It’s a reckless moment for everyone.
I’m supposed to be at the home of Vivian Marthell — the forward-thinker and co-founder of independent-film mainstay O Cinema — in 20 minutes. I hit the abandoned railway, doing 48 in a residential, some rolls of large paper moshing in the back of my element.
Kids play football in the street and yell at me as I whiz past them. They can hear my music blasting, and old-up the Dio devil horns and bang their heads.
A safe arrival, and I unload what I don’t need and take what would make this evening run properly. I approach the house — there’s a long walkway, pillows surrounding low-set coffee tables greeting guests, as the smell of sage and lavender roar off the top of a stone statue. The centerpiece is a single flower.
The door is open, and I can see Vivian hustling around her place through the screen. I raise my foot and put out my cigarette. I pull the screen-door open, which squeaks, calling attention to two of her friends, one sipping on an iced glass of scotch. I look to my left and see her boozy collection, so he’s probably drinkin’ nice tonight.
Inside the home reveals a tangible imagination. A few decades worth of trinkets and anachronistic disguises hope to encourage a role-playing session, including small hats and opera glasses.
The guy with the scotch switches his glass to the other hand, wipes his wet one on his pants, and then extends it. “I’m Dave,” falls out of his mouth.
Another friend comes by and says, “I’m Diane,” as she bring in vintage silver platters and mystical absinthe spoons.
“Nice, I’m Tony.” We shake. Dave points to the empty section on top of the liquor cabinet, which is doubling as a bar tonight. He continues: “We’re setting up an absinthe fountain in a few minutes if you’d like some instead of the…” he raises his scotch glass, analyzing how much is left — “this stuff.”
Diane returns from the kitchen with the fountain. Dave finishes his drink. Some of it escapes and dribbles down his face.
“Well, for now, I think I’ll have me some of that stuff,” I say, motioning to his glass, while his head jolts back with a smile, and he kneels down, opening the wired door and grabbing some retro’d-out tumbler, holds it in front of me and grabs the bottle of a pleasurable 60-year-old scotch, raising an eyebrow.
Vivian then prances in barefoot as she sets the mood, evincing why perhaps we’re all here, delineating the guest list as an evening of potential idea-exchanges between like-minds — with absinthe, to boot.
Vivian’s also the brains behind META, Miami Emerging Technology & Arts, described on its Facebook page as “a collective of creatives bringing 21st century projects to life in the Magic City,” connected through a community of local cultural stalwarts such as O Cinema, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, the Lab Miami, FilmGate Interactive, and MADE at the Citadel. Ongoing projects include the Red Herring — a network of videochat terminals, with a backend generating “a swarm of encrypted signals to distract the NSA from reading your emails” — and Miami Parklets, parking spots (for cars) that have been turned into mini-parks (for humans).
And, of late, she’s been working on a new concept, a roving stream of creative disruption — NSFW Miami.
Hence a fitting time to drink some absinthe, the historical drink of choice for many depraved, yet poetic, status-quo-breaking-minds (though Vivian will later share that the absinthe could be seen as “a liquid metaphor for desire and market manipulations of the masses.”)
I introduce myself to her, and go in for a kiss on the cheek — I get the double.
We handle the small talk — introductions, the I-know-whos and so-ons. Then Diane is finished: the absinthe fountain has been assembled, with ice and water added, and fancy, individually wrapped sugar cubes examined as the eager standby. She places the sugar cube on the spoon and suspends it over a wineglass. The water is slowly added. Everyone watches with a grin. This is the mystical part of the drink — interpretations and first experiences are shared as, one by one, the crowd gets their serving and head outside.
The sugar melts through the spoon, causing the distinct lime-Jello-green to fuzz as it hits the sugar — a liquid distortion — warning for what’s to come.
I put down the scotch, and opt for the Wineglass of the Obscure, with its licorice-like flavor (honestly, never a favorite of mine). A few of us raise our glasses and claim good fortunes, happy times, or political fuck-offs. We all agree. We grab a few snacks of red-pepper-layered cheese, black-peppered salami, and slabs of French bread.
Outside, the pillows are serving their purpose — apparently, guests have been arriving as that 60-year-old spirit was kicking me in the head. We find a spot at one of the low-laying coffee tables, where a friend of hers, a local artist hero, lands heavy on the pillow and grunts. Vivian sits, delicately, on her pillow.
This is her turf.
Her bare-feet peek out from under baggy pants, and she leans forward as she sips on the green madness-maker. I take a spot to her right, and pull up my pant-legs. “You cool if I take off my shoes?” I ask. She points to her feet.
I look at her as she breaks conversation with her artist friend. I haven’t introduced myself. I reach across with my hand out. He quickly responds. “I’m Terry.” His eyes are friendly-soft, but I can tell he’s been through the ringer and back.
“So,” I ask Vivian, “Tell me about your new project.”
She takes another sip of her drink. “For now, there will be no permanent physical venue — the possibility of taking these amorphous activities on the road is very appealing to me. The itinerant nature will also provide different contexts for people, with varying themes and topics to explore — whether theatrical and dramatic, or quotidian.”
“So are you just trying to curate shows or experiences?”
We both hit our drink, and Diane is walking around to see if anyone needs a refill. She points over to us — Vivian and I raise our fingers.
Vivian continues: “My overarching intention is to examine the shadow — the left hand of everything. In other words, I intend to curate experiences where people can examine topics that are difficult and challenging to discuss (if they choose to). And, if they don’t choose to travel there, they are still augmented by the experience (or by the alcohol).”
She giggles and clears her glass. Diane walks up to us with a tray of different glasses — wineglasses, a tumbler or two, large shot glasses … things were gonna get serious in a bit. We get fresh glasses, and she continues: “Elitism is not the goal or the mindset — people self-select. I’m starting by aggregating the incredible people I know and topics we either question or believe in, and then shake them up by pushing the envelop in either direction. Everyone has different directions they have taken and affinities they have nurtured that have been positively reinforced around a certain topic — the opportunity to share their point of view or how they have traveled to it is fascinating.”
I interrupt her: “I’m buzzing in a way that I can only compare to being on the same waves as another herb-induced drink a buddy brought to me from the islands — Mama Juana.” Terry knew what I was talking about. I pointed to the top of my head and closed my right eye. “It hits you right here.”
Vivian finds where she left off, following an audible mental file she was flipping through. “Oh, yes,” she continues, “particularly when the destination is contrasting opinions …”
The night b-lined to the darkside of life and the exploitation of the art world, then veered from Bertrand Russell to Robert Heinlein, sex, polyamorous love, and BDSM, right onto math, sound, and then, of course, the void. We had to take a breath. We had lost track of the night’s objective — or did it play out just how it should’ve? I get up and stretch. I take my glass inside and stand by the fountain — I see the sugar and everything I need, but I don’t wanna to be that guy, so I look for Diane, but she had already seen me heading for it. “You looking for a refill?” She takes my glass — we watch the fuzz.
I head back to the table to close out what I’m supposed to be doing. Vivian’s been rolling cigarettes — she has a few sitting in the center of the table. I can take a hand-rolled cigarette right now.
She looks at me — I can see the drinks in her head. Her stare goes right through me this time.
She’s in the void.
I’m in the void.
Before I know it, I’m back in my car, on my way home, and “Dark Center of the Universe” begins.
Artwork by Maitejosune Urrechaga / a SimplyGood + Pocket of Lollipops collaboration. Check out another creative entry for SG by Pocket of Lollipops — this one covering the 2016 III Points music, art, and technology festival — here.