We’re Shutting It Down (If We Can’t Tax the Art and the Beer Flow)

We drove out to Phoenix — and it felt so liberating passing the off-ramp for Sky Harbor and subsequently UOP — and the city looked different through the passenger’s seat. The palm trees were waiving and downtown curved in the distance as we sped along the 10, and the night — our Friday night in a car full of friends blasting acoustic Brand New, Jimmy Eat World, and Nine Inch Nails — the night seemed filled with an air of excitement and invincibility. My mind briefly drifted back to two years ago when “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” was the best book to read and how Charlie and his friends felt “infinite” driving into downtown Los Angeles late one night. This evening was significant in that I didn’t wish to be driving into Los Angeles, Seattle, or even Portland or Tel Aviv for that matter — Phoenix and the night before me was what brought my happiness and my satisfaction.

In downtown we bummed around Roosevelt and ventured into the galleries — including the one that the City of Phoenix condemned half of last month, and the other ones that closed early now — 8pm — because city fire code recently reemed the owners for exceeding maximum occupency every First Friday (so long Eye Lounge and The Modified). We crossed Roosevelt and watched two young, semi-nude college students dance in a window with Samurai swords to pounding Japanese music until a cop came by and warned them of indecent exposure laws.

An hour hour later we searched up and down Garfield, Central, and Roosevelt for the ravers, the flame throwers, the sword-swallowers, the bands-in-the-back-of-pickups and the Goth magician who would contort his body out of 400 pounds of steel chains. We searched for the First Fridays that we knew of last summer. We didn’t find a single one — but we did find plenty of officers to check the contents of any styrofoam cups we might be carrying (nevermind our flasks of vodka poured into a cherry icee), and every other car that passed down the main drag behind Westward Ho was a patrol car.

Oh — at last! — at last! — c’mon — a crowd has gathered! A street performer! We spent twenty minutes watching a man walk on glass and break out handcuffs, perform tricks of physical skill and entertain the crowd with quick quips. But then three police cars pulled up and six cops in riot gear flooded out and surrounded us on the dirt lot of Roosevelt & 1st Street with our Goth makeup, as one officer approached the magician and asked to see his performance permit, which he was without. We were then commanded by the fine folks of Phoenix Police to remain where we were, and that we were all to be cited for our disorderly gathering. The men in riot gear then huddled, and many of us slipped back onto the quiet and over-regulated city sidewalks while scenes from “V for Vendetta” and the government’s most recent faux “Oh Look! Terror Thwarted! Aren’t You Lucky You’re Protected? Oh By the Way, No More Toothpaste on Airplanes” played in our heads.

But then we were all freed and our lemon drop martinis consumed and we could be free to gather around and fucking dance. And talk. Within the confines of Tranzylvania, we watched as the clock struck midnight and the red-and-black decor gave way to Underworld Goth, and the vocals of Trent Reznor were followed by the chords of Tool and the warning pleas of an over-governmentalized society were sung by Marilyn Manson; and the warnings fell on anything but deaf ears.

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