Archives For Music

never-give-up (1)

 

“Write what you know…”

What DON’T I know? My brain is an encyclopedia of everything I’ve ever encountered.

 

I know music.

Not just to listen to, to live to. I’ll talk vinyl vs digital.  Rock vs Bach.

I know music facts.

Facts that lived inside dusty leather bound volumes of Creem and Rolling Stone; vintage issues at the library on lazy Saturday afternoons.

I know the dates Jimi, Janis and Jim died, what American Pie is, and Keith Richard’s favorite drink. And yes, he really did have his blood cleansed of heroin at a clinic in Switzerland. By a dialysis machine.

 

I know theater. I’ve seen plays and read them, more than I can count. I’ve read all 36 plays in Shakespeare’s canon. I’ve seen most of them performed, too.

 

I know film.  I see everything. I’m an Oscar geek. I can tell you which actor has been nominated for best actor most (Jack Nicholson), who’s won for best actress most (Katherine Hepburn) and who’s been nominated 7 times but never won (Richard Burton).

 

I know food.  I know how to cook really well, and for a large group.

I know entertaining. I know how to set a beautiful table. I’m Martha Stewart, the leather version.
Totally incongruous with the rest of my personality, but true, nonetheless.
I set my table for holidays a day in advance. Sometimes two.

I know baking, which is in my opinion, a dying art.
Not enough people bake from scratch anymore, but if you do, I can tell you the perfect flour to use for the perfect pie crust.
And I’ll give you my best cookie recipes because even though I’m Jewish I spend an entire weekend baking Christmas cookies every year.

 

I know poverty. I know how it feels to have your toes press against the inside of your shoe, and not say anything because there’s 6 of you.
And never enough to go around.

I know wealth. I know flying first class to California and Europe; five star hotels, five star restaurants.
I know limos and champagne and things I have no right even saying I know, so I’ll just stop right here.

 

I know New York. I know it like you know a lover’s body, familiar and built for pleasure and you want to live there forever.

 

I know Ebonics and Spanglish. You can’t live in New York and not learn a little of both. Although truth be told, the Spanglish was more from all the Puerto Rican men I dated; they hiss at you in bed:

“ay, mami,
chupa mi pinga, mi puta blanca!”

 

And yes, while I’m on the subject, I know blowjobs.
But I’m only mentioning it because I’ve already blogged about it.
And because now my real life girlfriends are following me, and if I don’t give it a hey now, they’ll be all like, “what’s up with that? She’s all ABOUT smokin’ it.”

 

I know teenagers.

I know them better than you do, and I feel bad that I know what your kids are up to and you don’t but I’ll never tell.
I know rainbow parties and ABC parties and hooking up and “Turn Up!”

I know why you should let your daughter go to Wildwood after prom.
She hasn’t been a virgin since the 10th grade. Why don’t you just be sensible and put her on birth control?

Just don’t tell your husband.

I know…hes not ready for that.

I know what my teens have taught me.
I know they feel alienated and misunderstood by their parents. Which makes me want to be a different sort of mother.

I know how the education system has failed them. I know I desperately want to change that.

I don’t know how.

 

I know some famous people.

Mostly rock musicians, and mostly from doing drugs with them..
That’s all I’m going to say about that. But it had to be said.
Because it was all part of a big goddamn party I was invited to. And even though the party is way over, I’m glad I went.

 

I know books.
It’s the most passionate, enduring love affair I’ve ever had. It’s over 35 years since I fell in love with “A Wrinkle in Time.”
Quantum physics, witches, the timeless story of Good vs Evil, a bodiless telepathic brain, all mixed together in a mind bending story where I KNEW I was Meg, the protagonist, the outcast.
I was a fool for book love.
And never the same again.

And because of books, I know philosophers. And feminism. And history. And wicca. And architecture. And how all of those are connected, which they are.

 

I know drugs. So does everybody. Next.

 

I know addiction. Not addiction as partying. I know addiction as survival; addiction as coping.

I know recovery. Or really, just kicking stone cold turkey. No rehab. No detox. No money.
It took three grown men to hold me inside my apartment while I kicked dope.
It’s like a mother holding a car up to save her baby. You have the strength of a demon.

 

I know shooting galleries.

The kind you get raped in on Avenue D, but also

the kind you go to with your kid’s friend’s dad. Because, why not? Shooting guns sounded like a cool way to spend an afternoon.

It is.

 

I know sports.

Not organized sports, although I know I superbowl game when I don’t see one, and I’m glad the halftime show was at least a springboard to teach Little Dude some Peppers,

and there is that Yankees tramp stamp but girl, that’s a Bronx thing. Not a baseball thing.

I mean, I know athleticism. I know the sheer joy of the sweat, the burn,the endorphins, the high.
From lifting, or cycling, or hiking or yoga.

I know the bliss of a Low Lunge into a perfect Warrior Three. It feels like dance and mysticism all mixed together, especially with that trippy Indian music in the background.
Namaste, bitches.

 

I know fashion – or rather, style. Fashion is prepackaged. Style I invent. I take what’s left and make it right.
And when that obnoxious kid in the mall points at a woman and says,
“Just because she can FIT in those clothes doesn’t mean she should be WEARING them. Ugh.”

it’s ME she’s talking about.

And I know – I don’t give a fuck.

 

I know math. I know geometry which is useless, unless you’re a professional quilter.
And algebra. And I know averages and ratios and logic problems and calculus.
And percentages. And James Altucher is right – I’ve been saying that for years. If you don’t know at least percentages, you’re screwed.

I know I love math. I have a shirt that a student made for me “I love math.” I rarely wear it. It irritates people.

I know why.

 

I know LOVE.

I know love so hard that other people’s love paled in comparison.
We had a blue glow around us all the time, like moonlight. Even in the daytime.

 

I know loss of love. I know I’m on emotional lock down. I know I’m done with the kind of love I just described.
I know “Happy Ever After” really is just a fairy tale.

 

I know Death.

Too much and too close. AIDS, cancer, suicide, heart attacks.

Sometimes, I feel like I know death a little too personally, and that’s why I took some of the chances I did.
Come and get me.

 

I know friendship. unbelievable friendships. Friendship that have lasted over decades, and thousands of miles.

Fierce friendships. I love fiercely and am loved fiercely back.
I have friends who would literally give me the shirts off their backs.
She’s reading this, right now.

 

I know betrayal.

I know finding your life savings wiped out, your credit cards maxed out, your signature forged on loans you didn’t know existed.

I know being told lies. By people who abandon you when you need them most. When all hope is gone.
When you’re desperate to find one friend left you can trust.

 

I know depression.
I know post partum depression so severe I wanted to drown my own child.

And I crossed to the other side to a love so deep, I’m the one drowning now.

 

I know fear.

A fear that made me almost stop writing these words.

Until I realized that to stop these words

would make me lose MYSELF

because to write –

is to breathe.

 

“Write what you know”

I know Truth.

I know Courage.

I know Words.

I know

“Publish”

For a Jew I bake some mean-ass Christmas cookies

For a Jew I bake some bad ass Christmas cookies

Did you ever stop blogging? Or think about quitting? 

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.