“Pacific Rimming” by Tom Cardamone— Obsession


Cardamone, Tom. “Pacific Rimming: A Novella” Chelsea Station Editions, 2013.


Amos Lassen

Obsession is something we do not know much about—we do not know its cause yet we see its results. Tom Cardamone does not try to define obsession and we are thrown into his young man’s desires on the very first page of “Pacific Rimming” (and what a great title that is). We are in the New York of the 1990s and meet a guy whose goal seems to be how many men he can bed and how much drugs he can use. He is obsessed. He wants no intimacy, just raw sex, and only with Asian men. He tells us that “obsession is eternal, transcending but never transcendent, looping”.

Because I have read several writings by Cardamone (“The Lost Library”, “Green Thumb” and the Lammie finalist “Pumpkin Teeth”), I knew what to expect in the quality of his writing and I was not disappointed. He has captured the concept of obsession so well that we feel what the main character goes through. Many of us have known someone whose life seems to have consisted of bed hopping and little else and that person lives on these pages.

I have never experienced the club scene in New York City (except by reading) and here it is in all of its grittiness as well as its attraction. The rule is excess; the more the better and it is alarming to read about someone who lives like that. Cardamone gives us a throwback to the hedonistic novels of Larry Kramer (“Faggots”), Andrew Holleran (“Dancer from the Dance”) and reminded me of what Brad Gooch had to say about “The Golden Age of Promiscuity”. The club/bar scene was how we lived before the advent of modern technology. To meet someone whether for sex or friendship, it meant going to the bars and it was in the bars that anything could happen—scoring marijuana or any drug and finding a “trick” for the night. And there were those guys that were out every night. Like the main character here, going out became a way of life and it, like the drugs found, was addictive. It was in the bars where opposites met and many times went home together. People who dared not speak to each on the streets or in other settings did not speak to each other yet on bar turf, anything could happen.

 Unlike so many other books, there is no mention of gay marriage or AIDS and there is no political correctness. What we see here is the sordid side of gay life where one had sex for sex’s sake. Desire is a mysterious concept and I don’t know that we can really define it or what it entails. It is interesting that Cardamone writes beautifully about that side of gay life that is not beautiful. As Paul Russell says in his blurb about the book “we persist[ed] in doing all the abject, crazy, beautiful things we do.”  In Cardamone’s elaboration on the scene in the way that he candidly tells it.