Archives For Books and Music

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In 1983, none of my friends were dead yet.

In 1983 I was a rose in red overalls, vibrant yet obscure; flushed, tender and fragile.

In 1983 I was 14 and beginning the second longest love affair of my life – with music. Love of literature had taken permanent residence in my brain. Music was located in my heart and in my loins.

 

In 1983 I experienced my first rock concert.

David Bowie. Serious Moonlight Tour. Madison Square Garden, New York City.

 

 

That brutally hot summer I decided to not only attend the concert but to somehow, some way, meet David Bowie. It was pure unadulterated fan girling, and I am not in the least bit embarrassed of it. I would do the same thing today.

My eldest brother, who frequently bounced back between the right and left coasts, was planning to be in New York that July. We made the momentous decision to buy tickets from a scalper and see The Thin White Duke up close and personal – close enough to see (and maybe capture?) the sweat droplets on his face.

I had about $300 saved from babysitting and my crappy summer job. My brother mailed me his $300 and instructions to drain my bank account and contact a ticket scalper via an ad in the Village Voice. It was, to this day, the best $300 I ever spent.

Third row, center.

 

The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars was my first Bowie album. It’s the album responsible for turning David Bowie into a superstar – and me into a lifelong fan. It’s a conceptual masterpiece. Flamboyant fashion and showy theatricality align perfectly with Bowie’s artistic vision.  Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a rock and roll landmark and THE soundtrack to the glitter/glam movement.

The message? “Freak out in a moonage daydream.”
Oh yeah.

 

I was a 14 year old mesmerized earthling listener when I first heard Bowie as Ziggy, the gender-bending, rock n’ rolling bisexual alien. I was smitten with its epic saga of a space rock star’s ascent to superstardom and his subsequent fall.

I had been reading edgy beat literature since I was 11. This was the summer David Bowie leapt up and throttled my musical sensibility with this raw, sexy, funky, witty, and completely weird record.

It’s a delicious, shimmering slice of pop perfection. I fell into a trance at the footstep drum opening of  ‘Five Years.’ I hung on every note until the last song, the lyrically brilliant  ‘Rock n’ Roll Suicide,’ built to an emphatic climax before finishing with its final, dramatically suspended, violin note.

This was my first David Bowie album, and it will always hold a very special place in my heart.

 

 

Concert day arrived.

I wore an outfit I bought at The Limited: a glittery silver tank top with one strap, cut asymetrically across the front, and red jeans. I teased my hair wildly, and slapped on gobs of eye makeup.

Madison Square Garden is on 34th Street in Manhattan. This area, midtown, was a sordid festival of glitz and debauchery in the 80’s, and I was dressed perfectly for the occasion.

I purchased a single red rose that I planned to present to David Bowie after the concert. I had no idea how I would get it to him, only that I would.

 

Sometimes when we reminisce over past events in our lives, we embellish them into something far more grandiose than they were. Was this really one of the best concerts I have ever seen, or simply the very first?

Answer: Yes.

Bowie performed in a paradoxical style both unhinged and wholly self-controlled. His ambiguous sexuality, outlandishly ornate fashion and makeup, the grand theatricality of the concert and his sheer creativity changed my entire notion of rock music.

The hit song off of his latest album was “Let’s Dance.” As the pop disco beat throbbed a sweaty yet still elegant Bowie performed simple dance moves while crooning in his unmistakable, achingly beautiful honey voice. I was overtaken by a wild urge and as he sang the lyrics, “…and tremble like a flower,” I suddenly tossed my rose to him – which he caught gracefully, never missing a beat.

And made eye contact with me (huge fangirl moment)

I had the 14-year-old version of a spontaneous public orgasm.

 

The story of David Bowie is that of the most colorful and provocative musician/artist in rock music. He managed to remain relevant and relentlessly hip for five decades.

Bowie’s art crossed boundaries of art and reality. He pulled me into his art, into HIS world. This was at age 14, a time in my life when I began to question my own identity and what I was told my identity should be. Many of the choices I made were inexplicably linked to the explosion of freedom that Bowie gifted me.

Moreover, Bowie created an ambiguity to his sexuality, which allowed me to question my own. The cultural norm for tween sexuality in 1983 was very rigid. The uncompromising sexuality of Ziggy Stardust was hugely important in allowing me to confront and overcome sexual taboos. I began to resist rigid sexual identities, which turned into a lifetime of sexual fluidity and openness.

 

 

In 2016 too many of my friends have died.

And with them now goes a cultural icon, a groundbreaking musician who sang his way deeply into my soul. His global legacy was the transformation of musical performance into an art form. His personal gift to me was freedom. And on suffocatingly provincial Staten Island, a place that still has not caught up to the new millennium?

It really WAS as if he were the man who fell to earth.

 

What was your favorite David Bowie song? Did you ever get to see him in concert?
Tell me your Bowie memories. Talk to me, I’m listening. 

 

Join me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter  so I can have friends without leaving the house. 

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Everyone’s favorite dilettante, and my dear friend Helena Hann-Basquiat, has another BOOK coming out!

I adore this woman’s writing – and NOT just because she said on Facebook that she thinks there should be “I Heart Samara” tee shirts.

It’s my honor (or “honour,” as she would spell it) to be one of the bloggers hosting her cover reveal. She really classes the place up, doncha think?

And HERE IT IS – *drumroll*

THE BIG COVER REVEAL!

 

Helena Cover Boa 4

 

Is it too early to serve Greyhounds? Fresh grapefruit juice only.

 

COMING SPRING 2015 — official date TBA

Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two is the second collection of reminiscences, following Helena Hann-Basquiat, a self-proclaimed dilettante who will try anything just to say that she has, and her twenty-something niece, who she has dubbed the Countess Penelope of Arcadia.

Speaking of Arcadia, this volume delves into Helena’s childhood, as she revisits what she calls the Arcadia of the mind — that place that keeps us trapped and holds us back from our potential. Some of her most personal stories are included here, interspersed with hilarious stories of misadventure. It’s not a novel, really, and it’s not a memoir, by the strictest definition. But most of what follows, as they say, is true. Sort of. Almost. From a certain point of view.

Discover Helena’s tales for the first time or all over again, with new notes and annotations for the culturally impaired — or for those who just need to know what the hell was going through her mind at the time!

Cover art by Hastywords. (Another person I adore. God, I have talented friends!)

Helena is going to be running a crowdfunding/pre-order campaign at Pubslush, a community focused solely on indie writers, and has set up a profile there to launch Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two.

For more information, and to follow the progress, Become a Fan at http://HelenaHB.pubslush.com

If you just can’t wait and you want a taste of Helena’s writing, follow her blog: http://helenahannbasquiat.wordpress.com/

If you just can’t get enough Helena, or you want updates on further goings on, release dates and miscellaneous mayhem, follow Helena on Twitter @hhbasquiat

 

 

helena-h-bThe enigmatic Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has.

She’s written cookbooks, ten volumes of horrible poetry that she then bound herself in leather she tanned poorly from cows she raised herself and then slaughtered because she was bored with farming.

She has an entire portfolio of macaroni art that she’s never shown anyone, because she doesn’t think that the general populous or, “the great unwashed masses” as she calls them, would understand the statement she was trying to make with them.

Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.

In 2014, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, several e-books which now make up Volume Two, as well as a multimedia collaborative piece of meta-fictional horror entitled JESSICA.

Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One is available HERE in e-book for Kindle or HERE in paperback.

Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell.

Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or http://whoisjessica.com or connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat.

 

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The real title to this blog entry is “How Reading Saved My Life.”

Fat chance you were going to check that out, Sean and Don.

I’ve decided to embrace the whole “Google search term” thing.

No use fighting it, or trying to class it up with highbrow intellectual titles.

Nope. I’m giving EVERY BLOG POST a lascivious title.

Otherwise, how will I continue to attract the meritorious people of the Interwebz who are looking for,

“wife is always dry with me but if she reed sex stories she gets wet.”

(this is just a guess, pal – but maybe she would be a little moister if you weren’t a complete illiterate).

But now that you’re here, stick around. I promise to jazz up the story with the pottymouthed language and sexual innuendos you come here to read.

Because I led you on, I’ll provide sordid details of  my deflowerication at the end.

Which did not happen, contrary to the post image, with the Wu Tang clan “en masse” (French for gang-bang.)

I wasn’t always the Happening Chick you see in my saucy gravatar.

saucy gravatar

saucy gravatar

I grew up on Staten Island, the forgotten borough.

The New York subway system doesn’t run there.

You get there via the Staten Island Ferry, which is like the Love Boat – only when you get off, you find out you have herpes.

I've always thought the ferry looked like the cover of a Doors album

I’ve always thought the ferry looked like the cover of a Doors album

I lived in one of the worst housing projects in all of NYC – The Stapleton Projects.

I had this lovely view just outside my front door.

So cosy- like Auschwitz.

So cosy- like Auschwitz.

We were one of the very few white families residing there.

Stapleton was made famous as the birthplace of the Wu-Tang Clan.

They were a hardcore gangsta rap group, back in the day when gangsta rap meant you had a prison tattoo and an unlicensed gun, not a trust fund and a beach house.

Staten Islanders believe the Wu Tang symbol is their own private bat signal

Staten Islanders believe the Wu Tang symbol is their own private bat signal

In case you’re wondering why we grew up there – my dad was a cop, and we moved there when the projects were built for city workers.

Unfortunately, dad died, leaving mom with six of us.

The projects morphed into Section 8 welfare housing, and mom couldn’t afford to move us out.

So there I was… a skinny nerdy white girl growing up in a gangsta rap video.

Pippi Longstocking meets Ghostface Killah.

Even I long to beat this child up.

Even I long to beat this child up.

I got my butt kicked on a regular basis.  Learned how to project fight – “hit them hard, fast, and FROM BEHIND.”

Being tough – awesome.

Feeling like an outsider your entire childhood – not so much.  I was desperate to find an escape.

So I read.

Constantly, because we were poor and books were available.

Fuck you, we had an elephant.

Fuck you, we had an elephant.

I didn’t know it yet, but I was actually working on one of the defining characteristics of my life –

RAISING MY CONSCIOUSNESS.

At 9, I tried to wrap my brain around “A Wrinkle In Time.”

A bizarre science fiction masterpiece of Inter-dimensional time travel, quantum physics, and plucky heroine Meg Murray fighting the iconic battle of good vs. evil.

Meg – trapped and unseen in a family of brothers, wild curly hair, braces, glasses. too smart for her friends, alienated at a young age by her lack of patience for utter BULLSHIT.

She was ME. My literary doppelgänger.

Reading A Wrinkle in Time is similar to taking a hit of really strong blotter acid.

This book twisted my mind up to where 35 years later, it has still not fully recovered.

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But in a GOOD way.

A New York City program allowed poor slum kids to obtain their working papers at 13.

Yes. Isn’t that enviable? Instead of attending rainbow parties at 13,

Yeah, No.

Yeah, No. Not this kind.

like the entitled brats where I now live, I was told,

“Happy birthday! Now get a job!”

My first job –

The Public Library. Surprise, surprise.

The library owned every banned, highly coveted  book – but did not circulate them.

The banned book has a longstanding and ludicrous history.

Did you know that the innocuous Where’s Waldo was banned?

Amongst those thousands of characters a tiny woman on the beach showed microscopic side boob.

Some degenerate with a magnifying glass and a propensity for comic book erections actually found this.

The library sequestered all illicit books away in a super-duper top-secret file named “Banned Books.

I cleverly unearthed these nuggets of literary rebellion.

And read every motherfucker in that file.

I discovered On the Road by Jack Kerouac. It’s an American classic of crazy adventure and freedom.

It’s positively riddled with drugs, jazz, drugs, sex, and drugs.

I tore through Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs.

Naked Lunch? This isn’t really a novel; it’s a twisted series of disturbing, drug ridden, sexually explicit vignettes.

Burroughs wrote it while living in Tangiers, in a one-room apartment above a male whorehouse, strung out on smack and male prostitutes.

Awesome.

I’ve decided to go the next school board meeting and demand that they put these on high school reading list.

Naked Lunch must be made part of the new “Common Core.”

common-core

The ONLY reason to see “The Notebook.” There is no reason to read it.

We finally moved when I was in high school.  *sigh of relief*

Were you hoping for the happy ending?

Not. So. Fast.

Back in those days,  if you were “bright,” you got “skipped.”

The misguided educators actually put you a grade ahead with kids a year older, forgetting about social, emotional, psychological and physical (especially physical) development.

I also have an end of the year birthday, so I was almost 2 years younger than most kids in my grade.

Get the picture? No more scary gangsta projects.

Instead, we’re talking TRAINING BRA in the GYM LOCKER ROOM.

I think my pal Ghostface Killah did less damage to my psyche.

So, guess what I did to heal all those psychic hits on my ego?

Yep.  I read.

Alongside Holden Caulfield, I gave “phonies” the metaphorical finger.

I still do. Some things never change.

I found a new doppelgänger in Lorraine in The Pigman – zero self confidence, intense desire to write, compulsive pathological liar…

(Am I? There’s lots of speculation in the blog world on THAT one hehe).

I knew the loss and alienation of “Anonymous,” the 15-year-old author of Go Ask Alice.

SHIT GOT REAL WITH THIS BOOK, YO.

This book had been banned for its graphic depiction of homelessness, prostitution, rape, and a stint in a mental institution,

everything this girl endures once she becomes addicted to drugs.

Her family finally rescues her.

And then…the Epilogue.

The frickin’ Epilogue (SPOILER ALERT) tells us that 3 weeks later, she’s found dead of a drug overdose at her parent’s home.

I was shattered.

The only chance you have of surviving the pain of being different is to find like minded souls- even if they only exist in books.

The true gift is this – reading will raise your consciousness.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of letting society determine your values.

No one wants to be the one who doesn’t fit in.

I know – hell, I live that shit.

So, you can do/look/be/act like everyone else.

Or you can RAISE YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS.

And possibly make a difference in this world.

You can expand your mind, one book at a time.

Luckily for me, I shed the nerdy cocoon in college. Or maybe, it was just cool to be nerdy.

Either way  – in college, I really hit my stride and began my outward development into the deeply hip woman you now see before you.

Just remember – I created her.

One book at a time.

Oh, right!  The virginity thing.

I promised if you stuck around, I’d get into it at the end.

I lied, perverts.

Go read a book.

Were you a nerd, or a cool kid? Did you “fit in?”
What were your favorite books when you were growing up?
Talk to me.  I’m listening.

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“It was a dark and stormy night…”

…and so begins an improbable adventure with one of the most deceptively simple first lines ever.

And so began my first, and most enduring, love affair.

 

Growing up, I created for myself, through the magic of books, the childhood I wanted. Books were my escape and solace. My partners on endless imaginative journeys.

But it was not until the age of 9, when I stumbled upon “A Wrinkle in Time,” that I felt my soul resonating in complete synchronicity with the protagonist of a story.

Meg Murry, the main character, was like me – trapped and unseen in a family of brothers. Just like me, she had wildly curly hair and glasses. Because she was so much smarter than her contemporaries, gifted with an incredible talent for math and science, and had absolutely no patience for bullshit or mediocrity, she felt alienated from the rest of the world.

I WAS MEG MURRY.

At nine, I found my literary Doppelganger. Is there any experience more profound in life or literature?

I had the same rebellious instincts as Meg. But she had 4 years on me. So I vicariously delighted in her smart-mouthed response to the principal’s demand that she “face facts” about her father’s disappearance:

“I do face facts. They’re lot’s easier to face than people, I can tell you.”

 

And – the story.

Ohhh, the story.

For over five decades kids even younger than nine have tried to wrap their minds around this tangled tale of quantum physics and intergalactic space. It didn’t matter if you fully understood. Because somehow, the message of the story transcended all of that.

But all that math and science lit my brain up like a pinball machine.

In 1962, Madeline L’Engle was way ahead of her time when she gave her readers the five-dimensional “tesseract” – a geometric construct which allowed the characters to time travel.

I bought it. Fully. Bought it? I EMBRACED it. This was a nerd’s DREAM.

tesseract

How cool is a tesseract?

 

The story follows the intergalactic exploits of Meg Murry and her beloved 5-year-old prodigy of a brother, Charles Wallace.

Their father, a physicist, has been missing from home for a year, whereabouts unknown.

With help from three loving aliens, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, and accompanied by a school friend, they travel to the dystopian planet Camazotz to rescue their father. Camazotz is ruled by IT, a disembodied, pulsating brain that insists on conformity. “Differences create problems.”

 

When I read this book as a child, the most disturbing image for me was that of the town of Camazozt.

Each house is identical, down to the number of flowers in the front yard. Each front yard contains the same number of children dressed identically playing – but chillingly, they’re jumping rope and bouncing red balls to the exact same rhythm.

As an adult, the irony of this is not lost on me – who despairs at suburban conformity. From the age of 9, I’ve spent my entire life bouncing against that pulsing red rhythm of societal pressure.

 

 

Meg, Charles Wallace and their friend Calvin soon find themselves swept up in an epic galactic-scale battle against IT, also known as “The Black Thing,” “The Darkness,” or just “EVIL.”

IT has already ensnared their father, and Charles Wallace becomes imprisoned and brainwashed by IT. Meg is completely devastated that she cannot save her baby brother. She has been his protector and defender his whole life.

At the eleventh hour, Mrs. Which gives Meg the knowledge that she has something IT doesn’t have; that this is her only weapon to fight IT – but she must discover what it is herself. Meg is terrified and desperate. And at the very last moment, just when all hope is lost, (spoiler alert), Meg finds out that LOVE is the victorious weapon.

Meg uses the power of love to save her brother from the evil clutches of  IT. She simply stands and fiercely loves her brother, tears streaming down her face. “Charles. Charles, I love you. My baby brother who always takes care of me. Come back to me, Charles Wallace, come away from IT, come back, come home. I love you, Charles. Oh, Charles Wallace, I love you.”

She doesn’t stop until he breaks loose and runs into her arms. They hold each other, sobbing, professing their love for one another.

Meg Murry, a 13-year-old-girl, is the hero of the story! She saves everyone, including her father! GIRL POWER!

 

 

“A Wrinkle in Time” has been relevant for over 50 years because it’s a masterfully written book that describes the timeless conflict between good and evil. It’s a mashup of science fiction and archetypal story telling with the best moral of all – that love WINS.

Even the back story is inspirational. Madeline L’Engle was rejected by 26 publishers before one was willing to take a chance on a book that was ahead of its time.

It was considered too complex, too scientific for young minds. To which L’Engle has replied:

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

Don’t you just love her?

 

Tonight, my son read the ending pages to me. He loves this book, perhaps not the way I do; after all, he’s not an awkward misfit girl. But he does love the scene in which Meg saves Charles Wallace. As I child, I wept when I read that scene. Even today, I can’t hear it without welling up.

I needed to hear it. Too often I forget that unconditional love has unlimited power to transform even what appears to be the most hopeless situation.

I learned that at 9.

I just needed to be reminded of it.