We first heard about Gabe Boyer in 2001, when the then-24-year-old gave a series of lectures — at Boston’s Berwick Research Institute performance lab — on romantic love, utopian thought, and causal reasoning, punctuated by his Wurlitzer noodling. In 2002, Boyer founded Bedroom Theater, a weekly happening in his apartment’s bedroom; in 2003, he took his show on a bedroom-to-bedroom tour across America. This series recounts what happened.
When my brother Jules and I got to the back porch, Mud and Jill were already there, along with these two hippie kids, who were crawling all over everyone and laughing, pulling at your hair or standing with their arms on their hips and shouting. A guy who introduced himself as Germ, a skinny Sicilian pyromaniac who I would never understand no matter how many years I knew him, was fondling his new slingshot on the stairs, explaining how he’d traded in a few shirts for it at the department store in town, how he was going hunting with it later, and how much he loved shooting things with a wide grin full of meaning, at which point the entire porch burst into an avalanche of laughter.
There was the lanky and silent Owl with his natty black hair and specs, and a wizard when it came to anything technical, from basket-weaving to shocks. There were Claire and Chuck, Chuck who was like a cowboy with a thing for Texas rangers, and in general lusting for the blood of any boy in blue, and Claire was his equally hate-filled accordian-playing accomplice. As well as an experimental barber, especially fond of twisted mohawks and beanies as a concession to Krishna. There were Black Matt and White Matt. Chuck was Black Matt’s brother, and Black Matt was the father of those two kids currently spending the summer with their dad before heading back east to live with their grandparents.
Both these kids were crawling all over everyone else like together we made the most flexible jungle gym. And the boy had hair all the way down his back, and his face was smeared in what might have been chocolate. He’d never gotten it cut and he was surly like a young barbarian. And the girl had her head shaved and was giggly in a pair of tattered shorts, bunches of strangled flowers in hand and forgotten.
I’m going to lie down in the van, Jill said.
How could I have known that I would become a resident of this house three years later because I wanted to become an honest to god physical person once and for all rather than always meandering in the more hypothetical realms. It had seemed like embracing death to move to this anarchist commune in the woods, as in the death of my friends and way of life, the death of my home, the death of the man I was before, but also alluringly mysterious, e.g. the founder of the northwest division of ELF – Earth Liberation Front, an organization known in the popular media for torched ski lodges and SUV’s – turned snitch to sell out his former friends because he was a junky on the skids picked up by the feds – had been a former roommate, and roadkill was often on the menu, the good meat cut away from the bad green meat in the kitchen, the good meat then cut into thin strips to be hung out on the clothesline out back and on the hood of one of the many fire-bombed cars littered the yard to be cured by the sun. I will never forget the time Jules got me to climb to the top of a hill with a forty-pound bag on my back, and the snot would be dropping off my face then as well, and twenty feet in front of us, Owl would be marching with his semi-automatic rifle off to the woods to practice shooting. And I would feel like Woody Allen at a re-education camp when I collapsed at the top of the hill.
While back in 2003, Jules was making the announcement that we needed to go out and get more beer. I held up a wad of cash ecstatically and Jules announced to the entire gathering that he’d do it barefoot. He laughed again. I’ll do it, he said in a shout.
We walked along the tracks the whole way. Jules was hopping from one tie to the next, and munching while he walked, balancing the plate in one hand and making stabs at the greens heaped on there with the fork he had in the other. We were passing a hangar on our left when Jules ran off the rails to leave the now empty plate on an abandoned woodpile.
The moon was out. Hey, Jules said when he came bounding up to meet me.
We made it to the store at the Saginaw Junction and climbed the plywood steps. The screen door slammed shut behind me, and the woman behind the counter winked at me. Just in time, she said.
Then we were ten minutes back down the road and Jules wanted to retrieve the plate he’d left sitting by the side of the tracks, but he had to make his way through a bushy stretch to get there. He took one step, then another, then three in bounds, then stopped. The dried shafts of grass were as high as he was. He was staring at his feet. Throw me your shoes, he said.
I could hear him licking his lips. Throw me your shoes.
I flung them to him and stood there on the side of the road. Several cars passed with a honk at high speeds, while I just stood there in my socks and looking straight up at the moon. Jules, I shouted. And again. No response. Jules. When he finally did came ambling out of the underbrush with a plate in one hand and a smoke in the other, he was larger than life.
When I went to get the Free-Thinking Man as Commodity script out of the van an hour or so later, Jill was still camped out up top. Could you shut the windows please, she said. I climbed up front to shut them. I’m sorry, Jill said. I’m sorry.