, “because they’re scrappy little fighters”…
this shit sucks
Haven’t read one of crumps’ post in a while. It looks like it’s getting out of hand. The tediousness is. I bet the scene has interesting people and aspects of which to write, if you wanted to. Seems crumps is mostly just interested in positioning himself as a cool guy. It’s like he can’t fucking believe he’s actually in the big city just fucking hanging out and shit. I cannot imagine who would be entertained by reading about his myopic and self-serving expeditions around town. Especially with the description of places, people and events being so tedious and lifeless. The ‘critical’ part of his engagement with the scenes seems ultimately to be just a pretense for chasing clout and perhaps also an excuse for being an old and uncool voyeur-type desperate to insert himself among the in crowd. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just pissed off for having actually spend a minute reading this cringey drivel.