Happy two days before Thanksgiving, all.
I posted a new blog to my podcast’s website this morning. You can find it here.
I thank you all.
The day has finally come.
A close friend and I have started a podcast.
It’s called Anglophilia.
If you’re a fan of British comedies (our subject matter), you may like it.
If you’re a fan of panel style podcasts, you may like it.
If you’re a fan of supporting podcasts hosted by women, you may like it.
Oh, and the co-creator of Father Ted listened to at least the first chunk of our show yesterday:
You can follow us @anglopodcast on Twitter and Instagram.
Access the show on SoundCloud, iTunes, or by visiting www.anglophiliapodcast.com/
I also do a wee bit of writing on the website, so hey, feel free to read more words there.
For me, it went like this.
At 10:30, I turned off my bedroom light and got into bed. For reasons beyond my immediate comprehension, I saw pink, winged ponies when I shut my eyes. The sight of them was strange, yet strangely comforting. I soon fell asleep.
At 11:25 (or what must have been right around 11:25), I woke up to go to the bathroom. When I got back to my room, I saw that my phone was, as the kids say, blowing up. Three different people had sent me text messages. 14 text messages.
I opened one. It said, “Bowie. Gone.”
At that moment, I was only about 3/4 of the way conscious. What was my friend trying to say? Was he up late listening to old Bowie records and feeling reflective? Was he so blown away by Low he felt his mind was “Gone”? Did he really hate Blackstar?
I remembered I had 13 other texts to read. Then I woke up.
I have 14 texts because people are trying to tell me that David Bowie is dead.
I opened up another message. It was a group text. Two of my closest friends and I have been babbling to each other via text about anything and everything nearly every day for several years. All three of us love using caps lock.
“ARE YOU HEARING THE REPORTS THAT DAVID BOWIE DIED. I’M REALLY FUCKED UP RIGHT NOW.”
I Googled it. BBC News confirmed it. I gasped. Loudly. Then I heard my name from the other room.
One of my roommates came to my door. I joined her in the hallway. She had just read the news on social media. “I heard the noise from your room and figured you just got the news,” she said. I looked up at the wall and saw the sepia print I bought in San Francisco 10 years ago of Bowie and Lou Reed looking rather friendly. I’m not a religious person, but I do love the idea of happy reunions.
I sat back down on my bed and contemplated staying up all night. I wasn’t even sad yet; I just knew I was in for a long one. At this point I was wide awake, but I felt like I was dreaming.
My phone rang. Another friend had heard.
It was at this friend’s house that I first saw Labyrinth. We were 10 or 11 and Bowie’s crotch had completely taken over our slumber party. We returned that VHS to Blockbuster pretty damn worn. Years later, we traded in Labyrinth for Moulin Rouge! and sang “Elephant Love Medley” with the sort of crazed abandon that can only be produced by teenage girls, particularly those who are hopelessly in love with a significantly older, married celebrity. Aw, Ewan McGregor. “We can he heroes / forever and ever.”
I picked up the call. I didn’t even say “hello.” I just said, “Dude.”
“I’m sorry. I hope I’m not waking you up.”
“Do you know why I’m calling?”
We expressed our mutual shock and confusion. Then there were a few more moments of, “Dude” and “I know” and “What the FUCK, man?”
“We both got to see him live,” I reminded her.
“Yes, we did get to do that.”
My friend started to cry. I was numb.
“I’m still in disbelief,” I said.
“I’m sorry,” she said, “I don’t know. I just…I never met him or anything, but…he was just always around. I associate him with, ya know, with you guys.”
I thought about the time my mom drove a group of us to San Francisco for spring break. We were in 11th grade. The minivan broke down at one point just outside San Luis Obispo. As my mom waited by the van for roadside assistance, my friends and I stood on the side of the highway. Arm-in-arm, the five of us sang “Ziggy Stardust” at maximum volume.
“I know,” I told my friend. “I get it.”
We talked about our concern for a friend of ours who had undoubtedly gone to bed before the news broke, and how unfair it was that she was going to wake up in the morning and find out her hero had died. Eventually, our conversation reached a lull.
“Ok,” said my friend, “I’m just gonna listen to Bowie and cry some more. Goodnight. I love you.”
“I love you so, so much.”
I hung up. I thought about when my friend and I first watched Trainspotting. We were 14. Frickin’ Ewan McGregor. We knew literally nothing about the movie besides the fact our loverman was the star. Christ. We struck gold that day. How often do you fall in love with an actor and then learn — by accident — he’s notorious for getting naked in his movies? What luck. We rewound that tape like we were two 10-year-olds watching Labyrinth, only this time there was no mystery.
What was that song, though? The one from the opening credits? And what was that song from the scene were Renton ODs and sinks into the floor at the Mother Superior’s house? Those questions haunted me so much I went out and bought a copy of the soundtrack. The song I fell in love with was Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day.”
“How’d you learn about Lou?” my dad asked me one evening.
“From the Trainspotting soundtrack.”
“You saw Trainspotting?”
“Have you listened to any Velvet Underground?” he asked.
“Look for them next time you go to download songs off the internet.”
That was the moment dad officially became my guide. He played me Lou’s Berlin for the first time and told me it was the perfect thing to listen to when you’re depressed. He played me weird Iggy Pop songs and drove me to a little record store one afternoon and bought me a copy of London Calling. He put on New Order one slow Saturday night and we danced our hearts out to “Temptation.” For Christmas I was given a small turntable and I fiendishly raided his record collection.
One night he came into my room and handed me his copy of Marianne Faithful’s Broken English. “Put this on next time you really feel like you hate men,” he said.
I was just a bit proud of myself when I picked up a copy of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars from the Sam Goody in the Thousand Oaks Mall. I was 15. It was the summer before 10th grade, and I was desperate for a distraction from my assigned reading. I had already spent half the vacation listening to Raw Power — David Bowie seemed like the next logical step on my teenage rock and roll adventure.
Is there a stranger opening track than “Five Years”? And what’s with the aliens? And what exactly is a “rock and roll suicide”? I had no answers, but I still felt like I had found the key to everything. (Take that, Aldous Huxley.)
The day after I turned 16, my dad played me “Life on Mars?” He called it, “One of the most beautiful rock and roll songs ever recorded.” A little over a year later, he took me and two friends to see Bowie in concert, where he sang “Life on Mars?” Beautiful, indeed. So beautiful, in fact, that I stopped doing my homework for a good month and a half. I had no time for homework — I was too busy listening to Bowie and perfecting my eye shadow technique.
Wait, wait, “Life on Mars?”? That was it — that was the song I needed to play to begin mourning Bowie!
I jumped off my bed and ran to the corner of my room to plug in my ancient turntable. I queued up the song, turned up the volume, and stood in the middle of my room waiting for the deluge. I was ready.
Bowie sounded like a robot that was powering down for the night. Was the speed wrong? I tinkered with the settings. Nothing worked. I turned off the turntable and crawled into bed and listened to the song on my iPhone. It wasn’t the same. I cursed the modern world and I did not cry.
This morning was a flurry of texts and facebook messages. Everyone was sad and no one was ready. We reminisced about important moments of our teen-hood for which Bowie was cosmically present: driving through Topanga Canyon on a Saturday afternoon; convincing our theater teacher to play “Let’s Dance” during our annual holiday play; improvising an interpretive dance to “Space Oddity” in my parents’ driveway. I sat at my desk at work and answered text messages and read opinion pieces and news briefs and wondered how one person could inspire so many.
I was clad in black from head-t0-toe, but I still hadn’t cried.
My phone beeped.
It was dad. He had sent me a YouTube link. “From the tour we saw,” he said. “I’m getting a little choked up as I’m remembering you and your friends holding hands and crying to this song.” As I listened, I, too, became a little choked up, but there was no time for real tears. Not at work.
I’m home now. I’m sitting on my bed in my pajamas and I’m looking at the clock wondering how I managed to stay up this late. I’ve been in this exact situation before — up past my bedtime feeling too wired to sleep and too tired to relax and too anxious about everything I’m doing and not doing — and it’s actually nights like these where Bowie sounds the best. I couldn’t say exactly why — maybe something to do with the night sky increasing a spaceship’s visibility. Perhaps I’ll sleep with my blinds open.
Finally — tears.
Happy election year.
Happy birthday. To me. I’ll be 29 years old in 10 days. I ain’t worried. I could easily pass for 27. I could even pass for 25, maybe, if I grew my hair out, but I’m not going to do that. Too many interesting strangers love my cropped ‘do. In fact, just this evening I was stopped by a homeless lady as I was leaving Trader Joe’s. She told me she loved my hair and that she used to have a haircut just like mine when she was younger.
“My husband used to tell me, ‘You look BUTCH!'”
“I would just turn around and say, ‘Well you’re a PUSSY!'”
I am simply not willing to sacrifice these wonderful interactions for the sake of shaving a few years off my appearance.
Nick Cave wrote another book. It’s called The Sick Bag Song, and tonight at The Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, he read selections from the book to a live audience. I was there, of course. I arrived at 5:45pm and stood in line with all the young goths. My younger brother arrived at 6:30pm and bought us each a Schlitz. A security guard came around and asked if we already had tickets. I nodded that yes, we most certainly did.
“Then why are we in this line?” my brother asked, innocently.
“Because the seats are unassigned.”
“And this starts at…8:00pm?”
I smiled. He smiled. I was happy he had agreed to come to something few people would be interested in seeing with me.
I don’t yet own a copy of The Sick Bag Song, but based on what I witnessed tonight, I can confidently describe it as poetic exploration colliding with memoir. Nick Cave wrote the book during his tour of the United States last year, and, as he said tonight, the narrator is, “A guy who also happens to be on a tour of the U.S. and looks a lot like me.” Each chapter is titled after a different city visited on the tour, although the chapters aren’t telling a story with a beginning, middle, and end. At least I don’t think they are.
The selections I heard were mostly depictions of actual events told with Nick Cave’s signature fantastical doom. In a story about meeting Bob Dylan at Glastonbury, for instance, Nick Cave writes that the torrential rain had formed a lake that separated his trailer from Bob Dylan’s. Naturally, Bob Dylan climbed into a boat powered by a bag of wind to cross the lake — or as Nick Cave said, “moat” — and say “hello.” The boat bit may not have happened, but I have read about Nick Cave meeting Bob Dylan in the rain at Glastonbury. The chapter titled “Los Angeles,” however, is more of a fever dream about a woman on a bed in a hotel in West Hollywood. The narrator calls himself a “small God,” and then, after the woman raises her “gash” to the sky, the narrator becomes an “erect God.” Those are the only details I can recall of the writing. Jim Morrison would have loved it.
(To change things up a bit during the live reading tonight, we were shown a film of Nick Cave reading this chapter. I admire and adore this man, but there are times where I find him downright hilarious, regardless of whether or not he’s trying to be. This film was one of those times.)
Nick Cave himself was in a comparatively pleasant mood. He smiled more than once, and didn’t even get too cross when his headset was having technical difficulties. “It works for Madonna,” he cracked. He also seemed very excited to read from his book. An interviewer sat on the stage with him and asked him questions to keep things moving, and Nick Cave always went back to asking, “Shall I read some more?”
Finally, we reached the Q&A section of the show. I was at a different Nick Cave Q&A last July, during which he seemed horrified to be the star of the evening. That night, I managed to summon every bit of courage I had and ever will have, and asked him a question using complete sentences. He answered it, but I only remember my question and not his answer. I remember speaking clearly into the microphone and thinking, “Holy shit, I’m not fucking this up!” When I was finished talking, I steadied myself on the seat in front of me. My heart was racing and I was sweating underneath my new Free People dress. “Nick Cave is addressing me,” I thought, as I concentrated on my breath. According to my dad, who witnessed the entire thing, Nick Cave gave me a very thoughtful answer.
“I think he really appreciated your question,” my dad whispered. “No one else has asked him anything good.”
I didn’t feel like putting myself through that kind of stress again. Besides, I still haven’t read The Sick Bag Song.
No one in the audience asked a truly great question this evening either, but Nick Cave did a truly great job of remaining dry and funny as opposed to dry and dour. Someone asked him about what he said earlier regarding the narrator that “looks a lot like” him, and whether Nick Cave the man is different from Nick Cave the rockstar. He confirmed, “That just becomes who you are.”
Nick Cave wears fierce suits. Nick Cave is married to a model. Nick Cave idolizes Elvis and has not yet quit smoking cigarettes. This is who he presents to the world, and this is who he is. Amanda Palmer once wrote a great blog about meeting Nick Cave in a hotel after he had picked up his dry cleaning. To me, her anecdote authenticates the whole thing. Nick Cave isn’t being handed a rented suit by a stylist before each show — the suits that transform him from Skinny Australian Guy into Nick Cave are his own Goddamn suits that he drops off at the cleaners.
I wonder how he feels about wire hangers.
More questions went by. “What’s a movie you saw recently that you loved?” “I saw that movie ‘Foxcatcher.’ Fucking amazing.” “How do you feel about music streaming and art no longer being tangible?” “I have a manager that handles all that.” “Are there any new bands that you follow?” “No.”
A young man stood up to ask a question. He was wearing a red sweatshirt.
“I drove here all the way from Alaska to see you,” he said. Nick Cave was sweet. He managed a, “thank you.” The young man continued, “What I really want is to ask you about Gladiator Part II, but instead I’ll ask you about what you said about being the man versus the mask. Does that get difficult? I mean, Tom Waits does it and he does fine with it, but it killed Hemingway.”
Dorky, for sure. Not only was he asking a question that had already been answered, he also referenced Nick Cave’s fabled failure of a Gladiator Part II screenplay. I cringed.
Nick Cave didn’t care about any of that. Instead, he immediately became serious and snapped, “I don’t wanna say anything about Tom Waits.” The guy tried repeating the question with greater clarity, but Nick Cave cut him off: “I can’t say anything about Tom Waits. I don’t wanna go there.”
This absolutely fucking alarmed me. “I don’t wanna go there”? Go where? Is Tom Waits a “there” that you cannot go to, Nick Cave? What’s the T? Spill it, Nick Cave!
Earlier in the evening, someone had asked Nick Cave why artists “stop growing.” He said that he didn’t know because things are “different for everyone.” Could it have been that Nick Cave didn’t want to speak about Tom Waits because he felt he’d be speaking for Tom Waits? Or did he want to avoid the subject of Tom Waits at all costs because he was afraid of letting loose and tearing Tom Waits apart?
Nick Cave got quiet again. “Do you wanna ask a different question?” he said to the young man from Alaska, who replied, “What happened to Gladiator Part II?” Nick Cave didn’t crack a smile as he said, “That’s between me, Russell Crow, and a trash bin.”
The Q&A ended. The theater emptied. My brother and I made our way to our cars. We were in separate lots on opposite sides of the street, so we hugged on the sidewalk and parted ways. As I walked toward my car, I spotted the guy from Alaska. I recognized him instantly, thanks to his red sweatshirt. He was fishing something out of the back seat of his car. I decided to talk to a stranger.
“He got really strange at the mention of Tom Waits, didn’t he?”
He looked up at me, startled. A wad of chewing tobacco peaked up from behind his lower lip. His eyes widened as he realized what I was referring to.
“Oh my God!” he yelled, doing his best not to spit his chew in my face. “I’m so glad someone else noticed that!”
“Yeah,” I said, becoming very pleased with myself for deciding to stop and chat, “I wonder if he didn’t wanna talk about Tom Waits out of respect, or because, ya know, he doesn’t like Tom Waits.”
“Exactly!” he shouted. “That would be so weird!”
“Well, you can’t Google search one of them without finding a picture of the other, I said.”
He spat tobacco juice into a cup.
“It’s Bob Dylan, Nick Cave, and Tom Waits,” he said. “I mean, that’s it. It’s them.”
“And Leonard Cohen,” I said.
“Can I hug you?”
Because we live in a fucked up world, I immediately took note of whether or not the back door of his car was still open. I figured that if it were open, he could easily shove me inside and drive me back to Alaska with him. Screw it, I thought. Hug the Nick Cave fan who drove here from motherfucking Alaska and said the words “Gladiator Part II” to Nick Cave’s face. Hug him. Hug a fellow crazy fan who bought a ticket to this random fucking show at The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. Hug the guy who is just as distraught as you are by the idea that Nick Cave doesn’t like Tom Waits. Do it, Steff. Just do it. You’re safe. Nick Cave fans don’t kill each other. There’s no crying in baseball. Goonies never say ‘die’.
I hugged him. He hugged me back. When we broke our embrace, he repeated, “I’m so glad someone else noticed that.”
We chatted for another minute about the show. He spit more tobacco juice into his cup, but this time he apologized for his “disgusting habit.”
“I would love to ask Nick Cave if he ever hears from Shane MacGowan,” I said.
He chuckled briefly, and added, “I would love to ask him if he would give me Warren Ellis’s phone number.”
Our BFF moment was over. He had changed the subject from Shane MacGowan to Warren Ellis. I wasn’t disappointed, but there was nothing more to be said.
“Have a safe drive back,” I said.
“You have a good night,” he replied.
I turned and began to walk away. Over my shoulder, I heard him yell, “I am so glad you said something!”
I turned my head and smiled at him, then continued to my car and smiled to myself. I do hope he has a safe drive back, and I do hope Nick Cave at least respects Tom Waits, and I do hope that everyone gets to experience the occasional pleasant interaction with a stranger who is only as crazy as they are.
I haven’t looked my best at work lately. Over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten into the habit of immediately hitting “snooze” when I hear my alarm go off at 6:30am. Forty-five minutes later, I’ll force myself out of bed, pull on whatever jeans and t-shirt I can find crumpled up in a heap on the floor, and ease my feet into my blue and purple Adidas. After rolling some deodorant against my stubbly pits and rubbing cornstarch into my oily, sweaty scalp, I’ll consider myself good to go. The t-shirts are usually stained, the jeans are usually smelly, and, while it may be a great alternative to dry shampoo, the cornstarch tends to leave a powdery build up in the part of my hair.
I’m sexy. And you know it.
My appearance doesn’t affect anyone else’s workday. That is, I didn’t think it affected anyone else’s workday until the foxy Frenchman made a comment about it on Tuesday.
The Frenchman is one of the most amusing people in the office. He asks hilariously European questions, such as,”Stéphanie, if I were to put a banana in ze freezer, what would happen?” When I first started at this company a year ago, he used to ask me questions about the bun I would wear in my hair: “How deed you make eet so pear-fect? Eet eez like a dough-nut!” He has great arms despite his claims that he never works out. He rides a motorcycle. He’s classic.
“Stéphanie,” he said to me on Tuesday when I passed him in the hall, “Remember when you used to dress nice at work?”
I flipped him off.
“No, really,” he continued. “Do you remember?”
My only indication that this was an earnest question lost in translation as opposed to an outright dig was the fact that he was smiling the same doofy smile that was plastered across his face when he once asked me if his pants were too tight. Still, I wasn’t thrilled to be put on the spot.
I said, “Fuck you” and walked away.
Maybe he should have kept his mouth shut. Regardless, I knew I didn’t look nice. Far from it. For weeks. I asked myself, Would you like to put more effort into your appearance? The answer was Yes. I asked myself, Is this for the foxy Frenchman, or for yourself? The answer was, For my damn self!
Wednesday went fine. I got out of bed at 7:00 instead of 7:15, which gave me just enough time for a quick shower. I put on a black tank top, a blue cardigan, jeans that had been hanging up in my closet, and knee high boots. The foxy Frenchman told me, “See? You are like a new person!” I flipped him off.
Thursday was the same. I got up at 7:00, sprayed sweet-smelling dry shampoo in my hair, and put on a clean dress. When I got home that night I took a shower, blow dried my hair, and selected a dress to wear the next day. I chose a Free People dress I had splurged on in July during an intense “Oh My God, What Am I Going To Wear To All The Nick Cave Shows I’m Seeing This Week?” shopping spree. I didn’t end up wearing it to Nick Cave, but I did wear it to Neutral Milk Hotel. I felt like a Harvest Moon Princess.
“Look at me,” I thought to myself as I got into my bed at 9:30 on Thursday night. “Look at how much better I feel about my appearance, all because I am making an effort to make a minimal amount of effort.”
This morning began as the two previous mornings had. Up at 7:00. Contacts in. Deodorant on. Sweet-smelling dry shampoo sprayed. After I put on my Harvest Moon Princess dress, I heard my roommate call my name and ask if I was ready to leave. I wasn’t ready. Not quite. Still, I grabbed my car key from my purse and followed her downstairs to the garage. We each have a place to park, but our spaces are tandem — one of us is always blocking the other in, regardless of how convenient that is. It’s a bit of a pain, but my roommate and I seem to have an understanding. There’s not much we can do besides communicate with each other when one of us has to get the hell to work.
She pulled away. I re-parked my car. When I got out and walked to the door that leads to the lobby, I saw that it was open ajar. This door is usually shut and locked. Shit, that’s lucky, I thought. I don’t have my key with me. I pushed the door open, walked through the lobby, and stepped into the elevator. I felt the weight of my car key in my hand. My one key. My car key. I gasped.
I didn’t have the key to the lobby, which meant I didn’t have the key to the apartment, which meant I was in a situation. About a month ago, my parents warned me that if there were too many keys hanging on my keychain, the weight of everything could mess up my car’s ignition. Ever since that conversation, I have been keeping my car key separate from all the others. In my hurry to move my car so that my roommate could leave for work, I had forgotten to grab all of my damn keys. (Note to self: come up with a slightly better way of keeping your keys organized.)
I arrived at my floor and ran to my apartment. Locked. I ran around the corner to where the apartment manager lives and knocked on his door. No answer. I knocked a bit more assertively. Nothin’. I banged on his door with both hands. Still nothin’. I got down on my knees, opened the mail slot in his door, and yelled, “HELLLOOOOO?”
I gave up and ran back to my apartment. I tried the handle again. Still locked. I thought that since only the door handle lock was locked (as opposed to the dead bolt), perhaps I could force it open by jiggling the handle repeatedly and slamming my booty against the door. I tried this for a few seconds. It worked about as well as one might suspect it would.
Nervousness began to kick in. What time is it? How unimaginably horrible is the traffic getting with every passing second? Should I go out and find a pay phone and call the office to tell them I’m running late? How the hell will I get back inside the building if I do that? I’m not wearing shoes! I can’t go to work without any shoes! Underwear! I didn’t have time to put on underwear before I went downstairs!
Staring down at the lock, I tried to think of ways to force it open without slamming my booty against the door. Never in my life had I successfully picked a lock, but what if I could do it now? Along with all the other innocent, yet miscalculated things I regretted doing that morning, I cursed myself for removing the bobby pins I had used to pull back my bangs while I washed my face. Guess lock-picking is out of the question.
Suddenly, I remembered a scenario that took place in an episode of Friends I had once watched when I was a kid. The three women (I don’t remember all of their names) were trapped outside in the snow. They were with some guy (not any of the main guys — it was someone else), and they needed to get inside of somewhere (either a cabin or a car). The man asked which of them wore the biggest bra size, and he explained that he could use a part of a bra (underwire? clip?) to pick the lock. He said he needed to know who wore the biggest size, because that woman would have the biggest…the biggest lock-picking tool. Jennifer Aniston and Courtney Cox argued with each other over which of them had bigger boobs (neither of them wanted to have the biggest boobs, which made me feel very insecure as a pre-teen with significant breasts), and then Lisa Kudrow was like, “Shuttup bitches, I’ll give him my bra.” I changed the channel after that. Did the bra trick work? What part did he use? No idea.
Standing in the hallway at what was now probably 7:45am, I carefully pulled my left arm out of its sleeve. Then, I reached both hands around my back and undid my bra clasp. I slid the bra off my left arm, and then quickly put my arm back in my dress sleeve. I repeated the process on the right side, slipping my sleeve off, slipping the bra off, and then covering up as swiftly as possible.
Once I had the bra in my hands, I wasn’t sure what to do. It was a flimsy old thing that needed to be replaced, so I wasn’t too upset about having to destroy it. Still, I wasn’t sure where to start. At first I tried to force my car key under one of the clasps in hopes it would help it slide out of the fabric. When that didn’t work, I took the bra in both hands and started to pull in opposite directions. After a brief, yet furious struggle, the tip of one of the underwires popped out. It was too big and too blunt to fit in the lock. Curses. I hooked the bra clasps together, and, once again, pulled in opposite directions. After a few seconds of twisting and pulling the pathetic bra while contorting my face into all kinds of ridiculous expressions and aggressively whispering, “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” one of the clasps popped out of the fabric. I bent the small piece of metal into a straight line, and then gently stuck it in the lock. Unsure of what to do next, I started wiggling the metal up and down, side to side, clockwise, and counter clockwise. When I tried the up and down motion again, the damn thing snapped, leaving half of it in my hand and half of it lodged inside the Godforsaken lock.
The feeling of defeat was palpable. I had no shoes, no underwear, and now, thanks to a desperate, half-formed idea inspired by an old episode of Friends I never finished watching, no bra. My purse was inside my apartment, along with my phone, my makeup bag, my black sandals I had planned to wear, and the food I had planned to bring with me for lunch.
Should I just go to work?
I remembered I had a pair of brown boots in my trunk. They would work. I still had my car key, which was a good thing. This doesn’t have to be that big of a deal.
I walked back downstairs and opened my trunk. I zipped up my boots and got in the car. I put on my sunglasses, slid The Pogues’ Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash into my CD player, and thought about how much easier this morning would have been if I had the ability to walk through vaulted doors.
I got to work on time. Early, in fact. I had time to drink a cup of tea and enjoy the silence of an empty office. When I was finished, I walked into the bathroom to check out how my boots coordinated with the dress. I was pleasantly surprised. I will definitely be wearing this outfit again. With socks, next time.
For a few more seconds, I admired my appearance in the mirror. My hair looked polished. My outfit was groovy. My makeup-free face looked pretty great, too. I felt confident. I didn’t feel like an artificial, overly done-up version of myself, nor did I feel like the lazy, slightly smelly version of myself I had recently been showcasing. I was just me. Silly old me, with a pretty dress, no socks, and a torn up bra in my trunk.
When I returned to my desk, I opened up my email. I threw a few old messages away and printed out my boss’ daily edition of The Hollywood Reporter. I was about to get up to get a second cup of tea when I heard someone enter my doorway.
“Stéphanie,” said the foxy Frenchman. “Zat eez a great dress.”
I flipped him off. As he walked away, I smiled as I imagined how I must have looked while I was struggling to tear my bra in half. Maybe after I get my next paycheck I’ll treat myself to Chantelle. And a keychain.
“How can Rick be dead when we still have his poems?”
That’s the attitude I try to have when it comes to the death of someone I loved, yet never met.
In 2013, I lost three of my best friends. The news was devastating every time. Did I know them personally? No. And yes. And not really. And very well.
Why did I consider them my friends? All of them had just, I dunno — all of them had gotten me through so many confusing, shitty, or just plain boring times. I hope I don’t sound too crazy when I say that. I’ve never stalked anyone and I understand the difference between fantasy and reality, but yeah, these people meant a lot to me. They still mean a lot to me. I can call them my “friends” if I want. And I was sad when my friends made their exits.
Still, the question remains: “How can Rick be dead when we still have his poems?”
Lou Reed? He ain’t dead. He can’t be. I still love him very much and I still have “Sweet Jane,” so nothing has changed.
James Gandolfini isn’t dead, either, and neither is Tony Soprano. (My theory, anyway.)
Peter O’Toole. My dearest, darling Peter O’Toole. The coolest. The smartest. The hottest. The craziest. That voice. That height. That hair. I think about him all the time and I miss him all the time, and yet, as long as I can get together with my friends every December and laugh and cry and yell and drink champagne while watching The Lion in Winter, Peter O’Toole can never die.
This morning, as soon as I got to work and turned on my computer, I found out that Rik Mayall died. Today. Rik Mayall died today. Weird. So very weird. And sad. He was still, well, young…
Just last week, I was listening to The Pogues and wondering when Shane MacGowan would die. I was also wondering why Shane MacGowan hasn’t died already. Seriously.
I should stop. I don’t wanna give the universe any ideas.
My point is, I was already thinking about my remaining heroes and wondering who I’d lose next. Apparently, not Shane MacGowan.
Oddly enough, I was also thinking about The Young Ones last week. I don’t remember why or how, but, quite suddenly and inexplicably, I felt inspired to find the Dr. Marten’s boots song on YouTube. After watching it, I spent a good hour and a half searching for cheap Dr. Marten’s online. No avail.
The next day, a co-worker of mine mentioned The Young Ones. He’s Scottish. I said, “I fucking love The Young Ones.” He said, “That’s too weird.” I asked him why. He said, “It’s just weird that you even know that show.” I asked him why. He said, “I dunno. I mean, it’s British and it’s old and it’s weird…I mean, I was watching that when I was in high school.” I said, “So was I.”
If you knew me in high school, you must recall that I was a pretty cool teenager. I mean it. Like, the coolest. For example, when I was 15 or 16, I begged my mom to buy me orange suede ADIDAS like the ones Ewan McGregor wears in Trainspotting. I felt so badass whenever I wore them. Like, so very, very badass. I also begged her to buy me a pair of plaid pants, because, ya know, Scotland. Or something.
There’s really, like, very minimal plaid in Trainspotting. I realize that now.
The coolest thing, though, was that every Saturday afternoon in tenth grade (after improv practice, no less) I would go to my friend Kaley’s house for Britcom. Yes. Britcom was our somewhat exclusive club that involved eating ice cream and watching British comedies until our eyes hurt. We wrote a constitution at one point. I don’t remember what was in it except for The Golden Rule, which came from an episode of Father Ted: “If anyone is ever talking to you again, think about what you’re saying and then don’t say it, and then just run away somewhere.”
The Young Ones was one of Britcom’s staples. Every David Bowie reference made me feel so damn validated. I went out and bought a Madness record and listened to “House of Fun” on repeat. I began referring to my English teacher as a “fascist bully boy,” despite the fact that she was a She. I seldom said, “I don’t have any money” — I usually launched into a Neil impression and said, “We haven’t got any breaaaad.” When I was feeling boy crazy I was a “Bitch funky sex machine.” I wrote “Boomshanka” on things I shouldn’t have written “Boomshanka” on. I even once got a Starbucks barista to write it on the sleeve of my Americano. I think I still have that sleeve somewhere.
Rik Mayall is dead. The people’s poet is dead. I’m sad for his wife and his family. I’m sad for Ade Edmondson. Like I keep saying, though, “we still have his poems.”
My VHS tapes of The Young Ones were dragged from my parents’ house to my college dorm (there was a VCR in the downstairs common room), and when I moved out of the dorm and into an on-campus apartment, I made sure to buy a TV that had both a VHS player and a DVD player. Why? Well, how could I live without Neil, Mike, Vyvyn, and Rick? They were university students, after all.
I still have those tapes. I’m not ever going to get rid of those tapes.
Aw, Rick. Thanks for helping make it nearly impossible for me to legitimately enjoy 99.9% of the current comedies on television. No giant sandwiches falling from the sky? No jokes about Leonard Cohen being a vampire? No pervasive political undertones? No, thank you.
There was also the music: Dexy’s Midnight runners doing “Jackie Wilson Said” and multiple Madness appearances and that great scene with friggin’ Motorhead…
What the hell is that shot of you guys being pushed on that…what is that? That’s a luggage carrier thing, right? Well, it slays me. Every time.
Ah, Rick. Thank you. Your show is so damn cool. So, so cool. It had everything the teenage version of Steff wanted in a show, and, since 27 year old Steff is very similar to the person she was 11 years ago, it’s still one of my all time favorites. It’s part of me, really. An appreciation for The Young Ones (or the ability to sit through several episodes in-a-row) is my litmus test for whether or not a man is husband material. (Husband, not boyfriend. Those are two different things.) Watching an episode of The Young Ones is my solo go-to activity when I’m having a shitty day. The music that plays during the end credits is what I hear in my head when I’m exceptionally happy.
Aw, Rick. RICK. My favorite pseudo-intellectual-anarchist-hipster-bachelor-boy. You’ve never failed to make me smile. You never will, you friggin’ weirdo.
Sometimes you feel like going for a run.
It doesn’t happen often, but it happened today, because today was an interesting day.
You put on the yoga pants and the sport bra you bought last year when you signed up for that gym membership that you canceled after four months and you put on the only pair of sneakers you own and you load some Amanda Palmer onto your iPhone and you walk out the door.
Run for one song, walk for one song. You decide to let shuffle do the decision-making, because you’re out of breath and now is not the time to stare at your music library on a hand-held screen.
Run for “Supergeil.” Walk for “Peaches en Regalia.” Walk for “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.” Run for “Streets of Sorrow / Birmingham Six.”
It’s dark. You’re sweating. Your lungs feel small. It’s time to walk home. Your iPhone decides you need to hear “Indian Summer.” You get really happy. You love “Indian Summer.” You loved it the first time you heard it and you love it tonight. You loved it that one night you listened to it on that mix tape you made and you imagine yourself dancing to it at your wedding with a faceless person you haven’t met and you wonder if that’s lame.
You look up at the moon. Jim tells you he loves you the best, better than all the rest that he’ll meet in the summer.
You think about why today was interesting and you get a little annoyed. You wonder why you’re even annoyed at all because you should be above it all because you’ve been through it all and you’ve been through a lot.
You contemplate the Human Condition and wonder what it even specifically means. Does it refer to the way we’re all gonna die and we know it? Or is that Existentialism? And are you allowed to pay attention to coincidences when you’re an Existentialist? Or do Existentialists not believe in coincidences? Or do they think coincidences are just coincidences and not anything to pay any attention to?
You wonder why you don’t tell more people to fuck off. You wonder why your first instinct is to get to know why a total asshole is a total asshole so that maybe, one day, you and that total asshole can be friends. But why would you wanna be friends with a total asshole? But aren’t we supposed to make friends while we’re here? And is there something innate in all of us that makes us want to hang out with each other and not kill each other?
Is that what God is? Is God the voice in your head that stops you from punching someone in the face? Is God the voice in your head that tells you to apologize? Is God the voice in your head that stops you from telling more people to fuck off?
Yes. You’re contemplating the existence of the divine. Not Divine: the divine. You’re wondering why more people don’t talk about how God may be a force of energy as opposed to a man who keeps tabs on everyone. You wonder why paying attention to things — things like coincidences — is considered silly and spooky, and yet condemning groups of people for the way they live in the name of God is allowed in the year 2014.
“Indian Summer” ends. You’re alone with the passing cars and the sound of your own footsteps. You look at the sign for the LA River and think of an episode of Six Feet Under, immediately followed by a scene from Inside Llewyn Davis.
Suddenly, loudly and beautifully and perfectly, “In the Aeroplane over the Sea” fills your ears and your brain and — perhaps? — your soul.
You love this song. You really, really love this song. You think about the people you love, and how some of them also love this song, and you think about how maybe you really should start paying more attention to what music other people like, because if they don’t like music that you like, that’s kind of actually a big deal. Or maybe they don’t need to like all the music you like, but they do need to like music, because if they don’t like music then what the hell are they doing?
You turn on to the crowded boulevard and you look at the neon signs and you feel almost like you live in a cool city, and there’s that bar you like and there’s that sushi place you like and you still have to go into that weird little shop and check out their Tibetan prayer flags. For Tibet.
Looking at your neighborhood reminds you that it’s the 11th. It’s March 11th. You moved into your apartment exactly one year ago.
One year ago.
You remember what was happening one year ago. You remember how afraid you were one year ago and how much more broke you were one year ago and dear God — thank God it’s no longer one year ago.
You pass the stupid lingerie store you’ve never been inside of and Mick and Keith take over and sing to you about “Wild Horses” and remind you you’ll ride them. Someday.
You wonder if you should write when you get home. You wonder who even reads your writing. You wonder if people read your writing and never tell you they read your writing. You wonder if people read your writing and tell you they love it but really they don’t. You wonder if people purposely avoid reading your writing because they don’t actually care about you when you’re not around. You wonder if you’ll ever write some more. Some more meaningful stuff. Stuff that more people see.
Here’s your street. You hang a right. Your feet hurt because your sneakers really weren’t designed to be used for running on concrete and your shirt is plastered to your back but yeah, man, going for a run was a good idea.
You think, Wasn’t it weird how your iTunes shuffle came up with such a perfect little set of songs? It was great, wasn’t it? You almost want to keep walking just to see what comes on next…
Warren Zevon comes on next.
Everybody’s restless and they’ve got no place to go
Someone’s always trying to tell them
Something they already know
So their anger and resentment flow
But don’t it make you want to rock and roll
All night long
I heard somebody singing sweet and soulful
On the radio, Mohammed’s Radio
You stop. You laugh. You can hardly believe your iPhone chose to play you a song that implies a divine figure is spinning rock and roll for the restless. On the 11th.
You open the gate, walk up the stairs, unlock the door to your apartment and step inside. You hang up your key and walk straight to your bedroom, where you plop down on the floor, set your laptop on your bed, and open up your blog that some people sometimes read.
And now you’re finished. And you’re hungry. And you’re excited to take a shower and put on your pajamas and watch another episode of Twin Peaks. You’re also a little freaked out and excited by how Twin Peaks is all about mysteries and synchronies and coincidences, and you think about Agent Dale Cooper and how he’s nice to everyone and never gets mad or annoyed or nasty.
So. What have you learned today?
And what do you think will happen tomorrow?
I’m trying to write a post about Downton Abbey for my entertainment themed blog, but I keep looking at the clock and thinking that I should get to bed. It’s getting kind of late and I have too much to say. I wanna turn my light off soon. Plus, I wanna watch an episode from season two, and episodes of Downton Abbey are about 50 minutes long, so I should get to it if I wanna get to sleep at a halfway decent hour.
Watching Downton Abbey again feels strange. When I first started watching it several years ago, I had just become unemployed. My mother and I devoured the first season in a day and a half, just in time for the premiere of season two. The second season was also a blast — progressivism and Spanish Flu and temporary paralysis. There were only two or three episodes left to air when my mom came home one day and told me she had bought the entire season on DVD at Barnes and Noble. This meant we didn’t have to wait another several weeks for the thrilling conclusion — the answers were at our fingertips.
“Wait, what do you mean it’s already on DVD?”
“The British version,” she said, smiling mischievously. “The episodes have already aired in the UK. Now they’re all on DVD. At Barnes and Noble.” We laughed like villains.
About a year later, season three premiered. I had a job. It was a silly job, but it was something. I didn’t have work the day Downton Abbey came back on, though. It was an exciting afternoon of coffee drinking and pajama wearing. Then, a few days afterward, my mom and I had a fight. I downloaded the rest of the season and watched it without her.
It was a stupid fight. I guess it was necessary, though. Well, no, not necessary, but kind of unavoidable. That’s ok. We’re close, so that’s what happens. If I ever have a daughter, I hope I fight with her, too. It’ll hurt, but it’ll be better than never fighting with her. You only never get mad at people you don’t think about.
Anyway. I watched the rest of season three by myself. I was really sick that day. I couldn’t breathe through my nose. I was sad, and sick, and alone, and then sad things happened on the show and I felt even more sad and even more alone. I couldn’t tell anyone about what I had just seen, because everyone else was watching it legally, and I couldn’t tell my mom, because she hadn’t seen the episode yet, either. Because she was also watching it legally. Without me. Because I was mad at her.
Two months later I moved out of my parents’ house and immediately got sick again. This time I had a fever and my throat was on fire. All I wanted to do was lie on the couch and watch Downton Abbey, because it’s a great show to watch while you’re sick, even though it’s only going to make you sad. I kept putting it on, but every time I did there was all kinds of, “This isn’t my thing” and, “This is boring” and, “We should rent Wreck It Ralph.” There was also Branson. Tom Branson. Jealousy over my attraction to Tom Branson. The chauffeur. The Irish chauffeur. The fictional Irish chauffeur. And for all my reassurances of, “Tom Branson isn’t a real person,” I was never quite forgiven.
But that’s all over. That is so, so over.
Season four premiered on Sunday night. I didn’t watch it ’till Monday. And it was silly. And it made me happy. And some parts of it annoyed me, and those parts made me want to email my mom. So I did, because we’re not mad at each other anymore and haven’t been for a long time. Because we love each other. Really love each other. So we worked things out.
Watching Downton Abbey in my own apartment makes me feel like I’m getting away with something — like I’m meeting up with someone I was temporarily estranged from, or catching up with an old friend I was previously banned from seeing. Either way, the series is entirely too important to me. I’m ok with that, though. Why should I be embarrassed? I watch the show and I feel happy and sad and excited and nostalgic and I think about love and sadness and change and forgiveness and good riddance. There are worse things I could do than love Downton Abbey for deeply personal, totally inflated reasons, right? I mean, just because it’s dramatic and stylized and British doesn’t have to make it stupid. Right? I mean, it’s not stupid. It’s…It’s…
it’s motherfuckin’ Downton Abbey, bitches. And I’m gonna watch as much of it as I like.
I’m sitting on my bed listening to a recording of my old radio show. My main one. “Dancing Barefoot.” It aired once a week on KZSC Santa Cruz from 8:30PM to 10:30PM. It began in June 2008 and ended in June 2010. Sometimes it was on a Tuesday night and sometimes it was on a Wednesday night. For about 10 weeks, it was on Tuesdays from 6:00AM to 9:00AM. It wasn’t a dance music show. It wasn’t a Patti Smith show. It was both. And neither. But there was still a formula. There definitely was.
The recording I’m listening to right now is dated May 11, 2010. The disc says “Part One.”
I just heard my 23-year-old self say the following:
“You’re listening to KZSC Santa Cruz! Under the moonlight! THE SERIOUS MOONLIGHT! MY SHOES ARE OFF! TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF, DANGNABBIT, AND DANCE!“
Then I played “Walkin’ on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves.
That was actually pretty cool to hear. To hear me. Me, being loud and bold and silly. Good for you, 23-year-old Steff.
Yoga is great. Walking is great. Running is great. Meditation is great. Fine wine is great. Hot baths are great. Chocolate-dipped Animal Fries are great. (I assume.) But there is no stress relief in this world quite as affective as hosting a fucking radio show. It’s absolute catharsis. It’s romantic exorcism. It’s energizing. It’s soothing. It’s stressful. It’s a fucked up Zen garden riddled with nerves and noise.
(“Planet Claire.” Good for you, 23-year-old Steff.)
I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would rather blow off steam by drinking and screwing, and those activities do have their place. For me, though, there’s nothing like talking into a massive microphone, addressing an attentive-yet-invisible audience and challenging yourself to play a series of three (or four…) songs in a row that flow together perfectly…and end right at the exact moment you have to go on the air and give the Bat Time and the Bat Station…
You can’t ignore things when you’re hosting a music program. You can’t force yourself to forget things when you’re hosting a music program. You can’t move on to the next thing when you’re hosting a music program. You can (and have to) put on your best “I’m chipper! Let’s rock!” voice, but after you’ve hit “Play” on a certain song and there’s nothing for you to do but listen and wait, you are gonna sit and think about exactly what’s inspired you to put on that certain song. And it will be loud.
The air room. The motherfuckin’ KZSC air room.
This recording. It’s killing me. In a good way.
“Just Like Heaven.” I played “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure after making a brief announcement.
I am now sitting on my bed, at age 26, singing “Just Like Heaven.” When I was 13 (unless I was 12), I sat up in my bed rather late listening to this song on repeat (on a Discman, no less), deliberately memorizing the lyrics. And on May 11th 2010, 23-year-old me felt it necessary to play this song on the air.
Wow. I must have been in a serious 80’s mood the night of May 11th, 2010. I followed “Just Like Heaven” with “Love My Way” by The Psychedelic Furs.
“Love My Way” is on the first volume of The Wedding Singer soundtrack. Adam Sandler was my first love. By listening to the soundtrack to The Wedding Singer, I felt like I was somehow close to my beloved Adam. I was 10.
And now I’m 26. And I am singing my heart out to these songs alone in my room while listening to a recording of my 23-year-old self spin these synthesized love ballads for an attentive-yet-invisible audience. I had a slew of problems back then. I have a slew of problems now. I guess I also had problems when I was 13 and 10. What’s nice, though, is that sitting here in my bedroom listening to this recording is helping me remember that Stephanie Callas, regardless of age and life experience and whatever bullshit gets played on KROQ, has always been the same damn person. Will always BE the same damn person.
“Age of Consent” by New Order.
I wonder what I was thinking about the night of May 11th, 2010. Well, lemme take that back: I know exactly what I was thinking about that night. For the sake of time and not turning this post into a total downer, I’m gonna keep the secret to myself. Still, as I said a moment ago, Stephanie Callas is still Stephanie Callas. Still sorting through the same stuff. Still reflecting on stuff and healing from stuff and listening to New Order when necessary.
“I had a Patti Smith request. Someone wants to hear something off ‘Easter.’ So, here’s the first track off of that album. It’s The Patti Smith Group with ‘Till Victory.'”
You either like Patti Smith or you don’t.
I saw Patti Smith in San Francisco when I was 21. I had been in L.A. that weekend. I had to make it to S.F. by a certain time. I was driving a minivan and I got a speeding ticket somewhere outside Montecito. I made it to S.F. in time. The show was incredible and I was standing right against the stage and at one point Patti Smith sat down and held my hand and looked straight into my eyes. I mouthed “I love you.” It was during the interlude of her song…called “Dancing Barefoot.”
Again. You either like Patti Smith or you don’t. Because Patti Smith is never going to be exactly what you want her to be. And nothing upsets shitty people like disobedient women.
The disc is over. Maybe “May 11th 2010 Part Two” is somewhere in this CD case. The recording ended with “(Sittin) on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding followed by “Oh! Sweet Nuthin” by The Velvet Underground. I think that transition encapsulates what I was always tryin’ to go for — unlikely harmony.