[With A Nod To J. G. Ballard]


“Quite honestly,” I replied with a smile, “I could use a good cry.”
It was a flippant answer (not without some honesty) to the usual “How’re ya doing?” My friend Dee punched me with a laugh and said, “I hear ya bro.”
Our conversation then fell into the soft candor of an old and underused friendship. We ended with promises to connect but knew those were mutually hollow words. Simply, I had bumped into an old friend at Trader Joes…
Which is why I was surprised when Dee called that very same evening.

“Ya gotta trust me on this,” he said. He was serious and excited, “You said something today… There’s this chick I knew at USC. Double major: Pre-Med and Fine Art. She has been doing an art piece, a happening, for a year and a half now. It’s a service. To humanity. It’s another world. ….”
I tried to interject “What? Who? When? Why?” but he was talking too fast and couldn’t hear me.
“Just trust me on this. If she calls you, do it. I recommend you do it. She’s got all this cabal and secrecy shit and nasty rules but go with it. It’s good. It works. I did it only once. It’s by invitation. I left her a message with your number and your email. I think---I know she’ll call you. If she does, just do it. Follow whatever. I did it and she was awesome. Just promise me one thing.” Dee was trying to catch his breath, “I want to be invited again. I really could use it right now but she has a weird sense---she knows when people need it and when they don’t. And when they think they don’t. She knows when people need help and when they don’t.”
I get nervous when there are too many unnamed and unknown pronouns in a conversation.
“ Dude, just do it, if you get the call.” And that was as specific as he got. “Call me afterward,” he said, “I’ll have just one question.”


The next day I thought about ‘it’ more than several times. Odd questions kept popping up at unrelated moments. It presented an interesting mystery.
The next night, the cell rang and I knew who it had to be. A girls’ voice, a woman answered my ‘Hello’ with “I’d like to speak to Gordy Grundy.” It was a voice with many melodies that instantly conveyed trust and calm and security; I was enchanted. She said her name was Caprice and asked that I grab a pen and paper. I quickly obeyed.
The speech she gave was obviously one she has repeated often, yet she performed it patiently. She ran through the rules and objectives of ‘the happening’, ‘a personalized experience in psychological and emotional retroaction.’ No sex, no rock and roll but she did say a psychotropic may or may not be a part of the experience. For forty dollars cash, you just can’t say no. She gave me a time, a date and a location.


Eight days later, on a wet Tuesday night, my cab pulled up in front of the Eldorado Theatre on Broadway near Eighth in old town, downtown Los Angeles. I was freshly showered and wore clean clothes as the e-mailed instruction had dictated; nor did I wear any cologne or anti-perspirant.
The Eldorado was a Twenties movie palace that has been dark for several decades and it is rather intimidating. The six-story marquee, topped with a miner’s pot of gold, hangs like a giant grey hammer, ready to smash all those that dare to trespass. But there was a rectangle of faint light around what had to be a lobby door.
I gave the cabdriver a twenty and told him to be here in four and a quarter hours; I would be back before five.
The foyer was designed to look like the entrance to an Art Deco cave. A door lit open, invited me inside and closed quickly behind.
I’d never been inside the Eldorado but I’ve heard stories and seen pictures. It’s a California Gold Rush fantasy; miner grit had been given a whitewash by the scenic art department at Paramount Pictures. But this was no time to satisfy architectural curiosities.
A tall, wide and roadblock heavy-set guy was playing bouncer. I didn’t know what to say, since I didn’t know what to expect.
The bouncer gave a reassuring smile and rubbed his thumb and forefinger together.
I handed him two twenties, exact change that I had placed in my back pocket.
He peeled a nametag off a sheet and slapped it on my chest. I was ‘No. 11’

One of the big doors to the theatre opened and a woman motioned that I enter. She walked as sharply as she was dressed. She never looked back to see that I was following her; she just knew.
We marched down a wide aisle, through the orchestra seating, to the stage. It was a big auditorium. The towering walls were styled with rushing rivers of sparkling California gold. Several construction workers and a plasterer were repairing the filigree along the proscenium. Their hammers echoed loudly and hard across the expanse of the Hollywood cave.
I thought our walk was more for show because we seemed to be doubling back, albeit behind the scenes along the side, toward the lobby. She led me to a door and opened it, grandly gesturing that I enter.
Immediately, a woman, brightly auburn blonde, young for her late twenties, held my arm and whispered. The large room was unnaturally quiet. A wide window looked to the movie screen. I could see the loud workmen on the stage but I didn’t hear them.
She spoke to me quietly. I recognized her voice instantly as the hostess, the artist Caprice.
She repeated some rules and reassurances, but I was checking out the room cloaked in red. The walls were Western saloon style wallpaper, flocked with gold laurel leaves. Mohair couches, loveseats, burgundy deep, were placed apart for privacies; I counted seven people lying about. The light was low and colorful; lamps were covered with silk fabrics. I thought of an opium den. Curtains and fancy rugs, hanging baffles, created temporary wall space.

Caprice used my elbow to push me to a dark corner of the room. She was sizing me up, making a judgment of height and weight. She sat me down on an overstuffed throne. Another set of hands placed a china teacup in my palm. The contents steamed my face with a sour floral perfume.
Caprice didn’t look happy. She snatched the teacup from my hand. A moment later she returned and replaced it with another that smelled much more acrid and wooded.
‘Drink,’ she invited me.
I did.
Long before I crossed through the lobby doors, I had resigned myself to the experience. Whatever this was, I chose to trust it… Caprice was reassuring. She inspired confidence. My friend Dee offered a fairly sensible recommendation. But none of that normalized this situation.

Caprice pulled back one of the curtains that separate seating areas and led me to a flat couch. She used her index finger to place me upon it. I sank into velvet and foam. Her heat began to burn in my ear and Caprice whispered, “Relax. Best to keep your eyes closed. Swing with it…” then her warmth began to cool and she was gone.
As I was settling in, you could hear a new inductee enter the room, whisper, drink some tea and find a couch. The show time would begin soon, I felt sure.

Your mind starts racing and thinking at odd conjectures. Ambient groove tunes gained in volume and I wanted to snicker. Where’s the sound of the gently breaking surf and the country field at midnight?
But then a live drummer started to pop and pomb deep notes and my thoughts scattered.
Occasionally, a strong light would flash beyond the Mars-red darkness of my eyelid.
Smells began to flare, and then evaporate quickly. Something floral. Then a sweetly comforting soup. A fatherly cologne and a maternal perfume. Stale beer. The stang smell of a shoreline. Pop pops of reflection and sentiment. Pain and guilt. Joy. Comfort. Fear.
The disc jockey began to throw in sounds that formed conjectures; the hiss of a pop-top can, the crunching fold of a supermarket paper bag, the closing of a car door. Sounds that detonated little flares of experience and emotion that had once been long forgotten.
My temperature was changing and so was the room’s. When I first lay down, I was flushed but grew comfortable when the couch itself began to chill and grow colder. My forehead served as the thermometer of the rapidly changing conditions.
The little explosions of light began to occur more steadily and rhythmically until it was strobing quite fast. The drummers, now two, kept to the irregular tempo.
At some point, you succumb to all of it. Thoughts begin to slow and eventually recede.
Your breathing steadies and softens.
Conditions balance themselves…
I must have fallen asleep.
Because I woke up flushed and edged, until I remembered where I was, safe. And then I sank deeper into the bed-couch, into a comfortable status of being.

I only became aware of the others very slowly. I must have been subconsciously listening for quite awhile, because when I heard the first quiet sob, it didn’t alarm me. It was so soft and natural, such a quiet expression. It was pain, without distress. Nothing to fear; someone was having a good cry.
The second crier, another female, became a muted echo through the maze of hanging curtains and Persian rugs.
A third, a male over to the left, began to hiccup a tear. Someone to the right and another nearby fell into the chain-reaction, a permission of expression.
You could sense activity around you, as if Caprice and helpers were moving about and monitoring the patients, the journeymen and the travelers... Off a ways, a cry grew angry and startlingly raw, until a wind of attention soothed the pain into something quiet and forgiving.

I was sinking into a state of Deep Blue, falling deeper into luxury, when I realized that I had joined the chorus. Hot tears suddenly slipped from my eyes and I knew I was crying. Freely. Unabashedly. Galloping.
It’s something that I hadn’t done in a very long time. I didn’t think I could do it, or that it would happen.
Boiling hot tears, spewing, convulsing, cascading and purging. I was surprised at how hot they really were.
And then I must have slept.

A hand on my shoulder brought me awake.
Someone nearby was standing, leaving.
I stretched and it felt good.
Caprice smiled in my face, glad at the relief she must have found in mine. She helped me stand, led me out the door, across the lobby and to the street. With a jaunty salute, Caprice disappeared back into the Deco cave.
My cabbie saw me, folded up his newspaper and started the engine.
An hour later I was at home, sleeping soundly and profoundly. I didn’t wake for another sixteen hours, something I had never done before or since. When I woke, I felt greater and lighter. I still do.

The next day, Dee called at noon. “Where was it? Where did you meet?” he asked.
I reminded him of our vows of secrecy and confidentiality.
He reminded me of the ‘one question’ promise. But I had a fast million more, “So, she puts on these cathartic raves? A sensory induced psychological purge? A emotional douche for all of humanity…”
“All that,” Dee said, “And we’ll never know much more. She’s a hard nut to crack.””
"You said she was a double medical and fine art major, right?”
“But ended up in quantum physics,” he answered, “So you have to tell me where did you meet, where was the session? Mine was in the back of a medical marijuana clinic in East LA. A friend’s was at a hotel ballroom. Another, a boat. A boardroom...”
I answered, “A theatre. The old Eldorado on Broadway. We had it in a room off the lobby, a soundproo---“
“The Crying Room,” he interrupted, “It was the Crying Room. Old theatres had a separate, soundproof room where you could watch the movie if your baby was crying.”

Neither of us had anything to say. The totality of the concept and the redemption of the experience humbled us into silence. Caprice was a sharp cookie and a very interesting artist. What would happen collectively? How would our sociology change if everyone had one good cry?
“Dee,” I said, “We shall have to speak of this someday.” And then I placed down the phone, a better man than I was before.

GORDY GRUNDY is a Los Angeles based artist. His visual and literary works can be found at