My mom had this little bit of film from her and my dad’s wedding– the party before and some of the actual wedding preparations and reception, and I just had it digitized. It’s grainy and there is no sound, it’s also 7 minutes long, so it’ll probably be boring for anyone not directly connected. But for people like me who love old film, here it is. My mother is in the white sweater and my father is in the plaid shirt at the night before party but if you skip to the 1:50 mark it’s the actual wedding prep and party, which is a bit more interesting and looks like it could be research data for Mad Men.
To me, it’s poignant. They were so young, so clueless, so beautiful, and completely unaware of what life had waiting for them around the corner – five kids, my dad’s early death, my mother’s difficult rebirth from housewife and mother to sole breadwinner. It wasn’t easy, but that can be said for most everyone anyway. As my great Aunt Nonno used to say, “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.”
I don’t react to death the way many people do. I don’t feel it fully right away, it kind of just colors everything over time. As a result I am still processing my father’s death, which happened a good 37 years ago, in 1984. I don’t think any of us come out of the deaths of loved ones unaltered, but I’m guessing most healthy people don’t file it in a box in the back corner of their brain and then have it manifest as bad behavior or overreaction or just simple sadness at the most inopportune times. Or maybe they do? Grief is such a weird, non-linear experience.
I was sheltered and oblivious to the ways of the world when I left Michigan to go to college in NYC. I chose Parsons School of Design, which is/was difficult to get into, and very expensive. My dad made mention of the cost, but I had never had to support myself and money was pretty abstract to me. Especially his. My parents made me get a high school job and tried to teach their kids the value of work, but my dad always bailed me out when I got in over my head. So with college I think I had an ego about knowing I could get myself accepted into this prestigious school and beyond that I didn’t consider that he was working very hard to support a large family.
My dad flew with me to do the interview, which had to be in person. I dragged him up and down St. Mark’s Place, which was a magical rock and roll fairyland in the 80’s. We walked past Iggy Pop and people with giant hair and Malcolm McClaren and Lauren Hutton walking arm in arm. I could barely contain myself, I was vibrating with joy a and excitement to finally be there after a young life as a mopey Edward Gorey character surrounded by cheerful muggles in pastel colored ski jackets with lift tags stapled to the zipper. My dad was sort of a Tony Soprano lite kind of guy, he was Italian and a bit macho but mostly just funny and charismatic and very loving toward his kids. He stood at the front of Trash and Vaudeville in his suit waiting while I tried to get the snotty staff to help me try on clothes that I didn’t need. One of them asked if he was my bodyguard. He was amused by that.
When it was time to move to NY he took one of the kids from his office and the two of them drove me and all my stuff for 14 hours to stay at the fleabag YMCA on 9th Avenue and 34th Street, an old school flophouse where Parsons had set up student housing amongst the nearly homeless. I sat in the back of his giant luxury dadmobile while a small Uhaul jittered around behind us, packed with hatboxes and milk crates full of record albums and all kinds of crap I wouldn’t need. When we got to the Y, he and I took the rickety, dead slow elevator up to my floor. We opened the door to my room, which was like, 8′ x 12″, to a stained mattress on a cot, a dirty window with a broken blind, and a lone cockroach lumbering slowly from one side of the room to the next.
I was so scared. I said, with tears in my eyes but trying to lighten the mood, “Welp. This is what I wanted!”
He said, “I don’t know how you’re going to get all your stuff in here, Mare.”
I knew he didn’t want to leave me there, but he did. I waved goodbye from the sidewalk as they pulled away, then I went to that tiny, shitty room and started unpacking the mountain of vintage shoes I would never wear.
Turned out I hated fashion design, which was my chosen field of study. I thought I would enjoy it because I loved drawing, clothes and sewing. Alas, I did not. The teachers were lovely for the most part, but the workload was unforgiving and tedious. I sat up into the morning for nights on end painting watercolor swatches that I could never get right. I couldn’t drape for shit, there was no fun or fashion at that point, though I did develop the awesome cool people social life I always envisioned for myself.
So sometime during the second semester, when I was full and well flailing academically and didn’t give a shit about college anymore because nightlife was infinitely more interesting, one of the other students knocked on my door to tell me I had a call. It was late in the night/early morning after I’d returned from a party, and my mother was on the house payphone. It was the only means of communication for a full floor of probably 40 students so I knew if she was calling enough to get through the constant busy signal it had to be important.
When I picked up she was crying, and said, “Dad’s gone.”
I asked, not comprehending, “Well, where did he go?”
He had had a heart attack and died almost immediately. My mom felt terrible because she was a registered nurse and hadn’t recognized the symptoms. He couldn’t sleep and went downstairs from their bedroom and she heard a thump and he was on the ground and I think gone by the time she got to him. It just seemed so out of the realm of possibility, although it really wasn’t. He was a slightly overweight, stressed out, pipe-smoking product of the time, meaning that he pushed through uncomfortable feelings and ignored warning signs. He was in his 40’s at the time, younger than I am now.
Like most families, mine had its own dysfunction. And I had been taking my mother’s side whenever there were disagreements. I didn’t understand or see anything the way it really was, I saw it with a child’s eyes. I was preoccupied with my new life and hadn’t spoken to him on the phone in months, it was always my mom. Then he was just gone and I could never say the things I would have said to him if I’d known that drive would be my last chance to hear his voice or feel his hug.
My diary entry for that day has one paragraph about his death, and then 3 or 4 about a date I had gone on. I felt a deep shame about that for many years. One day, many years after, I broke down and told my therapist about it and asked how could I be so shallow? What was wrong with me? He reassured me that I wasn’t a sociopath, just someone who shut down because it was too big to process. I was so relieved.
So when he died I quit school, despite the fact that a family friend offered to cover the remaining tuition for the remaining years. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I gave away all of my pens and brushes and exacto knives and markers and paints and started this rock and roll life. And over the years following I would find myself in one crappy relationship or another, and often when it would get to be too much I would overreact and become irrational. Usually when I would get too drunk and cry over a boyfriend, I would find myself talking to my dad.
One time I laid on my kitchen floor sobbing, completely inconsolable over whatever the latest shitty boyfriend had done, talking to my dad (or the ceiling) out loud. Suddenly a light bulb shone through the haze. It dawned that this had little to do with the boyfriend and everything to do with my dad. I stopped sobbing, sat up and wiped my snot-filled nose with the back of my hand and thought, “Oooooooh.” Then I realized my dad wasn’t coming back and I still had terrible taste in men and I flopped back down and wailed into the floor again.
One of the lovely things about transitioning into adulthood is getting to see your parents as people rather than extensions of your greedy child self. I have so much compassion for those two kids, doing what they were expected to do, marrying when they barely knew each other because that’s how you managed raging hormones and societal expectations back then. How could they not fuck up? I’ve been fucking up my entire life, the only difference is that I had the wherewithal to know it wasn’t a good idea to bring kids into my particular brand of crazy.
So I’ve never fully gotten over this loss. I don’t think about it all the time, I’m not mourning per se, but every once in a while I’ll be doing something mundane and some moment or thought will remind me of him and a wave of sadness will wash over me, like stepping into a hole that wasn’t there a minute ago. Maybe this is true with everyone and their dead loved ones? I do believe we are all permanently changed by loss. For me, each death or disappearance of someone I love softens me, makes me more gentle, more compassionate. But the price for that depth is sorrow.
I have had dreams where my dad came to me and we talked some things out, and I do believe it really happened. But that was still about me and my needs. So I carry this feeling that I failed him somehow. That I didn’t SEE him when he was alive. That I never told him how grateful I am and how awesome he was to all of his kids. That he was a special, amazing person outside of being a dad. That it was an honor to be his kid.
So this bit of film transferred to VHS, then digitized, means the world to me. It’s a window into my parent’s true selves at that age, before they became just mom and dad in the eyes of their kids. I feel so much love for these two babies trying to be grown ups. And I am grateful that my mom and I have been able to talk about our lives as people outside of our mother/daughter relationship, to dissect things that have happened and to find common ground and the occasional forgiveness.
I hope when I get to the other side I can see him again in all his magnificence: this handsome, vibrant being with the weight of kids and work and life no longer on his shoulders. I hope that I can tell him how desperately I missed him during all the ordinary and grand moments in my life, and how I wished I could have had conversations with him as an adult. But I am guessing that he has moved on to other lives, and maybe on the other side none of this Matrix classroom of suffering and confusion bullshit means a thing. Maybe we’re all just at peace and no longer fathers or daughters or people who have to keep photos and videos to remember and understand.
To that thought, I’ll leave you with this audio from a recent show called Midnight Mass, which is ostensibly about vampires, but surprised me with the one of the best explanations of life and death that I’ve heard. This monologue floored me:
First, this entry started out about one of my BFF’s, Storm Large, as she just slayed on AGT and is back on again on Peacock tomorrow.
But my equally awesome friend Elizabeth Grey covered it so well already that it feels unnecessary to add anything else, so this entry morphed.
Liz’s piece is here, read it, you won’t be disappointed: STORM WATCHING
Okay, let’s get on with it…
My current life is somehow copacetic, joyful even. It’s a new feeling.
I have discovered that the more I focus on my own inner healing and awareness, the more the outer smooths itself out with little or no assistance. It’s like learning how to drive: when you first get behind the wheel you keep looking at the front edge of the car and it wobbles back and forth, then you learn that if you change your focus past the front bumper and onto the road, things straighten out.
I am not the first person to figure this out; we hear it all the time. But no one ever mentions that it takes forever. It’s taken me decades to see results, starting from the 90’s when I realized I was fucked and got a therapist and bought and slogged through every self help book available (“Women Who Love Too Much”, anyone?).
But maybe no one sorts anything too well until later in life? Who are these people who have their shit together in their 20’s? It’s infuriating. I feel like I’ve been navigating a dark room with a lighter for much of my existence, and I’ll take clarity wherever and whenever I can get it.
I’ve spent much of my teenage and adult life focused on romantic relationships. I can’t even look at my teenage diaries, they’re so cringey and obsessive over boys and relationships. Wanting them, gaining them, falling in love, falling out of love, losing them, fighting within them, feeling bad about my behavior around them, feeling mad about other people’s behavior in them, throwing them away, losing them, mourning their loss, trying to get them back, etc. Obsession has been my best frenemy and the murderer of so, so much sleep. It has been all-consuming of both heart and brain; it has caused me the most pain, drama and embarrassment in my life. And it has taught me much, so much about myself.
When I lost my ex, or rather made it too difficult for him to stay, I took it very hard. It wasn’t as much the loss of romance as much as the loss of the person altogether. If the one person who is supposed to be THE person decides to never speak to you ever again, then the logical conclusion is that you must be the worst person on the planet. And I always assume everything is my fault anyway. So I blamed myself for all the bad stuff, exonerating him in an unrealistic way that made it impossible for me to feel okay about myself. I mourned that loss deeply and with great confusion, and with it I mourned the loss of the hope that I could be a good, healthy partner to someone. I mourned the dream of happiness in one special person. And mostly I questioned my own value to anyone anywhere in any capacity.
I have always fought a battle between what my brain knows I should do and what some deeper part of me insists I’m gonna do regardless of that acuity. I have stood at the edge of many metaphorical cliffs saying to myself, don’t jump, it’s gonna hurt, don’t jump, PLEASE don’t jump.
But I always jump. And then as I’m plummeting downward toward the inevitable crash I think, “Christ. Here we are AGAIN. You ASSHOLE.”
I hate falling, but I can’t stop from jumping. I hate change, but I make sameness impossible. Why? Why can’t I just BE GOOD? Clearly this must be due to being a deeply flawed human; why else would I choose to love terrible people, choose to behave in destructive ways, choose chaos over peace? I have felt a great shame and sadness over my own craziness, real and imagined.
But I finally get it. And I’m finally at peace with all of it. And losing that relationship was the leap that put me here. Not because not having that person in my life brings me happiness, but because I learned through that chapter that I did not come here in this body and life to master the perfect relationship with one other person or even a series of persons. I am here to master the relationship with my spirit. My soul has shoved me past logic so many times because those lessons/tools/information were not going to come any other way. Of course I prefer to learn and evolve through joy, and sometimes I do. But for whatever reason I, like most people, usually need a little hard experience to get the point.
When I was in the throes of my deepest sadness and regret I got some therapeutic energy work done and the woman working on me said, “I keep hearing the words ‘I’m sorry’.” I burst into tears and said, “Those words are a mantra on repeat in my head all day and night.” Those words were too small to convey the oceans of sorrow coursing through my system, so they just looped around through my being 24/7, like the blood in my veins.
She closed her eyes and took a moment and said, “But I also just got a clear image of Kali dancing in your heart.”
Ooh, that’s fancy! I liked that, although didn’t immediately feel better. But the work did help and the image of Kali has remained with me. Kali Ma, the fearsome great mother who destroys to create and heal–gotta shout out a big thank you to my friend Carla Kali Ma Salls for first informing me about this amazing Hindu goddess well before I was paying real attention to the spirit realm and its archetypes. If you aren’t currently aware of Kali, do a bit of googling, you won’t be disappointed.
So I knew that vision was to inform me that my heart was strong and knew what it was doing even when the rest of me was not yet on board with the plan. And that I had made some painful, life-breaking choices to burn shit down, burn that baggage from this life and probably others, to release dense energy that needed to go in order for me to become more whole, more self-forgiving, more forgiving of others, lighter, and closer to my divine nature.
Some people reading this will say that this is grand talk from someone who has a boyfriend. To that I will say that this information doesn’t change depending upon whether anyone is in a romantic relationship or not, it just happens to be the particular theme for me in this lifetime. Everyone has those places in their lives that lessons seem to revolve around–money, jobs, health, children, friends or romance. It’s all relationships anyway.
But to answer anyone with curiosity on my personal details – Sam and I have been able to create a trusted support system for one another. He is solid in ways that I’ve not experienced before and I believe he came into my life to help me propel and heal during a time when I needed a soft place to land. It is a safe place for both of us. But because we are at opposite ends of the adult spectrum, our connection is by no means a traditional partnership. We both make a lot of allowances for each other’s freedom and we both know that eventually we will have to make some kind of shift to accommodate the differences in our ages and trajectories.
That’s fully okay with me. I want him to have all the good and bad experiences in life that he’s meant to have, like falling madly in love with someone his own age and running wild with it. It’s hard for a 20-something rock star to run wild with his 50-something girlfriend who is currently obsessed with caftans and prefers a nice glass of champagne on the patio to partying with bands til the sun comes up. I’ve already had all those crazy rock and roll adventures that are new to him and at this stage in life I aspire to Lisa Vanderpump, not Sable Starr.
Although who are we kidding? Maybe more Dixie Wetsworth?
Whatever the outcome I know that my happiness is not dependent upon a relationship status. This is somewhat new for me.
Personal details aside, this is what I wish to impart: those parts of us that are most flawed and cause us the most pain are meant to be there because they are our greatest teachers. We are here in this life and body to learn and experience, but we have to pay attention and listen for the messages if we want to move forward. Sometimes we are pushed to operate in uncomfortable territory and it is dreadful. When we are in the middle of the pain or upheaval it’s difficult to get the information and it always seems to take far longer than we’d like.
In the case of my ex it has taken me years to get clear on what that was all about, to forgive myself and forgive him, and to see how perfectly our imperfections operate in order to bring us closer to our deepest selves. Which is, in my opinion, the true version of God: divine law, divine nature, divine energy, divine love– where we can reside in peace and wholeness.
Forgive yourself. Forgive them. Listen to your intuition. Let go of expectations. Love your present as best you can. Don’t cling to your past or get boxed into a corner by your past stories. Do the work and it will get better. I promise.
Oh, and get fucking vaccinated if you haven’t already. Don’t be a dick.
I talked to a friend yesterday who told me that he ran into what I guess could be called a frenemy. Said frenemy is a woman that I worked with years ago– beautiful, intelligent, similar East Village history. It was not a great combo; I found her abrasive, unnecessarily defensive and territorial, overall a very difficult coworker. At the time I hated every second in her presence and I’m sure she didn’t adore me either. But I could see that she had some good qualities in dealing with other people, and I got over it with time. I thought she did too.
I liken this later time in my life to senior year in high school, when everyone has managed to get close to the finish line and the cliques don’t matter so much. There is a camaraderie of making it through together. It feels the same, for the most part, with all of those rivalries and beefs we had in our youth. The grudges have faded and we’ve matured enough to get past some of the issues that created them in the first place.
The last time I saw this woman was a couple of years ago at a memorial for another mutual friend. We had a nice conversation about what had been going on with us since that job, and I felt good about our interaction and was grateful and pleased that things were friendly. I thought we were great.
So friend who ran into said frenemy said that she told him that the last time she’d seen me I was crying in a dive bar. Now–the part about me crying in the bar is undoubtedly true. As mentioned many times here, I went through a very difficult period a few years ago, and I was drinking and crying all over the damn place. BUT, that was most definitely NOT the last time she saw me and she knows it. The last time she saw me I was not crying or intoxicated and, side note, was wearing really good shoes and an excellent dress.
I was at first confused, then irritated. I thought about sending her a message asking essentially, “Bitch, why??” Why must you perpetuate this ancient, dried brown bad blood by purposely talking shit? Why, whyyyyyyyyyy??? Then my second thought was that if I were to send a message then I too would be perpetuating and it would turn it into a “thing”. And I’m practicing not turning a thing into a thing or being a “right fighter” (thanks, Dr. Phil!), meaning that I understand that I don’t always have to have the last word, and that it’s not my job to harass people for not thinking I’m as awesome as I think they should.
So I let it be. But I like to fester on things for as long as humanly possible in order to maximize internal suffering. And as I was gloomily ruminating (gluminating!) over it, I happened to catch a woman on TV discussing a seemingly unrelated topic, specifically about how movies have often negatively shaped female comparisons and opinions about ourselves, that somehow felt related. Because I am guessing the answer to the why question is a lingering feeling of competition and a need to cut a competitor into more bite sized pieces. So it feels like I’m being nudged to work on this a bit.
The BLM movement has caused me to examine my own personal role in perpetuating racism and white privilege, and it’s been both eye-opening and saddening. I am sad that it’s taken 2/3 of my life to ingest this information, and to understand fully that I have to be proactive in all of my conversations, thoughts and encounters if I want to be a part of the solution.
So along with this I am now also realizing that I must do the same with women. It is imperative to change some ingrained, learned behavior if we are ever to disassemble another prejudicial system–the patriarchy.
This is more complicated for me. First, just typing the word feels yucky. Not because I don’t feel that it exists and needs to be dismantled, but because I don’t like winging it on subjects that feel too large for me. I like to stick to my own little dust-ups and the information I can glean from them.
But this is indeed a personal dust up, if only inside my head. It’s clear that for her there is some residual dislike. In my mind it’s unwarranted, but not unexpected, because women are always suspicious of one another, and often shitty as a result. We slice each other to ribbons with sharp little criticisms, bits of whispered disapproval. gossip that sometimes lies, often exaggerates or gets it at least partially wrong. We undermine our own personal integrity with publicly sanctioned, often whispered, sometimes funny abuse of each other, which rewards us with a temporary feeling of control or superiority.
I have always been a girl’s girl, but I can also act as insecure and mean as anyone else when feeling attacked or defensive. I love words, humor and getting into people’s heads, so I can easily tear someone up either to their face or behind their back with those three things. I want to do better, do the right thing, and I’m definitely closer to it. But I’m realizing that maybe just trying to be nice isn’t the point, isn’t as far as I need to take it.
So what does taking it further entail? I don’t want fake niceness with people I don’t like. It seems kinder to be honest with someone than string them along passive-aggressively. I believe that if I am speaking my truth that gives the other party the control and freedom to live their own truth. So even if it’s not enjoyable in the moment, it’s a cleaner way of living.
So maybe it’s the way we deliver that honesty? I don’t want to give up my dark sense of humor, it keeps me afloat. But what about all the tiny, unnecessary ways that we injure each other without self-awareness, often without the other person’s awareness, under the guise of humor, or even worse, faux concern? The way we judge someone we don’t know or don’t like by weight or appearance, the way we make some snide comment or joke that we quietly know is unfair or bending the truth. And even if it is the truth, couldn’t it be possible to convey that information with compassion and empathy instead of with a sting?
I’m still sorting it out. I feel much more of a kinship with Cersei Lannister than Gandhi. I would very much enjoy blowing up my enemies with green fire while sipping wine. I come up with terrible nicknames for people in my head that no one needs to hear. I tend to snicker when someone who has tormented me falls, probably because it puts scary things/people in a more manageable, less threatening box, which feels empowering in the moment. Winning a war is comforting.
But in the end it’s only a seductive illusion. At the end of the day it denigrates both parties energetically/vibrationally. So that means that in order to move forward I have to start viewing a person as a full entity rather than that quick, disdainful assessment and boxing up that keeps me feeling safe.
This is almost scary; it feels too vulnerable. I’m finding that the first step for me personally is just to keep my big mouth shut. Utilizing a filter is pretty new to me, but I’m guessing that if I get more adept at carefully choosing words, the thoughts might follow. So forgiveness in this case, I think, doesn’t mean pretending it didn’t happen, but it means I can let it die on the vine without retaliation or comment. And I’m grateful for the awareness that came with this little dig. I’m thinking about it, writing about it, and hopefully gaining knowledge from it.
I’m thinking that it could be possible to approach dislike with integrity. It isn’t about reaching for sainthood or trying to be liked by everyone, which can be a form of self-judgment anyway, like “I will try to be better, and then maybe I will deserve love, but I can never be perfect, therefore I can never be loved.” The snake eats its tail.
Any time someone decides that I am behaving in a way they dislike or disapprove, the first criticism leveled at me is always “For someone who spends so much time pretending to be spiritual, you sure are… [insert insult here].” Possibly. It seems strange to criticize someone for working to improve, but it’s an easy dig in my case. For me, any spiritual leanings are primarily about finding ways to live and think that remove pain and create joy, because I hate feeling bad and much prefer to feel happy. So the goal, whether you call it spiritual work or not, becomes simply about protecting one’s peace of mind: I don’t want to waste one more minute of my life dealing with competitive schism because it makes me feel bad.
And then if that feels palatable, we can move to the admittedly more global/spiritual level, and consider that if we shift our own personal consciousness to be happier, that in turn nudges the collective conscious closer to a world in which we don’t have to make a decision on whether to deal with bitchiness or not, because it no longer exists as a standard or readily acceptable means of relating to one another.
Women can do better, people can do better, and I think many of us are ready for it. I do believe that we are in the age of Aquarius and that a new world is slowly coming to fruition. But it’s at a glacial pace and I get disheartened sometimes when I look at things on the large scale. These little changes feel more doable. I can’t control the world but I can control my small piece of it, and maybe influence someone whose small piece is adjacent to mine, and then boom! Patriarchy dismantled, all animals and children are treated with respect and kindness, people notice my awesome shoes and forget they saw me crying in a bar in 2016.
I have been debating posting this story (below) that I read recently at a livestream benefit for The Wild Project. I have all these tales from the past that people love, but that are most definitely not coming from a 2021 kinda woke place. Which is part of the reason that my friends love them, but sometimes I’m afraid to stir up certain old energies publicly, especially after a devastating break-up promptly followed by an unwarranted series off attacks I received in 2019 and 2020, starting with the laptop dummies, an ex’s impossible-to-placate girlfriend, a pissed off junkie I barely know, and a misogynist fool who is inexplicably angry at me because Sam doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. It was a parade of meanness, to the point that I have had so much vicious and erroneous shit said about me and to me via the internet that the attention is almost flattering.
Happily all of that misdirected hatred being flung like monkey poo seems to be in the rearview mirror. I’m sure they still hate me, but if I am not put in a position where I have to respond, they can feel however they want. The upside to all of that is a shiny new, much thicker skin and the lightness of emotional freedom.
I was trained from an early age to mistrust my intuition and instinct, to say yes when I wanted to say no, to feel constant shame about my very being, my body, my thoughts, and to hide away my true self and true feelings or risk being punished or mocked. I have spent much of my adult life trying to understand what happened, how it unconsciously directed so many bad choices, and to clear out that baggage. I am only now becoming able to forgive myself for all of my shortcomings, and to at least contemplate the idea that I am not a bad person. Maybe even a good one? The mind boggles at the possibility.
I know that I have been given certain gifts this lifetime in order to speak for and to like-minded people who have similar experiences and feelings, and to allow a window into a life that some people would like to experience. I feel that connection and obligation when I write and I always try to be as true and honest as I can be within the confines of not outing or harming the people in my orbit. The attacks left me fearful and somewhat voiceless, but I’m ready to get back to what the Universe keeps nudging me to do, which is simply write it down when it circles my brain.
Okay, so with all of that in mind, here’s the story I read. I thought the theater would have the livestream up for viewing after the event, but it’s just as well that they didn’t because it was so effing cold in there that my nose ran and I shook so hard that it appeared I might have some substance issues of my own. If they ever do post it I’ll add the link. This is edited for a live situation, meaning some details are cut out for brevity’s sake.
Betsy was going to get it.
I was Queen Vixen of the Cycle Sluts from Hell goddamnit. You did not fuck my man and walk away unscathed. I did not operate that way. I was a powder keg of emotion on a good day, and this was definitely not a good day. Or week. Or month.
I lost countless hours of sleep festering over the details: imagining her and my faithless boyfriend in bed together, smiling at each other over their clever deception. Then in order to keep my heart from exploding in agony I would imagine all the ways that I would make them suffer. I pictured tearing her throat out with my teeth or pushing my long fingernails into her eyes, blood spraying everywhere as she screamed in pain and terror.
This did bring some brief comfort.
She knew she was in trouble and laid low for months. I went everywhere with an army of loyal mean girls and we had a strict code about right and wrong, meaning mostly that we got to do whatever we wanted while less locked-in females did not. We brooked no disrespect in our scene.
I kept an eye out constantly but by the time she finally showed up at a Manowar concert at the Ritz, I had almost forgotten to scan the crowd for her basic brown bob. So it was a surprise when she passed me in the fray of people, distracted and smiling with friends.
The audacity. I felt myself go hot; red flashed behind my eyes and flooded through my body and my vibrating arm shot out of its own accord before anyone could register what was happening. Cycle Slut sisters Dolly Dagger and Nyquil Nancy slammed into my back as I stopped short and lunged.
I snatched Betsy by the front of her shirt and yanked her face close to mine. I held my lit cigarette an inch from her cheek while tall, scary Nancy and always-up-for-a-scuffle Dolly glared backup behind me. We were dressed in our uniform of short leather jackets, cut off denim shorts and thigh high leather boots, looking (intentionally) like something out of a 70’s B-grade biker film.
Time slowed and stretched. Betsy stood very still, her two friends frozen wide-eyed behind her. Her eyes flicked down to the cigarette and back to me.
I said, “You fucking bitch. You whore. You think you can just show up and hang out now? You think you still have that right? I’m going to fucking kill you, you know that? I’m going to kick your fucking ass.”
Still glancing at the cigarette millimeters from her cheek, she replied in a shaky voice, “There’s nothing to fight over. I don’t want to fight with you. I don’t want Curt. You can have him.”
I smiled grimly and hissed, “Oh, but I don’t want him. I want YOU.”
I shoved her away from me and she stumbled backward into her friends. A long-haired dude watching nearby said, “Hey, that last line was pretty good! Did you make that up on the spot?” I ignored him and stomped away to try to get my pals working security to throw her out of the club.
After that, it was only a matter of time. She continued to avoid venues and parties that I might venture into, which was pretty much anything rock and roll based on any night. She would show up here and there, never staying if she spotted me. And I always made sure that she spotted me. I reached out through the crowd and slapped her hard on the back of the head as she walked through the Scrap Bar. I shoved her at the Cat Club. She had a friend with her, a seat-filler who looked a bit like me and considered herself my competition. She got in my face and shouted, “Leave her alone, Raff!”
I said, “You’re gonna get it too, you fucking cunt.” I snatched her bondage cap off her head and threw it into the crowd. It sailed over the dance floor like a Frisbee.
“Go get your hat, twat. You look like shit without it.”
Eventually though, Betsy tired of life underground. There was a lot of fun to be had back then and she was too young to stay home.
Raging Slab headlined a gig at a club called Downtown, and it was one of those nights where everyone and their bass player showed up. My band, my unfaithful boyfriend’s band Blitzspeer, Joey Ramone, Circus of Power, White Zombie, the Hells Angels… Everyone attended this show, including her.
I was primed for it, and when she walked a little too closely to me as I took a swig of beer, I chose the opportunity to spit a mouthful of liquid directly into her face. It was harsh; I shocked even myself with the crassness of it. She looked stunned for a moment as beer and spit dripped down her face, and then her expression shifted awake and she jumped on me, grabbing for my hair. Her sister pounced on Nancy. Other girls jumped in and within seconds there was a full on girl brawl on the dance floor: hair pulling, screaming, bystanders getting knocked out of the way. I’ve never seen anything like it, before or since.
I had been counting down to this moment. Betsy was not a person to me anymore, she was simply the Enemy, capital E. She embodied all the pain and betrayal, real or imagined, that I’d experienced up until then: the self-esteem obliteration that comes with being raised Catholic, daddy issues and abandonment of death, the diabolical behavior of high school girls, date rape, Curt’s incessant lies and verbal cuts, myriad major and minor heartbreaks, real or imagined. I was drowning in sadness and anger was the only thing that kept me afloat. I had managed to climb out of the Midwest and recreate myself as a big fish in the rock and roll pond of New York City, and I should have enjoyed it, but sadly I never did. Instead I lived like there was a war on. All I ever thought about was defense. Better to burn than to feel burning tears.
I exploded outwardly, tight fists swinging at her face. Betsy continued to pull my hair trying to hold my head down. I flung my purse off my arm and grabbed at her hands with one hand and punched upward with the other, where I knew my fist could connect. She was no match for me but she held onto my hair with a deathgrip. I kicked her off her feet and shoved us both to the ground.
I wore a Zack ring, which was very popular at the time, solid pewter with heavy jagged edges pointing straight upward. It was a small but evil weapon. I slammed my fist into her as she crouched on her knees, now just trying to protect her face with her hands and the ground. I could only make contact with her forehead, but I hit it with full force. It felt good to hit her, hit something firm and real for a change. I couldn’t feel the ring cutting into my hand.
The fight was broken up quickly enough; the boys grabbed their flailing girlfriends and dragged them apart. Betsy and friends left or were ejected and our side retired victorious to the bathroom for clean-up. My bag had been stolen. I had a bleeding scratch over my lip and my hand ached from so much pounding, the ring finger cut and bruised. We fixed our faces; I wiped away the blood on mine. Nancy and I hugged and I said, “I fucking love you man!”
I could not have been happier. We went back to the bar where Butch, the president of the Hell’s Angels, had a celebratory kamikaze shot waiting for me. But as he handed me the glass his eyes widened and he said, “Cops are here, you gotta hide.”
Someone shoved us into a back room, but it was too late. Seconds later the door flew open to reveal two cops with Betsy behind them with a swollen, bloody forehead. It looked like raw meat. Nancy and I were handcuffed in front of all of our friends and led wild-eyed out of the club.
I was stunned. This possibility had never occurred to me. No one ever called the cops in New York in the 80’s. You just duked it out and then went back on about your business. Sometimes you’d buy each other a drink afterward and become best friends.
I was held in the 9th precinct, then chained hands and feet to a group of other female arrestees, then hauled in a van to the Tombs, where I spent the better part of a weekend laying on cold concrete, learning the intricacies of crack use and street prostitution. It was the longest 30 hours of my life. Curt called my mom to tell on me and she laughed and said, “Well, she’s your problem now!”
I was lucky. Nancy went to jail too, so I had a friend along for the dry bologna sandwiches and wailing junkies writhing around us on the floor. Our arresting officers liked us and gave us candy bars and helped me pass off the ring surreptitiously to Curt before going in. Otherwise it would have been considered a weapon and brought with it a felony assault charge. Rock writer Lisa Robinson wrote about the arrest in the Post, and Bob Gruen photographed me leaning on the cop car, so the band got some press out of it. Eventually Betsy dropped the charges in exchange for my promise to stop tormenting her, which set me on the road to some of the deeper lessons in my life: humility, compassion, forgiveness… impulse control. She went on to get a black belt in karate, I’m assuming, just in case. We are friendlier now and I promised that I wouldn’t make her look too bad. She’s a mom now and I changed her name here.
Decades later Betsy told me that after the fight she went to a friend’s house to get a knife, to wait in front of my apartment and kill me when I came home. The wannabe in the bondage cap talked her into calling the police. I should have beat her up instead, I discovered later that she was calling Curt late at night behind both our backs; Betsy just managed to get there first. In any case, I think I probably would have preferred the early morning knife fight back then. I thought I was going to die young and that kind of end could have made me a legend. Curt would be sorry, she’d go to prison, my friends would hold a big memorial, it would have been glorious. But life sometimes has other, more mundane plans in mind. Still, I get a good giggle out of thinking about it. So much passion! Like West Side Story but with sluttier outfits.
A few years ago, a much better boyfriend than Curt, upon hearing this story, rolled his eyes and said, “You can’t just beat everyone up, Mary.” To which I replied, “Well, I know that…NOW.”
It is certainly easier to be 50 than it is to be 20. It’s taken me a long time to understand that when we operate defensively we are often at our most offensive. But that which does not kill us, makes us friends on facebook, and that’s kind of okay.
I’ve gotta get back into this blog because I keep getting asked to do things that point back to it. Just this month I’ve done a livestream reading to benefit the Wild Project, Tattoos For Women did a multi-page feature on me, I sat in on a podcast with Inebrination, a radio interview with Heavy Metal Han, answered interview questions for a French book about Motorhead and was just informed by someone at KNAC.com that the Cycle Sluts 30th anniversary is coming up and they want to do a piece on the band. I had no idea we even had an anniversary. Anyway, all great avenues to promote myself, but also pressure to shut down the Xbox and create something to promote.
For whatever reason I was born under a lucky star and attention comes whether I ask for it or not. Much like romance, I’ve spent my life embracing it one minute and then pushing it away the next. And now it centers around this little blog, which has been great for me and happily for some of you, but this extended downtime has shut down any urge to pontificate as well. In the face of too much to say, I haven’t felt the urge to say anything.
In the interest of combatting entropy, I’ve decided that until the muse calls, I’ll post some old stories. I have enough of them already written down, everyone enjoys the tales of yore, and it helps me to have them warehoused somewhere.
But before that, as many of you know, recently my dog went missing. He slipped out of my building while I was distracted and then simply disappeared into the ether. It was a hellish day. A dear friend put up a large reward for his return and while I wandered the streets in tears, taping flyers to lamp posts and looking under cars, I got hammered via text by a tag team of scammers who became increasingly threatening as they tried to extort money prior to “returning the dog”. At the end of the day, as I trudged hopeless and aimless outdoors in order not to have to face down a long night of staring at the ceiling in anguish, I got a call from a lovely woman who had picked him up and taken him home when she saw him frightened and alone in front of my building. She refused all reward and told me he was very well behaved. I was extremely lucky…again.
The lesson for me, beyond to always have ID on every collar and harness is that there are many, many, many lovely people out in the world. With all of the turmoil we’ve been through over the last year and a half, it’s easy to get cynical. I was blown away by all of the shares, messages, texts, emails, and visits to my neighborhood to help out. People showed up and searched without even telling me. My posts about it were shared thousands of times. I was blown away by the outpouring of kindness from friends and strangers. And now that he’s found I get stopped on every walk by strangers who are excited to see that he’s safe.
So I guess the message I’d like to impart today is that there is hope for us as a species, and to not to get bogged down in the negative. There are more people in your corner than you know.
ALICE MAGAZINE INTERVIEW SAM HARISS/DAVE TIERNEY/JOHNNY EGGZ/RAFF/CHRISTA ELIZABETH:
Okay, pre-pandemic I did an interview for Alice Magazine with Sam Hariss and Dave Tierney of The Sweet Things. And because I’m lazy and I like to eat, I asked our friend Johnny Eggz to make dinner so we could sit around and talk and I’d record it and make that the interview. Johnny plays guitar for Sheer Terror, is an amazing cook and one of the funniest people I know, and his wife Christa is awesome.
The article was published, with photos taken by the Uber-talented Johan Vipper. I can’t find it online so if anyone can, feel free to send me the links and I’ll add them here. Because we talked for so long, a lot of bits had to be cut out. So here’s some of the excerpts that didn’t make the cut.
ME: All right, let’s do this. Where did you guys get together? There was mention of a Hebrew summer camp? Or did I dream that?
DAVE: I think our bio says we met at a bar mitzvah.
SAM: It does. I had known Lorne from around. We had talked about playing together but somehow he got the idea that I was flakey (laughs).
JOHNNY EGGZ: Naaaaah!
ME: That sounds about right.
SAM: Regardless of that he suggested me for a tour that Dave was doing. Joan Jett had just passed on me for playing with her band so I was kind of bummed…
DAVE: And I didn’t have the luxury of being as discerning as Joan.
ME: So Lorne suggested you for The Sharp Lads?
DAVE: Yeah, we were doing a tour back in January of 2015 and I asked Lorne, who couldn’t do it, and then suggested Sam.
SAM: So that happened, and then we were on the road, and Dave and I had kind of clicked musically, we were into the same bands – The Black Crowes and a lot of that kind of shit, whoever ripped off Keith Richards essentially. And I wanted to be in one of them. We were in Baltimore and Dave suggested we start a band; but he had two other bands already, so I told him that I would only do it if it wasn’t a side project and that he had to quit his other bands. I don’t know how I had the balls to say that because I had nothing going on at the time. But he agreed. So he finished out two more tours with The Sharp Lads and then wrote the first two Sweet Things songs in New Orleans. And then we had our first practice and I didn’t go.
DAVE: Well, me and Lorne had been talking about doing this band for a while and then he said, “Get HIM to be our bass player.”
RAFF: Poor Lorne…
DAVE: Yeah, and now we’re in this life sentence…Haha! So I was waiting for them to show up at practice and I worked on a cover of “Cokin” and then wrote “Love to Leave”
RAFF: Which is still one of everybody’s favorite songs.
DAVE: Yeah, it’s still like maybe our best song!
RAFF: So, your new album “In Borrowed Shoes On Borrowed Time” is veering into country territory, which people probably aren’t expecting.
SAM: Well, we really like cowboy shirts! And we all kind of privately really like country and realized that everyone else in the band knew what good country was and had a knack for it. And you get bored listening to the same three rock and roll albums so it was something new and isn’t being done well by many people we know right now. So it’s kind of a cool little niche to mix with what we’re already doing.
DAVE: We’re not doing it too consciously; we’re just following the muse. But you tend to find more good songwriters in the country genre. Or for me maybe it’s just ones I didn’t know because I didn’t listen to it growing up. I thought it was an obscure type of ethnic music and I didn’t know anyone who listened to it. I probably listened to some stuff that I didn’t know was country? Like my parents had Neil Young albums, which some of that kind of stuff could fall under the category.
RAFF: Yeah, but growing up we didn’t think that was country. Or I didn’t.
DAVE: Yeah, it doesn’t make it onto that rack in the record store but it’s really not that different.
SAM: I got into it first and foremost because of Keith. I liked Faraway Eyes and that was the gateway.
RAFF (joking): So you like Keith Richards, do ya?
DAVE: I think once, a long time ago, I meant to download a Flamin’ Groovies record and I accidentally got the Flying Burrito Brothers instead. And I loved it.
SAM: Yeah, and then it went from Keith to Gram Parsons. Who, side note, just couldn’t hold his heroin.
RAFF: So let’s talk about the drumming situation. It’s just the three of you right now with fill ins because you lost Darren Fried?
SAM: We had a great replacement for a day but he’s French and couldn’t stay in the country. Darren was great for us. He had a good mixture of two things that he always says…
DAVE: He can play rock music and he’s a hard hitter but he can find the groove. He can put the tiniest bit of swing in it that makes you want to move.
SAM: And he can fill out a pair of denim shorts like nobody else.
WIVES HATING BANDS:
JOHNNY EGGZ: If you’re married to some kinda broad who makes you quit your band, it’s not gonna last.
RAFF: But a lot of guys that we know have this happen. I know so many men who married women who thought it was cute in the beginning and then not so much once they’re married.
JOHNNY EGGZ: They aaaaall do.
RAFF: I don’t! I would never! I feel like it’s the same thing as marrying a painter and then telling them they can never create art again. Why would you want to take something that big away from someone if it made them happy?
JOHNNY EGGZ: But you’re not a civilian. When I met my wife I realized she’s not a civilian. She’s an actress, she wrote movies, she sings in bands. She understands. Who else is gonna say, “Oh, you’re gonna be in France for my birthday, you’re not gonna be home for Christmas? Okay, have a good time!” Doesn’t happen. You did it, you were in the Cycle Sluts, that’s why you get it.
SAM (joking, to Raff): Luckily that hasn’t happened to us!
RAFF: Haha! I hated it all from the get. Okay, what’s the plan for this year?
DAVE: The new record is coming out May 24th (2019), music video coming out after that, touring after that.
JOHNNY EGGZ: Who’s putting the record out?
DAVE: Spaghetty Town Records out of Georgia. They have some really cool bands on their label.
DAVE: Yeah, at Flux Studios and then a ton of overdubs at Mercy Sound where we brought in a lot of guests.
RAFF: Let’s talk about that.
SAM: We got Alejandro Escovedo on the record. It’s funny, because I think of him as an Americana/country kind of artist, and a lot of these guys that we’ve become cool with like that, we like because that’s what they do. And they like us because they like punk. So I could tell when he came in that he was thinking that he was going to be able to do something where he could do a bit of yelling and we made him do his usual thing. So we got him on a second song that was still not yelling, but more of a ballad. And you know, he was in The Nuns, so I told him we should cover that Nuns song, what’s it called?
DAVE: Neurotic Jew?
SAM: No, it’s even worse, like Cheap Jew or something like that?
DAVE: Uptight Jew? The singer, I think, was Jewish?
[Ed. note – Google tells us it’s “Decadent Jew”]
SAM: We’re all Jews, and nobody dislikes Jewish people as much as Jewish people, because we had to grow up with each other. Anyway, so yes, we had Alejandro, and the Uptown Horns, who have played with everybody from the Stones to James Brown to Billy Joel…
DAVE: Plus our good friend Liza Colby who has been singing with us for a long time, Brian Hurd from Daddy Long Legs on the tin sandwich, and Rob Clores on keyboards.
SAM: Yes, he played with The Black Crowes and Tom Jones. Oh, and shout out to the guy in the comments section on the article about us in Metal Sucks who said we were “slightly less metal than the Blues Travelers”,– Rob also played with The Blues Travelers. So full circle there!
DAVE: Rob is like our secret weapon. We asked him to play piano and organ and he came in with a clavinet.
JOHNNY EGGZ: I was almost on that show.
RAFF: Really? What happened?
JOHNNY EGGZ: So I’m on the fuckin’ Staten Island Ferry talking to this guy Doc on the phone about how he had moved to 168th Street. And I was saying, “168th Street? Motherfucker you moved UPSTATE. Jesus Christ, what the fuck!” On and on, whatever I’m saying and there’s this woman across from me reading a book and going like this for the whole half hour ride. (Motions looking over the top of the book)
And then finally I get off the phone and she closes the book and puts it on her lap and goes, “Are you an actor?”
I said, “Nah! I’m a guitar player.” And she said, “Do you wanna be?”
And I’m like, “All right. The broad wants to fuck me. I’ll bite.” She gives me her card and says be in her office at 10 am the next day. I still don’t think it’s real but I thought, eh, what the hell. This is gonna be fun.
Next day I go to the office and I walk in and I get into the lobby and say, “Rita Powers?” and they send me in the elevator and it goes up and opens and the sign says, “Powers Management”. So I think, “Shit, this is fucking real!”
She sits me down and she tells me she’s going to get me the Sopranos. And I tell her I don’t know how to act. She says, “You just be you. But we have to build you a little and get you in front of the camera so you get to know what the hell is going on. They’re not gonna put up with someone who doesn’t know so you’re gonna have to do some things before that.”
So I’m like, “Cool!” I signed the contract, now she’s my agent. The first thing she has for me is a Nokia commercial. So I show up in Times Square, outside, for this commercial, looking like the Fonz. She’s not there, so I’m walking around like a fuckin’ asshole that doesn’t know anything. I’m like fucking Crocodile Dundee being friendly to all the other actors because I don’t know that actors and actresses are fuckin’ assholes. And they fuckin’ hated me. I’m walking around saying, “How ya doin’? How ya doin’?” And they’re just miserable people.
So they realize that I don’t belong and they’re like, “How did you get this?” So I tell them, well, I was sitting on the ferry and blah, blah… And NOW they really hate my fuckin’ guts. Because these people have been working their whole lives to get this and I’m just some jabroni that wandered in off a boat and said, “Hey, I’m an actor now!”
So they’re looking at me and I’ve got the black pompadour and my whole deal, like a heroin addicted fuckin’ Dean Martin. And they say, “This isn’t gonna work.” And I’m like, whaddya mean, this is me! But they pound my hair down and they put me in a hoodie that says Nokia on it and they give me fuckin’ pom poms.
Finally Rita shows up and I’m like, “What the fuck is this?? Look at me, I’m holding fuckin’ POM POMS!”
She’s like, “It’s acting!” And I say, “I’m a guitar player! This isn’t me!” And she looks at me and says, “Well what fuckin’ label are you signed to right now? None? Okay, you’re an actor. Go act!” And I fuckin’ did it. A fuckin’ Nokia commercial!
BANDS SWEET THINGS WANT TO PLAY WITH…
RAFF: Okay, back to music…Sweet Things, give me a list of bands you’d like to play with. Let’s put it out into the universe.
SAM: The Rolling Stones.
DAVE: I wanna play with Ryan Bingham. He’s my favorite kind of songwriter these days. And I like the new Jenny Lewis album.
JOHNNY EGGZ: Jerry Lewis??
DAVE: Jenny or Jerry Lewis. We’ll take either. Old 97’s…
SAM: Blackberry Smoke, Chris Robinson’s band As the Crow Flies…
DAVE: When I was younger people always told me I looked like Chris Robinson. I don’t get it anymore but like 10 years ago. When you have long hair you always get comparisons to whoever. Dumb shit, like Kurt Cobain.
SAM: I get Slash all the time and I look nothing like him. It’s just the hair and hats.
JOHNNY EGGZ: I hate Led Zeppelin. Hate ‘em.
RAFF: Really? Well, you’re a real punk, so it makes sense.
JOHNNY EGGZ: I hate all of it. I hate Led Zeppelin. I hate Pink Floyd. I hate Journey.
RAFF: Well, I tried to explain to Sam that when we were kids you had to align with one or the other. So I liked Led Zeppelin but I couldn’t admit it to the people I was hanging out with because that wasn’t our identity. We were punks.
DAVE: My stock answer when I was in high school was “I like punk and Led Zeppelin”.
JOHNNY EGGZ: I think I hated them more because I hated their fans.
RAFF: Well, there was such a divide at that time. Way more for Johnny and my generation than for yours. You were either a stoner kid that listened to Zeppelin or you were a punk that got shit in the school hallways.
JOHNNY EGGZ: It was fucking HARD. Being 14 or 15 years old and being a punk rocker, a hardcore kid. I got my ass kicked for having blue hair. “Freak! Fag!”
DAVE: Yeah, when I was really little Green Day was the thing. So we thought we were punk rock.
RAFF: And to me, I just thought, great, now we’re rehashing and watering down this shit? I love them as people. Billie Joe in particular is, in my mind, one of the loveliest humans to grace this planet, but it was for kids and I wasn’t a kid by then. Although now when I hear their songs I think I was too hard on them, they’re great writers.
JOHNNY EGGZ: I’m sure they’re great guys! But my God, don’t make this music. Unless they want us on the tour! Then I’m all over it.
RAFF: Well, D Generation toured with them and I traveled on a few of the dates as a girlfriend, which is so annoying to bandmates but somehow it happened. So I was in France and England for a short while and they were awesome. So generous, so fun, so cool. They would hold up a show if the audience wasn’t there yet to make sure that D Gen got to play to the crowd, which was all little kids with green hair.
JOHNNY EGGZ Lemme tell ya. D Gen is the best band out of New York that didn’t get over the hump. Best band that never made it, period. They should have been the biggest band in the world. They were great in the cities, you just couldn’t put them over in Wisconsin. They were too smart for the room in the smaller towns. The resurgence of punk was right there. Every asshole band was huge and D Gen was better than them all but they didn’t dumb themselves down enough for mass consumption.
RAFF: Well, hardcore has never been the most glamorous of genres.
JOHNNY EGGZ: No. But other bands get broads coming to their show–Madball, and Ignostic Front, Jimmy [of Murphy’s Law] gets the girls. It’s not Sheer Terror though. Look at us! (points to a poster of the band on the wall).
SAM: Well, your logo is a bulldog.
JOHNNY EGGZ: No, I’m talking about the picture of us. You know what I mean? We’re just not, know …
CHRISTA: Underwritten by Bausch and Lomb.
JOHNNY EGGZ: Yeah. Paul’s onstage [frontman Paul Bearer]. He looks at us, and just goes, “We got an endorsement from Pearl Vision Center.”
RAFF: Haha! I like Paul. He’s funny.
JOHNNY EGGZ : He’s probably one of the funniest people I know.
RAFF: But in this very dry kind of way that I find entertaining.
JOHNNY EGGZ: In a weird kinda way. He comes up with the weirdest shit, just … goes on, and on, and on with it. Like, we’re in a van. We’re driving fucking nine hours to the next town. Jason, the guy with the glasses standing next to me [on the poster], he’s heavy. He’s 350 pounds. You see Anthony, all the way on the other end? He’s young. He’s only 30 years old, and he’s little, very little. He’s, like, standing on his tippy toes to look like that in the picture. Paul will be like, “Jay,” that’s the heavy guy, “If we were caught in a plane crash, and we were stranded on an island, and Anthony was very sick and too weak, would you let him suckle from your breast, if that meant he would live?”
(Everyone erupts in laughter)
Then, Jay is like, “NO. The fuck you talking about?” Then, Paul would be like, “You hear that, Anthony? He’d let you die.”
And we’re all laughing and you think it’s over, but he just keeps going. “Now, you mean to say, if that was the ONLY way he could survive, you wouldn’t let him–”
SAM: Suckle from your breast?
JOHNNY EGGZ: Jay says, “I’m a guy! I don’t lactate!” “Okay, let’s say you DID lactate, you COULD lactate, would you give sustenance?” It just goes on and on. Then, Jay’ll put the headphones so now he doesn’t even hear it. Now, Jay’s out of it. And Paul’s just going on, and on, and on, and on, and on. Then Jay’ll take the headphones off an hour later, and he’ll hear what Paul is saying, and he’ll be like, “This is still fucking going on?”
JOHNNY EGGZ: I’m the naked guy. I’m always naked. It cuts the tension when the band is bickering.
RAFF: Just to get naked?
JOHNNY EGGZ: Just get naked, and just walk in. You can’t sell it. You walk in the room, and be like, “What’s up, guys? What’s up? I heard some yelling. What’s everybody yelling about? Anybody got any potato chips?”
RAFF: Dave could probably get naked, but Sam never would.
I have always been of the opinion that most people are decent and do their best, but 2020 is doing it’s own best to test that opinion.
This year has separated us out in extreme ways. The obvious – Red vs. Blue, rich vs. poor, those are easy to see. But there’s a deeper rift. Fear and inability to adapt to change make some people behave in terrible ways. We are seeing so much rage in the streets, in social media, in the news. It’s daunting, to say the least, especially when people are already worried about money and their health. Having to look over your shoulder to go to the grocery store when you already can’t breathe in a mask feels like too much. Not knowing when you can go back to work and stopping by Facebook to get hit in the face with conspiracies and rage, that’s too much. It’s all too much right now.
I started this blog on myspace, for my close friends. I had always kept a diary as a kid so writing stories and thoughts came easily. It was both an outlet and a means of connecting with people I liked. I had maybe 10 readers on a good day and I was fine with that. Over time it expanded and if I’m writing regularly I get 2000-3000 hits a month. During that shift an awakening happened for me in which I realized that everything I felt: sadness, joy, pain, confusion, etc., were exactly the same things that everyone else felt in their lives and psyches. It was a light bulb switching on. Then added to that gift, I discovered that my expression of my own feelings helped other people feel less alone and make sense of their own feelings. I get emails, Facebook messages, texts, and the connection and healing brings me joy. And through that connection I was able to understand the lofty spiritual concept of “all one” that I had been struggling with up until then.
I have never been private about what is happening with me, unless to protect someone else. My attitude has always been that I’d rather people get the story from the horse’s mouth than through a game of telephone. And because I have been in a bubble of positive messages and connections, I never imagined that there would be a contingent of watchers who do not wish to connect, who view the world with suspicious and jealous eyes, and to them my stories meant to entertain or inform look like bragging. These people do not rejoice in others success or wish others well. So this blog, and my social media can also a place to mine for ammunition.
Over the last two or three years I’ve both found a lot of happiness and success, and at the same time have had the absolute shit beaten out of me. The one person I thought would always love me and be in my life cut me out altogether. Then came the two dummies with their never-ending, very public laptop theft smear campaign that went on for months and months. Then I got attacked and called an embarrassment for posting old photos of me from the 90’s with someone else’s boyfriend. Got over that, then fake pages designed to humiliate me and my friends were created on Facebook. And during all of this there was a smattering of people that I had blocked on Instagram and Facebook who still managed to get to my page, using spouses and friend’s social media, and then commenting on their pages about anything I posted or did. Grown people waiting like spiders for real or imagined transgressions to pounce upon and publicly suck dry.
I am always determined to understand the reasons for bad moments because I don’t want to have to repeat any lesson that comes my way. I’ve had enough of learning things the hard way. I don’t have the anger I used to carry; it’s been replaced by curiosity and a desire to heal. So each time one of these things has happened I’ve asked myself, “What have I done to create this for myself?” Or maybe more accurately, “What is the energy that I am vibrating that is aligning with hurtful energy?”
Sometimes it seems that some people are shitty and jealous regardless of how nice you try to be to them. Sometimes I get the reason for the experience. After laptopgate I finally stopped caring what people were thinking or saying about me and that was an important step in my evolution. It was a painful way to burn off baggage, but it worked.
I thought I was past any more of that nonsense, lesson learned. Then last week I received an overlong, threatening, vicious, unhinged diatribe from an acquaintance who doesn’t like that I don’t like Trump. Up until that time this person had been sending me nice messages here and there so I never imagined that there was an issue. In this lengthy missive I was called grandma, a joke, a braggart, a scammer, ugly, embarrassing, pretty much any insult you can hurl at a woman of a certain age, along with a final threat to troll my neighborhood (having paid attention to where I live) for some kind of old lady throw down. And the most frightening, unwritten message was in between the lines: I am being watched very closely by eyes with malevolent intent behind them.
It was disconcerting to say the least. Then while processing that, mere hours later I got another message from a blocked person, a grown man with children and a business, reiterating that everyone laughs at me for my age and braggadocio, that I scam for a living and have no real friends. I answered as compassionately as I could and told him not to contact me again. And then because I didn’t respond in kind, later that night he set up a fake instagram profile to try to humiliate me. So boom, another person lurking in the shadows, watching and waiting for the chance to attack.
I have been given a lot in this life and I know these people think I’ve taken too much. I write stories about my rock and roll adventures because my friends find it entertaining, these people assume it’s because I’m trying to put myself up on some kind of pedestal which they must then knock down. My relationship with Sam infuriates many because he is so much younger. It’s as if I’ve taken all the steak at the buffet table. My work life is chugging along and the rewards are visible, so I must be kissing ass and scamming to make that happen. And I have been called beautiful for too long, it’s high time to let me know that I am no longer young enough to be told that again.
Anyway, my intention for this blog is not to drum up a conversation about my haters. We have much bigger fish to fry and I get that this is an elegant problem when most people are in survival mode. I tell you all this because it is making me think about what kind of mindset is necessary for survival right now. So what I really want to talk about is how we remain in the light during a year when there is very little of it to be had. And I want to understand how we take care of ourselves in this current world of lurking haters, self-serving leaders, and divided opinions.
I think this is a dialogue we need to be having with each other on the reg. We cannot survive this time period intact without constantly supporting and loving each other through it. I would not be able to take the high road with my current haters if I didn’t have a support system of loving people around me who remind me every day, through their actions and words, to not step into the muck that is being placed before me. I want to be able to pay that forward somehow.
I watched and posted a short video recently in which a woman stated that we are going to be seeing more and more rage over the next few months, and that it is our job as light workers not to allow it to become part of us. But what does that mean? How can people not feel afraid, angry, hurt, frustrated, overtaxed, and desperate under the current circumstances? And how do you keep from reacting or operating from those feelings?
I believe that our souls are in the matrix experimenting with different ways of being: different bodies, different experiences, many lives. But even if you think the same way, those lofty ideas don’t help much in the physical world when rent is due and there is no income or our loved ones are ill. It’s annoying to hear this shit when reality feels so real right now. But my mother and her new agey sources continue to tell me that we chose to be here during this pivotal time because we were ready to act as light workers or we were up for the challenge in some other way.
This is my mindset today, and I hope it can help any of you who are struggling: I understand that it’s okay to feel and acknowledge the overwhelming anger and frustration, but at the same time I can still make a conscious choice on how I react, on whether I perpetuate and pass on the negativity or let it stop with me. Maybe it’s just a drop in the bucket of collective consciousness, but it appears that every drop is needed right now. And at the end of the day I’m simply happier if I don’t engage in the bullshit. I want to be happy. I want you to be happy, even you haters, not because I’m a saint but because I’m selfish and your shitty vibrations impact mine.
Lastly, it’s my birthday tomorrow. I’m turning 58. I’ve never written my exact age because I don’t like being tethered to any number when there are so many other factors. But because so many of the insults hurled at me lately have to do with my age, sadly from people who are in the same age range, it feels appropriate to say it this year. I have no shame about my time on this planet, and my value doesn’t begin and end with whether I’m deemed fuckable or not. You can’t injure me by calling me old or grandma. That’s the beauty of reaching crone status: we don’t have the time and energy for your petty shit when there’s a world that needs fixing.
Namaste, bitches. Thank you for all that you do every day to make this world a better place.
My writing forte is my ridiculous personal and professional life–not science or world politics or revolutionary upheaval. I don’t want to get yelled at by strangers. I don’t want to speak on things outside of my expertise. I’d much rather speak of my sister’s freakishly large and shiny puppy who at seven months is already 92 lbs. She was all set to train him to root out morel mushrooms and it turns out he’s got a great nose but hates the smell of mushrooms. So if you ever need a too-large, extremely cheerful, exclusively flower sniffing dog, give her a buzz.
So I shall forge ahead. It’s overdue and I appreciate that people are asking for one.
This week I had a socially distant but in person meeting with two of my business partners, one who is European and an educated intellectual who generally resides in the South with a lesser-educated, Trumpian roommate who hammers him all day long about the Yankee plandemic designed to take God-fearing first testament lovers down into that blue layer of hell in which you are not allowed to bring an assault rifle or a confederate flag. So, as you can imagine, said business partner is starved for deeper political conversation with urbanites whose thoughts are more closely aligned with his opinions.
But my other partner and I, being New Yorkers, are exhausted and shell-shocked from the months of covid isolation and protests and riots. The last thing either he or I can deal with right now is a heavy discussion of any kind. We just want to get through each day, one at a time, relatively unscathed, until we can emerge on the other side with limbs and homes intact.
But third partner is young and knows everything that you think you know when you’re young and against requests otherwise, forged ahead, hammering second partner and I with a devil’s advocate diatribe arguing for all and sundry and lecturing us firmly about what we should be doing and thinking.
Ordinarily I would have somewhat of a mind to listen; I never purport to be the leader in a political discussion and will usually defer to the better-informed. But I can’t hear it right now. I absolutely cannot abide being talked down to or argued with in any even remotely aggressive way. I am broken and can’t handle the tension.
So after a time of what felt like being pummeled by words I could feel the tears rising and I told him to stop. He continued unabated, not to hurt me, but because he needed to expel all these thoughts and now that he’d opened the dam he was loathe to close it again. I could feel myself getting right to the edge of freaking out, and again told him he had to stop or I was going to blow.
My outbursts are intense. My close friends call it “the wrath of Raff”. Which can be entertaining at times. But I hate it. I don’t want to hurt anyone or make a room uncomfortable. The adrenaline can take a day to shake off and the guilt makes me feel bad about myself. I work hard not to get to that place anymore, but my immediate emotional response to distress of any kind will always be to first get angry. I’m hard-wired for it; I have to consciously remove myself from whatever is putting me in that headspace or I will descend into an irrational, reptilian brain state. If removed from the source of friction, I can calm down and re-approach whatever is happening more rationally.
In this case, however, that was not happening. I was cornered and getting weepy and he just WOULD NOT SHUT UP.
So I threw a fork at his head.
Happily I throw like a girl and it hit his shoulder. Equally happily, he is unfazed by my heat. He knows me well enough to know that the flames expire as quickly as they arise. He shut up, finally, retrieved the fork, and my New York partner and I took advantage of the pause to explain why, as New Yorkers, we are not enthusiastic about intensity or aggression on any subject right now.
I thought about my reaction to the conversation and realized that I am not as okay as I was assuming. I’m better than many. I’m not depressed, I have a salary coming in and a loving emotional support system. I don’t have bored kids to homeschool and keep safe. So I have been assuming and expecting that I’m fine and have no right to complain, forgetting that none of us are fine right now. We’re exhausted. We’re stressed. There is no end date in sight for the lid to come off of this pressure cooker.
When the George Floyd video first began circulating I couldn’t get through it. It was too painful. How could this be happening again so soon after Ahmaud Arbery? How does this keep happening over and over and over again? Remember the Rodney King riots? That was 28 YEARS AGO. Then it was back to business as usual. This time the rumblings started low and then quickly ramped up to a worldwide roar full of pain and frustration.
Living close to the epicenter of the protests has been a visceral and sometimes terrifying experience. On the first night in my apartment in Chinatown/Little Italy, which is very close to City Hall, I listened to nonstop shouting, gunshots, glass breaking, sirens and helicopters, all night long. I looked on the Citizen app and saw videos of fires in garbage cans and other flammable spots that had been started around my block. I hunkered down with the dog shivering next to me and waited, awake, for sunrise.
I took him out for a walk in the morning light and saw garbage cans and restaurant outdoor potted plants strewn in the street. Graffiti had appeared overnight, and a few windows were broken. The energy was quiet and creepy, in more than the usual quarantine quiet and creepy: a momentary lull in a dark storm. After the walk I texted friends and watched the news all day long, frozen in place on my couch.
That second night was the same: sirens, helicopters, smashing, fear. The looters used the protests as cover for destruction and mayhem. People came in from the suburbs thinking that protesting means chaos and setting fire to things, not realizing or caring that if a person sets fire to a Citibank in a vertical city like NYC, they also set fire to all of the apartments above that bank, destroying homes and livelihoods alike.
The next morning, all of the corner garbage cans were gone and the sound of hammers and rotary saws tearing through plywood was deafening as business owners shored up against more looting and violence. More action, but the energy just as somber as people prepared for another night of chaos and fear.
People lost their minds on Facebook, already keyed up from Covid insanity, now instead of trying to out-knowledge each other with mask outrage and varied science reports, it was white people trying to out-righteous one another with their wokeness.
I was shaky and emotional from the two nights of fear after months of isolation and I didn’t want to add to the noise. But I felt like not saying something wasn’t exactly right either. So I posted that I was not posting an opinion on the situation, not because I didn’t care but because I wanted to hear from my black friends on what they wanted from me during this pivotal moment in our history. I immediately got a series of lecturing comments from people (white) that mostly involved MLK memes about silence equalling death.
It was disheartening to say the least. These same people had already hammered the fuck out of me and everyone else with their expert covid opinions. When did half my friend list turn into self-righteous biddies? When did people STOP LISTENING? I deactivated my account for two days to try to regain some equilibrium.
I took the time away from the internet to sit quietly in my thoughts and examine my own role in contributing to the pain and anger that I saw before me, and to consider what I could do to help make it right.
I realized that my role in the problem, no matter how well-meaning, has been substantial:
My life has been a series of yeses and open doors. I am white, had loving, supportive parents, and after a painfully awkward childhood grew into being pretty. I have more often than not walked into jobs and been hired immediately. Two jobs I got hired on the spot by strangers upon casually mentioning that I was only considering that I might like to work. I was asked to front bands before anyone knew whether I could sing or not. I remember that ONE time that I was followed like a shoplifter in a drug store and it was 20 years ago. When I was arrested for assault many years ago, the cops stopped at a bodega and bought candy for me to take into jail. They also helped me surreptitiously pass off a spiked ring to my husband that caused a substantial injury to the face of the person I attacked, and which would have upped my charge to assault with a weapon. I brought them Cycle Slut tees when I got out. Every encounter I have had with male police has been equally friendly and attentive (females not so much). And people have given me all kinds of stuff over the years– clothing, photo shoots, hearts, opportunities, and I have blithely taken it all and swanned through the open doors without once considering that there was a problem with inequality or privilege.
This is not to say that there hasn’t been a good portion of pain and tribulation, abuse and trauma, but there have been far more inner demons than outer ones creating the conflict in my life. My chosen mode of destruction has always been self.
There is a man out in the world who regularly tells anyone who mentions my name that I am a racist, because about five years back, when he was barbacking at a local bar that my friends owned, I told him to keep an eye on a group of black kids who turned out to be his friends. There had been a rash of phone thefts up and down the street and the kids looked out of place in a bar full of ancient rockers. That was my first dive into self-examination. Would I have said the same thing if they were white kids? I think so, but maybe not. But I told myself that he was wrong.
When I worked in retail in NYC, you could predict that if you heard a Jamaican accent there was a good chance you were going to lose something to theft. Same with young and flamboyantly gay black boys, many of them were expert shoplifters. So anyone black was always closely watched. I didn’t work selling, I worked in the office, but one time I happened to be on the floor when a group of hilarious black women with Caribbean accents came in and began squeezing themselves into the tightest, sexiest outfits available. They were having a ball and handing me expensive items to bring to the desk for purchase and I was very much enjoying their energy and camaraderie. One of the other employees was watching very closely, as she had been instructed to do numerous times, and as a result ended up in a verbal dispute over that scrutiny with one of the women. The group, hurt and angry over being targeted, left without purchasing anything, their pile of clothing abandoned on the counter. I felt so sad for their fun being ruined and we lost a big sale that day. The sadness of that stuck with me and after that I avoided helping with sales.
My father, who would be 82 if he were alive today, called himself a “wop” and he had one friend who he jokingly called a “heeb” and another one who was a “Polack”. But I never heard him comment on race beyond that. It was just friends or strangers or assholes. When I was five or six we lived near a black family (in our predominantly white neighborhood) whose mother sang in a gospel chorus. My mother, a music lover, took me to hear her and the chorus perform. We were the only white people in a crowded theater and it was the first time I became aware that my world was not the only one. I was fascinated by the otherness; where had all these black people been hiding? But afterward we were back in our primarily white world and I forgot about feeling other. My best friend’s mom used the n-word one day, very casually but with disdain, and I was shocked. I told my dad and he said we didn’t use that word in our house.
So, barring that bar incident, I’ve been breezing through life assuming that I’ve been doing better than most. Now with lack of sleep, fear for my city, friends and personal safety, and after enduring months of quarantine weirdness, I broke down. I cried for days. I texted a couple of my closest black friends and told them I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that I wasn’t paying attention. I’m sorry I never understood why you’re so pissed off all the time. I’m sorry that I didn’t mind that things are easier for me than for you. I’m sorry that I assumed that not hating other races was enough. And I’m sorry I’m making you listen to me saying I’m sorry because I know you’re not in a mood to have to make me feel better right now.
They were exceptionally kind. My friend Cid, who is an amazing cook, called up and offered to come over and make dinner so we could hang out and have a bit of normalcy. I love breaking bread with friends and this felt like a salve on the wounds of the soul. We talked about race a bit, but mostly we just talked like long time friends about our own personal experiences during quarantine. It helped me feel grounded and loved and it was a generous gesture on her part. Then I put her in an uber so she could get home before curfew and battened down the hatches for another night of sirens.
For the most part, in my hood, things are calmer now. The looters have dissipated. Some of the boards have come down, though not all. All of the Italian restaurants on Mulberry are going great guns with their sidewalk service and have used the window boards to create decks for tables on the street. Cuomo says the protesters won, that changes are happening to police policy and funding.
But what does that mean? We’re still in the middle of this pandemic. We’re still hurting. Criminals still need policing. We still have a self-serving, incompetent man at the head of our country who has all but declared himself to be a racist and a denier of scientific evidence. The ignorant garbage on both topics that I have seen from people on Facebook has me reeling. I am stunned that I know so many people who don’t get it and unfriend and unfollow people regularly.
There were helicopters overhead again over the last couple of days because the park near City Hall has become a teeming, grubby tent city of homeless and crazies who have latched onto the protests, which still happen daily, and the cops have been told to break it up. Trump is using federal troops to create more chaos. The virus is on the upswing in too many cities. Parents and teachers are stressing over how to have kids in school. Add to that the sadness of so many businesses gone or barely surviving. Every emptied restaurant, bar or storefront I pass is evidence of someone’s broken dream and most likely broken heart. It’s crushing. And still some people are treating other people trying to keep their businesses going like shit over merely being asked to wear a mask in a store.
America is firmly divided into two: blue vs red, mask versus no mask, science versus freedumb, BLM versus white “supremacy”, fear, hate and rage versus peace, love and understanding.
Yet on the spiritual side, which is my primary guiding force when I’m feeling grounded and sane (comes and goes), I am still hearing from all sources that this is a deep and necessary shift for us as a planet and people. That we are moving into 5D energy from 3D, and we chose to be here during this time, many of us as lightworkers, carrying that light energy within ourselves as much of the world wrangles with darkness. I want to believe this is true. I want to be a source of light. On most days I do believe it’s true, but at times it appears to be a pipe dream and I wonder if I am naive.
Often I feel like a child in a new world, not understanding so much, eyes wide open to new shapes and ideas as I try to navigate a new normal. I do finally understand that it is not enough for me to not be a racist, and that it is time for me to be an anti-racist. I understand that it’s time for revolution. I just don’t know exactly what the details of that revolution should look like. At the end of the day the only thing that I know for sure is that I have to be gentle with myself and others. I am so raw that anything else feels intolerable.
Tonight I took the dog out for his last walk of the day after writing most of this and had to stop on Centre Street to let the protesters march by. There were thousands of them, all singing and chanting together, some playing instruments, many carrying BLM and Pride signs, all or most wearing masks. It was organized and communicative, with bike riders at the back and sides to protect and keep everyone together. For once I was glad to be wearing my own mask because of course I cried for the 9 millionth time this year as I watched. It was so powerful in its nonviolence and unity. There is power and beauty in people getting together with a higher goal in mind. There is change on the horizon.
We will never be the same. I hope and pray that we will be better in this lifetime and not have to wait for far-into-the-future generations to fulfill that promise of change. I am endlessly grateful for all of you in my orbit. I am so sorry that many of you have lost people, lost jobs, lost your health, are worried about your businesses and careers and how you will pay your rent. I am sending you all much love and hope for our future.
One day melts into another, the names of days have lost all meaning, except that I have a standing virtual happy hour date with friends on Fridays. That’s how I mark weeks now. My gray roots have taken over and are giving the orders. I welcome them as my new overlord. My fingernails are a shambley, peeling mess after decades of acrylic manicures. At the moment I’m so coffeed up that my eyeballs are vibrating because I’m using it to keep from going to the fridge…again. I have a jigger measure that lives on my counter to make sure the alcohol consumption doesn’t go too high, primarily for calories, because at this point drunk is fine. I don’t know how my friends are baking so much, if there was banana bread within reach it would be Cookie Monster mayhem realness up in here.
And that’s the good stuff. Businesses are on the verge or have already decided they won’t reopen. Everyone’s lost their jobs. It’s crushing. All the restaurants in my neighborhood are boarded up or newspapered from the inside. At first they just closed, then when we knew it was going to be months, they all went back to shore themselves up against break-ins. You can see tables still set up for service through the windows of the ones not covered, like Miss Havisham’s wedding breakfast. Who will survive and who won’t? And what does survival look like if we can’t sit next to each other? What about all the little mom and pop stores, the barber shops, the hair salons? I pray for each and every one of them as I walk past. I pray for my friends who worked so hard to build up their businesses, now shuttered. New York rents are brutal and most places have to pack people in on the weekends to survive from month to month. So how can a limited reopening keep them afloat?
The country is divided firmly in two. Now it’s masks vs. bareface and politicized and polarized. I try to mind my own beeswax when I’m out but it’s hard not to be irritated by the amount of city dwellers who just don’t seem to care. Most 20-somethings do not give a shit. I get it, I probably would have been similar. But it’s infuriating to my old lady sensibilities right now. I am not super worried about getting sick at this point, I’m pretty sure I’ve been exposed and my business partner thinks he and I had a mild version in January. But I wear the mask out of respect to first responders and on the off chance that I could inadvertently infect someone. And the longer this goes on the longer this goes on. So I cover my face like a good girl and grumble under my breath at those who don’t.
Mostly I try not to focus on too much except the day ahead of me. It’s stressful and pointless to fester about things I can’t control. If it weren’t for the first responders I would be of the opinion that it would be fine for people to do what they want and lower overpopulation. Survival of the fittest. Less pollution, less factory animal cruelty because less meat-eating, maybe some trees could come back, maybe some wildlife, maybe we’d get a better president. But that’s not too easy. We’re all tethered to one another by a virus. And who makes the cut? Beloved fathers? Grandmothers? Husbands, wives, children? And of course people of color are getting hit the hardest. Impossible.
Everything is annoying. I can’t watch my friends strum their acoustic guitars on instagram anymore. I love you, I love your music, I just can’t do it. And Facebook – people freaking out, conspiracy theories, panicky, album lists and those begging for attention reposts of “most people don’t read through posts so let’s see if…” Doesn’t matter; it’s all terrible. The word “plandemic” makes my eyes roll into the back of my head. I hate everything, including my own posts and opinions. Shut up, SHUT UP! Most of us are so spoiled. I posted a status update about being sad about seeing a man pulling bread from a garbage can and one person whinged about how the man is probably eating better than them and another one accused me of judging. I pulled it down after five minutes. I don’t need this irritation, I can get on my own damn nerves, thank you very much.
This sums it up, except without the luxury of smoking.
I feel for my friends who have kids, for the first time ever, after a lifetime of telling them not to have them and then doing the I told you so dance when they complained. Now they have all my sympathy. And support, albeit from a distance. Now I have an excuse not to gaze lovingly at your dumb baby but I promise to do my best to lend emotional support while you do.
And for the people who have lost people: the saddest part is that there’s no way to say goodbye, to celebrate the person’s life with other people who loved them. It’s an erasure of sorts. There was a funeral home here that got overrun and was keeping bodies piled up in non-refrigerated U-Hauls. Neighbors complained about the stench. It’s so sad for the families, for the funeral home, for everyone involved. Devastating.
But I remain grateful. I’ve got food, friends to talk to, a comfortable roof over my head. I thank my dog every day for being such a stellar quarantine wingman, even as I curse him out for being yappy and needy with boredom. He’s accustomed to getting attention and going places, so this is hard on him. The cat doesn’t care. He joins me happily for morning yoga and all snack forays, although I suspect he’s wondering when he can have his peaceful alone time back.
The big lesson for me, beyond, you know, everything, is to let people be. As soon as someone starts talking about a problem my gears shift into fix-it mode. It takes conscious effort for me to shut up and let people vent and work it out for themselves. Some of my friends are thriving and creating in the solitude and others not so much. It’s been interesting to observe. Some are spinning in a constant state of anxiety. A couple of mine are living like Charlie Bucket’s grandparents, spending days in bed in a depressed state, watching too much news and I suspect eating too much cheese. This is foreign to me (well, okay, not the cheese part); a childhood of extreme introversion prepared me well for self-quarantine. For the most part it feels natural and it’s hard for me to understand the inertia. I want to shout, in my mom’s most shrill go-out-and-play-voice, “Get out of bed! Take a walk around the block and get some fresh air! Take a shower!”
But I can’t. We all have to process this, for the most part, alone. No one can dictate anyone else’s experience. This is very much about the individual journey, even if there are other people in your house. So I remind myself to let people work it out for themselves, to be there if they want to talk, to check in and say hi but to keep my eyes on my own existential page. Which is getting messier and messier as the days get scratched into it, but it’s still in one piece. I hope the same goes for you.
That’s all I’ve got for you today. No new information or insight. Nothing hilarious, no rants. I’m just checking in from my own personal limbo and sending you all much love and light. I probably said this last time, but it bears repeating. I can’t wait to hug each one of you in person again.
Hello friends. How quickly things have changed, no?
First, I don’t know why these terrible ads with swollen legs are showing up in the middle of my blog all of a sudden. I’m too lazy to research and rectify but I will take the time to apologize.
Here is my little train of thought from the way back of the frontlines in the epicenter of the crisis, New York City, as I sit in isolation in my apartment on this the 97th day of March 2020.
First, things happened so quickly. One minute we were talking about bars having to operate at half capacity, the next there was no capacity and keep your filthy ass at home. Then the second minute the streets still felt fairly normal, albeit quiet, when I walked my dog three times a day – morning, afternoon and night, the only times I ventured out. Then in another blink it changed again.
I had to stop the after dark walks. It’s not just empty outside, it’s desolate and scary. There is an energy. And I am someone who has walked the streets freely for years, after midnight, didn’t matter, never feeling too nervous because there were always people outside, neighbors I knew, groups spilling out of bars and restaurants, couples arguing next to their cars. The Manhattan of the 21st century has, for the most part, felt pretty safe for the old school residents, who remember when it was Fear City.
It feels like Fear City again, both inside and out. The news hammering us with steadily rising numbers. My friends hammering my social media feed with constant nagging memes about staying home. I want to shout, “Bitch, all your friends are over 40. They’re all well at home scrolling past and reposting this same stupid meme!” I’ve unfriended some overly strident acquaintances on Facebook. the fear-mongering grates on me. Shut the fuck up already, we’re all watching the news, Gladys. But I take a breath. I know it makes people feel like they’re doing something. Everyone is hurting in one way or another and it’s important to at least try to be gentle.
Prisoners have been let out of jail early. There is a jail two blocks down the street from me. And worse, juvenile prisoners have been released early. Teenage criminals scare me more than adults because they are far less concerned with consequences.
The last night I went out right before dark I passed three young guys, jailhouse needle poke tattoos covering their faces, high as fuck. My guess is they got released, immediately went and got dope, because why not, and then had nothing left to do but roam the empty streets looking for action.
We passed each other under a scaffolding, even darker than the already fading light. They sized me up. For once in my life I felt grateful not to look 22. One of them said, testing the waters, “Hey, ma.” I responded casually and friendly, but carefully and with strength. “How ya doin?” I felt a relaxation of the energy. I was off the hook; deemed not an easy target. He looked back over his shoulder and said, “Stay safe, ma!” I waved over my own shoulder and said, “Yup. You too.” And then I moved quickly because I knew the urge to engage was wending its way through the drug fog in their brains.
So the nightly walk is gone. My little dog, who is my only companion through these quiet days and nights, holds his bladder for a crazy amount of time throughout the night as I try to get to him to understand he can use the balcony/terrace any time he wants. I bring him out there and lay out a wee wee pad and he looks up at me not understanding. After a time of fruitless urging I pick him up and stand for a minute in the cold. I hold him close and look up and down the ghost town street from my private outside space, feeling my fortune and praying for everyone inside and out. Then we go back in and go to bed.
I am so lucky. I have a salary coming in. I miss the extra cash from my bar shift but I can survive without it. I donate what I can with each check to service industry friends who have gofundme accounts set up. I thank the sweet baby Jesus in his manger that I don’t have kids that need to be entertained or fed or home-schooled. The days pass pretty quickly for me; I enjoy solitude. I do yoga every morning (holla Cat Meffan yoganuary!) and limit myself to one to two glasses of wine if I drink so that I don’t fall down an emotional rabbit hole. I watch our collective Corona-dad Governor Cuomo break it down for us on the news. Numbers are rising, hospitals are gasping, they’ve built a MASH unit in Central Park. I should be working on “the book” but I resist it and play video games instead. Here and there I do a bit of my decidedly non-essential actual job work for Wendigo. We started a record company with trusted friends and have big plans for when people can watch live music again. I read a bit and have virtual happy hours with friends on FaceTime and Houseparty. I FaceTime with Sam, who is in Brooklyn, and he tells me about the salads he’s inventing. I text with friends in Nashville, Portland, London, Sweden, Finland about what their lives are like. We make plans for later, much later. I make dinner, I watch movies and moisturize and watch Netflix in bed, the constant and comforting warm body of my dog pressed up against me. The cat stays near, less needy but still understanding that we’re in something big together.
People from our rock and roll tribe are dropping so quickly. It’s jarring and devastating. Now on top of being sick or worrying about sick family or being scared of being sick, people are also in mourning and unable to get together with fellow mourners to say goodbye. I look at the social media of the newly dead I know and most of them were posting the usual quarantine activities just a few days prior. How is this possible? Then I look at photos of my friends only so recently hugging and standing close and it feels like such an unimaginable luxury. How do we find comfort in each other now?
I got a call from a family friend who is a psychic who sort of specializes in speaking to the dead. He is happily safe in a farmhouse in Michigan and said a friend of mine was pushing him to call me so she could speak. He said, “I see the color red and she’s very specific about being called ‘she’ And she’s very funny!” I said, “It’s Codie, she always comes through when you talk to me.”
So he relayed the words and jokes he was hearing from her. She told me to use my neti pot. She told me to make sure to wash the dog’s feet when we come back inside. She told me I was wise to stay inside at night. She told me she has changed her evolution into a revolution, and to trust that all is moving according to a higher plan. She said that it’s time to be quiet and to listen to my intuition, and that new ideas would be coming to me. She said the earth and people need this to evolve into a different kind of energy. She said we would never be the same, but we would be okay. She said specifically that I would be okay. She called me a sister and a friend and said she was grateful for my love and support when she was alive. She said that she is always watching over me. I cried.
My very alive biological sister is younger than me but always frets over my safety when things go sideways in NYC. She’s taken on the role of the responsible and prudent one while I continue to behave into my dotage much like a teenager at their first Kiss concert. She texted me on a thread with my brother asking if I carried mace, asking for pertinent information should she have to leave the safety of the Michigan countryside to get into my apartment. Meaning if I were dead or incapacitated. My brother and I cracked wise, always the shittiest sense of humor. I remained unbothered but fully aware that it’s not an unreasonable conversation right now.
I worry about the stray animals and animals in shelters. I worry about children and people quarantined in abusive households. I worry about all the doctors and nurses and EMTs and exhausted people trying to fix this for us. I worry about the homeless people outside my door. Some of them are so crazy and vulnerable. Are they being picked on? Are they going to rise up against people like me because there is no one left to answer the panhandling? I pull whatever small bills I had squirreled away Before Corona (B.C) and put them in my pocket to hand out during the walks. Then I think, is there virus on this money? How are people using actual cash right now?
I remember my favorite homeless man. He sits for long hours against a gate on Canal Street around the corner from my place. He sits upright and still as a statue, his suitcase neatly beside him. I don’t know how he does it. He has the alert eyes and round cheeks and gentle expression of a Christmas card Santa Claus, but his skin is very dark, almost black. He has an accent and I wonder what warm country he came from to sit by himself on a cold, dirty street all day. He doesn’t appear to do drugs or have mental issues; he’s just calm and sweet. When Canal was pumping he seemed to have purpose, conversing and helping the tourist vendors who appeared to know and like him. Now the vendors are gone and he sits alone. He feeds the pigeons but is mostly still, facing forward at the traffic. Sometimes in the evening I see him pushing his suitcase, leaving his post til morning. Where does he go at night? Is he safe?
I made a beeline for him and said, “Are you okay out here? Do you need money?” He said, “It’s okay, you don’t have to.” I said “I know I don’t have to but you need it.” I pulled all the cash I had in my pocket, probably about 14 bucks, and thrust it into his gloved hand. He said, “Thank you. Thank you.” I nodded and walked away, turning my back so he didn’t see that I was suddenly crying. I don’t know why I was crying, maybe that it was so little and the disparity in our positions feels so unfair. Everything feels so unfair right now.
A few minutes later a little old man behind me hawked up a giant loogie and spit it on the sidewalk. In Little Italy/Chinatown the old men are well-practiced loogie enthusiasts. Now I had somewhere to fire all this emotion. I shouted, my voice cracking,”Stop the fucking spitting!! Now is not the time for that shit!!” He looked at me like I was crazy.
I am crazy. Mama, mama weer all crazee now. At least until A.C.
Take care and stay safe, my beautiful friends. See you on the other side.
I’m currently reading an autobiography by someone in a famous band. It’s a great read but I’m not going to type out the name here because I prefer to fly under the search engine radar so that it’s primarily friends reading this.
A million years ago, in the 90’s, I had a moment with the singer of the band in said book (not the writer). Essentially he saw me at a show, liked what he saw and pursued me fairly intensely. He won me over (not too difficult to do back then if you were skinny, attractive and in a band), we hung out a few times in New York when he was here, spent a weekend in Philly together, and then he dropped me like the proverbial hot potato. In mid-phone call. Like one minute I was getting postcards from the road and we were chatting about something fairly benign on the phone, the next he said he had to go and hung up abruptly and I never heard from him again.
Well, never heard from him again in any real way. About six months later he showed up at my job looking sheepish, primarily because his bass player was dating my friend and she dragged them in. He apologized and said he’d take me out to dinner the next day and to make a reservation wherever I wanted. His band was filming for VH1 unplugged in the morning and he asked if I wanted to go to that as well. I said no because I was in the middle of bartending until 4 am and I didn’t want to have to try to look cute that early in the morning, but that I’d see him at dinner. Which I did not, because he ghosted me again after I spent a day excited about it and planning out what to wear. So essentially he blew me off hard, twice. I cried into takeout with clean hair and a red dress laid out on the bed.
It was a bummer. And he got so stupid famous so quickly right after we met that his photo and voice were everywhere. It stung to know I was on the outside of that. But happily it hadn’t lasted long enough for me to get seriously hurt and I would never have been able to handle it anyway. I was in no mental or emotional shape to take on a rock star at that level. So it was all for the best.
But at the time I didn’t see that, I just thought that I screwed up majorly, as usual. That I was too open about liking him and about who I was and it caused him to lose interest. In the beginning when I didn’t care he was all over me, once I opened up about who I really was, not as cool or sexy as I put on and in actuality pretty midwest normal, he was gone in a flash of roadrunner smoke. I got over him but I didn’t get over the idea that I was the sole fly in the ointment.
I had one photo with him from that brief time that a friend sent through myspace that I didn’t keep, because it was terrible. He and I were walking down the street together but looked completely separate energetically. I had my usual big, stupid, no idea I’m about to get stomped on grin on my face, while he appeared decidedly unhappy. We’d might as well have been on different planets. It was a visual representation of what I couldn’t see.
And then every time I ran into him over the years, which happily wasn’t often, it was some less than ideal situation in which I was still suspect. Like I was having a crap week and ended up sitting by myself in a dive bar one evening after work, visiting a bartending friend and sulking into a glass of whiskey, trying to be deep and jaded like a character in a noir film, but looking less than stellar in slightly tearstained, day-worn makeup and some crappy basic work outfit. In he walks with a much more put-together girlfriend with much cleaner hair and no runny mascara. Oh yay, hey, it’s me, the weird lonely woman you screwed a few times, drinking in a bar by herself. Nothing depressing to see here! Or another time when I passed him on the street looking cheap as hell in an accidentally too lowcut dress for the time of day, covered in dog hair and saliva as I wrangled my brain-damaged Pekingese who happened to be in mid-seizure at that moment. Bet you’re sorry now that you let go of all this magic, you bastard!
I am the Lucille Ball of rock chicks.
I recently told my business partner that the thing to remember when fighting with me is that I secretly believe that all conflict is due to me being fatally flawed, so if we ever have a bad argument he just has to wait it out to win. I will get angry and argue stridently, but then I’ll go home and dissect all the ways I should or shouldn’t have done or said this or that. And then I’ll feel so bad about myself I’ll eventually capitulate to whatever is placed on the table.
I also had a conversation with my supersmart friend Grace, one of those ones where you sit in your apartment after a night out and just break it all down with tears and oversharing. She listened to me spill about the pain and confusion I still feel at times about the losses over the last few years, how hard it has been for me to heal and and how deeply it hurt me that some key people I loved simply stopped caring about me. This was coupled with the added insult to injury that at the same time that these deeper abandonments were happening, strangers were going out of their way to hurt me over imaginary laptop theft and old photo posting*. It was all too overwhelming to be coincidence, but why?
*See past blogs if you’re interested.
I mean, I know the spiritual reasons why – change, expansion, growth, clearing old energy to make way for the new. Blah, blah, barf. I get it. But that mental knowledge doesn’t change how the heart feels. And because of the aforementioned secret thought that every action and reaction around me is bearing upon my behavior and “badness” or “goodness”, not being able to fix these connections means that I failed. My failure. Not good enough. Never good enough. If only. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. The brain contorts in excruciating fashion.
Happily, Grace said something pretty basic that I needed to hear, which was “You can’t control people. People have their own trajectories and demons and feelings separate from anything to do with you, and you can’t always create the outcome you want no matter what you do or say.”
I hadn’t considered that. What is this lack of control that you speak of?
So now I’m reading this book and guess what! It turns out that this particular guy who I assumed was amazing and who rejected me for not being amazing, is in fact BATSHIT CRAZY. Like more than usual singer crazy. Like bipolar and narcisisstic crazy. Like impossible to get along with crazy. Like someone I don’t know that I’d want to be friends with crazy. Like exactly like a psycho, sociopathic ex-bandmate that I will never speak to again crazy.
So could it be possible that this particular rejection, and maybe others in my life, may have had less to do with my awesomeness or lack thereof than I assumed? Maybe that one photo just captured me being my optimistic self and his darkness in that moment was his own? And in following that train of thought, does that mean that the decisions of others are not necessarily directly influenced by the things that I do or say? And does this mean that the world, in fact, does not revolve around me??
Impossible! No! This cannot be. And yet….
The amount of thought and energy wasted on that one situation that could have been dismissed almost immediately, then add that to the myriad situations one has in a lifetime–the mind boggles. Suffice to say that I’m pretty glad I picked the book up.
So when will we be able to relax and allow ourselves to be who we are and shine clearly without all that fog? I dunno. I’m not sure it’s possible to move forward without truthful self-examination, but where does dissection end and flagellation begin? We screw up, we get up, we do better next time. Some people get us and like us, some people never will, and some people seem like they do but then let us down. That’s life. I’m tired of thinking about it in any other way than to focus on the people and opportunities that lie in front of me. The rest, at the end of the day, is all noise.
At least until #45 and the coronavirus take us all down.