Survival Mode

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.

It’s disturbing.

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.

Again, disturbing.

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.

July 25, 2020

OHMYGAAAAAAWD.

I do not want to write a blog.

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.

Blursday

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!

My friend Grace made this meme.

Image may contain: one or more people, possible text that says 'IT'S BLURSDAY, THE 75TH OF MARTEMBER'

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.

Report From a Last Responder

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.

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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.

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It’s Not Me It’s You

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.

Oh.

OH!

OOOOOHHHH!

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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….

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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.

I kid! I kid!! Namaste, bitches. Wash your hands.

Armageddon

Ugh. I have resisted writing on this topic for so long.

As much as I like to be as open and honest as I can be, there are many limitations to writing what is essentially a public diary – I can’t spill other people’s secrets, I don’t want to stir the pot with that small cadre of foul people who seem to live to watch and comment upon what the rest of us do in the trolliest of fashion, I want to focus on the good stuff, etc. And of course I would prefer not to put myself out there as uncool or unsexy, which this most definitely is.

The “this” I’m talking about is “the big change”. That phenomena that happens to all women when they reach a certain age. That thing that renders us the butt of jokes, unfuckable, no longer valuable or interesting, hardens us into crones to be relegated to one small corner to either never be heard from again or heard from too much as we complain about the price of wine while collecting cats and pretending not to notice the eye-rolls of strangers. Young women make sure to mention that you’re old if young men act too interested, young men look through you instead of at you. All the cliches of the disappeal of aging are upped to the final level once you admit to no longer bleeding.

The Best Jewish Jokes in 'Big Mouth' Season 3 - Alma

I too made the old comments regularly. This is me at the 5 minute mark on Morton Downey a few decades ago telling someone they’re too old to rock. So cocky. So fertile. So dumb.

So here I am many moons later, a bit less arrogant and now feeling conflicted but compelled to talk about this dirty secret that’s not so secret. I can’t stay on the downlow anymore because every time I have a conversation about it with a friend we end up telling each other something we didn’t know and then marveling at how confusing it all is. The majority of us are in the dark regardless of how much information is out there because it doesn’t fully make sense unless you’re living it. And most everything you read is so fucking positive and glossy that it only serves to frustrate and isolate if you’re not having that kind of experience. Which so far, no one that I know is.

Men, you need to know this too if you have any women in your life over 40. If you’re gay, kudos to you for side-stepping the whole mess. But even then it can’t hurt to understand why some of your female friends are suddenly acting so weird.

So allow me to be the one to sing the dirge. Periomenopause is armageddon. Full on devastation ARMAGEDDON. It is the zombie apocalypse of the female soul. It is hot, ashen death on a flaming horse, galloping into your life and wiping out everything safe and known in its path with a black scythe forged of confusion and sadness. It is the red wedding, albeit with less blood.

Many years ago I asked my mom what to expect and she said, “Eh, it’s not much. A few hot flashes here and there.” So I danced into my forties thinking, “I got this.” Completely forgetting that my mother is hard as nails and not one for fussy bedside stuff, despite being a registered nurse. When I was a kid we pretty much had to have a limb hanging off before she’d get concerned. Example: Myv sister cut her head open and needed a stitch or two. Mom took two chunks of hair on either side of the cut and tied them together. There, you’re fine, don’t touch it for a while, walk it off.

Which is not to say that she isn’t/wasn’t a loving and nurturing mother. She just had too many kids and didn’t get overly excited very often. This works in my favor in some ways; I’m not easily flustered by illness and don’t need a lot of attention when I’m sick. I’m calm in a crisis. One time, when I was very young, in the epicenter of the HIV crisis, a shitty doctor at a free clinic took a look at my baby starter tattoo and leather gear and told me I probably had AIDS. Instead of panicking like most people would, I told him he was an asshole and walked out. My friends were astounded at my lack of concern. It wasn’t that. I just knew from a young age that my destiny was going to be of the walking it off variety.

So I had a certain pride about my hardiness and entered the thunderdome unconcerned and unprepared. After that conversation (lies!) with my mother, I did read up on it casually, pre-symptom, but only because people kept handing me books about the topic. I guess they assumed it was time to get me thinking about it, maybe they knew something I didn’t. I would flip through the pages and quickly get bored with the science. The gist, it seemed, was that there would be some minor discomfort here and there, but that it would also be this wonderful, special time of change and growth.

Turns out not so much wonderful or special. But the discomfort was present and accounted for. One day I woke up and hot flashes had arrived. I thought, why am I suddenly on fire? Am I dying?

The term hot flash only brushes the surface of the experience. It’s like calling Godzilla a gecko. It’s in the vicinity, but a few miles away. One minute you are a normal, functional, rational human being and the next you are out of your mind with the raging desire to tear off your clothes and run screaming into the street begging someone to throw cold water on you. Why don’t the books describe that?

One time at the start the ex and I were having sex and I had a flash in the middle of it. He said it was like fucking the sun. And then in a “flash” (see how I did that there?) they were happening every hour. At night I would fall asleep only to wake up an hour later burning up, to then throw off all the covers and open the windows in the dead of winter, fall back asleep, then wake up freezing a short time later. Rinse and repeat.

I became chronically exhausted from lack of REM sleep. I couldn’t think straight and was often prickly and weepy. Finally after months of trying every useless, often expensive, black cohosh bullshit product on the shelves, I went to my gyno, an adorable little Chinese lady who thankfully finds me entertaining, and took her by the lapels of her white lab coat, looked into her sweet, warm, brown eyes and snarled, “Fix this!!!!!!!”

Okay, I didn’t actually touch her. I think I probably cried and complained until she got the level of desperation. She put me on hormone replacement therapy, which did help. I still had hot flashes but less frequently so I only woke up once or twice during the night. I read up on it in earnest this time and found numerous reasons to throw books across the room. One woman talked about how she loved how it felt like she was burning off her old self, and she cherished the flashes for ushering her into her new, energetically fresh world. I made a mental note to to find her and smother her to death with a leftover maxipad, once I got a full night’s sleep.

I have read that many women suddenly decide to get divorced when they hit this stage in life. One minute things are fine and the next he’s gotta go. I’m guessing it’s because the nesting urge fades. When you have all those breeding/coupling hormones flowing in your body you will gladly do what it takes to be in a relationship. You will feather that nest with sandwiches and blowjobs to make sure your partner is happy and thinks you’re wonderful. Once that need to breed shifts, you think, “Make your own goddamn sandwich. And bring me a fan and some ice cubes on your way back.”

I’m not saying that the desire to be in a relationship disappears, but it shifts for many. In my case the vase cracked open in all the weak spots and the room was flooded. And because I didn’t fully understand what was happening to me, I couldn’t find my way back in time to repair it and keep from drowning. I needed to take some time off to run wild in the streets and sort out my head and he couldn’t deal with the madness. I hurt him too much. So he grabbed the first non perio-woman he could find and moved her into his apartment immediately, where things could again be safe and warm, never to look back again. It was devastating.

Meanwhile, my brain was so hot it was on constant overload. I picked up a then 24-year old boyfriend who is somehow oddly fearless in the face of lady issues. I drank and partied like I was 24 myself. I wept and wept and wept. I think I cried every night for a solid year. I’ve talked about this a lot already, but in the context of perio-menopause–at its peak I felt I was too damaged and crazy to continue and swallowed a bottle of pills while drunk and weeping. Which of course scared the crap out of my family and friends and didn’t do much to make me seem less crazy. Up until the change I’d always been able to keep a bit of a lid on the madness. Now it was really out there for the world to see. And the ex didn’t even send a text to see if I was okay. That was a big pill to swallow in itself but indicative of how far I had been swept out to the deep, black bottomless part of the sea, by my hormones, by this shift in life.

It was not a healthy or happy time. But is a zombie apocalypse of the body and soul ever healthy and happy? Unless maybe you’re some kind of super evolved uberwoman who has the good nature, healthy upbringing and foresight to view it all as a holy flame burning off the dead branches of our wise tree selves. Which alas, I am not.

But it does turn out that it kind of is exactly that. I did exorcise much stuff that needed to go–pain and shame that had been buried in my cells my whole life. I am infinitely clearer and stronger because of it. I can honestly say I’m happy now. But I would have preferred to get here via the cool breeze of wisdom feathering across my face instead of the hot balls of hormonal chaos teabagging me til I gasped for air.

So here’s what I have for you through my own trial and error. If you’re at a certain age and feel like you’re going crazy, it’s most likely because you are. If it feels like it sucks that’s probably because it does. Talk to other women your age. Try not to destroy your relationships until you can get a hold on what is real and what is hormonally charged. But don’t beat yourself up too much if you do, and if your psyche is screaming at you to take a step backward or forward, be brave and do it. Just know that some people may not want to wait for the dust to settle and losing them is a chance you might have to take. Life has a way of forcing change whether we’re ready for it or not.

Practically – read anything Dr. Christiane Northrup has to say. She’s not annoying and she knows everything about everything. Try all the herbal remedies that people recommend and then when that doesn’t work don’t be afraid to go to your doctor and ask about hormone replacement therapy. Don’t let anyone shame you into thinking you have to do it “naturally” if that option isn’t helping.

And lastly, and most importantly, know that this too shall pass and if you do the inner work you will come out better on the other side. I finally shed 15 lbs that I’ve been trying to lose for a decade. It melted off with very little effort and I know it’s because my hormones are evening out and my body is ready for a new, very much alive chapter. I still feel sexy and vibrant. The idea that it’s a death of all things feminine is a lie, just like these happy women saying it isn’t a death is a lie. It is most definitely a passing of who we were. But like all deaths, it’s also a portal into a new season.

Probably the season of the witch, but I’ll take it, and gladly.

Okay, let’s not talk about this again. If you see me in person, you keep your filthy whore mouth shut unless you’re waving a fan and asking me for ice cubes.

New Age Cats

I’m back! Whee! So things are still going so stupidly well that I haven’t felt compelled to write–it feels like I need a dramatic topic or I got nothing. But if I’m honest it’s primarily that I prefer the Xbox to writing and only write when the urge forces me.

Today I left the house in a good, if harried mood, and stopped in a nearby card shop. The woman who owns it is lovely and I’ve been in social situations with her before. She is an acquaintance of the ex, but she’s never indicated that she’s remembered me. This time I walked in and knew immediately that she was going to ask about him. My intuition has been on fire lately, which is the primary focus of the blog today.

She asked me how he was, and I told her we have been split for some time. Then instead of leaving it at that, I did that female thing where I vomited up way too much information and then burst into tears like a total lunatic. And it was as much of a shock to me as it was to her. Where did that come from? Happily she wasn’t too put off, and I don’t have much more to say about it than that, except even at the best of times it’s a work in progress, and even when you think you’ve cleared a hurdle you discover that it’s more like one hurdle in an infinite series of the same hurdle until they get shorter and shorter and you finally get to move on to the next bullshit issue or confusion.

I just watched this Matt Kahn video, in which, among other smart things, he states that, for all of us, if things could have happened differently, they would have. I find that infinitely comforting, because I’m always second-guessing and always internally taking all the blame for not being somehow better, stronger, faster, smarter, kinder, more quiet, more patient, more faithful, prettier, skinnier, etc. If I had been better things would have been better. And the demise of that relationship is not fully cleared for me yet because I was never comfortable with my role in its death.

So this talk spoke to me quite profoundly. But I have a friend who found it upsetting. She was physically abused as a child and is not ready to accept that it was necessary or helpful in any way. And I have to respect that because it’s her experience. We all have our unique triggers and viewpoints. In any case, I would recommend giving it a listen if you are in a space where something like this can resonate for you.

Holy hell, did I just write that obscenely new agey sentence? Yuck.

Another one of the things in my life that I coulda woulda shoulda’d to death was my perfect little Pekingese dog Panda getting hit by a car ten or so years ago, because I chose to have him off leash. For a long time after the accident I replayed it obsessively over and over again in my mind: this time with him leashed, another time with him in my arms, not leaving the house at that exact time, not leaving the house at all. Just trying to change the outcome somehow. It was excruciating and impossible, no matter how my brain contorted. I can’t imagine what people who accidently murder or let a child die go through. That one haunted me for years.

The one good outcome is that recently I was able to talk a random guy on the street into leashing his chihuahua. It’s difficult to approach people about what they’re doing with their pets. I hate unsolicited advice from random strangers who don’t know my dog, but it was one of those perfect moments where we connected over our furbabies and I was able to express concern without judgment. I told him my story and he took heed. So maybe at the end of the day that’s the redemption. You can’t fix the past but you can create a better future for yourself or someone else or both.

So recently my cat Roquefort died, very peacefully at the vet’s office. I got a mountain of condolences via facebook and texts and I thank everyone for their kindness. I am actually fine with it. Because I dealt with the death of my dog in such a violent and abrupt manner, I handle putting them down voluntarily easily. It’s not a happy occasion, but it’s not a dark one either. I consider it holy work. And as with all peaceful animal deaths in my life this one brought valuable information and opened up some channels which feel worthy of sharing.

Roquefort was the smartest and most annoying cat I have ever known. I adopted him from a woman who had a house full of Persian and Himalayan fosters. Roq was the most beautiful cat I’ve seen, 4″ long silver fur which was white at the root and black at the tip, gorgeous big green eyes and a full, elegant tail. He looked like a Fancy Feast cat. But he was getting his ass kicked by all of the other cats in the house and once I had him for a while I understood their reasons.

He never shut up. Never. Just an incessant litany of high-pitched complaints and trills, and he was always one meow away from mastering human speech. Sam says that Roquefort is the only animal he knew that could communicate on Facetime, because unlike my other pets he recognized when someone was speaking directly to him through the phone, and he responded.

But he also fluttered about in a constant tizzy, like a feline Aunt Pittypat. He didn’t like it if I rearranged anything in the apartment and would explain in detail about how this thing didn’t go in that place. He had to eat in a separate room with the door closed because distractions took him off his appetite. He disliked strangers and would tell them so with a verbal refusal if they tried to touch him. Yet he loved me with unbounding passion. He would have been happy if I carried him around like a baby all day long, and insisted on sleeping as close to my face as possible at night. Which was unbelievably annoying because he could never get settled properly and squawked at any movement. I called him the murderer of sleep.

My other cat, Albert, or as I call him The Beep, found Roquefort equally irritating. But The Beep is gentle and mellow and treated him kindly, as we all did. Instead of smacking Roquefort when he was being too much, Beep would cheerfully slow-motion mush one of his big feet into Roq’s face until he complained and went away. And occasionally Beep, who has a great sense of humor, would wait behind a door to pounce on Roquefort because it was hilarious to watch him get the vapors.

But all this aside, Roquey was sweet as the day is long and I did love him. And I had him for many years. I estimate he was 15 or older by the time he went.

He started winding down a few months ago. He was eating less and less and getting too skinny. I brought him to the vet, who said it was the usual thing with old cats, their kidneys decline and I was supposed to give him an IV of fluid every three days. Which means you have to jam a needle in their back and then hold them in place for ten minutes while the fluid moves into their body. Suffice to say we had mixed results at best. I could never keep him still for the full time and there was a lot of emotional argument going on for the short time that he would tolerate it.

I bought twenty different types of food trying to get him to eat more. Beep was thrilled and ate it all. Roq just complained, and Samara could hear him when we talked on the phone, so we would yell in unison in fake exasperation, “Go into the light, Roquefort!”

Pretty quickly his poor appetite went down to nothing. I could get him to eat a few bites but that was it. I still didn’t think it was time, but after about a week of that I woke up at 3 am with him staring down at me, quiet for once in his fucking life, and I knew immediately that the time had arrived. I can’t explain how I heard it, but it was loud and clear. He said, “Today is the day.” And I said, “Okay, buddy.”

When I got up a few hours later I didn’t try to get him to eat. He slept in his favorite spot waiting while I called my vet and made an appointment for that afternoon. It was so easy and gentle when we got there; I’ve never experienced a cat so in control of the choice. He was quiet and calm and only protested a bit when the first needle went in. After it was done I stayed with him for a little while and rubbed his giant, fuzzy feet between my fingers. He always hated that and I had told him many times that when he was dead I would touch his feet as much as I wanted and there was nothing he could do about it. But eventually you have to leave their little bodies laying there alone on that metal table. My vet had been treating Roquefort for so long that he gave me a hug before I left.

This is an ordinary tale that people go through every day. But what isn’t ordinary, for me at least, is how clearly the communication came through. And now some channel seems to have opened for me with animals. I was thinking about what I should do for the Beep; I don’t want to get any more cats for a while but I was worried about him being lonely or bored. And then I heard it loud and clear from him as I pet him, pondering the question. “The dog is enough, I want to be the only cat for a while.” The words were just there all of a sudden. And now this new, happy Beep has blossomed. I’ve never seen him more content and it appears that he’s come out of a shell that was forced upon him by Roquefort’s more aggressive neediness.

My neighbor across the hall is out of town and I’m taking care of her cat. We trade off petsitting and it’s quite convenient. But I don’t really love this cat. She’s not that pretty to look at, she’s obese, not friendly and hisses most times when you touch her. She’s kind of a dick, really. But I’ve been taking care of her for years and we have a decent truce going. She comes out and talks to me and wants to me to sit with her while she eats. Once she did start coming out from under the bed and talking to me I understood her very clearly. She most definitely didn’t like being left on her own by her person. But that might not be communication as much as observation.

My neighbor always asks me what she’s saying though, and I tell her what I think. The cat, like Roquefort, always has very clear opinions.

Now the cat is dying. Just like Roquefort, she hasn’t been eating. The first day I was there she came out and I told her how many times the sun would go up and come down until her person was back and she got so mad that she turned around and went back under the bed. The next day I tried to pet her under there and she hissed. So I was like, all right, fuck you, made sure she had food and left, and that’s how it was for a couple of days.

Then I thought, I know this cat, I know she doesn’t feel good right now and she’s gotta be lonely, let me put my ego aside and meet her on her terms. Which means no touching unless she asks for it. So I sat at the end of the bed and said, “I know you don’t feel great and you want your mom to come home. But it’s going to be you and me for a few days and I’d like it if you could let me know if you need anything or if there’s anything you want me to do.” She meowed quietly and I got the message that she was just trying to maintain as best she could while waiting for her human.

I thought that was a pretty okay communication and I went to the kitchen to check the food. To my surprise, she came running out after me. She looks terrible right now. She’s still fat but also bony at the same time. And she’s weak and wobbly. But she came out. So I sat on the floor with her and opened various baggies of cat food to see if anything appealed. She sniffed them politely and declined, then drank quite a bit of water. We sat together for ten minutes or so before she went back under the bed.

My mother, an energy channeler/healer, as most of you know, keeps telling me that we’re moving from a 3rd dimension reality into 5th dimension and as we clear out our old baggage from this lifetime and others we become more receptive to the higher frequencies.

She also says that anyone “awake” who has chosen to incarnate at this time has come in with more than one issue to work on, since this is such an intense time of movement and change. It’s a crash course for many of us, so try to have compassion for yourself when you feel overwhelmed or stuck. Or if you act crazy in a card shop. It’s time to be gentle with ourselves, especially with all the terrible things going on in the world around us.

I believe most of what she tells me but I’m also petulant as fuck about it ever since we were promised that big shift in 2012 and nothing happened. I’m a skeptical believer now. It was just business as usual in 2012 after a buttload of internet promises and then by 2015 I headed into some of the saddest days of my life. So fuck you empty new age predictions! It is what it is what it is and we all have to go to work and pay bills and do dishes and wait in the grocery line behind people who take their sweet goddamn time putting their money away while you’re clearly straining under the weight of a giant bottle of olive oil and 19 lbs of laundry detergent in that crappy plastic basket with the metal handle that cuts into your hand. I watch my friends go through all kinds of crap that they don’t deserve. But I can’t deny that my life and psyche have shifted quite a bit in the last few years and I believe it’s largely because of the work that I’ve put in to understand the deeper truths around my stuff.

I would have never put in that work if I wasn’t forced to do so by discomfort. My mother also has a great saying that once you learn a lesson for real there’s no need to repeat it, and that it’s a tool you can access in your toolbox forever. Courtney can keep the cake, I want to be the girl with the most tools so I don’t have to do this shit all over again.

So now life is good and all of a sudden I’m hearing my animals. I’m not sure if it’s a global shift or if it’s because I’ve done the work or simply because I’m a crazy animal lady and I no longer feel the urge to tamp that bit of crazy down. Either way it’s something I’m interested in exploring, and I’ll keep you posted. And I’d love it if you did the same and reported back to me. Just sit quietly with them and listen. If you don’t hear anything, that’s okay. We all have different means of intuition and ways in which we are supposed to serve and be served. And not all animals are as determined to be heard as Roquefort was.

Namaste, Beauties.

Addendum!

I got so many emails and comments on that last blog that it seems it needed a follow up, keeping in mind that I am not an expert on anything except my own experience.

Some people expressed a great sadness that they have never heard from their loved ones who have passed. Which is a pretty valid reason to be bummed out. I don’t know why we can’t have more knowledge of how it works on the other side. Maybe we wouldn’t focus on whatever we’re supposed to be doing/learning here if we already knew. I will say that Codie told me through a reading that she is focused on helping the LGBT community from her side of the veil and as a result has more freedom to be around the living. I also get the impression that she’s acting as a guide to some of her friends now.

My father died suddenly and unexpectedly when I was young, the first year I came to NYC to go to college. I was unable to process it properly at the time, it was just too heavy and life-altering for my maturity level. So I would get hysterical during fights with boyfriends and then find myself talking at my dead dad while laying on a floor crying over the dude du jour. Eventually I realized that I wasn’t nearly as upset about the boyfriends as I was about his loss.

Around that same time I was getting into listening to guided meditations. I knew I was fucked up and that seemed one way to quell anxiety and possibly move forward out of an emotional morass. Which it is, but it’s not a quick fix, that is for damn sure. But a couple of times while listening my dad sort of “entered” into the meditation and I was able to work out some things with him. He also visited me in dreams a few times. It was never a clear voice or a straightforward conversation, which I hungered for. It was more vague than that. I still missed him terribly and suffered the usual daddy issues, but it did help me heal. Dreams are an easy way for our deeper consciousness to roam freely and communicate openly, so don’t always assume that a dream is just a dream. Often it’s more.

My recommendation would be to keep an awareness that people we love can enter our psyche and energy in all kinds of ways and it’s important to stay grounded and clear in order to receive any messages or wisdom or whatever.

And in that direction, my mother is constantly telling me I need to clear my energy field. When most of us interact with people in the world, with electronics, when we enter crowded spaces, we react to and “ingest” the energy in the field. This can clog up our ability to receive intuition or messages. It can also make us cranky, cause us to ingest more alcohol and drugs than is good for us, put us in a state of anxiety, all those good things that happen when we aren’t centered and clear.

This is a great basic list of ways to clear yourself: https://www.restoreemotionalbalance.com/energy-clearing-techniques.html. If you google energy clearing a ton of suggestions will come up.

I have gotten in the habit of simply tapping my solar plexus and saying, “Clear!” to myself when I am out in public and don’t have the time or quiet space to do some big meditation or ritual. I think we have reached a point in our spiritual evolution where we can work pretty quickly if we know how. And if you do any kind of service or emotionally expensive job you need to be able to release on the spot here and there. I don’t always remember but when I do I’m less drained and more pleasant at the end of a bar shift or a loud show. I also find that I am less susceptible to energy vampires when I am clear and grounded.

Anyway, I am happy to share what I know, so feel free to ask. But I have to reiterate that I am no expert. I’m just muddling through like everyone else.

I want to leave you with this. Pride was this weekend and my beloved Michael Schmidt conceived and created a costume for Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters) that took my breath away. He put all of the hateful slogans from the Westboro Baptist group on a caftan, which was then torn away to reveal the gayest, happiest rainbow outfit possible. It was such a beautiful way to render those words null and take back the power.

Namaste, bitches!

More Dead Friends

My dead friends speak to me sometimes. I used to think I was imagining it or creating it in my head when thinking about them. But I don’t think that’s it anymore.

All kids fantasize about having superpowers–reading minds or bending spoons or making people bleed out of every orifice on command. Or is that last one just me? My fantasies about being psychic also included talking to angels or dramatically saving lives, somehow being extra and other, like the X Men. Then we grow up and life turns out to be far more complicated and mundane and no one appears to us in a halo of light to guide the way. We ruin relationships and work jobs we hate and argue with customer service reps and in the process discover that while we can include people we love in our orbits, we are on our own when it comes to feelings, creating destinies, learning lessons, repairing mistakes.

It sucks.

Only recently, after a lifetime of trying to come to terms with my ordinariness, I’ve come to realize that I actually do have a small thread of connection. I rarely see anything, there’s no glowing light or beautiful visions. Instead I hear my friends’ voices in my head.

I used to talk to Joey Ramone sometimes. I don’t know why, we were friends but not in a super close kind of way. But he would visit on occasion and he was a warm presence for years after he died. He hasn’t been around for a while though, maybe he is in a different body and life now. I also have a harmless female ghost in my apartment that I have made peace with after living together for 20 years. I did see her once, when I was half asleep so it could have been a dream, but I don’t think so. She is a tiny black lady in 30’s dress and she was happily digging in my jewelry box. Pieces of jewelry will disappear and reappear once in a while; she likes pretty things but she always returns what she borrows. And lastly, when I had a boyfriend whose mother died in a difficult way, I could feel her hanging around me. I think because he didn’t believe in things like that and it was a way for her to communicate her presence. She never spoke to me but I felt her love for him.

When my friend Codie died she was all over me. She wouldn’t shut up. It was wonderful, because she was/is hilarious and her death was a great loss to me. So I still had her in some capacity, and she had new wisdom from being on the other side. It was great to feel she was near and had my back, as much as someone on the other side can have your back. Because again, see paragraph two, life sucks and we’re still terribly, cruelly on our own most of the time.

I am surrounded by psychics and spiritual healers, partially because I’m interested and primarily because my mother is one. It’s strange. My siblings and I call it “Momaganda” because while the information we get from her is often invaluable, at times it’s also colored with very Mom-esque opinions about what her children should or should not be doing. But I ask for her help when I am struggling and she helps me get clear on the true causes and issues underneath whatever is happening on the surface.

One person in my mother’s circle is especially adept at talking to dead people. He can’t go into some ghosty places where many people have died because he gets overwhelmed by the chatter. He hears and sees it all clearly. He’s generous with his gifts and usually does readings for me when I’m home for a visit in the summer, in which ever since Codie died, she dominates with her advice and jokes.

A couple of years ago, when I was in a very sad place, confused and mourning the devastating loss of the relationship that I thought would be there for me forever, full of self-loathing, pretty much hanging on by the thinnest of emotional threads, I got one of those Codie readings. And this time she hammered the fuck out of me. She said, through our friend, all of the things I secretly and not so secretly feared about myself and my trajectory. It was a good hour and a half of being yelled at and arguing back, with hot tears in my eyes. Which is weird when the fight is with your dead friend through your other friend.

I was so hurt and angry by the end of it. It felt like a violation somehow, like a hit and run. After that I stopped speaking to Codie in my head completely. If I heard her voice I shut it down. I told her I didn’t want to hear anything from her. I couldn’t forgive her somehow, even though I knew maybe it wasn’t really her, and that it was filtered through the eyes and words of a mutual friend who, although a stellar clairvoyant, has his own opinions and is maybe too close to me to be objective. And it was split in my head. I wasn’t mad at human, live and in person Codie, I was mad at nebulous, maybe made up, dead Codie.

Fast forward to now and my life is awesome, the best it’s ever been. I love my job, I’m traveling, I’m moving into a nicer place later in the year, I have amazing, fun, loving, loyal friends, my pets are healthy. My romantic life is strange at times and certainly unconventional, but it’s still a safe place for me, which is new. I’ve come to love and accept myself, which is very new.

I was in London again recently because two of the bands my company supports played Camden Rocks (The Tip and The Sweet Things). They ddn’t fully need me but it was a good excuse to hang out for a few days with friends, cool people and cute boys while listening to great music and networking with like-minded industry types. I made sure the musicians didn’t starve, handled hotel issues, organized cabs to and from places and tried not to yell at the constantly incompetent/uninterested British servers.

It was all fabulous, except that traveling triggers my bad brain. I am super routine oriented as a means of staving off anxiety. I usually unpack as soon as I get into my hotel room and organize my things in a way that makes me feel comfortable and in control. While most people want to spend every minute in a new city socializing and checking out the sights, I need a lot of downtime in between exciting moments to recuperate and ground. It’s tenuous, and even with precautions anxiety and self-doubt can creep in if I’m too tired or hungover or there is discord with anyone. Which there is bound to be when you’re traveling with a large pack of rock and roll egos and artistic temperaments.

“No matter where you go, there you are” has been a constant life lesson. Yet, despite that, and despite a lot of pain and loss, I live a magical existence. There is a movie-like quality to the things that happen to me, the scrapes and adventures I get into, the gifts I receive. I have been given much, including the ability to manifest most of what I fantasize. But no matter what is happening or where I’m at, no matter how grand or special, there’s still that dark spot in my brain that I can drop into at any time, that makes me feel that it’s all pointless.

So I was sitting in a nice big tub that someone else would have to scrub for me in the morning as long as I didn’t put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door, and I sighed happily and put my head back and shut my eyes. All was well in that moment. And then I heard Codie’s frigging Queens Italian voice bray out: “Okay, bitch, can we get over this now?”

“God damnit!” I opened my eyes and said petulantly (in my head). “You never fucking apologized.”

She said, “I did repeatedly! You have refused to hear it.”

I said, “Okay. Fine. Yes. I know I’m being a big baby about it.”

And she said, “Remember when I told you a few years ago that there were some good surprises headed your way?”

I said, “Yeah, it’s been pretty great lately.”

She said, “More is coming.”

So of course I burst into tears in a tub in a foreign country, miles from home, talking to my dead friend in my head like a total lunatic. But since I let her back in it feels that I’ve given myself permission to trust that clairaudience that’s always tried to get through. I always looked for a big cosmic fanfare, and it’s not that. It’s just a voice in my head. Sometimes it’s the voice of a dead friend, sometimes it’s a bit of kindness or inner wisdom during an ordinary day, “Don’t eat that, eat this”. Random, helpful nudges that come from a deeper place, a deeper wisdom, that looking back always came through and were mostly ignored.

I’m paying close attention to all of it now. Even if its just new age tomfoolery, the advice is good and it’s nice to be on a healthy autopilot. My day to day runs more smoothly when not overthinking it.

So I started writing this post about a week ago and sadly before I finished another beautiful friend, Georgie Seville, died unexpectedly. I haven’t heard from him like I did from Codie right after she died, and I’m not expecting to, but it is a coincidence of note.

I asked Codie to check in on him and she told me he is recuperating. What that means exactly, I don’t know. I do know that he is heavily mourned on this side–he was a lovely, special human and it’s a great loss. So I’m sending him and the people who mourn him much loving energy. And maybe the assurance that if you are sad that you will never see him again, you might be surprised to hear from him in a quiet moment. There is more magic to be had than we realize, it’s just softer and more delicate than what we had once imagined.

To shut up and listen is easier said than done. But it is possible. And sometimes regardless of your resistance, the message finds its way through anyway. So thanks as always Codie for your patience, your attention, and your steadfast love and friendship that will not be silenced even in death. Please take care of our Georgie.

Nadege

I’ve been debating on whether to write this because it’s a mixed emotional bag and I don’t want it to get misconstrued. But Nadege deserves to be remembered and I can feel that she wants me to put this out there.

When I first saw Nadege, in the late 80’s, she was a drug addict bumming change on Avenue A. She looked like an exotic cat fallen on hard times, slightly ratty around the edges but compelling. Her eyes were remarkable, green and slanted, wide-set in a face with wide cheekbones and a quirky slash of a mouth. She wasn’t classically pretty, but she was beautiful. She was sullen, so of course I liked her. I gave her all the change in my purse.

I had a nightmare of a boyfriend throughout that time period who then became my husband for a short time in 1990. He was beautiful, also with green cat eyes wide-set in a face with wide cheekbones, also a drug addict, although on again off again due to my constant codependent hammering. He was the most faithless human being I have known then or since. He was also always broke and had no problem letting me cover all the bills while he smoked weed and cheated on me nonstop with whatever stripper or grade C groupie that was available on any given night. I was so in love with him that I couldn’t see straight.

Usually he turned his forays into new vaginal territory into sordid little affairs that always ended badly. We had a pattern: I would find out, freak out, attack him and the female either physically or verbally, break up with him in a huge screaming match, he would continue to fuck the new person and some extraneous others until he got bored and sad, then come crawling back. I would usually find a really nice boyfriend and then ruin it to take him back. It was all awful, and whenever I think about it I feel deeply grateful that I will never have to take that cosmic class again.

So one day I showed up at boyfriend’s band rehearsal to pick him up for the night, and Nadege was there. I didn’t know her name at that point and it seemed suspect, so I asked pointedly, “Why is that junkie here?” He told me that she was newly sober and hanging out with his sober singer. Hmm… She wouldn’t look at me and since we were the only two non-band members in the room, it felt rude and uncomfortable. I decided I did not like her so much after all.

You can guess where this is going. Shortly after that boyfriend started exhibiting all the signs of having started a new affair, which was essentially not coming home when he was supposed to and acting smug when I grilled him about it. After a couple of days of my haranguing he admitted it and I broke up with him…again.

I quickly sleuthed out who the latest one was–that fucking French doper. No wonder she was such a bitch at the rehearsal. I hit the ceiling. I want my change back!

I would see her out at clubs and it made me crazy. I wanted to set her on fire. I was at the top of the NYC band hierarchy at that point and had a pretty extensive gang of rabid girlfriends who would back whatever I decreed, so I advised everyone that if they spoke to her they were dead to me. So they glared at her dutifully and one time at the Cat Club I spit a big wad of gum into her hair. She told me later on that someone pointed it out to her and she said, “Oh yeah, that’s Raff…”

Boyfriend quickly tired of this conquest and I missed him, so when he snuck into my building and left a giant, elaborately carved pumpkin in front of my apartment door on Halloween, I took him back.

A couple of months later found me in sweatpants carrying a bag of laundry heading to my apartment on First Street. I saw Nadege walking in my direction and became hot with rage. As we passed each other I spit in her face, a ridiculous gesture considering the giant bag in my arms that I could barely see over.

Nadege called after me in her thick accent, “Raffaele! I want to talk to you!”

I said, “Go fuck yourself, you fucking bitch. I will fucking kick your ass right here in the street!”

She was unfazed and shouted at the back of my head,

“Wait a meenute! Listen to me. What I deed was wrong. But I ‘ave paid for eet. I paid. Hee made me pay.”

I stopped and turned around. She continued,

“I ‘ave paid. You ‘ave paid. Eee never pays. Eee should pay!!”

All rage drained out of me. I set the laundry down on the sidewalk and eyeballed her up and down. I sighed and said, “Do you want to come up for some tea?”

She smiled and said “Yes.”

Much to boyfriend’s chagrin, we became immediate best friends. She began dating the sober singer of his band. When I left boyfriend/then husband for good, she helped me pack all of his shit into garbage bags and lug it down five flights from my place, into a cab, and then up three flights into his singer’s apartment before they got back from a trip to LA. We both dated guys in The Black Crowes for half a second and she comforted me when it became clear that Chris Robinson was just not that into me while Johnny Colt was way more into her.

Then our paths diverged. I had my band and my constant search for enlightenment. Nadege had meetings and her sober friends but she could never get comfortable. She hated stripping but it’s all she knew how to do to make money. She had countless, often brilliant, get rich quick schemes but she didn’t know how to follow through with any of them. She could have been a professional dancer but never had the training. I would stop by her apartment to hang out and she would lay in bed with the blinds drawn, chain-smoking and complaining in her thick accent. It felt claustrophobic.

We all knew she wasn’t going to be able to stay clean. She stopped going to meetings and started this weird polyamorous affair with an ex-boyfriend and an angelic looking Irish kid that Madonna put in her sex book. Nadege fell in love with the kid and obsessed about the two men all day long. Then she met Christopher Walken at a party and felt that a friend she was with had cockblocked her. It was as if she felt a window to new possibilities had been opened for a second and then slammed shut onto her fingers. She couldn’t get over it. She watched “King of New York” over and over again. She’d say, “Wait. Wait! Watch this part!” Rewinding and studying his face in close-ups. She figured out where he lived and sat across the street for hours. Once she had a pizza delivered to his place to see if he would answer the door.

I tried to talk to her. I tried to talk her out of things like that, to motivate her to fix her life, but she couldn’t. I thought we were alike but we weren’t. I grew up in a dysfunctional but loving Midwestern family and had been taught that when things sucked, you suck it up and get on with making it suck less. Nadege had been abandoned and abused and was never given the same tools or support. She was, inside, an eternally sweet, broken little girl.

I played a show opening for Motorhead at the Ritz wearing an outfit that was a direct copy of her style, which was always on point and ahead of anyone else. I had also had a couple of outfits custom made copied from things she had created. She was upset, and told me so. I didn’t understand her reaction; in my mind we were the same person, why would she care? Looking back, it’s easy to understand: I had everything and was still callously usurping the little bit of turf that she had to herself.

Shortly after that she dove headfirst into full junkie mode and we stopped hanging out. She would call me at weird hours of the night to check in, always with shocking stories of coke-paranoia barricaded apartments and holes in arms so big that the plastic part of the syringe went in. I listened patiently and clucked at the bad stuff and told her to stop it and that I loved her. The bodega underneath my apartment started selling coke, so when she went there to buy she would hit my buzzer and I would come down and give her a hug. It was like she was an occasional visitor from another, much darker planet.

She started hooking on 12th Street. She lost her front teeth and her skin looked scary bad when I would run into her on St. Marks Place. I managed Coney Island High and watched her from the window in front of my desk, going in and out, in and out of a building full of cheap rooming houses that she lived in directly across the street. She told me a john paid for her to live there. We existed mere feet from each other and couldn’t have been further apart.

Then one day she called me to tell me she was clean. It was a miracle. She’d gotten a deadly infection in her knee from a bit of dislodged needle, and once in the hospital friends had grabbed the opportunity to hustle her off to rehab in Florida. I was so happy for her. She was happy, she told me she didn’t think it was possible and she had been waiting to die that whole time.

She hated Florida. She got a job as some sort of security at an apartment complex and rode a golf cart around at night, which I thought was hilarious. She called me regularly to report in on how bored she was. And eventually, because she couldn’t support herself in the States, she decided to go back to France. She began painting, and she was great at it. She painted furniture and clothing and eventually gorgeous, colorful, spooky paintings that came straight out of the deepest recesses of her soul. I was so happy for her; finally her creative nature was manifesting itself.

But that excitement was short lived when I realized the dynamic had not changed. The phone calls were still a stream of consciousness revolving around all things Nadege. She never wondered or asked what I was up to; I just listened and gave advice which was ignored. Her mood was still depressed.

I was over it; the novelty of having a somber French junkie BFF had worn off years ago. She came to visit New York and was a huge pain in the ass the entire time. She had gained weight and refused to wear anything but five inch heels because she thought it made her look thinner. She was broke and couldn’t walk in the shoes but wanted to shop. So I paid for cabs to take her to the cheaper stores in our neighborhood. She couldn’t find anything that fit her and complained incessantly. She broke her heel so I paid for a cab to take her to the shoe store. Then while she was waiting for it to be fixed I took her out for food. She ordered pasta and mashed potatoes and dessert and complained about being fat. I sighed and paid the bill.

It was exhausting in a manner that went beyond physical or emotional. It snapped something in me. I couldn’t bear to continue the same circular conversations we’d been having since we met. I desperately wanted to be happy; she seemed determined to remain as unhappy as possible. She sent me messages through myspace that I mostly ignored, until I finally broke down and told her how bad that visit was for me and how rough it was to be her straight man for decades. She said that she “wasn’t going to take my inventory” (an NA/AA phrase) and didn’t want me to take hers. And that she loved me.

Agh. I felt bad. I loved her too. I never wanted to hurt her. I just didn’t have much more to give.

More time passed. She continued to call me faithfully every couple of months. I picked up one out of every three or four phone calls, when I had the time and patience to listen to her talk about herself. I hate chatting on the phone, it makes me anxious. She loved it. She sent me pictures of the intense paintings she did and insisted upon compliments. I told her I wrote, numerous times, she never looked or asked me about it. She said she wanted to write a book about herself. I rolled my eyes. It was infuriating, although truthfully it would make a great story.

One day she told me, very matter of factly through facebook, that she had lung cancer. My first thought was “Of course she does.” She’d been smoking and wanting to die since I met her. It pissed me off. Her life had been such a colossal waste of beauty, grace, intelligence and creativity. Just a giant wallow in never-ending French junkie existential bullshit. And now she was going to die. Great. Just great. She would finally have a real excuse to lay in bed all day long. My second thought was, “Shit. This is really happening.”

We continued the same way we had. She called me regularly; I ignored most of the calls. Finally I called her back and she told me she was now bedridden for the most part, that she had found her connection to God, and that it comforted her. She had people taking care of her. She didn’t sound happy exactly, but she sounded positive. It was nice to hear her funny little voice. We covered as much as we could in that call. I told her that I loved her and I wanted her to feel okay, and that this hard life was almost done for her. I knew it was the last time I would speak to her, although she would call again.

Our mutual friend Robert Butcher was the one to tell me that she was in the hospital and had only hours to live. He gave me the number to call, which I didn’t use. I thought about it. I looked at it for a while. But I felt that I’d said everything and I was still so mad at her. It felt as if another call would be continuing to entertain the nonsense. I didn’t want to concede. I know this doesn’t make sense; I’m sure some people are going to think it heartless, but it wasn’t that. I love her. I loved her. And underneath the defensive irritation, I was relieved for her more than anything, happy that she was so close to freedom. I wanted to meditate on it while she lay mostly unconscious, and send her the loving energy that I could. Which I did.

When we are very young, we have no idea that time will pass so quickly. We think opportunities and beauty will flutter around us forever like butterflies in an eternal summer. I will keep Nadege in my heart and mind’s eye in that youth and beauty and promise. I know that she is near me and she is free. I’m grateful for the lessons, for the unconditional love she had for me, and for her patience with my impatience. There will never be another like her.

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PHOTO BY ROBERT BUTCHER