THE LOST TREMBLES

Oops. It seems my web host did something unspeakable that cost me to lose two very long entries for this site. If you stare at the web endlessly, you might have seen at least one of them up yesterday afternoon and evening. However, they’re gone now and I’m not sure daddy’s ever coming back.

I feel especially lousy, because I sent a puffy-chested email out to my mailing list, touting the return of “proper” writing to this site, in place of promotions about upcoming shows and meandering apologies. Now, to many, it might have seemed like a cruel grift, a sting for hits.

Maybe those entries will return. Maybe they won’t. There’s some cold comfort for you. And here’s a story:

Last night, because I’m clearly on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I rented Undercover Brother. The video store clerk, who was highly goth, with spiked choker and white pancake makeup, inspected the tape and deadpanned, “that’s a bad movie.” I agreed, and promised I’d only be using it to punish myself for cruelties toward others. Then she informed me that I had a late fee on another rental. I almost stopped myself from asking more, and I should have. But I didn’t.

“Oh really? Which movie?”
“Triple X.”
“Oh God.”
“That’s a bad movie, too.”

Here. Take all my money and try to forgive me. I actually wanted her to reach back in my records, way back to a time when I rented respectable titles from sections other than NEW RELEASES. But that was a long time ago, and the trail leading to those titles was bloody and stupid. It would mean re-visiting Bride of Chucky and The First $20 Million is the Hardest and Blood Work even Jason X. It could potentially blind the poor clerk before she ever had a chance to see Charade or Beijing Bicycle, so it wasn’t really worth it. I felt ashamed and crazy, stupid and speechless all at once. (hey – i think i just rented Speechless a few weeks ago.) I was completely disarmed by her observation, and the judgement that surely followed it.

When I stepped outside, I finally thought of what I could say in response. “Well, I’m so sorry I didn’t rent Interview with a Vampire, Dracula-face!” Of course, it was too late to go back in there and say any of this – I was several blocks away by now – but that didn’t stop me from running back in there and saying it anyway, completely out of breath. I wiped the cold-weather snot from my nose with the Undercover Brother box, twirled on my heel, and made a cool exit. And it would have been even cooler had I not knocked over a large display of cellular phones on my way out.

CONCEPTS ARE OVER-RATED; BRING ON THE WORDS

Something just occurred to me. Keeping the entries on this site in epistle format creates one very serious limitation. If I’m directing my letters outward it makes it very difficult to address my greatest preoccupation: myself. Sure, I’ve managed ways around that mess but why should I have to? Suddenly, I feel unfettered. How do you feel? Ripped off? Sounds about right to me. Let’s roll.

OK. Here’s a true story. I took a cab yesterday (this is already gripping, i realize) and the cab driver, whose company was based in brooklyn, had no idea how to get around the borough. He didn’t know where simple, well-known streets were. Seventh Avenue, for example, completely eluded him. Additionally, he spoke almost no English, and understood even less.

In fact, as much as I tried to direct him with basic sentences like “you just missed our exit” or “you can’t drive through that church” he just came up blank. The only English words he understood, as far as I could tell, were “LEFT”, “RIGHT”, “STRAIGHT”, and “GO”. (please note that “STOP” was not included in this list. neither was “WHIPLASH”.) The trip became a crazy game, with me figuring out how to best time my directional commands. “LEFT” had to come just at the right moment or we’d either miss our turn or drive into two men carrying a large sheet of plate glass. That’s how precise the system was.

As far as I could tell, the only qualification he had as a cab driver was his ability to maneuver a motor vehicle. Even that job might have proven difficult had he not labeled his gas and brake pedals “VAMOS!” and “AY YI YI!” respectively.

This is not a cautionary tale, however. I am actually using this story to illustrate why I finally moved to NYC in the first place. I postponed my move several times, mostly out of a kind of nervousness regarding the unknown or imagined complexity of this city. My parents fed my anxiety, too, warning me of muggings, b-boys, grizzlies, fascist movements, and baby-tossing gypsies. I saved and fretted for almost two years before finally packing up and landing in NYC in the hot, stank summer of 1995. It wasn’t a calculated plan that finally assuaged the calamnity in my brain. In fact, when I arrived I had no job (or job prospects) and no apartment to call my own. I also had a girlfriend who would be arriving in a couple of weeks, just in time for us to break up. So it wasn’t as if I strategized my way to safety.

What finally made all the tumblers click into place was a really simple thought that everyone contemplating this move, or any move to an unfamiliar environment, should consider. People arrive fresh in America, and in New York especially, every single day. Many of them have a couple English words at their disposal, not much money, and sometimes no family to speak of. And, miraculously, they usually don’t die; not all of them, at least. In fact, many of them thrive. They ride the subways (somehow). They drive cabs (poorly). They open stores with no names (something i never understood because naming a store is usually the best part). They become mayor (never). And they manage. They learn the things they need to learn, and that may include little things like “apples should not cost $14 each” (they should cost $3 each) or larger things like “paper, rock, and even scissors always lose to the guy with a gun and a crack addiction, so please hand over your wallet.” Most importantly, they don’t let themselves get discouraged or paralyzed by second-guessing. I suppose second-guessing isn’t really a big hang-up when you just arrived here from a country where you were caned soundly for sneezing in public.

I thought about those people, wide-eyed and scared shitless but nonetheless hauling themselves over here every single day in every way. I thought about people like my inept cab driver who didn’t even let his ignorance of basic geography and native language impede his decision to become a taxi driver. And I thought about how often I needed circumstances to align themselves perfectly before I ever made a single move, and realized I was doing it all wrong. I was cursed by an over-active, distractingly analytic mind. And I wanted to be here, in New York, with the crazy battery salesmen and bodega clerks and cab drivers and everyone else who thought it would be more fun to cannonball off the board than take the ladder into the deep end, pausing at each rung. (yes, it’s an awful metaphor but remember i was much younger then, and reading all the wrong books.) So I grabbed some belongings and bought a ticket for a southbound train. I arrived in New York City the very next day, where I was stabbed and murdered the moment I stepped off the train. And I’ve never looked back.

COURTNEY LOVE

Admit it: you are one strong prescription away from being Anna Nicole Smith.

I decided to watch a little bit of “24 Hours of Love” on MTV2, an overnight block of live programming in which you and a few of your sycophant handlers are broadcast live from the MTV studios in New York. As MTV2 put it, you were given full, unabridged control. We get to see you saying the bullshit you want to say – WITHOUT EDITING – because that’s the kind of shoot-from-the-hip genius you are. Supposedly, you were also given permission to pick all the videos that are played during this period, though you spent a shocking amount of time complaining about MTV2′s inability to locate some of the videos you wanted to see. (what the fuck? i thought mtv was the coolest? what happened?)

Here’s my intractable take on you, Love. You cheated us. More importantly you cheated the chubby girls in lingerie who cried at your Hole concerts, because you instructed them in the okayness of being unpretty and aggressive. Here’s what you forgot to tell them: your plan all along was to use that aggression to secure yourself a place in the world where you could spend the rest of your life fixing that “unpretty” part and using your so-called aggression as a cover for juvenile tantrums, obnoxious opinions, party-crashing, and the kind of intoxicated public stupidity that should have been corrected during the adolescence you spent away from home.

Watching you sit on the street corner, right in the middle of Times Square, chatting with a group of teens whose approval you still so desperately crave even as you approach 40, sort of made me sick. Putting words in their mouths was worse. (“YOU KNOW WHAT I HATE? I HATE THOSE WHITE BANDS WHO STEAL BLACK RAGE!! HEY YOU – BLACK GIRL – WHICH WHITE BANDS DO YOU HATE??” classy.) And you proved your singular and troubled need for constant validation when, after leaving the kids, you completely obsessed over the one teenage girl who didn’t just share your opininon and spit it back at you. You came back to her, over and over again, like you were remiss in your duties to convert part of the flock and maybe – just maybe – she won’t see your powerful new subcultural HOLLYWOOD BLOCKBUSTER starring Kevin Bacon. Rage against the machine, Love! (were they on the soundtrack to that kevin bacon movie?)

See Courtney insist she had Moby’s ideas first. Watch her fall over a gigantic bed and show everyone her panties. Catch her name-drop Eve (“She’s a really, really good friend of mine!”), DMX, and Fred Durst in the space of ten seconds. Listen to her cynically announce to her pack of street-corner kids and the whole viewing audience that she has to cut her fireside chat short because it was time to break to a commercial “for, I don’t know, something to whiten your teeth or some shit” as she smiles through her own mouth of stunningly large and cosmetically whitened teeth.

Man, Courtney, you don’t even get it, do you? I sort of think the ultimate revenge will be your own impending teenager, who could possibly shit on you the way we were all designed to do. It’s not always mean; sometimes it’s just ritualistic. Our parents got over it, and understood (for the most part) it wasn’t about THEM, but how about you?

CREATOR OF COINCIDENCE AND GOOD FORTUNE

I think you’re following me, and closing in fast. I still can’t confirm, but I have a sense.

For a while I was almost certain you’d left town without a goodbye. And that I missed that perfectly important moment where you were sitting on the tailgate of a U-Haul truck, fingering the plastic beaded necklace I made you in summer camp, and secretly waiting for me to kiss you on the cheek and pedal my bicycle away like a drunk comet. But I moved too slow, and you moved a pen pal’s distance away. I walked around, with all that loss squishing loudly in my sneakers.

But I was wrong. Maybe your dad decided it would be healthier if you lived back home with your mom, since he’s always traveling to Berlin and Zurich for business. Because I can feel your presence is near. Did you burst from the cab? Are you running in the rain, heading straight for my house? Are you plotting your entrance? Are you crafting the perfectly mawkish line that will make all of this grief seem worth it, and more tiny than a bug bite? Something like, “I was here all along,” while pushing a glitter-tipped finger into the center of my Pixies t-shirt. Are you? Because I can smell your perfume. I’m breathing it in, and this time I’m holding it.

I’ll be here, typing away, hoping for the best. Please, just keep running.

Homepage photo: Lindsey Byrnes
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