Nude lady on a mountain with a red robe and fallen head.One of my first songs, with their hyper-simplistic Grandma Moses sensibilities.

I used to write a lot of “free love” type songs, because I had just gotten divorced and had a lot of personal experience with the opposite of free love. I had learned that being married to someone meant they could pretty much treat you anyway they wanted, without consequences. My husband liked to give me what he called “Ego Bats” which were basically insults that he would randomly scream out in public, designed to keep my ego in check for the purpose of spiritual growth.

But the ego bats were not all that bad, because at least they were swift and merciful. Usually, the screamings would go on for hours, beginning in a public place until I would leave to escape the humiliation and he would follow me. It would always be the most bizarre and inconsequential things that would set him off, like whether fruit punch tasted like grape juice, or could I wear white socks with a black dress. The yelling was unbearable. Once I managed to climb into his car and lock the doors before he could get in. I sat in the car for a couple hours while he screamed and threw himself against the windows. Those hours are burned into my memory because they were so safe and peaceful, like watching a polar bear in the zoo.

But normally, I didn’t dare to lock him out. I didn’t know what to do. I started painting a giant black eagle on my face every morning. I don’t know why, it was my way of protesting against him, I guess. It stretched all the way from my forehead to my chin and across my face. Maybe it was a cry for help, but if so, it didn’t work. I don’t recall anyone asking me, “Hey, why did you decide to start painting a giant black eagle on your face?” even though I kept it up for a whole semester.

Besides the screaming, the other horrible part was the brain twistings… he would require me to believe the most ridiculous things– that the moon was just 20 miles from the earth, that classy ladies wore “cutaway tops” (shirts with the center part cut out, leaving their chests exposed), that he had just traveled through a space-time warp (space-time warps came up a lot). If I didn’t accept these truths, well, then it was back to the screaming part.

Which is all to say that free love seemed like a pretty good deal to me, considering what I knew to be the alternative.

Download MP3: Love It Ain’t No Real Estate

A Fool is a Tool

28 May
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Fiesta self-portrait. Julien in studio.Another one of my first “Dusty Stables” songs that would have been lost to the sands of time if James hadn’t pulled up the lyrics on his computer the other day…

This may be the only song I’ve ever written that is intended to convey a positive message…

well, I guess it is not so much a positive message as a desperate question…

I wrote this song after having to declare bankruptcy from making a series of outrageous purchases, ranging from $500 garbage cans to $5000 shirts in an effort to achieve financial stability via the law of attraction. Really, I think I had suffered a financial break with reality when I got married and had to assume my husband’s six-figure debt, something that seemed soul crushing given my $20,000 yearly income. Not to mention that he wanted Porsche’s and caviar and fine dining experiences and it seemed that his spirit would leave this earth if I could not find a way to provide them…

I suppose I could be grateful that my desperation drove me towards the purple end of the insanity spectrum (fantastical thinking) rather than the red and black end of crime and violence.

I remember having to go to court to declare bankruptcy… I was so scared and my legs were shaking… it seemed impossible to go through with it. But in the end the judge was a light & cheery man who just said, “Oh you’re an artist. Well, great! You’re free to go. Keep up the good work!” It felt like he was congratulating me. Sometimes I really love California.

 

Download MP3: A Fool Is a Tool

 

Town Widow

27 May
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Woman in coat in front of cityscape. Charcoal.Ok, I had to take a break for a few days, because it was becoming too painful to revisit my earliest songs… sometimes they bring up memories that are too much to bear. Anyway, this is another one of my first songs which were all about my love for Dusty Stables. How could I have been in love with someone who had the same hair color as me? How could I have been in love with a tall skinny guy*? Looking back, none of it makes sense.

 

Download MP3: Town Widow

 

*No offense… it is just that I perceive tall skinny men as being dreamers** and less likely to enjoy moving heavy crates from place to place. I may be wrong.

**Not that there is anything wrong with being a dreamer, but when you’ve spent the last six months trying to grow wings (literally), a dreamer shouldn’t be what you’re looking for.

 

 

Genevieve with cigarette and straw hat.This song makes me miss Kentucky!

City people are different from the rest of us, because they feel they have options. Their minds are in two places at once- half on what they are doing, and half on all the other things they COULD be doing. In the country you think, “Yay, I have a husband, and he is way better than nothing!” but in the city you might think, “Hmmm… could I be kissing Rod Hotwings right now if I weren’t tied down to this guy?”

To make matters worse, cities lead to hierarchies, so it’s not just that you could be with someone different, you could be with someone better. Someone richer, funnier, more metrosexual… Whereas in the country, people see themselves more as puzzle pieces. When two puzzle pieces fit together, you know things are as good as they’re going to get.

Download MP3: Love It Don’t Grow on No Trees

Little Star

16 Apr
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Little Bun comes to America. Holds a Louisville Slugger.

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.

 

 

Download MP3: Little Star

Tween Times

15 Apr
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Justin Levine, Black on Black, Los AngelesYet 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.

Download MP3: Tween Times

Incompetent Fool

14 Apr
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Confederate relaxes by playing SenorAround 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.

 

Download MP3: Incompetent Fool

Dusty Stables

11 Apr
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self-portrait in overalls

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.

 

Download MP3: Dusty Stables

 

self-portrait in charcoal with blinds and mysterious figure

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.

Download MP3: Black Hearted Life

Shy

6 Apr
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Julien in blue studio with bandana, mirror, and paintings. Self-portrait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Download MP3: Shy

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