I did a reading for one of Ms. Puma Perl's writer's nights last night. She is a killer poet and author, a true East Village rebel artist, and an all around lovely person, so if she asks I am there. I feel like she is one of the keepers of the creative flame in a neighborhood that has lost much of that fire, and I am grateful that she includes me in her circle.
So I wrote a piece a while back that I read last night, and I hadn't intended to post it anywhere. But since I haven't had any time to blog lately, and a friend asked me if she could find it online, I decided I might as well house it here:
of my best friends is semi-famous. She’s not like, Motley Crue
or Tom Cruise famous, but she’s got a lot of action in her life as a performer. Let’s
say she’s past 5000 facebook friends famous.
been friends for 25 years and it’s a relationship in which there is a
lot of trust because we went through some difficult times together. I
was the semi-famous one when we first met, so it’s been entertaining to
watch the roles reverse, and it has created a safety wall around us
because we both know what it’s like to be either visible in a way that
isn’t fully the truth, or invisible, which is an untruth in another way.
my friend flew into town to meet someone new that she had hired, and she asked me to come with her to a party this person was
throwing so I could offer my assessment. I do love to give an opinion and gladly accepted the invitation.
party was at the Jane West Hotel, where I lived for a brief time in the
mid-80’s when it was a trannie hooker flophouse extraordinaire. It was
hardcore, complete with the guy in the weird cage desk in the lobby and a
vibrating air that smelled of crack sweat and desperation. The guest
rooms were bum hotel tiny but two friends and I managed to rent a large,
sparsely furnished room in the basement. These two friends were Michael
Schmidt, who has since become a well known designer and who created the
legendary party Squeezebox, and a supremely talented painter named
Martine. We were all kids fresh out of the Midwest, so we had a lot in
common, primarily obscurity and a lack of income.
room must have been a ballroom at one time. It maintained that sad
brokedown aura of elegant days gone by, with ceramic tile on the floor
and a balcony running along one side of the room. It was probably
beautiful once, but by the time we arrived, it was filthy and
depressing. There was another large room on the other side of one wall
that housed parties, most notably the Rock Hotel, which was the first
party in New York to feature hardcore and heavier bands like Motorhead
on a regular basis. And sometimes they’d rent out that room for low rent
disco parties. The bass would thump, thump, thump all night long
against the wall near my head, until I would sit up in bed and scream,
FUCK YOU, MICHAEL JACKSON! FUCK YOU!!
were beyond broke. Michael (Schmidt, not Jackson) weighed little more
than a hundred and some odd pounds and lived on mini-marshmallows for what seemed like one entire
week. He sat crunched up in his jacket like a bony mantis picking them one at a time out of the bag with long fingers, shivering in
front of our television, which featured a screen cracked with what
looked remarkably like a bullet hole.
shared a bathroom with a Chinese family who we never saw, but every
single day, without fail, would jam the toilet beyond use with leftover
food. The floor and tiles were gritty with grime, and waterbugs were our
constant companions as we stood in flip flops day after day, shaking
angry fists at the unusable toilet and the unseen Asians who crept in at
night to fill it with rice and mystery meat.
just to round out the picture of this magical time in my life, I was
date raped in our room by a Frenchman who was my boss at my very first
job in New York, working as a salesgirl at Betsey Johnson. I didn’t know
that it was date rape at the time, it was quietly traumatic in a way
that didn’t become clear to me until years later, but this is a another
story. I just want to give you a memory snapshot of my time at the Jane
now it’s been renovated to the nines and it’s very fancy and Jane
Street is THE street in the West Village. And this is where my friend’s
very expensive new person was throwing the party.
we approached the building I recognized the entrance staircase, but
everything else was quite different. The smoky desk cage was gone. The
lounge we entered was sumptuous, with a sort of murder mystery mansion
come Moroccan feel, featuring that taxidermy of exotic animals that is
both horrible and beautiful and very fashionable right now. Suffice to
say not a waterbug in sight.
the entrance to the party room was a single file line-up of very bored
looking models hired to stand in a row as eye-candy. They were very
pretty, of course, but looked miserable and bored. It seemed a pointless
waste of thin nubile flesh to my experienced party eye. I would have
given them drink tickets and sent them into the fray. Let ‘em get too
drunk, pick a fight at the bar, blow someone in the bathroom! This gives
the guys something to focus on and old cranks like me the opportunity
to feel superior with our more mature behavior. Everyone is happy.
Instead they just stood there, like giant statues, reminding me of all
my physical flaws as I slouched past them, avoiding eye contact.
new hire was cute: one of those typical industry girls--short,
animated, not much makeup, trying very hard to exude that super-hip,
“just one of the guys” energy that many women working behind the scenes
in entertainment adopt in order to survive. She seemed cool enough. She
introduced us to people who seemed cool enough.
friend and I got a drink and sat on a plushy couch and things
immediately went awry in that quietly horrendous way that these kinds of
parties always do for me. The models looked even more hostile from our
new vantage point. We were seated across from a couple on the couch who
were as cute as could be and more boring than should be humanly
possible. I think the guy was gay. He had side-swept bangs that he kept
tossing out of his eyes and the kind of wardrobe that my boyfriend and I
play a game with on the street: “Gay or Hipster”. His adorable and
clueless girlfriend was dressed perfectly in overpriced Soho boho gear.
Someone took a polaroid of the two of them and handed it to her. She set
it down immediately and stared off into space with her hand in her
chin. He stared out into the crowd, probably wishing he could tell his
girlfriend he’s gay.
said, “You should keep that photo, you both look very cute in it.” They
turned for a moment, looked at me as if I had three heads and then went
back to staring into space.
friend sat next to me, talking to new hire, who, in the space of
five minutes had morphed curiously from professional businesswoman to teenage
drinky gal. She had curled herself up into a ball with her knees
scrunched against my friend and was alternately whispering into her ear
and taking gulping swigs from a Heineken bottle.
friend, who is the soul of patience, responded to each utterance
briefly, and with eye contact and body language tried to direct Drinky
Gal to the fact that there was another person on the couch, namely ME.
But she could not be less bothered with my unimportant ass and rambled
about her bad relationships and how she couldn’t be friends with
ex-boyfriends and the usual completely inappropriate stuff that you
shouldn’t talk about with employers but we all do when we drink too
caught a small portion of it and said something that I thought was
incredibly deep about the fact that until the lesson is grasped your
energy will remain stuck. She glanced at me with that same three head
glaze, and went back to ignoring me and whispering. I rolled my eyes and
stared into space. Then I went back to staring at the young couple,
fascinated by how truly not-fun they were at such an early age. The
polaroid sat there, unclaimed, and its presence tortured me.
second glass of wine kicked in and I started to get really mad, and I
decided to play a game with Drinky Gal. I figured, I’ll give her the
stare of death until she either gets uncomfortable and is forced to
include me in the conversation, or until I finally master the power to
explode people’s heads by deftly harnessing and focusing my rage. I
thought, surely before her head blows up into a million pieces and
covers my friend’s face with drippy viscera and bits of brain, she will
notice that she’s being an asshole and include me in her dumb, stupid,
did not notice. And try as I might, I could not make her head explode.
My wine glass quickly drained to empty and along with the wine, my
passion dissipated, the residue a sort of limp resentment. If I had a
third glass things were sure to head south, but my friend knows me well
and we took our leave, abandoning Tiny Toad and her Heineken bottle.
the cab I asked, “Why do people think that they can be rude to the
wives and best friends? Don’t they realize we are the ones who will be
sitting in the car with you on the way home, complaining about their
friend slouched into the seat and sighed. “I don’t know. I guess she
just got too drunk. I’ll give her three months and see how it goes.”
Then she asked, “Was it weird being in that hotel again?”
I said. “It was fine. Except for the stupid fuckface models reminding me that I’m a billion years old.”
snorted. And I felt loved and that made me less angry about being ignored.
And it occurred to me how much easier and safer things are for us than
they used to be.
years ago this same friend was a nobody to the outside world, but still
everything to me. She helped me put back the rubble of my shitty East
Village apartment when my crazy, high-on-pills boyfriend trashed it
nearly beyond repair. He smashed my antique jewelry box through a closed
window, where it flew along with shards of glass down five flights and
onto the courtyard below. The box contained all my tiny trinkets, a
necklace from my dead father and a check for a few thousand dollars from
Sony records, the only real money I would see during my big rock
career. This friend climbed a concrete wall to try to salvage some of the items
and almost got shot by a cracked out neighbor for the effort.
had a broken mom and I had a gone daddy and it fucked us up nice, so
then we fucked ourselves up. We fucked inappropriate people. We made
disastrous choices. We talked complete shit. We spent endless hours
working a coke grinder at our dealer/friend’s house, until the sun was
well up in the sky, until we felt nothing but a longing for death, and
still we didn’t stop. We both know what it is like to lie down on a
dirty floor and cry, desperate and alone, for help that won’t come.
the time, much like those models probably, we had no idea how
impossibly beautiful we were. We were so very young and lost, how could
we understand that we sparkled? Our hearts were broken. Our badass middle finger in the air
hid the fact that we thought we were garbage. And we were of no real use
to each other’s healing process, except that it was always a safe place
to crash, a guffaw in the dark, a warmth in the eyes that did not
falter. A true love, if you will, and a soft landing among the jagged rocks we'd chosen to reside upon.
thought about the new hire and her less than stellar party behavior
and the gorgeous decor of the hotel and my past there when it looked so
much different, and the bored couple and the photographers and how all
of it, everything around us in those public situations is like a tiny
tapping on our window. We can hear it, it exists, we can even play with it and have fun. But because we are now
closer to whole, it lives outside of us, and cannot penetrate or harm
in any deep way.
ramble on, Drinky Gal, and rock on, fancy new hotel, and enjoy your own
trajectories, beautiful models. I hope they give you an ocean of free
drinks and let you roam free at the end of the night. I do not begrudge
you your youth and beauty, I can live without being included in your
conversations, although I’ll probably still keep trying to blow up your
heads telepathically, if only for personal, petty amusement.