I'm on the bus, zigzagging across America, with a visionary cabaret road show featuring acts by eight performers and writers who work, or have worked in the past, in the sex industry. SWAS has played to large sold-out houses – while also being banned – from the Pacific Northwest to Virginia.
The first time I sat in this court, I was moved almost to tears to see the imprisoned defendants shackled to the bench. Seeing the Day Labor shape-up outside the Home Depot for the first time when I moved to LA, I remember I wept. Later, I hired them. Most often they stole, or were too strung out to do a good job, and then, like everyone else, I complained. Still: these people are suspects, they have yet to plead guilty to any crime, and the only reason they're shackled together in their sadistically comic black and white Keystone Cops pants and tunics stamped "Sheriff Joe's Inmate," wearing hot-pink plastic cuffs is, they couldn't raise bail…
There was a world of difference between prison and jail. Jail was for fuck-ups and drunks – loud-mouthed drunks and well-meaning drunks, people who’d yelled at a cop or decked other people in bars. Prison was something else. Prison was bad motherfuckers, guys strutting around who did not share Paul’s awareness that it was all, on some very deep level, a joke.
Clifton is a small, remote former mining town in southeast Arizona. Settled by prospectors and miners in 1872, and named for its cliffs, the town's first and last purpose was mining the region's abundant pure copper ore. Exit the interstate 80 for ten miles in any direction across the US and you will find thousands of derelict towns, each with their different and similar histories, all leading to this. I arrived in Clifton on June 22, 2006, one day into what was becoming the Summer of Hate in the southwestern US.
I’d been relaxing on a Baja, Mexico beach with my friend Eileen Myles when I got a call that my boyfriend had been arrested in Clifton, Arizona, en route to LA. The jail was to Clifton what Target is to a derelict mall: a commercial anchor, expected to draw visitors, money and jobs.