Down and Out
in the
Slipper Room

Josh Axelrad


Val Geffner at the Slipper Room,
September, 2004

"Well," I say. I'm talking into the telephone one Monday evening from my handsome apartment here in Williamsburg, New York.

The girl on the other end goes, like, "I'm serious."

And I'm like, "I know."

And she's like. She pauses.

So I say, after we both emit mutually audible sighs at the exact same moment: "If I get my act together I might get drunk enough to pass out before the sun comes up."

She pauses, then says, "That's terrible. That's some kind of joke?"

And I'm sitting by myself next to the window with bourbon in hand, straight up, the way Jesus drank his. At approximately ten PM. Going, "Ha, ha, ha."

Next night I'm partying with Moby and his ilk at the mysterious debut gig of what I'm told is supposed to be a performance artist. Your typical Zeek assignment. I have managed to develop a fever, despite a reasonable number of hours of sleep the night, and morning, prior, and I keep half-turning to Moby with an imploring look. Celebrity, can you cure me?

The music is good.

The artist here is Valerie Geffner.

She debuted in her current form on September 21, 2004, at the Slipper Room in lower Manhattan. She's there again November 3, again December 9.

She can cure you, Jewish peer. This is not just the memory of the fever talking. She got Moby to come hear these never-before-performed songs. She got me. She ought to get you.

I arrived at 8:20 under the impression that this was an eight o'clock gig. Incorrect. So I sat for a long spell at one of the Slipper Room's circular tables, staring at the candle and thinking about beer.

Should I go get a beer?

I should not get a beer; I am sick.

But the bartender hates me. The joint's empty, practically, aside from the nice lady guarding the cashbox on the podium next to the door. I had a press pass and didn't even pay for the show. A beer is the least I could do. A beer with a shot of Jack Daniels is the least I could do. The social contract says that you can't merely sit at a bar. But I'm sick.

After nine a crowd begins to gather. Booths fill; stools fill. There are thousands of similar noises: ice against glass; glass against wood; glass against glass; against aluminum; knocking on teeth. Everyone babbles. A woman guffaws. Half of them look like eccentrics. A third of them bleach their hair. One guy is totally bald. He would bleach his hair, I say to myself. Is that Moby?

I develop a chill. It's quarter after nine at night. I tell my imaginary son, Ralphie, "It's bedtime, buttercup. You need to leave this bar and go home." Ralphie is eight. Ralphie's been eight for three years. Where his belly button ought to be, he has a third ear. The third ear produces shocking quantities of wax. We go through a 500-count box of Q-tips multiple times each month.

"Ralphie, I said to go home."

"Lemme finish my Corona," he barks. "Sheesh."

"Well, hurry."

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Photo of Val Geffner: James Carlton DeWoody III

November 2004

This Land was Your Land:
A Review of Philip Roth
James Russell

Am I Religious?
Jay Michaelson

Down and Out in the Slipper Room
Joshua Axelrad

Tarnation: The Dream of Autobiography
Lauren Wilson

Money-Back Guarantee
Samantha Stiers

Sitting on an aeroplane, while Grandma Dies
Nigel Savage

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From previous issues:

The Ritual of Family Photography
Amy Datsko

Far from Heaven: Excavating Paradise
Peter Conklin and Dan Friedman

How can you be gay and Jewish?
Jay Michaelson