By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Rum Raisin and I were roommates for a few years in the post-Dungeon early ’80s, hung out rarely in the ’90s and now regularly since the mid-’00s.
Rum’s also a writer, also lightly basted. “What I cherished most about the Dungeon,” he tells my recording device, “is that no matter what, you were accepted for who you were. You might have a judgment against me — what an abrasive shit I am, or whatever — but it didn’t interfere with the fact that I still get to be who I am and you get to be who you are, and we’re all still a group. And that was what was so cool, because in any other organization, institution, gathering, whatever, there’s a punitive consequence for not being liked by the group.
“To me, that’s the absolute definition of what the Dungeon was: They stuck us in this barely habitable hellhole, so we decided, Fuck you all, we’re a tribe. We don’t care if you’re steroid-addicted or wheelchair-bound, or black or white or brown. We don’t care if you’re gay or a nerd, a jerk, a Bible-thumping Christian or an anarchistic Jew. He’s this, he’s that — who fucking cares? Our code was: He’s my Dungeon-dwelling brother, and we’re sticking together.
“And you know what? That never broke, ever.”
Little Kurt and I reminisce about the Dungeon’s most optimistic group of visitors, his high school friends from Arizona.
“Didn’t your friends scale the side of the building? Up to the eighth floor?”
“Yes. They climbed up on the outside balconies. They were totally inebriated. I was sober enough to know . . . come on, you guys, we’re having a great time, let’s not die.”
“So often dying will ruin a good time.”
“Thank God they all managed, and they’re all still alive.”
Rum tries to convince me that attractive young women are still attracted to me. Variation on a conversation from 25 years ago, in the cafeteria.
“You’re just not working the writer’s mystique right now,” he says.
“Writer’s mystique!” I shout. “Over here! Writer’s mystique!”
Nothing. But Rum’s a tireless promoter. He tells our young, attractive and married waitress, Molly, that I’m this wonderful and talented fellow, and suggests that she introduce me to her sister, cousin, friend or divorced mother.
I hate selling things, especially myself. I ask of Molly only a margarita on the rocks with salt. After that, I better not drink any more. “I have a mild depression scheduled for 8:30, at which time I’ll sit in bed and write this.”
“Fuck the depression,” says Rum.
“I tried that. It fucks right back, harder.”
“You’re overly polite,” says Rum. “You need bastard lessons.”
In Dykstra’s single immense cafeteria, at the peak of dinner hour, Dungeonites perform ritualistic acts of unsavory dining for the benefit of all. Basted and in our dorky black matching T-shirts with floor logo on the back — not the whole 40 of us, but a good 30 — we eat without utensils; eat with only face. Halfway through the meal, Sammy or Spike or Animal or KK or Rum or Paco or one of the Steves says, “Switch,” and we rotate, as a unit, one seat to the left, then sit and continue grazing on whatever is in front of us now.
This Dungeon Dinner performance happens more than once, but is most effective when the cafeteria serves potato salad and ribs. It’s not easy to maintain dignity while shaking rib meat loose from the bone with a face full of potato salad. But it’s good, clean entertainment for the rest of the populace, a wholesome image of young Americans of all races and creeds coming together to be disgusting as one.
And now we are civilized, in our 40s, planted in candy-engine red leather chairs around a well-trimmed circular table at Corsa Restaurant, in the Wynn hotel. The food we order will not be worth half its cost, but will be twice as good as what we paid even more for last night at Ruth’s Chris’ Steaks’ House’s Cow-o-Rama. Hearty-ass (yet delicate) Italian food, here. And no more dangerous liquids for me. I need to concentrate.
Rum and I have been trying to solve a mystery for about a year now. It’s really starting to get frustrating.
“Who was my roommate?” says Rum. “Nobody can figure that out. Richard something. Richard . . . fuck.”
“Richard . . . damn it.”
“Richard . . . shit.”
“Richard . . . something.”
“Richard . . . fuck.”
After dinner, I drink ginger ale while the others baste on couches and low-lying chairs around two coffee tables at the Parasol Up cocktail lounge, just down the hall from Corsa. KK studies the menu. Rotty orders cigars. I’m interviewing Spike’s left shoe.
Rum Raisin is basted and talks to the waitress, who may well be named Bambi. “We all lived on the same dorm floor 25 years ago,” says Rum. “And we’ve all kept in touch this whole time.”