Hemoglobin Goblins

How do people play with blood in public? Jack Boulware counts ze vays.

"A goth is someone who makes his or her own decisions, and says, 'This is how I'm going to live my life, and this is how I want it to be for me.' A person then who is autonomous, I believe, is gothic because he or she is saying, 'I feel, and I feel this way, and that means that I feel extremely.'

"Feeling extremely in this day and age is a very rebellious thing, because people are so desensitized. They have all this information coming at them from all these different sources, and so they've become inured. They don't want to have to be an activist for anything anymore."

Catalyst's explanation of childhood abuse coincides nicely with the work of Pacific Heights psychologist Daniel Lapin, who specializes in child trauma, and who contributed an afterword to True Blood. Lapin's recent book The Vampire, Dracula and Incest outlines his theory that an abused child has undergone a form of psychic vampirism, that something has been taken from the boy or girl against his or her will, and as a result these children feel dead inside. Many patients who were sexually mistreated in their youths have dreams about vampires, he says, and documented episodes of abuse periodically occur in the private lives of vampire authors, including Bram Stoker.

"Who hasn't been abused?" David Aaron Clark wonders aloud over a pint of beer. He lifts a match to his cigar stub and watches without expression as a Capp Street prostitute in white hot pants steps out of the bar's restroom, her john following behind. Clark, a 37-year-old porn journalist, lifts one eyebrow as if to say, "It figures," relights his stogie with a tiny smirk, and continues.

"One time I went to a sex club with a lover at the time, who liked to drink blood. She ended up making a bunch of cuts on me and starting to drink from it. We just basically went nuts and ended up making out like teen-agers on a bed in the back of this club, while the blood was flowing all over, and she was drinking some of it, and so forth. That's chaos. That scares the modern primitives. They don't want a part of that.

"Your average middle-class Caucasian likes things clean and neat. They like order, they like a process. 'I will have my scrotum pierced. And then I will have a ring on it. And I will run the chain from the ring up to my nose. Process complete.' "

Clark is accustomed to speaking in soundbites that piss people off, and has done so within a journalistic career that dates to his high school years. His physical presence is memorable -- tattooed arms, all-black clothing, black floor-length duster coat, and black leather floppy cowboy hat. He writes a column for The Spectator, and because of his own personal history of blood rituals, he was a natural to provide the text essays that accompany Gatewood's photos in True Blood.

"Just about everybody in this book -- whether they're fucked up, whether they're together, whether they're brilliant, whether they're not so brilliant -- I honestly believe they're all individuals," he says. "And some of them have the trappings of modern primitivism, or goth, or whatever, but I think these are all individuals who are doing this because they think it's a way to transform their own personal reality. They think it. They haven't been told it. None of these people have gurus. They are their own gurus. They are their own demons. Even in those acts of self-destruction, they're hoping to find something in themselves that says they're not a loser. To carve out some space for themselves, no pun intended."

Clark sees four strains of people interested in blood rituals:
1) Members of the S/M scene (he includes himself in this group);
2) New Age-ish body modification types;
3) Alienated goths; and

4) Singular freaks, including (by Clark's classification) Steven Johnson Leyba and the Los Angeles performance group the Aesthetic Meat Foundation, known for its deliberately gory, bloody performances.

Although Clark covers the local sex scene and is a regular at the Power Exchange -- a dimly lit SOMA sex club that caters to consensual whipping, cutting, fisting, and wandering voyeurs -- he admits he's never engaged in blood rituals here on the West Coast. For him, it feels more comfortable to have his skin cut open in the S/M clubs of New York, where he is closer to home.

Clark, who grew up in the small suburb of Hadden Heights, N.J., says he remembers nothing of his father. His parents divorced when he was 2, and all photos of Dad were tossed out. To this day, Clark says, he knows little of the man except that he was a professor.

Overweight and an only child, Clark shared a bedroom with his grandfather, whom his mother had rescued from an asylum. Clark says he read everything he could get his hands on, from comics and monster magazines to his stepfather's issues of Screw, which he would spread out on the bed and devour. He read and reread Stoker's Dracula many times; one scene, Clark says, stuck with him in particular.

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