Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hot Guys Who Aged Badly

Against all logic and things that are holy in this world, I have eased into the role of romantic adviser in my dotage. All the men who have ever had the pleasure of my company are now doing a collective eye roll (or grave roll, where applicable). Because prior to continuing it must be announced to those who don't know me personally or are new to this humble blog, that to many from my past, I am a complete nutjob. 

When Drew and I first got together, people told him he was asking for trouble. My own brother pulled him aside and said, "Dude, she is smarter than you, and meaner than you, and she will crush you like a bug. Run!" In this lifetime I have been called maneater, psycho, crazy bitch, witch, stalker, slut, skank, prude, pushy, obsessive and too nice. Most of which are true, or have been true at various times.

My very brief marriage after a long on and off relationship looked pretty much like a standard day with Ronnie and Sammi:


Note how she screams repeatedly that she wants nothing to do with him while following him around the house as closely as possible. Wise girl. Repeating your point in a loud tone while acting out in the opposite manner is a perfectly effective way to create healthy communication between two people.

I have wrecked rooms, started bar brawls, cheated, been cheated on countless times, slapped, screamed, thrown glasses, hit someone over the head with a bottle, hit myself over the head with a bottle, called obsessively, gone to jail for assault, broken up and reunited repeatedly, cried, cried, cried, cried, cried. Once I got so crazy and angry during an argument that I stabbed myself in the arm with a fork. And eventually spent a nice chunk of time and cash on therapy. And frankly, I'm still nuts. But it's manageable now.

About eight years ago divine providence saw fit to send me a very attractive and intelligent person whose imperfections mesh very well with my own, and who has the integrity necessary to sustain a healthy relationship. My first reaction to this arrival was to embrace it heartily for about two seconds. My second and much longer reaction was to examine it with a microscope for the fatal flaw which would send me back into the usual spiral of depression and destructive behavior. When I couldn't find any major flaws or betrayals, I made them up and did my best to fuck things up first, so I could at least have the upper hand when it collapsed. And yet, despite my best efforts at being the worst, it remained solid. Or rather, he remained solid.

It is the weirdest thing. I give him the side eye when we're watching TV and think, "You still here? What is wrong with you?" But after these happy years together, I have come to the conclusion that the Universe, in its infinite wisdom, decided that it was time for me to learn some lessons through joy instead of through agony. And my karma for that, I believe, is that I must pay it forward whenever possible.

So I give my friends decent romantic advice, not because I was born wise, but because I know firsthand the consequences that arise from pretty much every dumb move that a female can make in the struggle to obtain or maintain a relationship, or even a date. I simply explain what happened when I did the wrong thing over and over, and how it feels to get slapped down heartily by the hand of fate. And their eyes widen and they say, "Ooh. That doesn't sound good. Maybe I won't call him obsessively/date an alcoholic/have an affair with that non-single man." Sometimes they follow the advice and sometimes they don't, but at least I know I'm giving them solid information.

I work with a young girl who is pretty, somewhat gothy, and very dramatic. She suffers when it comes to boys. She obsesses. She festers. If I'd ever had a daughter she could have been just like this kid. Recently there was an office discussion about her ex, who she hates, but loves, but hates, but loves. Of course he's gorgeous, as those ones always are.

So I said, "All right, show him to me." She pulled up a photo online and there he was in all his sullen glory. To me he looked like a child but I recognized the heartbreak oozing off of him. The fine features, the great hair, the perfect shitty attitude. Ah, the potential for exquisite anguish contained in that capsule, I know it so well.

I said, "All right. Let me show you something."

I pulled up one of my ex's facebook pages. This was the guy that I really hurt myself over for years. Poems and sobbing and phone calls and long nights of painful obsessing and when we were together just staring at his perfect, exquisite face. He was so beautiful I ached. The thought of him touching another girl was unbearable to me. And of course he was ALWAYS touching other girls. I could not imagine a life without him and yet life with him was horrendous and painful. I suffered. Oh, how I suffered.

Back to present, I said: "Here's my ex then." I clicked on one photo. "Amazing, right?"

She said, "Yes. he's hot." I said, "Here's another. See how perfect his cheekbones are?"

She said, "I get it. He's great looking."

I said, "He was beyond great looking. Light bounced off of him in a way that I'd never seen before. So you get the picture?" 

She said, "Yes, got it. Very hot."

I clicked on a photo of a paunchy, puffy, haggard old man in a Hawaiian shirt, sitting on a lawn chair with a can of cheap beer in his hand, and said, "This is him now." Clicked back to an old photo, "Then." Clicked back to the recent photo, "Now." I was like an eye doctor: "This one, or this one..."

She gasped. "No way!!!"  

Yes way my dear.

I said, "This is what is going to happen to your ex. People get fat. People get old. Everyone ages, nothing stays the same, and all that suffering for beautiful boys, although enjoyable to a certain extent, is pointless because eventually they become your dad, belly hanging out on the couch, droning on about the good old days when he was in some crappy punk band. So you'd might as well try to enjoy your youth while you can."

She said, "Wow. That makes me feel so much better."

I said, "Good. Then my work here is done."

We've been joking about starting a web page called Hot Guys Who Aged Badly. I actually took the Tumblr url, but I haven't put anything up yet. It's not like I haven't aged too, and I don't want to be mean to people, there's enough of that online. Still, perhaps in the name of public service...


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Gallows Humor

DREW: So...remember.at the wake when that woman came up to me and said she wanted to come to one of my gigs?

ME: Yes.

DREW: After that she kept following me around and talking about coming to the city to see a show.

ME: Are you serious? Like hitting on you? At your dad's wake??

DREW: I think so. It was weird. She wouldn't leave me alone. I was terrified you would notice.

ME: I did notice that she was sort of hitting on you that once but I thought I was being paranoid. I also noticed that she had disproportionately fat calves.

DREW: Did she? I didn't see that, I kept running away. It was freaking me out!

ME: How dare she? I will knock that cankled bitch right out.

DREW: I know! That's why I was scared! People flying, the coffin falling over. My sister screaming.

ME: Well, she did say she wanted to see your dad one more time.

DREW: Ha! Right? Dad on the ground, flowers everywhere, kids scarred for life...It just would not be good. 

ME: I can't believe you were able to hide that from me! Although honestly, with those legs she's gotta be really solid on her feet, so she can probably handle herself in a funeral brawl.

DREW: Yeah...low center of gravity.

ME: Exactly.

DREW: We are horrible people. 

ME: I know, Honey.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dads

Life is so intense right now, isn't it? Some say it's the energy of the shift, I'd like to believe that and certainly it seems that way. But life is always intense, so I can't tell for sure.

Drew's father died this week in a very heavy and unexpected manner. This comes on the heels of his grandfather dying three weeks ago, which was more expected and age-appropriate, and our friend Don Hill who I've already written about.

It is Drew and his family's private story, so in fairness I can't elaborate as much as I would if it were my own. I can go as far to say that they are devastated, and it is a great marking point in all of their lives.

My own father died suddenly of a heart attack at a young age. He was 47. I was also very young, had just moved to New York, with his help, and was completely distracted by the city. Most regretfully, I hadn't talked to him for a month or two and I don't remember the last time I had told him that I loved him. I had been talking to my mother on the phone, my dad was just annoying old dad, sending the checks. 

I was shattered in a way that wasn't immediately apparent. I kept a diary then and the page on his death contains a paragraph about him dying, and then a much longer portion outlining a date I went on the day before. I read it years later and was horrified. There was my deepest fear confirmed in black and white: I am the worst person on the planet. Luckily I had the presence of mind to get a therapist (for other reasons) and he told me it wasn't that I was evil or vapid, it was that it was so big that I shut down in order to be able to cope.

And indeed, throughout my "deep end" years, I would find myself going hysterical or ballistic over situations with the men in my life, and the rocky road would always lead to dad. As I lay sobbing and drunk on the kitchen floor or smashing my face into someone else's mirror, it would start with a meltdown over a bad romance and inevitably end up pleading into the air for my father's help.

Oooohhh. It's not really about the guy. So that's how that works.

I don't lay on kitchen floors drunk anymore and it's been quite a while since I purposely slammed my head into anything. It's been over twenty years since my dad died and I have made my peace with it. I worked through my pain and confusion over time, and eventually, when I was able to open up and listen, he came to me in dreams, and in one very crazy meditation I was able to talk it out with him. His life and his loss still color my life, but in a much gentler and sometimes comforting fashion.

So what do you do while you are watching your partner lay his head and hands down on a coffin and sob that broken-hearted and primal sob of deepest pain and frustration? How do you walk someone through an experience where the answers are simply not good enough, and where the people they counted on the most to shape their world just couldn't be there the way they needed them to be? And now they're gone and the hope that they will one day repair the damage is shattered. Hope has left the building. It's a gaping chasm that many of us have to walk through on our own, and it is a long and lonely trek. 

I can only kneel next to him and hug him. And sit back and allow him to connect with his family and even friends that I might not be crazy about. I have to shut the fuck up and listen. I am stoic in most painful times in a way that I am not during lesser dramas. Maybe because I shut down when things get too rough, or maybe this time because I can feel the warmth of my own father standing next to me as I sit in a folding chair in a room full of flowers, watching my guy's family melt down in front of a coffin. 

We are not really alone. It just feels like it sometimes in the most excruciating of manners.




Friday, April 1, 2011

Don Hill

Whenever someone famous or very popular dies there is a rush of people jumping on the stage to shout, "I knew them the most/best/longest!" I don't want to do that here, I didn't know him the most, or the best, or the longest. But I would be remiss if I didn't blog about this lovely man who died yesterday.


I knew Don for about 25 years. I wasn't his closest friend; we didn't talk on the phone regularly or get together for dinner, but he was a friend and I loved him. 

I met Don at the Cat Club, which he managed, in the 80's. He was always friendly and generous with the beer, and he had a first hand seat to watch the Cycle Sluts form, perform, get loaded, pick up countless rock dudes, fight like cats, get a record deal, and break up. One night I freaked out on my constantly cheating boyfriend and smashed some glasses and caused a general ruckus. Don didn't get angry over my behavior, he just talked me down and told me it wasn't worth it. No matter what maelstrom was spinning around him, he was even and solid, a comforting presence. Years later he would joke about "that time you beat up your boyfriend at the Cat Club". He would always say, "That guy was a jerk anyway." And then he would laugh and order us more shots of tequila.

During the 90's another equally wonderful friend, Michael Schmidt, created a new party called Squeezebox, and he enlisted me to go-go dance. The party was held every Friday night at Don Hill's. Don was "one of us" and a fair and honest club-owner, without the gigantic ego that usually comes with that title, so it was a natural choice of venue.

I shook my half-naked ass every other week in his club for years. Here's a visual for you:



I know, always the lady... During breaks I would do a quick shot with him and we'd marvel at whatever was going on around us. It was such a fun, fantastic, groundbreaking party and he gave the promoters free rein and enjoyed the circus as much as anybody.  I spent so much time around him in my underwear, as did many of us at Squeezebox, and I never once felt naked. He always made me feel comfortable and appreciated, he was a safe space in the crowd. 

When Jesse Malin and I broke up after a long relationship, some people chose the Jesse side of the fence, even though it was an amicable split and we remained close. Jesse is famous so you know how that goes: he received the wedding invites and I did not. Don was always a bit closer to Jesse, they were both club-owners, both guys, they simply had more in common. But Don never made me feel any less loved. He invited me to anything he was doing and rolled out the red carpet upon my arrival. He was so natural and easy about the whole thing that the idea of sides and loyalties never came into play.

In the 2000's, well after Squeezebox ended, I would show up at his club to see shows and would inevitably spend the entire night at the end of the bar with him, drinking tequila and gossiping like a couple of old ladies. He was very fun to gossip with and I couldn't help but park myself next to him whenever possible.

Recently after things were getting pretty slow at the club, Don acquired new partners, and they turned the joint into the kind of place I hate, full of rich-parented social brats and models and everyone so busy taking pictures of themselves in front of the band that they don't even notice the music. Prior to the changeover Don confided in me that it was happening, and I was flattered that he took me into his confidence and happy that he had found a means to continue. I never questioned his decision or loyalty to the "old school". A man has to eat, and it was the right thing to do for his business. Crappy hipster blogs crowed about this "finally happening" venue, it stuck in the craw but if it brought the crowds, then more power to him. He was no dummy and his presence ensured that it was still the coolest club in town.

One of Don's partners is the kind of guy who will shove you out of the way to get to someone he thinks is more important. His name is Nur, so I call him Nurdemort (an homage to Harry Potter, for you non-Potter fans).Every single time I've visited the club since he arrived he has spilled alcohol on me in his rush to grope the nearest model or Jagger offspring. He has never once noticed that he has elbowed me, poured beer on me, or stepped on my feet. Don would always cluck a bit as I sputtered angrily, hand over some napkins, wave at the bartender to get me another drink, and pull up a stool for me as far out of the fray as possible. And there I would sit next to him once again, until it was time to go.

Last night a friend let me know about Don's death right before we left the house for a gig that Drew had at Lit. I called Jesse and left him the sad message, and then threw on something slutty and ran out for the night. I found myself crying hot tears as I watched Drew play, but was glad to be out anyway. It seemed appropriate. Many people went to Don Hill's afterward for a farewell toast, but the idea of walking into that room and not seeing him seemed far too painful at such an early stage in the game. It is still too new for me to completely grasp that I will never get to spend another night drinking and shit-talking with him.

This morning I woke up and cried it out for a while, as I'm sure many of his friends did. We lost a dear, decent, kind, fun, wonderful, generous, honest, beautiful man. It is the end of an era for New York nightlife as well. He was a gift to our city and I'm proud and grateful to have known him.