Spring of Narcissus
“You know, it was Tibet that gave Pabst its blue ribbon”
46th Street. Sunset Park. Nighttime. Vicky’s apartment smells like weed, cigs, incense, orange patchouli, pizza, death. The furniture all looks like it’s falling apart, the wooden kitchen chair collapsing as I sit on it, everything tripped up in the spiderweb of wires, microphone wires, headphone wires, soundboards plugged into soundboards, wires ensnaring half-drunken bottles of beer and an electric guitar. Imagine a Sonnenrad of wires. Vicky and Kate call themselves “phenomenologists of clout.” They’re both somewhat-recent NYU grads and they both have tens of thousands of Instagram followers, but less than a thousand on Twitter. Kate is the blonde of the two, even though they both have brown hair, and she has droopy eyes and is nicer to me than Vicky, who is more sarcastic and reactionary. Their podcast has mellowed out on the dogwhistles in the past year, and after a brief flirtation with integralist Catholic mysticism they’ve returned to their apparent baseline of mildly chauvinistic post-Bernie social-democratic politics with a skepticism toward radical militance.
The producer gives the girls a silent thumbs up. The girls do the introduction and then it’s my turn to talk and then I talk for a bit. I let them take over as soon as the conversation gets to where they can bring it back to their usual metacontrarian riffing about the week’s viral internet discourse, and then I start to tune out.
Sitting by the window and outside the tangled web is the writer, and he’s been watching the entire time. The writer is slouched in all black and his skin is pale and clammy, his greasy skin pockmarked with acne scars and fat blackheads, eyes bloodshot with dark circles beneath them, this once-handsome face framed by a strong jaw that grinds dull yellow teeth into crookedness. Don’t mind him, he’s just getting material for his memoirs, Kate had told me when I first walked in. His lap and fingertips are covered in weed dust, and the weed he smokes has an eerie metallic smell that reminds me of the taste of blood, or of DMT. He’s maybe five years older than I am, which means maybe a decade older than the girls, whose faces still have the naïve radiance of true youth.
I go out to the bathroom, which is split into two different rooms, one with the toilet and the other with the sink and shower, and which is shared with all the other tenants on the floor of this building. As I’m peeing, I hear the moaning of people fucking in one of the other rooms. I leave the toilet room and wash my hands in the sink room, and when I go back to Vicky’s room the writer is gone. What happened to that high-plains-drifter guy, I ask. He left already, Vicky says, rolling her eyes as if I had been away for an hour rather than three minutes and it was stupid of me to even ask.
Orchard Street. LES. Daytime. Olympia is reclined naked on the couch when Horatio lets us in to Arthur’s apartment, and Arthur sits in an armchair across from her, drawing her with charcoal, just like in Titanic. Arthur was in that Upper East Side gallery exhibit that Dean Kissick curated last summer and he was at that afterparty—the one where I suspect Leonardo DiCaprio was plotting his (ultimately failed?) attempt to woo Gigi Hadid (who was also there). “Oh, Crumps is here,” Olympia says as Jane and Horatio and I sit down at a table close to Arthur. “We brought something for you guys,” Jane says, and she pulls a small gray plastic bag out of her purse. “The molly gummies, as promised, pure MDMA, straight from Johns Hopkins University. My guy drove them up just yesterday, no adulterants, no comedown.” Jane tosses the bag to Olympia, who catches it. She observes the bag’s bland medicinal labeling and suspends it delicately between her fingers, letting it hover just above her nipple.
“Crumps, have you been reading anything good lately?” Horatio asks me. “Been reading any ancient Greek texts?” I tell him that I can’t read ancient Greek, and he seems surprised. Horatio is this handsome preppy conservative New York rich kid but he’s also a total head case, he’s got all this nervous energy, a paranoid jouissance that comes out in the way he fiddles around with things or how he sometimes imagines that the cute girls that talk to him at parties are stalking him. It’s like a paradoxical incel-chad energy. Lately he’s been telling me I should run for New York state senate, and he says that he would be my campaign manager.
“It's been sooooo long since I last took molly,” Olympia sighs as she fingers the little red and green candies in the bag, “but now I suppose I have no choice but to go back to the old me. And this stuff used to look and taste pretty scary. I almost feel a nosebleed coming on just thinking about it. We’d have to parachute the stuff in toilet paper because it tasted so bad… and now it’s this! These cute chewable candies!”
“Well,” Jane says, “these still taste really bad.”
“Profane illumination,” Olympia enunciates like a line in one of her plays, “is inherently disgusting. But we’ve lost our connection with the sacred kind.” Arthur tells Olympia to stop moving and she tosses the bag to him.
“I’m glad you haven’t written about me, Crumps,” Horatio says, “I don’t want to be associated with all these mediocrities and all their so-called art, their stupid little plays...” His critique of the scene essentially comes from the right, like it’s all too vulgar and middlebrow for him.
“You’re going to see me in Spring of Narcissus, though, right?” Olympia asks sweetly. Olympia loves talking shit about all the plays, like everyone else, but she’s an unemployed bohemian layabout who dabbles in acting, also like everyone else. Horatio just scowls—though he’s definitely going to be there.
Later that evening I’m at Jane’s place in Flatbush and she shows me her gun, a snubnosed revolver that looks like something an old-timey detective would be issued. She looks at herself in the mirror and then she draws the gun like she’s De Niro in Taxi Driver. She tells me that she thinks Horatio and Olympia are fucking, and I’m like, ok.
Nostrand Ave. Crown Heights. Nighttime. Jeremy is another Virginian who went to William and Mary and he’s my guru now and he tells me about his time in Tibet, Nepal, and “the Kathmandu scene.” I met Jeremy last spring at the “fear and loathing” Urbit party and we’ve been meaning to hang out and talk about Buddhism for a while. He tells me about how everyone drinks PBR in Kathmandu, and how it was once the favorite drink of the Tibetan aristocracy before the communist revolution. “You know, it was Tibet that gave Pabst its blue ribbon,” he says. He learned to roll joints in Kathmandu. You could only get hash there, and you’d even see the cops partaking—that is, the Maoist rebels who had just taken over and were still dressed for protracted people’s war. He tells me that he wants to finish writing this piece about practicing Buddhism in New York City. It’s easy to be a holy man on top of a mountain, or in the middle of the woods, or in the desert—the real challenge is to do it deep in this hive of samsaric thirst. He tells me about Drukpa Kunley and the nyönpa, the iconoclastic Tibetan yogis whose “crazy wisdom” included fucking and drinking and getting stoned and other profane paths to enlightenment. We talk about all the archetypal deities partying in my Dimes Square mandala palace.
Hudson Street. West Village. Nighttime. I’m sitting with Jane at Beckett’s and we’re coming up on acid and watching Thomas Sieger’s chamber drama Spring of Narcissus. Naturally, the play concerns the plight and follies of young beautiful artists who complain about their inability to express anything truly meaningful. Sieger is a Straussian and part of the more “sophisticated” class of Bronze Age Pervert readers, which is to say that he reads it for a model of elitist homosexual/pederastic pedagogy rather than for a vulgar groyper-Sturmabteilung call-to-arms. The lead character in the play is this downtown reactionary everyman, played by George Olesky, whose annoyance with his whimsical hotwife/it-girl girlfriend, played by Olympia, reaches this cosmic-mythological crescendo over the course of the play. Most of the characters end up transforming into plants or animals à la Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Olympia’s transformation is the most sadistic one. The girls in the play are mostly all nymph dilettante aspiring actresses who are enthralled by the fleeting gossip of the downtown scene and quick to betray their men if it means a good mention in their favorite substack. By contrast, the men, who write the plays the girls act in, spend their time contemplating Hölderlin’s poem “Hälfte des Lebens,” lots of bro talk about swans dipping their heads into sacred-sober water and shit like that. All the male homosexuality is condensed and displaced into transmitting the wisdom of the ancients, whereas the girls have some actual lesbian sex scenes. But the audience is always told that these girls are “fake lesbians,” they’re never sure if they’re actually “acting on their desire” or if they’re just doing this for clout, their fooling around a mere semblance of the true erotic reality that the men can access with their philosophy. “If you were serious about being a lesbian, you would learn Greek,” George’s character snaps at Olympia’s in a moment of cathartic cruelty. Ironically, the men are also the ones who are interested in “the motions of the heavenly orbs,” since these women are too shallow even for astrology.
“God, that fucking sucked,” Horatio tells me after it ends, “that was so fucking gay.”
Manhattan. Daytime. Sometime last summer just a week or so before the big struggle session, Dasha, who I hadn’t yet met in person, invited me to come hang out at her church. I remember wearing all white that day, which is unusual for me. When I got to the church Dasha had already left, but I met the priest, who is her confessor. Dasha’s confessor gave me a tour of the church. He told me about the stained-glass windows and the tapestries and the icons and Andy Warhol, who’d be properly understood more as a “catholic” artist than as an “LGBT” one. It was a charming tour of a beautiful church, one that was both “traditional” and “modern,” and I was feeling a nice wavy afterglow from the previous day. Still, it was weird knowing I was in this wellspring of reactionary spirituality, among the relics of Saint Andy, the patron saint of downtown it-girls, with the guy who hears of all the depraved shit Dasha does.
Mulberry Street. Little Italy. Nighttime. Everyone thought the title page for Andy Flint’s Untitled script posted to the Untitledcellectuals Instagram meme page was just a Manero’s party invite flyer, and it’s only once I get there that I learn that they’re actually planning on putting on a show of some sort. It’s a total mess, though it does have something dada about it in all the chaotic metacommentary narcissistic screeching about wanting to be famous. They have Peter Vack and George Olesky and Olympia and Cassidy and that Dan Mancini dude who’s dating Ana from the Neoliberalhell podcast and he shows up late and this guy Santiago who’s also from Northern Virginia and happens to be the son of an Ecuadorian diplomat and a few others I haven’t met (Darias and Katya according to the flyer) and Andy Flint himself floats in and out as the Jupiterian mastermind behind it all and most of the time the actors just yell nonsense at each other. Sometimes the actors seem to be just playing their “normal” scenester selves and sometimes they put on these accents, but the accents constantly fluctuate, so it’s like each of the actors simultaneously plays several different selves. Santiago wears a Nehru jacket and talks with a German (or Swiss?) accent for a little while and it seems like that’s maybe supposed to be a play on how he’s a white Latino or something, like how they’re all Nazi exiles, but then the accent gets dropped, though it comes back again later. The other actors talk in different accents, but it seems like they’re also all supposed to be part of one family, and there’s vague incest subplot that can be made out from all the absurdist noise. Most of the conflict centers around the play’s own script, which might not actually exist, and the actors are always yelling at each other to “stick to the script,” but they keep spilling drinks on the physical copies (they just appear to be blank pages) and when they try to pull the script up on their phones it always seems to disappear. There’s a bunch of digs at gender and self-identification and talk about anti-Italian racism and whether Italians are currently racialized and Peter goes on a long internet health guru rant about cholesterol and George is this failed actor who seems to be the serious straight guy of the group sitting upright in his stool in this serious actor pose and then there’s a DJ who starts playing early aughts top 40 hits which leads to more screaming and Cassidy twirls her hair and then gets up on the table in this suggestive tradcath way with Olympia and then there’s talk about diversity and how Darias is their diversity guy because he’s the one mixed-race actor there and then Andy wanders through the audience yelling stuff about the script the script stick to the script and that’s supposed to be part of the play and then some of the Untitledcellectuals Instagram account admins relay messages from the back of the audience to the stage and whisper instructions into the ears of the actors and that’s also supposed to be part of the play and then DJ Quiet Luke is sitting at a table in the back of the audience playing chess (there was a chess event here just before this, apparently it never really ended) and people keep asking him if his chess game is part of the play and he has to keep telling them that no it’s actually not. The play is like an Instagram meme page come to life, or a sprawling Cumtown bit, which I guess is the intent. Of course, beneath all the “mindless” irrationalism is a pretty banal expression of petty bourgeois class consciousness, so it’s more or less exactly what I expect.
I stick around for a little bit after the show ends. Peter catches me as I’m trying to leave. He tells me that he thought I was involved in this play for some reason, or at least that’s what people were saying—that Crumps wrote it. He tells me that was why he agreed to do this. Nope, I say, I’m not involved at all, that’s just a psyop, probably another whisper campaign by those Instagram meme account admins. Untitled was an Andy Flint production.
Manhattan. Nighttime. I’m in an Uber with Jane and Olympia, never mind where we’re going or where we’re coming from, and Olympia tells us about how Sieger staged an intervention for her, getting her parents involved and everything, saying that she was suicidal and hopelessly addicted to cocaine. She says this is basically all because Sieger got really mad at her for throwing this big house party at her old place that got out of hand and where her Parisian punk guitarist lover Michel (who Sieger hates) played a show. Well, that, and this one time where she was sitting in her windowsill reading a book and it vicariously triggered Sieger’s acrophobia. She was just being cute, and he just needs to chill out with the cuckold rage, she says. As for the cocaine, she’s not even that addicted to it. The Uber arrives at the destination before we find out what comes of the intervention.
Ludlow Street. LES. Nighttime. We’re in the bathroom in the basement of Mehanata and people keep opening the door and giving us weird looks when they see the three of us, even though there’s still plenty of space to pee or join our circle or whatever. Horatio’s cocaine has a weird sticky consistency, and it refuses to go up our noses, so Horatio tells us to just lick it off the key. Andy Flint asks what I thought of the Untitled play at Manero’s the other night and whether I’m going to write about it for the Substack, and I give a vague noncommittal answer. He says that he did not actually write the play himself, but rather that he dictated it to the Untitledcellectuals Instagram meme page admins, who are his acolytes. He then starts talking a bit about his homie Peter, and it goes something like this:
“You know Crumps, and I know Peter has already told you this, but we all have far more in common than people might think. We’re all actors. We’re really just actors on this infinite stage trying to shock people awake. To shock people out of the normie slumber of their egos. To shock them out of all this ordinary bullshit, to actually show them something real for once. Our methods may appear unconventional, maybe even obscene, but they have a storied history. Even St. Francis of Assisi called himself and his pupils “jesters of the Lord.” Still, I don’t agree with you trying to cancelPeter and Betsey, or with you calling them fascist. There was really nothing “fascist” about what you call the struggle session or humiliation ritual. A theater of cruelty, perhaps, but not fascist. And can there even be a theater without cruelty? That’s another discussion. But I, of all people, understand the kayfabe. I know you don’t think they’re actually fascist. You don’t think I’m fascist. Why would you think that and hang out doing coke with me in this bathroom? That’s just something you have to say to your readers. Most of them aren’t ready to grasp the great existential joke. You have to talk in parables and myths. Cowboys and Indians, fascists and antifascists. Last summer at the Daryl Roth Theatre I saw you pass through an otherworldly hall of illusions, a carnivalesque vortex, a total defilement of the spirit, the digital Dionysus made real. (He snaps his fingers.) And just like that, you became enlightened. What you experienced as a self-destructive frenzy of hate and vitriol was, in fact, the transmission of the dharma. You entered the theater as a naïve social climber and you left as a sort of Dimes Square holy man. Surely you remember Peter’s cool demeanor as he led his orchestra. I know him well, I am his teacher, everything he knows about acting and the dharma he learned from me. So, believe me when I tell you that he was, unmistakably, in a state of total compassion and tranquility. Of course, he knew that you were capable of receiving the dharma, that you would take it all in stride, that you would levitate above the ephemeral slings and arrows of his followers. You’ve only been awake for the past, what, seven months? But he has been awake for many, many years.”
Dagsen, who is evidently back from California, enters the bathroom and says, “Crumps, I was just hanging out with Noah Smith, you know, Noahpinion, he’s cool, you should hang out with him sometime.”
Avenue C. Alphabet City, East Village. Nighttime. Outside a party at Nublu Classic I meet the admins for the Untitledcellectuals page. They introduce themselves to me and then immediately apologize “for everything,” which I guess means either having been at the big struggle session last year or some unflattering memes they made about me that I never saw or have long since forgotten. One of the admins tells me that there have been like three major groundbreaking paradigm shifts just in the past month, with a new paradigm shift almost every single week, and we’re now in a period of such dizzying accelerationism that the Manero’s bouncer was turning people away at the door the other night. He says it’s a shame we’re meeting each other here, of all places, and I say that this place seems just as good as any other. “I mean, we’re talking about the Untitledcellectuals admins meeting Crumps for the first time ever. This place just doesn’t seem fitting for such a matrix-shattering encounter.”
Church Ave. Flatbush. Daytime. I’m at Jane’s place and she’s telling me some lore about the production of Colder than Death, a low-budget indie noir movie from a few years ago starring Andy Flint and Julia Fox. One of Jane’s friends did makeup for it, and this friend was on set the day that Julia Fox got the phone call from the Safdies or whoever saying that she had been cast in Uncut Gems. It was a huge deal, everyone there knew that Julia’s life had suddenly transformed from the downtown it-girl hustle to A-list Hollywood stardom. Flint threw a huge fit when he heard this. He punched shit and he kicked shit and he cried and screamed. He said that he had worked all his life to be a great actor, and what has Julia done? She’s just a nobody! But soon, he and everyone else there would become nobodies to her. They had to stop filming while they waited for him to calm down. Flint’s meltdown and his anxiety over Uncut Gems made filming his big sex scene with Julia especially awkward. The scene took 13 hours to shoot. Julia was already mentally checked out. Years later, when Julia went on a big late-night media tour for Uncut Gems,the director of Colder than Death, a good friend of Flint, reached out to her asking if she could give his movie a mention. She ignored him. When he kept pressing, her agent finally responded: she would mention Colder than Deathfor no less than $40,000.
Hudson Street. West Village. Nighttime. The “deathmatch” at Beckett’s was conceived right after Sieger found out Flint was fucking Olympia. Although there was obviously some real jealousy involved in it, the idea was really in the spirit of the theater, of kayfabe. A gentleman’s fight. An excuse for a party. For whatever reason, Sieger admires some “chad-like” quality that he imagines in Flint, and Flint likes being seen that way, or any way that makes him feel important.
Beckett’s is crowded. “I know you all want to see blood, but first you gotta hear the rules,” begins the crusty old New Yorker. “For the combat, well, there are no rules. But for the rest of you, you can smoke inside, drink inside, everything you need to do, you can do it inside—and if you go outside, just fucking leave! Don’t wait around outside the door. Do not bring any drinks outside! Go to the bar, buy drinks, tip the bartender, please tip the bartender, but don’t take it outside! My neighbors are fucking psychopaths and they’re gonna call the cops the second they see you hipsters hanging around, and they’re gonna get this whole place shut down. Don’t get too loud either, if you get too loud they’re gonna call the cops. Smoke, drink, watch Thomas Sieger and Andy Flint beat the shit out of each other, but don’t be loud! There’s only a few weeks left here before the building’s new owners kick me out so don’t fuck this up!”
I get a text from Jane saying that she’s outside with Olympia and that I should come out. I go outside and see them on the corner. Olympia is throwing up a torrent of wine-dark vomit that almost appears to sizzle on the ground as it oozes toward the gutter. “I only had two glasses of wine,” insists Olympia, “and I just took those molly gummies you gave me.” We turn the corner, walking Olympia a bit farther away from Beckett’s, and Jane sits with her on a stoop. Two guys that Jane had told to get water return from the bodega and then Jane pours the water into Olympia’s mouth as she holds Olympia’s head. Another scenester named Ariadne who happens to be in the top 1% of content creators on OnlyFans passes by on her way to Beckett’s, “hi Olympia!” she says, and Olympia musters a pained groan in response. I tell Ariadne that Olympia is ok and that we have this under control. A minute passes in silence. “I can’t believe I’m too fucked up to make it to my own party,” Olympia laments. Jane tells her to take her time.
About ten minutes later Olympia suddenly perks up. “I think I’m good now.” She stands up and stretches. “The molly is hitting. I had thought that was what did me in, but it’s what saved me!” We stand around for a moment before Olympia confirms she’s good. We go back inside, and Olympia disappears into the crowd as if nothing happened. We missed the entire fight. I’m told it was anticlimactic. Sieger and Flint threw a few punches and were locked in embrace and rolled around on the ground like hogs before the crowd realized it was sort of cringe and started losing interest.
About an hour later I run into Horatio with Olympia. “What a total waste of time this was,” he tells me, and then they leave together. A little while after that I run into Sieger and he asks me if I’ve seen Olympia, and I shrug.