Shooting Star

I try to avoid eulogizing NYC too much any more. We all know that the flavor has been priced and railroaded out of town by developers and that our version of the city disappeared as we changed and grew older. But change is the only constant, nothing stays the same and even if there was some kind of underground scene now, we would hate it because it’s not ours. There probably is, all those young guys with waxed old-timey mustaches must be hanging out with those droopy, skinny young girls with weird mullet cuts and no makeup somewhere, listening to something, I guess drinking craft beer and talking about getting DJ gigs “just for fun”. We see them and we think, “Yech.” They see us and they think, “Dinosaurs.”

It’s fine. I don’t hate all of them. My boyfriend Sam is a millennial too, albeit a strange one who loves my heyday more than his own. My friend overheard two girls his age talking, one said, “Yeah, he’s cute but don’t bother. He likes old ladies.” That made us chuckle. But it’s somewhat true, and he reminds me of what it is to be that young and to still be sorting out exactly who you are and who you want to be. It’s not easy and I too have liked and worn some stupid things along the way. Circle of life and all that crap.

So after years of emotional struggle, I accept where we’re at, at least culturally. I know I probably have a few more years in the city and then I’ll retire on a farm with Storm somewhere, where we will collect too many animals, sleep alone in our bedrooms, get drunk on the porch while reminiscing, and casually ogle the younger neighbors when we go into town for groceries.

But I digress…

Rock shows are sparsely attended for the most part, bands go on much earlier because the fans are older, people have day jobs and/or kids to attend. Many of my peers, often the ones who complain the most, won’t go to a show even if they do have the time. They wear it like a badge of geriatric honor, “Oh, I don’t go out anymore…” I do, though in a different, less frenetic manner. I still like the hand I have in it; my jobs allow me to work on the back end of the music world and I still get to see some of my old friends and hear live music. That’s enough every couple of weeks or so, and I’m usually home by 1 am no matter who is playing. I need my rest.

On Friday I was honored to be able to host the Elyse Steinman memorial gig at Wham Bam Raff and Sam, our weekly happy hour party. Greg Stryzempka flew in from Washington, he and Alec Morton put a ton of work and love into making it happen, and we got a bona fide Raging Slab gig, with Alec at his bass post, Greg playing guitar and Elyse’s slide guitar, Mark Middleton on guitar, Bob Pantanella and Paul Sheehan switching off on drums, with special guests on songs Daniel Rey, Tom Five (who flew in from LA for it), Liza Colby, and Pamela Grande.

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I remember the first time I saw Raging Slab at Danceteria in the mid-80’s. I was setting up the bar before opening and Greg was soundchecking onstage with his super long hair and tan/brown clothes. This wasn’t fully the norm yet, we were all still looking pretty goth at that point. He laughed and joked into the mic and then Elyse got up with him and they played with an ease and talent that caused me to pause what I was doing. Again, different than what we were listening to at the time, a portent of what was to come.

And then things blew up in the best way possible and our army of leather took over the East Village and there were amazing shows every night and we all got record deals and rock and roll was king and/or queen. Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.

Joey Ramone Tour Bus

All these years later I walked into another soundcheck and saw Greg and Alec onstage and immediately burst into tears. I wasn’t expecting such a visceral reaction; I had to leave the room to pull myself together. I thought I’d become immune. But it felt so good to see Greg up there, and so poignant that Elyse wasn’t next to him that I felt overwhelmed with both joy and sadness. My heart swelled with the ache of it.

I had to rush around to set up the bar and was busy with customers and friends as soon as I opened for business. I am taking a break from alcohol for a few weeks and I felt anxious and crabby because there wasn’t time or space to fully process the emotions running through me or alternatively anesthetize with a shot or two. I am glad I weathered it sober though, because it allowed me to be present and to take it all in.

Once Slab hit the stage I couldn’t stay behind the bar. I tried, but it was too hard to focus on anything but the music. I pushed my way through the small crowd in the small room to the front of the small stage, and my old CSFH bandmate Vas Kallas (Venus P. Crusher), along with all of our friends, headbanged and danced and shouted the choruses. I had tears in my eyes the entire time and we hugged each other and screamed as if we were in an arena instead of a bar.

The songs sounded so good, SO good. Not just because they are the songs of our youth, but because our youth was full of really, really great songs and performers. I haven’t forgotten my past, I spend a lot of time answering Sam’s questions and telling him inside stories about what happened “back then”. But I’ve also had to put it in the back of my mind. It was like seeing someone years later that you were madly in love with who broke your heart. You put them behind you because you have to, but your cells never forget.

What a force we were: an army of talented idiots in hair dye and rock and roll gear, even with our inner skirmishes and ego-battles, infidelities and competitions, always united in our otherness and our music. We were all gonna be rock stars. And we were, even if most of the world doesn’t know or remember. We were all beautiful, that time was magical, and although we look like ordinary middle aged people to the rest of the world, we still have that magic within us. So I cried for the loss of a comrade, for the loss of my youth, and for the sheer joy of being able to step back into it for a moment with some of the people who experienced it too.

The last song of the set was a cover of Bad Company’s “Shooting Star”. Everyone sang along and it filled up the room with its beauty and we all felt Elyse dancing with us, her photos taped to the walls smiling and encouraging, the song so perfectly for her. At the end of it we all put our hands in the air and looked to the ceiling, to the sky, to her and shouted, “We love you, Elyse!”

Thank you for bringing us together one more time, Darling. You are very much loved and missed.

Elyse

Slab

Comb-over, Do-over

I work out a lot of stuff while I’m sleeping. I’m not one of those people that can sleep for ten-twelve hours, but I cherish the eight hours I do get, time willing. Sleep is underrated as a therapeutic tool. Real sleep, not pass-out after a night of drinking or a quick six hours before the alarm rings for work.

My father died when I was young and there were a lot of things left unsaid and unhealed. There wasn’t time and I was too immature to understand the issues left dangling. Over the years he visited me in dreams many times. We talked and he listened and after a while I understood him and myself much better. I no longer felt quite so hurt or haunted by his passing. I felt grateful and connected to him. This could just be my subconscious helping me out, or it could have really been him stopping by when I was in a state to be able to receive. I believe it was the latter, but I don’t care either way. Healing is healing and I’ll take whatever I can get to move forward.

Because we are not speaking and there is a lot of grief to process, I have dreamed about Drew every night for months. Sometimes in the dreams we’re experiencing day to day activities, most of the time we are arguing about our split. Sometimes I’m talking and he can’t hear me. Sometimes I can see him but he can’t see me. Sometimes I’m so mad or sad I wake up with a start, shaking, or with tears in my eyes. It’s not fun, but I understand myself well enough to know that sleep is helping me process in ways that I can’t always do when waking. I let it go as best I can, get out of bed and get on with my day, which is generally full of enough love and laughter that I forget to be disturbed for too long. 

This week I dreamed that I was explaining to some faceless stranger, for the hundredth time, what happened. I was saying, “I just wasn’t doing well. I was crazy, I was bad, I didn’t mean to cause so much damage, it’s all my fault…” And my own voice interrupted this terrible litany that has worn a groove in my brain and said, “This is not your story. Why are you telling it?”

I woke up immediately, stunned.

It’s so simple. We decide something about ourselves and we tell it over and over again as if it is the only truth, as if it is the reality and breadth and depth of who we are. It isn’t. It’s just the story we choose to tell ourselves and others.

Our stories are formed by things we believe about ourselves that were once true but might no longer be, or were perpetrated on us by others, or are things we want other people to believe.

One of mine is that I’m crazy and as such am unlovable. So I spend all my time trying to prove that I’m normal, whatever that even is, and as soon as a crack appears, which, lets face it, is often, I suffer major anxiety while scrambling for damage control. My other favorite story is that I only deserve love if I give everything and expect nothing, which eventually leads me back to the first story. I give too much of myself with diminishing returns, eventually becoming so drained and hurt that I over react explosively to something small, thus appearing crazy. And then of course I get to tell myself that I’m too angry/volatile/demanding to deserve the love in the first place. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It’s a tad circular.

These stories we tell ourselves are one reason that people get sick:  “I am old now; it is time for me to deteriorate.”

Alone: “There is no one out there for me to date.” “All men are terrible.” “I will never get over my divorce.”

Miserable: “I am doomed to stay in a job I loathe because I am not smart or creative enough to learn or do anything else.”

On and on. These stories are lies. Or at the very least they are half-truths. They are not the summation and depth of who we are. These stories are the reason that people continue to dress or do their makeup the way they did thirty years ago. These stories are responsible for bald comb-overs. We carry these shitty stories from home to home, job to job, relationship to relationship like lead weights in suitcases with broken wheels.

 

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As mentioned constantly, I am a huge fan of Dr. Christiane Northrup and she talks quite a bit about the aging process and how the mind-body connection affects our health and well-being, often more profoundly than genetic predisposition.

Paraphrasing here, but the gist is that Dr. Northrup says that she no longer tells anyone her age, because that number writes a story for the person telling it–how they are supposed to look, behave, and feel. Then when that number is expressed to others, those same others help enforce the truth of that story. When she has to write her birth year on documents she tells herself that number has nothing to do with her. In her head she is 33 years old.

I love this, partially because I’m vain, but primarily because I like the idea of having more power of choice over our own life story than we are accustomed to wielding. It’s half Baby Jane, half creating a new destiny for body and soul. If that seems like too much magical thinking, maybe it could be simply creating a new mindset so the day seems a little brighter and the nightmares come less often?

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I haven’t had any heavy sadness dreams since those words came to me in my sleep. I still have regrets and coulda woulda shoulda moments, about all kinds of things, but I feel like I discovered a shiny new piece to the puzzle. I am ready to let go of the dialogues that no longer serve me.

I hope this helps some of you as well.

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Just a Little Bite

I just posted this photo on Facebook but it’s still making me chuckle so it’s going here too:

This is my current mood trying on bikinis to wear in LA:

snowsuit

I love being my age; I hate the bit of extra weight that comes with it.

I am convinced that what I eat and how I process food is as much connected to my spiritual/energy state as it is to my emotional state and general love of all things pasta. So I’ve been noodling (get it!) around on the internet looking for alternative solutions to living solely on salads, which I do enjoy, but I am equally fond of wine and a life full of friends and family gathered around kitchen stoves and tables full of food to be able to buckle down enough to easily float back to my 25 year old waif weight.

Sigh…I sincerely miss those bird arms and bitchy thighs that would never deign to touch one another. But I didn’t appreciate them when I had them so I gotta just keep moving forward.

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Abraham-Hicks talks about the vortex all the time, and that if we are in the vortex we automatically process in a healthy way. I still haven’t quite sorted out the vortex for myself. And honestly, I already know I’m healthy. I merely wish to be a little less Midwestern healthy and more neurotic fancy city lady skinny.

I happened upon this video that feels worth sharing. I am not Jewish and some of what this lovely woman espouses does not speak to my mentality or lifestyle. I don’t agree that an animal’s highest destiny is to be consumed and thereby become one with humans at the top of the food chain. And it has never occurred to me to consider dressing modestly. But she is smart, she has a warm, gentle energy and this is good advice. I love what she has to say about savoring bites, about eating to energize, and about being more conscious as we are eating. This makes more sense to me than deprivation, which I will never be able to master.

So maybe some of this will speak to some of you as well. Perhaps when I get back from Cali we can discuss the finer points over a mountain of lasagna and a few bottles of chianti. Until then, l’chaim! Or something like that.

 

California Dreamin’

Hey hey!

Things have been great lately, which feels new. And means I haven’t felt driven to bleed out all over the keyboard. But I have this new web address so I’ve gotta get something down.

I was told by someone recently that if it wasn’t for my sense of humor this blog would be self-indulgent baloney. That made me chuckle, because it’s true. The upside to all the pain/change I experienced in 2015 and 2016 is that I am much less worried about poor to middling reviews. It’s my blog so you get what you get. Write what you know–I know the shape and size of my navel.

But today I’m being practical and simply want to let anyone who doesn’t already have me hogging their facebook feed that I’ve been toiling with my pals/co-workers at Wendigo Productions to put together a ten day West Coast tour for the Liza Colby Sound and The Sweet Things. We’re very proud to be working with these two awesome bands and it’s been fun to coordinate everything and everyone–vans, gear, tour manager, flights, hotels, etc. I’ve always enjoyed being on the side of the stage as much as standing up front, maybe more. It’s much easier to show up at door time, wield a clipboard with unwarranted authority, then critique a show from the bar than to be stuck in a van for hours then try to look and sound cute onstage after putting on your makeup and doing a vocal warm-up in a filthy bathroom with broken stall doors and no toilet paper. And beyond that, it’s awfully nice to finally have a paying job that I enjoy.

This is the press release if you’re not familiar with the bands.  I will be in LA from May 18 through May 23. I’m pretending they need me but it’s mostly an excuse to hang out in a city I love. Hit me up!

NEW YORK CITY BANDS THE SWEET THINGS
AND THE LIZA COLBY SOUND LAUNCH WEST COAST TOUR
PROMOTING THEIR WILD STYLE OF ROCK’N’ROLL AND SOUL
The Dirty Sweet Sound Tour Is Presented by Wendigo Productions NY
Ilegal Mezcal Is Sponsoring the May 22nd show in L.A. at Harvard & Stone

April 19, 2017 (New York, NY) – Wendigo Productions NY presents The Dirty Sweet Sound Tour featuring two New York City bands supporting new music releases. The Sweet Things have a two-sided single dropping on May 15th called “Love To Leave/Cocaine Asslicker Blues.” And The Liza Colby Sound have the new track called “My World” also coming out on May 15th. Ilegal Mezcal is sponsoring a special night at Harvard & Stone in Los Angeles on May 22nd.

“The Sweet Things felt a connection with The Liza Colby Sound immediately,” explains guitarist Lorne Behrman. “It was like a pheromone instinct—we sensed we were from the same rock n’ soul DNA – this morphed into a mutual admiration society with both bands inspiring and influencing each other.” Liza records with the band in studio and performs with them onstage.

The Sweet Things call their new single “a slice of ragged Stonesy punk rock.” And Liza Colby testifies “When I sing, I want it to be badass, feminine, empowering, and ooze sexuality. I want to kick mother#$&ers in the face with rock n’ roll.”

The Sweet Things hail from the streets of the East Village and formed the band in 2015. What drew them together was a passion for the Rolling Stones, Johnny Thunders, Izzy Stradlin, old country and blues, and a love of arena rock. Since then the band has shared the bill with artists like the Toilet Boys (sold-out show), Faster Pussycat, The Dead Daisies, been featured on local news channel NY1, had videoed jams with Jyrki 69 that racked-up 13,000 views in four days, and performed at the L.A.M.F. tribute (along side members of Blondie, The Heartbreakers, The Replacements, and The MC5).

The Sweet Things are Dave Tierney (The Sharp Lads), Lorne Behrman (The Dimestore Haloes, L.E.S. Stitches, The Dead Tricks), Sam Hariss (Stiletto), and Darren Fried (Mazard, Tongue). Frequently the band is joined onstage by Liza Colby.

The Liza Colby Sound includes a trio of musicians who have two decades of rock’n’roll experience. These formidable players boast impressive resumes that include working with Ozzy Osbourne, Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter, Raging Slab, Suzanne Vega, Garland Jeffreys, Lenny Kaye, Jim Carroll Band, the Del Fuegos (featuring Dan Zanes), The Paley Brothers, Denis Leary, and Joey Ramone, among other well-known names. These all-stars are also known for scoring music for film and television, most recently contributing to the Denis Leary show Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll.

Beyond her central role in The Liza Colby Sound, Liza has lent her silk and sandpaper vocal stylings to Enrique Iglesias, Denis Leary John Legend, The Gold Setting, Johnny Burgos, The Sweet Things, Chris Rock’s movie Top 5 (which featured her song “It Ain’t Easy”), Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (she’s the singing voice of Elaine Hendrix). In addition, Liza’s voice has aired on ESPN, VH1, NASCAR, and Sesame Street.

The Liza Colby Sound’s current live line-up features Liza Colby on vocals, Alec Morton on bass, Charlie Roth on drums, Adam Roth on guitar (on the album) and Tom McCaffrey as touring guitar player. In addition to the new single the band has two other releases including, Live (2013), and High Yellow (2011). A new release titled, Let It Happen, is slated for later this year. Influences the band cites include Iggy Pop, Humble Pie, Small Faces, Ike & Tina and Tame Impala.

The Dirty Sweet Sound Tour featuring The Sweet Things & The Liza Colby Sound:

Friday, May 19th at Redwood Bar, Los Angeles, CA w/ Motochrist
Saturday, May 20th at The Pour House in Oceanside, CA
Sunday, May 21st at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach, CA
Monday, May 22nd at Harvard & Stone in Los Angeles, CA sponsored by Ilegal Mezcal
Tuesday, May 23rd at Riley’s Tavern in Bakersfield, CA
Wednesday, May 24th at The Ritz in San Jose, CA
Thursday, May 25th at the Night Light in Oakland, CA
Friday, May 26th at Oberon’s in Ashland, OR
Saturday, May 27th at The Twilight Cafe in Portland, OR
Sunday, May 28th at Victory Lounge in Seattle, WA
Friday, June 2nd at Bowery Electric in New York, NY

Visit The Sweet Things online:
facebook.com/thesweetthingsnyc

Visit The Liza Colby Sound online:
thelizacolbysound.com
facebook.com/thelizacolbysound
Twitter / Instagram @lizacolbysound

For press materials, or to set-up interviews with bands on The Dirty Sweet Sound Tour please contact Fly PR: T. 323-667-1344 E. flypr@flypr.net (Ilka) or E. buzz@flypr.net (Toni) or E. info@flypr.net (Libby).

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PS. Shout out to my guy Sam Hariss, bass player for The Sweet Things, who when asked how he felt about having his girlfriend on the road with his band, said something to the effect of “Totally psyched she’s coming. I’m the same guy on tour that I am at home, so why wouldn’t I be?”

I will try to remember to live stream some bits of the shows on facebook and take non-blurry photos for those of you at home. Don’t be mad if it’s all shots of my feet next to a glass of wine at the hotel pool.

Oh, and PPS. I’ll be working with Alec Morton and Greg Slab on a memorial evening for Elyse Steinman on June 30. Save the date and I’ll post more info as it comes in.

I’ve moved!

Well, virtually anyway. www.raffaelemary.com is the new blog address. I am taking stock of all ways that I have held myself back financially/personally, and one of them is that I’ve never properly monetized the blog as its stats have risen. So here it is.

I apologize to those of you who subscribed to the Blogger site, you’ll have to do it again here.

I also have to go through all the old blogs because the layout got screwed up on some of them in the exporting/importing process.

In the meantime, here’s a cute kitten video so this visit won’t feel completely pointless.

 

Elyse

As most in our circle know, Elyse Steinman, bottle slide guitar player for Raging Slab, sexy, earthy, sassy, high octane shiny mama, died a few days ago, from lung cancer.

Truthfully, I didn’t like Elyse during the first few years we knew each other. She picked a fight with me from the get and I’m sure I didn’t handle it as well as I could have. I hated her for a while. But the beauty of being “our age” is that most of the childhood petty disagreements, usually due to insecurity and ego, smooth out with time. I understand now that she both liked me and was jealous of me, and didn’t know how to handle it. I understand that I was equally insecure and couldn’t handle anything I perceived as an attack without going hard on the defensive.

Luckily, Elyse and I reconnected on Instagram last year, and it was a beautiful exchange. We became real friends finally, veterans of the rock and roll war, ego stripped away, just two old broads catching up. She was so open and funny and smart, I wished that we could have been closer a long time ago, so much wasted time. But things are what they are and you take what you can get.

I had to go back and look at what I’d written about her for “the book”, and I found this chapter. I will post it here and then after post our instagram exchanges so you can understand how great the shift. I am ever fascinated by the way feelings can change in a heartbeat. I do not purport to have known Elyse as well as her closest friends, her husband Greg, but I do feel a lot of love for her. I am so sorry that she suffered for even a minute, and am so grateful she took the time to share a portion of the journey.

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In the meantime, Curt and I began our usual dance back into relationship-hood. And around that time he got hired to play bass for Raging Slab, a band that had been around for a few years and were pretty well-established at that time. 
 
Raging Slab was led by Greg Strzempka, who everyone called Greg Slab. His adept song-writing talent distinguished the band as leaders on the New York scene, and his aesthetic had a sort of brown, Southern flavor that none of the others did at the time. We were all still pretty gothy and glammy in the mid -80’s, with dyed hair and black eyeliner, while Greg wore a mustache and a goatee, with his hair very long and naturally brown. He was already headed into the biker-esque territory that was still on the horizon for most of us. Raging Slab were ahead of their time. 
 
Greg’s wife Elyse was the other fixture in the band. He taught her how to play slide guitar, which became essential to their sound. Elyse was a short, sexy, rough and tumble girl with shaggy brown hair who appeared to be ever on the prowl for new conquests, male or female. I think that in that atmosphere it was impossible for any couple to remain faithful to one another for long, so like the rest of us, they had their ups and downs and dalliances. 
 
I hated Elyse immediately upon our first meeting. She came up behind me as I sat with Curt at the bar at Wah Wah Hut and yanked three times on my fake ponytail, hard. My hair was long but I always wanted more drama, more glamour, and often wore a ponytail that hung down to my waist with a big red bow at the top. Luckily I had spent enough time around drag queens to know how to do my hair properly, and although she pulled as hard as she could, intending to embarrass me by removing it, the ponytail stayed put. 
 
I turned around, my head throbbing, enraged. She wouldn’t look at me. She bleated, “IS THIS REAL??” directly to Curt with her side to me. “IS THIS YOUR GIIIRRRLLLFRIEND??” Curt mumbled an introduction, she gave me a cursory glance. I glared at her with burning hatred. I came there ready to meet the people in a band I really liked and was unprepared for this fight. I should have known better, though. Curt and I both inspired that kind of competitive edge in women. I don’t know if Elyse had a crush on him or just didn’t like that I was pretty, but she was a real asshole either way. I turned back to the bar and refused to acknowledge her further while their conversation finished. It was official; I wanted to punch her in the face. But I would wait until she walked away and then torture Curt about it instead.
 
A few weeks later a gig was scheduled, and I got dressed up to go to the show and went with Curt to meet with the band at Greg and Elyse’s 13th Street apartment before heading to the club. I was apprehensive, but Elyse was a bit better on this day. She was friendly at least, although she still got her snide comments in here and there. “OH, SO THAT’S WHAT YOUR REAL HAIR LOOKS LIKE…” She and Greg bickered nonstop that night; exchanging brittle quips like George and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, the banter had a sharp edge to it as they collected their gear. I sat quietly drinking a beer and observing the dynamic until it was time to go. 
 
Curt and I trudged down the stairs behind the couple, still bickering. At the bottom of the landing Greg threw out a snarky retort at Elyse. I don’t know what it was, I can’t remember anything they were arguing about. It was all the kind of shit that only two people who have been together a while would be able to master: a comment that looks harmless enough from the outside but is designed to push the other person’s buttons. Elyse shrieked and threw her open beer bottle at him, he jumped out of the way and it hit the ground and shattered into pieces, spraying beer everywhere.
 
It was shocking, Curt and always I waited until the end of the night to start throwing things at each other. I looked down and saw a remarkable amount of blood pooling on the floor around my high heeled shoe. My ankle was pumping sheets of it out faster than I would have thought possible.
 
I screamed in terror. “I’m bleeding!!” Greg looked angry and Elyse acted concerned. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” 
 
It was clear I was not going to the gig. Curt told them he would take me to the emergency room and meet them at the club. I stood crying on the sidewalk as he hailed a cab and Elyse pushed $40 into my hand. “Here, for the cab and whatever.” 
 
Curt, God bless him, carried me into the emergency room of Beth Israel like Dudley Doright. The attending nurse, a big black woman, rolled her eyes and said, “You don’t have to be as dramatic as all that! Put her down!” Curt said, “Look at her ankle, it’s gushing blood!” She gave us a pile of gauze to staunch the flow and sent us to sit down with the rest of the waiting throng. Curt kissed me goodbye and left for the gig. I felt so alone at that moment, so frustrated and abused by this woman I didn’t even know, bleeding in an emergency room at night by myself. Eventually, after an hour or so, I got to see a doctor, who put several stitches in my ankle and sent me home with a cane and the promise of a bill. It was the 80’s so you could get still get away with payment at a later date. And I, being a good girl at heart, did pay the $250  bill when it came in the mail a couple of weeks later.
 
After midnight in the city and if I’d had any money I would have been ripe for the plucking. I couldn’t walk at all. Hobble/hopping to the corner was excruciating and took so much time and effort that by the time I was able to hail a cab I was covered in sweat from the exertion in the hot summer night. Then I had to hop up the curb to my building on First Street and crawl up the five flight of stairs to my apartment. I sat on a step and used my arms and good leg to hoist my butt up to the next, then the next, then the next, until I finally reached my floor. I unlocked the door sitting and slid in backwards, still on my ass. 
 
Since stairs were out of the question I spent the next week and a half holed up in the apartment, unable to walk to the bathroom or kitchen without feeling shooting pain. I was stuck. I couldn’t work, I just laid in bed, depressed, bored with television and feeling mightily wronged. Curt and Gini brought me food and watched television with me when they could.
 
Fourth of July hit a couple weeks later, and I ventured outside with Curt to hang out with friends at the Hell’s Angel’s annual 4th of July block party on 3rd Street. He helped me down the stairs and walked slowly next to me as I limped painfully on my cane. We spent some time sitting on stoops, drinking beer and watching bands play while the Angels blew up fireworks. Then I hobbled home, exhausted, but so grateful to have gotten out of the house. The ankle saga seemed endless.  
 
Curt had an out of town gig with the band after that, and he and I were fighting again. As I slowly limped with him to their designated meeting spot in front of the Wah Wah Hut, we argued, over God knows what now. He was going through a coke shooting phase at that point so it could have been drugs or it could have been the dubious feminine company that went along with the drugs. When we got there Curt  was happy to be able to escape my nonstop rant for a moment to help load gear into the car. As he worked Elyse pulled me aside.
 
“Hey Raff, when do you think you can get that $40 that I loaned you back to me?”
 
My mouth dropped. I was stunned. I almost couldn’t wrap my brain around it. This woman had caused me so much pain with her bad behavior, not to mention a substantial emergency room bill with no income to support it, and now she wanted her measly $40 back? Could anyone really be this awful? I had no answer for her. I just looked at her for a moment, snapped my mouth shut, and turned to Curt and began arguing with him again. Eventually he hopped into the car and the band drove off while I was still yelling, cane in hand, Elyse shouting, “Drive, drive!”, laughing at me. Curt told me later that she and Greg really got a kick out of how I looked holding my cane and yelling as they drove away. 

Now I wanted to set her on fire. 
 
[Interesting side-note bit of trivia–Jesse Malin was driving that van and confirmed the story from his point of view many years later.] 
 
Curt was fired from the band after that gig. He was not a great bass player and his drug habit didn’t work in his favor. I pointedly ignored Elyse and Greg whenever I saw them out, which was often. 
 
One night I ran into them, of course when I was at my most vulnerable. As one of the few responsible people working for our rock and roll home base Lismar Lounge, I was often obligated to close out the bar at 4 am. I lived two blocks away and would wait up watching movies, then scoot through the streets as warily as possible, praying for safe passage. On this particular occasion I had put rag curlers in my hair and just didn’t feel like keeping my makeup on until going out in public. Usually there would be no one left in the bar. I pretty much looked exactly like this, except there was no smile. I probably had that same forehead zit.
 
 
 
This time there were at least four or five people in the bar, two of them being the dreaded Greg and Elyse. Ugh. First the cane waving, now curlers. It was too humiliating. I leaned against the ice machine, not looking at them, praying they would leave. 
 
Nope. Elyse walked up and stood in front of me, forcing me to acknowledge her. I turned my head to face her. She was shaking, so tiny, and said, “Hey Raff, I don’t know what happened between us, but I really am sorry about your foot and I wish we could be friends again.”
 
I looked down at her, mortified. I could see the rags in my peripheral vision. But at least I had a little height on her, especially since I tend to stand up stick straight when uncomfortable. I was practically bending backwards at this point.
 
 I said, “What happened, Elyse, is that you cut my ankle open, which caused me much pain, loss of work and a hospital bill, gave me $40 for it, and then asked for that $40 back.” I couldn’t even get into the hair pulling and constant mocking that had ensued around that.
 
I can’t remember what her response was, I think she had forgotten that she asked for the money back. She seemed so contrite and nervous and sincere that I had to let it go. I told her it was fine. After that, although guarded for a long time to come, I said hello when I saw them and eventually became friendly enough to appreciate the wicked sense of humor underlying much of what they did and said. I still think of her whenever my fingers happen to pass over the scar.
 
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That was written quite a while ago. Then Elyse sent a message through Instagram in October of last year. I cut a few things out of our exchanges because they’re too personal…

I feel it now too.

One of the last things she wrote on Instagram was this:

“I’m sorry people but I fear the count down for Scotty to beam me up may begin soon. I still have more treatment but I’m wee, but am wicked, we’ll see. What ever happens remember Raging Slab and I love you. Always reach for your dreams and that’s an order!”

What a champion firecracker she became. Ballsy from start to finish. Rock on, Sister Shining Star. I’m grateful for every last second near you, good and bad.

Sid is Innocent

I was walking through Chinatown last week, listening to my ipod on some awesome new headphones I got on sale via the Wendy Williams show (“How you doin’?”), past spitting old Chinese men and sad fish markets. It’s a nightmare, overcrowded, slow-moving and stinky, but cool that it still exists in all it’s old school New Yorkness.

I was feeling melancholy. Drew and I just can’t see eye to eye at the moment and it’s painful, even though I understand his point of view and that it’s part of the process. I’m doing pretty well now, but I am still processing deep personal change/death, so while insanity and darkness seem past, residual sadness clings like a smoky film some days.

Sometimes I wake up with the words “I’m sorry.” already on my lips. I apologize constantly in my sleep. I remember nearly every transgression I’ve ever made, starting with that kid in high school who made a comment about the Doobie Brothers that I shot down so hard I know I destroyed him. I’m so sorry, dude. I still wish I could take it back.

But I find long walks with a musical accompaniment are good for head sorting, even if it’s also accompanied with a bit of elderly Asian snot rocket dodging. An exceptionally sad song came on and the sorrow under the surface came bubbling up and expanded within me until it felt as if my chest would crack open. So much sadness in this life, how do we manage to process it at all?  No wonder so many people become drug addicts. And I am fully aware that my first world issues are not really problems. It’s a luxury to fester the way I do.

I let the feelings roll through me without judgment. A phrase popped into my head–”the exquisiteness of sadness”. Then I thought, all emotion is exquisite really. Love, sadness, joy. That’s why we love music (and art and movies) so much, it makes us feel. Our souls are here to feel. Pain sucks, doubt sucks, fear sucks, numbness sucks. Anger can be good, it’s my personal favorite. But it’s only a protection and often destructive. Sadness, when it’s allowed to rise in its pure form, isn’t so bad. It bubbles up and flows like water, sometimes rushing, sometimes rolling quietly. It passes by.

I allowed it to consume me, tears behind my sunglasses, and then let it flow out of the cracks and through the top of my head. After a few minutes I felt better. And then a drunk Euro kid with a big backpack slurred, “…You’ve got a good ass for an old lady…” and I went back to pissed off with a soupcon of amusement. Fuck you, Junior. And thank you I guess.

Anyway, the primary focus for me today is not sadness, but the energy shift that seems to be fluttering under my feet, preparing to carry me somewhere new soon.

I have spent my life suspicious and fearful of money and of people who have it. It didn’t fit into my rock and roll mentality; punk rock and I came of age together and from the time of first memory I always felt that I was “other”. I related to very few kids in school, I purposely marked myself with clothing and hair and jewelry, later tattoos, to telegraph to the world that I was unwilling to join the club. Some of that bravado was conscious choice, some of it was rejecting “them” before they rejected me. The popular kids scared the crap out of me. They always had a handle on what to wear, they didn’t worry about chewing food in front of each other, they knew the right things to say, there was an ease of movement that I never had. Until I put on a Fiorucci snake print stretch tee and a homemade “Sid is innocent” button and raised my middle finger. Then they all thought I was darling without me having to say a word.

So, into adulthood carrying that flag, wearing that flag. Rock and roll life, rock and roll boyfriends, East Village wildlife, drugs, fights, passion, obsession, music, I’m crazier than you, tougher than you, harder than you, I raise that same middle finger to the popular kids of my adulthood, which I suppose are investment bankers and models and the children of the famous and wealthy these days. In some ways exactly like it was in high school, what has always hidden behind that finger is fear and the feeling of being less than.

I had a terrible, awful time when Drew was in the band Bloody Social, because most people in and around the band were models, children of the wealthy, children of celebrities, everyone rich from birth, gorgeous to look at, younger than me, more confident than me, shittier than me. They didn’t give a fuck about anything. They were the real nihilists because they could afford it. I was older than them, covered in tattoos, hailing from another era that they could neither reference nor respect. I fought with Drew constantly as bisexual 20 year old beanpole assholes spilled drinks on me as they shoved past to throw their vaginas full of gold cards at his head. Excruciating. I drank and scowled and railed against it all until even the nice ones had a hard time breaking through my angry wall. It wasn’t until the incandescent May Anderson ignored my cornered snarl and pulled a bottle of Jack Daniels out of her purse, grinned and handed it to me, that I was able to breathe and let my guard down a little and make a friend. But only her. That experience was devastating to me, but with the cushion of time, so informative.

Fast forward to now. I posted a status about this on facebook and got an avalanche of response, so it must be hitting a nerve–maybe it’s our age or maybe it’s a movement of the tide. I was sitting in a basement watching a friend’s band, at a show I had booked, and this thought came floating up and lodged itself in the front of my brain. I could die happily never seeing another rock band in another basement for the rest of my life. In that one moment I was changed forever.

What? Blasphemy! Or preaching to the choir, depending on where you sit, rocking chair or bar stool. But before you send me a dreary email saying you never go out anymore, you hate going out, people who go out are losers and you’re content to knit potato chip bag cozies by the fire, understand that I am not talking about that. I don’t want to retire necessarily, more that I feel the urge to live fresh  I’m talking about releasing an energy that has had a hold on me since I was three and dancing in front of the television to the Beatles. I still wanna go out; I just want to go out FANCY. I want to use graffiti-free bathrooms. I want to wear my good shoes without fear of stepping in mystery liquids. Or I want to sit on a beach chair looking at the ocean with no shoes on. The details aren’t important. I just wanna get out of that basement that I have been sitting in for about 30 years now. I’m not afraid anymore.

Again, first world pondering, but I gotta give you what I got.

I am still very much in love with my world, but the ATTACHMENT to only that has dissipated. I am ready for new experiences, new environments, new people, new outfits. Somehow, after this long stretch of suffering and confusion and self-hatred, I am expanding inwardly and seeing glimmers of what could come outwardly. I can see now how my mental state of insecurity and judgment has kept me stuck at a less than perfect financial state, at less than perfect contentment levels. And along with that I can see that it’s all an energy game. I can be whoever I choose to be now. Well, except for a bisexual 20-something asshole beanpole with a vagina full of gold cards. I suppose that ship has sailed. But there is still a myriad of possibilities. I simply need to make space for myself, for the options to show themselves. That is incredibly freeing.

So I’m doing the work. I’m working on my thought patterns around money, I’m taking a second to ask my body what it wants before eating. I’m actively choosing quiet time, I’m walking around Chinatown crying it out instead of picking up the phone to try to fix what isn’t mine to fix. I’m allowing people to pick up the check without fighting about it. I’m accepting compliments without deflecting them. I’m cool with my age. I’m cool with some people not liking me. I’m daydreaming about all of the things I can do or see or be that I never considered before because I thought I was anchored into one state of being for this lifetime. I’m feeling love and forgiveness for myself without having to do a big flagellating apology and atonement dance first. For the first time ever.

It’s weird.

But cool.

If you are new agey of mind, this particular video has been very helpful to me:

If you’re not, watch this instead because it’s time that more people appreciate the awesomeness that is Linda Belcher.