Thursday, December 22, 2011

To Touch You More

My good friend Peter and I


My New Year's resolution made over a decade ago was to touch people more. To break that social wall that keeps our hands and bodies a safe distance from one other. To connect more physically.

I'm speaking of the non-sexual variety of contact. We all know when someone is touching us with sexual undertones. That may or may not be welcome. I wanted to offer the kind of touch that wouldn't be misconstrued.

This was not easy at first. Not because people weren't receptive; they were. People generally love touch. They bask in it. They appreciate it on a cellular level.

It was a challenge because I wasn't sure how to do it. My German family is not the touchy-feely sort. Stiff, awkward hugs. Overly firm pats on the back. Touching others freely hadn't been habituated into me, so it took some training.

But soon, my hands and body reached out to anyone in my world, whether it was via handholding or a quick massage or a touch on the cheek or a full-body hug or a head on a shoulder. Or I'd simply stand closer to people, trying not to invade, but simply enter, their space. I even began kissing some of my closest friends on the lips, which is incredibly sweet and rewarding.

How did people react? Shoulders would drop, breathing would deepen, gentle smiles would appear - people relaxed almost instantly. We so desperately crave human contact, but often aren't even aware how hungry we are for it. And giving touch is akin to receiving it. I feel touched as well. Cosmic win/win.

Last month, while taking a bus from the Jersey shore to New York City, an older, fragile Indian man sitting across the aisle from me suddenly handed me his cellphone. I accepted it, confused and slightly nervous.

"Um...hello?"

"Hello, my uncle may be having a heart attack. He needs help. He doesn't speak any English."

I looked over at the older gentleman and he was grasping his chest and moaning. I went to the bus driver and explained what was happening. As I returned to my seat, the man had fallen to the floor, in the aisle.

The bus pulled over. Emergency help was contacted. Several passengers made suggestions but few had any medical training, myself included. So I resorted to my New Year's resolution. I placed both of my hands gently on his face and began whispering in his ear, "Calm down. Calm down. Calm down."

I then unbuttoned his shirt and placed my hands on his chest. He was very agitated and his heartbeat was frighteningly rapid, so it took some time, but finally his breathing resumed to somewhat normal. At one point, he opened his eyes to look at me and they were filled with gratitude. No clumsy words needed.

When the police finally arrived, they instructed everyone off of the bus. (Another was waiting to take us to our destination.) I was afraid if my hands left his body, he would become unwell again. The cop didn't really want to hear my spiritual take on the situation, so I got up to leave.

Almost immediately, the man's breathing became erratic and his eyes glazed over and looked filmy. I left the bus feeling a sense of peace regardless. Strangely, I could feel his essence on me for quite some time, like an energetic imprint of some sort.

Fortunately, the man was fine. (His relatives left me a lovely message the next day.) But it was then I realized that touching was something beyond "feel good." We live for it. I live for it.

So that is my first (and only) working New Year's resolution - one that would change my life on a level beyond words.


"I Have The Touch" - Peter Gabriel

The time I like is the rush hour, cos I like the rush
The pushing of the people - I like it all so much
Such a mass of motion - do not know where it goes
I move with the movement and ... I have the touch

I'm waiting for ignition, I'm looking for a spark
Any chance collision and I light up in the dark
There you stand before me, all that fur and all that hair
Oh, do I dare ... I have the touch

Wanting contact
I'm wanting contact
I'm wanting contact with you
Shake those hands, shake those hands
Give me the thing I understand
Shake those hands, shake those hands
Shake those hands, shake those hands

Any social occasion, it's hello, how do you do
All those introductions, I never miss my cue
So before a question, so before a doubt
My hand moves out and ... I have the touch

Wanting contact
I'm wanting contact
I'm wanting contact with you
Shake those hands, shake those hands
Give me the thing I understand
Shake those hands, shake those hands

Pull my chin, stroke my hair, scratch my nose, hug my knees
Try drink, food, cigarette, tension will not ease
I tap my fingers, fold my arms, breathe in deep, cross my legs
Shrug my shoulders, stretch my back - but nothing seems
to please

I need contact
I need contact
Nothing seems to please
I need contact

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Another Dumb Online Love Story



Let’s just cut to the punch line: I fell in love with a fairly well-known musician after developing an online relationship with him. Best to just blurt it out now and spare myself the embarrassment of having to admit it later on. His name is [fill in the blank] since you may not have heard of him anyway. But he was a rock star to me. Was.

Years ago when I live in New York, I added him as a MySpace friend (back in the day, when dinosaurs roamed the land). And much to my surprise, he wrote me back a personal message. I asked him if he was an imposter, some pencil-necked music geek hiding out in his parent’s basement, playing the part of this musician.

His response? “I’ve been playing the role of [fill in the blank] since 1965.” The year he was born. That’s when I knew it was him. Wow…he emailed me? Joked with me? I was red-faced and teeming with girlish glee.

We communicated sporadically at first, but over the years, the frequency intensified. At one point, we moved over to instant messaging. His little face would suddenly pop up on my screen, out of the blue. Wow. He’s in my bedroom now!

Hours would go by, exchanging songs, jokes, links, stories, photos, struggles, heartfelt compliments, sarcastic zingers and little flirtations, weaving this intimate online connection. Sometimes we’d type the same thought at once. Or send the same song to one another. It all seemed so perfectly uncanny. Is this my soul mate, if there is such a thing? Please let there be such a thing.
One night, after hours of rapid-fire typing back and forth (and wine, he drank vodka), he suggested calling me, to give my hands a break. On my actual phone!? Mother of god, this is getting real.
When the phone rang, I felt so small suddenly. Why is this amazing man interested in this little nobody at the Jersey shore, wearing a coffee-stained robe and a permanent grin? (Okay, I don’t really feel like a nobody; it’s just when a little dream unfurls before you, its intimidating. It’s so beautiful, it almost hurts. Am I worthy of my own dream?

Yes, I am. Indeed I am. I answered the phone.

And I heard his sweet voice for the first time, after years of communicating. We talked and laughed as if we’d known each other forever. He even sang to me that night! He played his guitar and sang one of his songs to me. Over the phone! And I sang with him, elated.

Phone sex erupted in the middle of our 4-hour long conversation (shocker, right?). He led the way, quick and wildly creative, he spun these steamy stories, as if he knew all of my private hotspots.
He tucked me in that night, thousands of miles away. He whispered in my ear and said good-night at the very moment I began drifting off. I hung up the phone and floated to heaven.

I dreamt of us living in a glass house on a beach in California. He’d play his music for me or sing a section of a song so he could work out a glitch. We’d be very musical and muse-like to one another. And we’d fuck a lot, in a deep and complicated way that made us believe in something holy.
When I woke up, he sent me an email with the news I secretly suspected: married. Though the “kids” were a surprise. Wasn’t expecting that. Two young kids. Fuck. How could you?

[Fill in the blank] apologized profusely and explained to me their situation: how he and his wife haven’t slept in the same bed for years, he lives in an in-law on their property now. They stay together for the kids (oh, that classic one). Lots of animosity between them and blah-fucking-blah.
Shattered, I told him to leave me alone for a while — or fucking permanently — whatever sticks. Just get out of my life.

Torturous weeks went by and he either contacted me or I contacted him. “I miss you desperately” was the theme. And our strange, other-worldly relationship resumed without missing a beat. We jumped back in like two lovelorn idiots.

He also had a bipolar disorder, which became more pronounced the more I knew him. He was deeply struggling, even in his flush LA world. But hell, so was I. Alone in an old run-down family house, broke both mentally and financially. And in New Jersey to boot.

He became my medication, my “happy pill” for the disease of loneliness. But his moods changed quickly and radically. I’d hear from him consistently, then nothing. Nothing. Then he’d flood back in torrents, all over me. Until he was gone again.

[A quick aside about abandonment issues: when you have them and your romantic interest suddenly appears and disappears, you’re in an excruciating state of pins and needles. Anxious and preoccupied all the time, you can’t focus or work optimally, you can’t even take a deep breath.]

So I let his departures wreak havoc in my life because our times together were transcendent and blissful. A trade-off many of us often make.

Did we ever make plans to meet? We talked about it during our exchanges. Hotel rooms. Him, waiting for me in a hotel room. What he would do to me. What I’d be made to do to him. And how shopping and dining would be involved before or after. (A multi-layered fantasy, which I liked. Because we didn’t just want to have sex; we wanted to spend time together.)

But did he ever really plan on meeting me? No, probably not. That’s hard to admit. And perhaps I secretly knew that…but that hopeless dreamer in me believed that our love would prevail. Dumb, dumb.

Would we be attracted one another if we met? Maybe it would be completely disillusioning if we broke that virtual fourth wall. Maybe he would be a 4-foot boil-covered troll of a man. Or we just wouldn’t have that “thing” that two people need between one another, regardless of looks.

But after years of our strange and wondrous mind intimacy, I worried less and less about that. We were already deeply attracted to one another on a level few could understand, including ourselves.
I loved (did I? Could I?) an introverted, troubled and ragingly creative man I never met who sang and played in a popular band in the 90’s. And I believe he loved me too (did he?).

A strange ether-like love. One that couldn’t last unless we met, which wasn’t going to happen.

As more time passed, I began to hear from him less and less. Then not at all. My self-esteem plummeted and I found it harder to reach out for fear he wouldn’t respond, which would send me spiraling into depression for days.

He also made sure he covered his ass. I had no phone number or address to send a letter, just his email. When someone left vaguely threatening comments on a blog of mine, I emailed him immediately. We had already drifted apart, but the comments mentioned him specifically. I felt frightened and confused.

At first I thought it was his wife, which was surprising, because she didn’t seem very involved in his life or seem to care that much about him overall. Then I thought it was some hateful side of him during a manic episode. I’ll never really know though I guess the latter, but those scary words have been locked in a metal box inside my brain ever since.

After several weeks, he emailed me back and claimed no knowledge of those cruel comments. And that he had found God. He was deeply sorry for what he put me through. He lives with the guilt and the pain and etc, etc, etc. But thanks to Him (oh yes, a capital “H”), he’s back on his path.

The hypocrisy incensed me. Because while he was busy finding Him with a capital H, I was recovering from the damage of his decidedly un-Christian-like behavior. It just all seemed so tidy and convenient. God in a box, LA style.

Eh, I’m being sarcastic and mean. Neither of us killed ourselves­­ — a definite perk during our time together. And trust me, we were often within spitting distance. Let him have his God. Let me have the goddess (with a small “g”) he made feel like. All is forgiven. (It kinda has to be, right?)

I wrote like crazy during our time together (because I knew he’d see it) and more people began to see my work as a result. For years, he was my biggest fan, heaping praise and respect my way. This amazing musician was my muse. And I was the star of the star’s eye, the princess at the ball finally…even though my prince was troubled, married and…not really there.

I miss him and I fear I always will. When someone parts ways with you so poorly, the recovery time can be so rocky and protracted. When you never had the chance to meet that person, it’s as if they never really existed, making the grief that much more complicated and hard to sort out.

I did my best to digest the loss by sending him emails (since it was the only way to reach him), expressing my pain or sharing a bad joke or video I found online. I knew he wouldn’t respond, but I did it for myself, to purge and move on.

Eventually my need to contact him lessened to once in a blue moon. And then, I’d simply keep him posted on my life or send him a song he might like. He had become a one-way pen pal and I was dating others, slowly getting back to “real” life again.

Then one day, an email I sent him was returned: he had shut down his account. His exit plan was complete. A large immovable door had been shut. This was final kick to the gut.

Your email account too? How could you shut me out so resoundingly? This is how its going to end after years of communication? No phone call, card or, god forbid, a bouquet of fucking flowers? I am a human, afterall. A human.

That’s all right, that’s all right. I don’t need a stinkin’ computer or cell phone to contact him. I just raise my frequency and use the airwaves of the universe to send my message, anytime and anywhere. And he feels it, I make sure. It’s not black magic just spiritual balancing.

Sometimes I fantasize about bumping into [fill in the blank] in some random hotel lobby in New York. I’d spot him and speak his name plainly. He’d slowly turn around. And I’d see his face for the first time.

Ha…what would we do? Maybe we’d cry. And hug. Then I’d slap him across the face and he’d be stunned and then laugh at my brazenness. Then I would punch him in the gut. This wouldn’t be so funny. He’d have to sit down after that one. And I wouldn’t apologize. I’d wait until he caught his breath, then I’d….

No, no, I could never hurt him. No matter how much he hurt me or denied me the chance of a respectful closure or a physical meeting, I’d never do anything to harm him. I cared entirely too deeply.

I wish he had the same kind regard for me. In the long run, he was a bit of a narcissistic, entitled jerk who kinda used me, right? But it’s not that simple. Never is. He remains one of the best things that ever happened to me and the most amazing men I’ve never met.

Besides let’s look at my part: I chose to avoid the obvious red flags and plowed full steam ahead. I knew what I was in for yet still bought into some sandcastle version of us that simply didn’t exist.
It’s taken me a while to move past him. To this day, I still have my heart-jabbing moments. Though most of the time, he’s just a pale ghost drifting around my heart, bumping into things occasionally.
And I’m sure he has fully convinced himself that its best not to contact me. You know, save me from any additional heartache. Well, that’s not the best for me. At all. But I’ve witnessed others rationalize their passive behavior, so its not surprising he’d take that non-road.

The Book of Life says I’m supposed to move on and “let it go, man.” Yet I still struggle with the all-too-real fact that we’ll probably never meet. That I may go to my grave never seeing him in person, let alone having anything more significant with him, like say, a relationship (silly, silly girl). I bought into a lie and I paid a price.

And I’d probably do it again. Because it was the most beautiful mistake.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Open Salon Meet-up and Beth's Power Birthday - The Photos!


Ruby Lawrence, one of my closest friends and co-host to 11/11/11 party. 

I met Open Salon's Cartouche last year. It was as natural as the breeze. We hugged and proceeded to spend a glorious weekend in Florida together, as if I'd known her my whole life.

So strange, isn't it? The bonds we've formed here on OS. I don't know about you, but I've never experienced anything like it. There are few online communities that could compare with us. We are strangely and deeply familiar with one another. Our work together has created this wonderous ripple effect. It's profound and touching.

When Nikki Stern walked into the restaurant before Friday night's NYC's OS meet-up party, I hugged her and experienced that instant sense of intimacy and familiarity. She's beautiful and radiates as much as I imagined she would.

The rest of the night was full of that same OS magic. I couldn't help but think that we need to come together like this, especially now. Maybe a new friendship connection or a great business opportunity or an idea moved closer to fruition - or whatever! - the sky is the limit, isn't it? This night will have long-term, positive implications, I hope.

I'll let Les Stone's photos (please check out his website and see the serious work this guy does) do the rest of the talking, but it was a magical night, with energy streaking across the room, as you'll see in these photos.

Actors, writers, business owners, photographers, graphic designers, directors, reporters - super sharp, smart, creative people - together at an Australian Bar called Eight Mile Creek in Soho, exchanging ideas, connections, jokes, play, hugs, kisses (some really great kisses actually...wow), beer, New Zealand wine...doing our thing.

We're creative and grew our powers together on a special day: 11/11/11
(Click on photos for the big picture.)
Group shot - Open Salon friends and other dear friends.
Neil Paul, Cranky Cuss, Beth Mann, Nikki Stern, Frank Apisa and Designanator. Love this shot.
Nikki Stern and Joe Nation, looking like a superhero unveiled.
JohannaLG and Cranky Cuss. Cranky Cuss is the sweetest, warmest man who gave me a lovely mug (photo at end of post).
Neil Paul, Cranky Cuss, Beth Mann, Nikki Stern, Frank Apisa and Designanator, a kind, gentle man with a busy camera.
Frank, Beth Mann, Neil Paul. God, what's there to say about Neil Paul? He's a genius, I'm guessing. He's so smart, you have to be sharp to follow him. He thinks on 3 levels at once and you just need to keep up with him.
The strikingly beautiful Autumn Whitefield-Madrano and Frank Apisa. Frank is accessible and relaxed and a chill dude with substantial "cool" cache. He's good at living, I think.
The shining Nikki Stern, dear friend Ruby Lawrence, Beth Mann - rock trio in formation. Or maybe a pop trio...I'd prefer that, I think. It's sillier with better costumes.
JohannaLG and Frank Apisa. Johanna thinks I'm a little weird because I wanted to take photos of her and hugged her maybe a little too much. That's because she's beautiful and smart with these intense, laser-focused eyes and you just want to stand close to her.
See? Neil Paul, Beth Mann, JohannaLG.
Friend Peter Herbst - one of my wittiest friends - and Nikki. These two just naturally got along, I think.
Wall Street Journal writer Jon and Beth Mann. Total stranger at beginning of night, friends by end of it. Just a sweetie.
Long Beach Island friends who came to NYC for this event! This is my family at the Jersey shore. The uber-smart and sweet Peter and Danielle Morris.
Me and Jon, who gave me his coat when it got cold.
One of my dearest old friends, actor/director Kevin Augustine. One of the most deeply creative people I know whom I've known him a long, long time. I told him before he left, "I love you from the bottom of my heart." I don't know if I've ever uttered those exact words to anyone before.
It's a shame that cigarettes look so cool.
Frank and Kevin Augustine
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Peter Herbst, Ruby Lawrence and myself. This is what fun looks like.
Me with the inimitable actress Toni Silver. Toni Silver is a fiery, fiesty and fierce woman. She's a creative powerhouse and makes me proud to be a woman.
Dear friend actor/director Joseph Shahadi with the Autumn Whitefield-Madrano, whom I want to be my best friend. I will pay her, if necessary. (With a face like this, she should use a photo for her avatar, if I may be so bold.)

Joe Shahadi and I know each other very well and for years and years. We've done absurdist theater together - that bonds people like nothing else, trust me! Also a ridiculously creative and smart man.

Good friends actor and comedian Anthony Devito and business owner/bon vivant of NYC Ruby Lawrence. (They'd make such a power couple!)

Anthony has that old school, shimmery movie star charm. And funny as HELL. Next to him Ruby Lawrence, as FUNNY AS HELL, and one of my closest friends. I've often dreamt that these two take over the world with their cleverness.
Hugging my dear friend Peter Herbst. One of my fave photos of the night. Just makes me cry. I miss my friends. I live at the often-isolating Jersey shore and I miss being around sharp, witty people who love me.

IMG_2138

When I came back home, I walked on the beach and looked at the ocean. I said, wagging my finger at it, "It's for you, I come back. It's for you!" So the "after party" was had with a large body of water that often shapes my decisions. I sighed a lot, wondering about the bigger trade-offs we make in life.
Cranky Cuss's gift filled with chai, while I write this.
Filled with hot chai as I write this.

To keep the ball rolling, check out a few links in the post above, friend people on Facebook, read their blogs, follow them on Twitter, fall in love with them, whatever. Join the party a few days after the fact.
images

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ghosts of Broken Glass (based on a true story)



The dollhouse? He broke the fucking dollhouse too?

In my early 20’s, I naively thought someone had to hit you to constitute abuse. I didn’t know that breaking all of your shit was its own form of abuse. And that’s what Bill did. He broke all of my shit. In an old, haunted house that we lived in. (Well…survived in.)

He had already smashed a television, a coffee table, chairs, windows…any object in arm’s reach. He had given me a dollhouse for Christmas. I added pieces to it, creating a make-believe happy home where there was none. Now just like our miserable relationship, it too was in pieces.

As I cleaned up the mess he made, the ghosts watched me. Sometimes the presence of a ghost or two can be comforting, except in that house. Even though I despised Bill at this point, I was always slightly relieved when he would return. Ominous ghostly presence versus abusive boyfriend? Hmmm…sometimes life offers you shitty choices.

To this day, I dream of that place. I’m locked in and can’t get out. The house is breathing and groaning as if it’s coming to life. I run down the stairs to escape, but the steps never end. The walls move slowly inward in an attempt to touch me. I usually wake up startled, sometimes screaming.

Perhaps it’s a form of PTSD from that piss-poor relationship. Or perhaps that house still remembers me and reaches out to me from time to time.

One night sleeping next to Bill, I woke up out of a sound sleep. I slept on my arm and was shaking out the pins and needles, hazy but awake. Then I felt something move toward my bedside. A distinctly dark and cold presence. It stood above me for a moment then seemed to bend down, near my face. I turned my head away from it, in weak defense.

“Beth!” it whispered aggressively, inches from my face.

I let out an ear-piercing scream. Bill woke up and immediately began yelling.

“What the fuck?!!”

Someone is in this room! Turn on the light!” I pleaded.

He did, and of course (just like the movies), no one was there. I stayed awake the rest of the night. After a brush with the supernatural, sleep didn’t seem remotely possible.

The next day, I felt like a zombie. I tried to tell my best friend Krissie what happened. The voice, not quite male, not quite female. That harsh and sudden whisper.

“You have to get out, Beth. That house, that relationship,” she warned. “Your mind is playing tricks on you.”

Sleeping was difficult for the next few months. I’d wake in the middle of the night, instantly terrified. When would it return? Did it want to hurt me? Why couldn't it go after Bill?

The relationship with Bill sickened. Fights escalated, police involved. When he wasn’t home, I packed my boxes and bags and hid them in my closet. My escape was forming though I had no clue where to go.

During my last week there, I remained as Zen-like as possible, just biding my time. A fight erupted nonetheless.

Slam. Boom. Things began flying. What was there left to break, you fucking idiot?

“I know all about the shit you have in your closet. You think I'm stupid?”

He headed down the steps to the bedroom. His intention: destroy the contents of my closet that including a newly purchased stereo and my mom’s jewelry box.

I grabbed a large knife from the kitchen and followed him downstairs to the bedroom.

“Touch that closet door and I’ll kill you.” I hissed, possessed.

I raised the knife over my head to reinforce the point. Then he laughed at me. This was not the thing to do. I charged him, screaming banshee style. He grabbed a large pillow to protect himself. I stabbed at it repeatedly.

He peeked over the pillow at one point. The look on his face will stay with me until my final day. He was terrified, white as a ghost. Good, good! For once, I had become the terror of the house. Even the ghosts ran for cover.

The police carted us off. Since I had called about him in the past, I was permitted to place a restraining order on him. He moved out and I was left in the house alone. My bags were packed and out in the open. I was ready to go. I had so little left to take with me. It had all been broken. But I was taking me with me. Thankfully.

During one of the last nights there, I woke up to go the bathroom. When I returned, I hurried under the covers. But before I could fall asleep, that dark presence was by my side once again. The voice wasn’t as distinct as the first time.

It whispered hurriedly to me:

“Beth. Hi.”

I didn’t scream this time. I didn’t lie awake frightened all night. This entity knew I was scared, I believe. It said something as quickly as possible that would convey some form of friendliness. Hi. A ghost said hi to me!

In a few days, I said goodbye to that house and one of the stormiest and sickest phases of my life…though I don’t know if that house has ever completely let me go.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Love Means...


I’m not sure why you stopped talking to me. It happened slowly, methodically, like rust. There was no big fall-out, no noteworthy event. Suddenly you and I were no longer speaking. The divide formed.

Women are weird. They’re passivity can run deep. But you and I are different. We’re the outspoken women who yell when angry and sob when sad. We express. What happened? Our voices became pale and garbled suddenly. The lines between us fell.

Maybe it started when you received the diagnosis. I knew it. You knew it. Even as teenagers, you knew you’d get breast cancer. Your mother had it and you just felt it in your bones. Your bones were my bones, so I felt it too. It was no surprise.

The size was a surprise, though. A baseball, they said. A fucking baseball. When I moved from San Francisco to New York, it was partially to be closer to you. But somehow, my own survival became overwhelming and I wasn’t at your bedside the way I planned on being. Maybe that’s when the divide began.

When they removed your breasts, you showed me your flattened, sutured chest in your sunny kitchen one Sunday. There was nothing you could show me that would shock me. You are my best friend. Your scars are mine.

“No, they’re not, Beth. They’re mine. You still have breasts.”

I tried to understand the difference that was forming but somehow I never grasped it the way you wanted me to. Perhaps I was unable. Maybe I’m just too damn self-centered.

“When am I ever going to have sex again, Beth? Who’s going to want to have sex with me now?”

You always loved sex, almost to a fault. You put the horniest sailor to shame.

“I want to have sex,” you’d say so many times in the past, apropos of nothing. “I want to have sex now.”

“Kris, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe there will be someone at the party tonight.”

“There better be because I want to have sex.

“I heard you the first time, Kris.”

Breastless, you now felt sexless. Your sex drive was your lifeline. And I didn’t know how to give that back to you.

“I’ll get out of New York and come visit you over Christmas,” I told you during our last phone conversation. (No one tells you it will be the last time you'll speak again. No announcements are made. But it would be our final phone call. You would accept no more of my calls after that.)

A year passed. Calls placed. Letters. Pictures. Anything. Friends tried to intervene on our behalf.

“She’s getting worse, Beth. You need to come see her.”

“She doesn’t want to see me. She hasn’t responded to me in a year. I did something very wrong apparently.”

“It doesn’t matter now.”

The stories about you grow worse. You can't walk that well. Your bones snap. Your face hollows. You are 42 and dying of breast cancer. A massive clock in a pitch-dark sky keeps ticking in my ears. Will we speak again?

You always served as the big sister, a role you didn’t always relish. I was the emotional mess and you were the semi-reluctant anchor. Maybe this time you wanted to be the emotional mess and it was too late for us to switch roles. Is that why you're mad at me, Krissie? PLEASE don’t be mad at me.

I know, I know my problems seemed so petty in relation to yours. You yelled at me one time after a reckless where I put myself in jeopardy with drugs, booze, men, sex and fucking stupidity. “What the hell is your problem? What would possess you to put yourself in that situation?”

Unable to answer, I just felt shame. Shame that you, my closest friend, saw the train wreck that was my life and could no longer tolerate it. I didn’t blame you. It disgusted me sometimes too.

It’s now. And I’m racing down a highway in South Jersey trying to get to you. You have hours to live, they tell me. Hours. I race but cannot erase. What did I do wrong? What did I do wrong?

When I get to your house, your mother is waiting on the steps, cigarette in hand, shaken, deeply worn.

“Please, Beth…just don’t upset her. I know you two haven’t been…please, whatever it is, it doesn’t matter anymore.”

I think of the other times in my life when a gatekeeper intervened – someone to warn me before I walk through a doorway and face something awful. When my mother was dying, it was my brother-in-law. “Wait, Beth…you need to know…she looks different than the last time.”

“Get out of my way. It’s my mother and you don’t warn me about her.”

Krissie, when I enter your air-conditioned bedroom—the shrine—with the curtains drawn and music playing, your eyes light up.

Oh my God. You’re not mad at me! You’re not mad at me! Those eyes are happy to see me.

I crumple next to you, exhausted, in your hands, totally and completely in your hands. You try to splash cold water on my face because you see how red I am, from racing, crying, humiliation. Leave it to you to worry about me and my comfort at that moment. Leave it to you to be so much better than me.

Then you say something that stuns me:

“I don’t know how to say I’m sorry,” you utter, in this garbled voice.

You? You don’t know how to say you’re sorry to me? I’m sorry. I’m the bad friend. I’m the selfish one. I didn’t show up enough and….”

“No. That wasn’t it. That's not why…It’s…”

“Then why? Please tell me. Please!”

You try so hard to find the words but it's exhausting, stretching and reaching for words, words, words, and you are so tired. You look me pleadingly, as if to say: Read my mind, Beth. I can't work any harder.
“Does it matter, Kris...huh?”

“No. No, it doesn’t. At all.” That comes out very clearly. In your old familiar voice.

And we let it go. At that very moment. The silence is broken. The doves fly out the window. All is forgiven.
I sit bedside and sing quietly to you for the rest of the afternoon. You sleep restlessly, fighting some imaginary blanket being pulled over you. I sing all of the songs we’ve sang in the past, songs of love, life, loss. Our anthems, our songs from the troubled but occasional magical little suburban life we shared.
And you enjoyed it. A slight smile sometimes. I sing our songs like little lullabies and put you to sleep.

One of our favorites:




Sara - Fleetwood Mac

Wait a minute baby...
Stay with me awhile
Said you'd give me light
But you never told be about the fire

Drowning in the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown
And now its gone
It doesn't matter anymore
When you build your house
Call me home

And he was just like a great dark wing
Within the wings of a storm
I think I had met my match -- he was singing
And undoing the laces
Undoing the laces

Drowning in the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown
And now its gone
It doesn't matter anymore
When you build your house
Call me home

Hold on
The night is coming and the starling flew for days
I'd stay home at night all the time
I'd go anywhere, anywhere
Ask me and I'm there because I care

Sara, you're the poet in my heart
Never change, never stop
And now its gone
It doesn't matter what for
When you build your house
I'll come by

Drowning in the sea of love
Where everyone would love to drown
And now it's gone
It doesn't matter anymore
When you build your house
Call me home

All I ever wanted
Was to know that you were dreaming
(There's a heartbeat and it never really died)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Own Private Hurricane


 


I’m looting my neighbor’s garden. Looting light, I would call it. Everyone has been evacuated and I’m one of the few remaining at the Jersey shore during Hurricane Irene. I grab a few ripe tomatoes, a batch of heady oregano. It’s all going to drown tomorrow anyway.


God, it’s so quiet and peopleless here! I’m reminded of my childhood on this island when time seemed slow and sleepy, like it does now. You could actually feel the place, the pulse, you know?


The tourists and most of the locals have left. Their hectic, greedy energy is no longer bouncing all over the joint, smacking me repeatedly in the face. Right now, all is still, all is mine. Tonight, when the storm hits, it will be another animal, no doubt. But for the present, I can think for once in a long time. Maybe I'm looting some much needed peace of mind.


After my garden thefts, I come home and sing really loudly in my room. This is nothing unusual: I sing any old time. But often I suppress my voice just a little when singing in this house, in this neighborhood. I know neighbors can hear me, or the people I live with. Today, truly alone, I set my voice free, like a dog unleashed on a sunny beach.


Walk around naked for a bit. That’s a given. Nudity is good and right. I don’t know what else to say other than that. Oh, and I found good porn today – not the crappy stuff that kind of turns you on but part of you is like “Yeah, right. You’re horrible actors” but you make do anyway. For my particular fantasy mindset, this porn fit just so.


My people, all the people, they keep contacting me and offering up their homes. Frustrated, I relay to them that I have lots of places to go thank you, but possibly not a place to return to. That's my concern.


Yet some friends have such earnest tones to their voice, it almost brings me to tears: a young surfer dude whom I didn't expect to be so worried. Or an old friend who keeps calling, even though we haven’t spoke in over a year. Strange, that they care so much. And don’t say, “Well, of course they do!” Because it’s not that simple. People care sometimes, and sometimes they don't.


Like this guy on the mainland that I've been seeing on and off, whom I didn’t hear from at all today. He checked in yesterday, via text, and asked me to keep him posted. An old, tired voice played in my head: “If you really cared, you'd call.” Like, fuck – if you don’t worry about me during a natural disaster, when would you, dumb loser face.

And enough with the texts already. Like when I'm being swept off to sea, I'll miraculously manage to shoot off the last text of my life:

Hey. I'm drowning. Need help asap. Phone not waterproof. : (

But yeah, whatever, fuck it. The perk of a natural disaster is that relationship minutia doesn’t have as much holding power. Something more primal is trumping it. And you're quietly grateful because that old bullshit teenager-level worry has been wasted too much space in your brain anyway.

Now I’m blaring some Led Zeppelin in my room. I ate a nice, fatty meal. I’m ready for disaster. Fattened up, rocked out, drunk and ready. (No, I’m not drinking that much wine and I resent your implications. I’m drinking just enough wine. Hurricane level wine.)


Hey, wait. Don't go. Yesterday, I pulled the veggies from my little garden so they wouldn’t go to waste. One small pepper plant had struggled all summer to stay alive. Teeny, meek little thing - the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of pepper plants. I thought she was a goner last month but somehow she managed to spruce up and eek out one small hot red pepper. I tried to pluck it but she wouldn’t let me; she wasn’t ready and I didn't want to hurt her. 


Today, I plucked her puny pepper anyway. Ah, so sad. Man, like this summer wasn’t hard enough on her: she barely lives and finally manages to produce this little runt of a vegetable and now she’s going to drown. Poor, poor fucking hot pepper plant.


Can you hear it? The wind is shaking my walls. It’s about 40 mph and soon will be 70 mph. I hope the glass in the windows doesn’t break. Because that will be scary. Because then the weather comes in and you can’t hide from it. It’s at your feet, in your face, bitches.


Wait, before you go...wanna hear a scary story? About an hour ago when the wind started kicking up, I ran around the living room, pulling furniture away from the window. Out of the blue (or the black), the doorbell starts ringing. And ringing. I direly hoped some brave soul was stopping by.


I ran to the door and peeked out; there was no one there. The bell kept ringing. The wind was blowing so hard, it rang the damn doorbell. How perfectly spooky, like the hurricane was paying me a visit, all proper like, but with a definite sense of urgency.

It’s going to be a long night. One of many long nights in this woman’s life. Peppers are spicy and glass is sharp. Looting is wrong, unless you’re in the mood and the pickings are easy. People show up, people let down. Tailormade porn and wine can be fun when you’re all alone. And sometimes storms literally come knocking on your door. That’s what I’m saying.



PHOTOS - THE DAY AFTER IRENE





Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Stillness to this Place




This town is so empty. Even the breeze feels empty. A dead, lukewarm breeze.

Walking down the bleak, sun bleached streets, I wonder if there’s any life here at all. A few people peek through windows, then quickly draw their curtains.

Why did I come here? Because I had to, I remind myself. This place might ring hollow right now, but eventually I’ll fit in.

The town I left held very little opportunity for me. My husband was a cold man, barely there. I could punch a hole through him. He resented me when I hugged him...can you imagine that? But desperate for closeness, I couldn’t help but try.

My friends seemed store-bought. They kept me company, nodded when I spoke, but never really heard me. Whenever I would get upset or angry, their faces would instantly become flat and emotionless, as if I pulled a plug out of their backs. They could only handle me in neutral.

My home was a house with things in it - that's all. There was a cheap little hanging in the kitchen that read “Home” and for years, I fantasized about smashing it into bits. The day I left, I pulverized it, then walked out, never to return.

When I first arrived here, I knew I’d have to pay a price for leaving the way I did. I didn’t go outside much, just slept. Or something like sleep. Now I feel awake again. Yes, this new place feels foreign, but soon it will be filled with love and community. It has to be.

I arrive at a small corner store and slip inside. It looks as if it came right out of the 50’s, dusty, filled with sunlight. An old bespeckled man stands behind the counter, wearing a faint smile and an weathered flannel shirt. He seems wary of me, like the others.

“How can I help you?”

“I just moved here. I guess I’ll need some supplies.”

“You don’t need anything right now. Just go home. Relax.”

“May I look around anyway?”

“Sure, sure,” he says, though I can tell he’d rather me leave.

The cans in this store have no labels. Neither do the boxes. There are burlap bags lining the perimeter of the store but I can’t tell what’s in them. It’s as if the store is posing to be a store. Like a movie set.

As I leave, the bell on the door jingles. The sound rings down the empty street and develops a strange life of its own, bouncing off the treetops, reaching toward the clouds. It’s an enchanting, hypnotic sound that reminds me I’ve done the right thing. Because magic only happens when you've done the right thing.

When I enter my house, I'm reminded of its utter emptiness. There is no bristling husband, no cardboard friends, no meaningless decor. Just fresh, new emptiness. It overwhelms me.

What am I supposed to do next? If I’ve made a mistake, it’s too late to go back now. No, this is right. I’d rather have nothing than what I had before. Empty is better than emptiness. No one is better than loneliness. Lack of appetite is better than constant craving.

I sit in the middle of the living room, on an old wooden floor, bathed in sunlight. I try to cry but no tears come. It’s as if my emotions have dried up. I’m empty now too. And it feels good.

The sunlight on me becomes warmer and, just like that bell at the corner store, comes to life. It begins playing with me. When I smile, it grows and swirls and encircles me. Suddenly I feel less alone here. I may never fill this place with furniture. The sunlight might be enough.

Suddenly, I hear an old piano begin to play. It’s coming from my empty kitchen. The light lifts me up a foot above the ground and carries me down the long, dark hallway. I begin to laugh from the glory of it all. My laughter becomes little stars falling from my mouth. I can’t believe what I’m seeing! I try to catch them but they slip through my hands and spill across the floor.

As I land in the kitchen, I spot an unplugged radio playing the piano music. Perhaps my home is haunted…good! Ghosts will watch over me when I sleep, if I sleep. They’ll fly up and down the staircase and play in the yard. They’ll greet me at the door when I come home. We will speak a secret language that only ghosts know.

The radio plays louder and the music begins to touch me, like a man I've known forever. I sway back and forth, imagining my dance partner, full of grace, full of love. He’ll come to me eventually, I’m sure. After I’m forgiven. For what I did.

When I decided to buy the gun, I felt focused for the first time in a long while. My existence had become weighted by crippling indecision and for once, I felt confident, strong. For months, I trained at a gun range, without anyone knowing. With every shot fired out of its shiny silver barrel, I felt a surge of power enter my body. My aim was sharp. My mission, clear.

My gun was my ticket to freedom and there was no reason to grieve and every reason to celebrate. When I walked into the woods behind our house my final morning, I felt like an explorer in the wild, an astronaut on a mission. Not a woman killing herself. My note simply read, “I'm ready to move on.”

Yes, my new house is empty. And they haven’t welcomed me yet. But they have to accept me eventually. And then I’ll be home. Because magic only happens when you’re home.



Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jaded Sex Advice for the Youth of America


As a single female surfer in my 40's, I feel it my civic duty to impart sagely advice to as many young men as possible, since I’m surrounded by them on a daily basis out in the water.

23-year old surfer Derek has a new girlfriend, he explains to me out in the water one steamy morning last week. I congratulate him. He takes a big wave fearlessly and effortlessly, paddles back and takes a big sigh. I know what’s coming next. 

“I’m not so sure about the…sex.” 

I take an even bigger sigh. Our therapy session has begun. 

“What about the…sex.” 

“I’m…I’m just not sure she’s having an orgasm.” 

“Well, she’s probably not. She’s probably faking it.” 

“She said she’s having them, but I don’t think she is. She just kinda screams the same way each time and, well…it doesn’t sound very real.”

I ask him to replicate the sound she makes. He does. I ask him to do it again. He does. I’m tempted to ask a third time, but don’t want to tempt the Gods of Funny.

“Hmmm…maybe your technique is lacking. Are you just fucking her mindlessly like a rabbit without really figuring out what pleases her?”

“Well, not like a rabbit but…”

“Do you go down on her?” 

“I did. Once.” 

“Wow. Once, huh? What was it, Christmas or something?” 

“It’s just…I don’t know.” He starts playing with the wax on his board.

“Are you gay?”

Derek stammers and tries to spit out a response but he’s too aghast. I hop on a wave and take my time paddling back out to him. (He needs to sit with that one for a minute.)

“NO! I’M NOT GAY!” he screams at me, as I paddle back toward him. Other surfers look his way.

“Then I don’t know why you wouldn’t go down on her. If I were a straight man, you couldn’t keep me away. Is it a hygiene issue?”

“No…no. I just figured, well…I’m doing enough!”

Sexual complacency at the ripe old age of 23. Nice.

“Listen, most women take longer to orgasm than men. You have to seduce her, take your time. Find out what pleases her. And I can almost guarantee you that going down on her makes her feel good. Does she go down on you?”

“Oh yeah, definitely,” he responds proudly.

“Well, she’s not your sexual workhorse. Get busy, man.”

Derek looks deeply into the water, concern shrouding his face. I’ve shaken him up a little, I know. But I wasn’t done imparting my “older woman” wisdom yet.

“Have you ever thought of a little S & M?”

“What? Like hitting her?”

“Yep. Hitting her.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know. Start with the ass. Move on from there.”

“What if she doesn’t like it?”

“Then slap her harder. Make her like it. Show her whose boss. And try talking dirty to her.”

“What should I say?”

“You want some of this? Then beg me for it, you filthy little slut….that kind of thing.”

Derek’s jaw is dropped. An incoming wave almost knocks him off of his board.

“Okay, okay. Maybe that’s a little too extreme. Sorry. Just whisper in her ear, ‘You want me to fuck you harder, baby? Is that what you want? Say it. Yeah, baby. There you go. Just take it. Take it like a good girl.’”

I do this in my breathiest, perviest voice possible.

Derek is wide-eyed and speechless.

“You’re crazy.”

“Like a fox, my friend. Like a fucking fox.”

He goes for a wave. For a second, I think he’s going to exit the water. But I know he’ll be back for more. He wants it. Bad.

He paddles back out to me.

Derek, I just want you to improve your game. There are a lot of surfers out here who’d happily go down on your girlfriend. Hell, I’d go down on your girlfriend and I don’t even swing in that direction. She’s a hottie. You don’t want to lose her.”

“Well, she’s not going to leave me because I’m not going down on her.” 

“Oh, I would.”

He looks wounded, angry.

“I mean, not right away. She’ll stick around for a while. But ultimately, it’s grounds for dismissal.”

“Okay, fine. I will.” He folds his arms tightly against his tanned hairless chest, exasperated.

“Listen, go down on her because you want to, not because you’re supposed to. A woman can tell the difference. It’s not like I asked you to mow the damn lawn or something. And don’t worry about the orgasm thing. It’ll come when it comes…ha! That’s funny. Get it?”

“Ha” he begrudgingly responds.

He takes a small wave in and wipes out for some strange reason. He starts paddling away from me and back to the beach.

“And Derek!”

“What?” he turns around, annoyed.

“Fix something for her. Like her car. That’s always sexy.”

He grumbles something.

“Next week, we’ll talk anal!” I shout cheerfully. The other surfers glance over at me.
 
I look around me at the vastness of the ocean, thoughtfully. Tonight, I will bring one young woman a little closer to an orgasm. It’s a small contribution to the world, I know. But I feel accomplished nonetheless.

“Anal.” I repeat and smile.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Patti Davis is Naked and I'm Tired


When I read Patti Davis’s recent article in More magazine, where she “bares all” at 58, I was poised in my seat, prepared to feel inspired.  

My body, like hers, has been built from scratch. I too have a chemically-laden past from which I’ve broken free. I too found my physical strength later in life and now surf in competitions in addition to being a recommended black belt in Taekwondo. I love exercise. I love competition.

Then why did I feel irked by her article instead? 

Perhaps the media play-up was annoying: “Oh my god. Can you believe she’s posing nude at 58?” Is that really what we find so incredulous in this day and age? What did you think she had going on underneath those fine designer clothes of hers? Dusty skeletal remains? She’s 58, not 402. 

Or maybe it was the “Yeah, if I worked with a team of personal trainers, nutritionists and chefs, I’d look pretty damn good too” voice playing in this jaded middle class head of mine. Money can obviously buy you a toned body, whether it’s real or manufactured or both. So she writes check well? 

And finally, where is the victory in showing another woman with an uber-fit body? Doesn’t the real problem lie with the rest of the bodies that we don’t find acceptable? Namely, the other 95% of the female populace? The message remains the same: look like you're 20-something and you win. Eternal youthfulness is the unrealistic gold standard by which we all must dutifully adhere. 

Then it was her elbow comment; Patti Davis doesn’t like them apparently. They look old to her. This is when I feel considerably less inspired. That never-ending magnifying and micro-managing that most women do with their bodies has reduced us to such petty creatures. So she’s got a smoking hot bod at 58, but those elbows of hers keep haunting her. (Elbows shouldn’t haunt you. Just as a rule.) 

Last week, I had a young man in my outdoor shower (a long but beautifully sordid story). He pushed the wet hair back from my forehead. I saw him examining the gray hairs that I’ve let grow in as of late. The painful self-consciousness I felt was overwhelming. I turned away from him, feeling once again flawed, wrong. 

Yet an equal part of me wanted to turn around and shout: “Yes, they’re fucking gray hairs. I’m 44 years old. If you don’t like them, go find someone else who has the energy to fight the tide of time better than me!”

God, who can keep up? Who wants to?  

Ultimately, Patti Davis is still an inspiration. (And I still had amazing sex in the shower, in spite of my "glaring imperfections.") She has a good, healthy take on her body and what it means to her. I’m not discounting that. I do admire her. 

But the messaging underneath remains insidious and tedious: look young at all costs. Society will give you props for turning back time. Thing is, time only has one direction. For all of us. (Shhh...don't tell anyone. It's a secret.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rap as Performed by Average White Chick from Jersey

It's been a long winter. They're all long winters here at the Jersey shore. You try to keep yourself entertained in any way possible. For kicks, I taught myself the lyrics to Eminem's Lose Yourself, the popular hit from his movie 8 Miles.

Well, it was no easy feat for a number of reasons:
A. I'm a classic rock chick. I have Boston in my blood and Genesis in my genes. I don't even know that many rap tunes.
B. You need to be angry to sing rap. I find myself to be very angry - bordering on the rageful at times. But I'm not rap angry.
C.  There's a lot of effin' words to rap! My god...how do they breathe? I've done Shakespeare monologues that were easier than learning this tune.

So for your viewing pleasure (or displeasure, or comic relief, as the case may be), here are my two bedroom stabs at rap.

1. Lose Yourself - The Standard Version






2. Lose Yourself - The Teary Version




3. Eminem singing Lose Yourself