Saturday, September 24, 2005

A Random List

So my sister says she's not sure how to respond to my blogs lately because they're too intense. She just calls me to say right on and then we move on to talk about her obsession with dogs for five minutes or so. Then her son starts crying and I remind her that I told her to just get another dog but no, she had to have a baby and now the party is over. She tells me I can't pretend I'm twenty forever and then we hang up for the day. But I actually do have much more mundane things on my mind as well, so here's a random list of items for the weekend:

Drew and I have decided to throw ourselves a dual birthday party at Scenic (where Robots used to be) on October 20th, which is in between both our birthdays. So if you live in NY and are a friend, or aren't yet but want to hang, keep the date free. I'll post more about this later on.

I loathe Tia Carrere. I don't know why, I'm sure she's a nice girl, she just bugs the hell out of me and every time I turn on the television today she's there. Is it her birthday or something?

Now that I've dragged my family onto myspace with me, there has been some question about my name. Here is the big secret, which I actually have never made an attempt to keep secret: My first name is actually Mary, and my last name is Raffaele. I decided to use my last name as my first and only name when I moved to NYC twenty years ago, as I was very young, hated the name Mary, and assumed that I would naturally land some sort of fabulous performing career in which two names wouldn't be required. That didn't work out exactly as planned but by then it was too late and now it's a big pain in the ass that causes all kinds of confusion. For the record, most people just call me Raff. People that I become close to sometimes end up switching to Mary, and I like it when it happens naturally because it's like an intimate nickname. My family has always called me “Mare”, rarely Mary, and occasionally my brothers like to use the nickname “Scary”, although for the life of me, I can't imagine why.  I had one boss who was a total dickwad (John Argento, for those DT alumni) and once he saw my checks (some of which are still owed), he started calling me Maaaary with a sneering tone in his voice, like he had something over on me and thought it would humiliate me to have someone say it out loud. Which it didn't, it just told me exactly who he was. In any case, if we're close and you want to call me Mary, fine, but until you actually know me I prefer Raff or Raffaele.

For those of you who have been asking, I am LOVING my new position as Lingerie Buyer. I still do all of the money stuff and the administrative type things for the store, which I am good at and don't hate but also don't find that interesting. Then the other portion of my time is filled with looking through catalogs at lingerie, talking to people on the phone about lingerie, meeting with people trying to sell me lingerie, and my favorite: rearranging (that's “merchandising” for you retail pros) the lingerie. The section is very small at the moment, because over the last couple of years no one was paying attention and Patricia Field lost the lingerie customers. But it feels like it's my little garden and every day I go out and tend it. I make sure things are on the right hanger and that we're not out of lycra stripper micro-thongs (who knew there was such a demand!) and that the stockings are all lined up correctly. It pleases me to no end, plus I like spending time out of the office and on the floor with the "kids" who work in the store. And honestly, I can't believe someone is paying me good money to do it.

And speaking of fashion, I have a lot of thoughts about Kate Moss and the fashion industry's hypocritical treatment of her publicized drug abuse. But Tara G. Warrior wrote such a genius blog about it that I don't feel like I need to add too much more right now. I have a feeling Jessica may have some words to say on the subject as well. Suffice to say that the fashion and beauty industry demands that women look a certain way and then pretends to be completely surprised when they aren't healthy. I sincerely hope that Kate can pull her shit together, dump that loser boyfriend, and stick it to the companies who are distancing themselves from her right now.

And lastly, on the not quite as skinny front, I need some new photographs taken before I get too ancient. Everything I have is dated, except for the NY Times evil book club lady, and I don't want to go to my grave with that as my last photo. I will say that I am enjoying having the photo up because it's totally cut down the horny girl collector friend requests. Anyway, if you are a photographer and need someone for portraits or need a gothy/pin-up-ey type model, or tattoo model, or have some other idea, let me know. Serious inquiries only, please.

Okay, so those are the random, not so intense thoughts for now. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Rosemary's Baby

I have started two or three blogs recently, but everything I start to write about seems incredibly trivial compared to what's happening in the world right now. There is all sorts of stuff going on with me, as usual, but how can I write about my own bullshit when the rains are coming down and leaving people homeless and more destitute than they were, and when we live in a time that our world leaders still think it's appropriate to kill our mother's sons and other country's mother's sons in war? It's mind-boggling.

Tonight I watched Rosemary's Baby for the millionth time. It's one of my all time favorite movies. I love the ‘60's style of it--Mia Farrow with her big eyes and her Vidal Sassoon haircut and super-short maternity dresses—I have been known to wear such dresses while shouting "I won't let them take you, little Andy or Jenny!", to much eye-rolling from my sister. And I love the dark humor of Ruth Gordon's character and how terrifying a story can be without blood and gore spattered all over the screen. I could watch it a million more times and still be interested.

And the movie got me thinking about the banality of evil.


For the two percent of you who haven't seen it, the villains in the movie are not slavering perverts or even diabolical masterminds. They are ordinary, grocery-shopping, carpet-vacuuming, making phone calls and going to the movies kind of people. And Rosemary's husband doesn't betray her because he loves the devil. He doesn't give a shit about the devil. He betrays her because he's a bit greedy and is able to talk himself into believing that it's really not that bad to sell your wife's womb to get a little further in life. I think that's absolutely genius, because that's how real evil works a lot of the time, in increments of denial and in those excuses we make to ourselves to justify our bad deeds. Evil resides in the lies we tell ourselves, and evil sometimes lies more in what we don't do than what we do. Evil is just darkness, and darkness is just the lack of light.

So that made me think about Bush and his crew, and all the people behind the scenes that we don't even know about that have all kinds of power to make decisions that harm our economy and our planet and our children and our poor and our middle class and our neighboring countries. I'm sure that there is no maniacal laughter in their offices behind closed doors, and I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of personal and political justifications for all the decisions being made or not made. I think there is a whole coven of people in power right now that believe their own bullshit because to not do so would be to face the possibility of letting go of all the pretty power and money that they are so attached to.


There is a major shift happening right now, both spiritually and planetarily. Unfortunately I don't consider myself qualified to explain it in detail, but I would like to tell you that it is huge. Just do some googling with the words “planetary shift” or “spiritual shift” or planetary spiritual shift” and you will find all kinds of stuff that will blow your mind.

I am feeling it in all aspects of my life, and I will write a blog about my own personal changes sometime for those who are interested. I will also go so far to say that you need to get on board with this shift or get left behind. Meaning, that in this time of change it is imperative to stop making excuses, to lay aside petty bullshit and to start operating from a place of love. By this I mean: love for yourself both physically and emotionally—stop playing Vice City for hours on end and go take a walk around the block, stop allowing anyone or anything into your life that isn't good to you; love for the people around you—a modicum of kindness to even the annoying ones you don't know (and yes, this is an extremely difficult one for a misanthrope like me!); love for the environment and the animals—throw the fucking plastic bottle in a recycle bin and choose the veggie burger once in a while; and love and appreciation for every tiny gift of a kind gesture or happy moment that comes your way. Because frankly, every day that we are not swimming in toxic water past our destroyed houses, or burying our brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, wives or husbands is a day to be grateful for, and to squander what we have and are given each day is maybe an extravagance that leads to that banal and most deadly, permeating darkness that is so prevalent around us today.

There are many who believe that Bush came into power to bring all the darkness that has been roiling under the surface of the old boy network and this country's political and corporate systems for decades to the forefront to be cleansed. I certainly hope this is true. I have also read that the more energy of hatred we send to him the more it clouds him in the purpose that he came into this particular incarnation to fill. I know it's pretty hard not to hate him right now, so I am just praying that if he is the catalyst to a new kind of truth that he can get on with his damn destiny as quickly as possible.

I keep thinking about Cindy Sheehan and how ballsy she has been. I read an article in People (don't judge--how else am I going to keep up with Brangelina and Jen??) in which her husband and family complained that she was dishonoring her son's memory by not sitting at home like a good wife and mourning quietly while making dinner and cleaning the house like she always did. These are my words, of course, not theirs (but it's my blog so I'll paraphrase to suit my own needs). I thought, what it must be taking her to do this in the face of such rejection and disapproval from the people she has built her whole life around. Her insistence on demanding the truth and being true to her own anger and feelings has been such a catalyst for so many people, and shows that any single one of us can be a force against the tide. This, my friends, is bringing light into the darkness.

So do me a favor and read up on the shift if you're interested, and rent Roman Polanski's brilliant movie if you haven't seen it, and continue to do your best to be the beacon of light that you are in this time of raging storms and the ordinary men of evil. It is imperative.

I will continue to try as well. I think I should do okay for tonight if I don't go outside and get all raged up against the teeming interlopers veering drunkenly down Avenue A on this (and every) Friday night. I will be the first to admit that sometimes it's easier to send love and light from a nice, safe distance.

Mwah!

Friday, September 16, 2005

I'm Proud of my Sis!

You, my myspace (and real life) friends, are very generous about giving me love and appreciation, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am. I am an extraordinarily lucky girl.

But right now I want to tell you that while I am in NY pondering my own mundane shit, thinking about fancy bras, drinking $5 lattes and getting pedicures, my sister is actually making a difference for the animals made homeless by Katrina, in her own personal and typically quiet and unassuming way. I usually get the attention while she gets the little sister pat on the head, and it's not always fair. I wouldn't be who or what I am without her love and support. I may not have even survived NYC at one point if she hadn't shown up just in time to help me pick up the pieces of my broken life. And I am just so impressed that she actually went out and did something instead of just watching the news and shaking her head.

So I feel it's important to hail her the way she deserves. If you have a chance, take a look at her last blog (Katrina) and see if you don't feel the same.

Even though she can eat all the pasta she wants and stay skinny (jerk), and even though she won't let me drive her car (I'm an excellent driver), and even though she tells me I should stop pretending I'm a teenager and start acting my age (never gonna happen)--my sister rocks.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

The Job Blog


I have a theory that everyone should have to work two years in the service industry before they can go on to whatever fabulous life they are supposed to have. It would be like the mandatory army service that some other countries enforce, and it wouldn't matter whether you were Kate Moss or Paris Hilton or one of those horrible Gotti monkey-boys. You would still have to suck it up and sling drinks or wait tables or nurse sick people at whatever crap establishment needed the employee. I truly believe that this would create a whole lot more humility and compassion in the world.


So this is the job blog and these are the things I am learning to be true about jobs:


--Jobs are just like any other relationship. There can be all kinds of sickness in them or all kinds of love and support and it is up to you to choose.

--If you feel in your gut that your job is wrong for you, or doesn't make you feel good, then you shouldn't be there. This is regardless of how many people tell you it's a great position and you should be grateful. A job can look great on paper but not feel right. How do you feel when you get home after work? Do you feel drained and miserable, or tired but satisfied? Do your coworkers treat you with respect or disdain? Trust your inner voice! It's telling you the truth.

--All jobs (and means of finance) are just the channel, not the source, and the source is infinite. Infinite! Meaning that there is enough for you to have all kinds of bounty coming in from the Universe, and that if you cut one channel off, another one will open up. And if you cut off a weak channel (like a job that is just trickling tiny bits of cash or making you feel like a piece of garbage every day) a better one will almost always open up.


I'm not talking about quitting every time you have a bad day, or about refusing to get a job and mooching off friends and lovers because you feel you should be a rock star. We all have to eat and no one likes a deadbeat. And sometimes as musicians and artists we have to take on work that we don't totally love to help fund what we really want to do, and there's nothing wrong with that if the job is tolerable. What I'm talking about is looking at work with the same scrutinizing eye that you look at potential friends and (hopefully) lovers, so that you are not spending years or even days in something that drains you of energy or makes you feel bad about yourself.


I have personally spent a lot of time clinging to rotten jobs that I didn't really like out of some weird terror of free-falling. That's my own particular psychosis, connected to all kinds of childhood crap (as most of our psychoses are). I have been seriously broke and nervous about money in my life, but not to the point that I should be as pathologically responsible and terrified of unemployment as I am. I am rarely jobless and usually have too much work, and this can be just as much of a sickness as never working.


So here is the story of one of the worst jobs I've had, for your entertainment. Plus I like to get these stories down in case I ever pull that book together:


Many years ago, in the early 90's and after the Sluts broke up, I hit an employment nadir during one of the worst winters NYC has seen. The only commercial thing I knew how to do was bartend, and the only job I could find at the time was at a place called the Grand. The Grand was where the old Cat Club was, on 13th and 4th Avenue, now it's Plaid. Or maybe it's changed again? I don't pay any attention anymore.


Suffice to say that it certainly wasn't the warm and loving hairspray haven that the Cat Club was. It was the coldest of reminders, both literally and figuratively, that I was no longer a rock star. I had managed to climb my way out of service jobs and into a record deal, and had graced the stage in that room many times, opening for Jane's Addiction, modeling in silly fashion shows, announcing friends' bands, showcasing for Gene Simmons, etc. And yet somehow there I was again--back behind the bar.


That winter was brutally cold, with one snowstorm following another, and The Grand had no heat. So essentially you would start out the night only a few degrees above what the temperature was outside and hope that enough bodies showed up to warm the place up a little. They would overstaff every evening with pretty, desperate girls, and we would all hop around for hours blowing on our hands at our icey stations while wearing long johns under jeans, layers of shirts under sweaters, knit hats, and fingerless gloves. Every party was a bomb and the music was whatever godawful dance shit was popular during that period. A pathetic trickle of hip-hop dance types would meander in to order complicated drinks, usually without tipping, and we had to put each measly dollar we obtained into a lock box with a slit on the top. Then at the end of the night it would be counted out in front of the manager. Usually the tips would amount to 20-30 bucks.


Suffice to say I was barely making enough to survive. And I was becoming more and more crazily depressed with each night of work, followed by days off staying home alone and eating cheap food because I had no money or self-esteem to socialize. I felt like a total piece of shit, buried in the same clothing layers day after day, the music and the crowd absolutely deadened my soul, and being so cold for hours on end made me teary and constantly on the verge of hysteria. I called whatever city agency you're supposed to alert when your employer won't heat your workspace and I started crying as soon as someone answered the phone and had to be calmed down by the poor woman on the other end. And yet I kept slogging through the snow and showing up because I hadn't found another job and I was terrified of just letting go.


Because the club wasn't making any money they would make us stand around and wait each week to get paid. One week the manager said, "Well, someone took in counterfeit cash and so you all have to pay the price. We're splitting it amongst everyone. That's what you'll be getting paid with this week." So I got my crappy little $30 ($10 bucks per shift) in fake tens. I spent the money in a drug store near my apt where I knew the Ukrainian cashiers wouldn't notice. I still cringe a little every time I walk past there.


The whole time I was working at the Grand people kept calling me Tanya and getting upset that I didn't remember them. I would have to explain that I wasn't Tanya at least once a night. Who the hell was Tanya? So one evening, during yet another shitty party in which a group of idiots stole a bottle of champagne from my station and had to be hunted down by yours truly (so I wouldn't have to pay for it myself), a very short and absolutely fish-faced woman (but with long black hair) came up to the bar and said: "You're Raffaele, right? 'Cause I'm Tanya. Isn't it crazy how much we look alike?" I started laughing because, well, sometimes those incredibly crappy moments in life are kind of funny.


Anyhoo, somehow Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains wandered in one night. We had met a couple of years prior and had actually made out after one of his gigs. It never amounted to anything, just drunken silliness, but he is a sweetheart and was totally friendly and happy to see me. It was mortifying. The last time I had seen him I had a fabulous rock and roll life, I was wearing something cool and surrounded by friends. Now I was bartending in a snowsuit in a total dump. It was so painful that I couldn't relax and talk to him properly, although he was such a gentleman that he never acknowledged that anything was different for me.


On one good night they managed to book Michelle N'dege Ochello. It was very hip, diverse, mostly lesbian crowd and among them was Queen Latifah, who I love. Queen Latifah and her friends stationed themselves at my bar for the whole show, and bought round after round of drinks. I was so terrified of getting fired that I never gave them one free drink. She tipped me well and was gracious throughout, although at one point she made a comment about how I "never let her slide". She was wondering where the buyback was, not in any kind of demanding way, but she and I both knew it was due. I felt so sad not be able to acknowledge how wonderful I thought she was by simply buying her a round. It was such a feeling of powerlessness.


New Years rolled around and I worked a dyke dance party while all my friends rocked out somewhere else. I spent the night humoring a coked out older woman in a captain's hat who had decided she wanted to fuck me. To keep my attention she threw a five at me now and again and that was enough to warrant whoring myself out and giving her the extra attention she wanted. It was an incredibly lonely way to ring in the new year and I don't think I made more than a hundred bucks.


I ran into my very dear friend and future Squeezebox creator Michael Schmidt on the street a few days later and when he asked me how I was doing I burst into tears (my hobby at that point). He gave me all the cash he had in his pockets and told me to quit the job. I was so grateful, but I was totally terrified at the thought of being completely jobless.


That same night I went into work and did my usual shift for another dud party. After that early party a large crowd of people started filing in and the music got louder. It actually looked like it was going to be a lucrative night, and I perked up and started pouring drinks and ringing like it meant something. For a short time anyway.


A few minutes into the party a very tackily dressed and snotty-attituded blonde came into my station, plopped her tip box down, and said, "I'm supposed to work here." I told her to fuck off, of course, thinking she was just confused and stupid. We got into it, and before it got too ugly I went to the office to find the manager and ask him to escort the crazy bitch from my spot. The manager informed me that she was the new girlfriend of the owner and she was indeed going to be working the rest of the night in my place, for one of the first lucrative parties they'd booked. I was out, she was in. Unbelievable.


So I slammed my shit around and burst into tears (again!) and freaked out, far above and beyond what the situation merited but I had spent a whole winter freezing and completely depressed and this was simply too much to bear. The manager felt badly, but the owner wasn't there and obviously didn't give a shit. And I couldn't even leave without counting out the goddamn bank because my tips were in the lockbox and no one was going to give them to me until I finished the job. So I cried, cursed, and counted, and then stomped out.
And then, the very next day someone very dear to me called and asked if I would manage a new club that he was putting together, which was Coney Island High, and which ended up being amazing, as you all know (well, at least for a while, but that's a whole other blog). So I was floored. I might as well have borrowed a few hundred bucks from my mom and lounged around with my friends for the winter with the same profit level and a much lower pain index.

So, as with all my long-winded tales, there is a point I'm trying to get across. Which is simply that if you are suffering, if you are somewhere where you have no internal power, you are not supposed to be there. And sometimes if you stay in the place of pain, you aren't allowing the space for something more rewarding and loving to come in. I have been handed this particular lesson over and over, and I'm only now getting it completely. The jobs were never as bad as that again, but I still have had to work to find the courage to move from unhappy work situations when I feared that I wouldn't find anything better or that somehow my world would collapse if I didn't have a job for two minutes. But every time I ignore that voice of fear in my brain and follow my gut and just step out of the shit, I am rewarded. And usually within the week, I swear to God.

So I want to pass this on to you in case you are festering in a bad job right now. There are a million ways to earn money out there and I want you to find one that you like. I figure the more of us that are happy and well-fed out there, the better parties we can have. I want to stand next to you in an expensive outfit with a fancy cocktail in my hand while we congratulate ourselves on how fabulous we are. So get cracking!


----------------------------------------------------


P.S. I wrote this blog a few days before Katrina hit and forgot to post it right away. Now a crappy job seems a fairly benign thing compared to what people are going through and have lost down South. So I want to reiterate one more time--take a minute to look at what you have, at the people you love and the life you lead, and be grateful. It could always be so much worse. And if you are in the financial position to help, make sure to take a minute to donate what you can.

When the Levee Breaks


So I have been thinking about jobs a lot since mine shifted recently, and I actually started writing a long (of course) blog about work, that I'll eventually finish and post here. But at the moment I feel that it would be incredibly self-centered to discuss my own shit when so many people in the South have had their lives demolished.

I have two friends down there: My friend Angel lives in Mississippi and as I write this is on her way to Nashville to stay with her boss. I haven't been able to call her bc her cell won't take calls, but she left me a message to say she was fine physically but everything she had was gone. Gone! Can you imagine what that must feel like? It makes my stomach hurt.

The other one is Brian, who I love dearly but only talk to through email. He recently started working on the Cycle Slut website for me, for free, because that's the kind of person he is. I sent him some photos to post last week and he emailed me back that he had to evacuate New Orleans and would do it when things calmed down. I still haven't heard from him. And the fucked thing is he just moved down there fairly recently. I'm pretty sure he's okay physically but what about his house? And his job? Even if you have somewhere to go, you still have to rebuild a life all over again, either somewhere else or in a city where everything is rubble. And what if you don't have somewhere to go? How do people recover from this?

So I know that they still don't have the federal funding they need down there because George Bush has spent it all on his favorite war. And where was the funding New Orleans needed years ago to fortify against this kind of thing? I am a political dunce so I can't give any real comment about what Bush is doing or not doing but my guess is that it's probably more on the not doing side. I do know that right now people are getting crazy over gas, homeless, suffering for water, and doing autopsies in parking lots. That's pretty fucking crazy, and it makes me want to stop thinking about my silly self for a moment and send some serious energy and prayers (and some cash) down their way.

If you and the people you love are safe tonight, look around at all you have and be grateful. We are so incredibly lucky day after day, and it's a shame that sometimes it takes a disaster to help us see that.

I'm sending much love to all those folks in the eye of the storm. Let's hope their journeys aren't too arduous.