Archives For Punk Rock

American-Hardcore-2006

My coke dealer Harold asked me to “babysit” his girlfriend Lisa when she went out clubbing. I could understand why. She was only 16; a high school girl who had run away from her parents in Scarsdale to live in charming squalor with Harold in his East Village apartment. I called her “Lolisa.”

I didn’t question the ethics of a 30-year-old man living with a 16-year-old girl. In 1991, I didn’t question much of anything. Besides, Harold was successful in his own way; confident, funny, smart. He would have made the perfect Jewish boyfriend were it not for the trickle of powdery white snot that always snaked down from his nostril onto an upper lip he was too numb to feel.

Harold had an international connection which provided him with cocaine much purer than typical street coke. I figured out that I could step on it with my own cut formula and redistribute it to my friends. So, if Harold wanted me to babysit Lolisa while he ran his business, I would comply.

One night, she and I were hanging at the bar at CBGB’s when the band “The Exploited” walked in. They were a Scottish hardcore punk band.

Hardcore punk was punk on steroids; faster, more violent, more dangerous. Hardcore wasn’t my scene but these guys were wildly funny. They chatted us up and invited us to see them play that Sunday.

Hell YEAH. Hardcore fans or not, we knew The Exploited were riding the wave of their most successful album to date. Who doesn’t want to party with the band?

The show was savage and chaotic. Punks were injured by frenetic slam dancing and stage diving. I wasn’t into the music, but I was WAY into their bass player, Smeeks. He was handsome, muscled and mohawked. Wattie, the lead singer, was all over Lisa. With his gargantuan bright crimson mohawk and anti-hero demeanor, he was an even better way for Lisa to say “fuck you” to Scarsdale.

The girls who were part of the hardcore scene were PISSED. Who were WE to be hanging out with their idols? The leader of the pack was Lazar, a wolverine with half her head shorn, the other half bleached and ragged, an upside-down cross tattooed on the side of her face.

That’s commitment to a fucked-up lifestyle right there. Ink like that.

 

We were impervious to their threats. We were with THE BAND.

After the show, we milled around on the street while they loaded up a van with all their equipment. Finally, the band, the roadies, the sound guy and various other members of their entourage piled in. Wattie said, “Come on, ladies! Get in!”

I peeked inside. There were at least 12 guys in there. Getting into a van with a dozen drunken Scots suddenly seemed like a baaaad idea.

“It’s too crowded in there! We’ll catch a cab and meet you uptown.”

They took off, slamming the back doors shut.

 

I felt them before I saw them.

The hardcore girls were a pack of angry she-beasts; snarling, spitting and snapping their jaws at us.

I was supposedly watching out for Lisa, so I stepped in front of her protectively. Lazar pounced on me with a searing punch to the side of my head. I went down. It became an all-out brawl with the gang of them punching and kicking me. With industrial Doc Martens, the kind reinforced in the toe with steel.

I heard, but couldn’t see, Lisa also getting beaten. The girls were chanting “GIVE US YOUR LEATHERS” which was a British punk gang thing. Though American, they adopted all things British punk, even affecting a cockney accent. Stealing leather jackets was a street victory.

They would have to beat me unconscious before I gave up my jacket. They got Lisa’s off, and held it up victoriously, screaming “Oi! Oi!,” a British punk war cry. It was at that point that I managed to escape.

I staggered to my feet, and in one of the most cowardly moves of my life, I fled, leaving Lisa there to fend for herself.

Bloody and disoriented, I tried to flag down a cab but none would stop for me. I looked like trouble, and New York cabbies avoid trouble. I  saw a couple flagging a cab, and when it stopped, I jumped in with them. The man demanded that I get out, but the woman with him was more sympathetic to my plight. We drove back for LIsa, but she and the crowd were gone.

 

I went to my boyfriend’s apartment. I had stabbing pains in my chest and he insisted I go to the Emergency Room. I stubbornly refused to let him call an ambulance. We walked out onto the street and he found a deserted shopping cart and put me in it, wrapping me tenderly in a blanket.

He pushed me 20 blocks to Beth Israel Hospital, where doctors determined that I had a concussion, a dislocated shoulder and several broken ribs.

Harold never spoke to me again. Lisa had gotten beaten up even worse than I had, and returned to her family’s home in Scarsdale. Her parents hired an attorney and tried to press charges against Lazar and her hellions, but no one was willing to testify as a witness to the event. The charges were dropped.

Eventually, I healed.

What didn’t heal was my profound sense of shame for abandoning Lisa. Twenty five years later, I still regret it.

This was a defining moment in the development of my core values. After that, I became a fiercely loyal friend. I will stand up, against all odds, for the people I love. In my opinion, too many people have a weak and diminished sense of friendship, wanting to stay neutral to all and loyal to none. Too concerned about what opportunities they may lose if they “choose sides.” Stay in friendships that have crossed boundaries because personal gains are at stake.

Perhaps that works for them. But they are missing out on the one of life’s great experiences – that of being a true soul friend.

 

Have you ever been in the wrong place at the wrong time? Did you learn any lessons from the experience?
Do you have any true soul friends?
Talk to me. I’m listening.

Hang out with me on Facebook! I say funny things there. 

 

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.