The Banal and the Profane: Elizabeth Koke
Author: William Johnson
September 22, 2014
“Lately, my maternal fantasies have become almost as frequent as my homicidal ones.”
“The Banal and the Profane” is a monthly Lambda Literary column in which we lift the veil on both the writerly life and the publishing industry. In each installment, we ask a different LGBT writer, or LGBT person of interest in the book industry, to guide us through a week in their lives.
This month’s “Banal and Profane” column comes to us from Elizabeth Koke.
Elizabeth Koke is an activist and cultural organizer, writer, and sometimes performer who lives in New York City. She is currently the External Relations Manager at Feminist Press where she has proudly worked on several Lambda Literary Award-winning titles including Justin Vivian Bond’s Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels and Laurie Weeks’ Zipper Mouth.
There’s naked pictures of JLaw on the Internet, a child’s death brings the Gaza death toll up to 2148, and I am trying to rouse myself from a depressive state that led to my watching twelve straight hours of Halle Berry’s sci-fi thriller series Extant and eating a bunch of disappointing takeout. Her character’s relentless maternal feelings for her alien rape spawn sparked several one sided debates with Salvatore and Luca, Italian Greyhounds I share with my ex-girlfriend who is in Cherry Grove for the weekend. I’ve got a bad case of the scrolls, and I find myself vacantly moving my thumb from Facebook to Instagram and back again.
I meet my friend Chris for a lunch meeting about a performance collaboration. We both order green juices because it makes us feel expensive even though we are broke.
My notes from that meeting read:
It’s the first serious day back at the office after the holiday weekend. My to-do list is long and the hours fly by quickly. I write various pitch emails that contain words like Black Power, breast pump, Andrea Dworkin, and SCUM.
After work it is date-night with my sweetheart, “D,” who lives on the Lower East Side. We debate whether to go to hot yoga class or skip right ahead to the cocktails. This time we skip ahead to the cocktails. We go to one of those hipster “mixology” lounges because my coworker, who is legitimately cooler than most people, recommended it. The menu is really long and printed on newsprint kind of like a zine but the lighting is too dark to read any of it. I order something that involves pickled pineapple and my boyfriend gets a Negroni prepared with cacao-infused Campari. Modest Mouse is playing. The entirety of The Lonesome Crowded West. D’s face changes as he recognizes it, and I know he is off on a trip to some long-deserted destination to which he had nearly lost the map.
Morning on the Lower East Side is beautiful. On my way to the subway there’s a kid with pigtails, high-tops, a new shiny plastic backpack, and the terror and excitement of the first day of school. She’s swinging a dolly by the hand and wearing a neon band-aid across one temple.
I smile at her and fantasize about being her mother. Lately, my maternal fantasies have become almost as frequent as my homicidal ones. We’d play a lot of dress up and do a lot of arts and crafts projects and make a lot of colorful vegan snacks. Sometimes we’d host potluck dinners and game nights for our friends that would turn into more dress up and dancing in our little apartment on Suffolk Street.
Her actual mother, or the woman I perceive to be her mother, is walking beside her, wearing a long black cotton dress that is draped off her tattooed shoulder so elegantly it could be silk. She isn’t wearing a bra, and her tiny fashion breasts peak just so. On her creamy feet are black gladiator sandals with a disproportionately high ratio of gold metal hardware to leather strapping. Her hair is long fiery red curls. Her skin glows miraculous. She has an iPhone in one hand and an iced coffee in the other. They probably live in that hideous new condo building on Ludlow Street (or worse, a sweet little apartment on Suffolk). I should probably start moisturizing.
It’s the first Wednesday of the month, so I make my way to Von, an East Village bar that is home to my favorite party, WOAHMONE–where art queers drink Lambrusco, while scantily clad DJ’s spin psychedelic rock amidst vintage porno projections. After a year of nearly-perfect attendance, my period synched up with the witches of Woah, causing me to miss several months in a row in favor of Chinese food and a heating pad. But there’s finally been a lunar shift, and I am welcomed back with an invitation to DJ the early set. I name myself DJ Power Stone, and I play Karen Finley’s remix of Sinead O’Connor’s “Jump in the River.” A particularly well-groomed girl I peg for 21-years-old-today darts up to the DJ booth and asks me what that was! Her Shazam app wasn’t picking it up! She and her boyfriend both loved it!
Hashtag feminist revolution, hashtag you’re welcome.
I make it through the work day with a mild-to-moderate hangover. I used to deal with hangovers by leaving the office around 11:30 a.m., returning with a giant bag of Chipotle and closing my office door for a “conference call.” But now I pop some ibuprofen, drink a kale banana smoothie, and triumphantly power through my emails. This is adulthood.
After work I decide that I am going to go home and do a face-mask and cook myself a healthy meal and read some more of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist. I live in a small but pretty room on the Upper West Side, where absolutely no one I know lives or hangs out, which means I routinely walk around my neighborhood in sweatpants and flip flops with impunity. I buy a whole bunch of organic vegetables and tofu and rice noodles and justify the expensive purchase by telling myself I will have leftovers for lunch this week. I am feeling like a cooking-for-one champion as I chop carrots and leeks and stir miso paste into a big pot of boiling water. My soup starts off as a Goop.com-worthy creation of beauty and balance, and ends up a Pinterest fail blob of sticky grey noodles. Grown-up Hangover Day ends officially with a generous squirt of Sriracha.
In order for me to get myself out of bed in time to exercise before work, I need to start psyching myself up for it the night before. I need to lay out my spandex and sneakers, make sure my iPod is charged and my playlist is perfect, and sometimes I even read some #fitspo blogs. I’ve started following a selection of female body builders on Instagram, including some blonde ponytail girl who is always chewing sugar-free gum in slutty teenager flavors like watermelon twist and cotton candy. She looks exactly like the cheerleaders from my suburban high school but with guns like Rambo. I’m obsessed. Before I hit my snooze button this morning I look at her page. There is a video of her jogging on her stair machine as if she were skipping over clouds. It is time-stamped 4:45 a.m. I manage to get myself to the gym and suffer through a painful 25-minute climb on the stair machine before taking a 15-minute lounge in the steam room.
After work, D and I go to Brooklyn to hang out with some friends and grill things in their backyard. We talk about religion, scuba-diving, and the many failures of third wave feminism. We all are buzzed on tequila and beer and walk over to Littlefield for DOLLYPALOOZA, a sparkly queer tribute to Dolly Parton. It is a pretty cute party, and many talented friends will be performing. But by now I am drunk and get depressed and hail us a Lyft before the drag performer interpreting “Light of a Clear Blue Morning” can make another tit gesture.
D and I wake up hung over, but luckily it is a rare Saturday when D doesn’t have to jump out of bed to work the brunch shift at The Swine. I have every Saturday morning to lounge around and contemplate self-improvement, and yet D insists that I stay in bed and pick out something on Netflix while he makes us breakfast. I try to protest, but he can actually cook, so I am doing us both a favor by staying put.
Later we decide to leave our phones at home and go for a stroll to a favorite gift shop.We contemplate buying things like unicorn playing cards and trucker hats with lewd symbols on them. Outside we notice a cop harassing a homeless person, and I reach for my phone so I can film it, and find myself paralyzed and spiraling into a pit of despair about police brutality and capitalism and technological dependence upon realizing that (a) I don’t have my phone and (b) I am holding a sheet of bacon-scented stickers. Fucking pigs.
After a morning of self-inflicted public humiliation (“jogging in the park”), my roommate and I get dressed and head downtown for dinner and an art opening. I wear a jumpsuit that I bought off a sale rack at someplace like Zara or Urban Outfitters. She borrows my “Free Pussy Riot” tee shirt with the sleeves cut off so she can have an “edgy downtown look.”
Reginald M. Lamar’s show, Negrogothic, A Manifesto is opening at Participant Inc. When we arrive we are greeted by Reginald and Lia (the brilliant director of Participant), who are both doused in deliciously witchy scents (Reginald is wearing a lavender blend, while Lia is rocking The Afternoon of a Faun, developed by Justin Vivian Bond). M. Lamar’s lush piercing countertenor swells in the gallery. Striking stills hang from the walls that have been painted black, and a rather attractive crowd gathers before a film being projected at the rear of the space.
After the opening, I meet up with D who is finishing up his shift at a nearby dive bar. We go back to his place and spend the rest of the evening reading in bed and eating vegan pizza. D finishes the latest Feminist Press release, Into the Go-Slow by Bridgett M. Davis, so I insist on reading aloud to him from an advance copy of Icon edited by Amy Scholder. (Yes, we really do this. So what if this is also a convenient opportunity for me to make a plug?) Turns out many of the essays in this collection make for interesting foreplay, reflections on Dworkin included.