Posted in writing

Writer’s Block Backwards


I am currently surrounded by a mass of post-it notes, none of which are helping me plot out my latest idea.  That’s all right.  It’s a very dark story and I can only hold dark for so long before I start trying to bring in a clown.  I’m always wanting to add in Mercutio–the only redeeming factor to Romeo & Juliet for me.

I am never in a state of creative happy medium.  The fields are either full or fallow, with nothing in between.  It’s like I can only sow magic beans that all crop up overnight–no growth stages.  Right now, I am having a hard time with various ideas competing for attention.  So, I’ve done what is easiest first, and keep going back and forth between it and my serial killer story (see above–dark.)

I have finally plotted out a novel based on my first trip to NYC, which includes all the highlights of mistaken identity (more than once), a midnight train to DC, shoplifting (not by me!), fraud (not by me!), an attempted mugging (sadly, of me), drug requests (hilarious OF me) and offers (to me–SPOILER–I just said no), vandalism and tresspassing (is it mine if I didn’t know I was doing it?), terrifying gangster boys, unbelievably stereotypical mafia boys (really!), a doppleganger, an MTV veejay, a break in, ticket scalping, a chase through the underground, a few slaps in the face (literal, and also my face), a police chase, a visit to Snow (in case it goes bad, you always go to Snow), a missing staircase, a landlord meltdown, a homeless man’s sacrifice, a hotel shower, a David Lynch movie (like this whole thing wasn’t one), a probable murder, and a decision to go home.  Because my life has always been stranger than fiction.

The follow up novel will be based on my coach tour of Europe, and will include more of the same, only this time with more tourist attractions, drunken Australians, lecherous tour guides, and cute Italian boys.  And the flu.  The flu will be its own character.

The hard part is weaving a thread through it all, so the stories aren’t just a collection of things that happened to me on my way to the Colosseum, so to speak.

And maybe I’ll finish it off as a trilogy, novelizing my unfortunate incarceration.  8 hours in the clink ought to be worth a few thousand words.

 

Posted in songs to learn and sing

The Wedding Album


I wouldn’t call myself a music buff at all. I know what I know, and I like what I like, and that’s that. I couldn’t tell you Green Day from that band that sang the song about the old people disappearing without their car–apparently I can’t tell you they are either. Some baseball reference. I dunno. I can tell you all about James Bond, if you are interested, but I can only tell you about music as it relates to me. And since this is my blog…

There are songs and whole albums which have made great impressions and impacts on my life. Some albums carried me through heartbreak. Some songs became my theme songs in my personal soundtrack. I play certain music to help me get into certain characters. Listen, I have been cranky as a bear all morning (ask Amy), and I started playing Chic and now I’m just back to normal. Happy. Bouncy. Shaking my booty.

You know that Dance Like No One is Watching thing? My motto is Dance Like No One is Laughing. I don’t care if you watch, or if you like what you see. I’m not dancing for you. I’m dancing for me!

Since I’ve told you some of my New York story, I’ll tell you the album I relate to it.

Before heading up to the Big Apple for the first time, a friend passed along a bootleg copy of an album that would become Duran Duran’s Wedding Album. At the time, it was under the working title Four on the Floor. It ranks in my top 3 of their albums, and you all know they are in my top 3 favorite bands of all time. You’ve all heard Ordinary World and Come Undone, but that album also offered Love Voodoo, which is such a dirty groove…lol. Another one of my favorites.

I can listen to that album on repeat with no issue. It is a lovely, lovely and also a dirty, dirty funk album, with some grit to it. It’s like a Ducati. It’s sleek, and it’s dangerous, you want to get on it and fly, and when you get off, you’re going to be a little grimy, but you don’t care. It is worth every bug in your teeth. It is the absolute antithesis of Pop Trash, which is probably one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard.

Anyway, I spent a lot of time in NYC, sitting on a fire escape, listening to the pre-cursor to this album. Ordinary World comes on, and I am transported. I had some Chanel liquid liner, and a bottle of Revlon’s Raven Red nail varnish. I would sit on the fire escape painting my nails and trying to accomplish the perfect cat eye, and I would watch the street go by below me. The weather was awful. It was hot, and humid, and the sky was always kind of gray. And I was in love with a city for the first time in my life.

The Wedding Album is married to NYC in my mind, and when I was up there in January, all I could hear was Breath after Breath. And I was happy.

Posted in The New York Story

Rent


In 1992, I was living in a 720 square foot apartment in a prime neighborhood, paying $400 a month in rent, all utilities included.  Well, not electric, which I found out the hard way, but everything else was paid.  My experience in apartment hunting consisted of visiting several complexes with my mother, hoping on the back of a golf cart, and being squired around fabulously furnished apartments by overly tanned, too-thin women in coral colored lipstick, with huge, honking fake nails done in French manicures, and long, over-sprayed hair, wearing miniskirts and scuffed pumps.  Obviously, I was paying as much attention to the salesgirls as the apartments. 

At the one complex I really loved, the deal breaker was when the elderly wisp of a sales woman (the only sales staff I had seen over the age of 23), was telling us about how secure the complex and apartments were.  To demonstrate, she shouldered the door.  The frame cracked and splintered, and before I could say another word my mother had said, “No thank you,” had me by the arm and was walking me away.

Ultimately, I found my ceiling to floor mirrored 1/1/wwd unit, signed the papers and started moving in the next morning.  No fuss.  So imagine my surprise at, first of all, the size and state of New York City real estate, and then the costs related to renting, and the trauma that can be apartment hunting in that city.

Not all of my visit with Isabella was eventful.  I did spend a lot of time napping, or painting my nails and toenails Revlon’s Raven Red, listening to music, and trying out new-to-me restaurants, but the apartment hunt was an adventure.  Using my hotel room at the Paramount as a home base (and happily sharing the cost of staying there because the girl was no mooch) Isabella and I embarked on a quest.

I learned about doorman apartments, walk-ups, cold water flats, basement rooms, and went into neighborhoods that make perfect backdrops for current day nightmares.  I came out of the shower one day–the shower!  How have I forgotten to tell you about the bathwater?

Detour from the apartment.

My first night in the Paramount, Isabella had left me alone.  I was gross and sweaty from the day’s adventure, so I started running a bath, happily expecting to soak away my grime in some sweet smelling somethingorother.  I brushed my teeth at the modern, artistically lit sink, feeling a wash of calm. 

I decided I had overreacted about Isabella’s self-description.  I made all kinds of fond excuses for her.  Since retrieving my luggage, we had eaten dinner at the hotel and she had gone (presumably to wherever she had been staying prior to my arrival), leaving me to adjust to the time zone and freshen up.  I was happy with where I had landed, and my vacation was looking up.

I glanced over at the tub and did a double take.  Horror!  The tub wasn’t clean!

I shut off the water quickly, and fished out the plug to let the tub drain, then washed my hands up to my elbow.  I mean that bathwater was brown.  It looked like a creek water, if you’ve ever gotten a container full of that for your tadpoles.  Who knew what had been in that tub.

When it was empty, I took a towel to wipe it down.  The towel came back clean.  I was perplexed.  Maybe the rinse had been all it needed?  Shrugging, I started to fill the tub again.  I walked into the bedroom and watched a little tv, then went back into the bathroom.  Horror!  The tub was dirty!

I did this three times before it occurred to me that there might be a bigger problem.  I filled the sink.  Same thing.  Brown water.  The pipes were dirty!

I called the front desk and explained my situation as sweetly as I could.  After all, it was a nice hotel and I didn’t want to embarrass them about the issue.  I just wanted them to move me into a room with clean pipes.

There was giggling.  I was confused.  I was also a little narrow.  It was important for me to have a bath, I didn’t understand why it was funny.

“I’m so sorry,” the girl stifled her laughter.  “This must be your first visit to The City.  It isn’t the pipes.  It is the water.”

I brayed like Kenneth Parcell having a donkey fit.  “The water?!  The water is brown?”

I’m sure what she heard was, “Heehaw!  Tha waawtah?  Tha waawtah is broawn?!  Heehaw!”

“Yes.  I can assure you that the pipes are clean, the tub is clean, and that the water is supposed to be that color.”

“But waawtah isunht broawn?”

“In New York it is.”

I was dismayed.  She assured me that I could still get clean in dirty water.  I have no idea what that poor girl thought of the moron on the phone with her, but I’m sure she added it to a long list of ridiculous hotel conversations she’d had.  Unhappy, but fairly certain this was going nowhere, I thanked her for her trouble and hung up.

I drew a fourth bath and stood frowning at the tub as the water filled it.  I did take a glass and fill it from the tap and shook my head.  Brown.  Maybe that’s why New Yorkers were such angry people?  They had to drink brown water.

I finally decided that the water couldn’t be any dirtier than I was, and I got into it.  Later, when I crawled into bed, I fully expected to find Lane-sized stains on the sheets the next day.  I didn’t.  I also didn’t take another bath and opted for showers instead.  If I couldn’t see the water concentrated in one place, I could pretend it wasn’t like bathing in the Chatahoochie River.

Isabella got a good laugh out of that.  She also got a laugh out of my amazement that some of the bathrooms in the apartments she was viewing were basically closets with a toilet and a shower head, and a drain in the middle of the floor.  Not like a shower off to the side, either.  The shower head would be facing the toilet an arms-length away on the opposite wall, with a drain in the floor between the two.  I was beginning to appreciate Texas.  We might have talked funny and not been very glamorous, but we had different spaces for showering and peeing, and our water ran clear.

But I was saying that I came out of the shower one day and Isabella said, “I’ve found it!  I found what I want.  Let’s go see it.”

“It” was really gorgeous by any standard.  It was tiny, just 400 square feet, and it was located above the Pink Pussycat, a porno boutique, but it had nearly floor to ceiling windows overlooking the street, and beautiful french doors separating the hardwood living room from the wee bedroom.  The height of the ceilings made the space seem cavernous, and the gaping maw of a fireplace that took up most of the living room wall added to the illusion.  The bathroom was as small as the head in a cruiseship cabin, and the kitchen was only about two feet bigger, but the location was fantastic (down the block from the Record Runner and across from a great Greek restaurant), and the price was right.  Only $1000 a month!

I’m pretty sure Isabella got tired of my Jessica Simpson styled, “Oh mah gaaaaawd!” gaping at the difference in size and price of our domiciles.  I’m still laughing about it, twenty years later.  In fact, twenty years later, with Amy living in Manhattan, I still shake my head at the differences.

Apartment found, now it was time for her to spring the next surprise.  “Okay, so now I’ve got to go get my roommate.”

“What?”

“I need to go home and get my roommate.  You’ll love her.  Her name’s [we’ll call her Jo] and she works for [record store].  She can get you all the free records you want.”

“Where is she?” I wondered.  How far were we going?

“She’s in D.C.”

“D.C.?”

“Yeah, we’ll take the train down and stay with my parents, then we’ll drive back up with Jo.  Unless you want to stay here alone?”

My money was being eaten away by the longer than expected hotel stay, but I couldn’t fathom spending a night in the new apartment alone.  There was a homeless guy who lived on the grate in front of it.  He kind of scared me.  And also, the door had thirty locks on it.  That had to mean something bad.

I agreed to take the train down to D.C., beginning what would be a surreal 48 hours that included drugs (mine were all over the counter), driving, New Jersey, the Limelight, an attempted mugging, and so much Shakespeare’s Sister that I would have punched someone in the mouth for suggesting that we ever listen to them.