Listen, I don’t know why god is out to get me.
In all honesty there are a myriad of likely reasons: all that underage drinking I did in my youth, the swearing, the nude photos on my phone (I won’t say of who), my continued disavowal of his existence, blah blah blah. That guy is so sensitive.
So, what, he just sits up there listening to a harp rendition of “Stairway” played by some half-naked angel thinking: You spent (*cough cough*) thousand dollars, and months recording, mixing, and mastering. You lost half your band (followed by several weeks in a ball on the couch with whisky and Oreos). You spent hours upon hours rehearsing the new band members in time for the show. You postered the entire city. Looks like you’re ready for an awesome debut. Here’s a blizzard. Go fuck yourself.
That sneaky bastard.
Not that I actually think I’m so special god would cover an entire city, with its 2.5 million inhabitants, in 2 feet of snow just to fuck with me. But then again…(everyone knows singers are megalomaniacs)
Thursday night, two days before the CD release: We played a secret show at Lost Lake, needing a dress rehearsal before debuting a new line-up in a headlining show for potentially 300 people. I began to get anxious as we hauled amps, cables, and drum hardware though an onslaught of falling snow; like ants sliding across Scarface’s coffee table. Shaking snow off ourselves like St. Bernards in front of the bar, it began to dawn on us that we might be seriously screwed.
Friday morning, one day before the CD release: Set to appear on radio 1190 that afternoon, we awoke to a scene straight out of a Tolstoy novel. That’s to say, it was snowy. Really fucking snowy.
With the brilliant 1190 staff willing to unlock the closed CU campus, we commenced an email debate over the likelihood of getting stranded on 36 and needing to slaughter a taun taun for food and warmth. The verdict: Fuck it. Rock-stardom awaits. We’re going.
The next five hours were a freezing white blur that went something like this: Ice. Wind. Snow. Is that a Yeti out the window? Haul equipment. Ice ice ice. Surprise! Every door on campus is locked, feel free to pee in the alley. Run to The Hill for food. Get stuck in an embankment. Vow to kill stupid snow-ball-fighting college kids. Snow snow. Radio interview. Haul equipment, freeze nipples off. Jesus Christ HWY 36 is dark, where the hell is the pavement? Don’t die, don’t die. Jam out to Hall and Oats. Home. Phew.
Saturday, night of CD release: Two feet of snow and sub-zero temperatures would not stop Le D from bringing it. However, they did stop almost all facebook maybes, anyone without a car, everyone who realized Big was playing On Demand, nearly all of the local press, and most of my closest friends. Sure everyone has a reason—they couldn’t find a babysitter, they drank too much the night before, they accidentally sold their coat on Craig’s List last week. It’s cool. I went out of my way to make it to your dj night, fashion show, synchronized interpretive knitting performance, whatever. I mean for Christ sake, we hired an Asian-chick drummer—what more could you people want?
Sound like sour grapes? Perhaps, but everyone knows musicians are whiney and fragile and impossible to be around. I’ve never claimed to be emotionally stable, people.
Maybe indie-rock isn’t god’s preferred genre. Perhaps he’d rather some bluegrass? Death metal? Watered down yacht rock? (seemed to work for Tennis). Maybe we need more synth.
Send me a sign dude! And if you won’t, why stop at a blizzard? Next time we spend months writing a record in the futile hopes of artistic recognition, feel free to send an earthquake. A flood. A hurricane. Why not? Lets get biblical up in this bitch. Hey, maybe that’s the title of our next record…
Actually, I was grateful for the turnout we did have, and those who made it are in my debt forever. The room was in good spirits despite the weather. Hipsters in leather jackets and snow beanies bobbed their heads and even sang along. A few actually bought t-shirts (happy sigh). But it wasn’t exactly the launch into the Denver rock elite the little voice in my head said it would be. Yes, that’s the same voice that tells me I’m just one quick-pick away from lottery riches and that chocolate cake couldn’t possibly make me fat.
When Patti Smith was 20 years old she took the train to New York using money she lifted from a lost purse in a phone booth. She was so broke she slept in parks and cemeteries and ate from dumpsters. She did this in the hopes of one day becoming a great artist.
I think about this as I turn over the couch cushions hoping desperately to find another quarter so I can do laundry and wear clean underwear tomorrow. Sadly, I find two nickels, some lint, and a couple of peanuts. Looks like I’m going commando again.
I’ve been broke before. I’ve been so broke that I slept on an air mattress in an ant-infested apartment, using a cardboard box as a nightstand. But, like Patti Smith, I was 20 years old, and I had escaped Denver for a summer to live on the beach. That, and drink tequila, accidentally watch gay porn in Tijuana, and like-totally-find-myself. Now it’s ehem… years later and I’m just as broke as I was then, but my beach adventure is long over. Now I’m just broke in real life, and that blows.
Wasn’t I supposed to have a house and a mini van and an expense account by this age? Turns out those Mastercard commercials are liars. What they meant to say was: There are some things money can’t buy, for everything else—go fuck yourself you broke bastard with shitty credit. You didn’t seriously think we’d lend you money, did you?
On the upside though, I have become extremely popular recently. Both Wells Fargo and T-Mobil call me 4-5 times a day. They have just been showering me with attention; I had no idea I was so admired. Not that it’s not flattering, but those guys really can’t take a hint. If a girl doesn’t answer her phone after a month of messages, she’s just not that into you guys.
Patti Smith once had to scrounge change to buy a sandwich from a vending machine (her only meal of the day), only to find out the price had gone up and she couldn’t afford it. Who just happened to be standing behind her to come to her rescue? Allen fucking Ginsberg. Seriously? Hi Mr. Ginsberg, thanks for the sandwich. Sure I’d love to sit and talk about poetry with you.
Let me tell you, I’ve been eating saltines and peanut butter for weeks and I haven’t seen any sign of Thom Yorke popping by to buy me a steak. At this point I’d settle for cheese fries with Brandon Flowers (as long as he promises not to talk). So far, the closest I’ve come to a gift from a stranger was the “number 2” a homeless man left near my car last week (by the way, I’m pretty sure that guy makes more money with his cardboard sign than I do at my job).
Patti Smith lived in a studio with no heat or plumbing for over a year. She peed in bottles rather than stop writing to go across the street to a bathroom. I, on the other hand, can’t handle it when we run out of toilet paper (incidentally, if you can’t afford more toilet paper, I recommend using recent issues of Rolling Stone).
Patti Smith had serious dedication to her art. She was willing to starve, freeze, and contract lice to become the “godmother of punk”. But I am weak and whiney and I miss eating in restaurants. At this point I might be willing to settle for “step-niece of polka” if it meant having HBO and clean underwear for tomorrow. Also, could someone bum me a cigarette, or possibly some shampoo?
Is it wrong to steal songs from children? No, I’m seriously asking. I mean, what are they gonna do? I’m way bigger than they are, and I’m not afraid of their tiny fists. If I need to make a getaway, I can drive a car and would leave their puny bicycles in the dust.
I found myself asking this question last week while volunteering to help with Girls Rock camp. Girls ages 8 to 16 come for a week, form rock bands, write songs, find empowerment, make history, join a community of female musicians, blah blah blah… Look, I get it, this is a good thing and that’s why I give up my time to coach them.
Seriously though, little girls scare the shit out of me. Ever since the third grade when Mona Hinmen shoved me against a wall at Girl Scout camp for having a crush on the boy she was like-totally-playground-married to, I have avoided large groups of girls.
And yet, here I’ve found myself in the middle of 40 running, screaming, glitter-wearing, cartwheel-twirling, guitar-wielding children fighting the urge to lock myself in the bathroom and start throwing back cheap whiskey like some tattooed version of Miss Hannigan from Annie. I mean honestly, I sleep until noon, make $11,000 a year, and I’m supposed to convince these girls that I’m some kind of authority figure? Um… not likely.
But I managed to make it to the end of the week and my girls were ready for their showcase. We all gathered in the main room to watch all the bands do their pre-showcase run-through, and then it happened: This 10 year-old girl stepped up to the mic, holding a bass that was almost as big as she was, and fucking channeled the spirit of Ian Curtis before our eyes. She was playing perfect droning Joy Division bass and belting out “Loooove is an irritation! It gets under my skin…” with flawless Ian Curtis darkness. Every adult in the place watched open mouthed. People actually teared up.
Seriously? A fucking 10 year-old wrote this? She’s never even heard of Joy Division. I know I should’ve been glowing with pride or whatever, but all I could think was—would anyone notice if I punch her in the face and run back to Le Divorce with her song? Hey guys! Check out what I just wrote, it’s our next big hit. I know, it IS rad. No I didn’t steal it from a 10 year-old, why do you ask?
I know why I’m feeling this way. I wrote a song Le D has been working on for several weeks now, and for some reason can’t seem to make it gel. The guys are having trouble understanding my vision for the song, and I am having trouble feeling like I don’t suck. They stare at me blankly while I play it, as I wonder—where have I gone wrong? Did I accidentally channel Chad Kroeger or something? I keep asking myself if I should let them off the hook and abandon the song altogether. Meanwhile this kid comes along and writes a song so profoundly beyond my grasp, I find myself wondering if I have any business writing music at all.
But I’m not going gentle into that good night, and I’m not getting eclipsed by a kid with an 8pm bedtime. So I ask you again, is it wrong to steal songs from children? After all, Pablo Picasso said—good artists borrow, but great artists steal. So I’d really just be following the advice of a genius. This kid has plenty of time to be talented, but I’m getting older by the minute. And anyway, how would she ever know? She can’t get into the club to hear us play, there’s no way a bouncer would buy her fake ID, she doesn’t even wear a training bra. I’m just saying…
How did this happen? The plan was simple enough: after two amazing nights at the UMS, stop into Denver’s favorite indie dance party Lipgloss to see Mr. M dj and have a drink with some old friends. What could go wrong?
I’m not sure what the first sign of trouble was. Could it have been her bedazzled hipster-head band? Or the disco-ball glitter eye shadow? Or the fact that the jolly-hipster-giant wearing them was charging her 28th shot of tequila to her credit card? That’s right, I said 28. These are questions that may never be answered. Perhaps the problem was that from my diminutive vantage point, I simply couldn’t see the danger stumbling toward me like a giant drunken pinball.
I was distracted. I was anxious and excited about playing our UMS set the next day. We’d been running all over town in search of impossible-to-find cables for our visual projections. We’d gotten the mastered tracks for the new EP and spent hours burning copies to hand out at the show. I’d been spray-paining our name on 60 discs in my front courtyard that afternoon.
Still high from spray-paint fumes, we were sipping our beers and bobbing our heads when a blonde wrecking-ball knocked me into the stage and nearly onto the ground leaving a blur of glitter in her wake. At this point, a smarter person would’ve dusted herself off and walked away, but not this girl.
Feeling embarrassed about being tiny and so easily shoved around, my inner Napoleon decided to march over there and tell her cleavage (did I mention how tall she was?), in no uncertain terms, this girl will not be pushed around.
In her tequila-soaked desire to apologize she threw her arms around me and promptly fell to the ground like a giant redwood crashing through the forest, bringing me down with her. As we fell I thought: please let go of me giant drunk lady–is my ass exposed right now?—this is going to hurt—Fuck.
The two of us lay sprawled on the floor, me on top of her, my dress over my head, flailing about like fish in a boat. I thought, this is awkward, maybe no one saw…(in a club with 300 other people). My beer can was crushed, along with my ego, and oh yeah, my fucking knee cap and a couple ribs. Really giant hipster girl??? Great apology. She was, of course, unharmed.
You may not know this about me, but there is really nothing I like better than sitting at the club with an ice pack on my throbbing purple knee wondering if I’m going to be able to stand and play guitar at the biggest rock festival in the west the next day. Fucking sweet. I can’t say I was sad when security hauled her ass out.
We got home and I realized I didn’t have any ace bandages, so I cut up an old camouflage tee shirt and wrapped it around my knee. (who says I’m not DIY?)
We did have an amazing show the next day, despite my inability to do kung-fu kicks. And I managed to hobble around the showcase all night with the aid of Advil and a heavy dose of whiskey, but the moral of the story is this: If the giant hipster girl knocks into you and doesn’t take you down on the first try, walk away. Just walk away.
Yes, once upon a time in a land far, far away, I sat from high atop the splintered stool behind the counter of the independent record store, and dismissively waved shoppers away like one would wave away fruit flies. Where do we keep Cold Play? Um… under C, you do know the alphabet, don’t you? Whatever [eye-roll]. The 22-year-old version of me felt little more than disdain for the empty sheep-ple content in their narrow Dave Mathew’s Band existence; or even worse, the stammering morons trying to impress me with their knowledge of Royal Trux B-sides.
I was a dick. This is not a revelation, I realized it years ago, but I got a reminder last month when I came face to face with my 22-year-old self while record shopping in Cambridge with Mr. M.
I love record stores. I love to visit them in new cities. I love the smell of them: like dust and vinyl and years of smoke and sweat and piss. The smell of home. In Your Ear in Cambridge smelled like home and the 20-something girl behind the counter was playing My Bloody Valentine—a little obvious, but a good start. The place was a wreck though, crates and crates of unlabeled vinyl in random stacks, knocked over onto the floor, shoved in corners. It looked like a giant record-eating beast had thrown-up in a basement somewhere and left a stoned Willie Nelson fan behind to tend the place.
Yet somehow, in all that mess, M managed to find an extremely rare Bauhaus single, just lying on a stack of random records. Fucking score. When he asked how much it was, the clerk rolled her eyes, stopped chewing her hair for a moment, and said he couldn’t buy it, it was only for sale online—like, that’s why it’s not marked (idiot. God why are you still talking…). Okay, I get it, this is karma for all the people I made feel shitty about making me get up to unlock the cassette case for their piece-of-crap reggae tape.
The thing is, I know now that I was never that cool, and this girl isn’t either. It took years, but I can now admit that I like Elton John, I like Def Leopard, and I hate Minor Threat. There, I said it [thunder clap]. Cool is over-rated, not to mention unattainable. But back then I was constantly trying to look cool in front my fellow employees who were all older, more knowledgeable, and male. I’d say things like—Joy Division is good, but they were totally influenced by Wire, without ever hearing a Wire record. Now I own Wire records, along with numerous other bands I didn’t know about back then. The point is, I was a dumb insecure kid, and I tried to compensate for it by acting like a shit.
I wanted a time machine so I could go back and apologize to all the total strangers I made feel bad about their Brittany Spears purchase (sure it’s for your sister). Part of me sympathized with this girl, and part of me wanted to teach her some respect for her elders. I wanted to tell her that when she grows up she’ll feel bad she was such a self-involved cliché (believe me, I should know). But really I wanted to punch her in the face and tell her I was listening to that My Bloody Valentine record back when she was still eating paste.
But in the end I realized there was nothing my adult self could tell her that would have any effect. So I reached deep down inside and found that 22-year-old girl still writing graffiti behind the counter at Wax Trax and I put her on one last time. And as we left the store she leaned over to the clerk and said—My Bloody Valentine…a little obvious isn’t it?
Yes kids, it’s time to bring up the old blog from the basement, dust it off, and find a place for it on the coffee table. Sure it doesn’t match the new couch, and it smells a little funky, but I think with a fresh coat of paint I’ll be able to show it to company again. Given the self-indulgence of keeping a blog, I thought I’d re-start this one by talking about another exercise in self-indulgence: the awards ceremony—part anticipation, part masturbation, and part consolation.
Attending an awards ceremony held for local musicians feels a lot like walking into my high school cafeteria, except now the booze is legal (unless you’re the kids from Sauna, sorry guys). You know what I’m talking about, we did it back then and we still do it now. You wear something you think looks cool, but not trying-too-hard-cool, and you immediately look for the other bands you hang with. Once you’ve gathered your tribe together, you stand around talking about everyone else in the room—still wearing those liberty spikes, huh? and looks like someone robbed a Hot Topic. All while looking over your shoulder for people you want to talk to, and people you don’t.
Everyone has their own clique, separated by the categories in which we’re nominated: the punks hang with the tattooed rockabilly chicks in platform combat boots, the skinny indie-rock nerds hang with girls in glasses and Chuck Taylors, the metal heads don’t hang with any girls, the hippies smoke pot outside in their van, the hip-hop kids stake out their own corner of the theater, and we all move carefully back and forth to the bar without making eye contact with the bands we don’t know. Of course we do know them, we’re like that guy in your math class that used to date your sister, but never seems to recognize you in the hall. Or maybe that’s just my inner Billy Corgan hoping that everyone knows who I am.
Then there’s the “cool kids table.” You know, the bands who’ve claimed the sweet spot in the parking lot by the gym, who always win prom queen and who never seem to remember your name or what band you play in–
Them: nice to meet you Katie.
Me: um…it’s actually Kitty and we met last week at the showcase, and the month before that at your show, and the month before that…
Them: oh, sorry, we’ve just been so busy touring; everybody starts to blend together.
Me: but I sat behind you in history class all last year… (actually, none of this is true, I would most likely let them call me Katie and then run away)
Not that these bands actually show up, of course. They’re busy getting drunk at the house party we weren’t invited to. I find myself wondering if this happens at all awards ceremonies. Like, do Paul Giamatti and Catherine Keener stand around talking shit about Brad Pitt and Ashton Kutcher while Joaquin Phoenix gets high in the parking lot?
None of this is to say I don’t enjoy these gatherings of fellow musicians. Truthfully I love the idea of this, of getting together and supporting one another, acknowledging one another (and I would never begrudge the winners their congratulations). But that’s not what award ceremonies are really about, are they?
In the end, we do our best to mature past adolescence, to grow-up, be less judgmental, more inclusive, but ultimately we can’t escape the fact that real life is one big high school, and we’re all looking for someone to sit next to in the cafeteria. At least I don’t smell like zit cream anymore.
I’m in love with the man every pop song warned me about –written on the bathroom wall at The Hidive.
I have a friend who claims to live by 2 rules: 1) Never date a Jewish girl (a mother once threatened to kick his goy ass in to next Wednesday for fraternizing with her daughter) and 2) Never get back together. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks pondering the validity of this advice. The second part, that is. Advice is a tricky little bastard. Everyone wants to give it, no one wants to take it, and absolutely fucking no one follows their own.
So when the DJ told me in all sincerity, in the dimly lit Skylark bar after hours at the UMS, that his life was empty without me, I asked him — If you had a friend in my position, who’d been left brokenhearted twice by the same guy, what would your advice be? His reply? He’d tell her to stay the hell away. But when the man you love sits in front of you and tells you he will change his life to make you happy, your heart takes out it’s trusty crowbar and beats your head in to submission.
This is the kind of situation everyone you know will have an opinion about. So you decide to take it slow and think carefully about your next move. And by that I mean go home with him at 4am and spend the next 48 hours having sweaty sex, breaking only for food and South Park. But after 2 days and 200 unanswered text messages, you realize you’re going to have to explain yourself eventually.
You can already picture your mother rolling her eyes over her mug of tea asking, why the hell can’t you just find a nice stable man with good credit? You know, like her third husband. You can see your uncle Dave shooting him dirty looks at Thanksgiving while everyone politely picks the marshmallows out of their candied yams. You already know what your friends are thinking, because it is the exact same thing you were thinking about them last week: don’t come crying to me when he does it again. You consider asking him to write some sort of memo explaining everything he has told you about changing his life, and getting his shit together so you can pass it around to your friends and family, perhaps something with a broken-kneecaps-upon-failure-to-deliver clause.
But the fact is, no one can give advice. My parents have both been divorced twice, my brothers are very sweet well-meaning zygotes, I have one friend who breaks up with her girlfriend every 4 days , another one who hasn’t dated anyone in 5 years, and countless others who’ve cheated while on vacation or in parking lots or god only knows. So fuck it, the DJ makes me happy. I’ve spent the last two months wandering around my wrecked apartment in mismatched pajamas, unshowered, chain smoking, and singing the fucking Cranberries for Christ sake. I don’t even fucking like The Cranberries, and every time Dolores O’Riordan sings “and my head (my head) on anyone’s shoulder, cause I can’t be with you…” I cry like a little girl.
So, I decide to consult the experts. The only people (besides my friends and family) as fucked up as I am.
PJ Harvey said — you’re not rid of me. I’ll make you lick my injuries — which felt fucking perfect 2 months ago, but in the somewhat more sober present, seems a little Fatal Attraction. So next I consulted John Lennon, who said he was told to hide his love away, but he didn’t seem too damn stoked about it, and anyway I’m a heart-on-my-sleeve kind of girl so that’s out. God Speed You Black Emperor didn’t tell me anything at all, they just fed me a 12 minute long instrumental soup, and My Bloody Valentine was clearly trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t understand a fucking word they were saying. Morrissey turned out to be kind of a self-serving bastard, so on to the Americans.
Matt Berninger of The National said — I’ve been dragging around from the end of your coat for two weeks… think I better follow you around… You might need me more that you think you will. Come home in the car you love, brainy brainy brainy. Here’s a guy I can relate to. A mopey stalker who is going to whine until his woman comes home. I’m not kidding, if you thought I was more together than that, you were seriously wrong. I don’t know if he has the right idea, but he pretty much just gave validity to my whole existence.
The thing is, I listen to the advice I want to hear and throw the rest out, just like everyone else I know. And when the DJ holds my face in his hands, and calls me his sweet creature, and tells me he wants to spend his life with me, I believe him, because you would too, because the heart wants what it wants. So maybe in this case Concrete Blonde said it best — We got lucky once before, and I don’t wanna close the door, and if you’re somewhere out there passed out on the floor. Oh Joey, I’m not angry anymore. Thanks Johnette Napolitano.
My parents are children of the 60’s. I am most decidedly not. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily get down on my knees and thank my parents’ generation for bringing The White Album and the Pill in to the world (oh yeah, and civil liberties blah blah blah). But I fucking hate the Grateful Dead, I think shaving is a fantastic idea, I’ve never done acid (mostly because the last time I smoked pot 11 years ago I tried to hurl myself into the Pacific Ocean before rolling into a fetal ball and rocking back and forth until sun up), and I think hippies are full of shit. They preach peace, love, and acceptance, but really they need a fucking shower and a job. They are the only group of people I know who get to be both lazy and self-righteous at the same time.
But when I was 16, I didn’t think this way. I wished I’d been a part of the 60’s. It seemed to me the perfect era, full of love and rebellion. A counter culture that wanted to change the world. This is what I’m thinking about as I walk through the psychedelic rock poster exhibit at the art museum. An exhibit of all the uber tripped out rock posters made for the San Fransisco flower child scene. It makes perfect sense that this time-period would appeal to the adolescent me. In many ways, the 60’s were this country’s own adolescence. A time for testing boundaries, searching for self, and smoking dope in your parent’s basement. An entire social movement that consisted of “Hey mom and dad, go fuck yourself!” Of course there were larger issues at stake, Vietnam, civil rights, woman’s rights, but I think basically, at the end of the day, that is what it all came down to. The last gasp of honest innocence before the harsh reality of the world sank in.
So, I wandered around, taking in the bright colors, and absolutely indecipherable text of these bubble lettered posters (what’s the best way to say fuck you to The Man? design a poster no one can read) thinking: were there any shows The Grateful Dead didn’t play? But also thinking about my own adolescence. And given the vulnerable emotional state that comes with any terrible break-up, I really had no choice but to dredge up that old first love. Seriously, I didn’t stand a chance here.
His name was… I’ll call him John. I was 16 when I met John. I thought we were the non-suicidal Romeo and Juliet. I thought no one on the earth had ever experienced the kind of love we had. The nights in the driver’s seat of his car, me in his lap, him fumbling with my bra hook, as if no one had ever done this before. But like the lettering on these damn posters, everything about my first love was fucking indecipherable. But also like those posters, it didn’t matter, that was the appeal. It was love with the kind of wild innocence that none of us will ever have again. Because that first love is the last time in our lives when we will have no idea what it means to have our heart fucking shattered. We can never be the same again after that. The first one changes us forever. These rock posters are a reminder of an era we all long for. A time that seems beautiful and wild, but lost under a lifetime of heartache, and bills and rehab clinics.
I heard a girl behind me say she wished there would be another 60’s. She couldn’t have been older than 15. She was in her own era of innocence and rebellion. I found myself wanting to turn and shake her and yell: We can never go back! we can only go forward! Make your own era! Make your own voice! Perhaps I’d had too much caffeine. I needed to leave this exhibit.
I needed to go to the fourth floor where the photographs of Diane Arbus and Larry Clark are displayed. Stark gritty images of drug addicts and sex workers. Images about the hidden, darker aspects of humanity (perhaps not coincidentally taken during the same era). I needed to get away from the hippy trippy fantasy, into a place that felt real.
And I suppose the same could be said for that first love. There’s a reason why that first one is unsustainable. None of us can read the writing on the god damned poster. For so many people, that time was real and honest, but was it really? My friend Todd was a hippie for years. He said it was the perfect place to hide the fact that he was gay. Maybe everyone was hiding. Hiding the words in the poster, hiding the fear of growing up in an acid trip.
I will take the harsh truth of Mrs. Arbus and Mr. Clark. In art and in love. I don’t want a bright, shinning, pulsing, mind-bending love, I want love that has the balls to show its, well, balls. I want love that has grown the fuck up. I’m sorry 16 year old self, I hate to kill your dreams, but I want to read the writing on my rock poster.
Since I turned 20 or so, I’ve had one basic philosophy. It’s a philosophy that I’ve never actually bothered to follow, which is how I know it’s true.
No wise decisions are made after 2am, ever.
This is what I’m thinking as I’m cruising through the empty streets of Charleston, South Carolina at 2:30am with a guy named Ben that I’d met 36 hours earlier, and not a soul knows where I am.
The concept of traveling to a new place in order to gain perspective on a situation is hardly a new one. This is something the brokenhearted have done since the dawn of transportation. So, I spent an insane amount of money to hop a plane to the deep south to see my friend Courtney, because for some reason, when Courtney says “Kitty, you don’t need this shit” I’m more likely to listen to her than any of the other 50 people saying it. I’m not sure exactly what I expected to find down in the dirty south, but let me tell you what I did see: real life moonshine in a pickle jar (awll corn, no tato), a “photo” of Jesus riding a dinosaur (yes, you read that right), and a potbelly pig in the back of an SUV, eating Doritos in the parking lot of a bar called the Tin Roof. I shit you not. God love the south.
Ben is Courtney’s boyfriend’s roommate. A nice kid from the south side of Chicago who offered to entertain me on my last night in Charleston. And since my flight left ass early in the morning, I decided not to go to sleep. Since the whole town rolls up it’s sidewalks after last call, the beach at 3am seemed like a perfectly reasonable plan. And besides, what sensible indie chick would turn down the only boy in town with Radiohead’s In Rainbows playing on his stereo?
I would like to paint a picture here: moonlight, deserted beach, soft rain, sand under bare feet. We walk along the shoreline, talking about our parents and what album we’d want to listen to our last hour on earth (OK Computer, duh) and I decide we should sit on the tractor tire in the sand. As it turns out, however, South Carolina is humid. Not just humid actually, but suffocating. Suffocating like being forced to live underneath someone’s balls. And all this humidity leads to a build up of slippery moss on the surface of things like rocks and old tires, especially after a night’s rainstorm.
I stepped on to the wet, moss covered, pitch dark tire and sent my foot sailing in to the air like a ski jumper, I tried to steady myself by planting my other foot in the center of the tire only to discover it was filled with sea water. Within seconds I am flailing about, face down, half soaked, in the sand. That’s right boys, you know you want some of that. But I would like to point out that my cigarette was still lit.
After attempting to recover from this humiliation, I found myself sitting on the tire, rubbing my bruises, trying to decide if I wanted this skinny shy boy to kiss me. On the one hand, likes The Dead Weather (that’s a plus). On the other hand, he lives 2000 miles from me (you could put this either in the plus or minus catagory actually). In the end, it doesn’t matter whether he kissed me or not. The thing that mattered was that I was thinking about something new. I was sitting on the beach, staring at the waves, and my mind was finally on the future, not the past. (Oh shit! Is she about to use the “other fish in sea” cliche while writing an ocean scean? That’s right bitches, I am. Deal with it.)
Eventually the cops rolled up. Who knew you aren’t supposed to be on the beach at 4:30am? What the hell kind of country is this? I was glad they weren’t fucking cerial killers in the dark, because for a second I thought is was going to be that kind of movie. And so an hour and a half later, I boarded my plane ready to face Denver again with a new perspective.
Yeah, bullshit. Let me tell you what I borded my plane with: the kind of exhaustion hangover that comes only from staying up for 24 hours straight, a familiar sense of dread about retuning to my life, and about five hundred new friends. See, I didn’t know this, but apparently there is a friendly little parasite called the sand flea. When you sit on the beach in your wet clothing, they attatch themselves to said clothing and hitch a ride. I arrived in Denver, without sleep, to find myself covered in fucking flea bites. And I mean covered like seeds on a strawberry. Those little fuckers got me from head to toe (can anyone say Calomine lotion bath? Can I buy it by the vat?).
But it’s like I said, no wise decisions are made after 2am. I think wise decisions are for those lacking in vision, who prefer to stay home and play scrabble. Would I have rather foregone the adventure and saved myself the sprained ankle and the rash of the century? What do you fucking think?
As a general rule, I don’t write break-up songs. I love to listen to them. PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me, The Beatles Yesterday, anything by the Smiths, in a dark room at 2am with a lit cigarette. Those are some of the nights in my life I look back on with the fondest of romantic memories. The way a soldier rewrites the brutality of a war years later. But the idea of writing them has always seemed like tacky sentimental crap. The kind of thing that angry chicks like Alanis Morrisette write. Something that one should avoid at all costs if one is to be taken seriously as a girl in the music world. That is until now.
When my friend Joe approached me awhile back about the possibility of starting a new project, I thought, well that sounds fun. Joe and I played in a different incarnation a million years ago, and seeing as how both of our romantic lives were falling apart in different ways at the same time, it seemed the perfect time to put together something new.
I wanted to write something honest. No longer worried about being perceived as an emotional girl, I wanted to write songs that someone else could listen to in the dark. Ok, and maybe I wanted to write songs that would make my ex feel like shit if he came to the shows. I pictured him standing at the Larimer Lounge with his friends feeling very uncomfortable as I sang my lyrics and he pretended not to hear them. This is all a very romantic notion in the middle of the night in a dark apartment. It is an entirely different situation when you bring your songs to band practice the next day.
In the light of day, I found myself sitting with my old friend in a dimly lit room filled with amps and cables and equipment while he looked at me intently, waiting to hear what I’d written. It was just the two of us, we were still in writing mode, no drums or bass yet. Joe and I have been friends for years. We’ve played shows, hauled equipment, talked over our respective divorces, drank many beers, joked about chucking it all, growing our hair and becoming a metal band in Aurora. But our friendship is on the “guy” level. We keep it simple, we don’t cry, we don’t talk about how our parents neglected us or how humiliated we were the time we may have peed ourselves in the second grade.
It was a bizarre thing to be standing in front of my guy-buddy about to musically reveal myself in a way that was significantly more personal than the boundaries of our friendship usually allowed. This was actually much more difficult than singing to a room full of strangers. Because by that point the songs have been rehearsed so many times they may as well be nursery rhymes. Your band members know them like the bumps on their asses. They are no longer part of your bleeding self.
But in that room with your buddy, playing the thing that is breaking inside of you and acting as if this is no big deal, is a much more frighting proposition. It’s a little like vomiting at the table in the middle of a first date and pretending that everything is cool. Joe was doing his best to pick out what he wanted to play on guitar and act as though he did not see the mass of bleeding organs soaking in to the floor that I’d been reduced to. I could only imagine that his first instinct was to back away slowly from the live bomb and break in to a run once out the door.
This is why Joe does not write lyrics, I thought to myself. Sure, everyone wants to play the guitar and get laid, but nobody wants to have to be the guy who was dumb enough to open up their diary for the whole school to read. Like that dream when you show up naked to the sixth grade and your classmates can’t stop pointing at the breasts you haven’t developed yet because you come from a family of late bloomers. Damn it. I knew I should have been a bass player.
Also, this is why there is alcohol at band practice. Thank the gods for that. On breaks we discussed potential band names and the impending future zombie Apocalypse, avoiding the question of whether or not I am on the verge of suicide. I guess that is the benefit to setting your personal emotional melt down to music. It’s less frighting if people can sing along.
The really fucked up part is that ultimately, your band ends up knowing more about you than your partner did. And maybe that was the real tragedy in the relationship all along. I’m not interested in going down some tangent about how art heals and beauty is born from pain. Fuck that, but I will say that a few hours of loud rock music are better for the soul than any religion I’ve found.