Sunday, November 26, 2017

Denim Jacket

Alice and I went to see the Indigo Girls play a show at the Ace Hotel in Downtown LA  a few weeks ago. I never know which Indigo Girls will be playing at any given show of theirs—the acoustic duo, or their band, which has consisted, varyingly over the years, of amazing players like Lisa Germano, Sara Lee, and Gail Ann Dorsey (who famously played with David Bowie). The Ace Hotel show was just the two of them, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, and it was like magic.

The Indigo Girls have never really gotten the respect they so justly deserve. When I was trying to get friends of mine to come with me to the show, a friend told me “no thank you” in an emphatic sort of way, then asked me if I was going to sport a denim jacket to see them. I told her rather cattily that I was going to hire the Indigo Girls to play at her funeral, and that, in addition, I would handle all of the arrangements and make sure she was laid in the coffin wearing all denim. With fringe. Yes, I understand that the Girls didn’t have a cutting-edge fashion sense when they first arrived on the scene in the late 80s, but they’ve since evolved sartorially. Amy in particular. That evening, she was wearing a dark, tailored, slightly dandyish suit that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Raymond Chandler story—and Emily wore a classy blouse that, yes, could have been purchased from a Chico’s. But still.

They opened with “It’s Alright,” a kind of statement of both resolve and resignation that includes the lyrics “And it's alright if you hate that way / Hate me 'cause I'm different / You hate me 'cause I'm gay / Truth of the matter come around one day / It's alright.” They’ve always had their detractors because they’re gay; but I think the bigger issue for some is that they’re so female. Their persona as a duo is pretty gendered. They once planned a tour with other female musicians that they initially planned to call the “Rolling Thunderpussy Revue,” before settling on the name “Suffragette Sessions.” Their band is primarily composed of other women, though they do collaborate often with men. They sing songs about Virginia Woolf, songs that namecheck Hamlet’s Ophelia, songs that re-gender classic rock songs like Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet.”

What are your favorite memories of the Indigo Girls?

In the early aughts, I heard that they were playing with their full band in Marietta, Georgia, so I decided to fly there from New York to hear them play. The Girls sell out arenas when they play, but for some reason, the row I was sitting in—far, far from the stage—was completely empty. They launched into “Power of Two,” and Emily instructed the crowd to look to their left and take the hand of whoever was there. I gasped and looked to my left and there was of course no one, and that’s when I plunged into an unfathomable knowledge of the sorrow of loneliness, where I’ve pretty much been ensconced ever since.

Another time, in the 90s, I went to see the aforementioned “Suffragette Sessions” at Irving Plaza in New York City. The lights went down and then a whole gang of women I admired with an almost hopeless fanboy-ism took the stage singing a Luscious Jackson song. Kate Schellenbach sang lead, and then she sat herself down at the side of the stage and watched the rest of the show from there, mysterious as a sphinx. Lisa Germano sang “Cannonball” by the Breeders, backed by, amongst others, the Breeders’ Josephine Wiggs. A new singer named Rose Polenzani sang a song called “Or,” backed by Emily and Amy. The next day, I read a review of the show in the New York Daily News that dismissed the whole, amazing spectacle as a “bunch of women who really want to be Neil Young—and also Lisa Germano played.” The reporter called Emily and Amy “two ogres,” and a muscle throbbed in my jaw.

When I was in my late teens, I went to a Gay Pride event in Central Park, and the performers turned out to be a real rogues’ gallery of unknowns. Like, gay dj’s and gay soothsayers and such. I milled about aimlessly, unsure of how to talk to the crowds of people who presumably shared my predilection towards same-sex love. I wanted to fit in and meet people, but I didn’t even know, really, how to articulate to myself that I was gay yet, much less how to articulate it to someone else. Towards dusk, I was dehydrated and haggard, and found myself looking at the stage as two women came out and the announcer said it was the Indigo Girls, and I nearly fainted. Imagine—a major-label act who had the courage to play a Gay Pride festival! People forget, but they were among the first openly and unapologetically gay musicians in the business. Before Melissa Etheridge, before k. d. lang, before Riot Grrrl. The Indigo Girls gave me hope. They said, by playing, that it's okay that we're gay, and it's okay that you are too, and besides that, we won't take our cues from fear. 

And they’ve continued to be brave. Their prescient songs address racism, consumerism, white nationalism, police brutality, and intellectual isolationism. Visit their website and you’ll be given resources to help Indigenous activists, support clean energy, support women and people living with HIV in Africa, and support activist media, among many other causes. They list their own tour dates on the site almost as an afterthought.

At the Ace Hotel, they performed a flawless set, complete with blistering rockers like “Chickenman” and “Go” (Emily Saliers definitely plays guitar better than you); crowd favorites like “Ghost” and “Power of Two”; and new ones like Emily’s “Train Inside,” from her solo record. Her voice is still gorgeous, but it’s different now, more haunted, with a quaver that I’ve never noticed. She sounded sad. But between songs, she and Amy were jovial, and spoke to the crowd as though we were all friends. There were more “Thanks, y’all”s than in an episode of “Friday Night Lights.”

One of the last songs they performed was “The Rise of the Black Messiah,” which Amy wrote after Herman Wallace, one of the “Angola Three,” wrote her a letter after his release from prison, thanking her for her activism against mass incarceration. Herman had been in solitary confinement in prison after he was accused and convicted of murder—with no physical evidence linking him to the crime. He spent an unbelievable 41 years in solitary. It would be tricky for any white performer to perform a song like this, but because the Indigo Girls have been performing songs like this for decades, they have the moral authority to do so.


I wondered how they would follow the dark horror of “The Rise of the Black Messiah,” how they could possibly turn the crowd’s energy into hope by the end of the show. I needn’t have wondered—they simply launched into “Galileo” and everyone in the crowd was screaming and crying with release. After they left the stage, I got a little overstimulated and started yelling at everyone: “Thanks, y’all!”, “Thanks, y’all!” and Alice moved quickly away to find her mother, who was ahead of us in the crowd. I can be a handful when I’m overstimulated.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sling bag

I just received a phone call from the writer Luke Goebel. Although I have never spoken with Luke via phone - and I'm pretty bad at phone calls in general - this particular call came just seconds after I'd received my new "sling bag" in the mail from Urban Outfitters, and I was so excited to talk to anyone about it! I'm sure many of you don't know it yet, but you are living in the midst of a fashion craze known as the "sling bag," which I saw online last week and was immediately fascinated by. I immediately launched into a conversation with Luke about the beauty of my newest fashion purchase, and I spoke for about a minute before I realized that Luke's phone had actually pocket-dialed me. I wish I had taped that conversation. What did I say in that minute-long monologue? Sometimes I can describe a fashion item so minutely that I sound like a marketing department, but what could I actually have said about a "sling bag" anyway? It's really just a fanny-pack that one is expected to wear over one shoulder. My words about it already escape me. Then I have to admit I tried to eavesdrop on what Luke was doing, but he almost immediately started hacking and coughing dramatically and at that point I discreetly put the phone down.

I was so excited to meet Luke last week at a party for Granta! I loved his book FOURTEEN STORIES, NONE OF THEM ARE YOURS so much, and I actually tried (in vain) to get my overlords at HarperCollins to sign him up way back when. He was there at the party with the writer Ottessa Moshfegh, and I was trying to stir that dormant part of my brain that contains the name of every literary writer currently alive in America, and the names of their key work. That part of my brain failed me that night, but after I went online later, I remembered that she got a lot of attention a couple of years ago for a book called EILEEN that I bought then and now must read. I wondered briefly if Luke and Ottessa are dating, but horrible things tend to happen whenever I express any kind of curiosity at all about the personal lives of people I know through the publishing industry. Still, in a different part of my mind, there is a complex literary chess game of trysts, allegiances, and ancient enmities that rivals the fictional worlds of George R. R. Martin, and in that part of my mind, Luke's and Ottessa's chess pieces were adjusted slightly.

Anyway, back to the sling bag! In this picture, I have filled it with the various items I carry with me at all times during the day. An umbrella, extra contact lenses, a pen, stevia, my headphones, a single condom and a bottle of Cialis (in case I meet someone!), candy, Alka Seltzer, a charger, and a horrible, horrible - but lately, horribly necessary - product called a Preparation H "Totable." The bag almost wasn't big enough!

I feel like I should be writing now that I'm living in Los Angeles, and seeing other writers (and other publishing industry compatriots like Tyson from Rare Bird) at parties reminds me of that fact. Okay, so I wrote this blog post. Maybe I'll try to do that more often, and maybe I'll write something else, too. Anyway, I'm off to show off my new bag. How should I wear it? To the front, as Urban Outfitters would have me wear it? Or to the back, where it will make me look even more like a hunchback? Or just around the waist, as it clearly is just a fanny-pack repurposed by Herschel's marketing department into the current craze it is, or that I have been fooled into believing it is. I'm not certain, but in any case, sales at UrbanOutfitters.com are up.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

What are your thoughts on Beyonce

One of my authors, the wonderful Lyah Leflore, arranged to give me two free tickets to see Beyonce's final tour date for the Formation tour. Me and Ssanyu braved a nightmarish three-hour commute (just 11 miles away, mind you) from the Port Authority bus terminal to get there. (Thanks, Coach USA!) When we arrived, our tickets were not to be found at the will call, so I had to text Lyah (who was in Puerto Rico at the time, at her niece's wedding) to find out what was going on.

You can imagine what was going on in my head. I had dragged Ssanyu out to New Jersey. We were both broke. (Or, at least, I was). Beyonce came out and started performing, and we were both listening to her in the deserted carny town that is the MetLife Arena after the main performer starts. I had just been fired, and was looking to move to Philadelphia, with all the loneliness and potential darkness and doom that could arise with such a poorly thought-out plan.

Lyah somehow made it all work in the end (she can make anything work). Ssanyu and I were assisted at the scene by a wonderful woman who works for Pepsi named Michelle M., who gamely gave up relaxing and listening to the sound from the stadium and walked us where we needed to go and convinced the will call ladies to try again to find our tickets. Ssanyu and I raced up the stairs to catch most of Beyonce's show. At one point, Beyonce came out in this outfit - which I didn't like - but I liked most of her outfits. And I waited to feel something, but it never happened.

I have all of Destiny's Child's records, but Beyonce as a solo artist has thus far left me cold. Clearly, she's an Illuminati; no human power could have sustained her career for so many years. I liked "Best Thing I Never Had," and "Single Ladies," but she's put out, like, ten solo albums thus far - where are the good songs? "Superpower," from her self-titled album, is genius, but Frank Ocean wrote that. Still, Beyonce has by now accumulated almost godlike powers, and the audience was losing its mind over her. I looked around me a few times during the show at everyone screaming and singing along. Why can't I feel this? I thought.

Anyway, she sang something or the other and then she left the stage, and Ssanyu and I were treated to an almost-as-nightmarish commute back to NYC. I took the train home, as I often have lo these twenty-two years, the S to the 6, and I thought to myself what I have long thought. Why do I live here? I mean, on earth.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

I love crazy people

I went to Heather's birthday party recently. She held it at the Pyramid Club, and right away I was intrigued by that. I haven't been to the Pyramid in maybe 16 years. The last time I was there, it was to hear the rap duo Morplay. They were great, and I threw flower petals up at them on the stage - petals that Morplay rapper Crasta-Yo did not appreciate, possibly because it made for a dangerous on-stage slippage factor. For some reason that is foggy to me in my dotage, I ended up loaning Morplay $5,000 to make a record. They made the record, but didn't pay me back, though I did ask them to. Morplay broke up in the end, and the other rapper from the group, Cazwell, launched a solo career that has included, counter-intuitively, a song called "Get My Money Back." Ah, well. In my life, I have become quite good at "letting it go." Frozen taught me that.

My former assistant was there at the Pyramid, and then my former boss showed up. There was also another guest - although I'm assuming he was not invited - a large man with long blonde hair who was dancing like someone would dance if he or she were at Studio 54 in 1976 and being filmed doing so. I love crazy people, so I found this man irresistible, and I began to dance with him in a similarly crazy fashion. We were really freaking on each other, but he was so sweaty and I am so old that I couldn't dance with him for too long at a stretch. I took breaks, toweling myself off with a handkerchief. But every ten minutes or so I broke that blonde down on the dance floor. It was really amazing, kind of like the legendary, rumored post-breakup dance-off that Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake had at the Lounge in Los Angeles in 2002. My old assistant Amanda tried to capture these moments with me and the blonde man with her phone camera, but it was too dark, so my inevitable apocalyptic humiliation via viral video was postponed for another night. But can't you just see my eventual viral shaming, before it's happened? Maybe a video of me dancing, or me pantomiming the whole video (complete with cat and choreography) of Lisa Loeb's "Stay," or maybe one of me talking to myself on the streets, mouthing comebacks to insults that occurred hours or days before, finally getting my retort as finely honed as I needed it to be, too late?

I made for the exit at the Pyramid Club that night knowing that Heather was the coolest lady on the earth, with her cupcakes and her random friends. I exited past the blonde fellow who was literally worn out from my dancing with him, and was now using a cane (literally).

And I left wearing my glow bracelet, which Heather had gamely attached to my wrist earlier. It took me a long time (maybe two blocks?) before I remembered that I am 43, and took it off.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Tilly's

A few years ago, I entered a contest online to win a fun trip to Los Angeles to meet some tween celebrity boy who was all the rage at the time. I'd never even heard of him; I had to Google him. But I wanted to win a trip, so I entered. I was automatically subscribed to the newsletter of the great West Coast teen clothing store Tilly's.

I don't think I expected to win. I have never won anything except a useless stereo component during college and some dance tickets in my 20s from the Village Voice that I couldn't use and had to give away, to Carolyn and her beau. But there was something about entering this Tilly's contest that tickled me. Imagine if I'd won! The look of surprise of the teen star's adorable, million-dollar face, expecting some little fun girl and seeing my wizened husk instead. It would be the equivalent of entering to win a contest to spend a day with a Kennedy, and then having them show up with Jean Kennedy, in all her glory.

The weeks and months went by, and I knew I had not won. In this contest, as in life. But I was bemused by the daily emails from Tilly's, telling me what sort of cute tank or boardie I could be in possession of if I'd only loosen my purse strings and live a little with Tilly's. What sort of jogger or legging, lanyard or patch. And their BOGOs. Sweet Lord, always a BOGO with them.

As time passed, I mulled over the idea of "liking" Tilly's on Twitter, and entering into an online relationship with whoever manned their account - at first, being merely enthusiastic about their product, then being maybe a little creepy, (by revealing my age and my geographic distance from any existing Tilly's), then implying by my tweets that I was relying far too much on my communication with Tilly's in conducting my life. That idea, like many I have, was fleeting. (Although, obviously, in my prime I would have subtweeted Tilly's like a house aflame.)

Today, it has clearly not occurred to Tilly's that I've been keeping my own counsel on their emails on purpose. In their attempt to get me to place one - even just ONE, one SINGLE order - they have begun emailing me two, three times a day, when clearly one email would do. Just how many rash guards do they think I need?? How many wedges, or pool floats?? I am 43 ... I wouldn't be able even to make a drone WORK! Let alone two, with BOGOooooo.

When last I visited Alia in Los Angeles, I begged her to come with me to Tilly's. I needed some kind moral support, or perhaps protection. I walked around the store, and their clothes seemed slightly more garish than they looked online, which both surprised me and slightly slaked my intense thirst to be a part of Tilly's machine, such as it is. I confided to Alia about my fascination with the Tilly's newsletter - and she showed a little compassion for once in her life and did not imply that my fascination with Tilly's is clearly a metaphor for my fascination with how youth, sweet youth, can just slip away. And that even if youth seems still within reach - like, just around the corner - it is in a direction you cannot anymore move, because age has compromised your mobility. But Alia did lean conspiratorially toward me and told me that there was a newsletter even more foul, more
aggressive than Tilly's.

"Oh yeah?" I said, sure that this was some trick.

"It's Nordstrom's Rack," she said, ominously. I turned pale.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

For the Colonel

There are advantages, he thought as the weeks went by, to not having a cat. His apartment slowly emptied itself of cat hair, whereas before cat hair floated in the air and formed itself into tumbleweeds that blew menacingly across his floor when he moved around. He brought strange men home and none of them did about-faces upon entering, or whined about their allergies in lieu of "getting down to the business between his legs." His apartment no longer smelled of urine and feces, unless his friend Dan came over. He didn’t have to worry all the time about what would happen if his cat died, this little soul he had been given to nourish, nor did he have to worry that he wasn’t playing with the damned thing enough.

As time went on, his friends, being helpful, would say “You should get another cat. Another cat would make things better.” He would smile at their good intentions, and think, things are already better. A little better, at least. Different.

It’s not like he didn’t miss the Colonel. He still expected him to scramble into his bed at night with a great and unintentionally comic effort. He still got twinges of sorrow when he looked for the cat’s food and water bowls, to see if they needed refilling. Those had been the first things he’d thrown out, and then all the toys. He still had a full bag of litter, though, lying against his bookshelf. He had a thought that he would one day fill a glass with litter and use it to hold his incense sticks as they burned. But there was less and less need for incense these days, without the cat.

He’d really only gotten the cat to prove that he could keep it alive. He’d gotten his previous cat, Laffie, from the Humane Society, and she ate barely anything for weeks. He’d called up the Humane Society, and they had assured him that this was normal. “Cats don’t eat anything until they get used to their surroundings!” they chirped merrily. He had tried out different foods to try to make his cat eat – cat food at first of course; then organic cat food; then cans of tuna fish; then, once, some crab from a sushi restaurant. Laffie just hid under the dresser. He had fractured his foot and was getting around his apartment on crutches when one day, he’d noticed Laffie lying motionless on the floor, looking at him pleadingly. He’d picked her up and her head lolled around; she had no strength to lift it. He’d rushed her on his crutches to the hospital, where they put her on life support and told him to go home. They called him later to tell him she kept dying and they kept resuscitating her. “What’s wrong with her?” he asked. “We don’t know,” they replied. “Is she in any pain?” “We don’t know.” Then they called him again and told him she’d died again. “Let her go,” he’d cried. He got stoned that night and cried so hard he thought his face would break. Later, the hospital sent him a bill for $1700 and he bitterly thought, you’re such a loser. You could only keep a cat alive for a month.

“Get another cat,” his friends had said at the time, so eventually he’d reached out to City Critters to “foster a cat.” He took the cat home and quickly learned that this cat could have taught a course on eating. A week later, City Critters called him up and told him he should just keep the cat. “Okay,” he replied. “Okay.” (He was easily manipulated).

At first, he and the Colonel sparred often. He would try to pet the cat, and the cat would scratch his hands. He often went to work those days with bloodied hands and would tell his co-workers that he and his cat had had a fight. Oh, how amusing he thought he was with those co-workers, but they just looked at him like he was a freak, just like his parents did. His cat sometimes ate meals and then immediately blew chunks on the floor, and he would look at the cat with a kind of fond pride, thinking, like father, like son. Sometimes he would come home and the cat would be walking around in his kitchen sink or atop his refrigerator, tracking its own feces across areas where he prepared his own joyless meals. His constant eating gradually rid him of his gift for high-jumping, although he couldn’t be put on a diet. The Colonel would stalk him if he didn’t have a full bowl, eventually driving him insane with constant meowing and head-butting. “Get away!” he would shriek. “Can’t you see I’m on Manhunt?!” He had a constant fantasy that he would put a fanny pack containing twenty dollars on the Colonel and let him outside to seek his own fortune wherever fate willed.

Fifteen years went by. During that time, his moods and fates swung wildly and he learned that he was bipolar. Sometimes when it was hard for him to stay alive, he would think, well, who is going to feed your cat? Other times, he would hold back from his sometime drug use for fear that if he overdosed, the Colonel would immediately eat his face. Cats are not finicky about eating the dead, he remembered grimly.

The advantages of having a dead cat continued to present themselves to him over time. A woman he met outside his friend Royal’s art opening saw his cat t-shirt and his cat tattoo and asked him if he had a cat.

“I had one,” he said. “He died a few months ago.”

“Well, now you have to get another one,” she said.

“No. There are advantages to not having a cat. The biggest one, of course, being that I don’t have to have a broken heart when it goes away.”

“Nice to meet you!” she said suddenly. “Goodbye!” He noticed suddenly that she was wearing a cap with the word “cat” on it.

At night sometimes he lay awake, thinking about his own death. He worried that he was an alien who the doctors would want to dissect upon his death, in hopes of helping medicine with what they discovered from his unnaturalness. He was often being cut open in his fantasies. His ribcage was constantly being separated and hands probed his organs (all of which were in the wrong places).

“What do you think this is?” one of the imaginary doctors said to his colleagues, holding up an object removed with a tweezer from the surface of his heart.


Of course, it was a cat hair.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Jack Spade

I was wearing my new Jack Spade coat yesterday evening when I was stopped and searched by the police in the Fulton Street station of the 4, 5, and 6 trains. This isn't going where you think it's going - I actually am not sure why the police don't search me more. I feel so clandestine and cloak-and-dagger almost all of the time - surely some of that feeling must be part of my visible "look?" The officer took one look at my coat and then leapt up from his seat in a Long Island sort of way and started pointing his finger at commuters on their way to the turnstile, like "eenie, meanie, miney, mo," and I got "mo," of course. He beckoned me in a pseudo-fatherly way over to a rickety folding table while my face displayed the coil of an almost imperceptible rictus of a smile.

It is one of my worst nightmares that I'll wear some multi-colored, garish coat to work and then get fired, and have to try to hold my head up high, carrying a cardboard box of my belongings outside into the rain whilst dressed like a clown. An alternate version of this fantasy is that I'll be dressed like a clown while getting handcuffed by the police while a crowd of people gathers to watch, or while getting beaten up by some cherry-picking vagrant on the street. I used to dress like a clown all the time, but that was in the aughts, when I thought nothing of wearing avant-garde clothing to the bar, to work, wherever. Once I flew to LA wearing a see-through mesh shirt by Fendi and Alia and I lurked about Hollywood and were cold to passersby. Once I was wearing an enormous coat covered in Burberry plaid and the barkeep at the bar I was leaving said, "Girl, oh my Gawd you are leaving here alone tonight." I could only look at him sadly and think, But I am merely a harmless eccentric… Another time at a party, I coldly accused the writer Bret Easton Ellis of being a misogynist while wearing a beautiful, flowing wig I'd just purchased from Patricia Field. I peacocked long before Neil Strauss made the term fashionable in his douche-bag bible, The Game.

(Okay, I know, I know - Jack Spade is the ultimate douche-bag brand. But, grrrl, it was less than $200 on barneyswarehousesale.com, and I MUST HAVE A NEW COAT AND A NEW SCARF EACH YEAR even when I am not sure where my next rent check is coming from. It is my biggest revenge fantasy that, when I am finally ensconced in some sort of gay rest home, I will be able to dazzle the other old queens with an endless array of beautiful coats and scarves, like Diana Ross - and have the ability to say that I have seen EVERY MADONNA CONCERT [three, albeit, via DVD only :^( ])

The po-po, of course, found nothing in my bag. I am, realistically, far past middle age, and if I were to do drugs today, I would surely just immediately turn to ash like that blonde witch in "American Horror Story: Coven" last season. Sigh. Back in the day, though, I partied like a house afire. I will cling to that Gee and keep going to work and keeping it together and doing the best I can. I will cling to the Gee who, when given a copy of the AA Daily Reflections in rehab, immediately flipped to the last page in February and informed the doctor, "But, there is no entry for February 29th." She turned pale, and I continued: "How will your precious book save you then."