A Girl, Her Dog & Her Record: Indiegogo go-go-go
i’m excited and totally nervous, just to keep it real, about what i’m about to tell you. this is the first time i’ve done this and it’s a big deal. i’ve been working on it for a while.
here it is: i’m making a new record (my sixth) (and that’s not what’s putting butterflies in my tummy, i love making records, i’d spend my whole life in the recording studio if i could)
i’m launching an indiegogo to raise the funds for the record. (CUE BIG DEAL!!!!)
what’s an indiegogo?
it’s a fundraising platform, like kickstarter, where you or i or the community garden in your neighborhood or whoever can raise funds to support our endeavors.
my team & i have worked till our eyes cross to put together some REALLY REALLY supercalafragaliciousexpialadoshus reward packages. i’m excited. (along with bleary, nervous, and over-caffeinated.)
we have 60 (sixty. SIXTY) days to reach our fundraising goal of $7500. (or maybe even exceed it. we live in our wildest dreams over here in alexandraland.)
please take a second (actually 3 minutes, 49 seconds) to watch the beautiful video my talented comrade & longtime musical mate sam craft made.
please help us out by spreading the word. pass it along. like it. tweet it. post it. pin it. blog it. sing it. speak it out loud. write it with a pen. share it how you want.
love and rockets,
ps i’ll be giving some sneak peeks (listens?) from the record on WWOZ (90.7 FM or stream it http://www.wwoz.org/listen/player/ ) at 12 Central tomorrow (Friday 3/22/13)
Amanda & Alexandra (or, how I went to sleep for a week & woke up internet-famous)
Meeting your heroes can suck. Dating them can be worse. I once temporarily ruined a band I really really loved by dating one of the band-members; there’s one record of theirs I just don’t listen to because all it makes me is annoyed – but that is another story.
This is not a story about a sucky hero-meeting. It is, in fact, just the opposite. It’s a very lovely story & I’m still incredulous that it happened at all.
It begins with my love for Amanda Palmer. Her blog, her music, her zeitgeist: I dig it all greatly. My brother was a Dresden Dolls fan way back and gave me some Dolls cds, which I lost in my car (sorry, Frederic…but you were right and I admit it here on my blog) so I found Amanda through her solo work. And I found her at a time when I was floundering (musically and personally), and while I always feel a little bit exhausted and definitely kind of inadequate/lazy after reading what she’s been up to, I also always, always, ALWAYS feel inspired to see her making all this shit happen her way, with her people, with her fans involved. Because it has been my contention all along that this is possible, that this is how it could be if someone had the energy & vision. I walked away from major label offers in the 90’s because they just felt so limiting and wrong (in hindsight, if I’d known that all the music biz money was going to dry up and go away the way it has, I might not have been so young and high-principled – so it’s a good thing I didn’t know) – I wanted the freedom to record what I wanted and wear what I wanted and work with who I wanted.
And there goes Amanda Fucking Palmer, living the dream and then some. I love it. I love her.
So a few weeks ago I got an email saying she was looking for horn & string players. (NB – I didn’t see any of the controversy about pay coming ahead of time. My friends were all happy to play with her BEFORE they got paid – which they did – and I’ve had a bajillion debates about it already on FB so I’m skipping that here.) As it happens, I knew EXACTLY THE PERFECT PEOPLE FOR THIS GIG – we all play in bands together. My long-time musical soulmate Sam Craft: violin player (among other things). His brother Jack Craft: cello. The Crafts have been playing with me since they were in high school. Ashley Shabankareh & Hannah Kreiger-Benson, my bandmates from St. Cecilia’s Asylum Chorus, are also badass horn players (Ash plays trombone & played with Aretha Franklin at Essence Fest; Hannah plays trumpet & piano). So I emailed them and told them to apply, right away, that whether or not they got paid they would have the time of their lives & meet fantastic people.
They all got in to the band. I was very happy for them. And then I got kind of wistful: all of my friends were going to be onstage with my heroine, indeed hanging out backstage with Amanda & the band…and I would not be. Oh how I wished I had learned to play strings or horns as a child. Nobody every comes to town and says, “I need a spare lead singer,” (although in the event, Jherek Bischoff, The Grand Theft Orchestra’s bassist and opening act, said, “I would’ve taken you.” Good to know.)
Then…I remembered this idea I’d had for about a year, of getting the St. Cecilia’s ladies (me, Ashley, Hannah & the divine Amy Trail) to learn an a capella four-part harmony of ‘Map of Tasmania.’ So I convinced them to find a two-hour window of time on the Sunday before the show (which was Monday) to learn the song. Ashley & I decided we should all wear pink. Amy threw together a video backdrop, edited the whole shemozzle, and put it up on youtube that night. And then we all dashed off to more rehearsals and things.
I had the vague dream that Ash or Hannah might get the chance to play the video for Amanda or her band – she is, after all, known for being incredibly open to projects from fans. In my dreamiest dream, I thought she might ask us all to come backstage and sing it for her and hug us. Which would’ve been peachy.
But what ended up happening was this: the lovely Sarah Lasley, who’s videographer for the tour, kept asking the strings & horns, pre-show, how they’d found out about the show. And most of them kept saying, “Our friend Alexandra Scott told us to apply.” So she asked, “Who is this woman & can you get her up here?” Ash texted me to come backstage; meanwhile she & Hannah showed Amanda our pink Map video & Amanda asked if we wanted to get added to the bill and perform it.
This is our video, by the way:
So when I arrived backstage there was a camera in my face, a whole bunch of smiling faces, crazy good news that we were going to be onstage in 20 minutes, and Amanda Palmer in a kimono with half her face painted blue hugging me and thanking me for providing her with half her band.
I still think, as I write this, that I might have made it up.
Ashley ran to her house to get a tambourine. We texted Amy to get her ass backstage and be prepared to sing. She was a little freaked out. Chad Raines lent her a white jacket so that she could match. Then we all got busy on the floor coloring with Sharpies on the back of a GTO poster; we needed a ‘Fuck It’ sign for our act. (It’s now hanging on my wall.) I definitely had a “Holy shit, I’m coloring with Amanda Palmer” moment.
Then we – me, Ash, Hannah, Amy – got in a circle & sang ‘Map’ to warm up. At some point I looked over my shoulder and Amanda had snuck up behind us & was listening, mouthing the words. I opened up the circle and waved her in and she sang it with us, and as great as singing it onstage was, that private little backstage campfire was just as much of a treasure.
Describing performance is like describing sex: it’s really better just to do it. Singing with people you love – and I love those girls I sing with a lot – is already the nectar of the gods. Having your heroine introduce you, and then come back onstage to perform with for the last verse – just think of the best thing you’ve ever felt, and that’s probably it. Having it all come together because of a crazy idea you had that you convinced all your friends to collaborate on, that then manifested a thousand times better….well, you’re fully in Oz at that point. All four of us are still giddy about it.
It was one of the best shows I’ve seen since I don’t know how long. I couldn’t look away from the stage. I had access to the VIP area and backstage, and normally I wouldn’t pass up a chance to sit down, but there was no way I was going to miss a single bit of the show. I miss music that reaches out and grabs you by the heart and asks you to hold on back, just as hard.
We all hung out for a long time in the green room after the show. We chatted, we chilled, we cuddled on the sofa. Photos were taken. There were Real Conversations. By which I mean: I’ve met a lot of rock stars. Most of them are, either by nature or by habit, incapable of coupling listening with talking in the way that makes a conversation pleasant (to me, at least). That tends to limit my friendships with rock stars.
This was a really different experience. It felt like making a friend. (Which is partly why I’m not saying much about it.) Amanda came across to me as a cool & lovely & funny chick with awesome boots and a thoughtful mind. If folks wonder why people anted up so much money for Amanda on Kickstarter – it’s because we wanted to give it to her. She’s pretty rad.
So all that would’ve been a good enough story to go to bed on, and go to bed I did. And I woke up the next morning and went off to have my next round of knee procedures (prolotherapy & PRP, following a bad accident 7 ½ years ago).
And on the way home – when I was pretty much half-asleep and in shock – I got a text from Ashley showing me a tumblr post from Amanda Palmer mentioning me by name and showing a photo of all of us.
Then I got another email showing Amanda’s blog with Sarah Lasley’s film featuring EVERY SINGLE ONE OF MY PEEPS – and me too.
Or direct link to the movie (I can’t make it embed for some reason):
Then I spent most of the next two days sleeping, waking up to get crazy emails from friends and former major label contacts and everyone in between going ‘Did you know you’re on Pitchfork?’ (I hadn’t) or ‘Hey, you’re internet famous.’ It was totally weird and extremely pleasant and distracted quite a lot from the pain in my knees.
My mom said this morning, “I have to tell you something, honey: I’ve watched that video about twelve times.”
And I said, “Oh, don’t worry, Mom. So have I.”
I think the best part – aside from all of it being quite awesome – is that I got to share it with my friends/collaborators. It wasn’t for me. It was for us. It wasn’t by me. It was by us. All but two of the people I play with were on that stage. And if you could’ve seen their smiles as they danced and played during the finale – ‘Leeds United’ – you’d’ve been happy too. In fact, please do be happy too. There’s plenty to go around this week.
love and rockets,
Three Stories About Balance
Hello, internets…it’s been a while since I blogged. I’ve wanted to, and there’s a LOT I’ve been wanting to tell you, but the whole reason I haven’t gotten around to writing it all down for you is that all of a sudden I have been very very busy Living My Life to the full.
And o, after the last six years of surgery-after-surgery-after-surgery, and sitting on the sidelines watching life go by and feeling an ever-increasing dark, sick certainty that I would never catch up, never go to the dance again, never make it to the party, never catch that train (pick your metaphor; they all work!) – since spring, my life has bloomed so fully and beautifully (KNOCK WOOD) that I have on occasion found myself thinking wistfully of the days when I used to sit home night after night, icing my sutures & watching back-to-back episodes of ‘Battlestar Galactica’ on DVD.
Let me be clear: I wouldn’t trade this busyness for the world. In 2009 I had my leg, among other things, cut in half, I was in a wheelchair for two months, then on crutches for the rest of the year, and I thought my life was gone. The life I have today is a fucking miracle. And I was miserable most of the time I was home alone watching DVDs, which is why it’s so funny to find myself thinking fondly of that time. Absence does play mind games.
Back to the Wonderful Now: there’s a lot of Wonderful Music News that must wait for another day, another blog. (But trust me, it’s gooooood.)
Here’s Today’s Topic: Two months ago I started teaching yoga again, at Wild Lotus, here in New Orleans. And funnily enough, our theme this month at the studio is Balance.
I have been clued in for a while that the yoga studio is a super-powerful manifestation hotspot. Clue 1: It’s the place where, 5 years after my accident, I was finally able to reassemble my yoga practice & find a welcoming yoga home in which to practice. Clue 2: When I wrote asking to be considered as a substitute teacher & auditioned, I got an offer back saying, ‘Instead we’d like you to come on staff and teach’. It was like going to buy an apple and getting an orchard! It is important to be careful what I ask for in that space, lest it drop, immediately & hundredfold, into my arms before I’ve engaged my core muscles.
Back to Balance: we incorporate the theme of the month into our classes, whether it be with a quotation, a poem, a song, asanas, a guided meditation…you name it. This month, life itself gave me three beautiful and incredibly funny stories about balance. I shared them with my classes, and I wanted to remember them, so I’m sharing them with you.
Stories 1 & 2:
Last Thursday I was making groceries (as we say in New Orleans) at the Whole Foods, and in the produce aisle there was an enormous, raise-you-to-the-rafters-machine (my brother would know what it’s called) emitting a constant, high-pitched & most annoying BEEP-BEEP-BEEP sound, right next to all the delicious citrus.
There was only one thing to do: flee. I grabbed my fruits and veggies (which is most of what I eat, so normally I take my time with the produce…like a vegetable seduction) as quickly as I could, spun my cart like Bo Duke driving the General Lee, and began to beat it out of there. I was neck & neck with a Nice Older Lady in a pantsuit, and our eyes met, and she said, “That is so annoying.”
“I know it,” I said.
“You’d think they’d do that at night!” she said. “It hurts our ears.” (It did.)
“It does,” I said, “and also our sensitive shopping feelings.” At which point we both burst out laughing, and grinned at each other, and took our carts our separate ways.
And I felt really happy about that exchange. I woke up Saturday morning, before the class I teach, thinking I would tell my class about it: about how we share this planet and we can’t control much of it, really any of it, but we can change direction when there are obstacles & irritants, we can laugh as we go, we can make a friend. I decided to talk about how a large irritating machine became my teacher, and a lady I’d never see again became a joyous memory. I looked up a quote I love from Viktor Frankl: “Man’s last freedom is his freedom to choose how he will react in any given situation.” He wrote that about being in a concentration camp as a very young man; in essence, he was saying you can die free or not free, but you always have that choice.
I was feeling, I confess, a teeny bit smug about how lovely and balanced and wrapped-up-with-a-bow I was, and I went into my front room to do some restorative yoga….
….and it was then that a large tour bus (the kind rock bands travel on, with a loud loud super-polluting engine – they infest my street, which is Scenic) collided with an SUV, RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY HOUSE.
Luckily, no one was hurt.
Except for my sensitive shopping feelings. For a little while. Because the bus parked itself right in front of my window and left its engine running for 90 minutes, and all of the Russian tourists who were on it (a few were Japanese) began spilling out, chain-smoking, sitting on my steps, infuriating my dog Jack to an absolute frenzy of ear-shattering protective barking.
How I’d love to say that I reacted with kindness and wisdom and generosity right away. O no I did not. I lay there on my yoga mat and I was selfish. And grumpy. The engine bothered me. The dog barking bothered me. The 40-odd strangers in front of my house bothered me. I did not feel serene, relaxed, or restored. I wanted everyone to go away.
And then it hit me: this was the very lesson I’d just written down for my students. ANOTHER loud annoying machine had just shown up to teach me the exact same lesson. And the freedom to react was in my mind, just as it had always been. I laughed out loud. You have to lose your balance to know where it really is.
And then…I realized that this was about a lot more than me, me, me. I looked out the window and I saw that these people were impeccably dressed: the men in linen pants & nice shirts, the women in beautiful, brightly colored summer dresses and hats, like tropical birds. There were a couple of little boys, looking bored and morose. Suddenly it occurred to me that it was very hot, that they were very far from home & that a very crappy thing had just happened to them (and to the driver of the SUV) on a day when they’d all had plans, and they’d been sitting under some trees waiting for the police for hours while I’d been in the air-conditioning bitching to myself about my not-serene yoga practice.
I was so grateful that I had a chance to make this right. I took an armful of plastic cups and a pitcher of water and I went outside and began asking folks if they’d like water. And that was when they turned into the blessing of my day. Quite a lot them were thirsty. A few just wanted to talk, or to show me their Rotary Club buttons. When I told the Russians my name was Alexandra, they got very excited, and introduced me to a man named Alexander. One lady took my picture. I’ll never forget them. I was sad to see their noisy polluting bus go away, though of course I was excited for them to be able to get on with their day.
My 3rd Story About Balance is shorter and sillier but I like it just as much. Yesterday we opened the new Downtown Wild Lotus yoga studio. It is the product of six years of hard work, none of it mine – I sailed (limped) in two months ago to reap the benefits & I now get to teach in one of the most glorious, gorgeous, vibrant yoga studios I have ever, ever seen.
I spent a lot of yesterday preparing for my first class, on the first day. I made a new playlist; I worked really hard on my asana sequence; I picked out a red shirt that I got at the Mayapuris kirtan concert; I was as prepared as I possibly knew how to be. And it was at this point, 45 minutes before class, that I stepped barefoot into a puddle of dog drool that my dog Jack had left on the hardwood floor, went skating across the floor, collided with desk, wrenched the more-injured knee, removed all the skin from the knuckle of what Mom likes to call ‘the traffic finger’, and took off part of a toenail. It hurt. I spoke unkindly to Jack, who was confused (rightly so – who knows when he left the drool there?) and was then ashamed of myself and had to apologize to him. I was scared about teaching class with a wrenched knee. I felt my poise had just gone bye-bye.
Then I thought that saying goodbye to my poise was, perhaps, exactly the point of contemplating balance for a month. The stinging in my knuckle & (ex)toenail & knee went down and I began to see how funny the whole thing actually was. I realized that once again I’d been given a perfect story for my class, and for myself.
I like to keep it all together. I really do. I don’t like to fall down or ask for help or make a mess. I still have a dream of someday putting Everything In Order…all my tangible things and all my intangible things. On the one hand I understand that that never happens and on the other hand, I just love the idea.
But maybe what balance really is (for me) is loving the wobble, loving the moments when you fall down, when you’re selfish, when you’re less-than, just as much as the moments when you take flight, when you hit the ball squarely, when you reach the high note, when you’re radiant.
It’s a challenge, what with my sensitive shopping feelings and all. But I think it’s worthwhile.
Love and rockets,
It was 11:30 last Saturday night. My dear friend Sarah Jane and I were heading out the door, on our way to the Pussyfooters’ 10th Anniversary Blush Ball.
Sarah Jane was my ballet teacher when I first moved to New Orleans. She’s an amazing dancer & she installed all the plumbing in her own house & all she really wants to do is sew costumes. When I met her I thought, ‘That girl is so cool, she would never want to be friends with someone like me,’ so it still makes me happy & slightly amazed that she’s one of my best friends, eleven years later. The Pussyfooters are a majorette group for grown women: “Majorettes from the Mothership sent here to help the party people get their groove on,” quoth Camille Baldassar, one of their founders.
They’re awesome; they wear pink wigs and white boots and many feathers. Sarah Jane used to be a Pussyfooter; so did my friend Marigold. I always wanted to be one, but then my knee got wrecked, rendering me unfit to march long parade routes, so now I just admire them, and go to their parties. For this ball they decorated The Howlin’ Wolf in black, white and pink, and raised ten thousand dollars for a battered womens’ shelter. Sexy strong strong sexy women!
I took a disco nap while Sarah went out to dinner with a bunch of ballerinas, and then she came over to my house and we got all costumed up. Sarah’s costume was a pink & orange tasseled bikini-and-skirt combo that she made herself, tangerine striped stockings, white go-go boots, a red wig, and an orange-feather jacket, also made by her. This is Sarah Jane, and this is her jacket:
My costume was a purple leotard, a purple wig, pink fishnets, pink gloves, and my awesome superhero black boots. I found the boots when I was in New York City in the summer of 2008 with my friend Christopher, who’s been a crucial part of my life and my creative team for more than ten years. We knew I was soon to have a surgery that would leave me with a humongous scar on my right leg. I didn’t know whether I’d ever want to show my legs again, so we were on a mission to find a pair of flat-heeled over-the-knee black boots…and on our last day there, we did. We joked that they were ass-kicking, crime-fighting boots, and tried to come up with superhero names for each other. Here we are with The Boots:
Sarah made me a pink feather coat last year, so I wore that too. It’s the warmest, happiest garment I own. She has one just like it. Sometimes we go out wearing matching ones, like last year at MOM’s Ball:
When at last we were dressed and getting in the truck, looking like two scoops of sherbert, we ran into our friend John Allen, who we hadn’t seen for months. He took this picture of us; it’s not his fault my phone’s camera is so bad.
So we chatted with him for a little while, and if we hadn’t, I honestly think a man would have died, or else landed in hospital with tubes down his throat and crippled for life. Because here’s what happened next:
We got in Sarah’s truck. We drove five blocks from my house. I was looking out the window, and I saw three men struggling with something that was low on the pavement. My first thought was that they were torturing a dog. As we passed I saw one of them punching a man who was on the ground with his arms up over his face and head. The punches were so fast and so savage. I’ve seen great performers abandoned to music or to dance. These men were abandoned to violence; that’s the only way I can put it. If I’d had more time to watch, I’m sure I would have found it terrifying.
Instead I yelled at Sarah to slow down, rolled down my window, and screamed, “HEY!” at the three men. And they scattered. Just like that. They ran in three directions. They ran fast, like the cowards they were.
This was lucky, as later we found out one of them had a gun. Sarah pulled her truck over and we called to the beaten guy, who was getting to his feet. He was bleeding everywhere. My phone kept slipping out of my satin-gloved fingers; I tried simultaneously to tear the gloves off with my teeth and to call the guy to come over to us – he was staggering around. Sarah got her phone and called 911. The beaten guy (who I will call Pete from hereon out, although that is not his name) was in shock; he was standing in the street. I got him to stand on the sidewalk while Sarah told the dispatcher where we were.
Blood was pouring from a wound on Pete’s scalp. He kept spitting blood. His left eye was already swelling shut, and he couldn’t use his right hand. He said he lived a block from where he’d been jumped. He was a young guy, maybe 25, and he’d left his wife and kids at home and gone to the corner store with only a debit card to run an errand. When the guys jumped him, he told them he had no cash. They just beat him anyway. He wouldn’t sit down. I didn’t even have a towel or a tissue to offer him.
I can’t imagine how bewildering it must have been for him, first to be attacked in his own neighborhood, and then to have two feather-clad females, one red and orange, one pink and purple, pull up in a battered old truck to offer assistance. I’m not sure he believed we were real. He wouldn’t let anyone send for an ambulance; he kept saying he couldn’t pay the bill.
The cops came. They got him to sit down. They talked to him and took our information. New Orleans cops are kind of blasé. They didn’t bat an eye at our feather-clad bewigged going-out-at-midnight selves; they thanked us for being good citizens and for saving Pete’s life, and told us to have a good time, and sent us on our way.
We said goodbye to Pete, wished him all the best, and went to the ball. The whole episode lasted perhaps fifteen minutes (for us, not for him, of course).
We found our friends and we hugged them and kissed them and danced with them. Big Sam’s Funky Nation was playing. The Howlin’ Wolf was a sea of pink, and gold lame. I’ve spent a lot of the last five years stuck in my house, recovering from surgeries, not really well enough to go out and join in life. A room full of costumes fills my heart with joy at any time, but especially so these days when I am starting to rejoin the world. And after such a close brush with horror, I felt like my eyes were double-wide opened to the sweetness of the evening. Everyone looked beautiful to me.
Then it was the next day, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and working on this story, and several things intrigue me.
One is the fact that Sarah Jane and I, avid moviegoers that we are, inadvertently became Costumed Crime Fighters. It didn’t really take bad-ass-ery to stop the crime – it took a ‘hey!’ It took looking at something ugly and being willing to see it.
But given that we were in costume, and given that we’d just seen ‘The Green Hornet,’ and given that I’m incapable of going through any situation without trying to make a joke, we did come up with superhero names. I’m ‘The Pink WASP’ and Sarah is ‘Tangerine.’ (Or possibly ‘Orange Crush.’)
Another thing that intrigues me is the way all of our stories came together for those fifteen minutes and then separated. I’m still thinking about Pete; I’m sure he and his family are still thinking about that night. Try as I might I can’t imagine what the three men who attacked him might have been thinking at that moment, or afterwards. But for a few minutes, we all came together on the street where I live.
And another thing that intrigues me is what it means to me to have been able to make this particular piece of violence stop. Until I was 18 there was a lot of violence in my life. Some of it happened to me; I had to watch some of it happen to my little brother and to our animals. I know how frightening and demeaning and power-removing violence can be. It’s part of my life’s work to heal those wounds and to attempt to use what I learned to be of some service to others.
So for me there is something miraculous in the fact that I was able to make those men stop. It’s the first time in my whole life that I ever was able to make violence stop. And as I said, I didn’t do it by being great or amazing or courageous. It wasn’t that hard to make it stop, and that in itself is a miracle.
There’s a story I love about the Buddha. He sat down to meditate, and all his demons swarmed about his head, attacking him. In his wisdom and compassion, he saw them for what they truly were – illusion – and when he did, they turned into flowers and showered down upon him.
Let me be clear: those men were not illusions, and I don’t mean to suggest that they were. They damaged a living person, but Pete’s story belongs, as Aslan would say, to Pete. What I’m talking about is what they represent, as perpetrators of violence, to me.
I’ve spent so much of my life shadow-boxing with old fears, letting them hold me in and hold me back. Yet Saturday I wasn’t afraid. I had something to offer and I offered it. I had a friend with me whom I totally trust and respect and admire, and I was sure that together we could help the stranger who was bleeding on the sidewalk. And we did.
Beauty and horror do walk side by side. I’ve found that to be true in my life. And by and large, people don’t want to hear about the horror. If it’s ugly, if it’s icky, if it’s uncomfortable, people will do almost anything not to hear it, not to see it.
I lost most of my family – not my amazing mother and my amazing brother, but pretty much all the rest – when I started talking about the violence that had happened to me as a child. I didn’t feel like I had a choice; it was never my secret to keep, and keeping it secret was poisoning me.
How can the world ever get safer if we won’t look at what’s happening? How can we help each other if we won’t see each other when we are bleeding, unbeautiful, sad, humiliated, frightened? This is why I keep talking about it – because I hope that every time I do, someone else will discover that he or she is free.
The thing is, when I acted on what I saw Saturday night, when I rolled down the window and yelled (articulately) “Hey!” – those men vanished like a bubble popping. It didn’t take much – it didn’t really take anything – to help.
And Saturday night beauty and horror were juxtaposed so perfectly that it was almost ridiculous. We went from a crime scene to a ball filled with beautiful women & men who’d raised ten thousand dollars for the Metro Center for Women and Children, to help families escape domestic violence. We danced with our friends. For me, after all these surgeries, just to dance is a triumph of Olympic magnitude (and it always hurts a little, but it’s always worth it). I had my fucking leg cut in half & seven pieces of titanium put into my bones & had two bits from other peoples’ bodies transplanted, just so that I could dance!
So I was dancing, with my cane and my boots and my purple wig, watching Sarah Jane and Marigold really get down, and a guy in a top hat and black & white face-paint came up to me and said, “Are you a Pussyfooter?”
“No,” I said, still dancing.
“What are you?” he asked.
“I’m just a citizen!” I said.
“You mean you’re just a badass?” he said.
It was at that moment I realized that life was telling me clearly that It Was Good. I considered giving the guy a kiss on the cheek, but I didn’t want face-paint all over my face. So I grinned and I said, “Sure!” and I high-fived him, and I kept on dancing.
PS The lovely Lisanne Brown took this picture of me, Sarah Jane & Marigold at the ball:
PPS If you’re wondering ‘What are these Pussyfooters?’ or even ‘How could I myself be one someday?’ go here: http://www.pussyfooters.com/
PPPS If you’re wondering (and I know you are) ‘How can I get a headdress like Marigold’s orange one for my Carnival season attire?’ go here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/lovemarigold
PPPPS If you’re wondering how you too can have a lovely warm delightful delicious feather boa coat, that will keep you warm during Carnival and will make strangers stop and take your picture (and sometimes ask if they can stroke your feathers)…well, the coat-maker is quite shy & elusive, (much like the snow leopard), but if you email me, I’ll see about getting you an introduction. Because trust me, birds are NOT cold in winter. Feathers are warm. And happy.
PPPPPS If you’re wondering whether I love to brag on my beautiful and talented friends, the answer, quite obviously, is yes.
Two days ago I wrote an extremely short story. Forty-eight hours later, I still like it a lot. So without further ado, voila:
There was a girl who collected rubber bands. She grew to be a woman, and she couldn’t stop herself. Thousands upon thousands of rubber bands filled her house. They were, frankly, unnerving. She stacked them neatly round bedposts and the necks of bottles and the fat bottoms of jars. She filled her drawers and closets and cabinets with rubber bands.
She got old. The apocalypse came. A group of survivors banded together to live communally in her house. The rubber bands proved invaluable for making alarms around the perimeter and booby-traps and surprisingly lethal slingshots. The food and ammo would run out long before the endlessly useful rubber bands did. She was so pleased, even though a zombie ate her on the fifth day of the siege.
I am dedicating this story to my brother Frederic, because it is the first thing I have ever written with zombies in it, and I know how happy that will make him.
And yes, I know dedications are supposed to go at the beginning of the story, but if I had done that, I would have given away the zombie surprise.
All my love,
“Trust me, Tiger Woods was waaaaaayyyy more of a wuss than you.”
My darling friend Mary Herczog wrote her way through twelve years of breast cancer. She was a great writer, and the chronicles of her story live on at www.cancerchick.com, and honestly, if you can only read one blog today, go read hers and save mine for later. She wrote beautifully, and she was a brave, bright spirit.
Because she got cancer when she was 33, she was the person in my life who most knew what it was like to get yanked out of the realm of the young-and-healthy at an early age, and what it was like to live through illness & its isolation, Western medical procedures and the blast zone they leave, and all the other junk that goes with a chronic or long-term illness. She supported me with such unending generosity: she and her husband Steve Hochman once lent me their house in New Orleans for five months so that I could finish the first draft of my book.
Sometimes, pretty often in fact, I would say to her that I felt shiftless in comparison to her. Through all her years of cancer I never once heard her spirits flag. She had cancer and she wrote the Frommers’ guidebooks every year for New Orleans and Las Vegas; she wrote books of fiction, she wrote articles, she got a graduate degree, she had a beautiful and tender marriage, she traveled the world and went to concerts and read voraciously and somehow found time to care, to really care, about the many things that were going on in the lives of her many many friends. By comparison, I am a banana slug. Whenever I said to her that I felt I should be doing more, she’d say in her brisk, sweet voice, “But honey, I’ve never felt bad with cancer, except during chemo. You’re in pain all the time. Give yourself a break.” Towards the end of her life, when she was in pain more often, she’d call to tell me she was proud of me for enduring years of chronic pain. Praise from her was high praise indeed.
She died on Mardi Gras this year, and I am still learning about what it means to miss her. Now that she’s gone, it’s my job to remember the wise and loving things she used to say, and to tell them to myself when it’s necessary. Like now, when in the middle of writing this blog my brain pitched a fit along the lines of “Who are you to write now when you haven’t felt well enough to write for weeks, you banana slug?”
On August 20th my friend Christopher and I drove from New Orleans to Lafayette for my 3rd session of prolotherapy & PRP. Prolotherapy & PRP are non-scalpel-based surgical procedures: prolo works by creating inflammation that stimulates the body’s naïve stem cells to create new tissue; PRP works by whirling a lot of my blood in a centrifuge til the plasma separates from the rest, and then reinjecting the plasma into my knees. Basically it amounts to getting stuck with lots and lots of needles.
Since after the treatment I can’t drive and am bleary as hell from meds and endorphins, none of this treatment would be possible without my friends who give up a day to drive to Lafayette with me, sing along with the stereo while we drive, hold my hand through the procedure, and then drive my semi-conscious self home. Sarah Jane took the first two trips with me; Christopher drove me yesterday; Jesyka’s on board for next time. (If I need more treatments after that I am planning to purchase a mail-order husband.) I am lucky to be loved & supported by these amazing people. I often wonder if my lonely, lonely teenage or twenty-something self can look through time and see how well things turned out.
The first 30-odd injections on each knee are lidocaine, a topical anaesthetic to dull the pain. Paradoxically, lidocaine stings like a bitch. The next 30-odd injections are the actual dextrose/saline solution, and then for the big finale, we do the PRP: the big fucking needle that injects my own platelet-rich plasma cells right into the center of my knee. (It’s a little bit like that movie where Bruce Willis has to drill to the core of the asteroid that’s coming to destroy Earth so he can insert a Big Bomb…only a little bit, though). We did the right leg first. There are about eight surgery scars on that knee; the longest is five ½ inches long. Getting needles stuck into scar tissue is very special, infinitely less fun than your average bikini wax. I said ‘Fuck’ and variations thereon about ten thousand times. My wonderful doctor, Dr. Thomas K. (for Kermit) Bond, somehow makes the whole wretched experience jolly. This is mostly because he’s a remarkable healer, and partly because he gives me a Valium 30 minutes before the procedure.
Then we got to the PRP on the right leg. The needle they use for this is loooooooong. I don’t know exactly how long because I try never to look at it. As Dr. Bond was putting the needle in my knee, I involuntarily pushed back against it (it’s hard not to). This tensed my quadriceps, which made the muscle grab the needle, which took the whole thing off the charts of the pain scale. When the muscle grabs the needle, the big-ass needle moves inside the knee joint, and then it’s really hard to get it out. By the time they pulled the needle out, I was crying, and a few seconds later I got an adrenaline surge that made my teeth chatter and my body shake. They gave me a fifteen-minute break and some pain meds before we did the left knee.
But here’s the funny bit: somewhere in the trying-to-pull-the-needle-out bizness, I said, trying to find a bright spot, “Well, it’s good to know Tiger Woods has had PRP too, cause he put his family through a lot, and now we know instant karma’s kicking in. We should write Elin Nordegren a note and tell her.” (NB: the original version was probably a little less lucid, since articulate goes out the window early in the procedure. It was also said through clenched teeth, and I distinctly remember thanking the heavens at one point that I had not had to have surgery during the Civil War. You gotta be grateful when and where you can.)
My beloved Dr. Bond finally pulled the needle out, patted my shoulder, and said, “Trust me, Tiger Woods was waaaaayyyyyy more of a wuss than you. You’re a tough lady.”
It made me laugh (while still crying) and it made me proud.
(NB again – Dr. Bond is not Tiger Woods’ doctor, so he wasn’t violating any confidentiality….just so you know).
The left knee was comparatively uneventful, or else my mind was mercifully blurry. Either way, I slept most of the way home, ate half a bag of Zapp’s barbeque chips and two pears, and we got to my house minutes before the Saints kicked off against the 49ers.
For the first two days after the procedure I had more energy than I usually do, which I immediately jinxed by telling everyone how easily and well it had gone this time. On the third day I crashed and slept for most of the next three days: those deep daytime sleeps where you sleep like you do at night, where you come out it with all the reluctance of a fish drawn out of water by the line that’s hooked in its cheek.
Almost all the time, but especially after the procedures, pain is my constant companion. Prolotherapy works by creating inflammation, so I can’t ice my knees. Without ice, there’s never a respite from the pain. God only knows how awful the pain would be without pain meds. I am often grateful to live in a time and place where there are analgesics, contact lenses, running water, civil rights for women….all these things make life better.
Since then the almost two-month-long writer’s block that’s had my by the throat has eased its grip. Bits of songs, ideas for scenes in my book, characters and plotlines for the next book (which exists thus far only as notes): all these have been buzzing through my brain. I write them down and go back to sleep. I’m still a little too weary to finish them without ruining them, but it pleases me greatly to see them appear.
I wanted to finish this and post it last week, but I didn’t. Today, however, is the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness month, and it seems apt to finish today.
One of the things being injured or ill teaches you, if you’re lucky, is that everyone’s in pain: some more, some less. Some can bear it better than others. And none of us seem to be any good at talking about it. We say, “I’m fine” when we aren’t; we apologize for crying. I find that whenever I tell someone how I got hurt, how many surgeries I’ve had, how little success I’ve had with all the various treatments I’ve tried, that I always plaster a bright smile at the end. I hate doing it, but it’s almost reflexive.
My friend Mary wrote wittily and bravely and beautifully about her cancer (and all the food she ate & music she heard & places she went with cancer) and her writing served, in part, as a shining example of how to be honest about the hard stuff. She died six months ago. Her work and the way she lived her life became a beacon that said, “Tell the truth. You can tell the truth and be loved. You can loet your hair & nails & appetite, your ability to walk or lift or dance, and you can tell the truth about it. There is no shame in being stuck in some hard times.”
She had the heart of a lion. I miss her. When Hunter S. Thompson died I came up with a theory I dubbed “The Thompson Justification.” It states that in the absence of that master of chaos, the rest of us are obligated to break some rules and act out a little or a lot in order to replace, with our collective efforts, some part of the gleeful mayhem Mr. Thompson strew about the world.
I’ve just invented another theory, or theorem, or whatever. I’m calling it ‘The Mary Motivation.” It is this: “Write and finish and POST your frickin’ writing, my dear, even if you’ve lost the use of one arm or both legs, even if you’re sick and weary, even if whatever. And then do something nice for yourself: hug a dog or seven; eat some chocolate.”
Nothing ever stopped her except the final visitor who stops us all. How I could I aim to do less?
Thanks to all of you for reading this, the little flare I throw up in the air from time to time.
All my love,
Bonjour tout le monde,
Well….I don’t want to alarm anybody by blogging twice in one day, instead of my usual once every two weeks….but some things are too good to wait. Like this:
I got an answer back from my old friend ***Mabel. (***Not even remotely her real name.) I was braced for a slew of ugly words, or else just silence.
Instead I got an apology. A real, sincere, I’m-sorry-I-let-you-down, I’ve-thought-about-what-you-experienced letter, with some explanations, at long last, for how a wonderful friendship ended seemingly overnight. Those details aren’t mine to share; suffice it to say we all wrestle with demons, and in my twenties, it seemed like that wrestling match happened daily; and I wasn’t the only one.
Speaking my mind is something I have to work at, particularly when it comes to conflict (when it comes to pizza, or dogs, or how to prune a shrub, I can do it pretty well). It took me almost two weeks to formulate my thoughts to write the email I quoted in the last blog, and my hands were shaking when I sent it.
And the email I got in return was a beautiful reminder of how not just good, not just great, but actually IMPORTANT it is for us to open our mouths and say what we need to say. Because if I hadn’t, if I’d just clicked ‘ignore,’ this friendship that used to mean a lot to me would have remained nothing but a sad memory. I don’t say that now ***Mabel and I are going to braid each other’s hair and sing campfire songs (then again, we might), but just to have some peace and resolution and affection in place of hurt and sadness is winning the lottery, in my book.
all my love,
Bonjour tout le monde –
A couple of weeks ago I got a friend request that actually gave me that jolt-in-the-stomach lurchy feeling when I saw the person’s name. I took a couple of weeks to contemplate how to respond in a ladylike and concise fashion. Today I sent this, and I am feeling a warm sense of closure and satisfaction. I might send a copy of this to Miss Manners (one of my favorite authors – as a child I loved to read her books. I also loved to alphabetize my own books, which were also sorted into non-fiction, by category, and fiction. It’s a wonder I ever made a friend – but I did: in tenth grade! Thanks, Laura!). This is what I wrote:
“Dear ***Mabel, (***not her real name)
I was surprised to get your friend request. In case you’ve forgotten how we lost touch, let me summarize what I experienced: you (my dearest friend in college) and I moved to New York the summer after college to explore the big city. Instead I spent the summer alone in our sublet on 186th Street, looking after your cat, while you spent the summer with a guy you hooked up with in our second week there, who had a nice downtown apartment. After our summer sublet ended and I moved back to Virginia, you and your boyfriend spoke to my mother on the phone and told her the following:
a) that you would not be paying me back for any of the household bills, which I had rather naively paid for both of us
b) that I had been stealing money from you, and
c) that she had no idea what kind of person I really was.
Of these statements, only the first one had any truth to it. Luckily my mother knows me well and didn’t believe you. That didn’t make the whole experience much less sad and sickening for me. And that was the last I ever heard from you.
Months later a mutual friend from college heard what had happened and said, “Oh, didn’t you know Mabel’s a pathological liar?” I hadn’t known, unfortunately for me.
Whoever and whatever you are now, I hope you treat both your friends and your animals better these days. I hope I made it clear why I have no desire to be either your actual or virtual friend.
As for your writing to me “I am so happy to have finally found you!”: I’ve worked as a performer ever since college. If you had done a google search for my name, you’d have seen that my website is the fourth link listed. You can’t have looked very hard.
I think Miss Manners would be very proud. She would probably tell me to go have some lunch, and a mango popsicle. So that is exactly what I shall do. Achieving closure really works up an appetite.
all my love,