Friday, September 18, 2009

Rest area

But the thing about that action, and Queeruption in general, was that it drained me so much that afterwards all I could think about was coke, I mean I thought about coke the whole time but I kept thinking not now, not until afterwards. So afterwards it was time, time for cocktails and coke, for a few weeks that led to a few months I even would carry coke around, do a bump or two while walking around in the East Village and then the lights became softer and brighter at the same time and one time I even did a bump in the bathroom during my queer incest survivors support group. You see how the exhaustion had already started, maybe I didn’t know about the physical pain but I definitely knew about the exhaustion. One time I went over Johanna’s house, she was teaching me how to make borscht, which was pretty much the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted, and just before we sat down to eat I went into the bathroom for a quick bump, did that make the borscht taste better?

So that first Le Tigre show must’ve been right after this coked-out period, or who knows, maybe it was in the middle I mean I definitely wasn’t coked out at the Le Tigre show, it was a different social circle I wasn’t even drinking. But maybe it was the same time period when I kept ending up at the after-hours coke den right around the corner from the Cock, the key with the Cock was just to go right to the backroom, or start dancing and ignore everyone and then it was just perfect-- sex and dancing, what could be better? But usually something else happened like the bathroom and cocktails and the bathroom and by this point I knew the dealer at the Cock but sometimes he wasn’t there and even if he was there I would end up at the after hours coke-den talking to these horrible people, I mean I would get so high I couldn’t speak but it didn’t feel high it just felt like my head was locked and these people were talking and then I needed to do another bump, rush to the bathroom to shit again because of all the laxative in that powder, and then go back to the counter and act like I could listen. Starlight women’s night was better, really kind of like a flashback because here I was again partying with the style-dykes except some of them actually knew who I was outside of this other part of who I was.

At that Le Tigre show Andee said how come you’re not in the slideshow -- I’m not sure how I felt about all those names I mean something was exhilarating but it also felt kind of like cheerleading. Although I was glad Andee was thinking about me: we all want our place in history. But wait -- was Andee at that Le Tigre show, or had he already gone to Montana? We all want our place, maybe that’s what it felt like Le Tigre was trying to create, even if some of their lyrics were a bit on the cheesy side, like “Giuliani, he’s such a fucking jerk.” Still they were trying to express this time in our lives, especially on their second album, an EP, where they started by screaming “get off the Internet -- I’ll meet you in the street,” something I could certainly relate to, and at one point they count off the 41 bullets used to assassinate Amadou Diallo, making a protest chant into a piece of musical documentation, what could be more important? I mean more important for music. I mean they made me think I could make music. At the end of the song, the beats stop and it’s just the counting, that chill in your back until the beginning of the next song, NPR host Leonard Lopate or is it the Talk of the Nation person asking about the future of feminism and the song title tells us all, “They want us to make a symphony out of the sound of women swallowing their own tongues.” We’ve all swallowed, and we’ve all choked. Although the most personal song for me was the final track on the first album, those child’s chimes, nine years old, and Kathleen softly singing about the neighbors playing piano next door, the song that made her think she could escape, that’s the kind of song that I wished I could have heard. We never knew our neighbors, I mean occasionally we saw them when they were looking for their dog.

When I moved back to San Francisco, Le Tigre played right around the corner from my house, this was the height of electroclash and they performed with Chicks on Speed, a band who was becoming part of the art world by satirizing the art world but still they were brilliant and their beats were amazing, to tell you the truth I might’ve been there more for Chicks on Speed than Le Tigre. I can’t remember if this was before or after Le Tigre played at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, which was a big deal because of their womyn born womyn policy or maybe it’s womon born womon or wimmin born womyn, kind of like riot girl versus riot grrl but anyway they excluded anyone else. I mean Riot Girl didn’t, or didn’t necessarily, but the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival did. And right outside was Camp Trans, organized to protest the exclusion, but Le Tigre played inside. I wonder if they even stopped at Camp Trans to say hello, hi, thank you for buying our album.

Back in San Francisco, I remember going downstairs to say hi I mean it probably wasn’t downstairs just backstage which kind of felt like a cave, and the person who I was with, Zee actually, remember him from DC and civil disobedience, later pepper spray, why do you have to be so overt? But anyway, I’d just come from Sugar’s birthday party down the street, I mentioned I was going to Le Tigre and she said oh, how much are tickets? Twenty dollars. And at that she went off, when she was a teenager in Petaluma no not Petaluma, where was she from? Somewhere in the North Bay, or at least North, but anyway she was trying to organize a Bikini Kill show, but Bikini Kill had this rule that they would never do a show for more than five dollars, that was an ethic that a lot of bands from that time held onto, I mean I remember it from Fugazi shows and Sugar couldn’t find an all-ages space cheap enough so they did the show in a field with a generator, they used car headlights to illuminate the not-quite-stage. Santa Rosa, that’s where it was. Anyway, backstage at the Le Tigre show, Zee complimented Kathleen on the slideshow, and Kathleen said oh, we got a new projector, and it was $2000, but we figured we could just raise ticket prices.

Even if you don’t have idols, there are those moments when your idols let you down, like that time when I saw Dorothy Allison read, and I rushed to the front afterwards to be the first person to talk to her, I wanted to tell her how much she meant to me as a queer incest survivor, and she nodded her head but looked right past me to the woman next in line, opened her arms and hugged that woman who she didn’t know any more than she knew me, I didn’t mean anything because I wasn’t one of those women.

But what about those moments when someone else’s idols let you down? When I lived in Seattle, I never went to Olympia, even though Andee was always trying to get me to go. I didn’t really understand what was in Olympia, except a small town and a bunch of scenesters and I wasn’t interested in either. I was never much of a Courtney Love fan, but when I first heard that song at the end of the first Hole album where she sings, “When I went to school… in Olympia-ah-ah-ah-ah… and everyone’s the same,” I was floored -- it’s pretty much how I felt about Valencia, the epicenter of dyke hipster San Francisco, after I lived in it and it let me down so hard I could never believe in anything calling itself community again, and Valenci-ah-ah-ah-ah sounds as good as the original, right? So maybe that’s why I didn’t want to go to Olympia, it sounded like Valencia.

But here’s what Andee has to say about Kathleen Hanna, and Bikini Kill, and Olympia: they were outwardly expressing my inner emotions, at the world in general, but also at the punk scene -- I was a fag in the punk scene and here were these angry feminists from a small town and I was from a small town and here they were saying exactly what I was feeling. And they were accessible, I used to hear them in basements and for some reason I just loved Kathleen Hanna, she wrote those zines about community as anyone you come into contact with and I was never a fan of people, I mean in high school I was but not after and Kathleen Hanna was an exception.

Me: And what about that zine that Mary made, what was her last name? Andee: I can’t remember. Me: that zine called Rich Girls Make Art, or maybe it was a manifesto -- was it a manifesto, or a zine? Andee: that was a drawing in a zine, a drawing of a knife and on the knife it said, “Rich Girls Make Art,” I think I have that zine somewhere. Me: I’d like to look at it again. Andee: I think it’s in Montana.

Speaking of rich girls making art, in 1992 I drove cross-country in my parents’ cherry red Saab 900S, previously the third car in the hierarchy of the driveway, after the newer, fancier Volvo and newer, fancier Saab pushed the two older cars back, safe cars for your kids to drive and so I drove cross-country except I’m not sure how safe it was. I was by myself the way I always knew I would be, except now I was driving out to meet Laurie, the first person who I trusted I mean finally I’d realized that it was okay to need someone and we were moving to San Francisco for the summer, just the summer we said that we knew better. We didn’t know, but we knew.

We made a list of all the cities that sounded interesting, cut out the ones on the East Coast because they were too close and even Toronto or Chicago didn’t sound that far, decided against Mexico City because we didn’t speak Spanish, and then we just had to decide between Seattle and San Francisco, Laurie always liked flipping coins to make big decisions. But driving across was a different story, I kept getting so tired that I would see myself falling off the road I mean I wouldn’t see myself until I was falling and then I had to swerve back. Coffee and NoDoz and a few stops to stay with the parents of people I didn’t know that well, or didn’t know at all because it was Laurie who knew someone not me but I tried to pretend anyway and there was this one rest area where I remember stopping, turned up my music to dance which was how I stretched, took some trash out of the car and then this attendant came out of the rest area with rubber gloves going up to his elbows, pulled my trash out of the trash can and put it in a separate bag, a blue bag like maybe you would use for something bloody in a hospital and then he looked at me and said: if you don’t leave now, I’m going to call the cops. What do you mean, I said -- isn’t this a rest area, I’m resting! He said: if you don’t leave now, I’m going to call the cops.

But then there were the girls who would stop and say: I like your hair! I think that was at Little America. I was working the goth bob except it was magenta, dark tulip I think the label said, and then in the back the shaved part was fluorescent green, green apple. Or, when I got a flat tire in the middle of Kansas, a flat tire that I had no idea how to change, some guy actually stopped his truck and helped me. Then there was a rest area in Wyoming or not quite a rest area but this abandoned store where you could buy gas except there wasn’t any gas so I went inside for coffee or Trident, back then I chewed a lot of Trident, I could eat a whole pack of 18 pieces in an hour on my way out these guys behind me said: should we fuck him first, or kill him? Later, I remember looking at those crazy plateaus in the desert, mountains that just ended and I thought they couldn’t possibly be real, someone was hiding something. But I wasn’t hiding, that was the good part.


Jory M. Mickelson said...

One of my favorite moments in Missoula (sounds like a tea doesn't it?) was being one of a handful of boys at a Bikini Kill concert.

Me and my friend Tommy were the only girly-queer boys and we hung out with them after the show for a bit. I know exactly what you mean about identification...

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

That sounds like a cute moment -- and I like tea, I do!!!

My friend Andee grew up in Missoula and then went back for a while, I wonder if he went to that show...

Love --

Colouring Outside The Lines said...

To read this means *the most* to me

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Oh, thank you thank you thank you, Melanie!

Love --