Watch This Phone

Illustration by Mary Anne Carter.

When my cell phone demolition derby began, I wasn’t even drunk. I was cleaning my apartment one afternoon and leaned forward at an angle that sent the phone sliding into a compost heap. I don’t even know what object in the compost was hard enough to shatter a phone screen—the bin contained 95% profoundly decomposed avocado skins.

I’d had that phone for five years, and had never broken or lost a phone before. I now believe it was one of the last models of phones not designed to be completely disposable.

Fortunately, I was on a family phone plan, and we were due for an upgrade. My next phone, a white LG something-something with a cool transparent rubber case, remains the nicest phone I’ve ever had. I particularly enjoyed the quality of its camera, which ultimately led to its demise. I’d had it only a couple of months when my then-girlfriend and I took an incredible trip to New Orleans. Neither of us had ever been, and were stunned by the beauty of the architecture, the damage still remaining from hurricane Katrina, our first decent bowls of grits, and the constant drinking, and drinking, and drinking. Our first stop, right off the plane, was one of the City’s many drive-through frozen daiquiri stands. I’d heard two stories of people descending into full-blown alcoholism within a year of moving there, and I’m not at all surprised. (I LOVE YOU NEW ORLEANS, please don’t take this personally—I mean I’m not worried about you…)

After an incredible meal at a schmancy, circus-tent striped restaurant called Commander’s Palace, which included several 25-cent martinis and something called a “trouble tree” which is essentially a wrought-iron candelabra of shots infused with multicolored beads, endless Halloween, and Anne Rice plot lines. After making out in the gorgeously dilapidated above-ground graveyard across the street (Skip the touristy ones—the least maintained are the most interesting) we met my friends and rode to a bar, doing whip-its in the back of a covered pickup en route. It was 1 pm.

From outside, the place just looked like an elegant, well-maintained craftsman house. I was mildly annoyed by the eight dollar cover. But the patio was… how I imagine utopia. Naked people of all genders, ethnicities, and ages lounged by a pool, flowering hibiscus and palm trees of drug lord estate-proportions swaying gently above. Some soaked in the hot tub, some sipped PBRs and fruity cocktails, couples sharing lawn chairs as contentedly and casually as seals on rocks. It was the best bar I’ve ever been to.

We were there about 5 hours—I never wanted to leave. At one point I went into the bar naked to get a drink and was informed that “ONLY THE PATIO IS CLOTHING OPTIONAL, MA’AM,” and was drunk enough to wonder for a moment how he so quickly guessed my physical sex.

Somewhere between having sex in the pool while a couple of older guys had sex in the hot tub five feet away and being thrown into the pool by my drunk naked friends, my girlfriend and I took an incredibly hot picture of ourselves in the hot tub, and suddenly my phone was gone.

I poked around frantically among the palm roots by the hot tub, called the phone everywhere in the bar (I was worried enough to put PANTS on) and returned the following day, to no avail. Someone probably took it. At least, I thought, I lost it in utopia.

I’ve done a performance for the NEPO 5K Don’t Run every year since its inception. The Don’t Run is a multi genre, hallucinatory art walk and party routed from Hing Hay park in Chinatown to Klara Glosova’s NEPO house on Beacon hill. For last year’s NEPO, supposedly the final one, I wanted to do something really extravagant. The performance was always called Poetry Reading, and always featured a reading interrupted by a rotating selection of surprises—a man bursting out of the ground, a heckler planted in the audience, a family of gasoline-huffing drag queens having seizures, etc.

For the last NEPO, the premise of my performance was that I had hired poetry backup dancers, but the dancers were inept and increasingly disruptive. A new show began every time our ten folding chairs on the side of the street filled up. I announced the reading would begin as soon as my dancers arrived, who were late. The dancers hid in a nearby Porta Potty, playing disco on a boom box at an increasing volume until I kicked the walls of the plastic toilet-shelter. They humped my legs, pulled my pants down, shoved a vermicelli roll in my mouth, disrupting the reading in every possible way until I announced I was done with poetry and threw my book in the street. At that moment, a black pickup pulled up, containing William Shakespeare (wearing a Hawaiian shirt—he hadn’t been dead for centuries, just vacationing) and his black leather clad chauffeur.

“Don’t give up on poetry!” said Shakespeare, “Come away with me, Sarah.” The chauffeur boosted me into the truck bed, handed me a bag of Bugles, and drove us away blasting hair metal. We did this entire routine about 30 times over the course of five hours. Throughout this time, my bag was with the rest of our stuff, in plain view of me and the other performers, yet when I reached for my phone at the end of the day, it was gone.

I spent the entire following day combing the “stage” and surrounding area for it with my girlfriend Mary Anne, who in addition to being incredibly patient and accommodating is also a backup dancer whose legs should be insured like Tina Turner’s. Some asshole with quick hands must have stolen it. The ensuing stress of not being able to contact anyone, and a fight with my mom about my perceived irresponsibility, ruined an entire week I should have spent savoring memories of a successful show I put a lot of work into. I felt like shit until some lady at the after party told me that during the performance she “saw part of my pubes.”

Since then I’ve fatally cracked a phone’s screen during a picnic (what the fuck broke it? A barbecue chip?) and had one snatched off a park bench next to me. Anxiety and isolation sweep over me, the specter of money I don’t have looms, I feel horribly irresponsible and dependent on something probably made in a sweatshop. It’s one of those details of life that horrify me because in order to change even the smallest things at this point, it seems we’ll have to reform the entire economy. At least that one lady saw part of my pubes.