5/29/15

Target Practice

Last night I was talking to my Analyst and he asked if he had ever told me about the five topics. I said no. It seemed strange, him volunteering any information that way, seemingly apropos of nothing. Also I've been seeing him for several years now and this has never come up. But the five topics, things to talk about in therapy are:

- Sex life
- Dreams
- Your past
- What you're feeling/thinking when you're on the couch
- Thoughts/feelings about the Analyst

I told him I felt at a bit of a disadvantage because I don't have much of a sex life and do not have any dreams, but he explained that these can refer to fantasies, even non-sexual fantasies, and that I do in fact have dreams I'm just blocking them from my memory. I very rarely speak to or about him, directly. I was a little bit miffed because he hadn't brought these things up before, and I've been quite vocal about sometimes not knowing what to talk about, or how to 'do' psychoanalysis. But he did make a good point last night. We were describing this predicament I'm in right now, or in general, and he described it as being a situation in which I cannot win.

The situation is that I do not know how to be angry or feel disappointment without a) lashing out and projecting it onto someone else and telling them about it and starting a fight (which is rare but becoming increasingly and troublingly common) or b) directing the anger back at myself. I have no right to be disappointed or frustrated or angry. It's because of something I did or did not do. Everything seems to come down to some failure on my part. Choosing wrong, or not choosing right. Everything-- my inability to feel or my constant feeling bad, everything comes, it seems, from inside. I don't know another way to think to explain it. Everything arises from some fundamental dysfunction within me. Something about me that is abhorrent and which everyone else seems to react to but which I am incapable of locating. All I know is I drive people away.

He said it sounds like I'm stuck in playing smear the queer. He mentioned this because it's a memory I often return to in analysis and something that feels really real in the present tense.

When I was little my family moved to the suburbs and I was queer but I didn't know it yet. But the other kids at school definitely did. I remembered early on wanting to play with some kids in my fifth grade class after school, they were running around and I wanted to play with them. It was after school, during a baseball game, so the younger kids and parents were nearby at the baseball diamond but we were on the blacktop, the slightly older kids. I was a new kid I wanted to be friends. They told me I could play with them but they were playing smear the queer. I said okay, I must have agreed. I did not understand that this meant that I had to be the queer. I didn't even know what this game was. Basically it's that I'm the queer and they all take turns jumping me. it was like football but without the football.

I'd roughhoused with my little brother for years, so I knew how to scrap. I was totally bewildered. I quickly ascertained that we were fighting dirty; that the game as such was to just hurt each other as much as possible. I think I kicked one of the boys in the crotch and I think I may have bitten another one. They were furious. This was against the rules. I didn't understand. They doubled up on their efforts. I don't think it was a matter of punching me in the face, per se-- I wasn't bleeding or anything, but it was a lot of tackling, a lot of actual smearing on the ground. Lots of arm holds. I remember being overpowered and running away to try to find my mom who I think was watching the game.

This is a pattern that I feel like has continued throughout my life. I'm deeply skeptical of the narrative of "only one thing happens to you over and over again"-- I'd like to think that a couple different things happen to you all the time, with gradations of change, of course. I very much feel like I am still playing smear the queer. I don't feel like I know how to be if I am not a target. Even as much as I resent being a target.



This is a photo of me and Betsy Heavens right before I did a performance, probably in 2004. It's funny to think that I've been harping on the same stuff for so long. Probably that was a clearer, if messier, way to get at what I am always trying to get at. I painted a target symbol over my chest and I tried to do my eye make-up to look like I had a black eye. I wanted to look tenderized.

I feel like the world only wants me as a target. The world only wants me as queerbait, fagbait, crimebait. Deathbait. I feel like I exist only to prove the limits of more powerful people's aim, range, and force. Even in ideal circumstances, where I should feel good or welcome, I need to make myself a target. I need to be more flamboyant, obscure. I cannot accept that someone would actually love me; I need to immediately, repeatedly and forcefully throw myself against the edges of their love to prove its boundary. I know, on some deep dark level of my most mistrustful heart, that all love is conditional. I can see other people only as they are not me. You can love me only if I know that you love someone else more than you love me.

I went to the bar last night and I felt kind of out of it. I said hi to some people but mostly I avoided people. A couple people stopped me to say hello, which I kind of felt bad about. I feel like I'm sick, like I'm a sick person and everyone can see it.

I need to tell myself another thing. I wanted, I was telling my analyst last night, to try a different thing. Why is it always that my fundamental make-up is the problem? Why is it so bad that I naturally want to be a target? Why is it so bad that I either lash out inappropriately (fight dirty) or else resign myself to become the object of my own rage? Isn't there a place for me to have these qualities? Isn't there a job that requires this exact skill set? Maybe it's not being an artist but that seems pretty close.

I just want to feel a different way and I guess I can't feel a different way until I think a different way about it first.

5/19/15

For to Get



I feel like I'm forgetting something. Something important. What is it that I'm forgetting? Is it that I'm forgetting to love you? Like, to show you affection? Or is it that I'm forgetting to love you-- in the sense that I'm actually forgetting to feel that feeling. To practice the art of loving you. That I'm forgetting that I'm supposed to be doing that. Like, everyone else has taken off in the marathon and I am still here, at the starting line, admiring the job I did lacing my shoes.

I just learned a new way to lace up my shoes. The dumb internet taught me. I hate even linking, but you know.

No but I feel as though I am forgetting something important. Is it you, internet. Is it you, diary? Am I forgetting to do something here. I don't write every day. Things feel sort of okay. They're moving along. I'm caught in a moment. I'm distracting myself. To tolerate distress.

Is it that I forgot to ruin everything.

I got outside. I got outside this weekend, and I got outside yesterday and today. Did I forget to be cute. Did I forget to call someone? Did I forget to worry. I didn't forget to worry, to feel bad. I remembered. I'm remembering right now. Did I forget to fight hard. Did I forget to kill something to become its favorite.



It feels not unlike in college, this thing of using stars as metaphors, astronomy. I remember writing some not great songs about seeing constellations as lonely. They're pairing up and I'm down here. But now I feel less like it's about being left out of some romantic entanglement, less about feeling alienated more about the anxiety of pattern recognition. I think I've swung too far in the other direction-- now imperfection is too aesthetic to me. I get freaked out by a schema.

Mercury is retrograde, of course I feel like I've forgotten something. I'm definitely not forgetting to eat. That much I remember. I'm gaining weight from meds, it feels like. It's awful. I don't know if anything's working. I feel frustrated for the stupidest reasons-- seeing something shiny, etc.

I'm having an okay time. Things are going along. I have the zine party this weekend and some shows and my parents are coming to town. And yet there's this nagging feeling. I don't understand. I want to distract myself. I want to buy toiletries. I want to buy socks. Things I need. Unglamorous things but new things. I want to fritter away my money by stocking up.



Like most Americans I want to move laterally. I don't want to go forward or confront the past I just want to sort of muddle from side to side. I want to feel like I have some leverage. I want to feel capable, expert or something. Not like I want to feel powerful or in control-- I don't need those. I want to feel like I'm somewhere. A person. It's so fucked up.

I want to find a program that will split up FLAC files into mp3s so I can listen to the Amy Denio stuff I've been downloading. I am compulsively downloading music. Krautrock, indie, whatever. I want to feel like I'm feeding myself but I can't nourish. If that's possible? I want to feel like I'm taking care of myself. For myself. Like I'm helping myself. Like I'm getting inspired. Like I'm curious and I go after something but I come up against some kind of obstacle, like I'm discovering or making problems for myself, and I'm solving them.



I need to calm down. I am calm. I'm making tea. I'm doing a facial mask. Masque. I'm writing like I'm talking. I'm forgetting something on purpose maybe.

5/4/15

DOOR GIRLS



I've written zines since I was about 13 years old. The first zine I made, in high school, was called Zombie. In 2006 I started writing Scorcher, which I referred to as a psychedelic porno poetry zine, something of a bait and switch.

For the last year I've been writing something new, and occasionally reading from it. It's a new zine, called DOOR GIRLS. It's about going to parties. The new zine will come out on 5/23 and I'm having a special zine launch and reading and I am thrilled to be joined by some special guest readers who I like a lot: Doug Keeler, Justin Allen and Erin Markey. Won't you join us?

DOOR GIRLS by Max Steele zine launch and reading featuring Doug Keeler, Justin Allen and Erin Markey

Saturday May 23rd 7pm
Bureau of General Services—Queer Division @ The Center
208 West 13th Street, Room 210
New York, NY 10011

Please join Max Steele for the release of his new zine DOOR GIRLS at the Bureau of General Services—Queer Division for a launch party and reading featuring Doug Keeler, Justin Allen and Erin Markey.

Justin Allen is a writer from Northern Virginia whose work traces the ways geographies, both URL and IRL, shape identity.

Erin Markey is a comedic writer/performer, actress and singer who has shown work at BAM, Under The Radar Festival, New Museum, PS 122, Lincoln Center Director’s Lab, New York Comedy Festival, San Francisco Film Society, and frequently at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater. She is currently a 2013-2015 artist-in-residence at Brooklyn Arts Exchange writing a musical, A Ride On The Irish Cream which will premiere at Abrons Arts Center in January 2016. She is a 2014 Franklin Furnace Fund recipient.

Max Steele is a writer and performer. He’s written the psychedelic porno poetry zine Scorcher since 2006 and in 2015 started a new zine, DOOR GIRLS, about night life.

3/25/15

What I Want Us To Do on Friday Night

Here's what to do on Friday night. Here's what I'm doing Friday night. I want you to do these things with me please. And in this order.

#1: AT THE JUMP: NEW WORK BY JULIA NORTON



Opening reception Friday March 27th, 6-9pm
Yashar Gallery Jiddy's Art Show at Yashar Gallery
Open by appointment through April 12th, contact through www.julia-norton.com

Yashar Gallery (ground floor of the Leviton building)
276 Greenpoint Avenue (at Provost Street)

#2: The Multifarious Array: Tommy Pico, Felix Bernstein, Jessi Probus & Caroline Contillo





The Multifarious Array is a semi-monthly reading series featuring the very best poets at the very best place (Pete's Candy Store).

Pete's Candy Store
709 Lorimer St.
Reading starts at 7PM. FREE

#3: HOT RABBIT FEATURING DJ M.O. and MAX STEELE





HOT RABBIT - LGBTQ Dance Party
FRIDAYS @ THE MONSTER (Downstairs)
80 Grove St (W 4th/7th Ave)
10pm-4am

**** FREE ENTRY with PASSWORD **** COWABUNGA ****
**** DJ M.O. ****
*** MIDNIGHT performance by MAX STEELE ***
Sexy go-go magic by VIVA BODYROLL and RIFY ROYALTY !!!
Photos by photomistress GRACE CHU !!
Emcee GUPP on the mic !!




tldr: Jiddy No-No's new art work, solo show, super important, then down to Pete's Candy Store for a scintillating reading by some of NYC's brightest thinkers (Teebs, Caroline and Jessi, Felix Baby Spice Bernstein) curated by art star Isaac Richard Pool, then come on out to the Monster in the West Village to see me sing a number at what is actually a legitimately awesome queer dance party.

and you don't even have to spend any money if you know the password for Hot Rabbit. Just saying <3 p="">

3/17/15

Back in the midst, in the early part of my mental breakdown, I got some donations toward these dream shoes. I didn't end up collecting any of the money. I mean, I returned it all. Then yesterday I found the shoes, on sale, randomly, in my size.



I feel like it was fate.

3/11/15

THREE ELEVEN

THREE ELEVEN
ELVEN
THRIVING ELVIS
EVEN THEN

I have two shows this week that I want to tell you about.
(Don't Stay Home. )



First:
FRIDAY THE 13TH:

THE MULTIFARIOUS ARRAY: GORDON HALL, MAX STEELE, BUZZ SLUTZKY

Pete's Candy Store (709 Lorimer St.)
7:00pm
$FREE

The Multifarious Array is a really cool reading series, and the wonderful Isaac Richard Pool is curating some fantastic things, and I am so, so excited to be part of this thing. And reading with Gordon and Buzz! It feels very fancy. I am thinking about what to wear?

More importantly, I'm reading some new things. I'm working on a new zine. I'm working on a tiny, short, preview zine, and then a longer bigger thing. But it's in a new vein (for me), and I'm excited to share some of this work on Friday. I'm nervous and excited.




Then, later:
SUNDAY THE 15TH:

THE GARFIELD HOUR : New Work by BECCA BLACKWELL and MAX STEELE

at Earl Dax' PUSSY FAGGOT! 6 Year Anniversary Party
The Delancey (168 Delancey St.)
8PM
$10 or
RSVP for Reduced Guest List HERE:
http://tinyurl.com/PF-6yr-RSVP
(it's $6 instead of $10)

* Open Vodka Bar from 8-9pm *

So I'm singing some new songs and telling some new stories from a show I'm working on called THE GOOD DAUGHTER on Sunday night. And I'm opening for my favorite NYC queermo DaddyFag Genius Baby Superhero Becca Blackwell, who's showing some of their new solo show. It is truly an honor and I barely feel up to it. But Pussy Faggot is the fucking best and Earl is the most wonderful and Miss Pennifer Arcade is hosting, it's going to be so lovely. Description and line-ups below. But just as a reminder: $6 with RSVP link and OPEN VODKA BAR during the 8-9 slot which is when Becca and I are performing, so. You know.

Arrive early for the 6-year anniversary of PUSSY FAGGOT!, and enjoy work-in-progress performances by Becca Blackwell and Max Steele beginning at 8pm (basement level). Blackwell performs their new solo show, "They Themself and Schmerm." In this hilariously raucous romp, inspired by a self-produced video by Corey Haim called Me, Myself and I, Blackwell (a he-she-schmerm ginger who was in the circus and enjoys cute sweaters) chronicles the struggle of abuse, identity, sexuality, and gender. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll question what bathroom to use. Steele will perform songs from his new show, "The Good Daughter."

Come for The Garfields, and stay for the rest of the evening! Full details on PUSSY FAGGOT! Divine Intervention can be found HERE (and below)

Hosted by Penny Arcade, Guest Co-Curated by Travis Chamberlain, Door by La China Loca.
DJs Susanne Oberbeck (Gay Vinyl/No Bra) and Chris Giarmo. Closing DJ and performance set from THE ILLUSTRIOUS BLACKS (Manchildblack Black II and Monstah Black)

8-9 pm OPEN VODKA BAR
8 pm: The Garfield Hour!: New work form Becca Blackwell and Max Steele
9 pm: MIX NYC screening of David Hoyle short film and video work.
10 pm: Penny Arcade-hosted set
Rooftop Garden with all-night durational performances by Anya Liftig and Jen Rosenblit
Video projections by Kris Grey

Performers so far include: Reid Bartelme, Sapphira Cristàl, Viva DeConcini and Ann Pellegrini, Fantasy Grandma, Nick Hallett, Needles Jones, Karl Marks, Rachel Mason, Kenny Mellman, and Runn Shayo.



Okay and tonight I'm personally excited because Miss Pennifer and I are going all the way uptown to the 92nd Street Y to see this fantastic Eurodra Welty show our friend David directed.

I also don't know what to wear for that.

3/9/15

In school we had an art show together where we told everyone for months that we were fraternal twins, and then the art show was a lot of art about us, as twins. Composite drawings of fake baby photos, etc. It was obviously a lie but people still kind of believed it, or didn't get the joke of it, in a way. After school she went on to what seems like a very successful and glamorous job in the art world industry and I have gone on to pursue much more humble avenues of occasionally making art, unsuccessfully (it feels like) by comparison.

Last summer I slept with a guy who, it was revealed after we'd hooked up, was her intern. I thought "okay." But then later in the summer I slept with a different guy who, it was later revealed, was another of her interns. I don't know if she knows --she probably wouldn't care, or would think it was funny-- but I had been sort of banking on the idea that the two interns wouldn't tell each other they'd hooked up with me. I'd fooled around with each of them exactly once but tried to stay friendly with both.

I want to be friends with all of the boys.

Yesterday I saw them walking down the street together. Maybe they were coming from work or something. We didn't say hi to each other.

3/2/15

Tons de Legal

A theme from the week, from the weekend, could be being in the right place at the wrong time. Is time a place? A theme is being super early, or super late. On Sunday I showed up for a rehearsal I wasn't called to. Like, by a month. I was humiliated but they were nice about it.  It was like from a movie, from Smiley Face or A Woman Under the Influence. Funny and tragic. Taking everything too seriously. the way I always do. I take everything so seriously that it almost appears as if I don't care at all. I'm so obsessive and neurotic that I become lazy. This is a neat trick, the myth or circularity.

Break the cycle.

So instead I went to some art stuff. Went to some art stuff. I saw Andrew Norman Wilson's installation, Wether, at Chapter NY. I liked it, but I also thought it was a little bit creepy or scary. Anything that's legibly alchemical freaks me out, a little. Also boxes, cubes. Squares are inherently scary, right? All those corners? All four of them? In Chinese, four is considered unlucky because the Mandarin word for "four" (肆) sounds like the word for "death" (死). I'm okay with leaving four out of things. The whole four elements thing I find a little specious anyway. There's no room for Love, for Consciousness, and also I don't feel like Air should get to be it's own element, if we're excluding electricity. I'm rambling.

Anyway I ran into lovely Ross on my way to the opening and I was talking to him about how the installation was pretty, but also kind of scary, for the box/cube fear, and Ross said that fear can be good. I thought "Hmm." It's not the first time I've heard that sentiment, but I did stop to think about it a bit. Fear can be inspiring, I guess. Fear can also be paralyzing. You have to be careful how scared you get, I guess.

I went to this reading but it seemed empty or like in the wrong place. I mean I went to the place, it was the right place, but there was no one there except for the staff, and they seemed to be preparing a soup. I was intimidated. I hadn't been invited. Not personally. It was in all likelihood a free and public event but still. I just got drunk at the sculpture show downstairs instead.

I also went by Untitled to see a show of frankly fantastic new paintings by Henry Taylor.


Served Up, 2009

I was unfamiliar with his work before, but I really loved the paintings at Untitled. Definitely worth a trip to the LES to see them. The sculptures didn't really grab me, but sculptures rarely do. One of those openings you sort of stumble into, but are so glad you did. There was a cute little kid running around the gallery, and he knocked into me as I was holding a beer, and I spilled it on his jacket. He didn't seem to notice, and ran off, but I was kind of worried that the little kid (I'm guessing he was between four and six) would find his parents and be reeking of beer, but that's not my problem, really, is it.

I found the Chinatown bakery that, for a few weeks in a row now, has taro buns on sale on Sunday nights, which is perfect for art opening crawls through the neighborhood. I mean they're on sale because they're a little bit stale but I don't care.

I've been smoking, more than I should, obviously. I need to organize. I need to purge. I need to collect myself, and then I need to purge.

I went to Tanja Grunert to see Beyond 1.1, curated by Mitra Khorasheh &; Bethsabee Attali, featuring work by Charlotte Becket, Angelica Bergamini, Anoka Faruqee, Rachel Garrard, Paul Jacobsen, Dorothee Recker & Lisa Ross.


Angelica Bergamini, Respirado (Breathing), 2007

Really great show! Packed! Gorgeous and mean and smart. Some of the curatorial conceits were a little lost on ragamuffin me (dig the curator's text on the website) but that didn't dampen my experience of the show. I didn't stay for as long as I should have, and I'd like to come back.

I don't really go in for nature or nature art or the beauty of the natural world. I don't respect nature. Nature doesn't respect me, either. But this show gave me some things to think about-- I'm thinking of the ideas of fearful symmetry, of historical humor (isn't it funny what we used to think was true?). I'm thinking of how if you take a wide enough view, which is impossible, on some level, not to do, then there's a kind of beauty in the tautology there-- it's true because it's true. It's wrong because it's wrong. I think the show seemed to touch of themes of, if not the ineffable, than the inevitability of nature. I highly recommend it.

Thursday night I saw Sleater-Kinney, perform. It was a fucking trip. They were wonderful. I don't know if it was totally the transcendent experience I was hoping for. Actually it's just that they didn't play "Good Things". They were pretty fantastic. I hadn't seen them perform live since before One Beat, so it was kind of weird seeing all the later songs live. And the new stuff was fantastic. I geeked out, it was lovely.

My play is happening for one more weekend only, and I really want you to come. Just before the show on Saturday, I found out via the internet that the Casual Dots were playing in Williamsburg that night and promptly had a conniption. After the show, I ran over to Union Pool and was told that I was the last door ticket they let in. But I got in.

I saw the Casual Dots perform.
I'd never seen them before. I've only ever seen Kathi Wilcox perform in The Julie Ruin in the last few years. I saw Quix*O*Tic a couple times in the early 00s, but have long been a big fan of Christina Billotte. They were fucking amazing. I've loved this band for so long and I never ever ever thought I'd ever get to see them live. PLD told me he saw an interview where Kathi says they're making a new record, and the handful of new songs they played were awesome. They also played the songs from the old record, including one of my favorite songs in the whole wide world, "Hooded":



I really had such a fantastic time I can't even tell you. Really. I am on cloud nine that I got to see them. Okay.

The train this morning had bad air. It made me feel bad.
AND my snow boots broke. Just in time for more snow. It's kind of awful, right.

So, two lovely little things.

A: You can read a new piece I wrote, and also hear me reading it, and also see a glowingly lovely intro from Tommy Pico, over on TOE GOOD POETRY.

B: an idea I'm fooling around with

2/24/15

Now we're obsessed. Now we love him. Now we know better. Now we see.

My laptop broke. I have to get the battery replaced, so I don't have a laptop for a few days. It's kind of nice. It's like being back before the internet, in a way. I have to read books and listen to records. My room mate Molly rightfully noted that I must love that. I do, in a way.

But I'm also relieved, or it seems like good timing to not be so online right now. Because things are not going very well. I feel like I've been abusing my access to the internet. I want to think that things like writing online and using social media can help me navigate my anxiety and loneliness, but they also sometimes seem to exacerbate it.

I guess there's just no relief. But the upside is I can't, for the time being, drive more people away since I can't be on twitter all the time.

I am in pain and I am trying to be patient but it hurts and I don't know why.

I am in this play at the Treehouse theater and no one I know has come to see it.

2/3/15

GOLD LOCK

I went to the gym and my lock was missing. Again. I lost mylock, I left it there and it got stolen. It was golden and it said “Tuff Stuff” on it. I realized only after I had gotten changed and I had to leave. I bought a new lock today. It says “Master”.

I had been talking to first, but he’s too sweet. He’s young and cute and little and needy he talks a lot. Nice looking. Elfin, cherubic. I bet he whines. Maybe picky. I’d have to be careful.

I talk to second. Might be too much the other way. He’s smart, he’s nearer to my age. An intellectual. Too close probably. Social world or philosophically. He’d be just we’d be I might be just barely almost for him but probably not enough, so close but no cigar I’d be maybe silver, maybe bronze. Maybe copper. Nickel. Aluminium. Tin. He’d get pissed and destroy me, right.

I came home. I walked home from the city, for two hours. It’s going to snow tonight and soon I won’t be able to do that. I saw the fire burning on the waterfront, the hospital records up in flames for now 36 hours. Right next to an oil refinery. The fire fighters said it could take a week to put out the fire. Residents nearby are growing impatient.

Listening to Patti LaBelle. That thing of singing in church. Going to church as a kid. Being around singing as a kid. I feel so poor. I feel: I didn’t have that. I could have been Patti LaBelle but I didn’t have what she has. This is wrong of me to feel. I realize.

To find a perfect place.
But yet

To find a perfect place without taking it away from someone else. Without a colony.
An authentic home, an unclaimed identity.

To break and enter
To eat all their food
To turn up your nose at your booty.

To be a snob about
Being a shoplifter

To be fussy. To hold out
For the perfect one.
To wait. To lie in wait, to just lie.

I came home and hello hand wave from a perfect one. Taller than me and younger than me and cooler than me. I think maybe a model. Never going to happen but sweet of him.

Goldie Locks when she came home when no when the bears came home and discovered her

She didn’t get to keep what she found, she didn’t get
To move in. they killed her.
And rightfully so.

They ate her alive
in their living room.

1/29/15

I Break Up With Myself



I've been doing Dry January, where I don't have any alcohol this month. And this week, since Monday, I've been doing no coffee or nicotine or anything else. There're a couple of exceptions: I've been having mate in the mornings because I don't want to get withdrawal headaches, and I cheated and smoked the last cigarette from my pack on Monday afternoon, when I got to come home early from work because of the blizzard. And I'm also taking my prescriptions, duh.

This week has been kind of hard. Not as hard as I thought it would be, to be honest. I'm glad I stuck to my guns and didn't smoke pot and drink booze during the blizzard, especially since the snowstorm ended up being so underwhelming in New York. I came close to losing it though. It's also been hard because the gym has been closed all week, so last night when I got to do a very nice long workout I felt fantastic. I'm going to try to wake up extra early tomorrow to go to the gym again before work.

My week of abstinence ends tomorrow night. This weekend I will have a cocktail or two. I thought I'd have a more intense experience. I thought I'd be happier and clearer and more focused. And I suppose I am, but not to the extent that I want to keep it up. I will say, though, not drinking booze is pretty great, and I definitely don't miss it at all, as anything except a convenient and ubiquitous social lubricant. It makes it easier to ask people on dates.

And the snowstorm. Kind of a bummer. I hate this shit.

Friday night my roommate DJane Dresssage and I had Caroline Crone and her fantastic girlfriend Jessi over for dinner. I made mujadara and DJane Dresssage made a very nice Kale salad and I served girl scout cookies for dessert. It was so much fun. A kind of perfect way to start my weekend, especially since I'm not drinking.



Saturday I meant to go drop off my old computer parts for recycling but blew it off, thinking there'd be another Williamsburg e-Recycling day soon. There's not. I totally blew it in typical Mercury Retrograde fashion. And now I need to get rid of my junk.

I had the good fortune to perform on Saturday and Sunday night with The Ballez, the legendary queer ballet troupe founded by Katy Pyle, who's an Artist in Residence at BAX. I was performing a piece based on a piece based on Swan Lake. I'm obviously not a dancer and that's kind of the point. Ballet is so hard! It really hurt! I had so much fun doing it. It was actually kind of a life-changing experience for me. I could feel the tug, but I didn't open myself up to it entirely (or I would have been sobbing and that would have ruined the performance). But I felt something well up. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to do more along these lines in the future. Wow.

Right after the performance I sneaked uptown to Williamsburg to THRUST, the fourth edition of my favorite performance night/variety show/reading, hosted by Julia Aslop and birthday gal Ruby Brunton. I was late, but I got there just in time to see Boiled Wool, my new favorite Brooklyn band/performer, singing. I love her so much. I love all of them so much. I saw Kayla read and I saw Ruby read and I had a really good time. I sang a song, a cover of the Geraldine Fibbers' "Dragon Lady" set to the music of Saint Etienne's "Nothing Can Stop Us". And like yeah, mash-ups are totally boring and old-fashioned, but the St. Etienne song is basically one looped riff from a fantastic Dusty Springfield song anyway.



I don't know if people liked or got it. I think I'm creepy. I want to be creepy. I want to be wrong, because I hate myself and that feels real to me. I'm hoping I can work through this and start feeling a different way, someday. I'm glad I did this song and I want to do it again.

I want to play more shows. Again. I say this all the time.



After THRUST I went to Metropolitan to go to my first tweet-up. That's the name for where you meet people you only know through Twitter. I already knew some of the people there from real life already, so I felt less uncomfortable. But it's ALWAYS nerve-wracking to meet cute boys from the internet in real life, right? They did these renovations at Metropolitan and they made it too chic. It's disorienting and I don't like it.

It's also awkward for me lately because online I vent so much of my personal pain and I think it grosses people out. In the way that things gross us out because of some (my theory) deep-seated recognition or identification.



I have no illusions about this-- I don't think I'm doing a service. I don't think I'm doing this (sharing, oversharing) for other people's benefit. It's therapeutic. I've thought a lot about killing this blog. Killing my online personality. But that wouldn't really accomplish anything.

This is all a record. This is all a record of a process. Anyone can do it. It's about, I don't know, keeping track. Letting yourself forget.



Oh shit I forgot. I need to make a mental note to write a short story, a poem or something, about the night I went out in Oakland over Christmas (I think I posted about it) and met a famous fashion designer.



I feel so wrong though. I feel so dumb. As if it's just a matter of me buying the right thing. I've been taught, and I don't want to put the blame on culture... but here I am a reasonably together 30 year-old person with the sneaking suspicion that it's not as easy as I've been thinking it is. I've been given to understand that one's happiness or success (since, y'know, these are definitely not synonymous but so often conflated) are somehow a function of one's willpower.

So I think it's just a matter of buying the right thing. Making the right decisions. This is what celebrities tell you all the time: they just wanted it bad enough. They just wanted it more than other people.

I've been watching this Mariel Hemingway documentary Running from Crazy. It's a little bit annoying but also kind of exciting. I couldn't finish it because it was kind of bumming me out. Part of me feels like, if you want to avoid "crazy" should you run right towards, into, and through it? Maybe that means I'm not crazy.

I can't tell, honestly, if the antidepressants are working. I don't feel worse than I did before but I do feel like I'm distracting myself.

With good and bad things! I'm not being very creative. I'm not writing. I signed up for a poetry workshop though, and I'm doing this play, and I danced and will get to dance more. I guess maybe I am being creative.

But buying the right thing. I bough winter boots and a new winter coat and of course I bought the cheapest things I could find and of course two weeks into owning them they're coming apart. I am the parable of the fashion-industrial complex. Why, Tomas Maier wonders, bother buying so much junk? Why not just consume less? I am the cautionary tale. I do have two pairs of boots that are cheap and falling apart and neither of them are really comfortable or workable. Instead of having one part of perfect, overpriced, wonderful boots. I want a deal. I feel like the world is out to get me. Because late capitalism. Because being raise the way I was. Isn't it better to have a lot of shitty stuff instead of the one perfect thing? Because you may never get the one perfect thing. And the one perfect thing eventually falls apart too.

I feel this way about love. I more or less do not believe in romantic love. Though I do definitely want it right now. But why bother. Why not try to cobble together a lot of somatic love, a lot of self-love, a lot of platonic love and hope that that's the same? Well those things fade too. I'd rather get dumped by someone else than what I've been doing, which is dumping myself.

I break up with myself all the time. Remember this Mary Timony song from her fantastic first album, Mountains?


God, remember when this record came out?

It's so funny, I was thinking today that I'm going to my analyst tonight but I don't have anything to talk to him about.

1/22/15

Needing to Thaw



What else. Waiting for my dinner to cook. For dinner tonight I'm having:
- Frozen cooked winter squash
- Frozen dumplings



I need to thaw. I was supposed to have something tonight but it got canceled and thank goodness. I'm exhausted. I woke up at 6am to go to the gym.



Edit: I wrote that part last night. I went to bed before I could finish it. I woke up again at six this morning but just so that I could have some quiet time to meditate, shower, eat breakfast and catch up on correspondence. And there's still not enough time.

I love getting up early. It does kind of make me wonder, though, why I live in a city. If I prize these moments of quiet solitude so much. Why not move to a cave? But I think I only appreciate them in contrast to the absolute craziness the rest of my days and nights are about. Like tonight, for example. And today. It's going to be elaborate, there's so much to do. But it's also Mercury Retrograde, so let's see how much of the agenda we get through.

Last weekend I went to see Half Straddle's ANCIENT LIVES at The Kitchen. It was totally fantastic.



I have never seen a Half Straddle show before, which is totally ridiculous because I've seen clips and short little readings and know many of the people involved with the company and love them all. But this was my first full-length big time show of theirs that I saw and I just loved it.  On my way into the theater, I saw a girl sneaking in. She cut the line into the space and tried to move past the ticket-taker without being notices, but the ticket-taker corralled her over and asked to scan her ticket. The girl pretended to be in a big hurry and not have the ticket, then produced it and let the woman scan it. The ticket-taker lady said that the Girl had a ticket for yesterday's show, and sent her back to the box office. The girl tried to sneak in behind me but was shoo'd away. I don't know how she got another ticket, since the show was sold out, because the show is such a hit. Anyway I made it into the theater and was sitting with Erin and Jordan and Eric, and I saw the sneaky girl! She was looking on her phone and scanning the crowd looking for a seat. She seemed like she was there to meet someone. She milled through the audience and ultimately ended up sitting next to us. By this point I had told my seat companions about the cool sneaky girl I saw sneaking into the show. I think it's fitting that a girl would do that, would sneak in, boldly.

I think that's sort of what ANCIENT LIVES was about-- trespassing. It's about being a girl, how to find a way to be a girl and a woman in the world. How to make a world around being a girl. And how to keep it that way, how to leave and come back. It's hard to describe. I don't ever remember my dreams but the show invaded my dreams. The music, by Chris Giarmo, was fucking haunting and gorgeous. The play itself, by Tina Satter (obviously) was crystalline and entrancing. I felt like I was watching a 60s horror movie and also a 70s feminist documentary and an 80s teen movie and a 90s sitcom and a reality show from the 00s and also something else. It was dreamy, it was personal. It was really freaky and I loved it.

Me and the kids went out for drinks afterward with some of the cast and crew. I'm still doing Dry January, which is okay but exceedingly boring. I still want to stay up late and party and laugh and flirt and have fun, but I just don't want to spend money on overpriced alcohol just to face a hangover and shame in the morning. I'm too busy! So I don't mind abstaining from booze. I think I will probably only drink a little bit in February. I'm toying with the idea of abstaining from everything else the last week of this month. That'll be tough. Anyway I've been going out to bars and drinking Shirley Temples, another brilliant Molly Pope idea, and had some after the play on Saturday.

Sunday I had rehearsal for the play I'm in, a production of The Food Chain by Nicky Silver, being produced by Spoon Productions. It opens in February here in NYC. I am enjoying the thing of being an actor! Also, I'm sorry, but we're trying to raise money for the production:


Our fundraising campaign is here.

After rehearsal I went to Dover Street Market NY to see the new collections from the tachiagari. Obviously I wanted everything, but still, nothing in particular. Yet. I need a new handbag. I want a new CdG bag but haven't seen one that I need need to own yet. Debating dropping $250 on a Dries Van Noten denim tote. That seems sort of silly, right?

I really wanted to see the new Comme des Garçons SS 2015 collection. You know, the blood and roses one. It's gorgeous, and it bears more than a little bit of resemblance to the capsule collection Alex Da Corte (who collaborated with Rei Kawakubo on a mural installation for DSMNY) did with Brooklyn sleepwear streetwear label SAFE HOUSE USA. Behold his "blood lust" collection, and the new CdG:




a brief from Da Corte's collaboration with SAFE HOUSE USA:

“The poem should read--

I can't, Billy. You already cut me too deep. I think I'm dying here, man!

xoxoxo

Alex”

As a Billy, I love it. Also, I can't really afford to cop any of the new CdG but I already own the SAFE HOUSE USA shirt, so I feel like I'm ahead of the trend, that Kawakubo is cannibalizing her collaborators and ought to, honestly, just stock SAFE HOUSE USA (and, for that matter, FANMAIL-USA) at Dover Street Market, no?

After window shopping I got my shit back together and went to Joe's Pub to see The Meeting*, which is obviously organized and brained and hosted by the ineffable brilliant Miss Justin Sayre. It was just so fantastic and hilarious and... yeah. Wow. It was my first time going to the Meeting* (I know, I know), and Sunday was a tribute to Ethel Merman, featuring: Molly Pope, Erin Markey, Brian Kellow, Klea Blackhurst, Ben Rimalower, Rob Maitner and Tracy Stark. Everyone did such a bang-up job. It was (sorry to brag) another one of those nights that makes me so glad I live in New York. A really great show. I had to meet the minimum at Joe's, so I ordered more Shirley Temples. They were very fancy and the waitress was worried and told me that the maraschino cherries they use are house-made and brandied, but I said it's OK to have them. I'm not being religious about it. I didn't get drunk from them, don't worry.



Monday I had more rehearsal for the play, and then I also rehearsed a dance piece for Ballez. I'll be joining Katy Pyle and the rest of the Ballez company this weekend at their Works-in-Progress performances at BAX. I don't want to give anything away except to say that I am beyond honored to be part of this little showing. I'm not a trained dancer by any stretch of the imagination, but the thing I've been invited to participate in is gorgeous and I really, really hope people can see it.

Also: ballet dancing, even to the less-than-minimal-extent to which I'm aping it, for even such a tiny period of time, is really hard, and really painful and therefore really exciting to me.

Maybe, I think, right now is the perfect time to become a dancer. At 30. Since I'm so obsessed with my wasted potential, and humiliating myself onstage. Revealing that I have zero technique. Maybe this is a good way to go forward. I want to go to more Ballez classes in the spring. I'm going to. Okay.

On Saturday, after the BAX WIP showings, I'm going to hustle quick like a sexy little ballet rabbit up to Williamsburg to go to THRUST FOUR: BIRTHDAY EDITION celebrating the blessèd birth of miss Ruby Brunton. The evening features performances by Tommy Pico, Kaitlyn Greenidge,Clara Lou, Cynthia Chang, Max Steele (ASSUMING I GET THERE IN TIME!)
Julie Alsop, Per Form, Joseph Henry, Kayla Morse, Musical Interlude from Norvis Jr & a fire DJ set by Mutaurwa Mapondera (NO REQUESTS). This is a very special evening and I am doing a new sort of experimental rap cover and I think it'll be great. Even if it snows that night.

The new Sleater-Kinney record is out by now, and I'm happy. And so is the Erase Errata record! And the new Björk record. I'm not so crazy about Vulnicura, at least not yet. I must say. Still obsessed with No Cities to Love though and can't wait to see S-K next month. Here's a video of them performing "A New Wave"



Pretty great, right? I have a lot of critical and difficult feelings, though, about a) the sound mix here and b) Carrie's outfit. I don't want to be a jerk but I do feel like what you wear matters and I have a lot of questions and feelings about the white pants suit. For now best saved for real life or something, until I can collect myself.

This morning I read a really fantastic interview with Janet Weiss about the reunion and the new record, and it included this quote, which I love:
"I think what I've learned about getting older is that you have to be more in the moment and not looking so far ahead all the time. You'll just take more chances with what you create if you keep your focus close, you know? Don't start planning out five years ahead, because you may never get there. Sports are that way: they always say don't look past this game, because you'll be thinking about the next game and you'll lose the game you're playing. Life is very much like that, and I've learned that more as I get older. Focus on the game you're playing, because it can be the best game, and it can be your best work."

1/15/15

iPod amnesia. Since the holidays. It's stuffed. It's old. It can't take anymore. It gets forgetting everything I tell it. It's extraordinarily frustrating. I have to keep deciding my priorities. What are the most important songs to have with me at all times? It's tricky. I feel like the fact that this keeps happening lately is good in a way because I notice myself changing a little bit. Thinking not, "What are the things I've reliably enjoyed, almost always?" but "What do I want to listen to right now?" Which is a hard question.

But still. I know that I always want to listen to Sister Nancy. Pretty much.



But I didn't have any Sister Nancy on my phone so this morning I had to listen to Can instead. "Paperhouse"

1/13/15

Charter/Charnel

A week when I felt glad to live in New York. I went to two art openings last week before in the frigid cold, before I went to my Analyst.

First, I went to see Ryan McNamara's "Gently Used" at Mary Boone Uptown, curated by Piper Marshall.

McNamara is kind of a hero to me, in a number of ways. I've long admired his work in particular, and his ability to be part of and sort of make/contribute to a really cool thing or culture of things in the art and performance conversations. Maybe that's not specific enough. His work is I think heroic. I used to not be into it, or I thought I wasn't into it, his performances, because I thought it was probably glamorous in a bad way. I get like that about other queer people's work sometimes. That's on me, I know. Regardless, I like McNamara's work even if I'm intimidated by it, jealous of it, turned-on and vexed by some things about it sometimes. I really liked this show. I was into the way performance was used in this exhibition, as content, a material process for art-making. I'm into the title-- it's about recycling right? Transmission.


to be titled (striped bands)

When I say that McNamara's artwork is about heroism to me, I'm saying that it seems to me an investigation of the "hero" dynamic, an interrogation of the golden boy. He's not afraid, say, to fill a gallery or fill a daydream with golden boys. He's not afraid to make a routine out of transcendence. It seems like easy choices for someone to make, but they're almost certainly not. I was impressed with the show, the politic insistence on collection, display, archaeological self-regard. A response to an impulse but acting as if it were orders, a command.

One of the pieces was a series of sculptures. Long, curved, brightly colored tubes along one wall, with casts of hands on one end of the tube and casts of feet on the other end. I saw the famous writer Wayne Koestenbaum there, being led around the show, and I overheard some people talking about the foot casts. I ran into this cute boy I know, N, who said he loved the feet, was jealous of the feet. He said the feet were perfect. I asked if he was a foot connoisseur. He said that he was a dancer. So, I figured, yes. He explained that the actual feet were sort of perfect, in terms of what would be prized by a ballet dancer. The feet had perfect angles, arches or something. It was heartening.

Then, I went downtown to see the Helmut Lang show at Sperone Westwater.



I sort of breezed into the gallery without looking at any of the information about the show. I thought the sculptures were mostly pretty, quite scary. Kind of totemic, personal, creepy. I sort of glanced at the press release, and all I saw was: "While the artist’s process is readily apparent and his materials easily identifiable, in his hands they are enhanced and transformed into objects of contemplation." Is this transformation, really? Aren't all sculptures objects of contemplation? Isn't everything? Maybe that's not fair. I'm kind of glad I didn't do too too much research ahead of time, because I also missed this important tidbit about the pieces in the show: namely, that they're made out of his archives. In the excellent and mystifying essay ("Scar Tissue") by Philip Larratt-Smith which accompanies the show, the process is described as: "Lang has fed his entire séance de travail archive through a shredder and mixed with it resin and pigment in long casting tubes, where it is left to bake in the sun for twenty-four hours. The resulting forms have an intense bodily presence, burst viscera exposing a mélange of buttons, zippers, rubber, and scraps of fabric embedded in resin, like teeth or bits of bone."

Larratt-Smith uses Buñuel's Belle de Jour as a foil through which to discuss a psychoanalytic interpretation of trauma, breakdown and catharsis in Lang's sculptures. This is sensitively articulated and clever enough (honestly, the little zine alone is worth the trip). But it seems to be that there's a tremendously large elephant in the room here and the elephant is stinky because the elephant is a pile of shit. I'm not saying the artwork is shit or shitty-- quite the opposite, they're almost majestic. But one strains (pun intended) to see this work and the process described as anything other than anal. It's as if the essay is deliberately trying to get at this idea in as many ways as possible without actually naming or engaging with, you know, shit. Scar tissue is a fine metaphor, but it falls short. Why are we not talking about shit?

On my way to the gallery that night, I passed by the Helmut Lang boutique downtown and looked in the window, at the clothes on sale. I wondered how much of the experience of this art show is about knowing the Lang story, right? Not too much. It's scary though. Psychoanalytic is right. Obscure is not right. That's the thing, it's daring us to see it as magick, obscure, phantasy. But yet it resists it too, it's insistently visceral. Trying to be gross, I thought. I'm being a baby about it. I need to grow up.

It made me think, initially, about about charnel grounds and sky burials. About beauty, digestion. Decay, but really recycling. Nutrients. Cannibalism. Rimming. Digestion. I guess, more than anything, the show seemed, to me, to be about how to measure time, how to reckon with a legacy, how to process, understand, and (yeah) digest one's history. About what counts as waste, and what gets used. Pretty cool stuff.

Friday night I went to WITCH CAMP at Nowhere Bar. It was such a joy as always to dance to the groovy tunes of Isis Black and Isis Black. It was also Isis (Nath-Ann)'s birthday, so there was a delicious carrot cake and a lot of fun.



Can you believe this is the only video I can find of WITCH CAMP online?



They're far and away one of my favorite bands in New York and their sporadic DJ nights at Nowhere are bar none my favorite DJ night in New York, ever. Even when I'm not drinking. It's just the best:



Saturday I woke up and did chores and gym and whatever, then went to Gibney Dance to see a work in progress of Marjani Forté's "being Here…/this time", as part of the Winter Works series. Part of a longer series that Forté's been working on for a few years, the work that was shown this weekend "investigates the implications of recent neuroscientific research on pleasure and reward in relation to substance abuse legislation. The completed work will featuring a 3-D audio installation by composer and sound designer Everett Saunders." I was introduced to her work at BAX, where we were both Artists in Residence, as she was one half of the collective Love/Forté, but I hadn't seen any of the work she'd made outside of that project. I know Marjani mostly from the BAX meeting and the showings of her work I'd seen there, and I knew she was smart and had a very clear sense of how she was thinking through the project, but still-- I was surprised at how affected I was by the performance on Saturday. I ended up going by myself and I'm kind of glad I did-- I really needed some time afterward to be alone with my thoughts. "being Here..." is a piece that's about mental illness, but that seems like too big of a distinction to be useful. Maybe I can describe by saying that it's about thinking. It's a dance about emotional work. It's a dance about struggling, about the power of telling, or not telling, or telling the wrong thing. What I saw was desire turned to rot, onstage. I saw passions pursued to their logical conclusions. I saw depictions of fear turn the performers (who were uniformly phenomenal) grotesque, and I saw the dance, as an artwork, stay with that grotesquerie until it changed. Far from passively "living through" the trauma, Marjani Forté's dance seemed, to me, to take an extraordinarily patient, clear-eyed, sober and almost didactic approach to depicting illness, darkness, destruction. She took it to a very difficult place and she kept it there so that you could see what it does. It was very inspiring. There'll be a showing of the fully-developed project in May at Gibney Dance, definitely do not miss it.

After going home to collect myself and layer up, even more, I met up with the darling Joey Koneko to go see Lydia Lunch's RETROVIRUS because he had an extra ticket and is an angel. I didn't even know the show was happening and was so over the moon to get to go. The opening act was a darling noise duo from Brooklyn called YVETTE.



We were standing right in the very front, and Joey brought earplus thank goodness)! The band was excellent, super fucking loud, physically bone-rattling, and the lead singer was cute and a very good, engaging performer. Here's some of their music:



Okay but then on to the real reason for the season. You must know if you're reading this, how much I love Lydia Lunch. I can't be cool about it, I'm a huge fanboy.



I'd seen RETROVIRUS perform a few years ago and was thrilled, and this show was even better. The band, which includes the legendary Weasel Walter, Tim Dahl and Bob Bert, performed some classics from Lunch's back catalog, all of which had been updated, broken down, resuscitated. It was ecstasy, truly.

Not to be insanely creepy, but I was in the very front and we did make eye contact and I totally melted. At one point, she introduced one of the songs, saying it was from Queen of Siam and that it was a nursery rhyme. She said "It's probably not anyone's favorite, but maybe you'll like this version, it's called 'Mechanical Flattery'." I thought that when she said the title that the entire audience would burst into rabid applause but I was maybe the only one who did. She looked me dead in the eye and sniffed. "Well, you like it."

The show was fantastic. There are few words. Lydia Lunch does what everyone else has been trying to do for the last 40 years. So much of what we consider groundbreaking, important, revolutionary, aesthetically progressive or vital has more or less been invented by Lydia Lunch in seedy basements and hotel rooms long before any of us got to New York. She is the source. She is hugely underrated and I'm sorry about that but I did just so relish getting to see her up close in Brooklyn. After the show I gave her a copy of my zine and I almost barfed.

During the set, she stopped to reapply lipstick twice.



I love you, Lydia Lunch.

Sunday I cleaned out my room. The angelic clever gorgeous baby dear heart Molly Pope came over and we went to work on my closet and it was wonderful. It's kind of a minor point or whatever, but I've needed to de-clutter for a very long time and I feel like a new man. It's just the start, but I'm making a lot of giveaway piles. So I might have a treasure for you.

I went, after cleaning, to an art show at 247365's Manhattan space, titled "Believe You Me."



It was fucking miniscule. It was good! Everything in the show is good, and I think it's definitely worth seeing, and I want to keep up with this gallery and their projects, but the show was really tiny. Felt small. It felt like a pop-up, or like a temporary... something. I mean, everything's temporary. It felt more ephemeral than I thought it would. I liked what I saw and I would go back. There were maybe ten people in the gallery space, which was way too many. But I liked it.

Then I high-tailed it over to Joe's Pub to see A Ride on the Irish Creme the new musical Erin Markey is making in her residency at BAX. I've seen pretty much every iteration of this project. I think I maybe missed one showing of it and I'm pissed about it! It co-stars the brilliant Becca Blackwell, and features Emily Bate, Kenny Mellman and Amber Gray to wonderful effect.



Such a paltry photo, I'm sorry. Look-- I can't be cool about this either. Erin is my friend, we hang out and eat food and go to parties and stuff, but I am also a huge fan, and this show reminds me how hard I have to work to be a person and not a fanboy. It's brilliant. It's a show about desire and judgment and learning to love someone and being vulnerable, in so many ways. Erin Markey is a fucking genius. I can't even. I can never, and don't need to, make songs and performances the way Erin does. I don't need to be there, that's not what I'm trying to say when I say that her work is deeply, personally inspiring to me. It's inspiring in the sense that her ideas are difficult to articulate. They might not make the most sense on paper (writing a neat synopsis of the show would be pointless here-- it's fantastical, surrealist, sexy, dramedy). But she ruthlessly pursues her hunches. She knows, or seems to know, that she's getting at a very specific thing, or range of things, and really fights hard (with herself, with the audience, with the material, with the confines of our lived reality) to show us that it's in there. The thing that makes Erin Markey brilliant is that she's like that part in Peter Pan where the audience has to clap to bring Tinkerbell back to life-- except the stakes are higher, you have to clap louder, and you're not being implored. You want to bring Tinkerbell back to life. It was a fantastic way to end a lovely weekend full of inspiring work.

I'm exhausted and it's freezing but I have to go to rehearsal and then I'm going to go home and eat soup and get ready for this week.

1/7/15

IT'S NOT A NEW WAVE / IT'S JUST YOU / AND ME

I used to write a New Year's post every year but I didn't feel like it this time. Instead want to post about the new Sleater-Kinney album, No Cities to Love.



A few weeks ago I was going through a rough time and I finally broke down and made an appointment with a professional and the moment after I did I saw that Sleater-Kinney had reunited and were releasing a new album. I took this as an auspicious sign. Few bands mean as much to me as Sleater-Kinney does, and I've seen few other bands play as many times as I've had the good fortune to see them live.

Sleater-Kinney is named after the road near Olympia, Washington where they used to practice. It's literally a reference to an un-city. An off-ramp. Olympia's a small town. I guess it is technically a city, it is the state capital. Portland, where the band moved in the 90s, is truly a city. I moved from the suburbs of California to New York City. And look, the title of the album, No Cities to Love rings true for me. it's freaky. There are no new cities to love. There are no undiscovered placed. I moved to New York and it didn't fix everything. Not forever. That's why I had to make Fag City, an imaginary city to love. A place you didn't have to move to. A place you already inhabit.

The new record is modern-sounding but not too terribly hip or trendy. It doesn't really sound like anything other than Sleater-Kinney. It doesn't sound, truly, like Wild Flag or Quasi or The Corin Tucker Band either. The band members have spoken in recent interviews about the particular dynamic the three of them have together, and it's true. It's like they speak a weird twin language. It's not, though, some conspiratorial inside joke, and it's not some radical call for a re-imagining of form or language or politics either. They don't seem to be trying to insulate themselves in their own vernacular, nor do they seem interested in challenging and fighting a wider fight against the "rules" of rock or music culture. They just do whatever is necessary to make their songs sound right. It's a sort of un-glamorous approach to music, or rock and roll. It's not about being sexy or spotlit so much as actually serving the songs.

Maybe this doesn't make sense. I think they've always written really fantastic, complex and surprising songs, and the new songs on No Cities to Love are as good or better than anything they've ever written, and fairly breathtaking. The choruses sometimes come out of nowhere, a guitar part that seems wonky or meandering the first time you hear it is suddenly the centerpiece of the melody moments later, an anchor or spotlight in a whirlwind of sound.

The opening moments of "Price Tag" fill me with such joy. Janet Weiss, thank you for everything. It is a welcome explosion. It's literally fantastic, it's hard to describe without bursting into fantasy. I listened to this song a lot while I was in California last week, jogging along the beach. Feeling amazing.

"Fangless" is kind of a joke, right? Since the song itself is of course anything but fangless. It's toothsome, vicious, alternately anthemic (Carrie's chorus), and yet shockingly funky (Corin's verses).

"Surface Envy" is tense, slightly queasy with excitement, a butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling. Anticipatory, anxious but not nervous. The song plays at being playful. It acts like a freestyle jam, at first, but they're not equivocating. They almost never are. "We win / We lose / Only together to we break the rules."



The title track sounds like a DNA map of the band. They've rarely sounded truer, or more like themselves. "Walk to / or walk off / the edge of my own life" Carrie sings. I had doubted her, I will say. I've never watched Portlandia and I wasn't a huge Wild Flag fan, oddly enough. This song makes me feel like such a fucking idiot. She's amazing. On this song, Carrie Brownstein has never sounded more self-assured, beautiful or more powerful.

"A New Wave" is the reward you get for being a Sleater-Kinney fan. Full stop. It's gorgeous and galvanizing and winsome and sort of smirking, like "Oh, right". It's a kind of reminder, in a way. It feels, really, like a gift to the listener. THANK YOU, LADYMEN.

"No Anthems" is a elemental and rapturous, featuring S-K's signature guitar tangles which can sound chaotic at first but then reveal themselves as dizzyingly complex. Corin's lyrics and singing just this side of cynical. She's authoritative, but she's not wrong. She's right. It's scary.

"Gimme Love" is a kind of blues song. It's funky, lopsided, raw-throated and a stomper. It's gutsy but not guttural.

"Bury Our Friends" is of course the first track released from the album, featuring a video by Miranda July, whose novel The First Bad Man is out next week.



This song is wonderful. Hearing this song, after aching for a Sleater-Kinney reunion for so long is pretty amazing. The song is good news, a clarion call but it has a sad message. The song is about a pretty fucking harsh duty, that thing of living. Living it down, living it out. What a weird image. Exhume your idols. As opposed to Sonic Youth's 1983 Kill Yr Idols, it calls to engage history. Dig me up indeed. And yet, there's the title too. You do have to bury your friends. We all have to do it. There are so few songs about it, though. "We're wild and weary but we won't give in." It's glorious. It's LOUD but it ends quietly.

"Hey Darling" is a kind of rehabilitation of the rock tradition. Remember the so-called rock revival of the early aughts? That could never have happened if it hadn't been for Sleater-Kinney's previous decade of near-constant innovation, and dedication to the form. This song cements their legacy as one of the most important and clear-thinking rock bands in American history. Remember when TIME called them the best band in America? I do. I was in Olympia that week, for Ladyfest, with my mom. I remember we were shopping at a grocery store for food to eat in our hotel that week, and seeing the issue of TIME in the checkout line of the grocery store in Olympia. It was so weird.

"Fade" is the closest thing the record has to a ballad, but it's really more like a rock opera. It's nearly prog rock, it's creative. The ghosts of the 60s which loomed over One Beat or the 70s on The Woods are fondly remembered and laid to rest here. To make room for the future, to make sense of today. It sounds like putting what you know to use. What's that called again? Wisdom.

I was talking with Perfect Li'l Daniel the other day about the new album. One of the reasons we initially bonded was over our shared love of The Hot Rock. He was saying, and he was right as usual, how weird it is. When S-K put an album out, so many years ago, it was after a tour, and it was always a big deal. You saw it coming. It was an event. It defined a chapter of our lives. I never thought I'd be an adult, that I'd be 30 years old and living in New York and then suddenly there would be a new Sleater-Kinney album, surprise, to jolt me out of myself. To wake me up. A new record I didn't even know I needed so badly, and for it to come by surprise it just... overwhelming. They recorded the album without playing the songs on tour fist, which is new for them. Listening to the album, though, the thought I kept having was "I bet these songs are going to sound so amazing live. I can't wait to hear them." I'm looking forward to the show in New York, but the crowd is a little intimidating. I've been to all sorts of wild shows, but nothing ever compares to a Sleater-Kinney audience in terms of ferocity, devotion, and craziness. I'm not kidding. And that was in 1999, in San Francisco.

I wonder about the motivation of the band. Like, what were they thinking about when they wrote these songs? I don't know if it's for me to know, really. This record is upbeat but sad. It's fast and catchy but it's dark, too.

It's so heavy. There are no cities to love. It's true.
There's nowhere to move to. That feeling of having nowhere to go.
Nowhere, that is, except to go inside. Nowhere to go but back together. Nowhere but here.
Nowhere to go but forward.

SLEATER-KINNEY: NO CITIES TO LOVE IS OUT JANUARY 20TH ON SUB-POP