Cursed Diamonds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh…

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

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

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

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

Ah geez.

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

“No one likes you.”

I squinted and said, “Huh?”

He replied, “You know me. You remember me.”

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

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

“Indian Larry.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If You Don’t Like What You’re Hearing, There’s The Door

Holy hell! Ever since I quit my job in order to make space for writing, I’ve been working more than ever and have absolutely no time or energy to write anything other than ranty facebook status updates. 

My last day at PF looks to be sometime during the second week of June. A replacement has been found and I’m already training her in my sleep. I keep waking up stressed out over dream-conversations about finance reports. I am SO ready to get out of this day job and into whatever the world brings me, which at the moment looks to be bar work.

Lately the lessons have been flying hard and fast and I am so grateful that most of them come through joy now, rather than through hurt, anger, loneliness, mistakes and confusion the way they once did. I can see how much my decision-making played into having to learn that way, and that finding and then following that deep inner voice is the only way to step out of a bad cycle. It took me a long time to be able to hear it. Sometimes you have to act like you’re a healthy thinker, even when you’re not. And then eventually the thoughts align and things get easier.

My latest lesson is this little bar shift I’m doing at Bowery Electric. Jesse gave me the shift so I could get used to bartending again and have a foothold into earning money once I am out of my current job. I expected to suffer a bit, talking to afternoon drunks or forcing my friends to keep me company, but it has been so much better than that, and I know this has to do with my energy at the moment. I am sharing it with you now not because I want to brag about how smooth things are going, but more to talk about how when we are aligned with our inner choices, the outside world follows suit. I want everyone to experience synchronicity and lead the fullest life possible.

Someone said to me recently, “I’m so glad you’re putting yourself out in nightlife again because you belong in the public and you’ve been hiding in offices for too long.” This struck a chord.

I landed onstage “back in the day” not because I had major self-confidence. It was the opposite. I had a deep secret fear that I was a bad, useless person, so like many people, I created a persona that seemed more interesting, and I put that persona out there. I found I felt more comfortable on a stage than in one-on-one situations, much like many performers. The adrenaline of that overrode everything else, and on top of it I could garner positive attention that belied the way I truly felt about myself.

I was never a true musician or singer. The world can survive quite happily without ever hearing me sing again. I was able to get out there because of charisma, looks, and probably destiny. Although as much as I craved the attention, I think there was a part of me that felt overwhelmed by it, and I ran from it in the end. And once I did that, I had to find work.

I can see (NOW) that I purposely chose situations that mirrored those bad feelings about myself, not just with relationships, but with jobs. I chose to work with people who saw me as old in my 30’s, plain when I once had been told I was beautiful, not skinny enough in a size 6 (yay…fashion!), and for the most part not relevant in my taste or opinions. I believed this to be true and felt older than I do now. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted and the outside world reflected my confusion and fear. I went into hiding.
I thought that I wasn’t important unless I gave something someone required. I felt that I could only earn what I received if I worked twice as hard as everyone else for it. Can you imagine? I have this “rock star” history that I can call upon to feel cool, and it was that hard for me. What about the people who don’t have that? What if you never feel cool? How susceptible are you to someone telling you you’re less than? I would imagine very.

I recently heard Bishop TD Jakes say something fabulous. He said (I’m paraphrasing): “I am sitting on this speaker and it is serving me as a chair quite well. But it is not a chair, and that is not its higher purpose in this world. It was created for something else.”
I frigging LOVE that. I can do bookkeeping. I like certain aspects of it and I can administer the fuck out of insurance and bank statements. But is it my destiny? Maybe for a time it was, for the lessons it taught me. But if I am a speaker, I don’t want to serve as a chair.

So shut your eyes and picture yourself doing anything, ANYTHING in the world. Swimming with turtles. Singing onstage. Kntting tents. It doesn’t matter. It might not be possible. But it might be possible. And maybe the journey toward whatever that is could lead you somewhere you hadn’t even thought of, that unknown that might truly be where your happiness lies.

So, back to the bar shift, my own personal lesson in alignment:

I put in my notice at work, freaked out solid for a couple of weeks about doing something so rash, and about how bar work was gonna drive me crazy, about how confused I feel about who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing, about how I would die broke and alone, the oldest living bartender. And then slowly a sense of freedom crept over me as I realized whatever it was, it wouldn’t be the same old thing that I hated. It might be something new that I hated, but at least it would be fresh.

The bar shift started off mostly with friends keeping me company. My friend Christa, who works in real estate, strong-armed her co-workers into joining her there after work most weeks. I owe her a dinner. Then my old friend and Squeezebox/Coney Island High comrade Tim Greer stopped in on the third week. He said, “I have time, and I want to DJ for you.” I told him I had no budget to pay him, to which he responded: that’ll come, let’s just shut up and do it.

Well all right! So he started playing great music for me, and showing entertaining videos over the bar that keep people guessing or reminiscing or laughing. And then he named it “the Ho and the Mo” and began making flyers. I know, I know, heaven sent, this guy.
Each week it’s gotten more crowded and more fun, I believe primarily because Tim and I are enjoying ourselves and that rubs off. People I haven’t seen in years have stopped by to visit, and that brings great happiness. I’m so grateful to be re-connecting. And because I’ve been buried in offices for well over a decade, I’m in a mood to socialize and open to meeting new people in a way that I wasn’t for many years. I’m friendlier than I was when I quit the clubs 15 years ago, because I feel better inside and ready for it.

My friend Sami Yaffa, a bona fide lifetime achievement rock star, said, “Lemme come down and DJ for you one week, just for fun.” So Tim and I were like, hell yeah, let’s get a guest star in here. 
Sami came on Friday and rocked the house and we had an amazing time. He also came up with our new tagline, which is: “If you don’t like what you hear, there’s the door!” Which in a way, can be applied to every aspect of our lives. Anyway, he had so much fun he’s coming back for two more weeks before he leaves town again to play music with the Mike Monroe band.
I was so busy that I couldn’t stop to talk to anyone, which I didn’t necessarily love, but my wallet liked it. As I looked around the room at people smiling and talking, I could see that Tim and I had managed to create our own little rock and roll clubhouse. Because it’s happy hour, it’s early enough that all the “straight” people haven’t come out of their expensive caves yet. It’s not jammed, just comfortably populated with the rock and roll crew. It’s our space for those few hours, to mold in whatever fashion we want, hear the music we want, then get out and have a life by 10pm. And now I’m ringing enough at the bar that Tim can get some pay for his effort.

So the lesson for me has been that if I bite the bullet and do what my inner voice tells me to do regardless of how fearful I feel, the Universe responds in kind. I finally understand that fearlessness is more about taking action to push past, rather than about quelling feelings of fear, which will probably always be there. I don’t know how long this particular gig will last, but for now it’s great and I’m making a bit of money, and I think that’s the point of the exercise.
My time of unhappiness is done and now I can pay it forward in some small ways through this blog. I know I have certain things in my toolbox that others don’t have which might make it look easier for me. But it’s not that simple, and you have things that I don’t have as well. 

We were not created to feel shitty, we just don’t know how to make a move all the time. So just make a tiny move. Take a small step in the direction your heart is crying for and see what happens. Then when you’re comfortable with that, take another step. It’s not about making this giant goal and jumping from here to there. Thinking that way paralyzes people. It’s more about following that voice regardless of the panic that dances around in your head. Fear and resentment are the enemy, an open heart is the path. If you step out, you will be rewarded. 

And if you need a drink to calm your nerves, you know where to find me. Just don’t ask the DJ to play Gaga.