Archives For fucking up my life

Patti Smith and Lou Reed, conspiring to Fuck. My. Life. Up.

 

Everyone who lived in downtown New York City has a Lou Reed story. If you love music, you have a Lou Reed story.

Some people did drugs with him.

Some people sold him drugs.

Some people were ripped off by him so he could buy drugs.

Some people had violent fist fights with him. He had an explosive temper, which could detonate at any time.

Many people were ridiculed and demeaned by him. He was a prickly, judgmental motherfucker.

Too many to count never met him but saw him perform.

And some have had their lives thrown irrevocably off course after seeing one of these performances.

I’m in that last category.

 

I was 15 when an older friend smuggled me into the Bottom Line to see Lou Reed perform.

Barry Manilow Open Rehearsal at the Bottom Line Cabaret Club in New York City - January 6, 1980

The Bottom Line, like so many other iconic rock venues in New York City clubs, no longer exists.

Massive. Heart. Squeeze.

 

My first night at the Bottom Line I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings, because as soon as we got there, David nodded towards a table near the postage sized stage and said, “There he is.”

Lou Reed had an aura of steel gray electricity. You don’t develop or manufacture that kind of presence; it just is.

He was dressed in a black leather jacket. Under it, a tight sleeveless black tee shirt revealed gorgeous muscular arms. Black jeans. Craggy handsome face. Close cropped curly black hair. Angrily set jaw.

He frightened me.

He turned me on immensely.

 

This night is memorable, not just for the music. It was the night I realized I did not want, nor would I have, a chance at a “normal” life. I remember the smell of liquor and perfume and pot and sweat; the crowd and its slavish devotion, the relentless screeches of feedback.

Lou Reed’s voice.

He crooned and drawled; half spoke, half sang. He was a poet who layered words on top of music. The effect was mesmerizing and dramatic but without affectation.

His songs were of transvestites, prostitutes, drug addicts, sadomasochists and utter madness. No romantic despair or adolescent misogyny for this rock-and-roller.

He was the Primal Prince of Fearlessness. An escapee from the dark, dangerous, sexually ambiguous New York underworld who had managed to live to tell the tales.

His music was pure/impure New York City.

“I’m Waiting for the Man.” A junkie on a drug buy in Harlem.

And the lyrics, so simple.

“I’m waiting for my man
Twenty-six dollars in my hand
Up to Lexington, 125
Feeling sick and dirty, more dead than alive
I’m waiting for my man”

It was a street map to score heroin. It was that specific.

lex and 125

At one point in the evening, someone in the audience called out for “Heroin,” Lou Reed’s love song to addiction. It’s the musical equivalent of a heroin high, just as your brain implodes.

Lou Reed became agitated; then angry. He had kicked heroin years ago and no longer performed this song live. Other members of the audience started calling for it. He got angrier; vicious. He would not satisfy the audience’s vicarious drug habit.

He ended the night in a brutal verbal fight with several of the audience members; shouting obscenities at them, finally storming off and turning a table over on his way off stage.

His behavior was unscripted, raw, sexual and human.

It was tragic.

It was fucking beautiful.

 

Patti Smith had already laid eggs in my brain years before. But just as I fell in worship/love with her, the GodMother of punk retired to raise her children near Detroit. I wasn’t able to see her live at that time. But her male counterpart- the GodFather of punk – was very much still a part of the downtown New York scene.

After that, I had zero interest in going to college; graduating, getting a good job, getting married, moving to the suburbs and having 2.3  kids.

I wanted nothing of that. I wanted Reed’s world. The seamy underworld he sang of and denounced and loved and judged and accepted and rejected and forgave.

I HAD to have that life.

I would stay in New York and be a writer. An actress. A musician. It didn’t matter that I didn’t play an instrument well. Lou Reed played guitar for shit.

In the end, I was a coward. At 16, I lacked Reed’s fearlessness. I did as I was told, and I was told you don’t turn down a full ride to an Ivy League school.

So I went.

And wasted my time. I was Ivy Leaguer in name only –  but a junkie rebel leather queen in my heart. As soon as those 4 years were over, I headed back to my home town and spent the next 15 years on the Wild Side.

I moved into the East Village, the artsy funky punk rock East Village, and was finally home.

I no longer live there, but my apartment on 2nd avenue will always be my home. Period.

I can't even.

I can’t even discuss this.

 

I squandered those 15 years when I could have been capitalizing off my fancy education. I’m paying for that now.

I pursued various artistic endeavors, but mostly I lived on the edge. I took ridiculous chances; did unspeakable things; hung out with sordid musicians, made terrible choices.

I had the time of my life.

I regret nothing.

 

Sometimes I wish I had died a junkie’s quick and painless overdose of a death, a poetic swan song in a blaze of glory. Instead of this slow drip of moribund that seeps into my blood, a day at a time.

I’m restless and bored and yearn for adventure. But where do you go when you’ve been there and done that?

I’m too old to keep up with the relentless pace of the life I once knew. Too young to be buried alive in the suburbs.

I’m in limbo. Not fit for either the life I once lived, or the one I live now.

 

 

Yes, I’m in disguise so I can I pass amongst the normals here, but that’s just a ninja stealth strategy.

I bake for the PTO. But my Halloween cupcakes sported tiny edible knives and leaked blood red icing and sold out immediately.

What? It came in a kit.

What? It came in a kit.

 

I’m raising a 10-year-old kid who dressed in all black on the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death last month.

I live life my way, on my terms.

 

 

The night I found out Lou Reed died, Sunday, October 27, 2013, I was on the telephone with my best friend of 27 years.

We were stunned. And immediately – in our respective homes and without consulting the other –  started playing the same song.

“Street Hassle.”

An 11 minute tour de force in 3 movements, considered by many to be Lou Reed’s masterpiece.

 

Lou Reed didn’t really influence me to squander my life. He thrust me beyond the secure and ordinary allure of the mundane. He gave me an early glimpse of another world that existed beyond the safe and colorless margins in which  I had felt trapped.

I saw hope that I could live a life not scripted by, and for, the rest of the world.

It does not have to exist only in the demimonde of druggie nihilism, but simply by living with an uncompromising allegiance to the truth of who I am.

 

Like Lou Reed, I am a deeply flawed mass of contradictions. Lost, but found. Tragic, but magnificent.

I find humanity in the people that society condemns.

RIP, Lou. I’ll continue walking on the Wild Side.

Til the day I die.

 

Exactly.

Exactly.

 

This is an audio collage of three urban scenes connected by a memorable, elegant riff, first on cello and then on guitar. Bonus points if you recognize the voice after the second part.
In the third part, Lou Reed’s voice, an elegy for a lost lover, is one of the most painfully grief-stricken vocals in rock history.

Have you ever had a seemingly innocent event throw your life off course?
Has any musical artist ever had a strong impact on you? 
Talk to me.   I’m listening. 

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The most inaccurate depiction of prostitution in the history of the world

The most inaccurate depiction of prostitution in the history of the world

 

The job of a phone girl in a brothel is basically a sort of sub-madam.

Clients, either established or new, would call. Once they arrived, I would let them in, pour them a drink, and seat them in main lounge, where they could chat for a few minutes before deciding who they would like to have a session with.

We called them “parties.”

I also had to keep the place stocked with alcohol, make sure all the laundry was picked up and delivered daily, collect weekly doctor’s notices from the girls, make sure the supply closet was stocked with tissues, baby oil, condoms, etc.

The clients, were normal, run-of-the-mill men. They weren’t unsanitary freaks incapable of attracting women. They were pleasant. Some were extremely handsome.

They were men who did not wish to ask their wives or girlfriends to fulfill some of their kinky fantasies.

It’s complicated to go home to the wife in Scarsdale and say, “honey, tonight I’d like you to pee on me. Afterwards, please dress me up in a giant diaper and spank me.”

I did find some of their predilections unnerving at first. We had a couple of dominatrixes on the premises, and I could never fathom the male masochistic inclination.

 

I occasionally got ensnared into a party.  Strictly as a voyeur, and reluctantly. If it was an “emergency” and everyone else was occupied.

“He wants you to watch while I stick my stiletto heel up his ass. PLEASE! He’ll pay you $50. There’s no one else available.”

The first few times, I was completely freaked out.

Then, it just seemed absurd.

 

Once, one of the dominatrix’s was running late. Her client had already arrived, and he was getting antsy. She insisted I “get him started.”

Even on the phone, she scared the snot out of me.

I looked in the closet where she kept her sadistic accoutrement. And shut it, quickly.

I ended up making him crawl around the room with a garbage pail on his head.

That was the best I could come up with.

 

I knew what I was doing was illegal. It appealed to my sense of non-conformity.

At least, it was an honest admission of being dishonest, as opposed to more covertly dishonest professions. Like being a car salesman.

Having grown up in a house with all brothers, I also enjoyed the sense of female solidarity. I gradually bonded with the girls, and became close with four of them.

Nikki was Queen Bee of 51st Street. She was in her mid 40’s. Strawberry blonde hair, blue eyes; a kind of luminous sensuality.

Men of all ages desired her. I never quite understood why guys in their 20’s wanted a woman in her 40’s.

Now that I’m her age, I…kind of understand.

She was married to Joe, who accepted her profession. Some husbands were like that.

They had a gorgeous apartment on the Upper East Side, where I spent a lot of time.

Their favorite hobby was doing massive amounts of cocaine all night while playing bizarre porno movies in the background.

Our all-time favorite was “I Spit On Your Grave.” One of the characters wore glasses, and when he was pounding away at women, closeups of his face showed there was no glass in the glasses.

This seemed hilarious at 5 am on an 8-ball of cocaine.

“No expense was spared in the making of this movie.”

 

Kathy was a big, voluptuous, 25-year old brunette.  She lived on Long Island, and was working her way through college.

Gail was very tall but model-thin; fair skinned, auburn hair with a pretty, girl-next-door look. She was my age, and lived near me in the East Village. She was also working her way through graphic design school. We frequently went out together after work.

And then there was Debby.

Debby.

Barbie doll body, unbelievably full, pouty lips, huge brown eyes and artfully tousled blonde locks.

 

Debby was a reigning queen of the East Village punk scene. She’d run away from home at 13, and had been on the scene since the late 70’s.

She knew EVERYBODY.

She was a musician. A painter. A writer. A vagabond. A free spirit. Brilliant, talented, tormented, fragile, tough…

 

At first, she was aloof and scornful. She’d mock how I was dressed when I was heading out with Gail.

Little by little, she let me into her world.

I realize now, she saw in me her younger self. Before she’d become so damaged and lost her innocence.

And was somehow trying to regain it through me, by osmosis.

Instead, the reverse happened.

 

Yes, I was impressed with the fact that she knew and hung out with all the punk icons I worshipped. What can I say? I was a kid.

She’d had a tumultuous on and off again romance with Johnny Thunders, and although he was now married, she completely lost it when he died.

I loved her particular habit of referring to rock musicians by their real names. It spoke of a true familiarity with them that I envied and craved.

She’d see Richard Hell – whose album Blank Generation I worshipped – at a downtown bar and command him, “Meyers – get me a drink!”

Much later, when she finally introduced me to them, I picked up the habit.

It wasn’t the only habit of hers I picked up.

 

Debby was a world-class junkie. I was so naive, I thought she was just frequently stoned on weed, like other girls at work.

I saved all my money and acquired a nice apartment on 2nd Avenue. East of where I lived was known as “Alphabet City” – it still is.

Debby was living in a “squat” – an abandoned building on Avenue B.

I didn’t connect that she was earning money at the brothel, but still couldn’t afford an apartment.

Alphabet City was a seedy place in the early 90’s.

 

Our friendship began with her sharing my taxi home from work. I always paid.

She’d critique my look. Make a few adjustments in the cab.

“Here – belt this.”

“You can’t draw a good cat eye with pencil- you need liquid liner.”

“Is that…glitter on your face? Where are you going, a fucking Bowie concert?”

Then, she began inviting me to go out with her after work.

 

The minute she entered the room – a bar, a club – she OWNED it.

I had a boyfriend at the time.

I was feeling things for Debby that I had never felt before, but I didn’t identify what they were.

I wanted to crawl up inside her and live IN her. I was besotted.

It wasn’t that she knew everyone.

It was the way she smelled. The way her lips looked when she was making an exasperated face at me.

Her walk. The sexy way she flowed through a room.

I could never imitate it. I tried for years.

 

Fridays were always busy on 51st street. People get paid on Fridays, which creates an illusion of abundance.

We all made a lot of money on Fridays.

Debby and I usually started our night at a popular bar, like the semi-subterranean Holiday Cocktail Lounge on St. Mark’s.

This time, she told me she had to make a stop first.

We drove to a sketchy part of the East Village.

In the early 90’s, Avenue D was run down and filthy. A barren urban wasteland of empty storefronts and abandoned buildings.

I said nothing as we got out of the cab. Debby had taken me to some squalid places before, and I learned to just keep my mouth shut.

 

The streets were littered with junkies and freaks.

Men, mostly Hispanic, wearing carpenters aprons, were walking around, announcing their brands.

“Pac-Man!” “Nynex!” “Fire!”

Two men were herding people in lines, and bringing them over to a burnt out laundromat.

It was my first visit to an “open air” heroin market.

 

We crunched across the lot in our heels, across broken bricks and trash and weeds. When she found the man calling out, “Terminator,” she made her purchase.

By now, I knew she was buying heroin. I tried to act as nonchalant as possible, but I was taken aback. And worried.

And extremely curious.

 

We made our way back through this perverse street bazaar to Avenue A, which was more civilized.

Debby wanted to go to the Park Inn Tavern for a drink. It was one of her favorite dive bars; pitch black walls and skinheads loitering outside.

It was a locals only place that would never attract the “Bridge and Tunnel” crowd – people from New Jersey, or the boroughs.

We walked in, and she nodded hello to the bartender.

She said, “You wanna wait here? Or come with me?”

“Where are we going?”

She laughed and ordered two shots, two beers. Took my hand and we went into the filthy bathroom.

Junkies shoot up wherever they can, as soon as they can.

 

I wanted to try it.

She insisted I go first.

“If I go first, I’m gonna be too high. I’ll fuck it up.”

 

Debby pulled all sorts of paraphernalia out of her bag.

She tore open a package and took out a syringe. She mixed the heroin with water, and put it in a spoon. Added heat from her lighter. She took a tic-tac sized ball of cotton from a Q-tip to filter it.  She dipped the needle into the cotton and sucked-up the heroin mixture.

She sterilized my arm with an alcohol wipe. Tied a black band around my upper arm.

She tapped hard on my upper bicep.

“Your veins are so tiny,” she crooned at me.

And then-  she found what she was looking for.

I felt an almost imperceptible prick.

There was a buzzing sound,.

For about 30 seconds, my brain felt like it was orgasming.

I got a metallic taste in my mouth that drove down my throat.

The sound of my own breath became echo-y, like I was under water.

 

And then I got violently ill. I RETCHED. For what seemed like an eternity.

When I finally finished, I looked up. Debby was leaning against the wall, stoned.

She looked at me and said,

“You look so beautiful with vomit on your face.”

 

She went to the bar and got paper towels and cleaned up my face. Handed me gum.

We sat at the bar for hours.

Or maybe not. I have no clue.

My entire life felt like it was in a bath, at the perfect temperature.

We ended up back at my apartment.

 

That night, I found out who puts what where in lesbian sex.

 

She took her time with me, and that, coupled with the heroin, made the experience euphoric.

She knew exactly how fast and slow to move, exactly where on my body to focus more of her attention;  knew what was going to curl my toes and just make my entire body tremble.

When we finished the first time, she just laid next to me and ran her fingers through my hair until my heart rate came back to normal.

The next day, she pushed her shopping cart over from the squat on Avenue B and moved in with me.

I didn’t know what I was getting into.

 

Next week: Part Three! The Conclusion. 

Part One Starts Here

 

Have you ever gotten involved with someone you shouldn’t have?
Or had a job you knew was a terrible idea?
Talk to me.  I’m listening. 

howwp (1)

Part 1

“I PUT YOUR FROG ON THE BIRD’S DESK!”

“WHAT?”

Jess stood in the doorway, calling out to me on the front lawn. I was practicing The One Handed Vortex on her hula hoop.

Little Dude took pictures that day. Jess had borrowed my favorite tee

Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe.”

She was my ex- student turned summer intern. Social media guru.

“I put your blog on WordPress!”

There was no “blog.” I had written an “about” page on my company’s website. Whatever.

She took the hoop. Performed an expert Twin Revolving Door. Little Dude came out and snapped the pictures. She chased him, both of them laughing.

Beautiful Jess. Champion Babysitter of the Universe. Little Dude adored her. Everyone does.

 

She was nursing a killer broken heart this summer. While TA’ing, interning, busting her ass at school, she still found time to write her boyfriend Brian’s papers. Do his take-home tests.

While he screwed some girl from community college.

Some days, her eyes were swollen from crying.

 

“Hey, Samara, after we finish LinkedIn, wanna go get Fro Yo?”

I had a better idea.

“No. Let’s go to Moore’s and key Brian’s car. That asshole.”

She started laughing.

“Are you serious?”

“Nobody fucks with my girl and gets away with it.”

“Oh my God, it’ll kill him! He just got a new paint job!”

Even better.

—-

I didn’t actually blog on WordPress. I made snarky comments. Me and writing – we don’t mix.

When I write, bad things happen. I get addicted to heroin. Stuff like that.

I started getting emails from bloggers.

How the hell did they get my email address?  I’d made some provocative comments. Some of the emails were creepy.

“Dear Samara,

Would you mind masturbating and mailing me your panties?”

Sincerely,
Franklin Horshucer, Serial Killer

I could hear his heavy breathing. He sounded like Darth Vader with a sinus infection.

This is what happens when you behave like Slut Bags McFuck Stick on WordPress. I ignored them.

Wait. What’s this?

“Dear Samara,

May I email you privately? Only if you don’t mind, M’am. If you do, I promise never to bother you again. But I am a Nice Guy and I do not breathe like Darth Vadar.”

Signed,
Sweet Midwestern Boy

I liked him. He was a good writer. And he was very sweet; the antithesis to my terrible year. Like balm to my battered soul. And he called me “M’am.”

Is it weird that turned me on?

Don’t answer.

 

Midwest Boy had urged me to hit “Publish” for 2 weeks, in his comment section.

I was terrified.

But on WordPress, I wasn’t a Had Been Ex-Junkie Never Was.

I took a deep breath.

Hit Publish.

Midwest Boy read it. Commented. “I loved this.”

 

My heart lifted. After years of bad creative mojo, I had another chance.

His email I answered.

We emailed constantly for several days. I had a new friend.

He said I was a kindred spirit.

And I met someone who also made his child his top priority.

Someone who considered me a WRITER.

My entire life changed.

The Ex’s constant haranguing, his ongoing battle for alimony. Whatever.

My bankruptcy. The financial damage to my company by a former employee. Who cared?

My best friend of 27 years, my college roommate, diagnosed with cancer? We could beat this.

My son’s draining special needs; his 23-year-old horror of a teacher who demoralized him daily. I could handle it.

After a 2-DECADE HIATUS.

Barring the birth of my son, it was the happiest I’d been in 10 years.

My feet never touched the ground.

UNTIL

I came plummeting down. Hard. Because what goes up. must come down, right?

Abruptly, silence. No more emails.

I panicked. What had I done wrong?

—-

In 3 days I was headed to Boston to take care of my college BFF post mastectomy. She was vacillating between depression and anger.

Most nights, I stayed up all night with her on the phone, watching the sky turn to milky dawn.

Friday became Saturday. Saturday I was teaching.

The sun shone brightly into my Saturday classroom, reflecting off the glittery purple case of my buzzing IPhone.

My cousin’s number came up.

My ice-cold reaction was as involuntary as a sneeze. “Oh my God, my cousin.”

My students chirped, “Answer it! He’s just calling to say hi!”

They’re so impossibly young.

When you have an 80 year old uncle, and your cousin calls you on Saturday at 7am, California time, it’s NOT for a casual chit chat.

 

After class, I played the message. My uncle had fallen, was in a coma on life support. He was no longer a person. He was biomedical engineering.

My cousin asked, did I want to fly to Florida and say my goodbyes before they let him go?

I couldn’t. I was Boston bound. I would not even be able to attend my uncle’s funeral in New York.

 

My uncle. My father’s brother. The only connection I ever had to my father.

I was unabashedly his favorite niece. He never tired of bragging that I had made it out of a housing project into an Ivy League school. I downplay this in my life.

But I surreptitiously basked in his attention.

My mother, who never went past the 8th grade, worked 70 hours a week feeding six children. She dwelled in survival mode, where the nuances of higher education are lost.

For 40 years, my uncle fed me anecdotes of his beloved older brother.

I never grieved my father’s death. Never knew him. Never spoke of him.

Who cared?

So why was I suddenly shattered by the loss of him?

It was my uncle I had just lost.

But now – for truly and forever, my father.

There would be no more stories of him, ever. All that remained of him was buried under 6 feet of cold earth at Mt. Lebanon cemetery.

At a funeral I wasn’t even able to attend.

—-

While in Boston caring for my college BFF, I emailed Midwest Boy.

Apologized for anything. Everything. I was desperate to have my writing friend back.

A day went by. Two. Three days later, he sent me a brief, dismissive email

I never heard from again.

—-

Home.

Exhausted. Confused. Broken. Scared. Grief stricken.

My life was fragmenting; the different shards juxtaposing irrationally.

I checked in on MB’s blog.

His blog was bleach on an open wound. He’d found new flavors of the week. He called another blogger his “favorite new person.”

That’s exactly what he’d called me. I realized this was his pattern.

Pick a new favorite, and discard the old. But why me?

I knew.

THE TRUTH

had found me out. I was a HACK. I was no writer. I couldn’t even sustain his interest for more than a week.

He never spoke to me after he realized I was a fraud.

It was 1994 all over again.  FAILURE.

I relived the horrible mess I’d made of my life.

I stopped sleeping. Couldn’t eat. Talked to myself. Judged myself brutally.

His realization of my deception and talentlessness opened an incessant screening of home movies in my brain:

Now Playing:

Samara’s Childhood: An Abyss of Feeling Unworthy and Unnoticed.

“Mommy, I won the spelling bee. Mommy, please. I’m begging you. Notice me. I’m working so hard so you’ll love me. I got the lead. I’m Valdictorian. Please, mom, just look at me. Just once. I got a full scholarship. Please tell me you’re proud of me.”

My father my uncle my writing my life midwestern boy my mother my career my sick BFF my opportunities

everything became intertwined.

 

Midwest Boy, during that precious week when I thought I’d been given another chance, called one of my blog posts “brilliant.”

My head hurt. I remembered a review I’d gotten long ago…no.. it was a.. it was.. an interview?

“audacious… provocative…frequently brilliant.”

That was…the The New York Press? No, the Village Voice.

No. I never bothered showing up for that interview.

Even worse. I had.

I spent it nodding; fucked up on potent Hellraiser brand smack. Shit was fire.

 

After 72 hours straight of no sleep I had an epiphany.

This whole thing happened:

To punish me for past mistakes.

To remind me that I was a failure.

Before this, I wasn’t writing. But I lived life as contentedly as possible.

Now I was a ghost.

 

Tomorrow: Part 2

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The Jab of a Needle

December 6, 2013 — 45 Comments

Daily Prompt: The sense of touch brings back memories for us.

needle
The jab of a needle.

I have very small veins. Whenever I have to get blood drawn, the phlebotomist always struggles. 

She sticks me. Once. Twice. Thrice.  She jabs. She misses. It HURTS.

“Your veins are just so tiny…let me try the other arm.”

I grow angry.

LET ME DO THIS.

I’ve done this.  Many times. I know how to tie off. Find my tiny veins.

She looks at me as though I’ve lost my mind. I don’t care.

Your venipuncture skills leave much to be desired. The tourniquet isn’t tight enough.  The needles you chose aren’t small enough.  You’ve not located the vein correctly.

I pull the band around my upper arm tighter, grab the end with my teeth, pull it tight,

Then SLAP SLAP SLAP my above my bicep. HARD.

I’m an expert.

So judge me, professional amateur. You could never judge me as harshly as I’ve judged myself.

That Jab of A Needle.

Whenever I feel it, I am reminded.

It feels like…

I’m  kissing God

The Christmas fireplace with the whole family I never had.

The most magnificent church bells ringing in my soul.

My brain is being massaged by Kafka and Burroughs.

The warm golden sunshine of a perfect life.

All pain melts away and I float on pure bliss.

And once the nod passes, the energy kicks in.

I could outrun a marathon runner.

Discuss literature, politics, extensively.  Especially a good conspiracy theory.

Make my house sparkle.

Listen to Lou Reed. Become Lou Reed. Have a “Perfect Day.”

Feel everything times one hundred. His touch is the touch of a king. I have no inhibitions; my body and mind open like a flower to him. And it goes on forever, because there is no orgasm. It never happens.

I write. I am Bukowski.

I write magnificently:

“Prosper been and planes there had never been and planes to prote words in there skywriting Seing as I’m not b=vrabby, and dontfolw a grop, I;ll g wite lskmudging wy the afafe thosjoje wuf u jt sj ja aflflowed there had never and there skywriting flowed the car, fulls car, fulls car, fulls car, trailing
It was him. One corner.”

It’s not just the jab of a needle.

Every day, at the gym, when I fasten the neoprene sports armband on to listen to music,

tighten it, pull the strap through and fasten the Velcro

I am tying off a vein.

Every day. The feel of a band around my upper arm.

I remember.

 

Talk to me.  I’m listening. 

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lolla-lighter

It was over 100 degrees the day the air conditioning crapped out on our tour bus. Mid August, somewhere between West Virginia and North Carolina.

20 narcissistic, insecure writers trapped on a scorching hot bus. We drank to block out the oppressive heat. We were off the next day, so we showed no restraint. Not that we ever showed the slenderest thread of restraint.

We were on a rock tour. It was the 90’s. We were in our 20’s. Do the math.

 

In the mid-90’s, spoken word poetry was HOT. The in-your-face nature of it, attacking gender, racial and economic social inequity, was perfect for that time. Which is why Perry Farrell decided to add a Third Stage to Lollapalooza for spoken word.

Slam Poetry

Slam Poetry is spoken word on steroids. A brutal poetry competition where judges quantify your talent with numbers on cardboard signs.

The New York City slam venue was merciless. A take-no-prisoners gladiator arena. You were heckled the minute you stepped on stage. If you were going to be heard, you’d better be good.

I was.

Skinny little white girl with a Big, Fat Mouth, winning slam after slam after slam. Landing me a highly coveted spot on that sweat-drenched tour bus.

 

The 1994 lineup was stellar. Nirvana. Green Day. Beastie Boys. George Clinton & the Parliament Funk All-Stars. Cypress Hill. Tribe Called Quest.

In April, Kurt Cobain put a shotgun to his head, and Nirvana was replaced by The Smashing Pumpkins.

A massive let down.

Even worse  – Courtney Love was on the tour, hooking up with Billy Corgan from the Pumpkins. Kurt’s body wasn’t even cold yet. I could understand a grieving widow craving physical solace, but that skanky clunge was fucking the guy who replaced her husband as the headliner.

I wasn’t the only one who disapproved. Those two would walk into the catering tent and people would actually start booing, and throwing shit. I saw Courtney Love pick banana out of her bleached blonde mane like nothing happened and just keep on talking.

That was the thing about Lollapalooza. Everyone ate together, was back stage together, whether you were a rock star, roadie, or poet.

Tequila at Twelve

We opened the Third Stage at the crack of noon, blasting War’s “Low Rider.” I got things going, dancing onstage in my signature daisy dukes/combat boots.

By 12:30, I was pouring bottom shelf tequila into the mouths of teenage babes from the jug I kept behind the sound booth. Underage, shmunderage. These kids had been tailgating all night and were rat-ass shnockered at 8 am.

We performed several sets of poetry a day. Our teen audience was enraptured by the spoken word scene. They stalked us between sets, asking for autographs. It was heady stuff, all this slavish devotion.

 

The downside was, we were being sponsored by MTV, and were expected to run moronic crowd participation skits, like “The Dating Game” and “Oprahpalooza”. As a mondo fuck-you to MTV, we decided to jack up the skits.

Girl-on-Girl Porn

I ran the Dating Game.

I’d pick an extremely hot, extremely intoxicated Lolita to be the “Bachelorette” on stage, along with three guys. Halfway in, I’d yell, “Forget these losers! Pick ME!

And then I’d start making out with her. I always had an eye to pick the ones who would just love it. We’d end up rolling around on the stage, grinding, tongue kissing and groping each other while the audience went completely bat shit crazy.

It became a standing room only, hot ticket item on Lolla ’94. Two weeks in, and the word on the tour was that there was live girl-on-girl porn on the Third Stage at 4:00.

Thank God there were no responsible adults around.

 

Rock Stars and Poets and Bears, Oh My

Many musicians are really poets at heart. Eventually, most of them came to the Third Stage to size us up. They liked what they heard, and as the tour wore on, we often collaborated. A horn player from P. Funk and I became close. He accompanied some of my poems.

The dark, rich sounds of his trumpet resonated and brought my poetry alive. As his music wove around my words, the audience could feel not only the story in my poetry, but the one of my growing relationship with this man. Those seductive, sunlit, late afternoon renditions of my spoken word, fueled with cheap tequila and extravagant passion, were the pinnacle of my performing career. Never to be rivaled again.

For many, for most, it was the summer of love.

 

Okay. It was a total fuck fest.

On tour, everyone’s single. You never knew which musician would wake up on our bus, crawling out of the coffin-like sleep bunks. I’ll never name names. I’m a star-fucker, not a name-dropper.

 

 

Touring was physically grueling. We only checked into hotels if we played a city more than one night. Otherwise, we packed up, and hit the road. No hotels meant no showers. Eating like crap. Nobody slept. We performed, partied, wrote, repeat.

I walked around talking into a hand-held tape recorder constantly. I have the entire experience on tape.

I can’t bear to listen to it.

 

 

 

To create some sort of order from this complete chaos, I followed a routine. We closed up the Third Stage at 6:00 pm. I had to haul ass if I wanted to get to Main Stage in time to worship at the altar of George Clinton and his P.Funk All Stars. Clinton was an icon who dominated my R&B project girl childhood.

♫ Bow-wow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah
Bow-wow-yippie-yo-yippie-yeah ♫

 

Then, head to the Beasties trailer. They had a basketball court setup outside their trailer so they could play as their pre-show warm up, and my horn player played against them every night. The Beasties were dope white boys from New York, and I was fond of them, but I took a perverse pleasure in watching my horn player stomp their white asses across the court every single night.

After the game, dinner at the catering tent. Find a quiet corner – not always easy – so I could

Write. Write. Write.

Then, load up the bus and drive through the night, or check into a hotel. Stay up till dawn in whichever room, on whatever bus, was happening that night.

If we were in town for the night, then we tore it up. I was told we were completely off the hook in New Orleans. Police were involved.

I have absolutely no memory of it.

 

—-

Returning Hero

I came back to New York victorious.

Interview clips and MTV blips of our performances had been splattered across TV. Everyone returned to their hometowns in hot demand. We had crossed over, melded performance poetry with rock and roll. It was a pivotal time on the writing scene.

I had offers to do articles. Books. I had performances scheduled. My phone rang incessantly. Managers wanted me. Agents wanted me.

Yay, me.

Unfortunately-

I had acquired a bad habit. Without the tour to keep me going, the camaraderie of the other poets, without the whole carnival of lights, sound and music…

and my new-found fame so overwhelming, I could not handle it…

Or knew I couldn’t sustain it?

Something.

I lost myself somewhere along the way.

 

I missed deadlines. Blew off interviews. Showed up late to performances. Or so fucking high on smack, I’d stumble through a shit show and think I was spectacular.

I pulled the phone out of the wall, for days at a time. Heroin makes you antisocial.

People stopped calling.

I faded into obscurity.

Most of the writers I knew from that tour are successful. They write books; are artists-in-residences. Many still tour and perform.

You post videos of them on your blogs. I stumble onto one of those, and I forget to breathe.

I’m happy for their success, but I get sick thinking about what I squandered.

I never discuss it. People who know me today don’t even know it ever happened.

Maybe it didn’t.

 

For the next two decades, I stopped writing. Lightning never strikes the same place twice. The universe gave me my opportunity, and I blew it.

But now, my life has shattered open. Words, like blood from a wound that never healed, are gushing out. I can’t rein them in.

Even though no one will read, I’ll write them anyway. Just for me.

It hurts to write. It scares the fuck out of me to hit “Publish.” I’m afraid nothing will come of it.

I’m terrified that something will come of it.

 

One of my favorite songs I ever saw performed live is “All Apologies,” Nirvana.

“All in all is all we are, all in all is all we are…”

There are worse things then blowing your career after being on a rock tour.

Like blowing your brains out before you even make it on that very same tour.

 

All Apologies – to myself.

I have to forgive myself.

I need to forgive myself.

Please, God. Let me forgive myself.

 

 

Did you ever blow the opportunity of a lifetime?
Talk to me. I’m listening.