Friday, July 26, 2013

Germ Free Adolescents

My dear hero Poly Styrene would have turned 56 this month, can I tell you all about it?

The first time I heard X-Ray Spex was when I saw the film DOA, a mostly boring, except for the music scenes, documentary about punk bands. X-Ray Spex were playing the song “Oh Bondage, Up Yours.” This monumental moment that changed me forever was akin to my seeing the film Cabaret in 2nd grade. My mind was blown.

This not skinny, mixed-race girl with braces starts the song by saying in her cockney accent, “Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard but I think Oh Bondage Up Yours 1-2-3-4!! And then a saxophone kicks in. What the fuck is happening. What the fuck happened was that I saw and heard for the first time Poly Styrene, the singer of X=Ray Spex, and the world would never be the same again. How could it? (See video below).

X-Ray Spex release only one album, but that was enough: Germ Free Adolescents released in 1978 is one of my all time favorite recordings.

Long before digital files, there were some recordings that were hard to get, hard to hear. Great music that you wanted to listen to but might not be able to. Germ Free Adolescents was one such album. I ached for it.

The rare record record hung in a plastic sleeve on the wall of Bleeker Bob’s record store with a price tag that read $100. It might as well have been $1,000,000. I was in 9th grade and at the time $100 was what many tenement dwellers in New York paid for a month's rent. It was a lot of money for me, not something to save up to, something that was out of reach.

There was this guy who hung around the NY hardcore scene called Mike Cha Cha Cha. He was loud and funny and had some dark stories under his belt. He and I talked about going into Bleeker Bob’s and asking to see the album and them running out the door with it. He was capable of doing that. I wasn’t. I don’t know if he ever did it.

One night I wound up at a party in some desolate space. It was freezing winter and there was no heat. I remember Yana and Sharissa and a bunch of cool girls in their overcoats and boots huddles around a tape player that blasted the album. Every song was brilliant, nonstop. They were dancing and singing all night, proving that this was THE best record in the world.

Years later I got a reissue of the recording that included the iconic “Oh Bondage” track, which had been released as a single and was not on the original LP. I bought two copies just to be safe. At the time a friend also bought me an original copy so I had a trio rare gems. Of course now you can get it on cd and itunes and everything else, which is great so go buy it. Every track is brilliant in its writing and execution. I could go on and rave about each track, the words, the way her voice cracks or soars, but you get the idea.

X-Ray Spex were Poly Styrene (vox), Jak Airport (guitar), Paul Dean (bass), Rudi Thomson (saxophone) and B.P. Hurding (drums).

Poly Styrene AKA Marianne Elliot Said passed away two years ago from breast cancer. Her other recordings, all as a solo artist, include albums Translucent and Generation Indigo, as well as several singles.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I was a secret troublemaker

I had an ex who, as a young teen, would break into homes and steal furniture just to go set it on fire somewhere and watch it burn. That was not my trip, but I totally get it. Why not, right?

Some of you may have heard this timeless classic before:

As a kid I used to enjoy making lots of trouble that I could pretty much guarantee I would not get caught doing. It was a way to act out my rage and protect myself. I got in trouble all the time for things I did not do, so I figured I might as well do some things that justified all the trouble I got in.

Once I got the idea in my head to throw a bag full of books out the window and pretend it was a person jumping. Darkness, I know. The way I chose to avoid getting in trouble for doing it was that I talked my friend Marla into doing it. She was easy. I just said how fun it would be if we threw a pillowcase full of books out the window and pretended it was a person jumping. Marla was a brilliantly wild being, like Divine, big, loud, and she didn’t care about any consequences. She was also just a great friend. She was up for it before I even finished the sentence.

Together we dragged the pillowcase full of books up the stairs to the top floor of her six-floor-walk-up building. On the way, we passed her sister Lizette, in rollers, hot pants and platform shoes, smoking a cigarette on the landing.

Marla was so much ballsier than me. I had the idea, but I would never have been able to bring it to fruition on my own. As she gleefully tossed the bag, I shuddered and she boldly shouted “I’m jumping.” As the books crashed into the alley where the garbage cans were, I convulsed in a fit of laughter as I did at many of my crime scene. I also cringed, knowing it was really fucked up, and, dare I say, wrong.

As we walked back down the stairs we passed Lizette again. Marla, grinning ear-to-ear, and flooded with adrenaline, asked here sister, “Did you hear me?” Lizette took a drag on her cigarette and without missing a beat said in her sexy Bronx accent, “Yeah Marla, I hear ya. The whole fucking building heard ya.”

on a separate note, this song comes in at 2 minutes and 44 secs, just like a ramones song

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What’s great about New York

Oh hell, so what if new york is changed and unrecognizable, so are people I went to school with. Being back in new york city this round was so fun and beautiful. Here are a few highlights from my soul-inspiring culture-filled lovefest of a trip:

I saw my dear dear pals and walked the beautiful streets and played in the sprinklers to stay cool with my daughter.

I ate lemon shaved ice on the sidewalk and then ate arepas at the tiny, crowded, and wonderful Caracas (93 1/2 E 7th St).

I feasted on the ever classic chicken rice soup at Odessa.

I saw on oversized black and white river bird standing over two feet tall with long legs and webbed feet that hung like a heron’s when he flew, just sitting on a fence at midnight in tompkins square park, watching the rats run free.

I ate green curried eggplant and monkfish at the fat radish, which I thought was called the fat rat.

I did not have to have anyone arrested,

I just enjoyed the hot humid city and the warm breezy nights. Things were quiet because people were out of town for the fourth, and I was just digging the landscape, the architecture, the surroundings, the great food and the amazing people.

There are still great fun secrets abounding although I missed the night train dance party at home sweet home (both in ny and in la a few days earlier, drats!!!

And even though I was dying to eat at dojo before they closed I didn’t feel the need to get there. Maybe they will still be around next visit, maybe not. Speaking of which, gem spa is still there despite big rumors and mourning over its departure.

Did I mention that I saw my extended family on both sides who I love so much. I am so lucky to be touched by such wonderful souls, to get to know them and be part of them. I was taken care of and loved.

I got to read a terrific book (Wild, by Cheryl Strayed). I love paying for great books, supporting both authors and mom and pop bookstores.

I saw a brilliant film (Into the Void). Did you know that racism is reduced when people are exposed to other cultures and get to see the humanity of folk from different backgrounds? Foreign film facilitates that. I love supporting great film.

I swam in two sublime swimming pools, went to two boss parties (one even had bagpipes!), slept till 11 am most days and just had a grand time.

Being with my mother brought me yet again to a new level of compassion for her, for me, for her parenting of me and for my parenting of my daughter. We are so much like our parents on so many levels weather we like it or not. And ultimately awareness of that likeness is a gift, a key, a means to heal our wounds, better our lives, and yes, increase our capacity to love and forgive. It is amazing how deep the river is and how we can be standing in it dying of thirst or swimming in it with joy and love. You dig, my friends?

Sorry i did not get to see so many of you beautiful people.

Can I just end by saying that JFK is a zillion times better than LAX. Why is that? Why can’t LAX have GREAT food, a fun pay area, massages at the gate, and family bathrooms? I love new york. See you next time.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

hey new york, it is so nice to be home....

well, i came home to new york this week as i do every summer and every winter, to bring my family to see my family. I often come expecting a "break", a "rest". the last few years had been difficult, being a new mom with the additional heavy burden of the uncertainty and toll of an awful law suit. I needed help and came home counting on getting that help. But the rest would never come. I would come back to los angeles more exhausted than when i left and then be back in my life trying to keep my head above water.

I would come home to new york hoping to rest and get a break and i would be disappointed and exhausted when i left. i had too high expectations. Its not that my family wasn't helpful, they were and are. My family was doing so much for me, but nothing was really enough, because no one could give me what i needed to heal, no one could do enough for me. i had been way to taxed by my situation and only time and awareness could fix that. there was no magic pill waiting here for me.

No one can take your burden from you, whether it is grief or cancer or some other tragedy that puts you in a category that not everyone can relate to and that not everyone knows how to deal with. My break and my rest was something i eventually had to somehow give myself through the bigger process of healing. urg, what a drag, because i really just wanted a magic pill.

Then tragedy struck a relative of mine and i somehow lived vicariously through him and felt as if it had happened to me. and i let that inspire me. i used the gift of difficulty (his, mine, anyones) to remind me of so many things:
life is short
we all get dealt a bad hand now and then and sometimes a few really really bad hands in a row
its not personal
use what you have and find the gift and stay in the gratitude
you always have more strength than you think
you can do anything, really
love and enjoy your family and friends, as anyday could be your last.
And most importantly, love them and enjoy them because THIS IS YOUR LIFE, so be available for it.

i allowed my relative's life to inspire me. And with that inspiration i decided to commit, or rather recommit, to being a better parent- a parent that maybe was tired and had been through hell, but was still very available. I have been feeling this way for weeks and it has been amazing.

so, on wednesday i flew home to new york with commitment to my daughter as my priority. I planned on shelving my exhaustion in order to just be available and play with her as much as she needed on the flight. In the past i might play with her but then try to get some rest and try to get a break. Somehow i always wound up fighting against "what is" which was worse- and i never got the break i thought i needed. Yet, by being available, somehow i was energized AND got a break AND rested.

Then we landed and i came home to see my family and i let go of all expectations of getting a break and a rest. i just planned on showing up as much as my daughter needed and again, she was less needy since i was available to her. everyone's help was just a cherry on top. i am having the best trip. i feel happy to be a mom, happy to see my family, lucky, and in gratitude. i feel expectation-less and so very very taken care of.

Parenthood is a constant process, a constant ebb and flow, a constant balancing act of getting your needs met and getting your child's needs met, a constant commitment to reevaluating everything, going with the flow, changing and growing and learning and loving and going to sleep and waking up to do it all again. it is exhausting but amazing. I am so happy to be home and so happy to have the gift of living with and overcoming difficulty under my belt, to remind and inspire me to do my best and to appreciate and love this beautiful life. hey new york, it is so nice to be home....