follow me stereo jungle child

Somewhere in the ethos, somewhere in VHS tape Narnia. Somewhere in a Memorex/memory junkyard exists that videotape of me. No, not “videotape” in a Kim K. Ray J way. Mercifully, I never made a tape like that. Mainly because I could never think of why I’d want such an item. “Hey there’s nothing but reruns on. Good thing I have that old sex tape!”  Yikes. No, the tape I’m discussing is the filmed evidence of the  super weird, super gay, super crazy kid I’ve always been. On said tape, I can be found lip synching to Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper.  From what I remember, it’s a pretty entertaining performance. I was 11-years old and had studied Lauper’s every dance move and facial expression. For 80’s kids who worshipped at the church of MTV, lip synching skills and a repertoire of dance moves were essential skills and mine are on display in this tape. You’ll just have to take my word for it. I was spectacular.

Not spectacular in the same way the icon on display in the video above is but spectacularly a kid being 100% himself. Gay, weird, creative me dancing and lip synching and genuinely not giving a shit about what people thought about me. I danced to my own drummer and usually it was in my living room to  Cyndi or to this song

or this song

or this song

I didn’t need some dumb coffee cup to tell me to “dance like no one was watching.” I did it anyway. In fact, I danced, colored, played, lip synched with my whole heart, regardless of what people were watching. Simply put, I was free which is a powerful thing to type when you spent as many years as I did being alcohol’s bitch. But on that elusive video there it is evidence of my freedom and my spirit. Despite being knocked down, drugged out, battered and bruised, the free version of me was possible. The video proved it. So did the drawings, the glitter covered Christmas decorations, the crazy poems.

1267560085001

While that tape may no longer exist, I’m happy to report that my freedom does. Recovery has truly helped me get it back. Right now, I’m in the middle of rewrites and finishing drafts on projects and remembering that kid filled with freedom is an important thing for me. Too often it’s that voice that says, “You are not good enough! Why bother!” that keeps me out of freedom and in total paralysis. I guess what I want to say on this rainy Wednesday is that my life is better when I remember to take care of that free crazy, authentic little being inside of me. He needs to be put on the dance and given permission to spin around.  So I hope you let your wild child dance today, even just for a little while. Remember what a wise woman once said, “All you need is your own imagination. So use it that’s what it’s for. Go inside, for your finest inspiration. Your dreams will open the door.”

 

 

 

 

glamour junkie

IMG_0325

The small child on the left is my younger brother while the child in the dress getting arrested is none other than yours truly. The bearded guy behind us is Jesus. Although my policeman dad did rock a similar beard when he worked in vice, which by the way, was not the inspiration for this game we’re playing in the picture. At least as far as I can remember. These kind of crossdressing shenanigans were just sort of the norm in my childhood. I mean, when you wear a plastic Wonder Woman outfit in kindergarten for Halloween, its all a downhill trot in mom’s Candies platforms from there on out.  I never knew why I loved award shows, old movies, Barbies and the Miss USA pageant. I just did.

Over the years as I’ve listened to transgendered friends share about feeling like they were trapped in the wrong body, my heart breaks for them. Living with that sort of inner-turmoil must be a real challenge especially in childhood. While my attraction to sparkly things was hard to explain or accept for straight kids in Denver in the 70’s and 80’s ,I never went through anything as difficult and heroic as that. I was just a kid who liked fur coats and Jaclyn Smith. Girls, in my mind, were more glamourous than boys. A vagina? No, thanks. Glamour is actually what I wanted. Obsessed with celebrities and magazines, I daydreamed about growing up and being fabulous. I had no idea what I’d be or how I’d get there but my life had to be glamorous. I remember looking at Enquirer when I was a kid and there was picture of Elizabeth Taylor getting out of car in a fur coat and it said, “Liz Back from Rehab!’ and I thought whatever she was doing looked pretty glamorous.  At age 10, I didn’t know she was a drug addict and an alcoholic. Turns out old Liz and I had more in common than I thought.

boom_610_407shar_s_c1

In my twenties, my crossdressing morphed mainly into clubwear in the 90’s but I’d occasionally take get gussied up with my best friend and hit the bars in drag. Connie Lingus was my alter ego. I know. Subtle. That’s how I roll. And chasing the glamour bus was something I did for years and years in Los Angeles fueled by endless supplies of liquor and drugs. It was glamorous for a little while.  But addiction and alcoholism were anything but glamorous for me in the end. It was just sad, repetitive and really fucking lonely.

1274077_f520

I guess I’m thinking about this today for a few reasons but mainly because of the photo at the top of the page. My niece sent it to me and it made me laugh hysterically. We were such imaginative kids who routinely escaped into fabulous worlds. The more I stay sober, the more my creativity slowly returns to that state I had back then.  There’s a fearlessness and strength in my childhood imagination and love of glamour that I want to channel in a healthy way into my work today. I smile when I look at myself in that photo. And I’m so proud of that crossdressing misfit who no matter what was always his own person, even if that person was wearing mom’s high heels.

At Seventeen

I remember at 17 thinking that maybe I finally figured myself out. For the first time ever, it felt like I might even survive my childhood years. After an arrest on alcohol related misdemeanor at 15– big surprise, right? and seriously thinking about killing myself at 16, this was a welcome change. Drugs and liquor were kept at bay(temporarily), I had shed the friends who didn’t care about me and I started hang out at gay clubs and kiss boys. Yes, there were wine coolers. Yes, that’s the year I met my old pal cocaine, but this is me were talking about. No tale of my childhood would be complete without the proper party favors. Besides, they hadn’t turned on me yet and I still had everything under control. Well as much as a 17-year-old can have everything under control. I had also finally found ways not to piss my parents off and was generally pretty happy. Don’t get me wrong, life was nowhere near perfect. There was still a lot of homophobia at my redneck high school.  The nicest thing I can say about the place is that at least “faggot” was properly spelled when it was scratched into the outside of my locker. I was never going to fit in. I was never going to be the most popular person in school.  But for some reason, all of it didn’t matter. I remember walking down the hallway, days before the year ended with sun on my face, thinking to myself, “Nobody here matters. My life will be so much bigger.” I had hope for the first time in a long time. It was something I wanted to hang onto. So the next few years, I chased hope and happiness onto the floors of discos and raves, throughout Europe and across the country far away from vandalized lockers and people who didn’t matter.

I don’t know why on this summer day at age 40 I’m thinking about that 17 year-old. Perhaps because it’s the 17th day of blogging. Maybe because this time of year reminds me of a lot of teenage high jinks. But I think if he could see me now, he’d be happy.  See despite everything that’s happened over the last 23 years, hope has survived. In fact, I’d like to thank him for showing me how to have it in the first place.

Can’t Hurt Me Now

You can’t hurt me now
I got away from you, I never thought I would
You can’t make me cry, you once had the power
I never felt so good about myself

‘Oh Father’, Madonna 1989

For a super effeminate card-carrying Madonna fan who sparkled a little bit harder than the Golden, Colorado kids in the 4H program, high school was not always a walk in the park. Or if it was a walk in the park, it was a walk in a park where they yelled “Hey faggot!’ at you. I was routinely pushed and tormented and spent my senior year with charming slurs scratched into my locker door.  It sucked but armed with my smartassed sense of humor and a few tough girlfriends, I survived. Mainly, I just didn’t really show up that often. I mean, ditching class, smoking cigarettes and shoplifting were more fun and less traumatic. By senior year I had friends and wasn’t harassed as much and did my own share of bullying to keep afloat. Like any good Madonna fan, I learned how to strike a good ,”if you don’t like me, go fuck yourself” pose. I worked, I went to concerts and bad teen clubs and oh yeah- I did drugs and drank. But then again, you knew that about me. (Spoiler alert: this drinking and drug thing doesn’t turn out so good for your’s truly.)

As delightful as talking about high school is, there is a point here. Last week, I had lunch with a friend from that institution. She was always one of the good ones. We were laughing about high school and the ridiculous people we survived together. Our 20th reunion was last summer, which I did not attend. I was about to explain why when my brilliant friend interrupted and said, “Oh I don’t blame you. They were awful to you.” She then went on to recall a time when she was walking down the hall with me as the homophobic cretins yelled names at me. She was horrified and the memory has haunted her.. “Thank you”, is what I blurted out as she finished her story. It was a weird thing to say but I meant it from the bottom of my heart. In truth, I don’t know why the hell I said it. Maybe I was thanking her for having the courage to be my friend even though the people in the hallway clearly thought that was a bad idea. Or maybe I was thanking her for her honesty. At the center of my gratitude, as I figured out later on during the day, was her acknowledgement. It was so cathartic to hear someone else say notice that people were awful to me. When you’re in that kind of thing, you think it’s bad but it’s hard to know the truth. To have another person say, “that wasn’t okay” is incredibly healing. See, her younger brother was bullied too for being Jewish. So even though my friend was a popular girl with lots of friends, she understood. I wasn’t alone. It’s important for me to remember, it wasn’t just me.  The county I went to school in was not a bastion of love and tolerance. It had an epidemic of bullying, suicides and racially charged violence in the late 1980s and early 90s. Nine years later, this county’s problems would come to a boiling point and it would be put on the map, thanks to the massacre at Columbine High School.

What’s funny is that I am no longer angry or resentful at my tormentors. Yes, I was thrilled when she told me most of them got fat and look horrible- hello, I’m a human being. But overall, I don’t care.I know was a little shit too and probably caused as much pain to someone else. The best revenge is being fabulous, growing up and moving on. And I think I’ve accomplished those things for the most part. But more than that I have compassion for myself and all of the kids I went to school with. These people can’t hurt me or piss me off today. The key is that I’m no longer hurting myself either. Like everything else fantastic in my life, my forgiveness around high school can be attributed to recovery from drugs and alcohol. Thanks to facing my demons, I don’t have to fake the tough Madonna attitude. I legitimately don’t give a shit and I do so with love. So I bristle whenever I hear about bullying and the well-meaning yet over simplified “It Gets Better” campaigns. Yes, it does get better but not if you don’t do the work. We owe it to ourselves to get better too. I’ll shut up now and  let Madonna explain it:

“No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself.”

Inspiration for August 13th: The Monster at the End of this Book

Hello, everybodeee!

Today’s inspiration comes straight out of my childhood. The Monster at the End of the Book is one of those seminal, influential and eternally memorable books for me. Published as a Little Golden Book in 1971, the simple story tells the tale of our buddy Grover, resident of Sesame Street, superhero, waiter and all around awesome guy, who goes to great lengths to prevent us readers from turning the page because of a fabled scary monster to be found at the end of the book.  According to the book’s history, Sesame Street wanted to come up with a compelling way to show the littlest of readers how to read a book from beginning to end. I did not pick up on that as a kid.  I just thought this book was brilliant. First off, Grover was talking directly to you and as a big fan of all things Muppets, that was the best thing ever. Secondly, it was easy storytelling but comically suspenseful. It gave you permission to break the rules and turn the page, despite Grover’s pleading. But the best thing about the book was the ending! Spoiler alert:

 

Turns out the monster in question was just good old Grover himself!

For kids of the 70s and 80s this book has a kind of cult following. Just check out the GoodReads page for further proof. Folks even ponder the meaning of “being the monster” and that we the readers are the monster and the thing we are most afraid of.  Hmm. I’m not sure lovable, furry old Grover is that esoteric or contemplative. But there could be something to this. I seem to have moments all the time where what I’m afraid of is something I’ve created in my mind and the truth is not all that scary. And like our fuzzy, blue friend, I too go to great lengths to avoid seeing what’s really lurking at the “end of the book.”

But not today. Nope. On August 13th 2012, I’m going to enjoy turning the pages and accept  whatever is around the corner. Like everybody else on the planet, I have a lot of uncertainty in my life right now but I’ll never know what happens if let fear paralyze me. So here’s to getting to the proverbial end of the book and to embracing our monsters!

Inspiration for August 9th: Purple Rain

August of 1984 was a great time to be a kid who loved movies. I stumbled on a list of the top movies for August 3rd thru the 9th while researching this post. All I can say is holy crap. This list contains every film from that year I either saw and loved (Muppets Take Manhattan, Ghostbusters,  Last Starfighter, a re-issue of the Jungle Book and Karate Kid), wanted to see but didn’t until later (Neverending Story, Gremlins Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) or movie I was too young to see (Revenge of the Nerds, Bachelor Party) and today’s inspiration Purple Rain. Purple Rain was the badass movie with the incredible soundtrack that every teen or preteen in my life got to see. Everybody but me. R rated movies were a no-no and for a kid who broke every other rule in the book this was one I obeyed.

When I finally saw the film on VHS (three letters to confirm your suspicions that I am in fact a gentlemen of a certain age), I was blown away. Yes, it’s sexual content was scandalous for sort-of-good Catholic boy like myself. And yeah even I could tell the acting was wooden and the plot was kind of silly. But what sold the whole deal was Prince. Tiny with giant hair and shiny superhero-ish costumes, Prince had swagger before we even knew what swagger was. His extraordinary talent made us believe he was a sex symbol and even made the world like this goofy-melodramatic movie. Prince thoroughly owns his whole self in that film especially in the mind-blowing musical performances. In the end, we leave Purple Rain thinking it’s fucking fantastic because of him and because he believes in the Prince package as much as we do.

Talk about an inspiration. In fact don’t hate if Prince shows up in these pages again. The guy is that brilliant. In the meantime, I’m going to incorporate a little of that Prince swagger in myself today. Maybe I don’t have the balls (or other body parts) needed to wear his assless pants but I can try to embrace my whole self and believe in my own talents too.

glittering cloud

He was there all along. He was just hiding. Like he was known to do. But a few years ago,out of nowhere, he poked his curious little blonde head out. After being smothered and silenced for years, the real me came back for good.

After a year or so of being sober, I read that a human’s personality is fully developed by age 6 or 7. This totally made sense to me. I remember being that age and knowing who I was. I would lay on the floor of my bedroom and watch the clouds move back and forth. My imagination was always concocting all kinds of reasons why this was happening. I’d make up stories. I’d write poems about the things I saw or wanted to see. I had a million little tiny creative worlds I was building all at the same time. Somewhere inside me, I had this feeling that this is what I needed to do and who I was. He was a lovely little individual that six year-old version of me. “We remain recognizably the same person. This speaks to the importance of understanding personality because it does follow us wherever we go across time and contexts,” said Christopher Nave, the author of the study that pinpointed age seven as our personality year.

Yes this personality, the one that been described as too girly, too gay, or too weird did follow me. But when you’re a hot pink, glitter marker in a world filled with dull blue Bic ballpoint pens, you do what you can to not stand out too much. Especially in those delightful middle school years where children were run out of town for packing the wrong thing for lunch, much less being super effeminate kid who wrote letters to Cyndi Lauper and collected scratch and sniff stickers. Thankfully, my homies drugs and alcohol were a great equalizer. If I could drink with people and drink more than they could, maybe they’d think I was cool or at least they’d be too wasted to see what I freak I was. The downside of hanging out with those two thugs was that over time, my light really went out. 20 years later, that kid who marveled at sparkling skies and wrote crazy stories was all but dead.

Luckily, I saved him. Or maybe he saved me. Regardless, he came back.  The other day, I realized as I was planning my writing projects for the next few months and pitching some creative ideas for other things I’d like to try, that I’m really living the life I want to live today. There’s no end and no saying no. I want to try all sorts of wild things and take all kinds of creative risks. I want to write whatever the fuck I want.  Mainly, because now I can. And because I’m sober. Turns out it’s a lot easier to chase your glittering clouds when you don’t wake up feeling like hammered hell 7 days a week.

Yeah I’m not silencing that seven-year old anymore. This time out, he gets to stay up as alate as he wants, be as sparkly as he wants and build as many pretend places as he wants. After all, I’m really proud of the little guy and it’s the least I could do for him.

Peace in the Middle Least

Years ago, a friend of mine once succinctly told me, “You’d like to be Marcia Brady but you’re really a Jan.” He was right. The bastard. Like the tortured Jan Brady, I am a quintessential middle child with the baggage to prove it.

Jan and I suffer from serious conditions like “Where’s Mine”-itis, “I’ll never be as good as her”-phobia” and general feelings of suckiness. I spent a lot of time trying to be different from my siblings and to stand out. Unlike Jan, however, my methods weren’t as harmless as making up a fake boyfriend or wearing an afro wig. I was more of the dropping acid on the mall and shaving stripes into my head type. Potayto, Potahto. I’d hardly be a fabulous alcoholic if I didn’t blame my lot in life on my birth placement so you best believe I milked being a middle child for all it was worth. Us middle children have an uncanny ability of making folks believe that we were rarely fed, chained to a radiator and ignored all because we have more glamorous older and younger siblings. Of course, all of it is a lie. Maybe not a lie in the early years but more of a childhood perception. It becomes a lie though the more we tell it to ourselves. I told myself and others that I drank over the hand I was dealt. But that was bullshit too. I drank and did drugs because I didn’t want to cope with life and wasn’t terribly interested in living the truth. Period. I think I would have drunk the same regardless of wherever I wound up perched on my family tree.

I rarely feel those childish moments of middle insecurity anymore. But I have been experiencing another kind of “middle” lately. My play has opened and closed to much success. My whirlwind romance is nearly two years old. Other extreme highs have just simmered into a great daily life. And I feel like I’m not at the climax or at the foot of the mountain. Just in the middle. As an addicted person, this ‘maintaining’ irks me. It needs to be either high highs or high drama and nothing in between. Like my other middle problems, this one stems from feeling “less than” and is also bullshit. When I’m sullen and self-absorbed and dissatisfied with everything, it completely craps on the amazingness that truly exists in my life today. Today, I woke up early, made muffins, hung out and got inspired with my writing group and then went to the theater with my husband. I even got new shoes and a coffee maker. My life is great! So what if it is the middle? Oreos, most of my favorite books,Tootsie Roll pops, Gone with the Wind– all have fantastic middles. Yet what if the middle is tough or crappy or unenjoyable? Doesn’t matter. I’m still lucky.

Last week I heard a friend of mine’s mother had killed herself. I don’t know why and the only thing I really know about suicide is that nobody ever truly knows why. What I can guess happened is that this sweet woman who had helped tons of people and changed her life suddenly couldn’t see past whatever stormy middle she was in. To honor her, I can be thankful for the big dramatic highs, the life-changing lows and especially the everyday middles.

The Raves of Our Lives

I feel like I’ve 12 stepped and therapied my behind off in order to be okay with my insane past. I can laugh about most of it but that doesn’t mean I always want to be reminded of it. So when my days as drugged out raver recently surfaced on Facebook, my reaction threw me for a loop.

Last week, I was added to a Facebook  group called something like “I went to raves in Colorado in the 90s”  by one of my oldest friends. I used to poo poo reminiscing yet for some reason this group sucked me right in. The group grew to over 1,000 people all of whom shared songs and memories and photos of the all night debauchery that was set to an electronic soundtrack. The fairy wings, the glitter, the fuzzy wookie boots and other cartoon couture litter the pictures of children who took drugs and danced all night long. I’ve spent this week revisiting my past and I’m surprising okay with it. I went to some of Denver’s earliest raves in 1990 through 1993 but the scene held steady well into the early 2000s. I was 17 when I first got my rave on and rolled it up by the time I turned 21. We did mass amounts  of Ecstasy and danced and made friends and all loved each other. Until we didn’t. Crystal meth came into the picture, parties started getting broken up by the cops and drama was on every dance floor. I mean talk about a recipe for disaster– take minors, add drugs that make you wanna screw your brains out, stir and enjoy! Personally, I had a blast but it was clear from my early days of raving that all I wanted was more. I went every Saturday for months and did Ecstasy every week. And coke and whatever else was being passed around. I burnt out at 20 and  again at 21. But I wasn’t alone, we were all really young and high and the lifestyle wasn’t built to last.

When I turned 21, I shook off the fuzzy backpacks and the people I met in that world.  Raves were for kids and I was ready to drink with the big boys. I didn’t look back. Well until last week. It’s odd. Part of me has truly enjoyed the memories of the people and the music and the general craziness. It’s healthy for me to look back on time in my life with love and fondness. Another sick part of me really wishes I could do it again or live like that today. I know that’s nuts and beyond unhealthy but there you go. The reality is a 40 year-old raver high on drugs still acting like the party never ended would be tragic.com. For me, anyway.

I can’t argue the culture significance of raves as I was always fickle. Before raves, I was goth before that I was a moody Smiths listening teenager. After raves I moved to LA and embraced the glam rock revival and then electro clash. In short, I was always a bit of scenester sheep looking to latch on to the next big thing. But I can  look at those pictures of myself and have compassion for that kid and the journeys he was going to embark on.

Sparkleholic

I love this time of year. The competition. The tight races. The close calls. I’m not talking football but AWARDS SEASON!! Duh. I’ve loved the Oscars and every awards show since I was a kid. But anything sparkly always held my gaze. I dressed up as Wonder Woman in kindergarten. I dumped loads of glitter on my tree topper angel we made in 1st grade, much to the dismay of my Catholic school art teacher. Anything that was  beautiful and spectacular from the Miss USA pageant to Gone with the Wind, completely captivated me as a kid.  Because long before I was addicted to drugs and alcohol, I was addicted to shiny.

As a kid growing up in Denver in the 1970’s and 80’s in a charming urban old school neighborhood, glamour wasn’t something that usually stumbled down my street. Thankfully, television and pop culture provided what Denver couldn’t. Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman and the Muppet Show were the main sources of inspiration. But reruns of That Girl, Bewitched,  and Josie and the Pussycats fit the bill nicely too. Yet nothing compared to the Oscars. The Oscars were a time when every famous person got dressed up to celebrate my real true childhood love: movies. Movies were the ultimate in sparkly. They had  the instant ability to take me away from my day-to-day and put me in another world. My parents supported my love of movies, books, art and- God bless them- Strawberry Shortcake.  But life in an alcoholic home ain’t a walk in the park so movies and fantasy weren’t just a good time. They literally saved my life. I had a place to run to that was all Madonna songs ,scratch and sniff stickers, Pound puppies and old movies-24 hours a day. And the ugly stuff could simply disappear.

When I found alcohol and drugs and nightclubs and raves, it was as if the fantasy life never had to end. Dressed in glitter covered vinyl and boas and more sparkly t-shirts, my friends and I were the 90’s personified. We partied at clubs with Courtney Love and George Michael. We crashed movie parties and guzzled down free cocktails. We never paid to get in anywhere. But then you do that life 7 days a week and soon you’ve done it. And before you know it, your late 20s and early 30s have arrived and the party has moved from hipster dive bars into your living room. Seven nights a week and sometimes alone. Soon, sparkly is the last word anybody would use to describe your life.

Getting sober put me through the ringer and I wasn’t too worried about chasing fabulous anymore. That first year, I didn’t care about the Oscars and I barely went to the movies. But today I love the movies and can now remember what I’ve seen-always a bonus! I can’t wait to watch the Golden Globes tonight and the Oscars next month.  I admit a little temporary escape isn’t the worst thing and neither is the real world. My life, when I actually look at it, sparkles and glitters with amazing gifts- like a family who loves me, a healthy relationship and a  rich spiritual life.  And that is truly fabulous.