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.
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.
If I were to time travel back to the year 2000 and tell 13-year-old me that she’d get to see The Violent Femmes in concert someday, she would erupt in celebratory expletives and jack up the volume on “Blister in the Sun” (which, naturally, would just happen to be playing on her boom box). She’d dance like a fool — much like present-day me dances — before going into a sloppy, yet epic air guitar performance. She’d have no idea that the news was about to get even better.
“Wait,” I would say, “They’re not the only ones playing. They’re opening for your #1 favorite band.”
13-year-old Steff would stop playing air guitar and her eyes would widen in amazement beneath her perfectly blown-out bangs.
13-year-old Steff’s #1 favorite band was Barenaked Ladies. “One Week” blew her mind in 1998, and so her 44-year-old dad took her to Best Buy one Sunday afternoon and bought her a copy of Stunt. She loved the entire album from start-to-finish, and thus began her very first mission to obtain every album previously released by a rock (?) group.
“No FUCKING way!” she’d scream before hitting “eject” on her CD player and replacing The Violent Femmes with Born on a Pirate Ship — the darkest, most brooding Barenaked Ladies album to date.
“BROKE INTO THE OLD APARTMENT!” she’d scream along, closing her eyes and collapsing onto her bed. “THIS IS WHERE WE USED TO LIVE!”
“Bad news,” I would say, interrupting her barenaked reverie. “Steven Page leaves the band in 2009.”
13-year-old Steff would sit up straight and stare into my eyes and demand an explanation. I’d tell her about the cocaine arrest, and her face would fall.
“What year do I see them?” she’d ask.
“…How old are we then???”
“Listen,” I would say, “this is also gonna sound really, really weird, but by the time you see them live, you won’t be a super fan anymore. You won’t even know any of the material that they released after Maroon.“
13-year-old me would furrow her brow.
“It comes out in a few months. Mom’ll get it for you. You won’t like it as much as their other albums, but you’ll appreciate it a lot during the first semester of 8th grade.”
“What the fuck?”
“We will always love and appreciate Barenaked Ladies,” I’d assure her.
A few seconds would go by, and then “Call Me Calmly” would come on. 13-year-old Steff would grab the boom box remote and skip to “Break Your Heart.” She’d become somber.
“But why are we seeing them in concert if we don’t like their new stuff?”
“Because dad’s client is also playing that night, so tickets were easy to come by. Also, in recent years we’ve become highly preoccupied with our mortality, and so we’re determined to cram in as many experiences as we can before we die. Seeing The Violent Femmes and Barenaked Ladies in the same night seems very poetic to us.”
13-year-old Steff would take a moment to process everything. Then she would say, “I like your t-shirt.”
“Thanks,” I would say, admiring her pink Paul Frank kangaroo. “I like yours too.”
“Spider in My Room” would come on. 13-year-old Steff would skip that song, too. Then she’d remember that she doesn’t like the end of the album as much as she likes the beginning, and so she’d walk over to the boom box, hit “stop” on the CD player, and then hit “play” on the tape player. Her hand-me-down copy of Gordon would start up halfway through “Enid.” She’d do some clumsy fast-forwarding before finally arriving at the beginning of “Brian Wilson.”
“The concert is still gonna be hugely important to you, Steff,” I’d continue. “That afternoon at work, you’re gonna realize that you’ve been single for exactly two years. You’re gonna think about all the incredible things you’ve experienced since you were 13 and used to listen to Barenaked Ladies all the time. You’re gonna actually miss sitting at your desk and doing homework and listening to “What A Good Boy” and thinking about your crushes and crying…”
“Wait,” 13-year-old Steff would say, “are you saying we’re gonna have a boyfriend?”
We would spend several minutes talking about this. She’d be confused by my tepid attitude toward the whole thing (“REAL boyfriends?!?” “Yup”) and she’d have all kinds of questions about how I got them to like me (“It just happened”). I’d try to explain to her that it’s important to always be yourself and to never change who you are in order to impress a boy.
“But are they HOT?!” she’d ask.
“Looks don’t mean shit,” I’d say.
“No. But looks don’t mean shit.”
Finally, I’d tell her about the show.
“You’re going to miss Colin Hay because you’re gonna be sitting on a park bench outside the entrance of the Greek Theater eating a veggie sandwich from Italia Deli. Mom’s gonna tell you about a dream she had the night before about Nick Cave.”
“Who the fuck is that?” she’d ask.
“Remember that song from Scream about the ‘red right hand’? He sings that. And he’s going to become hugely important to you when you’re 25. Anyway, you’re gonna be kinda tired when you get inside, but then The Violent Femmes are gonna come on, and you’re gonna wake the fuck up.”
“Do we still like The Violent Femmes?”
“Yes,” I’d say. “We do. And that album becomes a very important tool we use to determine how much we like new people we meet.”
I’d tell her about the young guy sitting next to dad and how dad’s going to give him a bag of potato chips that mom originally brought for us. I’d tell her that she’s going to feel compelled to turn toward the guy and ask him questions about what the band has been up to since Maroon and if the new album is any good.
“After you and the guy are done talking about the band, dad is gonna reach into his pocket and hand the guy a backstage pass.”
“We have backstage passes?!”
“Yes, but you’re not gonna use yours,” I’d tell her. “You’re gonna leave after the show and get stuck in horrible traffic. But yeah, dad’s client is gonna score dad some passes, and dad is gonna give his away to a kid named Rafa who still really, really loves Barenaked Ladies. Steff, you’re gonna feel very proud of dad in that moment, and you’re gonna vow to yourself to try to remember that moment next time dad does anything that annoys you. You’re going to try to remember that dad is a very kind man, and you’re gonna get a little bit teary eyed before the show starts, because you’re also going to be thinking about death.”
13-year-old Steff would sit in silence as she listened to me talk about love and death and backstage passes. I would almost tell her about how dad is going to test her patience an hour later when the band goes into “One Week” and dad grabs her arm and physically pulls her to him and then shoves her into Rafa while loudly proclaiming, “YOU GOTTA BE NEXT TO RAFA FOR THIS ONE!” but I would ultimately decide to let her face that challenge on her own.
“Also,” I would add, “you’re not gonna like the first song that much. You’re not gonna hate it, but you’re kinda gonna think, ‘Aw man, this is way too pleasant. I can’t get into this right now.’ You’re also really, really gonna miss Steven. You’re gonna think, ‘Fuck, Steven brought the edge.’ And then, after the applause dies down, Ed is gonna launch into ‘The Old Apartment,’ and you are going to lose your breath. You’re gonna listen to that song, and it’ll be your 200th time hearing it, but you’ll finally understand what it’s about.”
“No, not quite. You’ll get it, though. And it’s gonna blow your mind.”
“Am I gonna like the rest of the show?”
“Yes,” I’d tell her. “You’re gonna love it. But it’s gonna hurt a little. In a good way.”
13-year-old Steff would remain quiet. She’d have a lot to think about. I’d give her a hug, tell her she’s hilarious and beautiful and not to let middle school get her down, and then I’d hop back in my time machine to 2015.
Nick Cave once gave a lecture called “The Secret Life of the Love Song” at the Vienna Poetry Festival in 1999. A certain theme of the lecture swirled through my mind last night during the Barenaked ladies set:
“We all experience within us what the Portugese call Suadade, which translates as an inexplicable sense of longing, an unnamed and enigmatic yearning of the soul. And it is this feeling that lives in the realms of imagination and inspiration, and is the breeding ground for the sad song, for the Love song is the light of God, deep down, blasting through our wounds.”
This is “the edge.” This is what I’ve always been drawn to in music, even by groups that also sing “nice” songs about Yoko Ono and what they’d do with $1,000,000. “Inexplicable longing.” It’s a powerful thing.
“I know we don’t live here anymore
We bought an old house on the Danforth
She loves me and her body keeps me warm
I’m happy there
But this is where we used to live
Broke into the old apartment
Tore the phone out of the wall
Only memories, fading memories
Blending into dull tableaux
I want them back”
— Barenaked Ladies “The Old Apartment”
I’m worried about an intimate friend of mine who doesn’t know I exist. We’ve met before, but there’s no reason for him to remember. I remember, though. It was brilliant.
It’s Nick Cave. I’m worried about Nick Cave.
I was thinking about him this morning during my drive to work. I was in a real crap mood. Everything just seemed so bleak and blah and I was being a total brat. I’ll put it this way: I’ve been listening to a lot of Nirvana lately. A lot of Nirvana. I need it. I’m living off it. In the morning, when I’m grumpy and groggy and stuck on a crowded, winding freeway, all I want to hear is the MTV Unplugged in New York album. I’m usually turning onto Melrose Avenue by the time Kurt Cobain starts telling the story about Lead Belly’s guitar. “I even asked David Geffen personally if he’d buy it for me.” Kurt, you little punk.
I was feeling very thankful for Kurt this morning as I drove along in my solitary angst — he was making me feel less solitary. This feeling of gratitude made me think of a different time in my life where I relied on an artist to get me through the day — it was 2012, and I was on my first Nick Cave Bender. I was unemployed, I was living with my parents, and I had just gotten my hands on a copy of Let Love In. Something shifted. I lost and found myself again and again in images of the devil crawling along my floor.
Yes, I realize I sound like an emo kid straight out of 2003 when I say that kinda shit, but I suppose that’s appropriate — I was, after all, depressed and living with my parents. Nick Cave gave me something to do. It became imperative to go out and find all of the Bad Seeds albums. I absolutely had to get my hands on all of the concert DVDs. I needed to read all the old interviews and watch all the behind the scenes footage I could possibly scrounge from the depths of the information superhighway. Nick Cave was my comfort and my company. Creepy? I dunno. Maybe? Not really. I was just lonely and bored and sad and filling out job applications seemed a lot less meaningless whilst listening to “Papa Won’t Leave You, Henry.”
When Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds announced in November 2013 that they would be coming to Los Angeles the following summer for a show at The Shrine, I immediately set my alarm for 5am so that I could get pre-sale tickets the following day. Months later, they announced a second show. It sold out within minutes, but I managed to find a pair of tickets on StubHub for a sum of money I’m not proud of paying. (I am proud, though. Secretly.) A third show was added — a solo one with limited seating — and I busted out my debit card one final time. In July of 2014, I saw Nick Cave three nights in-a-row, and it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever, ever done.
I did talk to him. Twice, actually. The first time was during the Q&A that followed the solo show, and the second time was in the parking lot of The Shrine after the second show. He had changed out of his sleek black sport jacket and into a blue velour zip-up sweater. He was busy taking a picture with someone, and when he finished, he turned to face me. I didn’t do or say anything weird — I just asked if he’d sign my friend’s copy of King Ink. He instinctively knew to spell her name with one “L.”
I shouldn’t have been looking at my phone this morning, but I was. I was at a stoplight and I picked up my phone and looked at my Facebook and saw that my friend had sent me an article. The headline sealed the fate of my day: “Nick Cave’s Teenage Son Arthur Dies After Cliff Fall.”
I threw my phone onto the floor of my car and unleashed a guttural, primal, “NOOOOOOO.” The light turned green.
“Never look at your fucking phone while driving, Steff,” I thought. “Never do that again.”
“I know, I know, I shouldn’t,” I answered. “At least I was at a stoplight.”
“I know. But don’t do it again. Ever.”
“I won’t,” I said to myself. “I promise.”
I meant it. I do mean it. Because life is fragile. How we manage to forget that for such long stretches of time is truly amazing.
When I arrived at the office and parked my car and turned off the engine, I picked up my phone from the floor. My cousin had also sent me the article. I read it. It pretty much repeated what the headline had already summarized. A cliff. A fucking cliff. A 15-year-old boy had died after falling off a cliff.
A few months ago, my younger brother and I saw Nick Cave in Hollywood. He was there to read excerpts of his new book. He didn’t sing anything — just talked and read. We were in the second row and I was ecstatic to just be in the same room as my hero, my caretaker, my girly obsession. The first thing he read was an excerpt about a little boy walking across a treacherous bridge. The little boy was him — this was a memory.
Nick Cave’s family was in the audience that night.
With eerily appropriate timing, my younger brother sent me a message that just said, “Nick Cave’s son 😦 “ Before I could respond, he added, “It’s even sadder thinking back on what Nick was saying at that book reading, about being a kid in Australia walking on bridges and the wives tales about the boys that had fallen off.”
I exited the car. When I got to my desk and opened up Facebook again, I saw that another one of my cousins had sent me an article about Arthur Cave.
A co-worker appeared in my doorway. He said, “Hey.” I turned to face him, and I guess my face said everything — the next words out of his mouth were, “I know. I read the sad news. Terrible.”
I sat with the sad news. I thought about Nick Cave, the dad behind the fierce suit and the sexy, bloody love songs. I thought about his wife, Susie, the stunning model who gave birth to twin boys 15 years ago. I thought about Arthur’s twin brother, Earl, and wondered how he must be feeling right now.
Nick Cave, the dad.
I only know Nick Cave’s music. I don’t know Nick Cave, the dad. I’m a superfan, not a stalker. However, being a superfan of another human being’s art is kind of a complicated thing. How do you give back to an artist whose music has helped you through so much? Is it even possible? Perhaps the most efficient and affective way to show respect is by leaving the artist alone — remaining a superfan instead of a stalker. I suppose a letter is always an option, but, unfortunately, a letter isn’t gonna solve shit. Not in this case.
I’ll just continue being a superfan. If he releases another album, I’ll get it. If he goes on tour again, I’ll see him. If he makes another movie, I’ll watch it. If he decides to retire, I’ll support his decision.
I’ll also give my parents huge hugs when I see them tonight. I suggest you all do the same. And stop looking at your phones while you’re in the car. If driving makes you feel anxious or bored or angry, you can always just put on some tunes. I have a few recommendations.
I’m so, so sorry Nick.
This is a Dorky Dorky Dorky thing.
This is a Mother Hen thing.
This is a Post That Doesn’t Necessarily Actually Need to Be Posted thing.
I’m not trying to go for a, “Back in high school I’d be hangin’ with Sam and Rado and Shaun” bullshit name-dropping “Behind the Music” thing.
I can’t say, “I can get you backstage.”
I can’t say, “I saw them all last week in my apartment for tempeh taco night.”
I can’t say, “All the guys pitched in to buy me a jukebox with all my favorite songs arranged in chronological order starting from when I fell in love with The Velvet Underground and ending with “Backstreets” by Bruce Springsteen because that’s the only song I wanted to hear last week LOLZ they’re so #sweet.”
None of that. Much less than that. Regardless, I’m proud. I just wanna tell the world, “I’m proud.”
I’m proud they never stopped. Impressed, really. Impressed because it was so long ago that I first heard a silly song about a Passport. Then a song about a Pumpkin Patch. Then Dog Day Afternoon was parodied [kind of] and Jesus was Fun Fun. I commented on every MySpace blog from afar because I was a fan and because I meant it and because I had nothing else to do between classes freshman year. I also requested they make me their tambourine girl, which never happened…
There were live shows. They were good and they were silly and sometimes they weren’t all that great because they were just boys. They kept going, though. They actually kept going, which is the best thing anyone with an idea can do.
Small places. Bigger places. Places of some notoriety and then smaller places. And it was a joke. And it was serious. And the songs got better and the shows got better and things changed and changed again.
A year ago someone put on some music and I said, “This is Foxygen,” and he said, “Yeah,” and I said, “Where the hell did you get this?” and he said, “iTunes,” so I went to iTunes and did the same thing, and it was weird, because for the first time I wasn’t getting the music from my younger brother or directly from one of the guys — the guys who were not at my apartment for tempeh taco night but have always been on my radar because Agoura Hills is a small place and we all have to grow up somewhere.
How the fuck did this happen? How the fuck did I sit down at my computer and find a way to watch them play at Coachella from hundreds of miles away? Because things have changed. Globally. Personally. Foxygenlly. You guys are great. You guys are among my favorites. You guys make me wanna be a better artist. You guys make it look easy.
Thank you. I’m proud of you. Stay hydrated.
Last week, my parents discovered they had bed bugs. In their bed. Only their bed. I wasn’t bitten up and my brother wasn’t bitten up; just Steve and Barbara. They don’t know how it happened. They’re both rather fastidious people.
On Monday morning my mom had someone spray the house with all-natural, yet highly allergenic whatnot in order to kill the little bastard bed bugs. The night before the insurgence, my mom brought a gray suitcase into my room and dropped it on my sofa.
“Ya may wanna pick up the stuff piled next to your bed,” she said. “They’re gonna be spraying your carpet.”
I took her suggestion. The suitcase is 3/4 full. Its contents? A veritable cornucopia of Dorky.
I shall now list for you the “stuff piled next to my bed” that has now been transferred to a gray suitcase on top of my sofa.
1. The Godfather Trilogy DVD Collection.
Fully remastered. The bouquet Johnny Fontaine sends to Don Corleone is so damn COLORFUL.
2. A Bag of Crackers
My mom brought this to me the night I came home from work after spending nearly two hours in the nurse’s office battling dehydration and low blood sugar. Mom had also brought me soup, but I kept the crackers in case I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like a twitchy, malnourished mess. Rather, still feeling like a twitchy, malnourished mess.
3. A Burned DVD copy of A Streetcar Named Desire
No one, but NO ONE, is sexier than Marlon Brando in his skin tight t-shirt. I fell asleep to this movie every night for a good six months.
4. The Complete Works of Arthur Rimbaud
It has the English translations and the original French. I memorized “Sensation.” I was determined to memorize it in French, too. I still haven’t done that. I bought the book last October. Damn.
5. An Illustrated Copy of The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle
Some people keep The Bible by their beds. And so do I.
6. A Green Journal with a Butterfly on the Cover That I Bought at Logos Bookstore in Santa Cruz, CA
In Santa Cruz for the weekend. This paper is incredible. I can’t tell if the guy next to me is cute. Ya know, this bar isn’t ideal for writing. Well, the vibe is, but the position I’m in is slightly uncomfortable. I saw an absolutely beautiful guy downtown. He was playing guitar and singing his heart out. He looked and sounded so gorgeous.
7. The Favorite Game by Leonard Cohen
Picked this up last November. I found it on eBay. The last time I picked it up was one day in December when I was sitting in the waiting room of an Urgent Care in Westlake Village waiting to talk to a doctor about a bizarre ailment I was convinced was killing me. It didn’t kill me, and I never finished this book.
8. Planet News by Allen Ginsberg
I bought this book of poetry in San Francisco. I was there last February for five or six days. I spent my first day there walking around North Beach. After having a few beers at Cafe Vesuvio I wandered over to The Beat Museum to ask if they had copies of the poems I submitted to them for a poetry contest they held back in 2007. They didn’t have copies, but the guy behind the counter searched the internet archives for a good twenty minutes trying to help me out. I felt kinda guilty for making him look, so I bought something.
9. A Black, Ringed Journal My Parents Bought for Me at Citylights Books When I Was 19
The opening lines of “HOWL” are printed on the front cover.
When I get angry I feel my shoulder blade muscles tense up and form a knot that hurts for days.
I can feel it pinching back there whenever I try to write
or just fucking hold a book.
I once tried to work out the knot by wearing Icy-Hot bandages at night
But they just soothed the area around the hubbub of angst.*
I’d peel the bandage off in the morning and my skin would
smell like chemicals.
God knows what kind of cancer it’ll give me.
Maybe the doctors will prescribe me some pot.
Then I could sell it on the streets and use the money to hire a masseuse.
(*I feel like kicking my own ass for “hubbub of angst.”)
10. Light Blue Journal I Bought from Paper Source in Santa Cruz, CA
I’m not sharing Page One. I can’t. I will, however, reveal that it was written on Friday, October 16, 2009 at 12:54pm.
It was interesting to read Page One of this cute little unfinished journal, because it’s my retelling of the beginning of what turned out to be a very frustrating, rather sad story. It was all so seemingly innocent at the time, but now that I’m looking at these scribbled words written by the 22-year-old version of myself, it’s obvious that this very frustrating period of my life left a rather sad impression on my ability to trust people. Perfectly sweet people.
Perfectly sweet male people.
11. A “One Line A Day: Five Year Memory” Journal from Barnes and Noble
I am so bad at keeping up with this thing. There is literally just enough space to write one sentence per day. I thought it seemed interesting. I haven’t written any memories in it since January 9, 2012. I wrote, “First unemployed Monday.” That was a fun day, actually. Mom and I went to the zoo.
12. A Tennessee Williams Collection
Includes Summer and Smoke, Orpheus Descending, Suddenly Last Summer, and Period of Adjustment. It also includes a personal essay by Tennessee that spoke to me so profoundly the first time I read it that I literally threw the book across the room.
So much for the past and present. The future is called “perhaps,” which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the important thing is not to allow that to scare you.
13. Perfection by Julie Metz
A memoir I had to read for my writing group. I was intrigued for the first few chapters, but the whole thing became so damn indulgent after a certain point that by the end I found the narrator annoying and stupid. I must take great care to never become an annoying, stupid narrator.
14. Another Tennessee Williams Collection
This one includes Battle of Angels, The Glass Menagerie, and A Streetcar Named Desire. I read this one on a flight from JFK to LAX. Despite having watched A Streetcar Named Desire a dozen fucking times, I still teared up while I was reading it. Tennessee may be damn easy to lampoon, but he’s also really fucking hard to beat.
15. The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 by Richard Brautigan
There are sex scenes in books that make you want to have sex, but not often do you come across sex scenes in books that make you want to cry. Cry for what? I don’t know. Nostalgia? Longing? Loneliness? Wishing and hoping that somewhere out there someone remembers you and your body just like Richard Brautigan saw this girl and her body…
It’s a hard decision whether to start at the top or the bottom of a girl. With Vida I just didn’t know where to begin. It was really a problem.
After she reached up awkwardly and put my face in a small container which was her hands and kissed me quietly again and again, I had to start somewhere.
She stared up at me all the time, her eyes never leaving me as if they were an airfield.
I changed the container and her face became a flower in my hands. I slowly let my hands drift down her face while I kissed her and then further down her neck to her shoulders.
I could see the future being moved in her mind while I arrived at the boundaries of her bosom. Her breasts were so large, so perfectly formed under her sweater that my stomach was standing on a step-ladder when I touched them for the first time.
Her eyes never left me and I could see in her eyes the act of my touching her breasts. It was like brief blue lightning.
I was almost hesitant in a librarian sort of way.
“I promise,” she said, reaching up and awkwardly pressing my hands harder against her breasts. She of course had no idea what that did to me. The step-ladder started swirling.
She kissed me again, but this time with her tongue. Her tongue slid past my tongue like a piece of hot glass.
16. A Light Blue Guitar Pick from Amoeba Music in Berkely, CA.
I’ve now been to all three Amoebas. The one in Hollywood is The Best.
17. Jason Webley’s Only Just Beginning
This is his favorite album of his. This is also my favorite album of his. It’s just his best album of his. “Music That Puts Everything Together” brings me to my knees. Oh Jesus, and “Map.” And “Icarus.” And “With.” And “Coda.”
Of course they’re all better live. I’m damn lucky that I know that firsthand. Jason Webley live is more life affirming than…anything, really. Except maybe Leonard Cohen live. Speaking of which…
18. Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen
This is a Hell of a novel. There is a scene where two men — The Narrator and his friend, F. — are driving at top speed in F.’s car down a dark highway. F. is pleasuring himself while he drives.
F., put it back. Enough is enough.
Never put it back when it gets like this.
My God, I’ve never seen you so big! What’s going on in your mind? What are you thinking of? Please teach me how to do it. Can I hold it?
No! This is between me and God.
Who but Leonard Fucking Cohen would come up with “This is between me and God”?
I had Jason Webley sign my copy. I knew he was a Leonard Cohen fan and I wanted to impress him with my dorkiness. Because, ya know, traveling to Seattle to catch his 11-11-11 show wasn’t dorky enough.
I’m glad I remember your name.
And I’m glad that you came so far for my concert.
And I’m glad that you like this book.
18. And the Ass Saw the Angel by Nick Cave
Nick, I love you with all my heart and soul, but this novel is no Beautiful Losers.
19. Scattered Poems by Jack Kerouac
Gotta love a poem called “Pull My Daisy.”
20. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Lolita, light of my life. Fire of my loins.
21. A DVD Copy of the Remake of Alfie Starring Jude Law
I bought this from the Blockbuster in Westlake right before the damn thing closed down for good. Ya know what? This is a terrible movie. It is. But damn, I really get a kick out of it. It’s so atrocious it’s funny and Jude Law is just POSING the whole Goddamn time, which is all at once hilarious and fucking hot. He’s so hot I wanna punch him in the face.
22. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz
An award-winning play my mom read earlier this year that she insisted I read as well. Still haven’t gotten around to doing that.
23. Writing the Memoir: from Truth to Art by Judith Barrington
I have a lot to say about this book, but right now I am completely distracted by the fact that the author’s last name is Barrington. I purchased this book before that last name became such a significant part of my life. Co-workers of mine who are reading this, I’m sorry.
24. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Patti Smith is really into this book. I found a copy of it on my mom’s bookshelf on a rainy day last November. I read the first page, and then I decided to go buy a ukulele.
I attempted to make a video for you of me playing the ukulele, but my mom interrupted when she came in to ask me if I wanted anything from Lassen’s.
25. A Blue and Black Leather-bound Journal Given to Me by My High School Journalism Teacher
Page One is humiliating.
Here’s something from Page 12:
12:00am August 10, 2005 Wednesday
I bought a CD today. I’m listening to it now. It feels great. Not as great as kissing. Music makes me think of kissing — probably because I sometimes kiss to music.
26. A DVD Copy of The Graduate
Two nights before I moved back to my parents’s house after living in Santa Cruz for five years, I downloaded this movie and bought a bottle of Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon. At this point, I had already moved 99% of my furniture out of my apartment. All I had was my twin-sized mattress, which was, at that point, pathetically sitting on the floor of my bedroom. I sat on my pathetic mattress, drank my pathetic cheap wine, and watched Benjamin Braddock try his best not to be pathetic. I cried a lot.
27. A DVD Copy of The Road to God Knows Where
Behind the scenes of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds touring the United States after Tender Prey was released. They’re all so young and beautiful. I fall asleep to this one a lot. Nick is such a jerk to journalists, but not in a Bob Dylan in Don’t Look Back kind of way. All the journalists that appear in this movie are such idiots that it really isn’t Nick’s fault that he comes off as so smart and so snide. The people interviewing him really have no idea what the fuck they’re talking about.
28. A DVD Copy of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
I will defend this movie until the end of time. If, someday, I find myself with some spare time and some spare money (by the way, HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!), I plan on writing an in-depth analysis of all four (or, by then, 15) Pirates films. No one will publish it and no one will read it, so I’ll probably just send the manusctipt to Johnny Depp and wait for his reaction. Maybe I’ll get to become one of his various best friends and I’ll start getting invitations to parties at Keith Richards’s house.
29. A DVD Copy of The Ruling Class
Just watch it.
30. The Complete Fawlty Towers
This show never got boring or bad because the British know when it’s time for a television show to end. There are only 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers, but they are all perfect.
31. A DVD Copy of Blue Velvet
I watched this not too long ago. I had a 103 degree fever and I was sitting on the couch in my empty house shivering and sniffling and coughing.
A video is worth 1,000 words:
32. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Live DVD: God Is in the House
It’s pretty good, but Warren Ellis had joined the band by this point, and it’s upsetting to watch Nick try to divvy up his affection between Warren and Blixa. And Blixa just looks BORED out of his mind, even during “The Carny.” It saddens me.
33. A DVD Copy of The Darjeeling Limited
I can’t listen to people criticize Wes Andseron. It’s a sin.
34. A DVD Copy of If….
My Malcolm McDowell obsession was one of the best things to ever happen to me. He made a lot of crap movies, but it doesn’t matter, because he also made If….
This movie should be shown to everyone everywhere. Politicians should watch and be warned.
35. The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
I read two chapters of this self-help book in May right before the training period for my new job began. I had been diagnosing myself with various terminal illnesses every day for two weeks and I was losing my Goddamn mind. I had been unemployed since January and I was at my absolute wit’s end. Two chapters of this thing had me back to normal. (As in, I was suddenly cured of my lung cancer, throat cancer, liver cancer, brain cancer, and Parkinson’s Disease.)
36. A DVD Copy of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds Live at Brixton Academy, London Thursday, November 11 2004
As long as I can shut my bedroom door, sit down by myself and watch this shit, then I can never really lose sight of the fact that my life is rather good. And that I’m a bad motherfucker.
So, yeah. I’m thinkin’ I’ll just put all this stuff back where I found it — piled up next to my bed.
I dreamt last night that I was flying in an airplane to some place. I don’t remember where. I don’t think it was ever explicitly stated where I was going. All my friends and family were on the plane, too, along with the cast of season four of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Best show on television, really.
I was standing near the Emergency Exit when, suddenly, it opened up and a man walked in. He was in his 60’s, with a shaggy gray beard and a bald head. He was wearing a t-shirt and jeans that had some white paint splattered on them. Basically, he looked like an electrician from Santa Cruz.
In REAL LIFE, the image of the paint-splattered Santa Cruz 60-something makes me think of Richard, a man I met my freshman year of college. I was downtown one night doing some shopping when I heard someone playing Bob Dylan songs on guitar. I walked over and sat down on the sidewalk and watched Richard for about 45 minutes. He played “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again” and “Idiot Wind,” for God’s sake. Of course, he kept forgetting the lyrics, so I kept having to sing loudly to get him back on track. He was absolutely HORRENDOUS, but I was in heaven. For an encore, he sang some Alice Cooper. He fell to his knees every time he slurred, “I’M EIGHTEEN!”
It was a great night. I mean, it was completely weird, but, okay, whatever. The DREAM.
So this Santa Cruz-like man stepped onto the plane while it was 30,000-some-odd feet in the air, and he started kinda babbling at me. Being immune to strange men babbling at me (IE: Richard), I tried making conversation with him. He pulled out a gun. I fell to the floor and rolled underneath some seats. I grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around my body, then I wrapped my arms around my head. I somehow figured that maybe, if Richard actually decided to hunker down and shoot underneath the seat, it would be better if he got me in the arm than in the head. I began pondering the possibility of my arm bone actually stopping the bullet before it got to my brain, when I remembered, “Wait a second, this is all gonna get worked out right away. All the queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race are training to become policewomen!”
I waited for one of the queens to come to the rescue. Nothing happened. Then, I heard a gunshot. I peaked out from my hiding place, and it appeared that Richard had fired a warning shot in the air. I got up and ran to the back of the plane and hid in the small space between the bathroom and the little kitchenette area where the flight attendants hide the coffee. You know what I mean.
I waited there for a few seconds, and FINALLY, thank you JESUS, the incomparable Sharon Needles stood up from her seat with her gun in her hand.
Now, the best part about dreams, really, is that certain things take place that only make sense to the person who is doing the dreaming. You see, in my dream, Sharon Needles looked like Megan from Mad Men. Oh, she was definitely Sharon Needles, but she appeared in my dream as Mrs. Draper herself.
In REAL LIFE I’m a huge fan of Mad Men, and I really, really like the new Mrs. Draper. Sometimes, though, I forget her character’s damn name. To make it easier for myself, I often refer to her as “Sharon Needles.” I’m okay with the fact that I’m the only person who thinks they look alike.
It’s stupid, I know. Anyway, Sharon Needles was played by Mrs. Draper, aka: Sharon Needles.
She stood up, held her gun above her head, and, with trademark Sharon Needles confidence, she bellowed the dumbest freaking drag pun I’ve ever heard in my life:
“CUNT OR QUIT, PEOPLE!”
Yes. That was what my subconscious came up with. In real life, I hardly EVER use THAT WORD. In fact, I really only use it while driving in terrible traffic. I’m never the girl who shows up somewhere and says to her friends, “What’s up, you stupid THAT WORDS?” I find that behavior rather deplorable.
But anyway, Sharon Needles used THAT WORD in her rallying cry. (I like that she used THAT WORD as a verb. Ya know, in the way that you can BE a “bitch” and also participate in the act of “bitching,” which is “to bitch.” I suppose she meant that in order to survive, someone was going to have to step it up and get things done. To take some serious action. To THAT WORD.) She then ran down the aisle to the front of the plane and shot the unwieldy Richard.
We landed. I don’t know where. I have a vague memory of standing in the hallway of the on-campus apartment I lived in my sophomore year of college and having a very heated discussion with Sharon Needles about whether or not I liked her. I kept insisting to Sharon Needles that she was one of my all-time favorite human-beings to ever walk the earth and I had no idea what gave her the impression that I ever, for one second, felt otherwise. Eventually, she believed I was being genuine. We stopped fighting.
Suddenly, I was on a plane again. This time, not only was I joined by my friends, my family, and the gun-toting queens of season four of RuPaul’s Drag Race, I was also joined by my other favorite freaking people, the Bad Seeds. Not Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, just the Bad Seeds. That’s right — Nick Cave was not on the plane. He was somewhere else doing Lord knows what.
I remember talking to him earlier in the dream outside of Pink’s Hot Dogs in Hollywood. We were having our picture taken together, and the photographer told us that the flash of the camera might kill us. We were both scared, but we let the photographer take pictures anyway. The photographer seemed to really enjoy taking his time while counting, “One…two…three…”. I was tempted to run away a few times, but somehow I mustered the courage to stay put. Nick Cave and I both felt somewhat rejuvenated when the photographer finally thanked us for our time and walked away. That is all I remember about any interaction with Nick Cave.
Anyway, back to the plane.
I was not all that upset by Nick Cave’s absence, because I was seated next to a very young and very cute incarnation of Bad Seeds guitarist (drummer, bassist, organist, backing vocalist, freaking tambourine shakist…) Mick Harvey.
So, okay. In REAL LIFE, I haven’t stopped listening to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds since February of this year. I picked up a copy of Let Love In at Rasputin’s in Berkeley, California during a totally weird and utterly fantastic road trip I took by myself after quitting my job. Ever since listening to “Loverman” on repeat from Alameda to San Francisco, I really haven’t found any reason to listen to any other band. Like, really. There’s just no reason. I mean, I listened to both Grinderman albums and I liked ’em just fine, but it’s hard for me to declare myself a Grinderman fan. Had it not been for the Grinderman side project, Mick Harvey may not have left the Bad Seeds. For as much fun as it is to put on “No Pussy Blues” and jump around, nothing beats grooving to “Dig, Lazarus, Dig!” (Well, okay, it’s only fair to mention that based on what I’ve read, which is mostly speculation, the musical rift between Nick Cave and Mick Harvey began to take form as early as The Boatman’s Call days. Seriously, though, The Boatman’s Call is worth a hundred rifts — the same just cannot be said about a Grinderman album.) Now that the only long-standing Bad Seeds left are Nick Cave and Thomas Wydler, I worry that the next Bad Seeds album (if there is a next Bad Seeds album) will just be, well, a Grinderman album.
So anyway, in REAL LIFE, I’ve been paying more attention to the other Bad Seeds lately, especially Mick Harvey. I’ve determined that while I have absolutely no right to judge any of the Bad Seeds as human-beings because I’ve never met them and they don’t know who the Hell I am and my relationship with all of them only exists in my head, it’s probably somewhat safe to say that Mick Harvey is one of the more modest Bad Seeds. Look at him.
He’s just a baby right here. Look at that sweet little face. Now look at him during his Birthday Party days.
Mick Harvey is in the middle. Now, the Birthday Party days were dark days for everyone in the band, but Mick Harvey consistently looked the most conservative. I mean, this isn’t that wild of a picture, but this is still a good example of what I’m talking about. For instance, I’m sure the hair product was mandatory, but Mick Harvey’s hairstyle is definitely the least ostentatious. Also, observe how he isn’t looking into the camera with either Nick Cave’s “You want me SO BAD” look (with which I have no problem — he’s the freaking frontman), or Rowland S. Howard’s “I’M A COLD ASS ROCKSTAR” look. He’s just like, “Take the picture, please.”
And look at him now. He’s aged very well. He’s just a cute Australian man.
ENOUGH OF REAL LIFE AND REAL LIFE MICK HARVEY. BACK TO MY DREAM.
So, I was sitting next to young Mick Harvey. Again, I don’t know where we were going. Mick Harvey and I were having a lovely conversation when a voice came on over the speakers announcing that our plane was being hijacked. Yes. Mick Harvey and I were concerned, but not too concerned — after all, we both knew we were on a plane full of drag queens with guns. It was only a matter of time before someone saved us.
SUDDENLY, our plane took a freaking nose dive. It was seriously just falling out of the sky, face first. Mick Harvey wasn’t able to hold it together — he started to freak out. I closed my eyes and tried to remain calm. I was terrified, of course, but if I was going to die, I didn’t want to spend my last few seconds in an agitated state of mind. Instead, I wanted to die knowing that I was on a plane full of friends and family. And Bad Seeds. And drag queens. And that the Bad Seeds and the drag queens were all [somehow] close, personal friends of mine. I mean, I had everything I wanted, really. Why be too upset?
One of the men hijacking us (another old white dude with a gray beard) started running up and down the aisle threatening to shoot anyone who moved. Now, that did upset me. I didn’t wanna get shot. I was fine with the plane crash because there was nothing I could do to prevent that from happening. But getting shot? I wasn’t gonna give up without a fight. I grabbed Mick Harvey and led him to the back of the plane. I locked us in the bathroom and instructed Mick Harvey to stay quiet. A few seconds later, we opened the door and peaked out. Who was strutting by but Miss Congeniality herself, Latrice Royale.
In REAL LIFE, Latrice Royale is too good for this world. She may not have won the competition, but she won my undying affection, that’s for damn sure. She was in prison, dude. She has seen some serious shit in her time. And she’s FIERCE.
She really never got bitchy to anyone. Sure, she had moments of unrivaled sass, but she didn’t cause any damn drama. During the Drag Race reunion, she offered some of the best advice I’ve ever heard in all my 25 years. You really should watch this; it’s short:
Trust me, I’ve had Latrice Royale in my head a lot during the last few weeks.
So, back to the dream. There I was with [seriously cute] Mick Harvey, peering out of the plane’s bathroom. We saw Latrice Royale strutting down the aisle holding her gun over her head. She stopped, posed, and cried, “THE CHUNK RISES TO THE TOP OF THE CREAM!”
What the Hell, right? In REAL LIFE, my friend, Alison, showed me endless videos of Macho Man Randy Savage during the Santa Cruz phase of my kickass road trip. At one point, after my iPod was stolen from my car, I started to feel rather shitty. I even toyed with the idea of driving back home. I told Alison to put on Macho Man, and she selflessly indulged me.
That explains that. Yes. BACK TO THE DREAM!
Mick Harvey and I waited in the bathroom for something to happen. Suddenly, we felt someone gain control of the plane. Latrice Royale came on over the speaker and said, “All right, honeys. I am gonna land this plane, but y’all need to grab a parachute and jump out.”
Mick Harvey and I ran out of the bathroom and grabbed two parachutes. The Emergency Exit was already open, and the rest of the plane’s passengers — my friends and family and the Bad Seeds and the drag queens — were all hovering in the air, holding hands in a giant circle. Mick Harvey put on his parachute and told me to take his hand.
I was too scared. I didn’t know what string I had to pull to release the parachute, AND, to make matters worse, the parachute’s harness wasn’t fastening on me correctly. I told Mick Harvey to go without me. He jumped, and joined the circle with no problem at all. Everyone turned to look at me and begged me to jump. I was terrified. I was worried that maybe my parachute would fall off me and I would plummet to my death. I was worried that maybe I wouldn’t pull the right string…and I would plummet to my death. Death death death death DEATH. The weird part (yes, aside from all the other obvious “weird parts”), is that just a few minutes before, when the plane was falling out of the sky, I was able to remain calm. The same thing happened when that creepy photographer at Pink’s Hot Dogs told Nick Cave and me that his camera might kill us. In the face of actual disaster, I was somewhat composed. In the face of figurative “WHAT IF?” disasters, however, I was a total mess.
I looked out at my flying circle of loved ones. Mick Harvey was holding hands with Blixa Bargeld, the other Bad Seeds guitarist who sadly left the band. They both looked at me, let go of each other’s hands, and yelled at me to come join the circle. I looked down at my pitiful parachute. There were two straps in the front of the harness thingy that were supposed to stay together, but they kept coming unhooked. I took both straps in my right hand, took the parachute string in my left hand, and jumped out of the plane. My landing was somewhat bumpier than everybody else’s, but I still landed safely.
The next thing I remember is hanging out inside of what appeared to be the arcade of Circus Circus in Las Vegas. Blixa Bargeld and I were standing in line to ride the Merry-Go-Round. He looked rather intense. I was in heaven. I thought, “Maybe I’ll get to sit next to him on the next flight!”
Blixa Bargeld was not young, emaciated, oddly beautiful Blixa Bargeld…
…he was this era of Blixa Bargeld. And he didn’t give a shit.
The last thing I remember is sitting on yet another plane, next to my REAL LIFE friend, Veronica. We were talking about our near death experience with the hijackers, and I was telling her all about how Mick Harvey and I locked ourselves in the bathroom and how we saw Latrice Royale strut by on her way to save the day. Veronica and I laughed uproariously at what a character Latrice Royale is, and then we pulled out our finger puppets (which we do, in fact, own in REAL LIFE) and entertained Blixa Bargeld with a rendition of “The Origin of Love” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Of course, I use the word “entertained” rather loosely — I think we enjoyed our performance more than he did. Still, it was a thrill to be near him.
In REAL LIFE, I woke up in a frightfully good mood, and not just because of the dream. Everything is finally falling into place. Training for my new job starts in two days, and I couldn’t be happier. After months of feeling like a useless waste of space, I’ll finally have a reason to get up in the morning. I’ll have a reason to wear makeup. I’ll have a reason to shower. Like Latrice Royale said, it’s time to “Get up, look SICKENING, and make them eat it.” I’m so damn ready.
While my life seemed like it was spiraling out of control for a little while, I realize now that I had some incredible back up. Things got bad, but there was always something or someone reminding me to just keep going. I had my family. I had my friends. Excellent music. Excellent drag queens. What more does a person need, really? Eventually, when it was time to just stop it with all the, “I’m scared” nonsense, I [somehow] managed to psyche myself up and take a risk. The photographer didn’t kill me with his death camera and the parachute didn’t fail me. In the end, I made it through reasonably unscathed. I just had to trust myself, really.
I have to say one more time, though, that while I do give myself some credit for surviving the last four months, I probably couldn’t have done it without Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. That’s just a fact.
Here is a video of Nick Cave performing “I Had a Dream, Joe” on David Letterman. The LETTERMAN HOUSE BAND is playing with him. They are…they are not the Bad Seeds. The only other Bad Seed present? Mick Harvey.
I saw Jason Webley’s 11-11-11 show in Seattle last weekend. Yes, Seattle is a good ways away from Agoura Fucking Hills, but I wasn’t going to miss the show for anything. ANYthing. When he played the opening of “Icarus,” a song Amanda Palmer has covered on more than one occasion, I got kind of…excited. I thought, “Is she gonna come sing with him? Is this gonna be the best performance of “Icarus” to ever occur on planet earth?”
This is what I managed to capture. That’s me saying, “There she is…Wait…” and then screaming “WHAAAAAA!!” when she comes out. Well, okay, I guess everyone is screaming, but my scream is the clearest, as I’m the person holding the camera.
After they sang “Icarus” together, they sang “Elephant Elephant,” which was damn jolly good. I didn’t get any of it on film because I wanted to just enjoy the moment (someone else did, though…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQD_MbhwCbM), but THEN, oh then, THEN Neil Gaiman came onstage and read a poem about The Night Before His Wedding, which I did catch on film…and it did make me cry…just a little bit.
You can hear me release an intense “I’m absurdly single” exhale at 1:50. And I apologize for the shitty video quality — I should probably save up for a new camera. It could take me a few years, but I’ll do it.
The show went on for a good three hours. All was right with the world. Like…ALL was right with the ENTIRE freaking WORLD.
This was Friday night. I got back to Agoura fucking Hills on Sunday night. It is now Wednesday night. I can do whatever I want with my time — go to the gym, go out to dinner, paint pictures of dinosaurs, etc. — but all I can really do is think about that damn 11-11-11 show. I’m not going to go into the show’s effect on me — those details (a bunch of crap about FEELINGS and ENERGY and THE UNIVERSE and GROWTH and LIFE) are for my diary ONLY. All I will say is that it was a great time, and I will definitely tell my grandkids the story of the time when their crazy grandma was young and vibrant and ditched work to fly to Seattle to watch a skinny man in a hat play the accordion.
Interestingly enough, I haven’t really felt the urge to listen to any of Jason Webley’s music since arriving back home. I’m definitely not over it, but I definitely do need some time to reflect…and listen to something else.
The feeling is similar to the one I get after I watch The Godfather — I can’t just turn on the TV and watch whatever comes on after sitting through the greatest damn movie ever made. At the same time, I can’t just start the movie over…
So, what have I been listening to?
I’ve been listening to this. And it rocks. It rocks HARD. It rocks HARD and it makes me want to spend a lot more time making SPANK paddles and writing poems and painting pictures of dinosaurs. I suggest you give this a listen.
John or Paul?
Mick or Keith?
Jim. With all due respect.
Page or Plant?
Hendrix or Clapton?
I want “Bold As Love” to be played at my wedding, and I don’t even want to hear “Sunshine of Your Love” at my funeral.
Cream or The Who?
Beatles or Stones?
Scuzzy Son-Of-A-Bitch #4:
My Black Clad Leather Patronus
Part One“C’mon people, don’t ya look so down You know the rain man’s comin’ ta town
My Jim Morrison idolization began on a hot afternoon in August, 2003. It was the last day of summer vacation, I was sixteen, and I was about to make out with my new boyfriend for the second time. It had only been 24 hours since our first kiss, and due to our youth and lack of experience (and, perhaps, to his Catholicism), we decided that one make out session equalled monogamy. Despite our official relationship status, I was a bit nervous about that afternoon’s proposed itinerary, and my nervousness only increased when my boyfriend suggested we put on some music. I sat down on his couch, and he began browsing through his record collection. Of course I knew that the music selection ritual was a prelude to hormonal teenage madness, and while that delighted me, it terrified me just the same. In my opinion, it was awkward enough that we both knew we were about to make out — why prolong that in-between phase of the process? How was I supposed to act? Seductive? Casual? What if he lost interest during his hunt for the perfect tunes? What if he forgot what we were there to do? What if he didn’t like the way I looked sitting on his couch? Should I strike a pose? I wondered.
After a few minutes he held up a record that had a dark reddish brown and yellowish gold cover. “All right, herewego. The Doors,” he said, pulling the record out of the sleeve. He looked at me, and I feigned approval. The truth was I hadn’t listened to The Doors since I was in 8th grade and wanted to listen to some “cool” music while I did my math homework. For as much as I enjoyed “Break On Through,” I soon had to turn off the music and concentrate on pre-algebra. Naturally, I didn’t bother telling him this — I didn’t want to say anything that might make him second guess his selection. Plus, I had only been his girlfriend for 24 hours; it was too early to start losing my allure.
He admired the record for a second, and then, all of a sudden, he looked up at the ceiling and said, “Of course we bow down to you, Jim Morrison, in all your rock and roll glory.” He put the record on the player, set the needle down, and turned up the volume. It was “L’america” — track one, side two of L.A. Woman. Four minutes and thirty-eight seconds later, he skipped “Hyacinth House” and went straight to “Crawling Kingsnake.” Whether this action was sickeningly smooth or just plain sickening is up for debate. Either way, it worked; too well. In the midst of all that was happening, I found myself wondering if my parents had any Doors vinyl at home.
When “Riders On The Storm” had long since ended and I arrived back at my house, I went straight for my dad’s record shelf. Sandwiched between Donovan and The Dream Academy was the dark reddish brown and yellowish gold record. I pulled it off the shelf and brought it upstairs to my room, where it remained for many, many years.
Something had shifted, and I knew it. After that day, there was no going back. I devoured the entire Doors catalogue with the kind of voracity that only a 16-year-old girl is capable of. Soon, the aviator sunglasses showed up; then the boots. I’d leave my hair wavy not because I was lazy, but because I realized I actually liked the way it looked unkempt.
For me, Jim Morrison’s music (and I say “Jim Morrison’s music” because it was Jim Morrison who made the music matter) was the perfect soundtrack for adolescence — dark, flawed, and endlessly libidinous. When I felt fantastic I’d put on “Roadhouse Blues,” and when I felt like killing someone I’d put on “The End.” This is not to say that Jim was the first musical artist to speak to my tortured teenage soul; for example, my first two years of high school would have been Hell without Lou Reed. Still, there was something about listening to “Not to Touch The Earth” on a bad day that resonated with me in ways that made the second side of Berlin seem irrelevant. For as much as I loved Lou’s weirdness, I needed Jim’s ferocity. After all, I was a straight edged 16-year-old living in suburbia; a savage hero was a necessity.
Part 2“When the music is your special friend
While Jim’s premature death automatically made him a rock and roll legend, that does not appropriately explain his allure. What it comes down to is the fact that even while he was alive, he was something of a supernatural being. What other popular musician — and I mean Tiger Beat popular — sang about patricide? And “dead President’s corpses”? And horses being blinded with whips? And dared to ask, “What have we done to the earth?” It takes guts to willingly scare the Hell out of your fans, and to do it without the use of fake blood or creepy masks or lighting effects, well, that’s just genius. So much of Jim’s music is dark, and when it isn’t dark it’s twisted.
There are, of course, some safer Doors compositions. Even when they’re safe, though, they’re not that safe. “Light My Fire,” which was originally brought to the table by Robby Krieger, is one of the most well-known Doors songs. Just because it is popular, however, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have teeth. Jim added a verse to the song that rhymes “wallow in the mire” with “funeral pyre” (From Wikipedia: A pyre (Greek: πυρά, pyrá, from πυρ, pýr, fire), also known as a funeral pyre, is a structure, usually made of wood, for burning a body as part of a funeral rite. As a form of cremation, a body is placed upon the pyre, which is then set on fire), and his delivery is nothing short of primal. When Jim wails, “TRY TO SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE,” there’s nothing safe about it. He’s not just asking you to light his fire, he’s demanding it; who knows what he’ll do if he doesn’t get his way?
His seduction power, his theatricality, his animalistic passion — THIS is what gives The Doors staying power. THIS is what sets Jim apart from other notable front men. THIS… ::sigh::
Although it may feel like it was only yesterday, my junior year of high school was a long time ago. I may not be 16 anymore, but I still wear big black boots, I still hate hair products, and I still love Jim Morrison. I still look forward to the day I can listen to “The Unknown Solider” without feeling angry, I still recite “The Movie” to myself when I’m sitting in dark theaters, and I still listen to “When The Music’s Over” while I’m driving around at night. Sometimes, I wonder what my world would be like if Jim were still alive. Maybe he would have graced the cover of Rolling Stone one more time. Maybe he would have had a minor role in Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Maybe he would have written a book. And Lord knows, his take on George W. Bush’s presidency would have been priceless. Would The Doors be worth seeing live? Would Jim be giving Mick a run for his money?
For as phenomenal as it would be to hear Jim mutter, “Fuck George Bush” on national television, I have no illusions about the situation. Jim was an alcoholic and a drug user, and everything I’ve read about him suggests that he had some kind of chemical imbalance (phrases such as “Manic Depressive Disorder” and “Bipolar Disorder” weren’t spoken as trippingly on the tongue during the 1960’s). Yet, somehow, by some miracle, Jim’s legacy is nothing but rockin’. The image of him in tight leather pants will always overshadow the image of him in his puffy latter-days, and he will always be a vibrant young superstar and never a washed up burnout. The fact that I will never see him live is overshadowed by the fact that I will also never have to watch him perform a painful rendition of “Touch Me” on American Idol. As my younger brother said to me when we watched Bob Dylan mumble his way through his set list at the Santa Monica Civic in 2008, “It’s moments like this when I realize it’s better that Morrison’s dead.” Yes, he’s dead, but he’s not dead dead. He was so full of life he never really died.
Epilogue“It hurts to set you free
One Sunday night in November of 2004, I sat down at my desk to fill out my University of California application. At that point, I wasn’t completely sure where I wanted to go to college. To be frank, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go at all. Why move away? Why leave all the people I loved? More importantly, why move away and leave all the people I loved just to go to school? I didn’t understand it. To me, all college represented was “Goodbye,” and that was torture.
I got through the “Name, Age, Social Security Number” crap in record time, and then, suddenly, I was face-to-face with an essay assignment. TWO essay assignments. The first essay was only supposed to be around 200 words, and the prompt was so simple I don’t even remember what I wrote. After I finished the first assignment, the doorbell rang. When I opened the door, no one was there. I looked down at the ground, and sitting on my doormat was a chocolate bar, a white envelope, and a Doors pin. Inside the envelope was a note that said:“This fine European chocolate reminded me of your fine European figure. I hope Mr. Morrison keeps you warm on this cold evening.”
I smiled. I knew my boyfriend had left me the present, but not because of the flattering note. The Doors was still our band. When I got back inside I read the note again, and, quite suddenly, the idea of going away to college seemed ten times as miserable.
Reluctantly, I went back to my room and sat at my desk. The second essay prompt was glowing on my computer screen:
Rationale: This question seeks to give students the opportunity to share important aspects of their schooling or their lives — such as their personal circumstances, family experiences and opportunities that were or were not available at their school or college — that may not have been sufficiently addressed elsewhere in the application.
• Is there anything you would like us to know about you or your academic record that you have not had the opportunity to describe elsewhere in this application?
I was flabbergasted. “Is there anything you would like us to know about you or your academic record“? This pissed me off. Me OR my academic record? In my opinion, those were two very different things. What had I not “had the opportunity to describe elsewhere in this application”? The application asked for my email address, my nationality, and my GPA — none of those things were a reflection of the real ME. Just who the Hell did these UC people think they were?
I was so angry I could scream. I was about to spend a decent amount of my precious time trying to convince people I already hated that they should let me into one of their disgusting establishments. I took a deep breath, unwrapped that bar of fine European chocolate, and took a bite. When I was ready, I placed my hands back on the keyboard and let loose:Before I sink