I found this adorable piece of pragmatic relationship advice from a child on the floor of my subway stop this morning:
I found this adorable piece of pragmatic relationship advice from a child on the floor of my subway stop this morning:
Sandy was my family’s dog. We got her from the pound back when I was in college, and have had her ever since. She’s a mutt, some combination of terrier and lab. I always thought she looked like a Muppet snow monster.
We had to have her put to sleep today. She was sixteen or seventeen – when you get a dog from the pound, their age is always sort of vague. She had rheumatoid arthritis in her back legs and a dense, growing mass in the bone of her right front leg. Her right front paw has touched the ground about fifteen times since Thanksgiving. She was deaf and starting to lose her eyesight, and my parents have had to give her morphine to keep the pain back for the last week or so. It was time.
That doesn’t mean this doesn’t completely suck, though.
When we got her from the pound, they told us that she had likely been abused in her previous home, but she didn’t have any behavior problems that they could see. She just cringed when she heard people yelling and got a little weird about dinnertime. When we took her into the isolation pen to sort of test her out or whatever, she climbed into my lap and whimpered and licked my hand. How can you ignore something like that?
Her name on her cage at the pound was Sandy, which is also my mom’s first name. We asked my mom if she wanted us to change the dog’s name, and she knelt to pet her and rub her ears for a minute, looking into her huge brown eyes. Then she stood up and said “you know, I really think she’s been through enough. And if you all talk to me in the same tone of voice you’d talk to a dog, and I can’t tell the difference, we have at least two other problems that are much more important.”
Every single time I entered my parents’ house after that, Sandy exploded all over me like a furry avalanche, thumping her tail and emitting this high-pitched whiny squeal. Her tail would bang into the banister and hit the floor hard enough to hurt, but it never seemed to bother her when I came home. I took her running in the field by my folks’ house, and she kept up with me on the sprints for many years, her face split in a massive dog grin. When we got home she’d drink her entire water bowl, maybe knock back an inch or two of toilet water and then pass out in front of the air conditioner.
Then at night, when I’d finally go to bed, I’d find her lying on whatever bed I was supposed to be staying on. She slept next to me every chance she got. Here she is, last Christmas. She slipped away while Maggie and I were hanging out with my parents by the tree, and helped herself to the end of my bed on the floor of my sister’s old room:
Jen Lee is a friend of mine from The Moth, and I just love her stuff because she pours it out straight from the heart. She’s not trying to be liked, she’s just trying to be true to the story itself. She’ll talk about some difficult stuff, and the way she handles it is masterful. She’s not an emotional exhibitionist and she’s not trying to launch her comedy career by making light of dark stuff. She’s a writer who happens to publish with her mouth, and every time she tells a story it’s different and better than the last time.
This is a video of Jen Lee from a Moth slam a few months ago. The theme was “Good Intentions.” Jen grew up as a fundamentalist Christian, and here she explains the hilarious, embarrassing reality behind swallowing fundamentalist doctrine and saving it for marriage — and makes it sound like it’s not necessarily so bad. She’s so funny and awkward and sweet here, and I just had to give her a huge hug when she was done.
So whatever, I’m blowing this horn pretty hard.
Jen runs a blog and podcast for people doing creative work at jenlee.net. She also hosts Voice and Story Retreats, which she says are “one part storytelling and one part soulcare,” and she teaches at Squam Art Workshops. And you know you can’t do all this creative computing without being on Twittter, too — here she is.
Brad and Cyndi run Hotsy Totsy Burlesque on the third Tuesday of every month at the Delancey, right there at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge in the Lower East Side. Cherry Pop Burlesque happens at the same place, the fourth Tuesday of every month, and I can’t recommend either show enough.
You can pay as much as you want in this city any night of the week for entertainment, but for eight bucks you can get right into something wild and weird that you won’t find anywhere else in the country for ten times as much cash.
The storytelling and burlesque scene have a fair bit of overlap in New York. Emotional nakedness and physical nudity are close relatives, and folks like Brad and Cyndi (our new bloggers) work hard at both. Ultimately, both communities are powered by passion and a love for the art form. Lord knows we’re not in it for the money.
That’s why I came to this town and it’s why I’ll either die here or leave a piece of my soul behind when I have to leave this magical, filthy island.
The ladies at Cherry Pop Burlesque were kind enough to let me photograph a show a few months back. What follows here is a loose collection of observations and photos from that night. You can see an expanded photo show here, too.
Seeing burlesque shows at the Delancey feels like something from the bad old days of New York that made me want to move here in the first place. It’s seedy enough to make any loving mother uncomfortable, but not so seedy that I wouldn’t take my girlfriend.
Even the sign for the basement gets me all excited. It’s at the end of a long, red hallway glowing like the understated gateway to hell. Or at least the world of sin that tent revival preachers used to warn against/advertise. This photo reminds me of the Pink Room with maybe a little less overt menace.
(Photos after the jump may not be safe for work, depending on where you are.)
Read the rest of this entry »
If you’re reading this now, there’s a decent chance that you heard my story on the “Pro Se” episode of This American Life. I’m told it’s being re-run this week, which just tickles me to no end. It was an honor and a thrill to be on that show. When I told my sister about it, she got all stoked and said “That’s right, dog, build the legend. BUILD. THE. LEGEND.”
If you took the trouble to follow Ira Glass’s mention of this blog, you probably liked the story okay. I originally performed it at The Moth’s Grand Slam back in April of 2009. There’s a video of it here, if you want to hear the story again or watch my hands wave around while I tell it or something:
If you liked that one, I’ve got a bunch of other stories that you might get into, too:
This list may be fun for you, too. Jessica totally would have written this in grade school, too: Types of Bitches.
Thanks for coming by, and we all hope you’re back again soon.
We’ve got a couple more mules kicking in the stall here at the And I Am Not Lying stable.
It’s all well and good for me to log in at a whim (which is apparently every three weeks or so) and blog about my feelings and stuff, and for D.Billy to contribute his take on art and design, but we’ve been getting a little stale.
Not blogging is a lot like not working out: it’s pretty great until you look around and realize what happens when you haven’t been doing it for a long time. You’ve got all this free time, all this energy to do other stuff, and then you start feeling a little flabby and the next thing you know your traffic’s fallen off and you pants don’t fit and nobody is writing you little notes about how great you are.
Or what an asshole you are. There’s no middle ground online.
We’re experimenting with a few things here, and one of the biggest most exciting things is the addition of two new bloggers — Brad Lawrence and Cyndi Freeman. They’re both great friends of mine, and part of what makes New York’s underground performing scene weird, wild, but ultimately cozy and comforting.
Cyndi actually gave me my first shot as a storyteller at a tiny little bar out in Bay Ridge, a place so far out on the R train I thought I was going to have to have my passport stamped. It was at this weird little divey biker bar with a coffee shop and Internet cafe sort of tacked onto the side. You had to be careful when you went into the bar side to use the bathroom — the door opened up directly into the line of fire for the dart board, so it was entirely possible to walk in with a full bladder and end up with a pierced ear. Or eyelid.
She’s encouraging, loving and generous, with a bottomless patience for truly crazy people — she’s also a Moth Slam champion and fantastic storyteller herself. She helped me edit one of my Moth stories the night before I competed directly against her in a Moth Grand Slam. For Cyndi, it’s about helping people and building the community.
Cyndi’s also working on a one-woman show about the life and times of Wonder Woman, which she may actually perform in a Wonder Woman costume. She does gigs at sci-fi and comic conventions dressed up as Wonder Woman sometimes, so it’s not really a stretch.
Furthermore, Cyndi performs around town as the burlesque queen Cherry Pitz. She co-produces Hotsy Totsy Burlesqueand also co-produces a new storytelling show called The Standard Issues at Pacific Standard, at the corner of 4th Avenue and Saint Mark’s Place in Brooklyn.
Brad Lawrence and Cyndi Freeman are married, see – -and they co-produce Hotsy Totsy Burlesque and The Standard Issues together. I know — it’s adorable. And it’s some wild, weird, and fertile crossover territory, too.
Brad is a two-time Moth Grand Slam champion. He did it back-to-back, too, sort of a greatly scaled-down version of Ian MacKaye starting both Minor Threat AND Fugazi. Brad’s pretty much one of the most charming, laid-back dudes you could ever hope to meet. You can take the guy literally anywhere and he makes it all better, because he’s seen so much worse. He’s got his own blogging concern over at Billy Joe’s Boy, and book proposal in the works. He’s also a member of the BTK Band, New York’s only improv-comedy storytelling rock band, and one of the only bands that can guarantee every single audience member a hangover whether or not they even drink anything.
Here’s Brad, telling a story at Seth Lind’s “Told!”:
Brad and I have pretty much the perfect 21st-century dude-friendship — we’ve done home improvement projects together and drank whiskey and shouted together at burlesque shows, and he’s also helped me move. You cant’ ask for a better guy than that.
I’m really stoked to have these two join us. Not only do I love them as friends, I respect the holy hell out of them as artists and I love their weird eclectic tastes. I hope you guys do, too.
Do you ever make something and then just sit there looking at it because it thrills you so damn much? Maybe you can’t stop eating your own cooking — or listening to a riff you just recorded. It doesn’t have to merit a footnote in the history of all that has ever been created, but it tickles you in just such a way?
That’s how I feel about this photo of King King attacking my office, below. I’ve got a McFarlane King Kong toy on my desk, and I just snapped it against the view of the skyline from my office window. Ran it through a couple apps on the phone, then finished it off in Photoshop, and we now have a visual representation of my whole thing: monster movies, screaming giant gorillas, low-res output and a lot of love.
Have you ever noticed how some people put a pair of headphones in, and it’s like it’s the performance version of Thor’s hammer? Like by putting those buds into their ears, they are suddenly blessed with an incredible singing voice, perfect pitch and total invisibility? Put on some sunglasses and an iPod and all of a sudden nobody is on the train except Simon Cowell and Dr. Dre, and both of them are hiring. It’s kind of like having a low-budget version of Rock Band that only plays R&B.
You never hear anyone singing Coldplay or Dave Matthews, is all I’m saying. I prefer it that way.
And don’t get me wrong here — sure, sometimes the phenomenon is a little annoying. But other times it is completely the most awesome thing that can happen to your whole week, a beautiful, off-kilter accident.
Like this guy that sat across from me on the J Train last weekend singing Chris Brown’s “Winner.” Check this thing out, it’s beautiful. I love how he doesn’t let his performance stop him from pouring himself a little sip of something from his thermos, then gets his soul stole by the music before the cup hits his lips … and caps it all off with a shameless crotch scratch. Also of note is how quickly the guy next to him stops giggling and starts ignoring the whole thing.
Don’t let me spoil it for you, though – check this out for yourself. It’s stuff like this that reminds me that the world is alive and beautiful and full of strange surprises …
Emmet is my neighbor. He’s a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. His owners found him in a gutter in Louisville, Kentucky, a tiny little neglected piglet crying and dying in a pile of wet leaves. They rescued him, nursed him back to health and it looks like he hasn’t missed too many meals since.
Emmet is the physically densest mammal I have ever seen -he feels like he is made out of warm, bristle-covered cannonballs. He loves having the spot between his little piggy shoulder blades scratched.
I only ever see Emmet on misty, overcast mornings – the kind of mornings that really activate New York’s greyness, the ones that give this grey city some serious character and color. It’s like Emmet emerges from the city’s hazy, sleepy dream state. Nobody else is ever around to see him except for me, my girlfriend, and Emmet’s leash-holders.
We always talk about the South, me and Maggie and Emmet’s people. We talk about how great it is, what an amazing, rich and Gothic creepiness the South has and how we are so glad it runs through our blood. And how glad we are that we moved up here, too.
The South is a spectacular place to be from, but not always a good place to be at. Love the culture, hate the crippling willful ignorance, I say.
But enough gabbing. Here’s Emmet:
My grandmother’s real name is Helen, but everyone in my family calls her Daro. It’s one of the first words I ever said, apparently — I just pointed at her and yelled it out and it stuck, simple as that.
Daro is 95 years old. She lied about her age her whole life until she turned 90, and then she started telling EVERYBODY. She’s a relentless self-promoter, a tireless artist, creator, and outsider poet. And man, she’s full of wisdom that she does not mind sharing at all.
Here’s some classic wisdom she shared with me when I visited her over Labor Day weekend:
We were sitting at the dinner table eating a home-cooked meal. Sort of. She proudly announced to me “I never use the oven anymore, Jeffrey. I just do everything up here in the microwave now, and it’s great!” We had some microwaved vegetable soup with a salad of romaine leaves covered with canned pears, and canned peaches. “Try some of the dressing I invented just tonight, Jeffrey,” she told me, all excited. “I came up with it myself. It’s mayonnaise with pineapple juice mixed in!”
Read the rest of this entry »