The Party of the Millennium
It was brisk, for Los Angeles.
The weather was dark, by California standards.
The biggest audience we had ever read to.
In that stadium where the Dodgers play,
The ones in California, not the ones in Brooklyn.
Most of the people were there to see Dirk,
To worship him or just
To see what he’d do next.
Miracles had been recorded.
Excesses had been documented.
His gospel had been translated and distributed internationally.
Many of his adherents were famous.
All the Scientologists had switched over
To the house that Dirk built.
(Tom Cruise had sworn off L. Ron Hubbard, saying that now he was into “real theosophical literature” and not “that sci-fi new age tripe.”)
New Year’s Eve is a great time to be in L.A.
As honored guests at the Party of the Millennium.
Hosted by Steven Spielberg.
The 20th Century was just about over.
We reflected on what we had done in it.
Together, over beers, backstage.
Guinness, from our personal keg, in chilled pint glasses.
We put aside everything, our differences.
Dirk and I (and Frank).
To usher in the next thousand years.
William was there, too, still in a coma.
We listened to recordings of him, the Eclectic Seizure Hour,
Our first conversation of the Unknown, the audio tape
Of our photo shoot in Chicago
When I was telling him a bunch of lies at the Green Mill,
After the owner yelled at us for taking pictures without permission.
And the cassette of the time
We read his clown/Iraq play on the radio.
We listened to all of these things, and we
Splashed spoonfuls of good Liffey brown on Gillespie’s lips,
He didn’t wake,
But it made him remember,
I’m nearly sure.
Frank was filling in nicely, and he’s always been more stable
Than any of the original Unknown,
A good solid Ringo,
A reliable drummer for our metaphoric laser light show.
So we weren’t lacking for talent,
And Dirk still had the psychic powers
Going full strength.
Which helped nearly
As much as it hurt.
Just that afternoon,
He had read Uma Thurman’s mind
(She was up there in the front row with Chelsea)
Just for fun.
She was thinking about chocolate
And world peace, how it sounds
Like whirled peas. And she realized it was not her
Thought, but a saying she saw on a
Bumper-sticker on a luxury Humvee when
She was at the shoot of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,
Is what Uma thought that last day
Of the 20th Century.
I should have been happy
But it’s hard to get into a New Year’s extravaganza type of mood,
And to perform.
When one of your best friends is lying there,
In a state which leaves him
Completely unable to lie anymore.
For a fiction writer used to obscuring
The truth, finessing realities, and exploring
The unknown, this is a fate worse than death, some
Would say. Or better. The drool gathers and slowly
Mingles with Guinness,
A small pool in the cleft of William’s chin.
The stadium crowd had gathered that day to celebrate en masse
Our collective hallucination, our archaic calendar, our passing of time.
Spielberg went all out with the party.
It cost more than Waterworld to throw this Hootenanny.
The theme was “Emerging
From the Swamp of the 20th Century.”
Those bird dinosaurs from Jurassic Park the Perawhatevers,
Mechanical beasts, postmodern Minerva’s owls,
Buzzed over the crowd, there were all sorts of soldiers,
Or people dressed that way, from the various sides of
The Second World War, which was creepy, banners were hung,
Their color was purple, and an entire slave
Rebellion was reenacted before our eyes,
On a full scale ship in an Olympic-sized pool while a
Gigantic remote controlled
Shark plucked those dinobirds from the air for snacks, as
A giant balloon alien, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade size
A friendly one, with a Reese’s Pieces T-Shirt on,
Circled the Goodyear blimp, showering the crowd with
Bite sized candies while beneath, celebrated
American Olympic track and field runners dodged
Obstacles encountered by Indiana Jones in the Temple
Of Doom. There was only one fatality,
Carl Lewis, who was not, at this relatively late point in his career,
Any longer the fastest man alive, at least judging by
The massive spike ball
Given the danger inherent in any spectacle,
And the size of the crowd,
People figured that while
The incident was a tragedy,
It was not, on its own account,
As three children were born in the crowd that morning.
The yin/yang balance at that point still firmly yin
It was like a Woodstock for the upper-middle class,
And fun for the whole family.
There was a lot of hype and togetherness
The bands were mostly good, though Cher’s
Voice cracked pretty notably during her
Set with Springsteen (”Hey I Got You Babe/I’m On
Fire.”) The surviving members of the
Grateful Dead, though they didn’t call
Themselves that, did “these Boots Are Made For
Walking” with Nancy Sinatra. Kenny G. turned out
To do a saxaphone version of “Dueling Banjos” with Bjork.
She just used her voice. Other elves were present as
Well, and several albinos, including Johnny Winter who
Did a piece with the Marines’Marching Band. Paul Simon
Was inspiring with Jethro Tull, and Lou Reed brought us down, but in
A good way. The GoGos, the Bangles, Menudo, the Rolling Stones and Meatloaf
All had reunion shows in a special side tent. Surviving members
of The The got into an altercation with surviving members of
The Replacements, which was all but peaceably
Resolved by The Pogues.
Dirk’s followers were all packing heat.
The Secret Service Men stared them down.
A concatenation of Louis Farrakhan’s followers, Latin Kings,
Hell’s Angels, Guardian Angels, the Massad, and the Peace Corps,
A rainbow coalition that was Jerry Brown’s idea,
All armed to the teeth, handled security, and there was
Little to no trouble
In the mosh pit.
(You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a group of Peace Corps linguists learning how to garrote an unruly crowd member according to the precise instructions of an Israeli Intelligence agent in close proximity to a Hell’s Angel square dancing with a Guardian Angel to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” whilst a Black Muslim calls for them to “Alabama Left.”)
An air of hope, cooperation, and reconciliation did battle with
A miasma of disgust, fear and loathing.
Hope floated, but loathing settled.
It was coming to a head? an end? a still point?
There was some anxiety.
We went on after Pynchon, on the main stage, at 11:30 P.M., Millennium Eve, 1999.
That was a half hour that will live in infamy.