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, 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
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.


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.