Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Davy Jones: In Memoriam 1945-2012

For being a member of what was called the "Pre-Fab Four," a take-off of the Beatles during the "Hard Day's Night" flavoring, Davy Jones could beat a tambourine and dance around better than most of the 60's pop generation. Alas, today we say a sudden, unexpected farewell to Davy, who passed away from a massive heart attack at age 66. For me, even when I saw him in person, Davy will always be that youthful, boyish Brit with the smooth voice and groovy bell-bottoms.

The television show was an immediate hit in 1966 when it first hit the air. The show wasn't your typical sitcom. It was slapstick, original, witty and the musical interludes were more than entertaining. The Monkees quickly became pop culture icons and found themselves with enough street credibility in the United States to actually become FRIENDS with the Beatles, one of my favorite moments being Michael Nesmith (and perhaps Micky Dolenz, I don't remember) attending the monumental recording of The Beatles' "A Day in the Life" from the "Sgt. Pepper" album. I have a picture of Lennon and Nesmith sitting beside one another and another one of Harrison and Lennon chewing the fat that just warm my heart.

I give The Monkees a lot of credit for escaping their pre-fabrication and fake-band image by releasing later albums that weren't governed by Colgems Records (a division of the production team of the accompanying television show) and irritating, controlling record producer Don Kirshner. When you think about it, yes, the Monkees were a fake pop band when they started out, with only Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith as the "real musicians" in the group, who's musical abilities were largely ignored in favor of them being replaced by studio musicians early on, but then they sort of got all punk on the music business, lobbied and won to fire Kirshner and took over creative control of all of their music, starting with the release of their first real album, "Headquarters" in 1967. That same year, they'd release one of my favorite albums of all-time, "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, Ltd."

The Monkees also deserve credit for introducing pop culture to performers at the ending of several shows who would ultimately become iconic in their own fields, such as the late folk singer Tim Buckley, playwright and musician Charlie Smalls, who wrote the musical "The Wiz," and my favorite Monkee moment, Frank Zappa (before the Mothers really hit it big) and Michael Nesmith in a vignette pretending to be one another, after which they were shown smashing up an old car with giant hammers and called it "playing a car." That's just brilliant!

The television show and massive, crazy tours (liken it to screaming Beatlemania) would last merely from 1966-1968, when, during a world tour, someone had the EXTREMELY POOR idea of hiring a young Jimi Hendrix to be the opening act for this pop band. His sexual overtones and heavy acid rock flavors didn't taste good on the tongues of the largely youthful audience at a Monkees concert.

Nesmith would regale in later interviews that all the screaming girls would shout out "DAVY!" when Hendrix would try to sing the "FOXY!" part of "Foxy Lady." Very early on in the tour, Hendrix would ultimately give the screaming the crowd the finger and he quit the tour.

Burnout and in-house conflict between the members (Tork being the first to leave the group), and malaise after their psychedelic failure of a feature film, "Head," would bomb and ultimately pare down the foursome to a trio, then a duo (Jones and Dolenz hung on until the bitter end). It's a shame that "Head" didn't get the credit it deserved, even if it was written in a hotel room with a very young Jack Nicholson, everybody smoking pot and poor publicity since the TV show was cancelled in 1968. Just 2 seasons of the show, I *think* 48 or 58 episodes in all, which thankfully I now own all of on DVD.

"Head" remains one of my favorite movies of the 60's. It was The Monkees' last chance to exert themselves as serious artists, and has a great soundtrack, even if the plot was choppy and their entire purpose was to dissect and kill their fluffy pop band image, rebelling against corporate music. It's not every day when you find Annette Funicello and Frank Zappa in the same flick, you know?

My first exposure to The Monkees was when I was 4 years old. (I had the unusual memory to learn songs and remember words and musical groups even back then.) I went to a garage sale with my mom and bought a beat up copy of their second album, "More of the Monkees" (1966) for like a nickel. AT THE TIME, anyway, I took a pen and inked out the faces of every other Monkee except Davy Jones, who as, well, a pre-schooler, I thought was the cute one. Come on, I *liked* all of them, but what would compel me to black out all of the faces except for Davy's?

Soon, though, I dumped Davy for Michael Nesmith, ol' "Wool Hat." (I guess Davy was simply too young, short and fresh-faced for my tastes by the time I turned 6 or something.) Michael Nesmith was the first celebrity I wanted to marry when I was a little girl.

My brother and I would watch Monkees reruns EVERY day. We knew all the songs, knew the dialogue of the shows, and then as years went on, they sort of went off the air and off the musical radar until a comeback tour was announced in 1986, with The Monkees making an appearance together (with Nesmith) in Los Angeles for a one-nighter reunion of the original 4 of them.

Nesmith would bow out of the comeback tour (his mom having invented Liquid Paper and him having a load of cash and not to mention, he was too intellectual and had his own projects on which he was working...), leaving Davy, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork to perform as a trio. I saw this concert at the (former) Rosemont Horizon in Chicago, as they headlined, backed by Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits and Gary Puckett. The Monkees stole the show, however, and that was when the new wave of Monkeemania hit the world. I fell in love with all-things-Monkee all over again, even if it wasn't the cool thing in high school (but come on, I liked INXS before the world had heard of them in high school, so I was both ahead and behind my time).

Tours would continue with the trio over the next few years, one memorable one I saw with Weird Al as the opening act during the summer out in Tinley Park (whatever incarnation of that venue was called at the time, I don't remember). Davy, Micky and Peter released an album of all new songs, called "Pool It" that was well-received but in hindsight not very good (from a critical standpoint). To me, anyway, "Pool It" was a back step into unoriginal, flaky pop that wasn't awesome the way their other songs were awesome.

In 1996, the complete original lineup (including Nesmith) would gather together and record one last original album, "Justus." Critically slammed, sort of banal and by that time, the 60's weren't the cool thing anymore. Remember, in the 90's, the 70's were resurrected as the "it" decade to trend along with. (What a scary thought. Does that mean in 2012, we're now idolizing musicians from the 90's? Heaven help me!)

I had the extreme pleasure of meeting and chatting up the late Davy Jones twice in the late 80's (look, we both had mullets!) when he was doing book signings and appearances for his autobiography, "They Made a Monkee Out of Me." I was a 15/16-year old Monkeemaniac, also a Beatlemaniac, and loved all classic rock/pop, though I wasn't above listening to and enjoying The Cure, REM and college rock bands too.

I knew Davy was short, having known he was a horse jockey for many years, and having seen him onstage, but I couldn't get over how much shorter he was than I was. He was delightfully smiley, took his time with all the fans and posed for hundreds of pictures along with nutty teens like me and women (chiefly) who were caught up in Monkeemania in the 60's.

"Justus" and a made-for-television special that all 4 members participated in was truly the group's last hurrah and final chance to hit it big again, but timing and quality of product eluded them. The trio went on another tour, in which Nesmith chose not to participate. That said, their legacy and contribution to popular music all over the world is an indelible imprint.

After I got the 2 seasons of the show on DVD, Luke would watch them with enthusiastic curiosity and he enjoyed them very much when he was younger. Luke was also saddened today when I gave him the news on the car ride home that Davy Jones had passed away.

(Apart from meeting Davy, my other personal Monkee connection is work I did on Michael Nesmith's first beta incarnation of his online web-world community, Videoranch ( Videoranch was looking for people willing to critique and help Nesmith launch his web-world, and I emailed his wife my resume with what I must say, woot to me, was the most well-crafted cover letter I've ever written. Nesmith's reaction when his wife (also his working partner) showed it to him was "Call her first. Call her NOW." We never met in person, but Nesmith was the first person to give me advice about stage fright when I first joined my band in '06. He's a helluva guy too. I'd still marry him.)

Forgiving and forgetting the group's inner conflicts and appreciating the time Jones and Nesmith grew together are evident in the comment Papa Nez (as he's called) published on Videoranch today after hearing the news that Davy died.

I loved his written tribute:

"From Nez..... "All the lovely people. Where do they all come from? So many lovely and heartfelt messages of condolence and sympathy, I don’t know what to say, except my sincere thank you to all. I share and appreciate your feelings. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. While it is jarring, and sometimes seems unjust, orstrange, this transition we call dying and death is a constant in the mortal experience that we know almost nothing about. I am of the mind that it is a transition and I carry with me a certainty of the continuity of existence. While I don’t exactly know what happens in these times, there is an ongoing sense of life that reaches in my mind out far beyond the near horizons of mortality and into the reaches of infinity. That David has stepped beyond my view causes me the sadness that it does many of you. I will miss him, but I won’t abandon him to mortality. I will think of him as existing within the animating life that insures existence. I will think of him and his family with that gentle regard in spite of all the contrary appearances on the mortal plane. David’s spirit and soul live well in my heart, among all the lovely people, who remember with me the good times, and the healing times, that were created for so many, including us. I have fond memories. I wish him safe travels."

(Nesmith was best friends with the late science fiction writer Douglas Adams, what do you expect?) If only we all had such a beautiful conception of the frailty of mortality and the force of the soul in the universe.

Today is sorrow-filled for family, friends and fans of Davy Jones. I posted the whimsical "Daydream Believer" on my Facebook, because Davy just shines in that video clip as a front man. But for now, quietly, I'll say goodbye to one of my childhood idols with this melancholy track from "Headquarters," called "Shades of Gray."

"But today there is no day or night. Today there is no dark or light. Today there is no black or white. Only shades of gray...."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What Craig Should've Done 5 Years Ago

My ex-husband, who watched this clip, wouldn't dream of putting a gun to me for my ill-fated bad behavior during our marriage of 11 years. He's not that type of guy, for one thing. He's a pacifist. Whether he likes to admit it or not, and he always gets embarrassed when I blog about him, there's still love there and Craig is a total gentleman. Always has been. This happens to be the only Jimi Hendrix song that I actually don't mind listening to....

Monday, February 27, 2012

Holy Shit.

The idea is you're supposed to be able to look at this image without it moving. I can't do it, with or without my glasses on. I get closer to it not moving without my glasses on. Is that because of astigmatism or insanity? Take a look at it and see if you can see it without it moving. This is whoa-hella-cool.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

On What Would've Been George Harrison's 69th Birthday...

I finally did it. Thursday night, my Tatus and I went to The Tattoo Factory in Uptown (Chicago) to get my dream tattoo, the Hindu "OM" and the Christian cross, as drawn by George Harrison underneath his signature (autograph, if you will, on the cover of his last album, "Brainwashed," see blog "Cuts You Up").

It's on my right wrist, the same arm I used to cut methodically and pathologically when I was acutely insane and not medicated.

In researching my tattoo, I wondered and actually marveled at the sight of the Christian cross next to the Hindu "OM" in George's signature, given George split from the Catholic church as a young man and converted to Hinduism, which he practiced for decades. It made me wonder, "Could George have embraced Christianity before he died?" and I found numerous web sources that point towards this theory. The cover of "Brainwashed" wasn't the first place I'd seen Harrison sign his name with both an OM and a cross in the years prior to his death.

Attempting to explain to my fellow practicing Christian friends and family, I had to explain my understanding of the "OM" and what it meant to ME and why I chose to use a symbol of Hinduism in my tattoo. Few understood or accepted it. To me, the OM is chosen as a mantra in Hindu chanting so much because it is the sound from which all other sounds originate, and represents the soul's unity with God, connection to God. I'm a practicing Christian, however, hence the cross beside it. Many Christians are aghast, like my mother, son and brother. They don't understand that symbolism is very important to me; representation of my feelings and ideas and credos via visible or emoted illustration is my thang.

My personal experience with wondering if Harrison was beginning to accept other faiths goes back to 1992, during his tour of Japan on a double bill with Eric Clapton. When he sang "My Sweet Lord," after the chants to the various Hindu gods, he sang "Om Christ" and "Om Buddha." (I apologize that there's no video of it online and I just have it on my iTunes; otherwise, I'd provide it as an example.)

A biography of The Beatles was written by author Bob Spitz (page 567) in recent years that claimed the following about Harrison's lifestyle during his final years:

"Later in life, he would become a vegetarian, consult an astrologer, and devote himself to Transcendental Meditation before embracing traditional Christianity."

When questioned as to the source of this information, Spitz claimed that he couldn't divulge the source per an agreement with the Harrison estate. What's a little off-kilter is that George became vegetarian WAY earlier than towards the end of his life. Of that much I am certain.

I came across this guy Bob's blog that says essentially the same information I just shared, which can be found at

His blog was from 2007, 6 years after the former Beatle passed away. (I found his blog whilst looking for a larger picture of the "Brainwashed" cover for my tattoo artist.) Certainly, the songs on "Brainwashed" contain references to both Christianity and Hinduism, and I must say I like the opening track, "Any Road," which ends the last verse with "Bow to God and call him 'Sir' but if you don't know where you're going, any road'll take you there."

To me, anyway, that implies that Harrison had found validity in other world religions, including Christianity, though he still held tight to his Hindu beliefs, which is fine by me.

The "Brainwashed" album was a collection of songs he wrote over the course of the last decade of his life, so his lyrics and songs are as varied in their praises as the choice of dishes at a Lutheran potluck. "P2 Vatican Blues (Last Saturday Night)" glibly odes his lapsed Catholicism, "Pisces Fish" mentions the Pope, various songs mention God or the gods while the title track ends with a lengthy Hindu chant. Other songs reference God in a more discreet fashion, as opposed to tracks from earlier in George's career. Harrison's faith is all over the map on this record and it's hard to pinpoint exactly what his beliefs were. Ultimately, though, "if you don't know where you're going, any road'll take you there."

Perhaps Harrison converted over to Christianity or at least thought he'd give it a try before he died out of a "Holy shit, what if *I* was wrong and *they* were right? If so, and I've got this tumor in my brain and I'm going to die and I'm a practicing Hindu, I'm up the creek without a paddle." One thing is for sure: George Harrison wanted people of all creeds to live in peace and harmony together. We'll never know and the Harrison estate isn't about to divulge such a personal detail about George, nor should they feel compelled to.

The bottom line, as you're well aware from my previous blogs regarding religion, is that we'll never know until we die what becomes of our soul. We can believe all we want to believe in Christ or Buddha or the Hindu gods, but as I've said before, until someone can prove me otherwise, which is humanly impossible, we choose to embrace whatever faith works for us. Harrison was a perfect example of that in his life. He frequently said, and his widow, Olivia, regaled it in the HBO documentary about George, "Living in the Material World," that George essentially spent his whole adult life preparing himself for what would become of his soul after he died.

My prayer for George is that his soul is resting peacefully. Do I hope, as a Christian, that he accepted Christ as his Savior? Yes. Do I believe he's in Heaven? Yes. I know wherever George's soul might be, he's found harmony with God because he worked so damn hard to get it.

Am *I* going to Hell because I have an OM on my wrist? No.

George, we wish to God you were still around amazing us with your creativity, spirituality and offbeat personality. We miss you and love you. All of us, your fans, across the globe.

From "Stop the Violence Against Women and Children" on Facebook...

Abusers are NEVER what they appear to be....
They are contradictory by nature:
~The perpetrator can be (and often is) someone who most people think is one of the nicest people they know.
~Not all drug addicts or alcoholics perpetrate abuse.
~Just because somebody is well educated does not mean they are not abusive.
~Abusers come from all socio-economic groups: poor, middle class AND rich people can be perpetrators of abuse.
~Guilt cannot be determined or dismissed by whether a person is religious or not: their actions may contradict their religious beliefs.
~Similarly, a lack of faith (atheism) does not equal a lack of morals or absence of emapthy.
~Not all violence is conspicuous- Some abusers may seem to be placid and passive. Many abusers use indirect threats and degrading analogies to instill fear and erode self-confidence, rather than simply using their fists.
~Just because someone is angry a lot doesn't mean they are violent or abusive. In fact, most abusers do not need "anger management" (though they may claim to). WHY? An abuser is not an abuser because he has chronic anger - he has chronic anger because he is an abuser. Abusers do not "lose control" in anger when they abuse others - they use anger to maintain control and continue their abuse.
~Looks can definitely be deceiving: Just as we cannot judge someone for their looks, we also cannot judge them by their presentation: not all abusers wear a suit, and many victims have tattoos.
~The sweetest looking people may be far from innocent, and the meanest looking people are not always culprits: The huge, hairy, scary looking biker over the road is a friend of mine, and is one of the least offensive people I know: his wife of many years confirms all the time that he is the sweetest, most caring partner; his 3 boys are confident, polite, caring, kind to others and verbally assertive, as is his wife: he is a fantastic father and husband. The lawyer who lives next door to him however? Well, we all worry about his wife....

OK so we know that abusers are NEVER what they appear to be, but how do they do it? Answer = Power!
One of the hardest things to comprehend about domestic violence is the power factor: the power the perpetrator has over the victim! The bruises that you may or may not see and the bangs and crashes and yelling that you hear are usually only the tip of the iceberg. Emotional abuse is the core issue in any form of abuse. Most victims would never tolerate from a stranger the abuse that they endure from a family member or significant other. The emotional hold that perpetrators have over their victim(s) is invisible, both to the victims and to everybody else. That is the power of the perpetrator.

Where's the LIGHT?
As powerful as some bullies, abusers and criminals may be, just like the common or regular bully, abuser or criminal, they fear the Light: they fear exposure and loss of that control that makes them powerful. Take back that control by taking control of your own behavior! Only you can do anything about it. Get help to RESIST. Ask for HELP and INFORMATION!!!!"

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday.

"Dust we are and to dust we shall return." --Genesis 3:19, Psalm 90:3

When I'm an old lady, like 95 years old and still pierced and inked, trotting around (I've told friends already--if I get to the point where I need a walker or a wheelchair, just put me out of my misery and shoot me or let me die of lysteria after drinking out of the Ganges River), and I come to my dying day, my son, at age 12, already knows what to do with me.

I think the above verse, prominent in tonight's Ash Wednesday service, is a FANTASTIC advertisement for the act of cremation, which is my wish. I know I've blogged about this before, and it's doubtful I'll ever change my mind. I don't want a public viewing of my corpse, or a traditional Lutheran funeral...

...unless it's like my late father-in-law's offbeat Presbyterian funeral, which I have on DVD if anyone wants to see it (I should probably give that back to Craig someday if he doesn't already have it). THAT was a send-off, by golly to a guy I loved to, well, DEATH. It was a Dixieland Jazz funeral, and Craig's dad, the late Rev. Dr. J. Gordon Bechtel, was the minister at the church. It was certainly sad and a sudden, an awful loss for our family, but as funerals go, it rollicked. Presbyterians don't do wakes, which was fine by me, as aforementioned. It was upbeat and celebrated the man's life with a delicate mixture of grieving, which was appropriate. But mostly, we celebrated Gordon's life and love and what he contributed to the world. Too many funerals are such downers, ya know?

Luke knows I want a memorial service with lots of music that celebrates who I was in my life. The woman I ultimately became. Filled with people who loved me, people I helped (i.e any of my patients), my grandchildren, anybody whose life I touched in a positive way. Stuff I loved. Bible verses I highlighted in my confirmation Bible. "My Sweet Lord" with the chants to Krishna left in it. Somebody competent to do a drum and percussion solo. Don't send flowers. Donate money to my favorite charities, whatever they may be when I'm an old hag. Don't make casseroles and take them to Luke's house. He's not nuts about casseroles and his wife'll handle it.

I'm learning to slowly shake the deep fear I have that I will die young. I know exactly where it comes from--it's from losing a parent who was young when he died. Losing other loved ones before their time. Losing one of my best friends at age 42 (the same age my dad died, ironically). Enduring poor health. Too much heavy fun, as my ex-junkie friends and I call it. Kate asked me recently how old I want to live to. I told her something like "I dunno, 85-90, something like that." She thought that was a crucial detail in my psychological makeup.

Anyway, tonight, we heard from the Pastor that "Ashes remind us of our human frailty and mortality. You (God) are eternal, but we are limited in our days." That's certainly true, which is why I just wrote the paragraphs above. But, as we learned in church tonight, ashes also remind us of our condemnation for sin (for which we were communally forgiven, woot!), our dependence on God, our humiliation and repentance. The church and Pastor were donned in black--black paremants (those fabric thingys hanging off the altar and pulpit and on Pastor's robe), which I could've sworn in the past (of couse I swore in the past!) were solely used on Good Friday.

We started learning about Jonah, one of God's prophets, whose story I admittedly have forgotten since my days at St. Paul Lutheran School, who's got a whole book of the Bible that I admittedly haven't read in like 30 years. But what I got out of the sermon tonight was that he was kind of a cocky fucktard who ignored God calling to him directly and sat on his big boat and vegged out for a while instead of doing what God wanted him to do. I gathered that he ultimately got cool with God (cool enough to get a book in the Bible), but it was a tough road as a prophet. I'm not a prophet by any stretch, but I ignore God when He's screaming in my face on many an occasion. When he's making things blatantly obvious to me, and I'm off being my own cocky fucktard. Everyone at church calls me Job, the dude who survived immeasurable suffering and pain and never lost his faith in God, and that's sort of me, but the more I learn about Jonah's disposition, the more I relate to him.

The photo above shows the ashes I received tonight at church. I wanted to be in Pastor's line, as there were 2 lines in the front of the church, one with Pastor and one with an Elder of the church. I tried to position myself in Pastor's line but I messed up the whole circus and Luke was like 20 feet ahead of me in the Elder line, and I gave up and got in what I like to call the "Smudge Line." Pastor was imprinting lagniappe crosses on his set of foreheads and I looked like I'd spent the afternoon working at Jiffy Lube. It's semantics, though, as I wasn't up there to "look good," I was there to repent and be humble before God, reminded of all those things I mentioned above. When we got back to the pew, I looked at Luke and Ma, and sure enough, they too had smudges instead of crosses, looking jealously over at Pastor's side of the church. Not only all of that, but I connect with Pastor, and felt it would be more special to get my ashes from him instead of random Mike the Elder who I think is kinda strange.

I texted my Tatus the picture of my smudge, and told him I wondered if the smudge was payback for all the Hindu rantings, chants out loud at home that drive Luke insane, and how I downloaded the Bhagavad Gita onto my smartphone before I downloaded the Holy Bible. Hell, if I was Catholic and ever got to be a patron saint, which would be unlikely since, for starters, I see no point in repetitiously saying Hail Marys in exchange for your forgiveness, I'd probably be the Patron Saint of People Who Uttered The F-Word Too Much and Was Known For Running Out of the Sanctuary Yelling "Hare Krishna!"

What's with Catholic confession, anyway? You confess all the sins you've committed and the priest sits there and ranks them in order of their eminent evilness and then tells you God will forgive you if you say, for example, 14 "Our Fathers" (we call it "The Lord's Prayer") and 128 "Hail Marys" and then your sins will be forgiven. But they rank sins, as if one sin is worse than another. It doesn't matter if you took the Lord's name in vain, committed adultery, ran over a squirrel whilst driving to work and didn't apologize to anyone for it, or if you were John Wayne Gacy. Sin is sin is sin, and, at least we Lutherans, believe that if you truly repent of your sins and honestly ask God's forgiveness, you will receive it, no matter how awful that sin may or may not have been. I just can't wrap my head around that whole bag.

Don't even get me started on the whole concept of KARMA.

So by this time tomorrow, my Tatus by my side, I will have 2 tattoos, one of the Sanskrit symbol of the "OM" and the other, the Christian cross, as I said in the blog "Cuts You Up," drawn by my late favorite artist, George Harrison. Friends, family and fellow Christians (and my brother) are susurrous over the whole OM thing, because the OM is the most important Hindu symbol in their religion, which is why it's used as a mantra by so many Hindus. But to me, it's just something in Sanskrit that means exactly what it means: oneness with God, a connection in your soul with God, and is smaller and more tasteful than tattooing "My soul is connected with God" across my whole arm. Wanting the cross? Oh, everybody supports that. I could tattoo crosses all over my body and nobody would look at me weirdly. But a HINDU symbol? CALL THE HEAVENLY GUARDS, ONE IS ESCAPING OVER THE GIANT WALL! SHOOT ON SIGHT WITH ANGELIC DARTS!

We went over this when I first started blogging again. In those blogs, I said that *I* believed God was God was God, with many faces and many names, though I am a practicing Christian and believe personally that Christ is indeed my savior. I just don't discount the cultural validity of other world religions and their place in contemporary society and also historically. So if any of you think I'm going to Hell for my permanent OM on the wrist, YOU need to listen to Christ a little harder. Christ taught acceptance and understanding, not exclusion and uppity-ness and egotism about Him being the Son of God.

Stay tuned for my next blog, which will explore the theory that George Harrison accepted Christianity shortly before his death. There's a lot floating around that suggests that.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

She's Fought Them All...and Won.

Yoko Ono is 79 years old. She recently celebrated a birthday and I just came across this recent photo of her wearing boxing gloves. Could she look any better? There's aging and there's aging WELL. She's regrouped a new incarnation of the Plastic Ono Band, with son Sean Lennon by her side, and most recently played a live gig over New Years' with my friends and yours, The Flaming Lips, which was a pairing made in Heaven (though I couldn't physically attend).

Pretty far cry from when Beatles fans who hated her (and EVERYONE seemingly hated her, but John loved the fucking hell out of her) called her the "ugly Hawaiian" who was stealing a married man and breaking up a (far cry from) happy family.

(Kate would tell me I look in my track suit (that she gave to me) the same way Yoko looks in her track suit, and I'd take that as a VERY high compliment. It's not a suburban mom-ish track suit. It's a bitchin', work-it-girl, very New York type of track suit. Oh! It's the track suit in my profile pic!)

A lot of people simply equate her with an ear-piercing lack of vocal talent, when nothing could be further from the truth. She's capable of delicate soprano harmony, she plays multiple musical instruments, her music has been re-mixed by some of the world's most prominent club musicians and her albums have topped the Billboard dance charts for the last few years. She draws, she paints, she does fantastic artistic installation pieces and has been a fighter for world peace and awareness her entire adult life.

She continues to fight and this photo of her in the boxing gloves was just such a fantastically powerful image for me, I had to share it. She's always been my inspiration, she follows me on Twitter (uh, she follows a lot of people), and I love the woman to pieces.

When John was acting like a dope while they were married in the mid 70's, she shipped him off to Los Angeles with their young, pretty assistant to keep him company and told him he couldn't come home until he was ready to be a fucking grown up MAN. She said something to the effect that it was becoming obvious that the whole world didn't want them working together anymore, and his immaturity was simply too much for her to handle. She said, "I just wanted to think straight, 'cause I couldn't think straight anymore."

Two strong personalities like John and Yoko in a marriage would bound to be tension-filled at times, I would imagine. Especially two serious artists. Over the years, they would dabble in heroin use together, try primal scream therapy, clean up, write and perform albums together (her participation was far more interactive and upfront than, say, McCartney's inclusion of his wife Linda on basic keyboards and backing vocals when he toured with Wings). As I said, they separated for a year and a half.

While they were separated, they would communicate via phone a lot, each telling the other about dismal dates they'd endured, projects they were working on, and, essentially, John would beg to come home. "No, you're not ready yet," Yoko would tell him. Yoko lives and works on instinct, and her instincts and abilities as an empath are nothing short of amazing.

Seeing one another backstage at an Elton John concert, they locked eyes, talked a little, and got back together. Soon thereafter, their reunited front would produce their son, Sean, after Yoko, during their relationship suffered multiple miscarriages and all the doctors at the time told her she was too old to carry or have a baby, at 43. She proved the doctors wrong. Once again, the Lennons proved the world wrong.

Her intuition was very strong before John was murdered. After the release and subsequent success of their final album together, "Double Fantasy," in 1980, work was stressful, the press was stressful, managing being parents of young child and running a number of business ventures were stressful, and Yoko suggested to John that he and Sean go back to Bermuda to chill out for a while; that she'd take care of things in New York. (John had gone to Bermuda with Sean to ultimately write all the songs that appeared on "Double Fantasy" that he brought home from his vacation.) But this last time, John refused. He refused to leave Yoko's side. Maybe Lennon's murder was ultimately inevitable, but Yoko surely must've just been like, "If you'd just done what I suggested and left town...." or something. But the universe had different plans for John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Yoko continued to fight, however. She fought to maintain the Lennon legacy and estate in the manner that not only her husband would've wanted but also to always respect the fans and not just to put product out for profit--she has been hugely generous to many philanthropic organizations, while the fans were able to enjoy new and unreleased tracks and songs and actually get to SEE John's likewise amazingly whimsical artwork in public for the first time ever.

(Hell, somewhere I still have my John-drawn naked John and Yoko embracing stationery that I would only use for VERY special correspondence that I got at a Lennon art exhibit I saw in 1990 in Chicago. Perhaps some saw it as overkill of the Lennon legacy, but she licensed Lennon's children's artwork for a baby/nursery line RIGHT when Luke was born so his whole nursery was done in John Lennon animal drawing renditions. Luke loved his John Lennon rattling bunny so much that Craig and I bought an extra one to swap out JUST IN CASE Luke ever lost his, which he never did, and now is a raggedy, worn, barely surviving anorexic bunny whose face is falling off. Bunny #2 is still relatively white-ish looking and far fluffier.)

Anyway, I sort of got sidetracked there, but I must say that Yoko Ono has imbued in me, personally, confidence, mindfulness, has shown me vision, hope, that a woman CAN do anything she wants, have anything and anyone she wants if she is SMART, and because of her, I want to be a better artist and a better fighting badass. I hope to be, at age 79, as rockin' and riotous at Ms. Ono.

Bless you, Yoko.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

People Who Say "Poor Luke" Obviously Don't Know Him Very Well.

That photograph above is totally Luke and I.

Something fishy is up. Craig's mother, my ex-mother-in-law, who, a few months ago, was bitchtexting me that I broke her precious boy's heart and ripped him to shreds and how can I live with myself after what I did to him, blah blah blah, and I retorted that Craig had forgiven me and he and I were cool, so she needed to get over it herself and move on. We've been apart since 2007. MOVE ON, WOMAN, for God's sake.

Then she bitched Luke out for his post-nasal drip cough annoying her when he was sick and couldn't help it, and I told Craig to tell her she wasn't welcome in my home until she apologized to Luke for what she had said. She frequently puts Luke down, puts me down in front of my son, and poor, beaten down Craig is counting the days until he moves into his own apartment with his girlfriend and gets away from her.

Since I had my NyQuil bender, she's been weirdly overly kind to me. She was asking me questions and was concerned about my health; specifically, my hysterectomy and she was SO happy to hear I didn't have MS. She told me she was making me a prayer shawl, which I found extremely odd, but thanked her. Picking Luke up for a night at Dad's, she asked if she could give me a hug, which made me all sorts of uncomfortable, and friends who know me know I'm a huggy bear, but HER hugging me? What was THAT?

Then at Luke's basketball game Saturday afternoon, she took the liberty of buying me a bottle of probiotics to start taking for my digestive health. (No, they weren't selling them at the concession stand with the cheeseburgers.) I said thank you, that it was very kind of her, and asked her how much I owed her for them. She said I owed her nothing. Her behavior is beyond odd even given her other ineffable, unpredictable behavior.

Yet I hear from my frank and honest son that she's trash talking me at their house. She said to Craig, with Luke in the room, "It's amazing how much trouble Andrea gets into by her own actions." That made Luke mad. He said to her, "Do you know how many times my mom has ALMOST DIED?" She said "lots of times." Luke said, "But MY mom is INVINCIBLE." And he earnestly meant that because he believes it with his whole heart. Grandma replied, "Yeah, every kid thinks that about their mom." "No, they don't," Luke said. And truly, if I have 9 lives, I've used up approximately 7 of them if my math is right. Still, Luke is keenly aware, despite his declaration, that, as The Flaming Lips say in "Do You Realize?," "Everyone you know someday will die." He knows that, honestly.

Luke was regaling this story to us over dinner, when I was wearing my favorite t-shirt underneath my sweatshirt. I lifted my sweatshirt up, and said, "Luke, what does my t-shirt say?" He smiled and said "TOO TOUGH TO DIE." I said, "That's right." I'm Keith Richards' long lost sister, whose picture is below the quote on my t-shirt. So I'm under a lot of pressure to prove the world wrong, prove my ex-mother-in-law wrong, prove my mom wrong, all my naysayer friends and family and continue to not only survive but thrive. Because I believe that God has plans for me that are greater than anything I could ever have imagined for myself.

See, I *knew* my dad was going to die if he didn't go to rehab. I never thought of him as invincible or particularly even strong. I saw him as hopelessly sick. I didn't expect him to suddenly die in rehab, but I also remember sitting on his lap the last day I saw him alive, not wanting to let go of him, begging him to get help. Whether or not my dad ultimately checked into rehab because of my pleading or if he was forced into it by my mom, I don't exactly know and it really doesn't matter anymore. The disease of alcoholism killed him when he was trying to dry out and they gave him no medication to ease the withdrawal in the hospital and he had delirium tremors that led to a fatal heart attack. So essentially how he landed in rehab in the first place is a moot detail.

My mom is peeved that she didn't get more credit for last Sunday night's disastrous events when I was tanked out on NyQuil and my other meds. Yes, she's the one who had the unpleasant task of cleaning up after I messed the bed. She changed my sheets and helped me get cleaned up. She's the one who stayed up all night finding bottles of NyQuil around the house, and for that I'm grateful and I love her forever for her help. But in her anger at me that Sunday night, she said "There'll be no celebration next week, no dinner, no tattoos, nothing." But she's wrong. I plan on celebrating what sobriety I did achieve over the last 4 years. I achieved and accomplished a lot. I'll be thankful and celebrate not cutting for 3 years. I'll be proud that one day at a time, I have chosen not to drink again. That's always cause for celebration.

I had a long conversation with my brother last night, catching up on recent events, and he too believes that I should celebrate how far I soldiered on and should not see the relapse as a failure with regard to my sobriety. He agreed that it'll ultimately make me a better doctor someday. He said his pastor was, in fact, talking about just that at church this weekend. That those of us who've lived and survived great peril know better than the common person what it's like to live with a grave condition. My brother is one of the few people I know who never judge me or define me solely by my addictions or mental illness. It's vaguely annoying when you go to AA and say, "My name is Annie and I'm an addict/alcoholic," as if that's ALL you are. Steve said first and foremost, I'm a child of God, which is true. I think at my next meeting, I'm going to say, "My name is Annie and among so many other things, I am an addict/alcoholic." And Steve made the point of saying that counting the days, weeks, months and years of your sobriety sort of puts drinking at the forefront of your thoughts ALL the time. It puts too much emphasis on not drinking as your only goal in life. I think that rings at least partly true. I'm not going to meet my Tatus and toast to having had like 13 days of sobriety. What would be the point of that?

My brother is very Christian, and isn't thrilled that I'm getting a Hindu symbol tattooed on my body, but I explained to him what the "OM" symbol meant in Sanskrit, and he didn't have a cow. The way I chose to define it to Steve is that it means "oneness with God, oneness with the universe. The "OM" is everything. It doesn't mean I'm a Hindu. It's just in SANSKRIT." ;) (Steve, like a lot of my friends and family, wonder why I'd want to go out with and have the support of my Tatus when I get my tattoos. Why I would want to hang around with one of the guys who fired me. The reason is because he promised never to abandon me and that I still had a friend in him. He's another one of those rare individuals who never judges me just because I'm full of neuroses, which I appreciate. He does not, in my impression, view my disease of alcoholism as any different than that of me having asthma; it's just another one of my illnesses, yes, more acutely "severe," if you will, but certainly nothing to be ashamed of. What went down between us professionally to me has nothing to do with us as friends. If anything, pressure to be Nazi-like appropriate because we're boss/employee with one another is out the window and we can just "be.")

I explained the cutting to my brother, that it's an anniversary, as he was completely unaware that I'd ever had that problem, which I hid VERY well, as I've said before. I was in my bedroom with Luke as I graphically explained to Steve what I used to do with the knife, which totally grossed him out as he was making his salmon patties and Uncle Ben's rice for dinner with my nephew. Luke was on his bed overhearing the whole conversation, which I didn't have a problem with. In fact, Luke chimed in "So THAT'S why there was always so much medical tape around the house. I wondered about that." I was surprised he DID have any memory of the cutting. But was I ashamed to tell this to my big brother with my 12-year old overhearing it? Did I think it was wrong? Hell no. Part of AA's program is adopting rigorous honesty. With your sponsor, your loved ones and yourself.

(My mom was wondering after dinner last night what "made me the way that I am." She wondered if I have mental illness and addiction because she smoked while she was pregnant with me. I told her that had nothing to do with it; I have messed up brain chemistry and my addiction gene was triggered and activated and that's essentially it. My mom is always looking for someone or something to blame for when things go wrong. But it's not a matter of placing blame on anyone or anything. It is the way it is.)

Steve didn't see the relapse as a failure on my part and was so compassionate and understanding, not disappointed in me at all. His attitude was more "Annie made it 4 years, slipped a little, and did the right thing and reached out for help and got herself together." He told me to keep praying and to never doubt God's power to heal and deliver us from our suffering. He reminded me of what Christ suffered on the cross, "By His stripes we are healed." Christ took a beating to his flesh and was crucified, which He as a sinless, blameless man didn't deserve. But it was for our salvation and our healing. God is allowing me to suffer in order for me to grow stronger and wiser. Steve's attitude is that if Christ can make the dead arise, he can deliver me from my illness and addictions.

I gave most of the credit for getting my shit back together to Luke and his accomplishment in getting me to stop abusing myself with the NyQuil. Mostly through that video, through his love and his tricks as I've previously mentioned, at how maturely and successfully he handled things that night. He didn't cower away and cry. He doesn't pity me and I don't pity him. I'm sure he was scared, but you couldn't tell that by me. I certainly didn't have his ingenuity and fortitude when I was his age, as my dad died from alcoholism right around the same age Luke is now. I couldn't have done what Luke did to help me save either my own father's or my own life.

Not that saving my life was or is Luke's responsibility. No child should have to be responsible for his mother. Yet there was Luke waking me up with my head on the laptop keyboard late at night, keys imprinted on my forehead recently, walking me upstairs, putting me to bed. I had been literally passing out at the computer and he'd come downstairs and wake me up and put me to bed. That's incredibly generous and sweet of him to do, but it's too much to ask of a child. But, when I think about it, is exactly what I tried and failed to do with my father...I knew where all his bottles of vodka were hidden all over the house and I protected him from my mother by not revealing anything. I tried to keep him safe. Ultimately after he died, I felt that I'd failed at that. That's a heavy load for a young girl to carry. It took something like 25 or 26 years for me to let that go and to realize my dad's death wasn't the fault of anything I did or didn't do for him or with him.

My mom called my uncle the other day and told him what was going on with me. He said to her, "If you called me one day and told me Annie's gone, I wouldn't be a bit surprised." Thanks for the vote of confidence, Uncle Jerry. I've tried to explain to my family that I need support and positive vibes, not constant chastising and babysitting and everyone worrying that I could die at any moment. Because I plan on sticking around for a good, long time.

SO many people say "Poor Luke. Look what he's been through in his life. That poor, pathetic child. I feel so sorry for him." No one knows Luke as intimately as I do, not even his dad. He and I talk openly, honestly, we have an amazing amount of trust between us and I beg all of you not to view Luke as a "victim." I do and don't treat Luke as if he were just a buddy of mine. We talk to each other and entrust in one another secrets and feelings that we wouldn't necessarily tell anyone else. But I'm still his mother and he still gets in trouble when he misbehaves and is taught lessons though by virtue of his level of maturity, though he doesn't get in trouble very often at all. He knows I'm in charge at the end of the day. Yes, I still believe Luke would benefit from therapy and Al-A-Teen. He needs a third party who has nothing emotionally vested in him to work through what he HAS gone through.

I have tried to impress upon people how utterly fucking STRONG my son is. That what he's been exposed to, which has been a lot of really heavy shit for a kid to handle, has made him an aware, worldly young man. If I'm invincible, so is Luke. Luke is not living the halcyon life I anticipated he'd lead when he was just a baby. But what he's experienced will make him ultimately a gossamer of badass. So I don't want to hear another "Poor Luke" out of anyone's mouth. In a lot of ways, Luke's luckier than most kids his age. He acutely knows what drugs and alcohol do to a person, thus I believe he'll reject the inevitable peer pressure and will not get involved in substances as he grows older. At first, I too was guilty of saying "Poor Luke," but with what he's shown me in the last few weeks has been nothing short of amazing.

It's funny. When he was little, he assumed all mommies had eyebrow rings and didn't think I was weird. He used to play with it when he'd lie in my lap having a bottle, which yes, I allowed him to have through toddlerhood. He's excited at the thought of me getting tattoos and more piercings. He loves the fact that I am so quirky and would have me no other way. He appreciates my desire to be true to myself, the least of things. I want him to be true to himself, too. He loves me with unfailing ferocity and knew when he'd had it with my behavior and declared enough to be enough with my relapse. He gets worried every time I land in the hospital, but I DO always come home and I am doing fine now. He asked me if he could get a tattoo or an eyebrow ring when he turns 18, and I gave him my full support. I told him he doesn't HAVE to get inked or pierced, but I'd support him if he did. (With his own money, naturally.) Ma was most likely aghast. Once he's 18, who am I to tell my adult "child" what he can and cannot do? I believe he'll grow into a responsible and good young man. He's already proved that to me at age 12.

If you're close to me and you have the opportunity to have a conversation with my son, sit down and talk with Luke. You'll find his demeanor, wit, wisdom and charm to be fascinating once he opens up. Impressive. Surprising. He's not without making dumb pre-teen mistakes like putting a screwdriver into an electrical outlet with his laptop still plugged in at his dad's house and getting 3 burns on his body from the sparks that flew. That was a dumbass thing to do, he knows that, and he got in trouble. We (Craig and I) don't think he's perfect. He's human and deserves respect.

I hope he grows up with more practical life skills than I have, given he's super book smart like his dad and I. We already know he's hella smart. I hope he adopts healthy coping mechanisms. Few realize how wise he is. How observant he is. Just as I'm not defined by my addictions and mental illness, Luke is not to be defined as simply the child of an alcoholic/addict who has mental problems. Luke is uniquely Luke.

Thank you, Luke, for keeping me invincible and helping to keep me alive. You've inspired me more than I can convey. I want to be there for everything as you grow up. I don't want to miss a thing. I want to live up to your impression and adoration of your mother. I know you keep up with the blogs, so allow me to reiterate how very much I love you and how proud I am of you. You're my toughest critic and biggest fan. God chose me to be your mother and we are blessed to have one another. I am grateful to God every day for you and I miss you feverishly when you're at your dad's house. Never forget how strong you are and you have my permission to punch in the face anyone who pities you (or me) instead of recognizing what a great guy you are (including your other grandma, as she's knitting my prayer shawl).

I am NOT what HAPPENED to me, I am WHAT I CHOOSE to BECOME. ~ Carl Gustav Jung

Your Grammar Lesson For Tonight

Call me a grammar snob who uses misplaced modifiers just because she fucking CAN. I employ the vernacular when I write my blog, because I write in much the same manner in which I speak out loud, and I'm a crude Chicagoan. But there are some basic rules that too many people just simply cannot comprehend.
Look carefully.
Their, they're and there.
Your and you're.
Get it right, please, kids.
And plural nouns don't have apostrophes at the end of them. I don't want a bunch of simpleton's reading my blog.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Adieu. Au Revoir. Fuck It: A Lesson in Catharsis, Part 2

Nothing does a manic-depressive's manic-tendencies-heart good like some good Polish OCD weeding out of old crap; in this case, clothes. I really had no choice in the matter; my mother beleaguered me into re-organizing the office closets and the closet in the room I share with Luke.* The last time I weeded out a ton of crap was when I moved out of Camp Swanky in 2009, or when half my shit was tossed out of the townhouse next door to Ma's that I used to occupy when I was married when new tenants, friends of ours from church, moved in and Craig moved out, leaving half an attic's worth of my stuff that ended up in a dozen dumpsters all across Park Ridge without abandon. (Wow, apart from the commas, could that have been a MORE run-on sentence?)

(For the Camp Swanky catharsis story, see

(*Listen. I just sleep in there and my clothes are in there. I spend no time in our bedroom if Luke is home, usually, unless we're conversing or watching something together on TV. Otherwise, there is no trace of anything Annie in the room. It's ALL Luke. I allow him plenty of privacy. I have a bed an an alarm clock, a Bible and a copy of Keith Richards' "Life." That's it. We're working on turning the office into a bedroom for me, because the last place either Luke or I want to be together as he emerges as an adolescent is in the same bedroom, HOLY SHIT NO.)


It all started with me getting my 20 pairs of scrubs that I don't need anymore out of the office closet and up into the attic for their retirement, since I'm one of those hyper-crazy-book smart people who are geniuses at school and are insane and creatively gifted and have documented IQ's of 162, but have completely no practical life skills of which to speak, like the capacity to hold down a part-time job that a 13-year old with decent multitasking skills could do without fucking it up somehow. (The job at the medical practice wasn't difficult. It was just insanely, constantly hectic. And hectic + Annie + anxiety disorder + spending half the day in the bathroom and still taking care of business = bad scene. Hare Krishna that they fired me before I landed in a straight jacket.)

Or, like, not getting the oil changed in the car for 8 months. Or getting straight which days Luke is hot vs. cold lunch. I dunno. Maybe I praise myself too much and put myself down too much at the same time. I can fix computers and shit and grocery shop, but I went to see The Flaming Lips in Milwaukee with a map and a GPS, and I ended up 54 blocks away from the venue. You see my point?


The scrubs got moved to the attic, and I tackled the closets and drawers today. Without a tintinnabulation of a plan, I took a load of garbage bags upstairs and opened my jammed closet. Oh, it was so vestigial at first. First, I found all of my dresses, then skirts, then pairs of pants, then sweaters, then blouses and separated the "keep" pile from the "donate" pile, which went directly into the garbage bags. The keepers turned out to be a tiny pile in comparison to the donate pile, chiefly due to the plethora of clothing I owned that is way too big for me or just not my style anymore. (And really, do I need 3 JC Whitney t-shirts, the last place Chris was fired from?)

In fact, everything from the double closet in my bedroom fit into the little closet in the office. (This does not include my massive shoe collection, which is a clusterfuck of epic magnitude for another day of mania. Holy, Buttery, Lovable, Sweet, Mentholyptic Mocha Flavored Jesus. It takes me about 20 minutes to match a moiety of shoes, which is why now, in my life of leisure, I usually just throw on my Uggs and run to the grocery store in my pajamas and a dorky hat.)

Luke's shirt collection had been a giant, disorganized pile on the floor that was always falling over. A couple of shirts were even stacked on the vents of the television set, which was a fire hazard. His shirts now all neatly hang in the double closet, as do his pairs of "good" pants (non-jeans) and his suit. If ANYONE EVER buys my son another t-shirt before he grows out of a men's large, I'll have a conniption fit, because I swear I put away about 50 of them. The ones that didn't fit filled a good 3 bags, as did sweatshirts and....

EVERY PAIR OF TIGHTY-WHITEY underpants and body-hugging Hanes boxer-briefs the boy had in his possession most of which were never worn. He despised both styles for a cacophony of reasons that I'll keep private out of consideration for Luke. He's a boxer short-wearing man now for crissakes, thus that is all he shall have. I'm totally fine with that.

That was my gesture of liberation for Luke today.

As I went through my own packed to the gills drawers, I swear I had to have roughly 150 shirts of various styles, 15 pairs of jeans, and more combinations of Things To Wear to Bed than anyone could ever need. With regard to the shirts, I parted with the too-large ones, the too-small ones (I'm tiny but I still have big hooters, ya'll), though there were 2 ill-fitting t-shirts that I simply could NOT bear to part with. One was XXLarge (a good shirt to sleep in). The other was too small in the hooter area. Guess which one I bought first during the course of my life. Betcha mess 'em up.

The "Fuck Everything" shirt was purchased during my narcotics addiction in the late 90's. The "Cute but Psycho" shirt was bought on my vacation to Key West with Chris, when I was still unmedicated for my bipolar disorder.

I managed to conflate all the congregate items and neatly fold and stack them in the drawers, which can now actually be opened and shut completely with no effort. There is even room for additional clothing should the occasion arise where I would go fucknuts and go clothes shopping again. (Stay medicated, Annie. Stay medicated.)

But what was the most cathartic and satisfying purge out of all the shirts? I decided to donate EVERY SINGLE POLO OR POLO-TYPE KNIT SHIRT I OWNED, and there had to be about 10, whether they fit or not. I made the decision to abandon the suburbia-sanctioned item of popularity that is so obviously part of the Park Ridge uniform. They're too preppy and common. They decidedly don't rock it. They don't suit my personality. Just as just about every woman in Park Ridge dons Polo shirts when the weather is nice, they all drive the same car (the Lexus SUV is VERY popular in my town), they have the same strollers (when the mothers instead of their nannies are actually carting their cookie-cutter kids around), and they all attend summer outdoor concerts and drink wine and eat cheese and buy their kids ice cream.

Remember the original "The Stepford Wives?" That's what living in dulcet suburbia is like. And unfortunately I'm trapped here until Luke graduates from what is widely considered one of the best public high schools in the state. But trust me, Luke, we're hitting the urban jungle after that. In "The Stepford Wives," all the women, if my memory serves me correctly, were turned into robots through some weird plot all the husbands thought up. The town was perfect, the wives were perfect and all acted alike, and dressed alike until one sharp housewife who was a riot grrl (sic on purpose) figured it all out but, I think, was eventually captured and turned into a robot herself. I'm talking about the original "Stepford Wives" from the late 60's/early 70's, not the dismal remake a few years ago that starred Nicole Kidman. Park Ridge is like drinking an elixir of complacency, which I can't stand as an uber-liberal punk who admittedly still likes ABBA.

I decided that Polo shirts don't coincide with my own riot grrl, punky, quirky, original sense of no style whatsoever. I'm both trainwrecktastic and scrumtrulescent. Fuck yeah, I wear skinny jeans to show off my ass, but I'm a woman who drums to her own literal beat. I like to dress in what *I* am comfortable in. What makes me feel good about myself. I clean up really nicely when the occasion calls for it, and I figured out what I'm wearing to get my tattoo, because it's better to look good than to feel good. I'm joking. I don't dress demurely, and parted with what I considered too square of outfits for me to wear as I press forward with the tattoo and the new piercings (which I haven't completely decided upon yet). And tomorrow I'm getting the spiky hairdo cut to spike up better 'cause it's out of control long and won't spike correctly. Get this! I kept 2 pairs of-gasp-khaki shorts! What the hell am I going to wear them with?

I decidedly dislike subdivisions, where all the houses look alike. I don't even like my townhouses, which all look the same, though no one in the surrounding townhouses keeps theirs up as neatly and attractive as my Ma does ours.

That's what I miss the most about Camp Swanky--it was uniquely me, in the city, and was kitschy and out there and I had a fucking Golden Girls clock with the floating head of Bea Arthur in my kitchen and a hot tub to boot. Still, it's where I hit rock bottom, so my memories of it are a) muddied and b) sort of sorrowful. But at least Luke and I were indie and had plenty of space to roam. Swanky was our demesne of individualism. Luke and I will have that again someday, of that I have no doubt. Not any time soon, but it's a certain goal.

I still have Luke's sock drawer to weed through, which was giving me a panic attack, trying to match socks, when I called it quits before dinner. I'll have it organized by the time he comes home tomorrow. He won't appreciate it, and he'll bark at me "Where are my clothes, Mom?" in the morning, but we'll get over that soon enough.

So now Luke's got his load of boxer shorts, I have my collection of various clothing items (including 3 of the same J Crew hoodie I bought a few years ago because they were so cute) and I'm feeling accomplished and at ease. Nine bags filled. Someone in need's about to land a fuckload of nice clothing, provided they wear a size 6-8. I'm pretty damn happy about the progress towards organization I achieved today. It was manic but calculated. Such is your glimpse into my catharsis today. May your closets not overflow and your socks all match.

I know I'm a little less insane having better feng shui in my room.

‎"When a man forgets to cultivate his inner life, he turns himself into a machine and becomes a slave to material things". Dalai Lama

Happy Birthday, Yoko!

A loving Happy Birthday to my favorite Fluxus artist of all time: the inimitable, irreplaceable, always original, strong, soulful peace warrior, Yoko Ono!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cuts You Up.

Above is the cover to George Harrison's posthumously released album "Brainwashed." We'll get to that part of the story much later. I just popped on my iTunes my favorite writing music, the soundtrack to the documentary "The Heart is a Drum Machine" by Steven Drozd. It's elegant and peaceful, rollicking and restful, and he's got perfect pitch to boot in his harmonies, though the one song on the album that's not an instrumental is not sung by Steven himself. It's also really good traveling music, should you ever be inclined to drive or fly. It's a shame the album isn't about, say, 65 minutes longer. But that's what the repeat button is for, right?

But I digress.

Luke's got this great photographic and intuitive memory, always has, yet there's something I believe he's blocked from his psyche, perhaps out of self-preservation, which we just talked about on the phone.

He was 7-8 years old at the time and I had recently separated from my husband, and Luke and I were living at Camp Swanky, our palatial apartment in Chicago that we had no means by which to pay for in the first place. I had no job, and we were living essentially off of Craig's child support, pawning my jewelry and belongings, and we'd spent the money I'd borrowed in order to secure the apartment and survive for some semblance of time. (There was ALWAYS money for liquor and smokes and enough food to at least survive on, though. I made sure of that, until Chris came along and actually started buying us groceries when we first started dating, before I got my job at the medical practice and moved back into Camp Miklasz and got sober and healthy.)

We were in the kitchen, Luke and I, with me by the stove and Luke sitting on a stool across the counter island from me. I don't think I was dead ass drunk at the time; rather, I was probably fixing dinner and still finishing my first bottle of wine for the evening (at that point, I'd typically consume approximately 4-5 bottles a night. Trader Joe's 2 Buck Chuck. Cheap thrills). So I was still lucid. I had long sleeves on, as I typically would, even in warm weather, because I was covering up my sickening little coping mechanism. (I don't remember what time of the year this particular exchange happened during, naturally.)

At some point, I had to roll up my sleeves to, I don't know, chop garlic or something. Who the hell knows. Why the hell I would expose my child to what he was about to see is a question I can't even answer. Luke saw rows of slices in the skin of my inner right forearm that were about, on average, 10" in length apiece, meticulously scraped across the whole arm, from elbow to wrist. Because I was, at the time, severely, clinically disturbed and in addition to being a raging alcoholic, I was an as-yet undiagnosed, improperly medicated bipolar prone to extreme behaviors of all sorts.

Cutting myself was, apart from drinking, the most dangerous and extreme thing I had ever done. My habit was to take a steak knife (not even sterilized!) and dig it into my forearm in a long, even line. That hurt like HELL. It would bleed profusely. I would cut compulsively under distress and it became one of my many addictions in life. I wanted to stop. I couldn't. Just as I couldn't stop drinking.

It's never easy to talk about self-harm, mostly because it seems, on the surface, to be just so senseless and stupid. Your body isn't YOUR creation, it's God's. And we're all beautiful to God. Unfortunately, we're not all beautiful to ourselves. Why a person would want to mar any part of his/her body as a method of escapism is, to the sane person, an unthinkable horror.

The cuts Luke saw weren't immediately fresh. They were healed enough to not warrant bandages (rather, Neosporin, gauze and medical tape), yet still quite reddened and very obvious. So probably about 2-3 days old, I don't recall. He said to me in his small voice, "Mommy, what happened to you? How did you get hurt?" I cannot remember WHAT my excuse was to him. I could've told my 7-year old that I was mauled by a grizzly bear at that point and he probably would have believed me. Quickly, I rolled my sleeves down and let the garlic fly where it may.

I just got off the phone with Luke a little while ago. I asked him if he had any memory of that moment, when he saw those wounds. He said he didn't. I pried him, "You know, when I was drunk all the time, we lived at Swanky, we were in the kitchen?" "Nope," he said. That sort of surprised me, given his smarts and his memory. Like I said, I think he blocked that event out of self-preservation or survival mode. I could be totally wrong. He seemed sort of unaware of the cutting in general, when I *know* we've talked about it since it happened, since I stopped. He said, "Why'd you do that? That's disgusting!" or something to that effect. He asked me now, as a wise-beyond-his-years 12 year old, why I used to cut. I gave him the same explanation as I stated above about my psychiatric illnesses which he now DOES comprehend (all too well).

Why did I choose such an incredibly obvious spot on my body on which to cut? The only reasoning I can come up with was that I *wanted* to get caught. I wanted someone to notice. Not my little boy, but someone. And because I was so good at hiding it with the long sleeves, nobody did notice until I revealed it to a trusted friend. Because I was hurting more on the inside than I was on the outside.

Here's the thing about cutting: It's REALLY fucking painful to do. I've seen lots of people use straight razor blades, box cutters, etc, but I was too chicken to try that and the steak knife yielded the results I wanted anyway. It hurts so badly physically, and the blood is everywhere, and you're peeling skin off the knife and going at another place on your're so busy and engrossed in THAT that you forget, if just for a moment, literally EVERYTHING that's bothering you in your fucked up head. Because all of that external pain momentarily erases all the internal pain. By then, you're all consumed in trying to treat your new wounds and clean up the're not thinking about how you've been up for 3 consecutive days fighting off insanity, numbing it with as much alcohol as you can afford and still putting on a fresh face at your kid's school when you drop him off in the morning. (I would try to only cut the nights Luke was at Craig's, though I had one memorable night of cutting with Luke asleep after his father and I had a family outing to Celtic Fest downtown after we were separated, and the sorrow of the breakup of my family became too much to bear.)

I remember one morning at St. Paul after I'd taken Luke to school, and I'd hung around to talk to my friend Cathy. Cathy's the mom of Luke's best friend and has been a friend of mine since we were both students at St. Paul in grammar school ourselves. This was before I was driving him to school drunk from the night before, so I was sober when Cathy and I were talking. But I had a scarred up arm, not freshly cut. I forget what she and I were talking about in the parking lot, but she was deeply concerned about me and the state I was in. I believe this was after she and her husband called 911 on me late one night when I was drunk at home and I called Cathy's husband threatening suicide, and was taken to the hospital to essentially sober up, talk to a social worker and was sent home with my brother without any shoes on. (By the way, I stayed sober for exactly 24 hours, after everyone stopped worrying about me and me promising I was done drinking, and I said "the hell with that" and went and bought more wine.) For whatever reason, I just stood there in the parking lot and rolled up my sleeve and showed Cathy my arm. Her reaction was that of utter Christian love and compassion. She rubbed my arm, looked at it, looked at me, and kissed my arm. That gesture of grace is one I will never forget.

I wasn't ready for help yet, though. I'm sure she was trying to convince me to at the very least, see a doctor about the physical aspect of the injuries, and get to a counselor, and I did hook up with this utterly useless therapist through Lutheran Social Services in Chicago who did nothing but talk to ME about HER sister. I tolerated that for a few months before deciding to quit that "talk" therapy and just fucking drink more. At that juncture, anyway, the bottle was a better therapist than any person I could find, not that I spent much time finding someone to talk to.

My mom was completely unaware of what was going on because she was going through breast cancer at the time, undergoing chemotherapy, and we lived apart, not seeing one another every day. My brother lived an hour away. The friends I was hanging around with were all drinking buddies and enablers, apart from my church friends and my band, all of whom I kept in the dark though I wanted help desperately. *I* knew I was insane. I didn't know enough about psychology to diagnose myself apart from the fact that I knew I was deeply depressed. But then I'd have these crazy bursts of energy and enthusiasm and grandiose ideas and lions and tigers and bears, oh my! I was either on top of the world or scraping the bottom of the barrel. I was never, ever stable. And the fucktard at Lutheran Social Services just thought I was depressed and when she asked if I was still drinking, I would simply lie and say "No, of course not."

(Wow. Steven's music has ended and now appropriately enough "Hey Jude" is on. "The movement you need is on your shoulders....." Oh hell yes.)

Anyway, time rolled on, I had a boyfriend (who had the same reaction Cathy did the first time he saw my Edward Scissorhands arm, which is one of my warm memories of him), I got sober and was referred to a proper psychiatrist. Even he couldn't get the meds right at first and had diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. He tried various combinations of antidepressants, none of which worked. I showed him my arm. My boyfriend, having had a BS in Psychology, knew a lot about various forms of therapy, and said that I would be a good candidate for cognitive behavioral therapy. My psychiatrist hooked me up with a CBT therapist, and in the meantime, finally put his finger on the correct diagnosis for my mental maladies: I was suffering from bipolar disorder and most likely had been since at least college. All those high-highs and low-lows. I gave him concrete examples of my manic adventures and my depressive blahs, and he prescribed an anti-psychotic, a mood-stabilizer and an antidepressant, meds he said I will have to stay on for the rest of my life.

If I had to define cognitive behavioral therapy myself, I'd say it's something like this: Negative thought patterns and behaviors (maladaptive behaviors) interfere with your functioning every day. They're deeply ingrained in your psychological make up and often learned behaviors handed down to you by your parents or other caregivers, sometimes siblings, anyone who had influence on you as you developed. These negative schemas, as they're called, all have labels, such as mind-reading, catastrophizing, black-or-white thinking, among many others, and are uniformly irrational. They're called "automatic thoughts." Example: "Christa hasn't answered my email about going to the AA meeting tomorrow night since we argued about something this morning. Christa hates me." or "The alley is dark and Christopher is scary and wants to kill me. I can't go into the alley after dark or I'll die." See? Irrational thoughts that interfere with your daily life. You learn a lot about employing mindfulness into your actions. Being mindful of your inner negativity and fears and learning positive coping mechanisms to deal with your problems. It's complicated, but that's the best way I can think of to describe CBT.

The goal of CBT is to redirect your thinking to replace the negative schemas with positive schemas and positive thought patterns and behaviors. You are taught to restructure your thought processes to more positive and useful ultimate outcomes. It's HARD WORK. Hell, there are worksheets involved! At therapy!

When I was cutting, while my therapist said it WAS a coping mechanism that definitely WORKED, it was maladaptive and obviously negative. I had to be taught to restructure my thinking and behavioral patterns to eliminate cutting as a self-soother. (I'm a chronic self-soother. I sucked my goddamn thumb until I was 10 years old.) The first thing the therapist had me do instead of cutting with a knife when I felt the impulse to cut was to use an ice cube instead, and run the ice cube up and down my right inner forearm. "But that's uncomfortable!" I harped. "And slicing your arm with a steak knife ISN'T uncomfortable???" he said. True enough. There was one last crazy cutting episode that was particularly violent where I not only cut my trademark arm, but I also cut several lines across my abdomen, after a major fight with a girlfriend over God-knows-what and I just totally lost it.

The medication combination I was on began to work, and work successfully, the ice trick worked, and the CBT therapist and I worked on many of my negative schemas (many of which I'm still working on with my present therapist). I was sober. I haven't cut myself since then. This was 3 years ago right around this time of year, maybe a month or 2 off, if that. I started interviewing for the job I would eventually land at the medical practice, which seemed an endless process of elimination (I think they hired me because I was the only applicant with a college education), finally functional enough to hold down a job. (Incidentally, if you're still reading this, Ms. Blog Stalker, you really gotta stop logging in at work on work's time. Now I've learned how to screen capture all of your log-ins just in case I ever need them.)

My arm is really quite amazing to look at if you look at it now. One would conclude that after all of that mauling, all those deep digs, all the meticulous patterns I delivered to myself that I would have a shitload of scarring. But like a miracle from God, there are NONE. I have a couple of tiny IV scars from being in the hospital, but you would never know I used to cut by looking at me. God spared me that awful reminder. My arm is once again beautiful.

Which is why it's so damn important to me to get the tattoos I keep talking about. Based on the signature by George Harrison above on the "Brainwashed" album artwork, I want the Hindu "OM" symbol next to a cross (as Harrison signed them himself) on my right inner wrist, because I think both symbols are beautiful and are meaningful to me, and would serve as reminders to me never to cut myself again, and are by my all-time favorite musical artist. They'll be small and not overbearing, and tasteful.

Some people think tattoos are ugly and tacky and low-brow. I happen to think a lot of them are beautiful. Some are downright obnoxious, but we all have our own tastes and inclinations. I want more piercings too, which I can get at the kick-ass, high-end, clean-as-a-whistle, not-full-of-biker-dudes piercing and tattooing studio at which I trade in the city. (

And I want, specifically, my Tatus to go with me to get them, because it is with him I feel safe and secure, and he makes me laugh a lot and I want to hold his hand while I'm trying not to jump out of the seat in pain on what is, as I already know, a very sensitive area of thin skin. Tatus does not get it. He was none too pleased when his daughter came home with a tattoo. Perhaps he doesn't want to be seen in a "tattoo parlor." Maybe he's philosophically opposed to tattoos. Perhaps he has a daddy complex about it and doesn't want ME to get a tattoo. Perhaps he thinks they're distasteful and homely. If it's not already blatantly evident, I could give two shits what other people think of me and I got my eyebrow pierced when I was 26, much to my mother's chagrin, and didn't give a damn. I don't even know if my husband liked my eyebrow piercing. It's uniquely Annie. I'm uniquely Annie. That much I *know* he gets. So what's the issue?

For whatever his reasons are, he's telling me the old parental "we'll see about that," "we'll talk about that" set of lines whereas I'm asking him to do me this favor as my friend. I want a permanent reminder of the harm I caused myself translated into 2 meaningful religious symbols inked onto THAT area of my body to remind me forever that I survived something awful and am once again reborn into the beautiful creation God intended me to be. That's all there is to it. I was waiting for His Eminence to give me a jingle after work tonight to discuss next week's plan, but thus far, he has not. Of course, I told him to read my recent blogs and THEN call me, and he doesn't like to read on the computer at night. But we've got all weekend, so I'm sure I'll hear from him eventually.

Self-harm is a very real, very prevalent mental illness, affecting chiefly women (and some men) typically younger than I am. Folks, there is help out there in plenitude if you're a cutter. Help I didn't know about at the time and I was too drunk to pursue even if I had known it was there. There's a great organization of which I'm a member called "To Write Love on Her Arms," at They specialize in self-harm (or self-mutilation), eating disorders and addictions. You don't have to suffer in silence, hoping one day that somebody will notice your wounds and extend you care. Help yourself. You mean the world to a lot of people.

So essentially, Tatus, this blog was for you. To help you understand why the tattoo I'm asking you to accompany me to is so important to me. You like my blogs that have a cohesive story to them; a beginning, middle and end. I hope this blog is patterned as such, but admittedly, I don't proofread much. And yes, you're the only person on Earth who doesn't like at least *one* ABBA song.

The End....