Agreeing to watch Alejandro Jodorowsky’s John Lennon-produced cult flick The Holy Mountain is like robbing Super Mario of his magic mushrooms and stuffing them glutinously down your throat (it doesn’t make any sense, but the images are kind of awesome). Scenes include the Spanish inquisition recreated entirely with exploding frogs and blood, a thief waking up in a pile of 1000 moldings of Jesus, and a cow disseminating on a man’s face. These moments are, of course, interspersed with provocative contemplations on morality, immortality, and our purpose in life.
For its 6th anniversary ISSUE Project Room put together a night of artsy performers and films dedicated to Jodorowsky’s masterpiece. The attire was listed as “Experimental/Cinematical/Inspired,” with a prize for best costume. Follow me as I court catcalls on New Jersey transit, discover that “outfits are optional,” and go all out to win the world’s most esoteric costume contest. This, friends, is a day in the life of an Alchemist.
[4:30] I finish watching The Holy Mountain; my brain silently implodes.
[4:33] I decide to dress up as the Alchemist. I have not chosen the Alchemist, the Alchemist has chosen me. He is the character, played by Jorodowsky himself, who boils a vat of human waste, and turns it into gold. He reaffirms his success by proclaiming: “You are excrement, you can change yourself into gold.”
[4:34] The Alchemist wears a Gandolf-like white robe, white platform shoes, a silver pennant, and a white wizard hat. I realize that, besides his blond hair and porn-star mustache, such a costume is attainable.
[5:38] I complete my outfit. A bed sheet acts as my cloak, a backwards polo T-Shirt serves as the costume’s centerpiece, and a wizard hat is fashioned out of a box from the Gap, a tinfoil cooking plate, and an old shirt. I craft a medallion out of cardboard and tin foil. A pair of white skinny jeans is the final item of my attire. Everyone knows Alchemists are washed-up hipsters who dig Wolf Parade and Arcade Fire.
[5:39] I am the best thing since whatever has most recently defeated sliced bread.
[6:10] I board NJ Transit and watch people glance nervously at my Caucasian meets Caucasian body. Others refuse to stare, as if, beneath my white bed-sheet, I may attempt to streak them.
[7:01] My train arrives at Penn Station, someone shouts, “Nice hat, man.” This is shorthand for: “How’s about a knuckle sandwich — you look hungry, FREAK!”
[7:31] I arrive in Brooklyn, and someone shouts, “Move pussy mothaf*cka!” I faintly resemble a KKK member.
[7:45] The windows of ISSUE Project Room are in sight. “This is a costume party, right?” I ask the security guard. He responds, “Yeah man, but you’re the only one who dressed up.”
[7:46] He is right.
[7:48] Zack, the event organizer, praises my outfit: “Wow…you actually dressed up.”
[8:00] Innocent bystander: “Are you an artist?” I deadpan, “No, I’m an Alchemist.” He is impressed.
[8:15] Mid-way through Lone Wolf and Cub’s set of experimental Jazz/poetry, Lone Wolf, who is wearing a multi-hue, brown robe makes eye contact with me. There is a brief moment of solidarity.
[8:35] Gina, a wonderfully-charismatic clothing designer, takes me to get my portrait done.
[8:59] Someone from Time Out New York takes a photo of me. My pose is dramatic and foreboding.
[9:43] The theatrical Elysian Fields finishes the last song from their collection of darkly seductive tunes. The lead singer stomps on a patch of Bak-Choi, crushing its pedals to the dismay of a dozen or so vegans in attendance. The guitarist shoots her with a fake gun, she releases a streamer of blood. The curtains drop.
[10:00] I get a picture with the female vocalist of Elysian Fields. She is not enthused.
[10:14] A hostess whispers into my ear that rumors are going around. She says I have the contest in the bag. My bowels begin to stir. They are trying to form gold.
[10:30] The band, Mountains, creates a, well, mountain of sound by looping oodles of guitar and synth. I am, once again, mistaken for an avant-garde artist.
[10:57] Zack is about to announce the winners of the costume contest.
[11:00] I win, though by default. Still, victory never tasted so sweet.
[11:02] I am asked to catwalk and give a speech in celebration.
[11:03] “This costume is dedicated to all the Alchemists who told me I’d never amount to nothin’. A wise man once said we could turn shit into gold. And that is precisely what I have done. Thank you.” The audience erupts into applause.
[11:05] I leave to make to the train back home to dirty Jersey.
[11:55] I miss the train.
[12:47] On my way back, I sit next to, I think, a devout Hindu, whose attire is remarkably similar to mine, save the hat.
[1:19] The world is at peace, and I am an Alchemist.