Only Dancing

"I'm only dancing. Turns me on. I'm only dancing. Turns me on." David Bowie is playing at the Red Rock Hotel. It's not really a hotel, it's a piece of reservation art, built around a replica of an old western hotel lobby, complete with antique keys on iron rings displayed behind the oak plank front desk. I am discovering that the first benefit of disconnecting the Priority Chip is a transformation of the body from a butler into an expressive instrument. It's only dancing. Turns me on.

My relationship with Betty the Bartender has turned around. I approached her from below, through the trap door in the floor of the saloon, as you recall. It gave me pause to consider how things change depending on your perspective. If you're in the bar and just talking to a woman in a cocktail dress you will engage her with what charm you can muster because you want her to like you. But what if you showed up without a body, just as a head rolling in through the door?

"Watch where you're stepping I'm on a roll here."

"Excuse me sir, will you require assistance?"

This would put an entirely new perspective on everything. First, you'd have a difficult time thinking of some light repartee that would make her comfortable. The secret is to not say too much. For example there's no point in talking about what kind of sex you like, and jokes about giving head would draw a laugh but behind it there would be a calculation that you feel obliged to state the obvious. Just wait awhile and she'll pick you up and begin to absently stroke you. What harm can it do? You're nothing but a head. She can hold you by the ears and make faces at you and what can you do but at least pretend to like it? Somebody has to feed you because you can't live hand to mouth. She tells you she owns an aviary and you know it's a matter of the fortunate coincidence. She takes you home and feeds you like a baby bird until you grow a bird body and go flapping off into the narcotic San Francisco night.

I'm not sure what they are putting in the drinks here, but I know that this is one of the most interesting pieces of Reservation Art I've been inside of. It's built on an expensive piece of real estate, because it's right on the axis of a tear in the fabric of space. For a long time it was thought impossible for space to tear, but now it is accepted that it can tear like a bad contract. There are several different currents of memory running through the vortex over which the Red Rock Hotel is built. The lobby attracts various sorts of hotel dwellers who have been turned out of their hotels. They are drawn like moths to a flame, and as you walk through this place it shifts and changes.

When I first walked in there was a well dressed man reading a newspaper -- pretending to read a newspaper -- he was sitting in one of the overstuffed chairs in the common area. I spotted him for a detective right away. The clerk was trying to look normal but his lips were dry and he couldn't help chewing them, and he wasn't blinking. A man who doesn't blink is in a trance. He was like a lizard waiting for a shadow to tell him which way to dart. He glanced down and the detective caught it. He folded the paper and got up like he was going to walk out. For a big man he moved fast. He vaulted over the desk into the enclosure with the confidence of habitual aggression.

I didn't know what the guy hiding behind the desk had done but he screamed like a woman when the detective came over the desk. Maybe it was more like a wildcat scream. The adrenalin surge occasioned by the attack shot him straight up from where he'd been crouched, pistol in hand, reminding the clerk with rough nudges that he'd promised to blow his balls off if he gave him away. The clerk leaped straight back like a dog wearing a shock collar when the gun went off and froze in disbelief to see that the detective didn't even seem to know he'd been shot. The blood was starting to soak through his white shirt like a red carnation over his heart.

It was his luck that it was high, and had glanced against the rib cage and buried in the pectoral muscle. The detective took the pistol away from the Chinaman and flung it backwards so quick I caught it by reflex. It felt familiar in my hand, the mechanical click of the single action when it cocked and the explosion and smell of burnt powder when I fired it. The whiskey bottle in the detective's upraised hand exploded and that caught him by surprise. He'd assumed that because he armed me I was beholding to him because he recognized my skill with firearms. Besides, who emotionally identifies with a Chinaman?

I'd seen this particular Chinaman around, mostly doing rituals in the guise of laundry. The outer layers of the town are being stripped away and handed over to these innocuous looking Asians, some of them with faces flat and expressionless, some with eyes like moonlight on obsidian, taking the laundry with a little bow and toothy smile and crooning the secret words, "Yes sir." And there in the back, he and his wife gather up the outer garments and baptize them, over and over again, without much hope of any reward in this life or the next.

But then one night a gambling man is adjusting his cravat in the odd green mirror propped against the west wall, which itself is pulsing to some primitive impulse to adjust into a more intelligent vibration. Just adjust the hat a little and smile. Irresistible. He's on his way to the casino. But then some nagging influence passes almost unnoticed. An audible hallucination of voices speaking Chinese. Normally it would be screened out but today he catches it and after a little while he's hearing Chinese people talking in his head all the time. It gets worse and he thinks maybe he's going crazy. He suffers until somebody suggests ginger root tea, which however unlikely it might seem, diminishes the hallucinations.

The diminishment itself consists not of the voices being defeated, but of their being accommodated. After the tea wore off, he would absently remember that he was under attack by Chinese people. They were handling his clothing and cleaning it and drying it. Everything presented on the outside was going through the hands of Chinese people, and what kind of treachery was possible in a place like this, at the edge of civilization? The borders have not been drawn, and the only guardian angel is the fortunate coincidence. Even if he accommodated the voices by keeping empty space available for what was foreign to him, he'd still know that they were there, and knew every move he was making.

It complicated the treatment process.

Here on the frontier of civilization, there is nothing true or not true. There's no time for that. There is an engagement of fields and the only meaning is the response. There isn't time for anything else. I'm only dancing. Turns me on. The metaphorical atmosphere becomes more rare behind a reality that has been stacked against other realities, an unknown gambler having a moment with himself. And beneath the surface of the town the western top layer is passing through the secret rituals of the east just outside of attention.

The detective can't resist putting his money down if somebody wants to bet. He's always needing money. He wants to go on the take but there's one small problem: the Chinese people who seem to have connected themselves into his life through a ritual door he'd left open, never noticed it. So the only way to get the monkey off his back is to get Jimmy. He's as crazy as a mud elephant, of course, and Jimmy has already tried to go over the crazy man's head by talking to the assistant chief. "He's making threatening phone calls to my house."

"I'm sure none of our officers would do that."

"But I have tape recordings."

"Nonetheless, I have to stand behind my people. How would morale be if I didn't?"

So Jimmy is left to try and escape from this crazy cop, and in a last desperate attempt to secure some protection, he called out, in Chinese, for god. This appealed to me. I think it was because it was in Chinese. I intervened on his behalf. The detective might have cut him to pieces with the broken glass in his hand but he was frozen by his knowing that any movement from him could pull the trigger again, and that I would hit whatever was being registered in the targeting sector. I would have taken out his shoulder if he had moved.

I feel exhilarated witnessing my own prowess with weapons. Bergamo told me it was programmed in, but the Priority Chip regulated it before. It belonged to the corporation. Now I'm a high roller with the governor gone and the no limit. There is a surge of power when I realize that what would normally have to be learned and then embedded in the unconscious, is already embedded there, like scratch patterns.

I leave the game room and go back to into the saloon where Betty begins to tease me again about her looking down and seeing this head on the floor underneath her, looking up. "That's the view you had of your mama," she says, and she begins singing, "Didn't Leave Nobody But the Baby." Bergamo and Luther seem to think this is hilarious. That has no effect at all on my having become connected by an invisible thread to Betty.

It works that way, sometimes. It's an instinctual thing. I read once about a duck that was fed out of a garbage can lid and he fell in love with it. He mated with it. When it was taken away in the garbage truck he was killed chasing it down the street. This is how love works. To somebody outside the drama being enacted, the garbage can lid is a poor choice. To the duck, it is associated with his deepest relationship to survival. But the relationship isn't respected. The man who owns the duck leaves a note: "Take the lid."

I'm as focused on Betty as that duck was on his garbage can lid, and while you might not consider that a romantic way to think of love, it does strip obsession naked, doesn't it? She pretends to be surprised when I tell her I want her to ride with me when we leave this place, but she isn't. She's calculated every move, like the clone she is. I like that in a woman, so long as it doesn't go negative. If it goes negative, you'll wake up every morning feeling like you've lost a quart of plasma.

The dancing was even better than the game room. The movement flowed into the moment like paint onto canvass, and with the certainty of circuitry the effortlessness of it sent me away, so that I was watching myself dance, there, with Betty. The commands to my muscles came from the music, and, there being nothing else for me to do, I move around the room as disembodied consciousness. From a point above the scene I watch Betty scanning me and reacting to thousands of minimal cues and memorizing me, inside her she is containing me. We are moving in perfect synchronization there, where she is connecting me to the rhythm, letting me explore outward through the boundary of the known world.

A friend of mine told me about a plate he saw in India. In the center of the plate a woman sits in meditation, in her hands she holds the ankles of a man, whose head extends upward, through the inner rim of the design, outside the boundary of the first circle.

Tonight we are on the town. It's rodeo weekend and they are dancing in the streets. Tomorrow the people in Ash Fork will walk right past where the Mission Saloon now sets, and they won't remember that it was ever there. What does not fit into the patterns of perception is invisible.

Posted: Sun - July 1, 2007 at 12:23 AM