Blue Pill or Red Pill

As most of you know, I work in Soho at Patricia Field, a New York institution which caters to the freaks, the faggots, the fashion forward, the total ho-bag, and the random tourist looking to shop in the store owned by the stylist for Sex and the City.
I love the store, I think it is one of the few holdouts in NYC’s ever-homogenizing landscape and continues to be a middle finger in the face of the yuppie dream that this city has become. Plus it’s just fun to work there, I love the flamboyant people I work with and I absolutely love being a lingerie buyer.
But—and there’s always a big but, Dottie—I am also straddling two places, the incredibly superficial, selfish, and vapid world of fashion, and the non-matrix world of spirit and true connection. I really felt it more than ever this morning as I walked through Soho on my way to work.
I love clothing and have tons of it. I also once loved fur, and have a large amount of that as well. My first memory ever is of looking down at my blue velvet and white rabbit fur coat, complete with rabbit fur muff and hat, and feeling like the most special little girl in the world. My mother really did it up in those days, and it’s stuck. So I’m constantly collecting new items from the store that I don’t really need. But a while ago I realized that fur is just a bummer and I can’t justify it to myself anymore. The pain and suffering involved in collecting it is too high a price in my estimation. So I made up my mind that I wouldn’t get rid of the fur I already have, but I’m not going to buy any more, even vintage.
Last year I got into a huge fight with the main buyer in the store because along with the title of Lingerie Buyer and Bookkeeper, I am also the Consignment Manager, and I decided not to carry any fur on consignment. It is only a small percentage of the store’s merchandise, and I feel that it’s not causing any harm to heed the larger obligation of the good of the Universe than to cater to the fur needs of our customers. But others feel differently, and when I refused to carry a very saleable hoodie with a fur lining that my co-worker’s friend made, it turned into an ugly brawl. I couldn’t get him to understand my point and behind my back he declared that he would carry more fur than ever in the store. So now we have fur bags and fur barrettes and fur shrugs and all kinds of crap made out of cheap Chinese skinned-alive rabbits and cats and dogs and whatever. Which doesn’t make me mad, it just makes me incredibly sad.
I’m not trying to villainize my co-worker. He’s been at the store far longer than me, and is a good person who embodies Pat’s vision for fashion more than I ever will. He just doesn’t get it, the same way almost everyone I work with doesn’t get it. When the discussion comes up (which is rare because I am sick of the fight) the hardcore fashionistas in the store just look at me like I have three heads. And I understand, because I’ve been there, I was asleep once, too. I didn’t understand that my choices affected others and I didn’t realize that we are all—people, animals, plants, earth, solar system—connected and that what harms one harms us all. Now I can’t see anything except that. But to many people I know, fashion is the beginning and the end, and there is simply no awareness that the fur comes from somewhere dark or that plastic goes to a landfill somewhere and just sits there, poisoning our air and water, never rotting.
Today I walked through Soho on my way to work and all I saw in the windows was greedy consumption and death. Of course, I saw a lot of stuff I wouldn’t mind owning as well, but even that depressed me. The ridiculous consumption of overpriced designer goods and the absolute disregard for how it’s made suddenly became incredibly clear to me. And the photos of models in the windows bummed me out equally, because they are a reminder that as well as being programmed to consume as much as possible and cause suffering in the process, we also are told to feel like shit about what we look like so we will keep feeling the need to purchase, collect, consume, discard. With all those fabulous items of clothing, we still don’t fit the bodily ideals pressed into our psyches all day long. But maybe, just maybe with one more pair of $1000 fur boots, we will be that much closer. And so the matrix continues to blind us with shiny objects and airbrushed faces.
It’s as if one minute I was standing in the illusion of a beautiful, golden palace and the next my vision cleared and I found I was actually standing in a hall of bones and sorrow.
 I realize this is all a bit dramatic, and there is a good chance hormones may be responsible. But these are the thoughts for this morning. Somehow during the course of my life I have morphed into a tree-hugger–a drunken, slutty one, but a tree-hugger nonetheless. And standing in the middle of my world today feels a little daunting.
Sigh. Perhaps I just need a nice cup of free trade decaf coffee with soy milk…

Kick in the Eye

Lord. Last night I went to Bauhaus, and it was such an evening, I felt I should share.
First, I have never been a rabid Bauhaus fan, though I do have two moments in my life that cemented an affection for them. I’m dating myself here, but whatever, most of you already know I’m ancient:
When I was a teenager my friends and I would drive five hours down to Detroit on weekends to see bands play. I came from the land that rock forgot and this was the closest that me and the other four cool people in my hometown could go for any kind of scene. We would usually crash on people’s floors and hang out for the weekend drinking beer, going to gigs or parties, and listening to new records (yes, actual LP’s, my friends). I was in heaven, surrounded by musicians and punk rock types for the first time in my life, feeling like an adult choosing my own scene. 
So one of those times, first thing in the morning the drummer of this particular new wave band we were staying with (cannot remember the name!) put a Bauhaus LP on the turntable, and cranked it LOUD. I think the song was In the Flat Field. Everyone started yelling at him to turn it down, it was cacophonous and frightening, and I loved it! I hadn’t heard much like it before. Remember that this was before people were using the term “goth”. It was all just new music that spoke to our desire to wear black and congregate in seedy clubs with others wearing black, and the record sounded dark and hard in a way I hadn’t heard before.
Second, and around that same time, maybe a little later, I went to the drive-in (yes, LP’s and drive-ins in one blog) to see The Hunger. And of course that first scene blew my mind, with Bela Lugosi’s Dead playing, the way the band looked, the tie-in with vampires, Bowie on film, well the whole thing just flipped me the fuck out. I was bouncing up and down in the car screaming. It was the real start of my serious goth-ness. I was already well into a depressed vampire thing but I thought it was my own idea. I dyed all my clothes black and sat around my basement “apartment” in my parents house writing journals about badly it sucked to live in Michigan. My mother would sigh and tell me I looked like a hooker in mourning (though she did like Bowie, and she thought Lux Interior sang like someone was shaking him the whole time, which really amused me). Anyway, this was well before the internet, purple yarn dreads and Hot Topic vinyl ruled the teenage angst landscape, so to be so cut off and then see these hot guys looking all vampirey and playing a rocking song about Bela Lugosi sent me completely over the edge.
Fast forward to now–I am grown up and will wear other colors, although my nickname at work is still “Dark Lady”. I got a call from one of my very dear friends, we shall call her X for the purposes of this blog, to tell me that another one of our friends, Vicki, is working for and touring with the band and I should call her to get on the list. The first friend, Madame X, dated Daniel Ash on and off for years. She was my roommate and every once in a while I’d wake up to find him sitting in our living room. It was all very surreal. 
So I called Vicki and she told me to bring whoever I wanted, and I put on my favorite color and headed up to the Nokia Theatre with my good friend Mike. Mike is way cooler than me and doesn’t really enjoy these oldies shows I drag him to, but he is very tolerant and acts as my date when Drew can’t be there. The venue is great by the way—cordial, unobtrusive security, great sound system, giant, spotless bathrooms, cool photos of the Dolls and Debbie Harry and plenty of room to see the band.
Everyone had been telling me the show was great. But two songs into it and I was yawning. The band sounded tight and sharp and the light show was good, but the charisma was nonexistent. Peter Murphy looked like a cross between Hugh Hefner and Frank Langella as Dracula, albeit much more handsome. He is totally gray with a nice big bald patch in the back, which I can’t fault him for as we are all aging, but that combined with a purple smoking jacket was just a little too suave old dude for my taste. Daniel sported godawful platform moonboot raver shoes, and towards the end, a fuzzy 8th Street faux pimp hat. Not cute. 
But whatever, the real problem for me was simply no action on stage, no movement from anyone except Daniel, no speaking in between songs, nothing! Just a dry, professional run-through of the set list. BORING!! Lemmy told me once that all you have to do if you don’t want to dance is just walk around the stage—go to the front, head to the side, step back a few times, just move! Peter is obviously of a different head and felt that standing in one spot looking like a dandied version of someone’s dad was enough.
Okay, so whatever, I got in free, I like the music, a lot of my friends were there, and the crowd was cool. So we watch. About halfway through Mike and I realize that we can use our passes for the VIP balcony section, so we head up there for a beautiful view. I am standing, happily leaning on the railing and watching, when a small, weasely little man shows up and starts pressing into the same spot I’m standing in. I ignore him and continue to watch the show. Thirty seconds later someone from behind pushes me. I turn around, and behind weaselboy is an overweight Jersey semi-goth type, sitting on a stool and leaning back with an air of someone who probably does the door for some crappy bar in the middle of nowhere and as a result regularly behaves like he owns everything. The energy coming off of him is palpably offensive, and I look at him like “What the fuck?” and he says to me:
“You need to move. You took my friend’s place when he went to the bathroom.” 
HUH??? I am immediately hot with fury that this oaf first put his hands on me and now has the audacity to think he can tell me what to do. But what happens sometimes when I get really angry is I can’t articulate, so while I wanted to say,

“Listen, tinymeat, I didn’t realize that we were still saving spots like fifth grade girls. I do understand, however, that the only way you are ever able to touch an attractive woman is in this abusive, misogynist manner. But be forewarned that if you ever aspire to set another greasy hand on me again I will call every real man I know in the place, of which there are many, to kick your fat, lame, suburban, loser ass down the stairs.”

What actually came out was a lot of sputtering and asking him what the fuck his problem was. And then his weasely friend had the gall to say to me, “Why don’t you just enjoy the show.”

FUME, RAGE, FUME!!! But I didn’t want to cause a scene and I knew if I got Mike involved it would be bad, so I stayed in my spot, turned around and worked on letting it go, which was VERY hard. I am still sending them balls of rage energy today and I hope that fat fuck has a crappy life.

Grrr…okay, so I do some yoga breaths and we watch the show and wait patiently for  the encore, which of course will be Bela Lugosi’s Dead. The band actually puts some kind of SPORTS JERSEY on the bass drum during the encore of Telegram Sam and Ziggy Stardust. Are you kidding me? 
And then the lights are up, band is off, time to go home, NO BELA! Again, WTF?!? I understand that they’re probably sick to death of playing it, but please! Now I really think the show sucked. But I am a positive person and there’s still the afterparty where I can see Vicki and maybe have a little fun.

Alas, it was not to be. As we’re making our way downstairs to the backstage area, my foot slips out from under me and I FALL ON MY ASS, down the stairs, in front of everyone. Absolute mortification, such a “Clueless” moment as I become, yes, the person that for the rest of the night will be known as “that girl who fell down the stairs”. Ugh. So embarrassing!! The only levity was one guy saying, “I tried to get a look up your dress but you were too fast!” That made me laugh.
We get backstage and stand in the hallway waiting for action. Chloe Sevigny stands next to me in one of her rotten outfits. I don’t know why fashion editors think she has great taste, I hate everything she wears. And now she’s giving me the I hate you because you’re another female look so I start thinking Chloe’s not that cool on top of having bad fashion sense. But maybe it was just the abusive fat guy and the fall down the stairs that were making me crabby and suspicious.
Vicki, who is stressed out and too busy to hang out, comes by and gives me a hug and gets us into the dressing room where a small and noisy gathering is happening. I don’t know what happened to Chloe and in retrospect I think I left some people behind that I should have gotten into the room, but it happened quickly and I didn’t want to put Vicki on the spot while she raced around. I got to see her for that moment but that was about it and then she was gone. My friends and I—Mike, Timmy, and Joel, park ourselves directly next to the table with the liquor, as is our usual habit, and start drinking. 
After about 10 minutes of this another stressed out band employee says to the room, “Five more minutes!” Daniel Ash is standing in front of me and I say,
“Daniel, I can’t leave without telling X I spoke to you.” And he says, in a truly snide tone:
“Oh yes, X. I heard she married the guy she used to babysit.”  And as I again sputter and start to tell him he’s wrong and the guy is wonderful, he turns and starts speaking to someone next to him, obviously not remotely interested in even sending his regards.
One more time–WTF?? What is wrong with everybody? This particular woman is one of the kindest, most generous and loving people anyone could ever hope to meet and was certainly tolerant of his self-absorption and neurotic exits and entrances into her life. I couldn’t believe that he would be so dismissive about such a lovely, undeserving person—a person, I might add, that he has written songs about! I turned to Mike and said, “Okay, that’s it. We’re officially done with Bauhaus for the night.”
So that’s my review for this weekend:
Fat woman-hating suburban asshole.
No Bela.
Landed on my ass.
Does Chloe Sevigny suck as bad as her clothes? Jury’s still out.
Daniel Ash is a twat.
On the upside, my new corset was a hit and because I’ll use any excuse to get dressed up, if any other vampirey oldsters come to town I’ll be there, tarted up and hoping for the best.

Because hope, unlike aging British musicians, springs eternal.

A Tale of Two Dogs

Okay, this one is a bit long and weepy, so if you’re not interested in dogs, don’t bother. And if you are, go get a cup of tea and a tissue…

I had the perfect dog once. His name was Panda, short for Pandaemonium (Victorian spelling because I’m pretentious). He was a Pekingese, the runt of his litter and born on Valentine’s Day. I purchased him from a Chinese puppy mill pet store; I knew it was wrong but once I saw his face I knew I had to have him. This is Panda:

Panda was enthusiastic and charming. He went to work with me every day and made the walk a joy. He would trot officiously, as if he was headed toward his job as well, which he sort of was, and as we neared the store he would speed up and drag me. He loved the socializing and spent his days roaming the floor, napping near my desk and hanging in the salon with his favorite friend Karlo, who would call for Panda on the intercom. Panda would sit on his lap and wrangle bites of food from staff members until he got tired enough to come back to the office and lay quietly while I worked. He was my partner from waking up to falling asleep, every day. We were in sync; when I reached to pick him up he would jump to help me; wherever I went he followed. He was my love.

Panda was run over by a giant black SUV on 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street. I had him off the leash because he liked to run on that 2nd Street block by the cemetery. I figured it burned off some of his energy and he always stopped when I told him to. But we came from a different route that day and when he got too close to the corner and I took a step to pick him up, he thought it was time to move. He looked over his shoulder and grinned at me and bolted into 2nd Avenue traffic before I could get to him. I ran screaming into traffic and he almost made it to the other side, but it was over in a second, a cotton ball under a steamroller. I bent down in the middle of the street with cars whizzing by and picked him up. His head fell back, blood pouring out of his ears and mouth. He looked so surprised and I stood in the traffic sobbing and pleading with him not to die.

A couple in a passing car saw what happened and picked me up and took me to my vet’s office on Eldritch. The street was one way so they dropped me on the corner. I ran breathless down the street and got to the office only to find the gate down—they were
inexplicably closed in the middle of the day. The street and buildings started spinning around me.

I ran up to Houston and waved for cabs. There were no open ones and car passengers gaped at me as I ran down the middle of the street, covered in blood, crying, carrying my dying dog, and waving my arm. No one stopped. Everything felt silent and dreamlike and I moved in slow motion, like those dreams where you can’t seem to move or you feel as if you’re moving in quicksand while somewhere in the background there’s a loud ticking sound of precious time slipping away.

Finally a man ran into the middle of the road and flagged a police car for me. They took me to another vet, a very kind man who talked me down after he told me my dog could not be saved. I kept repeating, “It’s my fault, it’s my fault.” He told me that it wasn’t and let me spend some time in the room with the body of my perfect little love. I pressed my face into his side and touched his feet, I whispered a secret word I always used to tell him I loved him, and then Drew came and took me home. Words cannot tell you the sorrow and guilt that I felt for squandering this gift. I promise I will rarely impose my poetry upon you, but this is as close as I have gotten to explaining what it was like:

Small Dog Hit By Car

Wet line trail on the concrete
Red and thick and ropey
Blood on the pavement,
Black tar too coarse to hold the honor.
Someone I don’t know tells me,
You can clean yourself up in there.
As if I had asked
Small bathroom with clean metal sink and I catch my reflection.
Puffy tear-stained with patches of leftover foundation
Small islands of black mascara pool on cheeks
Not cute crying

My arms are smeared with blood

My chest
My neck small spatters
If I wash this blood he disappears.
I stand debating against propriety
It’s all I have left,
though sticky and brownish
In the end I pick up dutiful soap and watch him run down undeserving drain.
Whispers the faucet.

After that I couldn’t drink alcohol without going on a crying jag. I began obsessively looking at Pekingese dogs online. Not so much to find another one, but just to see their faces, to feel nearer to him. I missed him so much it ached all the time, and I felt so shitty, so horrendously guilty for not protecting him. I knew I should have had him on a leash, why did I risk it?

One day I looked at Petfinder and found this picture of Winter:

I freaked out and printed the photo and showed it to Drew. He thought it was a picture of Panda. He tried to talk me out of adopting so soon and though I didn’t feel ready for another dog, the photo compelled me. I wanted my dog back so badly. I sent an email and within a week took two trains out to Jersey to meet with the woman who fostered him.

Meeting Winter was a disappointment. I think I had a fantasy that he would actually be Panda. But Winter was much bigger, his face was different and his feet were huge. Panda had delicate little feet. You can’t tell from the photo that Winter’s fur was coarse and matted, and his body seemed oddly out of proportion; his head and chest were big while his hindquarters were too small. I realized upon touching him that it was because was emaciated. He had been found on the street in Brooklyn, badly abused then starved and discarded in the street.

I sat on the floor and pulled him to my lap and his foster mom Amy was very pleased. Of the many people who had come hoping to adopt a small, purebred dog, I was the only person that hadn’t been bitten or growled at. He was terrified of everyone, it seemed, except me. I held him and petted his head and tried to hide my disappointment and sadness that he was not my beautiful Panda. Still, there was something very poignant about his tentative desire to please.
I rode the train back thinking that I wouldn’t adopt Winter. When I got home I got an email from Amy saying that she felt that I would be the perfect owner for him, if I wanted to take him. I called my mother and sister and discussed it; they both thought he would be a good dog for me. Drew wanted me to wait and get a puppy at a better time; he thought I was acting crazy, which was true. But I also wanted to make amends somehow, to redeem myself. This wreck of a dog seemed to need me.

And so the next weekend, against my better judgement, I rode the trains back out and picked up my new dog.

Winter was sweet and tolerant on that first day as I trimmed, brushed and bathed him, and he seemed to only want to lay quietly on the floor while we went about our lives. Drew was less than thrilled at his bedraggled appearance but tried to be supportive. He started calling him “The Brain” from “Pinky and The Brain”. This is him during that first week, the saddest and most serious dog in the world:
Winter soon turned out to be incapable of the most mundane of dog activities. He was actually afraid to eat, and completely unable to eat off of a plate. Every time I fed him I would have to sit on the floor next to him and coax him with small pieces laid on the hardwood. He would neurotically bob his head towards the food over and over until he got down far enough to lick up a small piece. If I stood up he would stop eating altogether. It took forever to get through a meal.
Next up was walking: nearly impossible. He didn’t understand what was required of him. He would get as close as he could to a wall and just stand there. Shadows were terrifying, movement equally so, the sound of footsteps or car doors slamming set him off into a gasping fear frenzy. If I reached to pick him up he flinched violently, expecting to get slapped. The first time I tried to take him out it took a half an hour to get ¾ of a block. It was months before we made it all the way around the block, and the time it took was unbearably long. And I realized fairly quickly that on top of being afraid of everything and completely unfamiliar with the concept of taking a walk, he was fairly blind. He could only see shapes and shadows and if I got any distance from him he had no idea where I was.
So, taking him to work was a joke, I had to carry him the whole way and even starved he was not light like my perfect Panda. One day I got so frustrated that I forced him to walk. I dragged him angrily by the leash for blocks until I realized his toe was bleeding from being scraped on the pavement. It was official, I was the worst dog mom in the world and should be banned from ever owning a pet. I sat down on the curb next to my dog and sobbed in public. On the days we actually got to work with a minimum of trauma, he would still panic if I left him for a minute and attack anyone who tried to touch him. If there was too much activity around him—multiple people walking near, noise, whatever—he would flinch in terror until he just shut down. It was clear he would have to stay home.
Winter would do a weird gagging thing all day, especially whenever he became uncomfortable. In milder moments it would manifest as a head bob, but the bob could also lead to a full on thrown back gagging and choking, crying in pain while he smacked at his own face with his paw to try to make it stop. It happened when he tried to eat or whenever he got upset, so I thought it was a fear thing and would hold him and try to calm him down, which didn’t always work. It was difficult and frightening to watch.
Winter had never known any of the normal things a dog knows—food on a plate, hands touching him with love, a walk in the park, playing with toys. He was a beaten, discarded, shattered, ruined, fearful and defensive little dog. I expected that after a few months it would change, but it didn’t. It went on and on the same way for a very, very long time, months went by and I felt like no progress had been made. I felt disheartened, sapped, frustrated and not up to the job before me, and Panda’s absence continued to feel like a hole in my heart. There were times I couldn’t even look at Winter. Everything about owning him felt weighted and heavy. I knew that I could take him back to Amy but by that time he was so bonded to me that I didn’t have the heart to abandon him after he had suffered so much already. I felt trapped.
Then one morning as I was putting on my makeup he sat down next to my feet and pressed his flat little face into my leg and just kept it there. It was such a quiet, loving gesture from a creature who up until then had never expressed anything other than fear or compliance. My heart cracked for this little dog. Something shifted in me and it dawned that it wasn’t my job to “fix” him, that I needed to let go of my expectations and just let him be, to accept him for who he was with all of his limitations.
Around that time and while I was attempting to teach him to walk I got into a conversation with a man with a goofy Shepherd mix. When your dog won’t walk everyone on the street wants to give you advice. But this man was very understanding and told me that his dog was found as a stray and she wouldn’t walk either. He told me it took two years before she started behaving like a normal dog. That was the best piece of information I could have received and that extended time frame gave me heart.
So here we are, two years and a few months later. It took about a year to get him completely healthy, now he is a meaty little tank with the most gorgeous, soft, long fur. People stop on the street to comment on how beautiful he is. My vet (the one that talked me down) figured out that the gagging is a form of seizure, and Winter takes medication for it now. It’s not perfect but much better. And even though he’s not very fast, he likes going for walks. I actually saw  the realization wash over him one day that walking outside was for pleasure and that he wouldn’t be punished or left behind. It was beautiful to see and his movements and energy shifted after that. And in the safety of my apartment he has forgotten to be nervous and behaves like a happy clown. I can see the effects of his abuse fading away. They will never totally be gone, but he is happy. He is not my partner in crime the way that Panda was, but I have come to love him in a different way. He is a valiant little soul who often has to try harder than other dogs just to be a dog.
My reason for telling you this tale is twofold: One, do not ever, ever, EVER  walk your dog without a leash. Even if your dog is good, they don’t understand traffic and it is not worth the risk.

Two, to help anyone out there who is thinking of or has already adopted an abused or neglected pet. You don’t know what you’re getting when you adopt an adult animal, especially one that hasn’t had it so great. I had no idea that it would be so hard and there is no manual for it. I’m sure there are people out there who have dealt with worse, but there is no network of support to go to when you need help, and I could have used it. So if anyone is out there looking to take something like this on, I want to tell you that you have to be patient, very patient.

And though you don’t always know what you’re getting, the reward for patience is often great. I am not going to buy any more dogs in my life. It’s wonderful to get a perfect, purebred puppy. It is SO much easier sometimes. But it’s too selfish an act to justify anymore. I love the puppies, they’re adorable, but there are too many animals out there that need homes, too many desperate souls sitting in cages day after day waiting for some attention, for a walk, for a life, or just waiting to be euthanized while some ass makes cash breeding new and unnecessary puppies, oftentimes in abusive mills. Winter has been a huge life lesson for me about patience and acceptance, about the ways that abuse changes who we are, canine or otherwise, and about how the machinations of healing work. Which I suppose is why he entered it in the first place. I think there are times in our lives when we are meant to be “in service”, and it’s important to be able to see that the gift is not only for the ones we serve, but also for ourselves as well.


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