Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Needlemarks (Coda)

Some time ago I posted and quickly removed this piece.  Prompted by a near-relapse, I'm re-posting:


About a year ago I read an amusing essay by Terry Castle—a bona fide academic and wit-- called ‘Heroin Christmas’, recounting the period she spent reading Art Pepper’s autobiography ‘Straight Life’ and singing its praises.

Of course, I immediately ordered this from my library and within moments was incredulous and hooked into the brutally honest account of the colorful life of this tragically addicted but brilliant jazz saxophonist. So much so that I was compelled to date a kind of East Coast/Jersey Shore version of Art. Heroin or not, the dysfunction was sufficient to fuel my personal reality show for at least the summer/fall season. He played alto like a Bird, but spoke like a Soprano and behaved like a Neanderthal. What was I thinking? Something similar to the summer I adopted an abused pitbull puppy and tried to rehabilitate it with kindness and patience. I nearly lost an arm.

Back to the sex---er, sax player. He drove an old Lincoln filled with garbage, dogeared music, scratched cds, masses of unpaid parking tickets and women’s underwear like a kind of advertisement. He called me ‘Baby' even in my local Starbucks. Although he was nearly 50, he wore bowling shirts and ghetto sneakers. Alternatively, there were the 1980's-style mafia Hollywood suits to harmonize with the Godfather dialect. His hair was long and blonde (colored, I discovered to my horror), and his nose was constantly running. His manners were atrocious—table, bed, etc. He ate like a man who has lived alone most of his life, he received texts from women at 4 AM in my bed while telling me I’m the only one for him. Of course the gigs were fantastic, and he’d leave the stage and play these brilliant Coltrane-runs at my table. I was briefly blinded by the jazz-romance, and the endless stretch of rehabilitative possibilities which maybe filled the gap left by my last rough teenager finally coming of age.

I’m sure the novelty of dating an ivy-league slightly older mother-type wore off fairly quickly, but he was a little intrigued by my bass playing and macho-jealous enough to hang on for dear life. The poor guy even proposed marriage at the same time he was facebooking my girlfriends and soliciting women's phone numbers even at my own gigs. I broke it off so many times even I lost count, until I realized the guy wasn’t actually listening. He plays, he blows, he serenades…but most of all he ‘solos’. When he is not soloing he is not only NOT listening, but seems to be simply waiting for his next solo, the next opportunity to flex his musical muscle. Ditto the romance. Our conversations were totally one-sided, not unlike the pitbull who at least gave me some soulful looks as I was preparing his meal. The sex?  With a narcissistic soloist?  Do the math.

I finally reached one humiliation over my highest maternal limit, and checked out. Nine days sober and counting, he doesn’t seem to have noticed. He plays to me on my voicemail, calls me Darling and is undoubtedly still texting from someone else’s bed.

As for me, I am a little sad and miss my heroin summer, but am glad to have my friends back and my credibility is only slightly dented. This, unlike a broken heart and my damaged ears, will hopefully heal. As opposed to Art’s trackmarks which both followed and drove him to an early grave. I guess I’ll have to pick a new addiction for the winter. Maybe I’ll even celebrate my own heroin Christmas. Or I’ll adopt another puppy.


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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Under the Net

I've come full circle to this pedestrian realization that the universal absolute LCD is spending every minute essentially making memories.  The ones that stand with accuracy are of course witnessed, photographed, etc. The witnessing process in our culture has ballooned to full-blown clutter.  The evidence now eclipses the fact that the experience is what mattered-- so much of this slips by while we are texting and recording, forgetting to use our mind to 'set' the moment and relying on technology while life evades us.  

I am currently obsessed with the prospect of mental atrophy, of dementia as I watch my Mom desperately trying to cope.  I think about Iris Murdoch-- her impeccably clever literacy, the way it left her brilliant mind a damaged shell on one of the most coveted intellectual beaches.  I just reread Under the Net--- a small book, in a way, but the intelligence is indelible.

My Mom constantly reviews her memories--- like fading photographs of an old lover, they are; she cannot bear the pain and yet she must.  My uncle is in a box; she refuses this version.  Digital memories-- things on a computer--- are meaningless;  like cartoons in some gibberishy language, she distrusts them and will not look.  They are things in a box.

We who still have everything--- faculties and taste, that is-- we wait in line, we primp and text, we fail to look.  Women spend their lives playing sex games instead of learning to love-- and writing about these things, so other women can waste their time reading about them.  Television-- the final drug.  How many still read Iris Murdoch?  No one is counting these things in New York Magazine's lists of events and celebrities ranked by income, star power and categorical royalty.  People who cannot form a grammatically decent thought earn more in a week than poor Iris earned in a lifetime.

I worry about experience as I stay awake all night....not geographic but static experience.  It is always daylight in my house, or perhaps always night.  I am digging in, surrounding the moments.  This confounds the roaches and rats---they seem to have given up wandering.  Some nights I wait for my muse; some nights I begin without her.  Some nights she cheats on me, doesn't show up until daybreak and we are both cranky and resistant.   The next night she may punish me like the truant mistress she is.  I am teaching her about love, by example.  Or maybe I have traded her flirtatious tease of art for a kind of madness.  Madness is a faithful companion, once you have become friends (not lovers).  In the end you can trade madness for ignorance, but you will regret this.  My muse has been forbidden to bring her mortal enemies or ex-boyfriends,  Boredom and Apathy. I cannot afford to cater to their luxuries.  On the other hand,  I am tired of fighting my causes, of defending the undefended.  I am disappointed in my candidate and hate his opponent.

So I've been reading Burroughs this week.  I miss the broken boundaries of language, the feeling of it--- the discomfort.  Language has become abandoned and misused.  I also miss naked hatred and naked love equally.  We have traded addictions for other addictions.  There is no longer any cure, just the waiting.   I miss the learners and crawlers, the needle abusers, the mad scientists of last century, the unkempt and slovenly poets and paint-martyrs, the stabbed and abandoned, the decomposing kings of the unfamous.

Has anyone ever entered 'death' in their GPS?  I wonder.  I have tons of email inviting me to join 'Women Who Write' from one of the Women Who Write About Men and fail to realize they are not the first to speak about having a man inside them while they are thinking about their mother.  Have these people forgotten James Joyce? They are maybe the literary equivalent of a Beatlemania tribute band... which was actually playing next door to my last night's gig.  Molly Bloom never bought make-up at Sephora or hung out at Flow.  Would she?  She didn't even have tampax.

My poor Mom is so innocent now, so sad and so desperately still trying to put on  her 1950's good face, even though her marriage was a challenge, the familial alcoholism hovering like a black shadow dress in her closet.  She was busy worrying that I was maybe taking a shower with my best girlfriend--- when my pederast uncle was threatening to do all kinds of evil things to us-- that kind of innocence which she has maintained.  She now pretends to read the paper, is so prepared to give me the unconditional love one did not offer in my childhood.  I love her for this, try to share my personal madness with hers;  I can confess things to her now, tell her things she couldn't handle.  This constitutes a kind of truth, even though they just fall through the damaged net of her present.

Some nights I pretend she is Iris; she likes this.  I reinvent a private charade of sisterhood; it is an intimacy I could never have tasted when she was still 'Mom'.  I facelift her onto some kind of beach where she is beautiful and running and my father is a handsome soldier watching her with desire and promise of a future that never really became a past.  It has all has been whitewashed and mentally photoshopped into a version that is a kinder companion, while the clock ticks and the future no longer rocks her to sleep but dissolves into a common past which will undoubtedly wash us all clean in the final tide and hopefully leave a few things of beauty on the shore for our children to find.

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