March 6th to May 12th

These entries are taken from my journal over March-May 1997. They read exactly as I wrote them. I was a 33-year-old A&R Director for A&M Records.  

*This is not an excerpt from my book.

Anything that appears in italics is me now, a 56-year old woman, writing to my 33-year old self, and/or to you.

March 6th, 1997

I haven’t written in over a month. Wow. Missed all of February. So much has happened and just as much remains unchanged. I went back to AA meetings. I am officially on my “third day back.” That’s the lingo. What drove me to it? Getting so drunk on Saturday after a Green Door Party I threw up for 4 hours Sunday afternoon and had sex with one of my girlfriends in the office of Coney. (the club Coney Island High). I cannot drink. It doesn’t work for me. There’s so much more but I’ve been energy deficient lately.

I gotta say last week was hard, and this week will be harder. Funny how as soon as I decided to go back to AA all my protection devices activated. Working hard, stayin home at night, cooking, wearing loose comfortable clothes. I’ve slowed down. I spent the New Year in Paris thinking this year would be all about poetry and sensuality and beauty. Instead it’s all about recovery. Well, I have a great deal to recover from so this is not a bad thing.

It seems like all my words have dried up. Got sober, stopped thinking. Actually, I’m trying to get through the days without dropping from exhaustion. I’ve got a terrible crush on Jeff Tweedy. As a result of all the hot sweet talking we did in Raleigh and again in NYC when I saw Wilco a few weeks back.   I was glad I flew one of my best friends from Boston to SXSW to hang out with me. She and I spent some time with Jeff in Austin. We babysat Spencer while Jeff and Sue went out to do Austin stuff. God, he’s so beautiful. He practically screamed in that NC dressing room, “Do you ever notice how much sexual tension is in the air when we’re in the same room?” Thank you Jeff I’m excited to know your entire band and road crew have ownership of that information. He’s so beautiful. So married. Beautiful son too. Nothing but trouble. What is my problem lately? It’s either booze or completely inappropriate men.

The new guitar player for The Jayhawks is a total babe. I’m trying to transfer all my inappropriate feelings for Jeff to Kraig “Jayhawk’s guitar player” Johnson. Then that bartender (who I fucked during ‘Sex Month’-in the book) calls and starts talking all kinds of sweet shit and then Danny (Sage) calls at 4:00 a.m. to tell me I’m the only one and he wants to run away with me. (I regret not taking him up on that) What is going on? Why can’t I find someone true and sane? Why are they all married, or alcoholics or off their heads? Just doesn’t seem fair.

Been staying sober. Didn’t drink a drop during SXSW. The meetings are working their magic. I really just make myself go and I listen but I don’t feel like I’m working a program. I don’t even know what that means. All these fucking alcoholics in these meetings seem so unhappy too.  (Self-centered, egotistical, full of self-pity I wasn’t ready.)

I was really happy in Austin. We laughed so much. Saw amazing music and oh the food. But we didn’t hit one of the infamous Austin strip joints. Are they full on nudie or something? I know there is something ‘special’ going on there. Next year. That’s the cool thing about SXSW. There’s always next year.

I’ve been listening to music, living with my head in a speaker these days. It’s like I can be alone but not alone. Music makes me feel sane but free. I can shut my mind off and collapse into it or I can sort through my shit and escape into it. It’s all good.

L.A.  

I dropped Lustre today. David Anderle didn’t like the demos and I couldn’t give him an honest thumb’s up after I went to NC to see them. It’s the same songs that didn’t work on the first record. You can’t have a sophomore slump when your first record wasn’t a hit.

Plus, I decided not to pursue Chemlab. That was becoming a slightly abusive situation. There was cocaine available at any hour and I wasn’t resisting. And what the fuck with the girlfriend walking around with a cucumber up her ass? That’s what I need, to listen to you talk about your naked porn-actress girlfriend, who happens to be walking around with a vegetable in her bum while I’m trying to explain why my boss isn’t ‘getting it.’ It’s good to know I can spot a potential horror show before I commit. Do I hate musicians?   (I loved musicians and I did not know how to spot a potential horror show or else I wouldn’t have a book in me)

Had more hassles with Alan Moulder and Monster Magnet. We have to find a new mixer. Dave Wyndorf is starting to freak out and he’s overworked, way too tense and starting to crack a little. So am I.

April 12th 1997:

L.A. (I believe throughout this time period I flew to Los Angeles 3x, Austin and N.C.)

The months are flying by. I can’t believe it’s almost time to dye my hair again and I haven’t made a diary entry in weeks! I’m back in L.A. for a few days. This is a strange trip it feels almost without purpose, but to see if I can do it. I’m doing everything in my power to conjure up enough energy to get through the days. I’m tired. I don’t have the energy to dress up. I crave cooked vegetables and remember to take my vitamins and have my teeth cleaned. All the boys at Coney Island High looked silly and young to me. I’m not getting too worked up by the drama Jesse and Danny dragged home with them. (When DGeneration moved from EMI to Columbia and I moved from EMI to A&M I remained their Band Mother) All these things could change, but right now they are my life. Plus work. I have gotten very good at smoking though.

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DGeneration sent postcards from the road. Looks like Jesse’s handwriting.  Buy wow did Danny get ripe on tour (in the book).  Howie Pyro’s postcards were the best but he usually remembered to sign his name.

One of my L.A. comrades came to pick me up from my hotel as soon as I checked in. Hit the pavement as soon as I landed. I really liked Scott Thomas last night. It’s something I would very much like to do. This year I just need to do and do and do. No more pussy footing around.  (I didn’t do ANYTHING but work so I don’t know when I was pussy footing anywhere) I need to get some acts signed. That’s all there is to it.

Yesterday I had a fantasy about turning into a character in an Andre Dubus short story I read on the plane.  She’s a housewife in rural Massachusetts. Her life consists of taking care of her husband and three children. She doesn’t work. She spends every waking moment completely in the moment. Her simple life allows her to give full attention to whatever she happens to be doing at the time. Waking up her children, washing clothes, food shopping, all come with their full significance. My life is the polar opposite. I’m so busy. My schedule is bulging. I don’t have time to notice what moment I’m in. It limits my ability to be observant, to be thoughtful about myself, my environment and others. The carousel day in Central Park made me feel completely in the moment. If I could relax. If my body didn’t hurt all the time. If I had money and didn’t have to worry about the rent every month. (I was severely underpaid compared to men in the field) If I could live in nature I might be happier for all these things. I wish I could walk 5 miles a day.  In nature-everyday. I wish I wasn’t so burnt out on my days off. I wish I had time to live fully in my environment and give something back to it.  (It makes me sad that I didn’t realize what I was giving)

I’ve been thinking about all the kooky men in my life.                                                     (The following is funny and heartbreaking)

-This morning I realized something about Wyndorf. His world in Red Bank is so small that he’s developed a huge imagination to make it bigger. He’s childlike. Dave has incredible communication skills, he is a visionary musician, he can’t make a decision to save his life yet knows exactly what he wants to do. He is a fascinating character. The huge, sexy rock god and yet he can’t drive himself to the airport.

-Jesse (Malin) is another one I’ve been pondering. He’s caring and giving yet one of the most selfish people I’ve ever known. Jesse is loving, gentle yet into scary scenes with very odd people. He loves drama. Loves creating it and then basking in it.

-Danny (Sage) is the one I probably love the most. So smart and observant and another great communicator. One of the biggest and most damaged egos I’ve ever encountered. He wants it all and can’t figure out how to get through one day of it. Danny has no tools to help him live. But he wants it all and I admire that in him. Still, he’s total id. An Aries. Probably can’t help it. Still he loves so hard.

-Speaking of id, of course we come to Ryan (Adams) last. It’s so hard for me to look at Ryan because I know all about him.  (BTW-I never had sex with Ryan and I have no idea why I thought I knew all about him except that he stayed with me a lot but still…odd)             He is so young and talented and great. Handsome, sensitive, charming, silly-Ryan has it all going on. He’s a huge alcoholic. He doesn’t see what it’s going to do to him. He doesn’t know what a sad disease it is. He doesn’t know how hard it’s going to be to stop once it isn’t fun anymore. He’d better figure it out though. He thinks he’s feeling-he’s really running away. One Dubus story said we make ourselves scared by running away. If we stand and defend ourselves we are not feeling fear we are feeling strength. Ryan doesn’t know about that yet. I hope he doesn’t die before he figures it all out. He’s the closest to me. When I dream him, I dream me. It is just the way it is.  (THAT is scary)

-How have I come to collect all these kooky men? It’s so weird to have a bunch of loonies in your life. For now it works, but I change everything all the time. We’ll see where they all end up.

I took an L.A. vacation day today. Didn’t speak to anyone except out of necessity. It’s amazing the restorative properties in not speaking. I spent a lot of time outside. Next to the pool. Swam some laps. Or on my little deck or walking on Sunset Blvd. This day really brought home the reality of how tired I am. I hope it helps me get through the next eight weeks until I can take a break.  (Never happened. Eight weeks later I was in the trenches with Monster Magnet.  Head on over to Motherf*cker if you wanna see what 8 weeks later looked like.)

I’ve got to do something to get rid of the fatigue. I’m tired of waking up with my entire body aching. From my toes to my shoulders I hurt. I’m just one big hurt. Can’t get out of bed when I feel like this. The mood swings are horrible too. From soaring happiness to the emptiest loneliness. It’s not much fun. All I’ve been doing is working and its not getting me anywhere. Anderle is ignoring me. Phelan is as frustrated, but at least he is doing projects. At least he makes a lot of money.  Told Anderle I would go to L.A. But I’d rather not, I will if I have to. I need more money. I need to get rid of these aches and pains.

I’ve been an emotional train wreck of my own doing this week. I’m listening to Alejandro Escovedo’s Gravity and I’m trying to process my pain and my healing and my next steps forward. I think I might have fallen in love with Jeff Tweedy AGAIN!!! It’s so stupid and too drama laced and too all of those things that are bad. The irony, of course, is the reflections I had in Paris of the life of a mistress. It was my fantasy to be the other woman because I want to be someone’s muse and the mistress always ends up being that. My fantasy has been to be ‘the other woman.’ I’m not sure how good it would be after all. God damn after all the ruminating I’ve done over this. Life takes some odd twists and turns and I never did think I would find myself here again. We didn’t actually do anything but flirt heavily. I did some things for my own protection but I could have succumbed fairly easily too. I want so badly. I want and want and want. When do I get to have? Could there possibly be happiness behind this curtain? I sense misery, despair, heartbreak and lies. So why do I want it so badly? I need to do some serious meditating on this. I need to get strong. I need to put this out of my head. I know what I need but God I’m drawn to what I want.

It’s been such a marvelous week in so many ways. Particularly my whole life circa 1990 re-lived! The Rockville Records days. Soul Asylum, Wilco, Son Volt all we needed was The Jayhawks and I would have to get another tattoo! Geez, the things that have changed since I got my tattoo in Minneapolis-the Uncle Tupelo, Jayhawks and Soul Asylum weekend! Staying in a hotel with a female record exec who had a corporate card, cocaine, alcohol, rock boys and rock girls-oh yeah it was a party.  (My highs and lows are freakish-I wasn’t mentally ill-it feels more like the speed of life and a good spattering of loneliness but you can come to your own conclusions.) 

I’ve been so lonely and so busy. Feeling unfulfilled in everything. I respond to affection so quickly. That’s why Jeff was difficult to ward off this time. It’s odd how violated I felt on Friday. I didn’t have sex with him. We just talked about having sex. Would I have felt better or worse if we’d acted on the passion? I also wonder what part of this is sex and what part power. I also wonder what part of it is about his marriage and my disillusionment with relationships? It is all there.

(For the record: Jeff Tweedy and I never had sex after he got married.  We did a few times during the Uncle Tupelo days-I was 25 & he was 19-when we were beautiful and stoned and young and drunk.  It pretty much ended in some ferocious hangovers.)

I let him in. I fell in love with him watching him sing, “So You Wanna Be a Rock-n-Roll Star” with Roger McGuinn. I did. All the old emotions, the things I felt at Cicero’s standing in the front row, came flooding back. Wow, I’m so in it. I gotta remember he’s the guy who wrote, “Outta Mind Outta Site.” He’s home tonight with Sue & Spencer. He’s got a family. He made promises. He shouldn’t break them with me. Yet, how flattering. It’s all an ego boost. It’s a bummer too. Big time. Would I be happy if he were here right now? I don’t know, I can’t even begin to have a clue about that. Would I be happy sitting in some hotel room with him some night at 2:30 a.m.? Maybe for about 60 minutes! After that I don’t know. I don’t know shit.

I’m still sober today. I have that on my side. I’m sober, I’m beautiful and I’m trying to sit through my shit. I’ll find out some things on this journey. I just don’t want to hate myself for what I desire. I don’t want to hate myself anymore.

Ryan and Phil (Wandscher) arrive tomorrow. (Whiskeytown signed to Outpost not A&M. I did my damndest, it’ll be in the book, but I still gave them a couch to sleep on, records to listen to and a cat to love) I awoke with a bad head cold. I’m trying my hardest to take care of myself. Don’t know why it’s so damn hard. I ran into my ex today. It was a little startling, but it was okay. He kept smiling even as he told me bad news. The smiling caught me off guard. As I started getting visibly nervous he abruptly said goodbye. You know, it was all about work. My work, his work, other people’s work-it was ultimately our workload that did us in. Also, I’m not attracted to him with the exception of his hair. He had a new jacket on. It was ill fitting. I sneezed and was glad of it. I’m cute when I sneeze.

All I want to do is lie in bed eat Frosted Flakes and listen to country music. Oh, and obsess about Jeff Tweedy. I’m tryin’ so hard not to. The reality would never beat the fantasy. Never. The fantasy has gotten way too good! It’s all about babies and homecomings, cooking and care taking. The stuff that really turns me on! Fuck the satin and leather-bring on the baby food! (I had a job people would kill for yet at 33 I wanted to be married and have a baby. As the years progressed and I became more and more successful I forgot about all of this stuff.)

I wonder if my musical taste is horribly out of style of if I’m ahead of the game. I think I hit my A&R peak at EMI. (funny). I’ve been wondering lately what else I could do. I think I could be a wealthy housewife (I would still like that job-any takers?). I could be a book publisher (it’s the same bloody job as A&R but with books and a lower salary). I could be a clerk in a bookstore or a waitress (this is really getting funny). I could do marketing (although I’m so not in that world and it would take a huge shift in attitude and discipline). I could write but that would take work and practice (she got something right). I’d be a great muse and somehow that’s the closest I come to anything profound in this job.  Danny once told me I was probably Anita Pallenberg.  I look more like Bianca. I wish I was on the bus with them now.  Once you get on the bus it’s hard to get off.  (Debbie you were fated for far better things. Even though Anita had the best clothes ever.) 

I’ve gained weight. Don’t know how because I haven’t been eating very much. I haven’t been exercising very much either. Would love to get down to a size 8. I’m above my perfect 10 and I hate that. Got to get back to yoga and running. It’ll keep me sane and young and get me down to a size 8. What more could a girl want? (A girl could want so much more. This body issue situation got dangerous-the book)

Ryan was supposed to come to NYC last night, but I never heard from him. Either he’ll show up today or he won’t. Funny, I don’t much care either way. Actually I prefer he doesn’t. I don’t mind the lack of drama & activity. I won’t miss feeling like a mama hen either. (The very young Ryan Adams that I am writing about showed no indication towards what he later became or I wasn’t paying enough attention.)

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I wish I could remember the Charlie Watts story. That’s my cat Marley.  Ryan and Marley were super tight.

 

Went to see The Jayhawks last night. They were beautiful-wished I had someone to waltz me around the room. Spoke to Gary and Maggie about picking up the Golden Smog record. That could happen. It would make me so happy. Of course I walked into Irving Plaza and they were showing the Wilco show filmed here for HBO. Jeff Tweedy larger than life, and I’m even in it for like 20 seconds dancing and smiling in the crowd like I always am. Love of my life. (drama queen anyone?) I’m trying to work this out of my system so hard. I thought visions of Kraig Johnson would help. They didn’t. I think he may be dumb and also dates Jessy from the Fibbers (Geraldine Fibbers) and they are so cute together. I realize she’s not his wife, so I could go for it, but they seem happy together. Oh, Jeff Tweedy! What am I going to do?

I’m sick and I’m tired all the time. I had a massage that shifted all the energy in my body. It made me feel like I could be doing a better job with myself. This cycle of fatigue feeds on itself. I just had an idea to title my diary Chronicle of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I know what to do I just have to do it. I’m tired of feeling like shit all the time. It sucks.      (It never stopped. The feeling of constant fatigue and pain in my body. I covered it up throughout my career but it was almost always there. Psychosomatic disorder. It’s given more credence in the book)

Laguna Beach-L.A.

I’m hoping that I’ve finally resolved, in my head, that I’m not going to have this affair with Jeff. I am hoping that I will continue to feel strong and act wise when I see him. I deserve all of it. Not some small piece of someone who doesn’t have a whole lot to give back. I want all the crazy passion, the physical stuff plus some heart & soul. I won’t get that. It’s unavailable to me. Of course I worked the speech out in my mind. Have no idea if or when I’ll get to deliver it. I’ll call his hotel room in the middle of the night if I have to. He’s done it to me. I want him to know how incredible he makes me feel and how much he means to me. Whenever I’m at a Wilco show he makes me feel so beautiful and I don’t feel that way very often. I want him to know that if he can’t make it work with Sue he should call me first. I want him to call me first.

(Before I sound like a COMPLETE dumbass idiot or just another young dreamer: Jeff means a lot to me, as a musician who has made some of the most beautiful and meaningful music I have ever heard. For years both with and without sexual tension we shared great times together. I am truly grateful that he got Sue.  She is and has always been the special one.)

I saw whales yesterday! I have wanted to see a whale for my whole life. There were three and one was a baby. I think a mother, a father and a baby. They were teaching the little one how to eat. The baby came maybe 10 yards away from me. I wish I could say something awesome & deep about whales because the moment of seeing them was enchanting. I felt like a message was being sent to me, or maybe it was just a moment of purity. Hurray for whales! (A mother, a father, a baby…hmmm…)

Had an intense day today. Went to a psychic and it was really exhilarating, also intense and perhaps a bit challenging. Actually very challenging. He sees people. I was told by another A&M employee that he is the closest thing to an angel she’d ever met.

(For a variety of reasons I don’t believe in this stuff any longer. I did succumb to it during the 90s. Tarot readings and the like, in spite of that, this one man was something beyond anything I can elucidate.)

He saw me and who I could be. He called me out on a lot of my shit. He spoke to me about my power-where it comes from & how I might use it. He said I can have it all and I will if I don’t, “get in my own way.” He said I will have a great love and I will raise a great son. He spoke of my ying & yang. He told me that the part of me that is a woman is where my power is and although my “girl” part is healthy I need to move into my womanhood. He told me to stop using seduction. I don’t need it to prove my connection with men. I have gorgeous femininity (yin) and also powerful masculine energy (yang) wants to see it click more in my career. I don’t play games professionally. I play them personally. I am very strong and can make clear, perceptive decisions. Sometimes I weaken myself so that someone else can feel good. It’s a co-decency thing. I should deal; with the discomfort of being in my strength and care a little less how it makes someone feel (yin).

Mark Helm Sessions: A few from the notes in my journal -I recorded it. Much of what he told me would transpire did indeed.

-He named almost to the date the release of my first hit record. June-Nov 1998 Monster Magnet dropped in June 1998

-Men with blue eyes and my future love life. Correct. Next two relationships: one had sharp blue, and the other a blue I could’ve swum in. Both feature in the book.

-The advice he gave me was right on the money and it was specific.

***I went back in 1999 and some predictions had changed

-He didn’t see me married or with kids this time. I would be happy with or without.

-Although in both sessions there were predictions that never happened. There are situations he predicted that are still happening. They keep coming to fruition. It is weird and often spooks me.

-Going back to school. I did and got a masters degree.

-Seeing me surrounded by children. Teaching. And on and on.

-Picturing me in some form of publishing venture. And on and on.

*** Mark Helm. I last heard he moved to Oregon.  I would like any information if you know of him.

Later on in L.A.

May 12th, 1997

Had dinner with Jim Scott before the Wilco show. He was my date, and a good one because he’d mixed Being There and worked with Whiskeytown.  (Jim ended up working with credits as Engineer or Mixer on Summerteeth, Kicking Television: Live in Chicago, Sky Blue Sky, Wilco The Album, Mermaid Avenue, Alpha Mike Foxtrot: Rare Tracks 1994-2014, The Complete Studio Albums and maybe I missed some. His entire discography is crazy amazing.)  My goal was to show off that I am a ‘real’ A&R person not just a dumb groupie. And Jim was keen to connect with the band. Over a fun dinner Jim said, “You’re the marrying kind.”  Jim was married so I didn’t think it was a come-on, but I wasn’t sure.  He knocked me off balance because I wasn’t sure what that meant and part of me felt that he was right. I was hoping he didn’t notice how nervous I was. I thought sweat was going to start dripping through my sleeves. And then I didn’t have to make my speech his wife was there! I’m so glad I went into the situation the way I did-strong plus having Jim there made me feel comfortable. I loved the show and will fall in love with him every night I see him play & that’s okay.  I don’t have to do anything about it. I can flirt & fantasize and love him onstage. I don’t need to seduce him to have a connection. I discovered him & brought him to the attention of the world-in a small way but a significant way. We will always be connected.

(Seventeen years later: 2014 in Newport, RI backstage I ran into Jeff. We talked briefly about a  transition I was going through. How twisted life gets, “Yeah I know all about that.” He bragged about Spencer’s musicianship. That was cute. Directly before Jeff walked onstage he said, “Thank you,” and hugged me goodbye. I haven’t seen him since.)

-I think this is for every fan who loves not just the music but the people who make it.  In that way I suppose it’s for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Only Live Twice (part two)

 

The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard-Katha-Upanishad (via W. Somerset Maugham)

The break-up occurred on May 10th, 1999.   Then the real break-up, “It’s over.  We tried it and it didn’t work,” took place about thirty days later.  Then I dropped thirty pounds in thirty days.  My friends came running, but I was too busy isolating to notice.  I sat at home listening to Moby’s Play the soundtrack to my heartache.  I didn’t start to cry until May 13th and then I couldn’t stop, just like that CD’s constant circling in its player.  But I went to work.  Work was my salvation the one place I always returned to.  Like home.

Sometime in 2001 we bumped into each other.  He was married, ran a marathon and had a dog.  These were all things I knew would happen.  I knew he would try to continue our legacy, but with someone else.  They were actions taken “at” me.  His appearance of a life fulfilled was done at my expense.  While he’d spent time revenge run rampant.   I just suffered.  I feigned happiness for him and his brilliant accomplishments.  At least by then I had put down the whip, picked up a fork and was living my life.  He never bore witness to my incessant flagellation.  2001 came in sharp contrasts, I realize for all, and yet my star had risen.  For me that was a very good thing, and not a thing he needed to know.  I walked away feeling good about myself, and that was a very good thing indeed.

Two months before we broke up, I was working late when a colleague cracked open a bottle of Patron.  I’d felt alienated after the merger.  Interscope was the antithesis of A&M.  I was swimming in the shallow end of unknown waters.  I so desperately wanted a friend to help guide me deeper.  My timing was awful, so was my methodology.  I eventually came home, but two hours late and excuseless.  The general hysteria that goes along with tequila incidents gone awry spewed out of me.  I puked.  I screamed.  I puked.  Why was he even with me?  I was too old for him!  He was a downtown hipster and, “I am totally uncool!”  He cleaned me up.  Put me to bed and left.  As soon as that hangover wore off the breakup was on.

“You can drink. You don’t have to change.  We’ll get through this.”  He claimed to have lost two relationships to AA.  Since I was his third the odds weren’t looking good.  He couldn’t watch me go through it.  “Too few people make it.”  A day later, “I can’t believe I found someone so perfect for me.”  A few days would pass, “I’m trying to work my way back to you.”  I was convinced the dream had shattered in a bottle of tequila, a pool of vomit, and a bed full of denial.  A close friend gently pushing me toward recovery, “Believe me he knows you’re an alcoholic and he’s known all along,”  He maintained, “I like the way you use alcohol.”  Solutions are rooted.  We felt unworldly.  Vaporous incapable of being trapped into something so solid.

On Place St.-Michel he pushed me.  Took two arms and shoved me as if I were a pickpocket caught in the act.  “Get off of me!”  Ten days in Paris, the city of love, we had sex twice.  Angry sex.  Naked and hit by a belt, yanked around the hotel room, completely dominated, left simpering in a corner, and going to sleep with our backs facing each other.  Years I fantasized over visiting The Muse’ Rodin with a lover.  Standing so close we could have stroked The Kiss, “Maybe I’ll get a sex change operation and move to Paris.”  Beaten down I was still trying to share even though he’d clearly decided there was no more “we” it would now be “I.”   Two months had passed since the tequila incident.  Sixty days I spent looking like a Camille Claudel sculpture.

 

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There’s only one in the bed… Or, how I spent my Paris vacation.

Making love in a rooftop Jacuzzi while Grammy night lights swirled around us, cuddling up to a fire place at Long View Farms studio while an ice storm raged outside talking about everything we hoped for us none of which was true, driving to Boston telling stories about the past while the The Idiot played on rotation and we tried to hold hands across a stick shift Barracuda named Bernadette, those days were gone.

Sobriety requires a relationship with something greater than oneself.  Over the weeks our conversations turned to seeking.  He was didactic, an excitable boy searching for something beyond the experience of reality.  I was often left mystified yet confused by his musings.  Frankly I often found them sophomoric, dorm room fodder.  Lacking clarity I did engage although I had spent far more time thinking about Led Zeppelin lV than about god.

Much earlier in the relationship he’d given me a copy of The Razor’s Edge.  Claimed it was his favorite, and inscribed with many declarations about my eyes, my breath, rain. The final lines read; With you there are no walls. Together we escape burden, and culminated with Debbi- you make me cry.  I read his page long benediction so often I never read the novel.  I couldn’t quite make sense of how making him cry was a desirable effect.  I decided the inscription had something to do with love, but he didn’t sign it with love.  He’d also spelled my name wrong.

Eventually I read it.  I indulged in anything, size don’t matter, he’d left me.  Obviously Larry spoke to him, “I want to make up my mind whether God is or God is not.”  I was an Isobel (is a belle), who wanted to meet interesting people, but not if it meant giving up her Chanel dresses.  Larry (I wish I could interpret that name as ‘liar’ but I don’t think Somerset Maugham would agree) knew she would only be experimenting with, “a sort of cultured slumming.”  Isobel could also give herself an orgasm just by staring at Larry’s arm.  She couldn’t have him.  She was forced to settle, and his would be a lone journey.  In the end Larry finds his salvation.  He escapes bondage.  Poor Isobel, well, you can’t have someone who isn’t there.  Dharma-bums, social strata, the ultimate question, none of that meant anything, the only answers I was seeking made habitat behind those blue eyes. Perhaps it should have been obvious that my boyfriend needed to find something, and he couldn’t do it with me.  But I didn’t read the book.

 

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I could always find my way back home.

In 2003 he called with an invitation to dinner.  He requested that I come that same evening.  So on an indifferently cold evening I walked west to east arriving at the same building.  He was cooking fried chicken and corn bread.  An aside, by the end we had both gained about 10 pounds.  We feasted on food instead of flesh.  We swallowed up all the truth so there was nothing to say.  Rib roast, homemade bread, macaroons one of my favorite things, were all forced on me.  I didn’t want any of it, except the macaroons, but I ate anyway.  I would take anything he offered.  I finally figured out what happens when you’ve been consumed, you start consuming.  Once you gain 10 pounds you get depressed and your doctor puts you on anti-anxiety meds, anti-depressants and sleep aids.  Then you refill those fuckers as often as you need.  By the spring of 1999 I was a beggar with an extensive medicine cabinet who could no longer fit into her jeans.

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When Ile St-Louis calls you go no matter how big your thighs have gotten.

Whatever this dinner was, it was not going to be a hostile takeover.  Thanks to a couple of green pills my emotions were well barricaded.  I entered the same building but different apartment.  That helped keep a few sensory triggers at bay.  His red hair was long, and greasy.  He was wearing some make-up along with tight red glam pants tucked into Paul Stanley’s boots.  The most striking piece of his countenance was the perfectly plucked eyebrows.  The brows becoming the entrance to his face, replacing what used to be blue eyes.  The lightening bolts on his cheesy boots were enough to strike me silent.

He fried up chicken and rambled on about his ex-wife.  She was now the dumpster for all his rubbish.  She wanted money and she took her dog.  Aside from the dog it seemed her best asset was the ability to apply make-up; then they would go out together.  I immediately imagined her in a suit and him in a dress.  Our gangster and gun moll act done in reverse.  I was thankful for her.  He no longer had a reason to do anything “at” me.  I snuck a peak into the bedroom.  It contained the double sized bed we’d bought together.  Seeing it there with the same headboard did beget sorrow.  I could still see my hands wrapped around the poles.  Still and all, we had been living perversely different lives for seven years.  I owned a new bed, an extraordinarily expensive one at that.

“I’m having a sex change operation.”  I don’t know why I was surprised.  It was in my face throughout our entire relationship.  In Paris he had said the words.  If that statement were spray-painted on the wall my reaction would have been, “Wall? What wall?”  Hear, speak, see…no!  If I had to be The Three Monkeys I would, and then swallow another macaroon.  My eyes welled up but I didn’t cry.  I squeaked out, “But why?”  This was his razor’s edge.

“I always knew I would do this.  That’s why I had to break up with you.  I knew you couldn’t live this way.  I knew you need a man.”  Larry needed to find truth.  Isobel needed to live within her comfort zone.  But we were not the characters Maugham created.  And it was never the tequila, and it certainly wasn’t a relationship that fizzled after the excitement of the first 60 days.  There was always a thread between us that we tangled up, like the necklace you carelessly throw into your jewelry box every night even though you put it back on the next day.  If you never pause to fix it eventually the chain breaks.

During the months our break-up dragged on, before, “It’s over.  We tried and it didn’t work,” he also said, “I know how I feel about you. I just don’t know how I feel about us.” “I’m trying so hard to work my way back to you.”  “I need to take a break from this relationship and I don’t even believe those are my words coming through me because I could never say that to you.”  I also wondered where those words had come from.  How could I know they came from she not he.  He said he couldn’t see himself in the mirror because I was standing between him and the mirror, “I have to remove you if I’m ever going to see myself.”  My boyfriend wanted to be me.  And thank god he managed to remove me, because eventually he decided to look like Brittany Spears.

I got to bear witness to some of the process.  Throughout the next year or so she helped me sell off some records, she helped me move some boxes.  When I lost my job her new girlfriend helped me look for a cheaper apartment.  She finally acknowledged my success when she started playing in a band that loved Queens of the Stone Age.  Gone were the days when my cell phone was an embarrassment.  I was even invited to the studio a couple of times.  The make-up, the breasts, the hair, the nails, never fully disguised the man.  Eventually I heard rumor that the transition had been wholly consummated.  Over ten years have passed since I last saw her.

“I knew you couldn’t live this way.”  I was never given a voice in the decision.  Maybe I could have.  Maybe I would have stayed.  At the least we could have tried to live in the truth.  Maybe I would have walked away.  Maybe I wouldn’t have made him cry, and he could sign a novel With Love.  I always wished him to be happy.  That was the unselfish piece.  I wanted him to love me forever.  That was selfish.  “I knew you needed a man.”  Well thank you for making the decision for me.  I’m not going to go on a tirade about gender specific roles.  I only know I’ve had plenty of men (and a couple of women) since, and not one has ever given me an ounce of what he did.  I’ll never know what she could have.

I silently mourned his death.  I didn’t starve myself, I didn’t over medicate, I didn’t worry my friends.  But, I did mourn.  I will never again see that blue-eyed boy I loved.  There was a time he came to me almost nightly in my dreams.  Like Peter Pan visiting Wendy. To be perfectly honest, fleetingly he still comes I wake up happy.  He managed to crawl up inside me.  Inside of me resides a beautiful blue-eyed boy who ate candy for breakfast and called me “Kitten.”  But outside there is no grave marker.  He simply faded away never again to be.  I miss him terribly.  Yvan-you make me cry.

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Addendum: For many years I wondered if this entire saga unfolded in my head.  One evening my intern entered my office and closed the door.  She was young, zaftig, with long black hair, punk rock clothes and a beautifully kind face.  She had a story for me, but she approached with caution.  This could be dangerous territory.  A few years after he and I broke up she walked into a bar on Avenue B.  He stared, and I have made it quite clear those eyes were no joke.  He appeared to be awestruck.  Once she settled on a barstool he said, “I’m sorry.  I thought you were someone else.”  I looked at her, yes, I could see it at a distance he would have seen a ghost.  He continued, “I thought you were a woman I had a relationship with years ago.  It was the most intense experience I’ve ever had.”  They chatted some.  Her drink was on the house.

-For Molly who got to live twice

You Only Live Twice (part one)

 

Six magical months, I’d fallen down the Rabbit Hole, one that would be free of mean queens and weird eggs. Fairy tales converged. I came face to face with The Pied Piper and fearlessly followed him. Wait, where did the Piper take all those people? He was Peter Pan too. What the hell happened to Peter Pan again? This was a boy who ate candy for breakfast and took a bath before he went running, “I don’t think like that.” Six insatiable months lead to 16 months suffering from a heart so shattered I’m not sure it ever healed, and twenty-five years later I’m okay with that.

I was crazy with love. I will never forget that feeling, but I can still feel the pain. Painstakingly physical and unfathomably psychological my love affair was an impassioned journey. It was so easy for me to love someone who hated me, and hate someone who loved me. Denial and desire make harrowing bedfellows. In the end, I felt like I’d been burned at the stake, nothing left but ashes in the image of a girl. Years after the embers were cold, I went back and found a dead boy grinning.

My life was normal, well normal for a female A&R executive, until a frustrated songwriter whose daddy started an empire showed up to buy a new toy; all the Polygram Distribution labels. I was an employee of A&M Records, people lose their jobs during corporate mergers. The money was frozen. Everywhere I turned my colleagues were freaking out. I had a quiet confidence, but I was bored. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Then again, the universe loves fools, drunks and dancing girls. Out of thin air, or Avenue B, a beautiful blue-eyed boy came along.

Months earlier Monster Magnet was performing at CBGBs, the record on the verge of radio play. I was wearing a blue slip dress with great big red flowers on it, twenty-five years later and I remember that dress. “You turned around and smiled at me. The whole world disappeared.” I don’t remember him, yet the dress remains indelible. “You were always alone.” I didn’t like baggage or negotiation. I liked everything in its right place. He ruined the groove of my life.

Ginger hair, big blue eyes, a young Lou Reed, and accordingly, “everyone wanted to fuck Lou.” I was at The Continental with Jesse on what appeared to be a normal Sunday night. Cid was performing, and there he was sittin’ on a toad, I mean barstool, and I’m sure he was waiting for me. “I know someone who has a crush on you.” “The bartender on Avenue B… he thinks you’re really hot.” I found it hard to believe, we had him listed as one of the 5 cutest guys on the lower east side. Within thirty minutes I was sitting on his lap. Fifteen minutes later I was straddling him. I grabbed Jesse’s whiskey and downed it as I walked out wrapped up in a beautiful blue-eyed boy.

We commenced to eat each other up.  Rubbed raw, knowing it was going to hurt, yet not able to stop. Night to morning to day to evening, someone had to make it stop, “Baby I think we ate too much.” What happens after you’ve been consumed? When we weren’t together, we were coming from, going to, waiting for. On first look, our friends saw the perfect couple. Imaginary worlds only exist until someone finds their way back out of the rabbit hole, or chances upon the ruby shoes, or ends up in the oven. Little Red Riding Hood and The Big Bad Wolf got so comfortable eating candy in their Avenue B cottage, they forgot about the blazing ovens.

Together we upended ghosts.  Sharing spent, sweating, closeness we ventured into dark places and survived them. We fit into each other whether we were fucking, walking, or sitting across a room from each other. Spanning from one to the other existed an invisible umbilical chord. We drank coffee laced with condensed milk, and danced to “You Only Live Twice,” while the smell of homemade bread smothered us. Made love on the couch listening to Nina Simone, “I’ve listened to this record a thousand times and it’s never sounded like this to me before.” Obliviously holding hands. If one let go, the other might float away. Walking through Tompkins Square Park singing “Perfect Day.” The lyrics still describe us.

 

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Just a perfect day/ Problems all left alone/ We can do this on our own/ It’s such fun

 

Back then he was a sober bartender (I still don’t understand how people can do that), and of course he had a band. I knew he’d been a junkie and a street hustler. I wanted a street hustler. I wanted perilous. I wasn’t built for insipid experiences. This Hackensack girl craved vicissitude. Metamorphosis is painful, and in that I wasn’t alone. In the end I was left burned up and scarred. And it really hurt.

We came together wounded. I was living hard, fast and drunk. Relinquishing the streets left him with run-of-the-mill STD’s. He hated the dick that fit me perfectly. It never occurred to me that he was ceaselessly plunging an instrument of hate into me. I was a clueless, inebriated “angel.” Perhaps being loved and hated conjointly made me the perfect fit. Add in denial and a bartender could mix one gorgeous Molotov cocktail. “You are so perfect for me. I can’t believe I found someone so perfect for me.” I filed “perfect” next to “I adore you,” and that next to “I love you,” and that next to “You make me more human.” Although, “I wish I could crawl up inside you and live there,” was perplexing.

My friends were sending smoke signals. Jesse, “doesn’t it feel weird that your boyfriend had sex with my (male) bass player?” My assistant Ellen, “You’re never in the office. Everyday someone asks me where you are, and I have to tell them I guess she’s fallen in love…” Kelly (rip), “I watched that guy fall head over heels in love with you with my own two eyes, but I should have known something was wrong.” My brother muttered something about, “the wrong side of the tracks.” Ryan, “Be careful. He’s a bad guy. He’s dangerous in ways I’ve seen, and you haven’t.” Dave, “He’s too young for you. You’re playing house.” Dana, “Is this really the life you want? Quit your job, live in a tiny apartment on the lower east side and get pregnant?” Cid, “I hate that guy.”

I found a green camisole in our bed. “If I didn’t know this was yours I would be furious.” I honestly didn’t care. Our sex life was transcendent, so why let a cheap green camisole get in the way? If you could end up in the ER suffering from too much sex we’d have side-by-side gurneys. I found the hidden chicks with dicks magazines (they were under all the pots and pans in the cabinet above the stove). That apartment was all about him, the smell, the stuff, even the single bed we romanticized. John and Yoko needed a king size bed to intertwine, it’s much easier in a single. All his other porn was exceptional, thus I mentally obliterated chicks with dicks. I wasn’t paying attention at all.

There was a box shoved in the back of his closet filled with woman’s clothing. One night he took it out, and started dressing me up. I love clothes. I loved my leather pants, leather midriffs, cowboy hats and boas. Little black dresses with mules. My Levis (or his) with heavy metal baby tees and motorcycle boots. Slip dresses ala Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a knock off Liz. Those were my feathers. The things flying out of this box were hooker clothes. Cheap clothes the Puerto Rican girls left at the Salvation Army. Those big blue eyes turned feral. He was screaming while pulling out awful whore skirt after whore dress, disgusting polyester halters. He called a friend over. I was put on display. My tears held tight like a corset, which I would have preferred to this. Arms flailing as I tried to cover up the same body that was perfectly comfortable sitting naked in his kitchen. “Oh God, please let this end.” Anal sex never felt like a violation. This did.

We went to Paris. We went to Boston. We went to L.A. We found hideaways in the countryside. We had funny interactions with Legs McNeil, and plenty of New York’s demimonde. We met the parents. A song was written for me. He witnessed the beginning of the next era in my career. I vomited tequila all over him. There was ‘not my lingerie’ in the bed. Looking back he saw details while I saw scope. Not seeing the details propelled me. If I were cognizant of each separate element I never would have seen that they didn’t fit together. All of which to say, I am here and he is not. All of which is for later.

Four months in, “I knew while I was gone you were going through my closets and wearing my clothes!!! Why?” I didn’t understand why we couldn’t work this cross-dressing situation into our sex lives. Shuttered tight, this part of his life was off limits. For me he was all boy, muscle cars, hot musician, punk, flirt, and girl crazy. Playing with sex was a no brainer for us. Which made this piece incomprehensible. “I was doing a lot of acting out around then.” Cross-dressing was his drug. Drugs are a secret. They give us relief from the unaltered world. Drugs demand we isolate. For three solid months were using. Our drug of choice was the relationship. Now he was using something else. If I was heroin, cross-dressing was crack. But I had my own secrets too.

Four months in, the real world came knocking. Twenty-five out of 200 people at A&M Records kept their jobs. Tom Whalley liked the rock chick, Ted Fields liked my knowledge of the roster, and Jimmy ran by screaming, “I’ve heard she’s terrific! She stays!” I was going back to work, and I was psyched. Even though I had the perfect boyfriend, momentum was pushing me out of the rabbit hole. The one with secrets in the cabinets and Pandora’s Box in the closet. My two worlds collided. While I was traipsing to my office in a mid-town high rise my boyfriend was at home wearing my clothes. Still, I was living the dream and he was still living.

-End of Part One

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You made me forget myself/ I thought I was someone else/ Someone good