Monday, December 2, 2013

Let's Lynch the Landlord!




New York, New York. It's a helluva town.

My friends and I spend an extraordinary amount of time talking about how it's changed since we grew up or got here in the 70's, 80's, and early 90's. It's nearly impossible to move to New York now if you aren't wealthy; and development of luxury housing is raging, as I type, on nearly every block in the city. Glass terrariums for the rich (a quote I'm stealing from the genius Judy McGuire) rise daily and at an alarming rate. The rest of us, the artists who choose to stay because we are rent stabilized and can still afford to live here and/or cannot afford to leave, keep our heads down as 7-11's replace bodegas, as we weave in and out on sidewalks full of bros in a uniform combo of basketball shorts, flip-flops and winter jackets, shouting into their phones as they make beer or laundry runs on down time from parentally funded college-studies and raging bar crawls and house parties. Sometimes we go into denial for a few hours and pretend that it's all going to be okay. But I don't know that it is anymore.

There is a website dedicated to chronicling our plight. It's called E.V. Grieve: http://evgrieve.com/

I try not to be bitter. I even like some of the new New Yorkers that I wait on at Dream Baby on Saturday nights. Some of them see my tattoos and want to connect with me. They want to know who I am and what my opinion might be. Some of them just see me as a part of the landscape that they now own, but for the most part we still get along. I do my best to be friendly and nice. It's entertaining to me at times that they are often so clueless and probably couldn't fathom all I have seen and experienced in this city, but I remind myself that I have not walked in their shoes either. And someone probably looked at me and thought the same thing upon my newbie arrival from the Midwest.

Sometimes I marvel that the people I moved so far to escape have now taken over. It used to be that they stood outside velvet ropes while the freaks paraded past them to congregate in our happy and very large misfit groups. We had an extensive subcultural community and it was grand. Now we are all old, and while there are still more youthful attempts at holding the flame in small pockets around the city at parties advertised on shiny square flyers, it will never be the same, at least not while I live. But that is how life works; change the only constant, and like sharks, if we are to survive, we must keep moving forward.

The apartment above mine has been a constant source of pain since I first moved in directly under my soon-to-be-ex-husband in 1991. That's a very long story going in the book. Short version is that it sucked living under him, but eventually he moved out and now I wish he was still there. The landlord renovated the first time, causing me all kinds of drama and ceiling collapse, since then there have been a series of more minor renovations with the afore-mentioned parentally funded NYU students coming and going at school year opening and closing, the most famous of which was the girl who didn't know how to use a toilet: http://darkladymissanthrope.blogspot.com/2005/06/meeting-my-new-neighbor.html.

I have had to deal with many other floods and leaks, including another girl who opened her window as wide as possible, then disappeared during a major thunderstorm, leaving me and her dog to howl in agony as water poured through the ceiling over my bed. The hammering of loft-creation at 2 am, moving in and out at equally difficult hours. I have had keggers going on over my head when I should have been sleeping for my day job, beer bottles smashing on my fire escape or deposited in front of my door. Ah, dorm life!

But hope doth spring eternal, and with every August comes a new tenant, all fresh and shiny and ready for the upcoming school year, cringing as they pass Drew and I in the hallway as if we are criminals, or at the very least, of that lower caste that mommy and daddy told them to avoid. Working-class poverty might be contagious.

Unfortunately for me, this year the building was sold by the somewhat dysfunctional, but always accessible family who owned it for generations to a mystery landlord who remains shrouded behind a management corporation. When I have issues my only recourse is to call an office and speak to a very pretty young woman named Emily, who while intelligent, responsive and clearly capable of making better life/career-choices than I was at her age, only gives as many fucks for my quality of domicile and spiritual well-being as is required by law.

And so, without so much as a warning phone call, Drew and I awoke one recent morning to the sound of massive destruction overhead, accompanied by the feel of a rain of plaster crumbs lightly dusting our faces, our pillows, our sheets, our coffee maker, our pets, etc.

It sounded as if someone, or rather, a few someones, were working with sledgehammers as hard as humanly possible to break through the floor above and down into our home. I freaked out, called Emily, and told her that the ceiling was weak and would come down way sooner than later. She said, "Fie on your petty concerns and a pox upon you and your filthy livestock, you vile and insignificant serf!"

Okay, I dramatize slightly. She was polite and said that the worst would happen over the next couple of days while they gutted, and then it would calm down. She gave me a timeline of two months.

A couple of days later and under thunderous duress, the decades-old ceiling began cracking and dipping before our very eyes. Drew and I stood staring up, mesmerized as damage unfolded like a much uglier version of a stop-time video of a flower growing. I called Emily once again, this time with a hysterical, weepy tone to my voice and the announcement that the ceiling was most definitely coming down, and soon. She arrived an hour later with the contractor and looked up for a few moments, then told me that they would make the necessary repairs. Repairs, mind you, not a new ceiling, because, hey, let's not get too crazy here, we are just biding time until we can find a way to get you and all the other geezers out of this building and turn it into the goldmine we so rightfully deserve. I was assured that the demolition portion of the festivities had concluded and it was all gentle tapping and safe passage from here on out.

Well, okay, if you say so...Gee, I guess you wouldn't put a household in physical danger for a buck, now would you? I went upstairs and asked the workmen for the fourth time to please be careful when slamming things onto the ground. They looked at me as if I had three heads and continued slamming things on the ground, without missing a beat.

OOPSIE!! Noon the next workday, which was the day after a blissful and sledge-hammer free Thanksgiving, the ceiling came down while they pounded and slammed. Quel surprise! Quel dommage!


Now I could actually see and curse out the workmen without having to trudge upstairs! Everything in the vicinity, including an antique photographer's chair that my mother painstakingly refinished by hand, was damaged and covered in chunks of ceiling and dirt. And the entire apartment, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, rest of living room, was coated in ancient plaster dust.



Thirty seconds before this happened I had moved the Booper (Albert) away from his usual spot on the air conditioner next to my desk, which lies directly under the scene of the crime.


Unlike this photo he was sitting up and staring intently at the ceiling, which was what initially gave me pause, then the intense and sudden urge to move him. If I hadn't, would he be dead or injured now? I can't say for sure but I am very grateful for intuition and beyond angry that he is in danger in his own home, where I have often made the pledge that I will keep him safe and happy until his dying day.

Anyhoo, so I did what any normal person would do, which is stand still while covered in thick black dust and stare in shock at the now visible feet moving around above me (still hammering away, cause mime is money!).

Then I took a deep breath of the afore-mentioned dust and let out a blood-curdling scream, followed by a list of screeched expletives which may or may not have included derogatory comments toward the mothers of everyone involved.

Clean-up ensued once I stomped upstairs, still shrieking, and dragged the head ceiling-pounder down by the arm to see the world from my point of view. Note that they are wearing masks while I stood feet away, maskless and shivering in my jammies with the windows open for air, taking photos and crying. The pets were shoved into the bedroom for protection, the fair Emily could not be contacted because it was still technically a holiday and there is no emergency contact phone number listed on evil super-villain lair answering machines.


Drew rushed home, hugged me hard, and we cleaned up as best we could until we both had to go to work. After my shift ended at 10pm I had a few decompressing drinks with Zoe and Tim. I had a couple more than necessary, so Tim very graciously walked me home and up the stairs into the apartment. I said, "Tim, I'm not okay with this." And he said, "I know, Honey." and gave me a hug.

After he left I sat for a moment and then decided to carry on a full-blown hysterical, exacerbated-by-booze sobbing meltdown, which culminated in a call to Richard Manitoba for a sober and sane, calming male talk-down-off-the-ledge. He got me grounded enough to go to bed and sleep it off, and I awoke with a booze and crying too much headache to spent the next two days scrubbing off the filth. My hands are burning and cracked from being in cleaning water for so long.

Which leads to today. Emily did apologize via email yesterday and this morning sent one of her minions in with the contractor for assessment. They deemed that yes indeed, the kitchen ceiling (and therefore we) could very well be a danger, and while again, there are most likely no fucks to be given concerning the health of Drew, myself, or our pets, an actual physical injury or death due to construction could cost cash money. Emily sent an email stating they would like to begin the messy, short-term life-ruining job of replacing/repairing tomorrow. I said yes if they bring an air purifier.

I also said that while I will try to be as accommodating as possible, I have contacted a lawyer and it would be great if the mystery landlord could start thinking about what kind of abatement/recompense he/she/it is willing to offer, as this shit is, in my admittedly not-completely-professional opinion, not at all cool. I am waiting to hear back as things continue to slam and pound dangerously on the ceiling above my head. Drew and I are taking turns on who leaves the apartment during work hours so someone can be here to watch and keep the animals safe. It's been a few hours since Emily got my email, but they're probably very busy trying on tiaras and eating canapes made of endangered species at the office right now. I'm sure someone will get back to me eventually.

This blog is primarily for my friends and family, who have been very worried and very helpful with advice and shoulders to lean on. It seems easier to write it out here one time rather than to keep explaining it via facebook or via phone. I want you to know how truly grateful I am that you are so evidently there when the shit hits the fan. All of the facebook comments and notes, the calls and texts, all appreciated and heartening. This morning I got a phone call from Clayton Patterson, who I highly admire and who I know but have never known that well, checking to see if there was anything I needed from him. It was a lovely reminder that we still have some community left, and that united, even though our numbers are much smaller, we can stand upright in front of the bulldozer for at least short while longer.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Funeral for a Friend

 My beautiful friend Codie Leone died last week, on my birthday, October 23, 2013, of a heart attack.


This is a (somewhat blurry) photo of her the last time she was in my apartment. I made her a vegetable juice in a glass we both felt was appropriate for the occasion.

Codie had many, many friends and fans. She is considered an underground icon, a transgender pioneer and mother to all LGBT children in her vicinity. Codie left three sons behind. If you don't know who she is or was, this video reel, a reality show teaser, will give you a good idea. I can't embed the video here but the link should work:

http://vimeo.com/38810369

The day after she died my blog got more hits than ever before. People were clearly googling the hell out of her and found something I'd written a while back (Pronounity). Everyone loved her. You can't find anyone who has a bad story about her, and this is because Codie, unlike most of us, genuinely loved and enjoyed people. It didn't matter who or what you were, she accepted you and wanted to hear your thoughts. Gay, straight, yuppie or freak. And she loved to laugh above all else; she could take the worst circumstance and turn it into the most hilarious story you've ever heard, so she was always fun to be around.

Codie had been sick many years past, and we almost lost her then. But that was miles behind in the rear view mirror. She was healthy now, vibrant, and excited about numerous projects. The fear of losing her was not in anyone's consciousness; Codie was going to outlive us all.

I had a big birthday party on the day she died, which she was supposed to attend. When she didn't answer texts we all assumed she had bailed to stay home with her two dogs, although it did seem weird that she didn't answer anyone. I didn't mind, I'd see her soon enough, her apartment is only a few blocks away and she often popped her head into Dream Baby, the bar I work in on Saturdays, when she was out walking the dogs. She would leave them with someone at the door, run in, push through the crowd, shout "I love you!" and run back out again. That's the way she was, always taking an extra moment to make sure you knew you were loved, that you were still connected.

Funny thing is, for someone I consider family, I can't quite remember when I met Codie. It feels like she's always been there. I know it was the 80's, probably at Boy Bar, maybe over a line of coke at Save the Robots. I can't pin the exact moment. She was just an integral thread in the fabric of my new New York life.

Codie around the time I met her, this is a famous photo by Nan Goldin.


Codie and Gina Vetro as MTV"s Art School Girls of Doom:



As the decades passed we saw each other sometimes less, sometimes more. No matter how long, it was as if no time had passed. You have that with people you've known from lifetime to lifetime. You might not talk for years and then you see each other and it's all "Hey girl! Where'd you get that nail color?"

Drew and I joke that we are "the Last Responders" because we are both selfish and step up reluctantly in a crisis. Codie, on the other hand, was always willing to be there if you had so much as a cold. "What do you need, Doll? Do you want soup? I'll come over with supplies." 

Over the last decade we worked together at Patricia Field and it was always entertaining. We shouted insults and gave beauty advice. She, Joey Pauline and I called ourselves the Stygian witches. Who's got the eye? We walked home together a lot of nights, Codie tossing her hair and enjoying the attention of men who whispered sexual innuendo as she walked past them in her heels and low cut top, cracking wise while they gaped. Sometimes she wore flip flops, but they were always very expensive flip flops, because Codie was well-known for her love of designer shoes. Often things got so ridiculous that Joey would have to stop, doubled over from laughing so hard.

Me, Codie, Joey...


Codie was was constantly glamorous even while occasionally covered in dog hair. Codie's apartment could be messy sometimes, but her makeup remained flawless. She had a ridiculously deep trannie voice with a Queens accent. She called me 'Relph" sometimes. She shouted off-color jokes at the most inappropriate moments. She could stand in the most evil 5" stilettos for hours. Codie couldn't spell for shit, but she was smart as a whip and remembered everyone's name. Codie was vain, she drove me nuts making the same damn face over and over again for photos because she knew it worked for her. I'd shout, "Stop making that dumb 'Ooh' face!" And she'd reply, "Stop being an asshole, Asshole!"

Codie always liked to be beautiful, which she was. But she would be happy to whip out a boob in public or put a wig on backwards if it could make you laugh. She went out of her way to make sure everyone in the room felt comfortable, not just the famous or fabulous. She would work to draw the mousiest person in the corner into conversation because she didn't want anyone to feel alone or unseen. She prized her Louboutins, but if you wanted to borrow a pair, she would let you.

Codie was a downtown legend, a freak to some, a hero to others, a friend to many. She was so deliciously human. She was a gift. Gina Vetro said, "Codie thought with her heart and felt with her mind." Meaning it was all heart to her. She didn't stop to break it down. Love came before all else. Her very minor imperfections only served to make her more wonderful, and her depth of spirit and kindness, a deep, abiding kindness to any and all, are what make her sudden departure such a devastating loss to everyone in her orbit.

Codie, me, Joey, and Zoe after doing the Rew and Who show at Otto's. 


Recently Codie had been asked to speak on what it means to be transgender:



The reality show about her day to day life looked as if it was very close to happening.

On the Friday before she died she came to my happy hour shift for a moment with a friend she had had a major break with, and who she had since forgiven. He was so grateful to be with her and and we talked about how real friends can weather all storms if everyone is honest and loving, which Codie always was. I am so happy for him that he was able to make that happen in time.

The next day, Saturday, she did her usual run into the bar to say "I love you." It would have been just as easy for her to walk by and assume she'd see me soon.

On Sunday I was supposed to go to a brunch that she was hosting but my feet hurt so badly from working the two nights before that I sent her a text that I wouldn't make it.

She texted back, "Eeeuww." I thought, "Wow, she spelled something right for a change." I wish I'd gotten off my ass and hobbled over there. I said to our friend Douglas Hovey, "If I'd known she was gonna DIE, I would have gone to her goddamn brunch!"

When Joey broke the news to me over the phone, weeping inconsolably, I thought, "What's going on, did his cat die?" When he finally got to the words, "Codie's dead.", I thought, "Nope. That can't be right. That's a mistake."

Codie survived major illness. She survived pneumonia and a coma and weighing 90 pounds. She survived a father who wanted to crush the very essence of her, her otherness. She survived teen parenting. She survived being transgender. She survived losing her own friends. She survived working at Patricia Field, fer chrissake. What do you mean she's gone? Nope. Sorry, we all need her. There are sons who missed her during much of their childhood and are now owed more time. So nope, sorry.

Codie was out on the street when it happened. She called her boyfriend Eugene and told him she didn't feel well, and he came out to get her. She complained that her arm, neck, and chin hurt, he took her shopping bags, and she collapsed in his arms. And then she left her body shortly after that. And there was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. At the cemetary Eugene told me the story in a rush of words that he could barely contain, whispering feverishly. It was too much, it had to be expelled. Anguish. Anguish.

A friend sent me a text that said, "Codie is your angel now, she watches over you from the other side." I think, Yes, I can feel her around me. My mother, a psychic and channeler, checked in and Codie came through right away to say she's fine and to apologize to everyone for leaving so quickly. My mother says her energy is very clear and strong. None of that is really a surprise and I'm glad. I know her dear friend Ruby, who died very recently, was there when she crossed over, and that makes me glad.


 But I'd still rather have her in person. Who is going to make us laugh so hard that we can't breathe?


We all went to a wake and a funeral this weekend and saw people we hadn't seen in years and hugged each other tight and joked and cried. The wake was open casket and a girlfriend did her makeup rather than the funeral home because it was imperative to get her eyebrows right. Codie was dressed beautifully in a vintage Mugler suit and rhinestone Louboutins. It was hard to take in for extended stretches of time and we took frequent breaks. At one point I found myself n the lobby grilling Debbie Harry about her recent guest star on Project Runway, and she looked down at her phone and said, "Oh my God. Lou Reed died!"

I thought, how does life get so surreal? So wonderful and so terrible all jumbled together?

At the cemetery Joey put a big plastic eyeball on the casket. She's got the eye now.

On my way home from work, walking up my stairs tired and heart-aching, I heard the sounds of yet another frat party raging in the courtyard next door. I thought, "Shit. This is just too much right now. I don't know if I can handle it."

And then I heard Codie's voice in my head, clear as a bell.

She said, "I got you girl. You're good. I always got you; you should know that by now."



Thursday, October 10, 2013

Cursed Diamonds

Was there something planetary going on last week? I got super sick with the flu the week before and spent days holed up in the apartment feeling hot, then cold, then cranky. My guru mom says that we are all going through more clearings, past life and this life, and that I was clearing out energy/toxins from drug usage in this current lifetime. To which I whined, "Well, that's gonna take forever!"

But it didn't. If you're interested, we're supposed to be moving from carbon based bodies to crystalline. http://drsmick.com/carbon-based-to-crystalline-based-body/. I don't feel very crystalline and clearing, if that's what it is, sucks--"Cher, I don't want to do this anymore. And my buns: they don't feel nothin' like steel."--Tai in Clueless.

But hope does indeed spring eternal and all things must pass.

So after some heavy couch time I was eager to get back to stabs at productivity, especially as lately I've been feeling less procrastinaty about the book, like for the first time, ever. I sat down last Thursday and wrote some pages, and was very pleased to see I'm closer to measurable progress. Then as I sat there determinedly typing, seemingly without provocation, I burst into tears and went on nice little crying jag, the likes of which had not been experienced since viewing Les Miserables while in the full throes of PMS. That damned Anne Hathaway.

It was weird. But not. After honking into the sixth kleenex that little bulb went bright and I thought, "Ooooooohhh... So I'm not LAZY, it's that it sucks to dredge this stuff up. That's why I've been procrastinating for the last 10 years. Not lazy...SENSITIVE! Not lazy...PAINFUL! I felt quite vindicated despite the snot-producing state of affairs. Though it's not fun to carry shame and sadness over the past, it' is very nice to find a reason to justify ten years of steady video gaming.

The next day, feeling slightly vulnerable and a tad off my game, I worked my happy hour at BE. Patrick Kavanaugh, the supremely talented Mad Hatster, came in and gave me the most gorgeous bowler you've ever seen, custom made for my tiny yet remarkably hard head.


So that was awesome and I love the hat so much I haven't taken it off since.

And then various friends  from varying eras in my life, from varied parts of the country, stopped in, just by random chance all converging in NY at the same time. The evening was shaping up to be nice.

And then it wasn't. One of the friends who I hadn't seen in twenty years, and who I was very close to back then, confessed quietly that they'd been homeless for a number of years. For the purpose of privacy, let's call this person "X". That made me sad and also meant I would be putting some of my tips in the register to pay for the drinks, which also makes me sad. But I was glad to be reunited and am grateful for all I have, and am happy to pay it forward when possible.

Things went from fun and reunion-ey to overly drunk and sloppy in a very short time. But I didn't notice because the bar manager forgot to tell me there was an open bar halfway through my shift, and I was suddenly faced with a hundred eager-for-libation strangers waving free drink wristbands and shouting drink orders at the top of my head as I concentrated on pouring as fast as humanly possible.


One woman in particular got belligerent because she wanted two glasses of water immediately (no intention of tipping) and I was not getting to her fast enough. I tried to explain to her, while making ten drinks at a time with hands and toes, that water took the same time to pour as a drink and that there were many other, more well-mannered people who had been waiting much longer than her. She ignored all logic and human decency and continued to insist that she wanted her water asap. She waved her hand without stop and and shouted, "I ONLY WANT TWO WATERS. I ONLY WANT TWO WATERS!" I finally screeched, "ALL RIGHT EVERYONE! THIS WOMAN GETS HER ORDER BEFORE ANYONE ELSE BECAUSE HER NEEDS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT IN THE ROOM!"

Everyone looked nervous as I slammed two glasses down in front of her, the contents sloshing onto the bar. She made a face, not cowed in the least, and took her gd water. I felt badly immediately after, because my behavior reflects on the bar and could get me into a conversation with my bosses, and because it sent an adrenaline surge through my system that quickly alchemized to angst and weird afore-mentioned weepy shame from the day before. So when she came back feeling hydrated and insisting upon a complicated drink (again no tip), I apologized. I still think she's an asshole, but it made me feel better to do the professional thing. Sometimes I don't care about being right or wrong, I just want to be comfortable.

Once the shift was over I took a deep breathe and collected my things, anticipating some relaxing down time. Whew!

Not to be. Asshole Lady elbowed me and pointed to my long-lost friend X and said, "Someone better do something about THAT." X was at that moment trying very hard to simultaneously choke and punch another friend while sliding off the bar stool. We were in full Barfly mode. I'm surrounded by fancy white people in business attire and free-drink wristbands and MY people look like hell and are attempting to kill each other.

Sigh...



After an interminable one-way conversation about the fact that it was time to leave (heads too busy lolling on necks like the proverbial bladder on a stick to respond verbally), and some dragging/carrying out into the street with the assistance of Mr. Tim, we were able to get a cab and escort sorted out. I shoved hard-earned money into broke hands and Tim loaded them into the back of the car. I mouthed the words, "I'm sorry." to the cabdriver, and Tim and I  ran screaming into the night.

We made a beeline to Manitoba's for a nightcap with wifey Zoe Hansen and friend and jewelry designer Sara Samoiloff. I figured I deserved it at that point.

Zoe, having gotten my frustrated texts, handed me a cocktail upon arrival. Sara handed me the gift of a GORGEOUS, clearly expensive silver and pearl necklace. I was thrilled and grateful. I sat there sipping and sporting my beautiful necklace and hat, marveling at my generous friends. The angst began to melt away.

And then another person in the bar sidled up with mischief on the mind and cocaine in the bloodstream, and began shouting what would turn out to be a really boring story set on repeat, illustrated with even more boring phone photos, at a decibel level well over all sane, inside-voice conversation. It went on and on and on. And then without warning, the story veered, with no assistance or prompting from me whatsoever, to crap from my past and just by chance, exactly what I was writing about the day before that sent me into an emotional tizzy.

Ah geez.

I shouted, "I don't want to talk about it!" and as my eyes rolled into the back of my head preparing for what one could only hope would be a blissfully conscious-deadening seizure, someone else elbowed me from behind. I turned to see a man who looked somewhat familiar, but I could not place. He said, I kid you not:

"No one likes you."

I squinted and said, "Huh?"

He replied, "You know me. You remember me."

I shook my head and turned back around away from him. After that initial crack I wasn't too interested in any further trips down memory lane. He elbowed me again, I turned, and he said, "You know me."

I said, "I'm very sorry, but I don't remember. Care to enlighten me?" He paused, pulled out a giant wad of cash very ostentatiously, handed a $20 to the bartender, and said, cryptically,

"Indian Larry."

I said, "Larry's dead.You're not him. If you're not going to tell me then we don't have anything to talk about."

I turned back to Zoe, who was now glaring at me wild-eyed and desperate for rescue from the too-loud cokey story on repeat. Money-bags purposely banged a chair into my back. I ignored it.

I get this a lot. Between bartending, age and being a mini rock star for five minutes, I've simply met too many people for my limited and self-absorbed brain to hold each and every person clearly anymore. Most are nice about it. Last week a girl told me how grateful she was that I'd saved her life by slap/shaking her out of an OD in the bathroom of a bar (good times!), which I hadn't remembered it at all. Some people, like this guy, aren't nice and take it personally when you don't remember them. I do think I remember him now, but fuck it. I'll pretend like I don't if I see him again just to drive him bananas. Sometimes it's more entertaining to be right than it is to be comfortable.

I had a hard time getting to sleep that night. I felt very sad about the friend that I'd shoved into a cab, who had been such a fierce creature when we were young, almost otherworldly with that stardom and beauty that we all had in our youth. I wondered how some of us, like Zoe and me, have been able to emerge from our crazy, often drug-fueled pasts into a happy present, while so many others are dead, or still using and/or not fully there, or simply cranky about being forgotten. For every one of me, who survived with only residual sadness and regrets, there are numerous others who are either dead or trying to punch a friend in some bar well past the age when that sort of behavior can be considered dignified.

The alternative/artistic/rock and roll/whatever-you-want-to-call-it existence can be pretty cool. You get free hats and jewelry. You get attention and you go to a lot of shows. You get remembered more than others. But it destroys many and is not a life for the faint of heart. Which, I suppose, is the reason that so many dabble in it in their 20's and then move on to more normal-seeming lives, the only evidence of the past being a few photographs the kids find amusing. This is probably the sanest way to go.

But I have never been called sane, and don't know how or wish to live any other way. I woke up after my fitful night and decided that the truth I would choose for each one of the people involved in the last 24 hours would be the one that suited them best. Meaning, I choose to believe that my punch-drunk and sometimes homeless friend is merely taking a soul detour for the moment, and that the truth of who they are is that amazing creature I knew so many years prior. And that one day, maybe in this lifetime, or maybe the next, that truth will shine again and forevermore.

I would hope that people would do the same for me: remember me at my best and brightest and forgive some of those not so shining moments, as I am only now learning to do for myself. Maybe on the other side we will be able to look at each other with full memory of all of the people and events and absolutely no blame or shame, and go, "Whew! That was a fucking ride, wasn't it? Now where's that asshole woman with our water??"

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Catfishing

I am fascinated by the MTV show Catfish. If you haven't seen it, it's an offshoot of the documentary movie with the same name about people who pretend to be someone else on the internet. Each week two hosts, one of whom starred in the movie, assist people in determining whether another person that they are communicating with online is actually who they say they are. It seems that many people are willing to engage in "relationships" via phone, email and facebook chat, based on a few photos and the word of a stranger.

What is so interesting is that the catfish very often looks too far good to be true, and yet no matter what the odds against their being who they say they are, the "fishee", for lack of a better term, does little or no research to verify an identity. In this age of the internet it's very easy to impersonate someone better looking or more interesting, but it's also just as easy to figure out whether they are the real or not. And yet people don't. They soldier on with absolutely no assistance from search engines and appear to want to believe so badly that they are in a true love relationship with this bikini model or that record producer that they will forgo all logic and steadfastly refuse to see what is right in front of them.

The other, and even sadder side of the dysfunctional coin is that, barring the occasional revenge motive, most often the catfish is either morbidly obese or gay and stuck in an area of the country where being gay is a issue. They are lonely people who long for approval and connection, but carry enough self-loathing that they either cannot get these things on their own or would rather get them through subterfuge and impersonation.

It's depressing as hell when you get over the prurient interest in finding out who is really on the other end. But still fascinating because it's such a clear picture into our culture at this time in American history.

I find myself feeling all kinds of disdain for the fishee. I shout really awful things at the television like. "You think a woman that looks like that is going to get engaged to your redneck ass still living with your parents?" and "It's called Google, you moron!" And then invariably when a veritable tank of a woman comes weeping out of a door begging forgiveness for the fakery, I want to first yell at her for her poor eating habits and lack of self-esteem and then give her a hug and say quietly, "What did you think was going to happen?? You're better than this!" The fishee makes me mad and the catfish makes me sad. And yet I watch. So I have to assume that I am seeing myself in some of the behavior and that must be what is at the heart of the irritation.

People want a fantasy. Many want to believe that someone who fits their personal physical ideal will come along and love them and that their lives will be magically healed. And people who don't fit a fantasy, because they are not what's considered physically attractive in our current society or because they are having trouble fitting in because of their sexuality, want it just as much as anyone else.

I am always eternally grateful that the internet didn't exist when I was a teenager, because I most certainly would have gotten into all kinds of horrible trouble. I lived in a small town and was bored out of my mind, hated the people surrounding me, yearned for adventure and excitement. Your standard recipe for teen disaster. I can understand why some lonely person thinks, what the hell, I'll just create that life with some stolen photos and spend hours in front of a screen enjoying all the attention that comes along with it, attention that I would never get otherwise.

I have a friend who is very beautiful, who attracts the attention of men all over the world, and who has a specific type of guy that she finds attractive. He is dark, heavily made up, gothy, rock and roll, L.A. type. Lots and lots of eyeliner. A little too feminine for me now, but when I was young I loved this kind of guy too. She gets very wound up in online chat, they begin a relationship based on the most superficial of reasons, and then it goes down in flames and she's on to the next pirate with a guitar.

I understand her, as much as I wish she could get past the eyeliner. In my teens and 20's I would fixate on a person because of the way he looked, and I would love him with the breadth and passion of the truly foolish, regardless of what kind of personality he exhibited. And often, because I looked pretty good and was quite determined, I would reel them in. If they were nice and wanted to settle down with me into normalcy, I would grow bored fairly quickly. If they were bastards or I couldn't completely control them, I would then spin it into deep obsession that would end badly and with copious amounts of tears. Now I look back and marvel at how much time I spent suffering over so little.

And I watch my girlfriends get really twisted up over one doofus or another because he's got the right haircut, while advising, "Well, he seems kind of full of himself, or dim, or broke, or married, etc., etc. Maybe you should think this through a bit more?" But they won't, or can't, and I can't get mad at them because I didn't either. I wanted the rock and roll fantasy and once fixated on someone that I thought could provide that, I didn't pay any attention to signs to the contrary until things got really crappy.

It's only through sheer luck that I found a guy who fit many of those superficial qualifications but had a much deeper soul underneath it. I'd probably still be making many of the same mistakes if he hadn't entered my life. So who am I to judge some small-town girl in Iowa who has never been outside of her state and wants to believe she's engaged to a male model who lives in France and who is totally real but just can't get skype on his Mac right now? There but for the grace of God, etc., etc.

I think our society is deep into a sickness right now which poisons us to value a certain kind of look and celebrity above all else. And it's hard to see past that until you've had some life experience under your belt, and learn that all forms of people can be attractive and that celebrity might not be all that it's cracked up to be. You have to know who you are and be okay with who that is in order to truly connect with other people. Which usually takes time and maturity.

Life has boiled down to two lessons for me that repeat themselves over and over again in ever-varying form:

1. Learning to hear the inner voice of my higher self over the static of my bad, bad brain.
2. Learning to love myself enough to trust and follow that voice.

So maybe catfishing serves a purpose in people's soul-growth toward that end, an education in what not to wish for, and it's the job of those who can see past the veil to treat those still in the fog gently. I am grateful that throughout my worst of times there have been people near with enough patience and grace to allow the shitshow to unfold without judgement or abandonment. Surely it is now my job to pay it forward when the opportunity arises.

So I guess that means I should start by not shouting mean things at the television. Or maybe stop watching things that annoy me.

Sigh...evolution is so HARD!





Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rounderjuicing

If you're a real time friend or a friend on facebook you already know I'm on a two week juice fast because I've talked about nothing else for a week.

At the start of August Drew and I went on our annual vacation to visit my mother and siblings in Northern Michigan, and ate the usual mountain of food. My family is very healthy, we don't eat junk food or a lot of meat and that area is rife with produce that tastes better than anywhere else I've been. You can pull up to a roadside stand manned with only a little lockbox for self-service payment and get amazing peaches, cherry, corn, etc for a quarter of a price of the less savory versions in a New York supermarket. But even though it's veggie-heavy, we do love to cook and eat, and my sister and mother are excellent bakers. Everyone uses the vacation as an opportunity to really go for it.

My brother has dubbed this time of year "the Crammies". All planning revolves around the food. Going to the beach? We're gonna need sandwiches. Big ones. What are we going to make for dinner? Who's going to cook it? What kind of dessert are we having? Can we have spaghetti again? We're going to need garlic bread. More fresh-baked rhubarb pie, please! Put some ice cream on it!

On top of this, my mother and I really enjoy wine o'clock on the patio, so prior or during cooking our enormous meal we would have a glass (mom) or two (me) to relax from the busy day of thinking about what to have for dinner.


I could feel myself expandimg, confirmed by a visit to Macy's to buy new bras, in which I learned that I am a full size bigger than I thought I was, and spent much time in that area where the bras look more like utilitarian headgear than something to gently cup the bust. Traumatic. Girls with small busts don't understand this, girls with big busts know exactly what I'm talking about. When you get heavier, it stops being cute.

So I've been wanting to clean out, drop a couple of pounds and reset the appetite buttons, plus I was kind of interested to see if I could push myself.

And here I am, on day 8. I won't bore you with a day by day account, because there is so much already written on the internet and even I am bored with my own self-obsession at this point. I will tell you that I had no idea how much I liked food until I stopped eating it. Zoe did. She said, in her elegant British accent, "But Dahling, you're such a foodie. You're going to be so unhappy!"

Sigh...

The idea, for the uninitiated, is to get nutrients purely from juice rather than the whole vegetable or fruit with fiber in order to give the digestive system a break and the body time to detox. And detox it will. I have not experienced all of the horror listed by other poor souls online, but there have been a few. On the first day I couldn't see straight by mid-afternoon and was then visited with the worst headache I've ever experienced. It was blinding. Luckily that lessened on day two until it passed and I moved on to some cold-ish symptoms, a dry mouth, body aches, and general weakness. The first few days I slept like a rock as soon as I laid down, now I'm in this weird phase where although slightly weaker, I am not sleeping as much. I like sleep almost as much as food, so this is also a bummer.

What I was not prepared for was the obsessing. My brain locked into this weird place where it spun around and around food and the fact that I was not eating food. It was beyond physical hunger, because you can satiate your body with a decent serving of fresh juice. I could feel that my belly was full but my brain didn't want to accept it. I was completely tweaked with thoughts about food and fasting, unable to quiet my mind. I'm sure some of this actually is natural physical need, but it went way beyond that.

Sunday (day 5) was the worst. I work on Saturday nights and Drew and I always have a leisurely Sunday which involves ordering in whatever kind of food we want. Sometimes it's burritos, sometimes it's a big spread of Indian food, sometimes it's Italian. Doesn't matter, we like it all. Luckily he is out of town so the routine was broken anyway, but my first thought upon waking was, "Ooh! What am I going to order to eat today?" and then the saddened realization that I would only be grinding more carrots into the dreaded machine. It was a long, lonely day. I watched Anna Karenina and wept a little for both her and me and found myself unconsciously dipping my tongue in my lemon water to try to catch the bits of pulp floating in it.

Prior to that, on Friday, I picked up a couple of bottled juices at the Juice Press so I wouldn't get too hungry during or after work. Juice Press makes the most amazing juices, really tasty and some are very concentrated for various health scenarios, there's nothing better when you have a cold or a hangover. You just have to get past the slouchy hat wearing, super-hip young clientele and staff, which sometimes, like say when you haven't eaten in three days, can seem irritatingly pretentious and worthy of shoving out of the way to get to the cooler.

I bought a smoothie by accident, all the bottles are the same and I was focused on how good the ingredients sounded. Smoothies are not allowed as they are made with the whole fruit and vegetable and therefore will engage the entire digestive system. I had a momentary panic when the straw went into the bottle and I realized it was too thick to be juice. Then I thought, well, fuck it, I just plunked down an exorbitant amount of money for this thing, and some people do smoothie fasts and this one tiny bit isn't going to kill the entire process. So I drank it, and as I did the sun came out from behind the clouds and a chorus of angels sang Handel's Messiah. I was so happy. It tasted so good. My stomach felt a little overfull afterward and there was some guilt, but it was fabulous for that brief and shining pureed strawberry moment.

Finally, finally this morning of day 8 I woke up and found a quieter brain. I did some yoga and felt more myself than I have in a week. I would still really, really, reaaaaaaallly enjoy a plate of spaghetti or even a couple of potato chips right now, and I haven't yet experienced all that ethereal joy that people crow about (except when cheating with a smoothie), but I'm not suffering mentally or physically. And my skin looks great and I have lost a couple of pounds, enough to inspire an early morning, no make-up selfie which I posted on facebook, much to my sister's chagrin..


Note the Xbox controller in the background. Keeping it klassy!

All right--main reason for blogging today: I'm so sorry to do this to my friends, but I've got a product review to do!

Every once in a while I get asked to endorse something. I always say no because it's usually something I have no interest in, like online gambling sites, and it never pays much. It feels yucky to me. I'd love to get paid for blogging, but not if I have to lie. I may be a slut, but I'm not a whore! Or, erm, something like that...

So bear with me, for the first and most likely last product review that you will see here. Unless of course liquor sponsorship shows up, then it could get dicey. But Patron hasn't called yet.

A month or so ago the good people at Rounderwear emailed me to see if I would review their product, and I said yes. I don't know why. They didn't offer remuneration, I guess I wasn't paying attention while going through emails and have a tendency to say yes instinctively when it comes to underwear. I did the lingerie buying for Patricia Field for a while and loved it. I like the lace, the colors, the femininity, the promise of a more beautiful life in all the tiny bits of clothing. Unfortunately my taste was too high-brow for the clientele and I eventually passed on the task to someone with more of a liking for neon lycra stripper gear. But it was fun while it lasted.

Rounderwear sent me the panty of my choice, which was the boyshort. The architecture behind the line is that it rounds your butt with strategically placed bands. Having worked in retail with Japanese girls, I am no stranger to the butt lifting, filling out and shaping phenomena. Those tiny, perfectly proportioned feline women are always trying to get more booty, while I, on the other hand, am not looking for more padding. Yoga keeps my behind in decent shape, and I (usually) eat enough food that it's never been in the slightest danger of disappearing.

Fun fact: As a teenager this was not the case, and I was devastated to learn that a couple male members of my high school class had taken to calling me "Tits on a Tube". It was quite upsetting.

But I digress. Here are the Rounderbum panties on me. Please forgive these crappy kitchen and in front of the tv selfies today, but living in Manhattan it's a miracle I've even got enough space to stand and photograph my own ass. You get what you get.


Here's a photo of a model in them so you get the idea of how they work. She weighs about 90 lbs less than me and probably stands a head taller, but whatever. I haven't eaten in 8 days and I'm old enough to be her mother, so it is what it is.


The panties actually work, and there's no padding. I tried them under jeans and could see a rounder shape, which was nice and natural looking. The bands lift and push your butt up, similar to the way a push-up bra works. They're also made really well and would survive some use. My Japanese friends would love them, I think most people looking for more butt would love them.

Downside, they cut into my belly in a way that I find unflattering. You have to have no belly fat for this boyshort, or maybe get a size up from your usual. And they're a bit uncomfortable after a while, everything felt tight and elasticized. Maybe you could get used to it? I'm accustomed to having a free-roaming, untethered-except-by-normal-means butt. It's like trying to bridle a wild stallion! Okay, maybe not, but it was a bit constricting. I would say that if you're not super thin it's best to go with their more traditional and spanx-like versions with padding.

Overall, two thumbs up, fine family fare.

Summary:

Fasting sucks ass but it's doable. If you want more thoughts about my own experience you are welcome to email me or ask in the comment section. Or, you could pick up a couple of hamburgers and stop by my place.

Second, rounder butts are easy to achieve with the proper underwear, and could possibly keep you from being called horrible names in high school.




Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Brooklyn and Social Distortion

Sometimes I'll have a really fun night and I'll think, "I gotta blog this for everyone!" Then the next day I wake up and second-guess it. Is it going to sound braggy? So many people are dealing with serious issues right now, and others simply don't get to lead the life that I have been afforded, which, while definitely not affluent, makes up for the lesser funds with excess fun. I worry: are people going to find me irritating, or desperate for attention, or okay, more irritating and desperate for attention than usual??

It's a quandary. 

I have two minds about it. One is that I have earned my tiny place on the outskirts of the sun. I get pissy when people tell other people they are "lucky" to have what they have. Example: my friend and ex-bandmate Vas Kallas tours constantly with her band Hanzel und Gretyl. She books shows, she drives, she packs merch, makes sure the band gets paid, budgets with those payments, etc. She's a rock and roll warhorse and it is a long and lonely struggle on a highway in the middle of the night. Yet every time she posts a photo of herself next to someone famous or in an exotic locale, some goofball will write, "You're so lucky!" as if she just emerged from a vacuum and wandered clueless into that space, thereby negating the extensive history and hard work that went into creating that one moment of reward, which will last only that short time before the machine starts up again. In my case, I haven't been working that way for quite some time, but I was there in the beginning, goddamnit, and I lugged enough gear, shook it on enough stages (and bars), and kissed enough frogs to allow for some ego about my position.

On the other hand, I am also aware that I AM lucky. My looks played a big part in the opportunities afforded me when I first arrived in New York. I have good and generous friends, a loving family. I am happy and healthy, and though it took time and suffering to get there, I have always felt that my life has been guided by a destiny that others haven't been so easily afforded. So often I downplay the good times, which are less backstagey and good timey these days anyway, since we're all too old to get into any real trouble.

Side note: I heard that someone fell and broke a hip at a Del Lords show recently. So yeah, probably more old-timey than good-timey for a lot of us...

Anyway, thankfully, I did NOT break a hip at the recent Social Distortion show at the Warsaw in Brooklyn. My "wifey" and partner in crime Zoe Hansen was determined that we would go to this show, and since her husband is rock legend, DJ and bar-owner Richard Manitoba, and friends with Mike Ness, it was easily arranged.

I am unaccustomed to Brooklyn, although I have finally admitted that in 2013 it is better than Manhattan. I was so in love with the East Village when I moved to New York that I arranged my life around it with no intention of leaving. I live, work, eat, and socialize in the EV. I hate the train and will do anything to avoid it, primarily because I'm bad with directions and get lost very easily. But with the advent of smartphones and the HopStop app, I've gotten less tremulous about traveling the boroughs, especially now that my own is populated with guys in docker shorts and flip flops carrying six packs of Bud Light and girls in beige pumps and quirky SATC dresses squealing at each other at the top of their lungs. A simple head poke out the window on a Saturday evening will often send me into a cursing tantrum followed by a weepy and lengthy "back in my day" facebook status update, so I am less loathe to travel if it means a brief respite from the asshole invasion for a few hours.

But of course Zoe and I, being party girls in heels, pregamed at Manitoba's and after three rounds of "More voddy, Darling?" in a posh British accent, opted for a cab and were fortunate to get a driver with GPS. 

This is another night, but this is how wit always starts out. Dignified, ladylike. 


In the aforementioned cab, Zoe held open a tin and asked, "Mint, Darling?" I rarely take gum or mints when offered. I don't know why, I guess I feel like I'd rather conserve the calories or chewing effort for more important consumables like spaghetti and voddy, er...vodka. 

Photo of actual tin in question: 


This time I said yes. I stuck my hand in the tin, pulled out a mint, stuck it in my mouth, started chewing, and found my taste buds assaulted by a bitter medicinal taste that was anything but minty fresh.

I gagged and said, "Euw! What the hell kind of mint is that? It's horrendous, it tastes like a pill!"

Zoe shrieked, "Oh my God. Spit it out, spit it out!"

I panicked and shrieked back, "I can't! I chewed it! I swallowed it! What was it? What did I just eat??"

She said (still shrieking), "Oh my God, that was a vicodin that someone handed me a long time ago. I forgot about it and it has been rolling around in there forever!" 

My first thought was relief. Like okay, at least I won't be tripping balls or face down and drooling on the bar for the next five hours. At least vicodin is dealable. Then my second thought was, great, I've just had three drinks already and I've got hours of socializing to do, backstages to wheedle myself into, and who knows how buzzy this is going to make me? Is this to be yet another night where I make an ass of myself? Please, say it isn't so, sweet baby Jesus!

All of this sunk in and I shrieked, "Who leaves an old pill in their mint tin and then OFFERS it to someone?"

Zoe said, "Oh, I'm so sorry Darling, but you're a trouper and really, it will probably be fun and honestly, you should be fine and..." 

But she couldn't get out the rest before we collapsed in laughter in the back of the cab. We laughed so hard we couldn't breathe, and then agreed that it was going to be a typical evening for the two of us. No matter how much Zoe and I would like to comport ourselves with dignity:


We usually end up falling slightly short of the mark:


We got to the venue, and I was immediately overjoyed. The staff at the door was friendly and the place packed to the rafters with genuinely cool people. How often does that happen anymore? Most attendees were well into middle age, but they looked great. Everyone had great tattoos and the guys were working the rockabilly gas station attendant thing while the girls either did the low-key rock chick or victory roll rockabilly girl thing. People were sexy, even the fat dudes were sexy. Everyone was in a good mood. The woman serving pierogis (Warsaw is an old Polish theater) had to be close to 70, had blonde hair piled on her head and wore blue eyeshadow and false eyelashes. She was fucking sexy! Not a docker in sight. I wanted to hug everyone in the room.

Zoe was not pleased yet, though. We didn't receive VIP stickers at the door. We hustled to the bathroom and she called Richard, who was working at his radio DJ gig, and demanded that he handle this problem immediately. I danced around her nervously as she grumbled into the phone, "Zoe, he's busy, don't bug him, we'll be okay without them." She shook her finger. "Oh no. We are GETTING.OUR.PASSES." Richard having been duly informed that no good deed goes unpunished, rushed Zoe off the phone to work on it and we marched back out to the door, where she then explained that we were the Most Important Females in the History of all Rock and Roll and magically, miraculously, and perhaps out of fear, VIP passes appeared.

Pit stop at the bar. Me: "Oh, I'd better not drink since I just got dosed. Oh, you know, little old me, I'll just have a club soda...Well, okay, maybe just put the teensiest little bit of vodka in that soda..." 

Straight upstairs to the VIP balcony, whereupon the booze and pill kicked in and the show did not disappoint. Social Distortion never does. The sold out audience was fully into it and I couldn't feel my legs. We jumped up and down and shouted, but carefully so as not to spill our drinks. 
 

After the show, which seemed short because it was so good, we plopped ourselves down to wait.


And remarkably, no one came by to shoo us out. Because, I discovered, in Brooklyn, or at least at the Warsaw, you are allowed to drink and socialize and eat pierogis after shows like civilized gentle-people, instead of being rudely shoved out the door as soon as the last note rings, as you blink confusedly under newly flicked on and extremely unflattering fluorescent light, as is tradition at Irving Plaza or Roseland in Manhattan. What a treat!

After some waiting, we were allowed to visit with Sir Ness, who was very gracious. Years ago, when I managed Coney Island High and he was single, he had expressed some interest in me, and even went so far as to make sure I got the entire SD back catalog on CD. He was friendly, smart, and interesting. I liked talking to him and it was tempting. But I knew his reputation with the ladies and was newly dating his friend Jesse Malin and busy being pissed at Jesse for not telling Mike what was up to get me out of the weird position of hanging out with two guys with one not knowing the full story. Anyway, I didn't know if Mike would remember me, but he did, and we got a photo. My arm is cut off because we were photo-bombed at the last second by a friend of a friend and Zoe and I insisted that the photo be cropped to feature only the two of us with Mike. We are constantly getting photo-bombed and then cropping to make it look like we're the only females in the vicinity. Rewriting history on facebook since 2009!


I am always concerned about being too much of a pest in these situations, so I quickly stepped out of the fray and to the side, whereas Zoe stayed and took another photo. Afterward she said, "People are surprised at how shy you are! You never talk about being in a band and you never get pushy at these things. You're such an ANGEL." Zoe is the only person in the history of the world to think I'm an angel, but it's true that I can be overly laid back when the night calls for some backbone. I have become accustomed to the luxury of a friend like her, who can finagle us anywhere with her British accent and ballsy attitude, so I tend to let her handle the details while I stress out about how old I'm going to look in the photos. 

But this time I said, "Oh GURL. Mr. Ness is SOBER, and I'm HIGH AS A KITE RIGHT NOW. Remember?"

And she said, "Oh...THAT! Oh well...You LOOK fabulous, and that's all that matters! Darling, should we get one more teensy voddy before we go home?"

And I replied, "Of course, Darling!" And we wobbled off arm in arm, into the Brooklyn night.

The end.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Danceteria and Liz

My mother has been saying for the last few years that many people are choosing to leave the planet because of the energy shift, that they either are not prepared to deal with the changes at this time or they have bigger fish to fry on the other side. Either way I have lost a lot of friends. But I'm also at the age where this is going to happen naturally. When I was young and wild we lost a slew of friends to drug overdoses, suicide, and AIDS. Then things sort of calmed down and the rest of us worked out that we weren't going to die young and leave beautiful corpses as once assumed, so we had to get on with quitting smoking, root canals, and the purchase of non-futon grown-up style beds. Now, as middle age lumbers on, my friends are dying of things like heart attacks and cancer. 

It's weird. I have always known deep down that I will live a long life, and I worry that I will be the last one standing, in orthopedic shoes, the ensuing funeral sparsely attended. As my friend Kim Montenegro likes to say, "Vanity, not sanity!"

Anyway, we lost a good one this week, the beautiful Liz Connor Bursis, to cancer. I spent a lot of time around Liz when I worked at Danceteria in the mid-80's, then lost touch, and then found her again on Facebook. We conversed briefly on there, exchanged rants about Monsanto and the like, and I took comfort that she was in my orbit. But, as with many people, it never went deeper than that. So I didn't know she was sick and then all of a sudden she was gone. So I'm kind of sad that I didn't take advantage of the convenience of the internet to reconnect with her on more than a superficial level.

I would have liked to tell her that she was lovely and a great influence on me at an early age. She showed that a woman could be rock and roll and classy at the same time, and I still look to her energy to this day when I want to channel a peaceful elegance. She was highly intelligent, patient, gentle and almost maternal toward me at a time that I needed some grounding energy. She lived an extremely interesting life, she was a member of the Eulenspiegel Society and told some very interesting tales from her days as a dominatrix. Her story would probably make for a fabulous book or movie, but she never bragged or dramatized.

I have already been writing about my time at Danceteria for the dreaded book, so I thought I would pull this section up for you, which includes my first real interaction with Liz. It's more about me than her (as per usual), but this moment with her is such a vivid memory that I thought it would be appropriate to share.

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

1984
Betsey Johnson was a total wash, but I still needed work to survive. It occurred to me one night that a job in the warm cocoon of nightlife might be the perfect situation in which to rub up against rock stars and reside most happily. I turned to Michael Schmidt, as we stood posing on the third floor of Danceteria, and said, "I think I want to work here."

One of the owners, Rudolf Pieper, walked by at that moment. Rudolf was a tall, handsome, urbane German, the official figurehead of Danceteria. His girlfriend was the “celebutante” Dianne Brill, an amazonian nightlife personality with tons of blonde hair, a charming personality and the talent to look booming in a red rubber dress. They were both larger than life personalities and when they entered the room you knew you were in the right place.


Michael touched Rudolf's arm as he strolled past regally, pointed to me and said, "She wants to work here."

Rudolf stopped, looked me up and down and said, in his elegant accent, "Dat's fabooluss. What would you like to do?"

I replied, "Um...I dunno...bartend?" Bartending looked like it could be fun, most likely more profitable than standing in one of the elevators all night moving a switch back and forth, and definitely more comfortable than shivering outside at the door holding a clipboard.

Rudolf said, "You're hired. Come see me tomorrow afternoon at 3."

And with that I was in bartending at one of the hottest clubs in the city. Many people clamored for this job and I stepped into it completely oblivious to the ease of entrance. I was so green that I assumed everyone could just walk up to the owner or manager of any place and get a job they desired. I had no clue about the world I was entering and how my looks played a part in my success and failures; I naively, and truly, just thought it looked like fun and that people were usually nice and gave you what you wanted if it was in their power to do so.

Since I rarely drank anything other than the occasional shared white Russian with Michael, I had no knowledge of spirits or how tips worked, and no understanding of the heavy caste system under which clubs operated: bartenders and DJ's at the top of the food chain, barbacks next, then busboys. The elevator girls were cute filler and doormen and security were respected in their own class.

The ensuing staff hatred and outrage was palpable. Many years later I spoke to a former co-worker about the job and he told me that he had never seen the kind of open and hysterical female outrage that my appearance created, and that he asked to be scheduled with me to see what the fuss was about. But it wasn’t just the women, most of the lesser-employed males wanted my head on a spike as well. The barbacks expressed their disdain openly and generally would not acknowledge me with any kind of greeting or eye contact above a sneer. The bartenders ignored or snorted at my questions, which in retrospect were pretty dumb. Then they would give orders for me to obtain various liquids or items from the barbacks, knowing full well that any request I made would go unfulfilled.

I was absolutely at sea behind the bar. I wore fingerless lace gloves that caught on everything and got soaked. For a short while I was very into the idea of having a tail and fashioned a horse tail with a belt and a faux ponytail, which then got caught on the bottles as I moved back and forth. I went through a platform shoe phase; platforms weren’t available in stores so I had had some custom made in Times Square, very cheaply, and I would wobble uncomfortably around on them behind the bar. A request like "White Label and soda" would necessitate a panicked hobble up and down the back of the bar, poring over the bottles looking for something called White Label, not knowing that it was the same thing as Dewars, which I wouldn't have been able to find anyway. I dropped three ice cubes in a cup, using my hand instead of a scoop, poured three times the proper amount of alcohol, then fumbled with the gun trying to figure out which button gave me which liquid. It must have been dreadful to witness.

A half an hour into my first night Karen Finley took pity and showed me how to pour a drink. Karen was famous at the time for her blistering performance art, which featured acts like smearing canned yams on her nude body and shouting about getting accosted on the subway. She was/is amazing and brave and well-respected in the underground art community. I didn't know that at the time, she just seemed like a really nice, sort of ordinary pretty girl with long brown hair who was willing to help me.

Karen sighed and said, "You fill the cup COMPLETELY up with ice." She scooped ice into the plastic cup. "Then you count to four quickly: one, two, three, four. Then you add soda, then you add a lime, then you add a stirrer. It's not that complicated. If you need to know what's in a drink just ask one of us."

I fumbled through, immensely grateful for this scrap of kindness, while the staff continued to complain about me openly at every opportunity. Rudolf, God bless him, offered to have the club pay my tuition to bartending school, and handed me the number to call. This made the barbacks even angrier. They were spending long nights lugging cases of beer and buckets of ice for the opportunity to serve drinks on any off occasion, and I had teetered to the front of the Saturday night line in cheap lingerie and a bondage cap.

One night, fairly quickly into this career and on a night off, I needed quarters for the cigarette machine. I asked a serious, heavy-set barback named Matt if he could make change for me. He threw me the usual look of disgust and said brusquely, "Change it off the bar."

Liz was bartending that night. She was a beautiful former-dominatrix with a mysterious past who seemed extremely exotic and dangerous to me. Liz was soft-spoken and articulate, with short, close-cropped black hair and a tattoo of a cross with a heart on her arm, which was a big deal as women weren’t tattooing their arms yet. She was in her mid-30’s, which seemed so old to me that it was almost an alien concept to try to wrap the brain around, and had a stern, strong demeanor that intimidated most people. I adored her and was absolutely terrified of her.

As Liz worked, appearing unaware of my presence, I set my two dollars down onto the bar and gingerly picked up quarters from the tips that lay strewn in the slightly dipped well that ran around the inside of the bar. At the third quarter Liz manifested in front of me and snatched my wrist in her hand. She held it, looking straight into my eyes. I nearly peed.

She spoke in a low and menacing tone: "What are you doing?"

"Um...I need quarters for cigarettes. I was making change?" My voice squeaked upward into a question. I'm sure I was blinking and flinching.

"If you need change, you ask. Don't ever touch another bartender's tips."

She quickly collected quarters and dropped them into my shaking hand. As she did so I noticed a slight smile on the fat barback's face as he stood behind her, and realized then that it was a set-up. It was evident at that moment that some of Danceteria didn't love me as much as Rudolf did. This was a whole new territory of meanness that I had never explored before.


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 You are unforgettable. See you on the other side, Darling. 



Thursday, May 23, 2013

Destiny!

For weeks now I've been thinking about how people define themselves, and if or how that could alter our destiny.

I have always resisted labeling myself, primarily because I still don't know what I'm supposed to be when I grow up. Plus I think it pigeonholes people, as no one is just one thing. I hated it when I was outside my office job and someone would say, "Oh, that's Raff, she's a bookkeeper." Ugh. So unglamorous, and it totally negated all the other stuff I am. Part of me wanted to shout, "But I'm also a good pet mom and I can write decently and I was once a rock star!" But no one wants to hear someone's lengthy life resume upon introduction, so I'd just wave and smile tightly. And even if a stranger probes around for more details from me, I'm unlikely to hand them over willingly anyway, because (self-examining, too-much-information blog notwithstanding) I hate talking about myself to strangers. It makes me feel squirmy and overexposed.

And once you tell people outside of the rock and roll circle that you were once a rock and roll singer, it gets goofy: "Oh, that sounds exciting! Did you play bass? What band?" And you say, no, I sang, and well, there were a couple, the biggest one was Cycle Sluts from Hell, and they roll their eyes and say, "Woo! Well, that is quite a name, missy. So all righty, what was that like?" And then you have to go into this abbreviated version of a life-altering event chain and it's tedious and embarrassing.

So now that I'm a bartender again, I have moments where people will be sitting in front of me talking about bands I know personally or how they're super old school because they've been in NY since 2003, or whatever, and I'm tempted to say something to prove I'm cool. Most of the time I don't, because, well, that would be a sad and desperate way to function, and really, who cares? Is it that important to impress a stranger with my advanced age and knowledge of the East Village prior to the great real estate rape of the 21st century? They don't give a fuck, it's like getting a lecture from your parents. 

And then other times on a Saturday night people will be dancing awkwardly in front of me in those ubiquitous blue striped shirts to say, "Shout" for the nine millionth time this year, and I will think, "Wow, I am a complete alien right now. I have lived an entire lifetime of adventure that these yutzes couldn't begin to understand."



(I counted. This guy, although I think he's pretty adorable for a preppy type, was carrying 7 identical blue striped shirts.)

But then my second thought is, that's ridiculously egocentric. Maybe they have all kinds of experiences, or will have experiences, that I can't know or understand. We're all the stars of our own lives, and who is to say that what I find important or cool is really the most important and/or cool? It's all relative.

Anyway, so now that I'm back in the bars and working like an hour a week on a book and writing this blog when the mood strikes me, I have been kind of cheerfully free-falling without any real idea of what I'm Supposed To Be Doing. I knew I couldn't sit in an office managing someone else's money while people screamed at each other over my head for a minute longer, but now that the regressive year of screwing around and working as little as possible is almost up, perhaps it's time to act my age.

Or maybe I'll just coast like this for the rest of my days? It's entirely possible, although the thought terrifies my long-suffering boyfriend.

Over the last couple of weeks I've hung out a lot with with one of my besties Storm Large, because she's been in town to sing at Carnegie Hall, which was a major career milestone, then she did a solo show at Joe's Pub, and tomorrow is singing with Pink Martini for a benefit at the Central Park Zoo. It's pretty obvious that she's got it going on career-wise, and her labels are very clearly defined, she is a critically acclaimed singer/ performer/author, and can announce herself indisputably as such. We always talk about what the hell I'm doing with my life, because she believes in my talents and really wants me to move forward. She was one of the people who pushed me to quit my day job, now she's pushing me to behave like a proper writer.

We got into the whole "but who am I?" conversation and she said, "Dude, you're a writer. You just are. You have to start identifying yourself as one and get on with it." And I did my standard dance of, oh, well, it's only my little blog and I don't have a book out and may never have one and blah, blah, and then I heard myself and realized that I really need to STFU. How we choose to define ourselves is really, who we are or who we become, to the world and to ourselves. It propels in directions, or conversely, holds us back if we label ourselves incorrectly.

And then I remember that another awesome friend, Chloe Valentine, had recently referred to me as an artist. I.e., "Oh, well, you're an artist and it's a difficult path and you can't force your creativity..." I felt so happy to be referred to as an artist. I've never thought of myself as such, even though I've spent my life creating and being drawn to creative people. There was even a point when I started learning business-ey things like Excel and database management that I thought maybe I was born to organize for creative people. I guess I always thought of an artist as someone well-defined and earning a living as a painter, or a singer, or a writer who, you know, doesn't play video games and take constant photos of their cats on their days off from work.






I think many of us, especially women, impose a certain modesty upon ourselves that doesn't always serve well. We don't want to toot our own horn, to make others uncomfortable or be seen as an egomaniac or an asshole. We want to be nice. I guess the trick is to know when it's okay to state who you are, and when it's better to sit back quietly and let the blue shirts talk about a friend's band unfettered. Anyway, think about it. Who are you? Who do you want to be? Where are your true talents and do you let them shine? It's time we all got on with it. I'm planning on it as soon as I max out to level 60 in Borderlands 2.



"It is never too late to be what you might have been." --George Eliot