The Counterfeit Memory 1981

Today was Memorial Day, a Monday, and he had to work a twelve hour shift
starting at six p.m.
He usually takes about a two hour break, and when he got to the building
he decided to take the break right away. (Since this was a holiday, he knew
later it would be slow, so he could take another couple of hours without being
He went to forty-sixth street towards the seventh avenue side and bought
a ticket to three adult films playing at the Orleans Theatre. He didn't
remember the titles to the movies but one of them was something like Lin Hun Vs. Serena.
The Orleans is an old porno house, still charging $2.99 at all times and
always showing more than one movie. The films they show are low-budget, badly made, scratchy, and over-exposed. They make absolutely no narrative sense and have, for the most part, a sound track that's almost all music.
The theater was packed. Filled with almost all men. There was a lot of
shifting about, with customers getting up and returning to their seats
frequently. It's probably one of the more dangerous theaters in the city, and it
seems every ten minutes some guy starts yelling and threatening to tear the head from one of the bodies that keeps snoring above the racket. You get the
feeling that someone is either about to get hammered or propositioned. Drugs and sex in the bathroom are still there, and there's lots of talking and shouting
back to the screen.
When you walk into one of these houses you usually come in when the movie is
already in progress. It's a lot different from the usual method of attending
a movie. Nine times out of ten, there's a sequence of images up there,
close-ups, huge details of someone getting banged. You look at the screen and flinch, (actually the reaction is more like ducking), you try to adjust your sight
to the darkness and wait for the cone of light from the projector to get
larger and brighter so you can find a seat without touching anyone.
Selecting a seat is done quickly and becomes a little like staking out a
claim. It's important to maintain a certain balance, separating yourself from
other customers so as not to upset what could be described as an audience
"peppered" throughout the theater.
All of it, what he saw of these movies, was disappointing. It always is.
Sometimes he wonders what it would be like if it wasn't. He knows you don't
go for the movie. You don't go to a sex movie to see a film. He knows there
are no good sex movies made for a paying public and sex movies in a public
theater are not what's censored or private. The only sex movies of any interest
would probably be the ones you could make for yourself and your friends, so
it's best not to expect or anticipate before going in on one of these things.
Places like the Orleans are for losers, dopers, low-lifes, scumbags and
assholes. Bums and pimps. Pushers, foreigners, people killing time and people who don't have a place to sleep. There's always a few business people who
probably work nearby, and a couple of outsiders, difficult to peg, nocturnal
types, people who'll go any place where it's dark and artificially lit.
He's not sure who he is when he's there, or if in fact, he's comfortable and
wants to be there at all. He says one's identity is easily changed when
what's in front of you is reserved and transparent, directed and produced.
He doesn't see it as any different from any other attraction. It's
another diversion, an underside where the accessories and the particulars
surrounding the exhibit are what make it go. And in a strange way, the danger is safe, predictable, so when you buy your ticket you go at your own risk, like going on an amusement ride. The place has a rating like everything else, and the three X's are like most self-evaluations, just promises, meaningless marks, part of the ceremony.
Anyway, he says it was Lin Hun Vs. Serena.

When he got back to work it was about nine p.m.
He works for a magazine in a department called "Tear Sheets". He rips up
magazines and tears out pages so if anybody wants a particular page they can
call down for a couple of copies.
Tonight there were some advertisements, ones he was just beginning to
see, with pictures of cars, new cars, with their headlights on, in a scene that
looked to be photographed right around dusk. The scenes had suns going down in the background. It looked like they used a photo-projection of a sunset and the projection made the principle parts of the picture look flat and cut out.
That time of day has always been nice for him. The artificial light from
the car's headlights and the natural light disappearing behind the horizon,
and the way it gets mixed; he's always thought the look set up a kind of
pseudo-reality that seemed to suggest something less than true.
Just in the past few weeks he's seen a lot of these pictures, Saab,
Volkswagen, Ford, Pontiac. They all have them out. He tears them quickly, with one tear at the bind. He likes to do this. It makes him feel good.
There's nothing there that seems to be him, and no matter how he calls
them his, it's not like he's the author of whatever their design is supposed to
be. They have a range he says, a lot of possibilities. Nothing specific
except the number of times they appear. He likes the fact that it's not just one
company putting them out. The way they show up gives the images a curious,
almost believable fiction. Their symbols make him feel reassured. And the way
they're put together and their over-emphasis, dares to be believed. It's
almost as if the presumptuousness of these pictures have no shame.
Anyway, it was Saab, Volkswagen. Ford, and Pontiac.

He stopped tearing at twelve. He went to Howard Johnson's, the one at
forty-ninth street and Broadway and took a seat in a booth next to the window.
The view from the seat looks out upon the carnival facade of the Pussycat
Theater, which is really a complex of businesses, two movie houses, a peep
show arcade, burlesque, live dancing and encounters and a Flame Steak Restaurant.
In front of the complex, up and down the sidewalk, is the usual fare.
Hookers, con-artists, barkers, three card monti. There's as much open,
predictable action there as any place in Times Square.
He likes to sit and watch the scene and all the movement and the hustle.
He especially likes it because of the silence that goes along with his
location. The silence he thinks makes the obnoxiousness smart and stylish, and
whatever the outrage, the inability to hear it makes it reasonable.
This position he assumes is for no specific purpose, and it seems to be
becoming one of his more shoddier affairs with what's outside.
"It's like my looking in that particular place has become customary
because the looking there is no longer accompanied by what I have always like to think as me. Sometimes I feel when I'm sitting there that my own desires have nothing to do with what comes from me personally because what I'll eventually put out, will in a sense, have already been put out".
"It's one way to think about it. A better way perhaps is the fact that
what I see there is somewhat fragmented and additionalized onto something more real, and this, in effect, makes my focus ordained and weigh significantly
more than the spiritual displacement the view sometimes suggests. After all,
artificial intelligence, like fiction, whether displaced or fabricated, makes
reference to the particular, to the sensory detail, and it is these "details" that
are terrifying beautiful."
"Anyway, maybe it's just wishful thinking. The thing of it is, it's
always out there and never across from me in the booth."
The Pussycat Theater, three card monti, the Flame Steak Restaurant.

He decided not to return to work. He's done it before, and it seems to
pass without argument or incident. There's really not much to do and what's
left unfinished will probably be taken care of by someone a bit more on the job.
Lately before returning home, he's been stopping by a place called
Tito's, a bar on the north side of forty-fifth street, almost to the corner of
eighth avenue.
Tito's attracts people who work in the theater and show business. Not so
much the people you could call celebrities, but "personalities":, the people
who work behind the scenes, play the secondary and supporting roles, actors
and actresses up for, or about to land a part.
These people do commercials, voice overs, promos, personal appearances, a
walk-on or stand-in. People who come in around after work to find out where
there's more work, and if not after work then to find out where there might be
He likes to go there because the people speak to each other. They know
how to talk and have a conversation.
Tonight was good because a friend of his Myra, was there, celebrating,
drinking to the news that her picture was going to be in Stanley Boxer's column
in the N.Y. Post. For a day or two Myra was going to be, as she said, " a hot
property in the highlight".
He thought it was marvelous. (For some reason he likes to feel marvelous
at Tito's)Myra's one of his oldest friends. He knew her when she was a
principal player with Mabou Mines, when she used to think that acting and
everything around it was a calling. He's seen her notions about an artistic career change, (for what he's always thought was the better) and commit itself to a "cracking" of something more commercial and entertaining.
He's been addicted for some time to all the newspaper columns. He's read
them faithfully for years, Boxer's, Earl Wilson, Susie, Liz Smith, and he
knows how a picture in one of these dailies can mean a break, maybe a job, getting at least, hopefully some quick money.
A picture in one of these things, at least for the day it runs, means
you're an "item", granted, someone whose star hasn't exactly taken off, but
nevertheless, a somebody, a personality.
Myra kept pinching herself and kept saying she couldn't believe it.
Finally some luck. This was part of the best times. A contact, a way to put
something in touch, maybe open a door that could make another door open by itself.
A publicity pic. It was screwy. It made no sense. A standard cheese
cake shot with tits and ass and hips filling up the entire frame of a tiny
vertical rectangle. A ticket to get at least on the bus. I mean the picture could
fool you. It's the kind of thing that someone like Myra would kill for.
Anyway it was last night with Earl Wilson.