Candle In the Wind

Goodbye, Michael J
No, I never knew you at all
But every time I saw you on
TV, my skin would crawl
I heard about your good works
All the music that you'd made
But all I could think was
"What a subterranean shade . . ."

And it seems to me, you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Pasty white and dripping
And so alarmingly thin
And I would have liked to know you
Especially when I was a kid
'Cause, boy, you paid a lot of dough
For what your candle did.

The "Thriller" video sure looked cool
And so did that sparkly silver glove
You rabble-dazzled everyone
And gave them someone to love
Even when you turned
Your face into a mask
Your fans still stood behind you
And kneeled to kiss your ass

And it seems to me, you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Amid all the court appearances
And the babies dangling
It must have been nice to know you
For all those cute little kids
Who did so much more for you
Than Lisa Marie ever did

Goodbye, Michael J
Our superannuated Peter Pan
In the end, were you black or white?
A woman or a man?
Goodbye, Michael J
From a young woman who can't turn on
Her bloody radio today
Without hearing your overplayed songs

And it seems to me, you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
With the blowing and the twitching
And the sputtering
And I know you were messed up in the head
From all that fame as a kid
But that's still a bad excuse
For all that fucked-up shit you did.

Yeah, that's not a good excuse
For all that fucked-up shit you did.

Spare me if you have a problem with this, OK?


Dear New Yorkers with umbrellas . . .

I know how hard it is to be you, juggling a soy mocha latte in one
hand, typing into your corporate BlackBerry about how much you hate
your boss with the other, and managing to hold your umbrella aloft
using little more than the muscles of your neck and shoulder. I know
you can't be bothered to watch where you're going. But if another one
of you bumps into me, I may have to take that umbrella from you . . .
and beat you with it.

You have been warned.


test test testitty test


morning thoughts

Thought #1: Where am I? (In your bed, but don't give yourself too much credit, you mostly just stumbled across it.)

Thought #2: Is it over? (Life? No, sorry. The spinning thing? Um . . . likewise, no. Sorry.)

Thought #3: Did I puke? (No, you winebag.)

Thought #4: Am I going to puke? (Unlikely, but give it a shot, for kicks.)

Thought #5: God, I love Canada. For thence comes the Gravol . . . and the Gravol, Lord, is good. (*affirmative nod*)



Tragedy is the inability to accept or cope with the way things are.

Screw the quest for a happy ending. Any ending that isn't all-out unhappy is pretty much all we hell-dwellers can hope for, eh?


ida maria

8 o'clock at the Bell House in Brooklyn. It's still nearly empty. A few guys with strange facial hair; a few girls who take fashion tips from Amy Winehouse. Two bands take their turns on the stage - both decent enough, both from Austin, TX, with overlapping rosters. My date and I sit sipping our drinks, tapping fingers on the table.

The second band finishes their set and hands begin changing the stage. We notice the place starts filling up. It's almost magical. The space goes from rather cavernous to distinctly tight in a matter of 15 minutes or so. (Nice space, by the way.) We end up leaving our table, to avoid having our view of the stage blocked by 10 rows of bodies.

Two strikingly model-handsome young men are testing the mics. They retreat somewhere. Minutes crawl by. People crowd the stage. Anticipation builds - for some of us. For others - like my date - it's more like impatience.

And then, something shifts - they turn the piped-in music off. The men come back onstage. This time, they've slipped on those invisible cloaks of working showmen. They are joined by another one, equally beautiful, who sits behind the drum sets. The first two guys flank the stage with their guitar and bass. The crowd perks. And then, she comes out.

She looks like she would taste of angel's food cake - a white, voluptuous milkmaid-type from the Norwegian fjords. A red polka-dot dress with tiny puff sleeves, a gathered waist and a calf-length pleated skirt. A flower clipped into fine, wispy light brown hair. Milky skin and rosy lips. Cream and sugar and spice and everything nice. The face of a Nordic angel.

She smiles at the audience, drinking in their shouts and applause. And then, the Nordic angel opens her mouth and sings in that rending voice of a Lilith screaming at the gates of paradise. Songs of love and lust and desperation and life itself.

She stalks the stage like the consummate punk rocker she is, her almost overly-feminine appearance belied by her brash movements. She cordially shoves into her guitarist. She swings the mike stand over her shoulder and doesn't give a damn when it hooks on the hem of her long dress and raises it at high as her head. She wipes the perspiration off her forehead in gestures that have absolutely no daintiness. She sinks to the stage and finishes a song sitting cross-legged, her head in her hands. She dips Snus several times during the show, responding to the "Woot"s with "No, no. Nothing to woot about. This is a very, very bad habit, do you understand?"

There is something intriguing about her light accent; her English is somehow both milder and harder than that of native speakers. Softened consonants, shortened vowels. "And this next song," she says several times, "is about eck-sacktly the same thing." Heartache, anger, sex.

"I must tell you," she tells us, coyly, "I've had some champagne before the show. And it kind of . . . got to me. Did you notice? No?"

"Have you ever been fucked over," she says once, "so bad you could hardly walk afterwards?" And then launches into "Drive Away My Heart."

She delivers the wonderfully pop-y raunchy single "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked" with the effusiveness of a 60's yeye girl. She sings the wry "Stella" about "God's girlfriend." The self-deprecating ode to the state of inebriation, "Queen of the World." The deep, intimate, incredibly sexy "Keep Me Warm," which was featured on one of Grey's Anatomy most compelling scenes ever for a good reason. And all the other songs from her record, "Fortress Round My Heart."

Near the end of the set, she opens another bottle of spring water, guzzles down some of it - and then, pours the rest over her head. She raises her face up, the water sluicing over it. She shakes her hair out, spraying water droplets over the first three rows, grinning with delight. This is what the famous scene in "Flashdance" didn't quite manage to evoke. Her flower clip flies off and lands somewhere on stage left. She doesn't seem to notice. She rubs her hands over her eyes, smearing mascara all over her face.

She steps back to the mic, her pale, smudged face starkly illuminated by the stage lights. And then, the guitars start throbbing in a way familiar to all her fans - it's the intro to her hit single "Oh My God."

Find a cure, find a cure for my life,
Find a cure, find a cure for my life,
Find a cure, find a cure for my life,
Find a cure, find a cure for my life,
Oh my God, do you think I'm in control?
Oh my God, do you think it's all for fun?

Oh my God, do you think I'm in control?
Oh my God, do you think it's all for fun?

It's primal scream therapy, the quick, insistent, building tempo, the repetitive lyrics, and her throat-twisting heart-throttling vocals. It's musical catharsis. It's what rock-'n'-roll was all about - translating pure, violent, sometimes ugly emotion into sound.

By the end of the song, she looks exhausted. I don't blame her. Out in the audience, that song - the experience of that song - has left me exhausted. The band leaves the stage. She lingers for only a minute longer, picks up her flung-off flower, clips it back into her hair. Picks up a joint someone threw on the stage, winks at the audience. And then, bows her head, and walks off.

No one is leaving. A few minutes later, our patience is rewarded. They come back out. She smiles at us. "So . . . we're gonna play another song now," she says in that funny abrupt way she has. And they perform a new song, not yet recorded. It's called "We're All Going to Hell." And it's slow, and deliberate, and penetrating.

And by the end of it, I am in love with Ida Maria. And if she is one of us, the fate described in her song - well, it might not be such a bad one.


smoke paternalism

Obama pledges to quickly sign anti-smoking bill

"Smokers, particularly the younger crowd, will find they can no longer buy cigarettes sweetened by candy flavors or any herb or spices such as strawberry, grape, orange, clove, cinnamon or vanilla."

OK, you paternalistic motherfuckers. I am over 18. I can drink till I die under a table. I can slog through red tape and get a gun and blow my own head off. I can VOTE, which, in theory, is kind of important.

I can also go sky-diving. I can eat all sorts of cancer-causing shit; I can stick my head into a microwave. I can breathe the air polluted with the byproducts of whatever industries have paid your whining, pandering asses enough to stay in business and haven't yet been labeled as "hurting the children."

And I won't be able to buy vanilla cigarettes?

Ah, yes. "For the children." "Protect the children." "Think of the children."

How about you hypocritical cunts get better sex ed out there? How about you stop preaching abstinence to a generation who is NOT fucking hearing you over the roar of the completely unchecked music and TV culture, and, I dunno, teach them about something practical like birth control?

While I'm on culture, how about you pull your heads out of your asses and take note of what 11-year-old girls are wearing; of what 10-year-old boys have already learned to say about women (bitches, hoes, etc.). Catching predators is nice; how about a closer look at the cultural influences that drive young girls to flirt with men online? (And fuck you if you think I'm blaming the victim - yeah, they're too young and dumb to know better, but MySpace is teeming with prepubescent boobs and ain't NO ONE forcing them to put those pictures up.)

And furthermore, ya know what, fuck the children. Let their parents take care of them. How about that as a novel concept? Let their PARENTS monitor their activities online; let their PARENTS check their pockets for cigarettes and drugs; let their PARENTS actually fucking TALK to them instead of buying them the latest piece of shit with Hannah Montana on it. Let their PARENTS be paternalistic. It actually makes sense in that scenario.

I am a grown woman. Occasionally, I like to smoke a flavored cigarette. And you are telling me I won't be able to - because of the children.

I know smoking is dangerous. I am very, very well-informed about that. At this point, every sentient human being is well-informed about it. You want to put bigger labels on the box - fine. They do it in Europe. Gruesome pics, too. I'm cool with that. Smokers still smoke.

And drinkers still drink. Sky-divers still skydive. Drag-racers still drag-race. People still buy guns. Auto-asphyxiators still get their thing on. We still eat fruit sprayed with pesticides and food infused with preservatives. McDonald's is still very much in business. And EVERYBODY drinks diet soda like it's going out of style, and who cares what sort of unpronounceable shit it's got in it and what it might do to you.

"Not the same thing," all will say. "Not the same thing." Yeah, it actually is. As an adult, it's our right to take the information we have - and, by all means, disseminate information, I fucking love disseminated information - and make our choice. Take our risk, if we want to. Because our lives are still OURS.

But what the hell do I know. I also want to legalize weed, whores and euthanasia and bring the drinking/consent age down to 16.

And, for the record, I opposed the smoking ban in New York City bars and restaurants YEARS before I even took my first puff.

If you think cigarettes as truly poisonous and universally dangerous - outlaw them. Stop being a pussy and just do it. Or, how about this use of your energy - ENFORCE your fucking drug laws. 'Cause we can get weed, coke and pills pretty much as easily as we can get vanilla smokes. (Just takes a little research and a foray into the right neighborhood.)

And then, outlaw liquor. Bring back Prohibition. And then, outlaw gun ownership, and fuck that amendment, right? And then, make pornography - ALL pornography - illegal, because, well, Jesus, little Johnny might see a pop-up ad while he's watching a music video, and it might block his view of Fergie's twat.


songs to sweat to

Italic50 songs form my workout playlist in no particular order -

1. "U & Ur Hand," Pink
2. "Blitzkrief Bop," The Ramones
3. "Crazy Train," Ozzy Osbourne
4. "Why Can't I Get Just One Kiss," Violent Femmes
5. "Breaking the Law," Judas Priest
6. "Toxicity," System of a Down
7. "God Save the Queen," Sex Pistols
8. "Feed the Tree," Belly
9. "Laid," James
10. "Where Is My Mind?" The Pixies
11. "Dirty Girl," Rick Threat
12. "Wet Dreams," Bad Manners
13. "Dirty Glass," Dropkick Murphys
14. "Oh Yeah," Great Big Sea
15. "Mr. Brightside," The Killers
16. "The Dancing Master," The Punters
17. "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked," Ida Maria
18. "Oblivion," Wintersleep
19. "Tiger Woods," Dan Bern
20. "So Hott," Kid Rock
21. "Bad Reputation," Joan Jett
22. "Jique," Brazilian Girls
23. "Ramalama," Roisin Murphy
24. "Jangling Jack," Nick Cave
25. "Striptease," Hawksley Workman
26. "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana
27. "Steady Rollin'," Two Gallants
28. "The Party's Crashing Us," Of Montreal
29. "Black Betty," Lynyrd Skynyrd
30. "Bang Your Head (Metal Health)," Quiet Riot
31. "Rattlesnake Kisses," Electric Angels
32. "Lose Yourself," Eminem
33. "Ding-Dong Daddy of the D-Car Line," Cherry Poppin' Daddies
34. "Fighter," Christina Aguilera
35. "Toxic," Britney Spears (yes, Britney Spears)
36. "Lick It," Roula
37. "Queen & Tequila," The Mahones
38. "Loser," Plasticines
39. "Date Rape," Sublime
40. "Single Ladies," Beyonce
41. "Poker Face," Lady Gaga
43. "I Kissed A Girl," Katy Perry
44. "Psycho Killer," Talking Heads
45. "Milkshake," Kelis
46. "Heterosexual Man," The Odds
47. "Story of My Life," Social Distortion
48. "Etre Une Femme," Anggun
49. "Dessine-Moi Un Mouton," Mylene Farmer
50. "142 Thru," Thomas Trio and the Red Albino



The night I met Frankie, my friend and I were trying to have a quiet drink at a local bar when a weird old Russian dude began trying very aggressively to join our table. He wasn't so much threatening as deeply annoying - presumptuous, and with the obvious delusion that he was threatening. About 50-55, short, stocky. Very possibly a former minor Soviet bureaucrat or enforcer, still not completely caught up on the fact that, short of pulling a weapon, there was very little he could do in a decently populated bar to two Amazon-ish women who were half his age.

Anyway, so, just as my friend was about to get pissy (my friend, I should add, has been known to kick ass in bars), the bartender came over and tried to use obligatory ejectory-politeness on the dude. Dude did not respond positively. I was beginning to look forward to seeing the bartender - about 6'4", maybe 250 lbs - deal with this problem.

And then, over comes this incredibly small, slight, bespectacled man. I'm talking, maybe 5'8", maybe 140 lbs. One of those people who look like they are perpetually in need of a warmer jacket. He comes over, puts his hand on the annoying guy's arm and says, "Hey, buddy. Let's talk. Let's go outside."

The two of them went out. The bartender did nothing to stop them; neither did any of the patrons. My friend and I exchanged shocked glances; we were about to go after the two of them, because we had no desire for that little man to get hurt for our sakes, especially when we could certainly take care of ourselves.

"Wh - who was that man?" I asked the bartender.

"Oh, that's Frankie."

"Well, should we maybe go out there too, I mean - "

"Nah, Frankie will be fine."

A guy at the bar laughed shortly. "Yeah, and if he touches Frankie, that guy is gonna be real sorry."

A few minutes later, Frankie came back into the bar. Small, unpreposessing, completely unassuming. Not at all like he'd just faced down an asshole for two women he didn't even know. Shuffled over to the bar, nodded to the bartender.

My friend and I went over to buy him a drink. We got to talking - by this time, I should add, we were on pretty good terms with everyone in that bar (a good taste in jukebox selections is a great social lubricant, it seems) - and it was pretty much a party in there. Smoking indoors, free drinks, the works. Somehow, my friend started talking to someone else, and I got to talk to Frankie on my own.

Turns out, he'd seen me around before. Saw me going to work every morning. "We're a close community here," he told me, "and just because you don't know it, don't think you're not protected. If anyone sees someone trying to hurt you, you'll be taken care of."

I didn't know what to make of THAT, but I did ask him what he had said to the aggressive guy. Frankie shrugged, wiped his nose with a tissue. "I just told him to back off. Ya gotta know something, most bullies, they are all talk. If you stand up to them, if they know ya mean business, they'll usually back down. And if they don't, well . . . that's when you need friends. And I got friends."

We started talking about lives, families. "I got a wife," he said. "I been married more than thirty years. And there've been girls, you know . . . but I never cheated on her. Our kids are grown up. We got our house. I'm a lucky man, you know? I'm the luckiest man in the world, because, every morning, I wake up, and my kids are fine, and I have a great family, and a community, and this bar where I can come in and see my friends. And I know I am respected, and I know I am a good man. And what else do I need? Nothing. You don't need anything when you have people that respect you. That's all. Just be a good person, and the rest is bullshit."

He looked closely at me. His eyes were incredibly kind, incredibly clear. No neuroses, nothing on his conscience, no doubts whatsoever about whatever choices had gotten him to that precise instant in time. "Be a good person," he said gently, "and choose good people to surround yourself with. Don't give yourself away to takers. Don't give your love to people who aren't good. It's never worth it. Find good friends, make a family, and don't question too much. Life isn't that hard - just be a good person, be the kind of person people will respect, and you will never have reason to doubt yourself."

I've walked this neighborhood a long time since that night. I've never seen Frankie since. If I did, I am not sure how I'd react - these kinds of exchanges are always easier after a few drinks, in a dim bar. But I remember almost every word he said that night. I've never found better ones.


songs of happiness and hope

Not nearly enough out there . . . or maybe just in my own iPod, but here are a few :)

1. "Never Saw Blue Like That" by Shawn Colvin
2. "Kingdom of Days" by Bruce Springsteen
3. "Brand New Love" by Serena Ryder
4. "45 Years" by Stan Rogers
5. "Are You The One That I've Been Waiting For" by Nick Cave
6. "Wait A Lifetime" by Chris Trapper
7. "You Are The Best Thing" by Ray LaMontagne
8. "Real Love" by Regina Spektor (covering John Lennon)
9. "Love of My Life" by Santana & Dave Matthews Band
10. "The Hideout" by Sarah Harmer


lullabies for the weary

1. "Stolen Child" by Loreena McKennitt
2. "Gitan" by Garou
3. "Turn And Turn Again" by All Thieves
4. "Catch A Flame" by Piers Faccini
5. "Quiet Times" by Shady Bard
6. "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol
7. "Put Out The Lights" by Oysterband
8. "Duet" by Rachael Yamagata & Ray LaMontagne
9. "Into My Arms" by Nick Cave
10. "Keep Me Warm" by Ida Maria


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