My Night With Philip Huang--May day! May Day!
by Bob Siedle-Khan
There were lots of body fluids but none of them were mine.
Saturday May 1 CounterPulse (www. Counterpulse.org) held a fundraising event they called “The Happening.” One of the 11 or 12 events was performances in the bathroom with Philip Huang.
Philip walked through the crowd asking for people who wanted "to poo, pee or make gay porn". I had seen other people go with him but I was afraid to go into the bathroom alone with him. I convinced another man to come in with me. As Philip was describing what he might do I saw that the toilet was already full of piss, shit and toilet paper.
A middle-aged woman came in because she had to pee. She sat on the toilet and Philip asked us to sing. We looked at each other not knowing what to do. Since the other man was from Latin America, I began to sing “Las Mañanitas” and he joined in. We were both toneless and tuneless, “Estas son las mañanitas que cantaba el rey David a las muchachas bonitas….”
Philip told the woman he would sit on her lap and massage her hands. He got out a bottle of lotion and proceeded. When she was finished he forbade her to flush.
I noticed she didn’t wash her hands. Perhaps, like men, women don’t always wash their hands after peeing. We all left the bathroom at the same time.
Was it art? Was it a happening? Was it performance? Yes, but. Yes, it was happening and performance, but I was uncomfortable. As he meant us to be.
Later a group of us left the show together. On the Bart train, going home, Philip opens his backpack and unpacks a scarf full of supplies. He tells us he’s going to do a performance. He asks us for some water, which I offer, and he pours into a neti pot. He takes off one sock and shoe. He’s ready by the time the train leaves Embarcadero and goes through the tunnel under San Francisco Bay; he hands his Flip camera to one of the young women in our party and shows her how to operate it.
Standing up, he wraps the long cotton scarf around his head and shoulders, as he begins to sing “The glory of love.”
“You’ve got to laugh a little, cry a little…”
He leans over a small plastic basin and pours water through his nose as he sings. I’m laughing out loud. I see some people are laughing, some watching in silence and others studiously ignoring him: the usual range of reactions to performance on a train. When he finishes he washes his one foot in the basin then stands up and drinks the water.
Overcome by the dry heaves, my mood swings from laughter to nausea.
Not everyone is able to see the whole performance. The woman with the camera missed the neti pot sinus cleanse as she was panning along the train audience. I missed the foot wash as Philip was crouching in the aisle; I was told about that part by my the woman sitting next to me.
When it’s all over several of us applaud. Two middle-aged women, returning from the opera, begin a conversation with Philip. One asks, “Where else do you perform?” He responds, “In my bedroom.” He tears off a scrap of paper and writes all the necessary information for them before we transfer at 12th St. Oakland.
He hugs me goodbye at downtown Berkeley and the night is over, for me. But I’m looking forward to more, this month, in his bedroom:www.philiphuangpresents.blogspot.com. Join us.