Recently, Mesler recalled the odd twilight sleep between Inmo and Intra — a time frozen by a sepia-toned photograph that hangs on his office wall of the whole Chinatown gang at Hop Louie — as the dropping of two very heavy shoes. “People started saying that Chinatown is cursed,” he says on a miserable rainy morning between American Spirits. “People in New York started calling Chung King Road ‘Junkie Road.’” He questions the integrity of Intra’s “friends,” who allegedly left his cooling corpse on the couch in a Lower East Side Manhattan apartment for several hours before summoning authorities. Mesler even bitterly remembers the memorial service at China Art the day after his death. “People weren’t even saying ‘heroin.’ If you look in the obituaries, they even say ‘unknown causes.’ Just total bullshit. Why couldn’t they just be honest with it?”
Of late, Mesler has begun keeping a compendium of facts, gossip and noirish lore about Chinatown, devising a tongue-in-cheek street map of Chung King Road with blueprints of the galleries — including his own — drawn to scale and outlining their most-favored drugs (“Heroin”; “Cocaine”; “Weed”; “Alcohol”; “Ecstasy”; “PCP”), which he plans to publish. Seeing this, one understands why Mesler pulls his pranks: It’s like sending suicide bombers to knock people out of their denial.