I saw a tv show about an olympic skier who had been injured in a traumatic accident. Although he had recovered physically and was in better shape than ever before, his coach feared he could never be a champion again, because there would always be a slight hesitation, an underlying fear, that would keep him from making the bold and risky moves of his past as freely as he once had.
I wonder a lot if it is possible in life to go back to the beginning… to be truly optimistic, soft, and unscarred after traumatic experiences. Can a person coax their spirit back into their body once it has flown away?
I wrote this song on the day I finally moved into my own apartment after separating from my husband… what a happy day… free at last…
It would have been better if I had sworn off men altogether and become a sister-is-doing-it-for-herself type of lady, but I had no plans to stay single for even a week- I had my heart set on falling in love, as soon as possible, with the most boring and normal man in the world… I wanted someone dry, dull and left-brained, someone who drank coffee and read the paper with breakfast, preferably while wearing spectacles, someone who discussed subjects so uninteresting I would fall asleep listening to him.
And that was a good idea, I think. I still love boring, factual coffee-drinkers of all genders. They are comforting and remind me of my favorite breakfast food, toast. But in a city of illusions, appearances can be deceptive. You never know whose glasses are prescription, and whose are just plain glass. And a week is really not enough time to separate the dullards from the perverts in disguise.
Yet another song of unrequited love for Dusty Stables. Unrequited love used to the dominant feature of my internal life. I would always be madly in love with someone I had never met, and my passion would grow and grow until one day fate would arrange for me to meet my true love and then bam! a split end on one of his hairs, or a crumb stuck to the side of his shoe would cause my love to vanish in an instant.
In high school I was madly in love with Bono, for example, until one day some girls brought a big book of U2 pictures to school. I opened the book to see a big close-up picture of my dream man, so close up I could see the whiskers growing out of his pores and a whisp of smoke curling around a skin flake on his lips. I shut the book quickly, but it was too late, the love bubble had popped. While Bono remained a potential candidate for husband, I now realized I should probably consider other people as well.
With Dusty Stables, I don’t think I ever got close enough to see his pores. Instead, I moved to a new apartment which would have required me to walk two extra blocks to see him at the coffee shop. I guess that was when my enthusiasm started to dampen and I decided I needed to find a new meaning for my life.
Around the time I wrote this song, I had read that there are nine types of people which fall into three basic categories: heroes, villains, and fools. I figured I didn’t have the strong character of a hero, and I definitely lacked the balls to be a villain, so I must be a fool.
The fools were divided into three unappealing categories: incompetents, weaklings, and braggarts.
I didn’t think I was a braggart, so I had to decide if I was a weakling or an incompetent. I chose incompetent. In retrospect, I wonder why I didn’t choose weakling. Probably because I still saw myself as an Arnold Schwarzennagarish sort of figure.
In college, I had gone through a phase where my dream was to be a professional body builder. I subscribed to body building magazines, read everything Scwarzennegar had written, and spent all my free time PUMPING IRON and eating high protein snacks. I would even write Arnold letters asking for tips (he never wrote back). In my mind, I looked like a slightly smaller version of those hulking humanoids in the muscle magazines.
My self-image was altered a bit when- after a whole summer devoted to eating and lifting weights- a professor used me as an example to the class of a body type that would never be able to gain muscle mass. If the world couldn’t see my muscles by now, I wasn’t sure they ever would. I decided I needed a new career path and settled on professional pool player.
But the image of myself as a slightly smaller version of Arnold lingered for years like a twisted version of anorexia. Which is why I couldn’t be a weakling fool and had to be an incompetent one.
I got married (the first time) because God told my husband-to-be that I had to. This wasn’t the first time God had spoken to this man (let’s call him John). It started when God told John he had been appointed as my spiritual guide. Next, God told John I needed to give John my two favorite shirts. One for John to keep and one for John to give to a girl he liked (we’ll call her Sally). This hurt, because I really liked those two shirts, and I didn’t see why a man would want to wear purple velvet anyway.
After that, things started to snowball rapidly. I had to tell my friends I was in love with him (for complex spiritual reasons that I cannot remember). I had to go on a spiritual retreat with him. He drove me to Michigan which turned out to be where his parents lived and I was introduced to them as his girlfriend. I was horrified but didn’t know how to contradict him. Before he drove me home I was required to be engaged to him. Because God had needed me- as part of the spiritual retreat- to see him naked, and now that I had seen him naked his spirituality required him to marry me.
This was horrifying. I was a student and the very idea of seeing whiskers from up-close was still revolting to me. Plus, I had been hoping to marry Bono one day and live with him in his castle. But I didn’t know what to do. I tried to hide my ring finger because I felt so ashamed. But people would see the ring and congratulate me. I couldn’t tell anyone how I felt. So many people were fiercely loyal to him and no one cared about me in more than a “hey, let’s go to a party together” way.
And then, once we were engaged, John told me he had to give Sally a naked massage for existential reasons.
When I was living in Gomorrah (Beverly Hills), a friend and I went out to for a drink. She was an unnaturally wise friend, and as we were walking to the bar she kept instructing me “Just say no. Whatever the question is, the answer is no.” Next thing I remember, I was drunk and hungry and a nice man was inviting us to his house for some homemade pasta with a little side of cocaine. But thanks to my friend’s brainwashing, “no” was the first word that came out of my mouth. I had always been more of a “yes” person and it was a magical moment for me to view life from the other side of the coin.
I think we are all either “yes” people or “no” people, having one of these words set in our minds as a default when we are too tired, stressed, or drunk to think. But in the war between yeses and nos, I now try to plant myself firmly on the side of the nos, because really there are only a few things in life you need to say yes to, but a never-ending stream of things you need to reject. Or as my husband tells me every morning “Broad and spacious is the path leading to destruction.”
This is the first song I ever wrote. Well, actually, it is the second song, but the first song is called The Mailman and possibly too perverted to share.
I was a painter living in Los Angeles when I got the feeling it was time for me to do something new, although I wasn’t entirely sure what. The best way to figure out, I decided, would be to spend 5 whole days being drunk. Which was a little bit challenging since the combination of alcohol and sunshine has always made me queasy and L.A. is a very sunny place. It also meant I would have to navigate the city on drunk feet for a few days.
But luckily, it only took a couple of days for the answer to arrive in a flash of certainty- I was going to be a musician! I had always known I was going to become a musician SOMEDAY. In fact, I had already bought myself a little $30 guitar so I would be ready when the time came.
The first dozen or so songs I wrote were all about my unrequited love for the sophisticated & urbane Dusty Stables. I was living in L.A. and had just been evicted, divorced, and forced to give Pablito and Eekeleedee (my parakeets) up for adoption. I was moving into a 100 square foot apartment with no means of support other than selling paintings. I had no car and all in all my survival skills were iffy.
But Dusty Stables was (in my mind) a true city slicker. He wore sunglasses (I have always admired people who wear sunglasses), and black clothes, something that men in Kentucky never do. The omnipresence of his laptop and phone combined with his height and sharp features to give him a comforting, robotic quality. I felt he would have an easier time navigating the complexities of city life than your average meat ball. And on top of it all, he seemed nice.
This was the first song I performed publicly. I had just started playing guitar and writing songs a week earlier, so even under ideal circumstances it was a struggle to get through a song. Still, I was under so much pressure regarding what I was doing with my life, that I didn’t feel I could afford to wait any longer before beginning my new career. But I had no idea how nerve-wracking performing before an audience could be. I especially didn’t realize that nerves could cause my arms and legs to jerk around in large spastic movements completely beyond my control.
So, my “performance” was pretty much a complete disaster, and when you throw in my painter’s overalls, gigantic pink checkered shirt, and tiny half-sized child’s guitar, the whole scene must have looked strangely pathetic. Still, people loved me, because there is nothing better than watching someone convulse uncontrollably on stage. No amount of skill and professionalism can match the thrill of watching nature have it’s way with a person despite their best attempts to stop it.
This is kind of from my “who needs men” songwriting phase. I’ve always admired women with a ‘who needs men’ attitude, although in reality I’ve never been one. Even when I wrote this song, although I was single, I was still dependent on various men for various things like money, food, housing, laundry, transportation, friendship, guitar tunings, advice and approval. But I didn’t feel I was getting these things for free. I felt I was paying top dollar, trading little pieces of my soul for little pieces of safety.
That’s why “man hating feminists” seem heroic to me, not because I think there is anything particularly hateful about men, but because it’s such a bold move to say “Screw you men! I’m opening this jar for myself!” I put them in the same category as people who live off the grid or swim with piranhas for fun. People eager to sacrifice comfort and safety for crazy independence and adventure. Sassy, brassy ladies with nerve. I wish at least a tiny piece of their nerve would rub off on me.