When I moved to Seattle in 1989, I first lived in a loft with a
bunch of gay artists. The loft had originally been a machine shop
with a huge picture window and a large garage door. At another
point it was a stonecutter's studio and still had large pieces of
old concrete and granite taken from an old highway in the area.
We called it The Gay-razh and it was every bit as rustic
yet fabulous as the name sounds.
For starters it had very few creature comforts, although it included
a shower stall, toilet, bathroom sink and a large utility sink which
was also the kitchen area. For a while there was an old microwave
oven, but the owner of that moved out. The only heat in the place
came from two kerosene heaters which caused us to play dead whenever
the fire department came around for inspections.
A painter of expressionist landscapes had rented the space for
the previous ten years and he was the one who moved out with his
microwave. That left me to get to know the remaining artists and
eat out more often. Tod S. was a costume designer by trade, working
for the Seattle Children's Theater, as a props manager for
the Pioneer Square Theater's now almost forgotten post-punk
comedy production of Angry Housewives, and putting himself
through college at Seattle Central Community College. He'd
met our other loft mate through a video class they were both taking
and became fast friends. This was Patrick W. who was an aspiring
filmmaker, and first dubbed the loft The Gay-razh.
Tod had run away from home when he came out in High School and
had lived on the streets of Seattle through the early Eighties when
Punk and New Wave were popular. Tod grew his hair out very long
and kept it colored "electric blue" to contrast his lanky
frame and long features. He collected pieces of old lace which
he liked using in the costumes he created, being inspired by vampires
and stories of the Belle Epoch in Paris.
Having lived on the streets he knew just about everyone interesting
in Seattle and had as many stories to tell. Once while he was homeless
he landed a job at The Old Music Hall, a grand old theater
and performance space that became a nightclub before it stood empty
for many years and was eventually torn down. He worked as a barback
at the nightclub and then slept in the balcony on the old red velvet
covered sofas that filled the space, apparently with the club owner's
I think Tod's friendship with Patrick was somewhat due to their
both coming from middle-class suburban families, but they both had
unique and different views of the world. Patrick's experience naturally
was different, having grown up in a Mid-eastern state, I forget
which. He was newly 'out of the closet' and I found him ever-charming
in his zealous pursuit of sexual conquest. He enjoyed playing the
part of a ruff and tumble sexual outlaw, buying a motorcycle and
smoking lots of cigarettes. I learned pretty quickly that his charm
only went so far and underneath was a cynical and wicked sense of
humor. Still, despite my experience I was attracted to his equal
pursuit of pleasure and intellect, only to find my friendship with
him remained disappointingly platonic.
Including my personality, this was the mix which contributed to
many of the bizarre things that happened at The Gay-razh.
One evening that spring, Tod and Patrick returned home from dancing
with friends, bearing stuffed toy animals that they'd discovered
in a dumpster somewhere between the nightclub and home. Tod had
picked out a powder-blue bunny rabbit and Patrick carried a piebald
Teddy bear. Patrick said the Teddy bear was going to be his new
boyfriend, snickering at the idea that it was a perfect boyfriend
because it didn't make demands. Tod calmly washed his bunny in
the utility sink and named her "Helen," and thus she became
the mascot for the entire Gay-razh.
Soon Helen developed a personality all her own. Tod kept her on
his sewing table which he'd cobbled together from two freestanding
slabs of granite and two huge pieces of plate glass, which also
had been left behind by a previous occupant of The Gay-razh.
He also kept on the table a candelabra with red candles which he'd
light and replace regularly, a geode paperweight cut in half so
it showed its purple interior crystals, a glass of water which he'd
sometimes drink, but usually only emptied it before he'd refill
it and a folding silk hand fan.
Helen continued to occupy the table until one day, while working
on some dresses Tod came across two matched coat buttons, which
didn't seem to be currently used for anything and sewed them as
a joke over Helen's molded plastic eyes. These coat buttons were
big, black faceted half-domes which gave Helen the appearance of
having bulging insect eyes.
From there on, Helen sat in the display window next to the garage
door where passersby from the café on the corner would point at
her and comment on the strange looking toy bunny. Tod began referring
to her as "Helen, WITH- EYES-OF-THE-DEVIL."
I began having a series of disturbing dreams that could have been
caused by any number of stresses I was experiencing at the time,
besides getting along with Tod and Patrick; but coincidentally they
all featured Helen and their correspondence with actual events was
uncanny. The first dream occurred only a few days after Tod had
sewn the buttons on Helen. In the dream, I found myself locked
outside The Gay-razh. Trying the handle wouldn't open it,
nor would jiggling the mechanism, which usually worked. Then I
noticed Helen in the window, only she was jumping up and down, hitting
the glass as if she was trying to attack me. As I backed away from
the window, Helen suddenly broke through and I woke up from the
But the sound of broken glass woke everyone in The Gay-razh
and with some investigation we found a brick amongst the glass shards.
I couldn't hold the memory of my dream back, I immediately blurted out
what happened. Tod dismissed it with a wave of his hand
and wondered who would need to throw a brick through our window.
But Patrick laughed at my story and began chiding me with a new
nickname of "Gypsy Fortune-teller".
Almost a week later I had another "Helen" dream. In
it Tod had discovered Helen sitting on the hood of a car parked
outside on the street. But that was the extent of the dream and
once confiding in Tod its nature, I promptly forgot about it...at
least until the following afternoon. A VW bus was turning the tight
corner in front of the café and plowed right into a Mercedes that
was park in a loading zone.
Two nights later there was another "Helen" dream. I
dreamt that Helen had joined up with the Hell's Angels and was riding
a motorcycle, wearing a mini leather coat. Again Patrick had a
chance to laugh at my story, but stopped when he discovered a few
minutes later that someone had just walked off with his Honda, which
sat right inside the open garage door.
Thankfully the dreams stopped for a while until Tod began planning
to hold a party at The Gay-razh a few weeks later. That
Friday I had another dream of Helen. This time she was jumping
up and down on Tod's sewing table causing an earthquake that shook
the whole building. I didn't wake up to earthquake destruction,
but I warily told Tod about my dream. He again dismissed my claims
as being paranoid, going ahead and using his glass sewing table
to set up the food for the party.
Sure enough, as if Helen had premeditated the occurrence and as
the party was winding down, the boyfriend of someone not specifically
invited showed up and in a rage smashed the table right in two,
trying to collect the frightened girl from the party. Tod asked
me to tell him next time I had a "Helen" dream; only the
next dream convinced me that I shouldn't be sharing these dreams
so freely, mostly because there was little I could do to prevent
the events from happening. But this one was sexual and personal,
and because Patrick had rejected my advances I was naturally fearful
what this one meant.
I dreamt that I came home from work one afternoon and heard noises
coming from one of the loft areas that weren't currently occupied.
I went up to investigate and pulling a privacy curtain aside discovered
Patrick, looking somewhat sexy in nothing more than a pair of black
spandex biking shorts, being intimate with Helen. Surprised by
my presence, Patrick looked up at me and pleaded, "Helen needs
love too!" Then he pulled me onto the bed, kissing me
with Helen squashed between us. I woke, slightly turned on and absolutely
embarrassed with myself.
I tried to keep this one to myself but a few days later, in a fog
of smoking marijuana, I seized an opportunity to tell Tod about the dream. And it amused him so
much he could not wait to tell Patrick. Oddly, Patrick didn't find the
story funny at all and accused Tod of playing games by making up
the story to ridicule me. Although I confirmed it was true, finding
Patrick defending me was definitely odd; but I didn't really have
a chance to think about it much before the dream refracted itself
back into our lives.
The annual Gay Pride Parade in Seattle takes place at the end of June and
that year sexual freedom permeated the air. On the afternoon of
the parade I came home to discover Patrick entertaining a new friend
he'd met. Etienne and Patrick were passing a bottle of Jim Bean
between themselves. They were obviously in a good mood and when
they invited me, I joined in. Soon we were all very tipsy.
Unfortunately we polished off that little bottle very quickly,
so Etienne suggested we barhop. In order to celebrate the gayness
of the day, Patrick repeatedly insisted that we all "ménage
a trios" kiss while walking down the street. Public displays
of affection were always a hot issue for me, so this was both difficult
and freeing for me.
We eventually ended up outside one of the most popular nightclubs
on Capitol Hill with all our drinking funds consumed. Etienne pointed
out that nearly every young, fussy, gay man was wearing black spandex
biking shorts this year and deserved being heckled for being the
new "clones". A clone is anyone strictly adhering to
a dress code set by others and this usually manifests in the ubiquitous
"butch" plaid shirt, Levis, mustache and aviator glasses;
but this particularly hot summer, Etienne noted everyone was eschewing
that for biking shorts. To our young eyes it was such an obvious
sign of sexual insecurity, revealing and concealing at the same
time, that this realization allowed us a sense of superiority. We
spent the rest of the evening screaming "Fag!" at anyone
dressed this way until we were sobered up enough to head home.
My next dream worried me so much that I didn't tell anyone about
it. Earlier in the spring Tod had spent some time in the hospital
when he was diagnosed with AIDS-related pneumonia. He'd recovered
all right but had begun taking the AZT medication which didn't seem
to do any good. I began to fear my dream meant even more complications
In the dream, Helen had somehow locked Tod into a large rattan
birdcage with wild scrolls and Rococo ornaments. No amount of my
pleading with her would convince her to give me the keys to let
him out. My fears were not unfounded but the real meaning of the
dream had other manifestations. A week later I began to understand.
On a whim, Tod and a couple of friends had driven up to Vancouver,
BC for a short visit. On the trip back, the border police checking
everyone's IDs discovered a misdemeanor drug charge that had been
on Tod's record for over seven years. Apparently Tod had been in
possession of a dimebag and during a generous moment mistakenly
offered it to a friendly but undercover cop on the street. Tod
never took the charges seriously, never showing up for his parole
officer. Only now Tod was seized and held in jail over the 4th
of July weekend before his case was brought before a judge, who
immediately dismissed it.
When he got home I told him about my dream and explained why I
hadn't told him earlier, but he just laughed the whole experience
off. He did remove Helen's bug-eyes the next day and donated her
to the Chicken Soup Brigade's thrift store.
Weeks later I thought that she was gone for good, but I had another
dream featuring Helen. In my dream, I was going out the garage
door and saw what I thought was a cat sitting in a tree across the
street. As I approached the tree, I realized that Helen was sitting
up there on a branch, her faceted eyes glittering in the dim light.
As I got closer I noticed the tree was covered with what looked
like dark sap.
Upon waking, I was so disturbed by this dream that I almost convinced
myself I needed therapy to relieve my stress. I remember calling
the Seattle Gay Counseling Service one afternoon, but events
at The Gay-razh swept along too quickly for me to follow
through with therapy.
As it was by this time, lots of people knew about The Gay-razh
and nearly every day there was someone new hanging out there.
One young man who'd tricked with Patrick kept returning despite
Patrick ending the intimate part of their relationship. His name
was Matt and always seemed to show up with pot or "shrooms".
At various times we would get complaints from the café on the corner
because he'd spend the afternoon in front of The Gay-razh whether
we were home or not, sitting on his motorcycle and playing songs
by Morrissey and The Cure on his guitar, while singing at
the tops of his lungs. We couldn't seem to get him to leave, although
I think we all liked the way he was living large and dreamt of doing
After a bit, Matt didn't show up and for a couple of weeks we asked
after him without much information other than he'd found somewhere
else to sleep. Then one night we were walking home from dancing
to find a bunch of police cars and an ambulance on our street, with
the most activity focused on the tree opposite The Gay-razh.
We didn't have any trouble getting in our door despite the activity,
but it wasn't until the next day that we heard the whole story.
Apparently two policemen had recognized Matt on the street from
a drug bust earlier that week. They had chased him on foot three
blocks to our street and managed to corner him under the tree where,
thinking he was pulling a weapon, they shot at him. He only had
cigarettes and a lighter in his pocket.
The very last dream I had about Helen seemed the oddest and most
sinister of all. I dreamt that I woke to the hiss and rattle of
spray-paint cans. I could smell the heavy acrid scent of enamel
paint in the air, making it difficult to breath. I tried opening
my eyes, but I couldn't move. Then I felt something heavy land
on my chest and suddenly I could open my eyes only to discover Helen
The summer was almost over. Tod and Patrick were both moving to
Olympia to study video production at Evergreen State College.
They had invited a poet friend named Balazh to move in, but didn't
tell me that he was leaving before the end of the month. They also
didn't tell me that they hadn't paid their part of the rent that
month. One hot August day I came home to an abandoned Gay-razh.
Balazh had moved out, leaving only a spray painted message on the
wall: "TEN DAYS TO PAY OR VACATE—THE MANAGEMENT!"