Still More from Hell’s Kitchen

Although today, the song is actually from the East Village, circa 1984. (As usual, if you’re on your phone, you gotta turn it sideways to see this music-related post.)

You’ll notice, once you scroll down a little, that my hairstyle changed drastically by the time I was living in the East Village (also called Alphabet City back then).

The East Village (Avenues A through D, and E.14th Street to Houston Street) has been completely gentrified nowadays, but back then, you only ventured into the East Village if you were either Puerto Rican and born there, or you were really poor and/or a struggling artist of some sort and still wanted to live on the island of Manhattan.

I, of course, fell into the 2nd category.

I left my first husband in 1983. Technically, I left because of a misunderstanding. I was pretty sure he’d told me to get out. He claims he didn’t say this and was furious when I left him, refusing to divorce me for another 7 years. However, he was always saying these weird, convoluted things to me, like, “Has it ever occurred to you to stop taking drugs??!!” “Are you ever going to grow up??!!” “Are you ever going to stop fucking around with musicians [male & female] and behave like my wife??!!”

ME: (Question #1)Yes.

ME: (Question #2) I’m not sure.

ME: (Question #3) No.

So I moved out and all I could afford was a 2 bedroom floor-through in an old tenement on E. 12th Street, between Avenues A & B.  But don’t let it fool you; the “bedrooms” were only big enough for a bed, and there were no doors – one room led right into the next. There was a non-working fireplace in the front room, and a non-working fireplace in the kitchen, along with the cast iron bathtub. However, someone along the way had been thoughtful enough to put in a half-wall of glass brick to sort of give a feeling of privacy to the bathtub, so that was super nice! People sitting at the kitchen table didn’t have to look directly at you while you were bathing. And then the toilet was in a tiny closet at the very back.

The entire apartment was maybe about 600 square feet, and the whole building leaned in the direction of the East River, so you had to get used to walking, sleeping, and sitting on an extreme slant. I can remember sitting at my kitchen table and writing in my journals, feeling like the chair would topple backwards at any moment, the sloping floor was that extreme.

But I lived there for 9 years until I ventured into my 2nd marriage (where the questions put to me by my second husband were remarkably similar!).

I have some amazing memories from that era in the East Village, gang. I was still playing music out in clubs all the time. I had a new band and sometimes I had a manager (although we argued a lot and often she was indescribably pissed off at me because I was indescribably opinionated). I had indescribably huge amounts of sex in that apartment, too. And some of it was actually really good sex, too. I wrote constantly. Songs, mostly. But I wrote in my journals all the time, documenting everything, including my own insanity. And I also began taking my fiction writing seriously while living in that apartment – I was living there when I first started getting published in underground zines.

The neighborhood itself was just awful. It was full of deserted tenements that looked like bombed-out buildings. These were called shooting galleries because junkies would go in there to have a semblance of privacy while they were shooting up or nodding out. Because of the heroin problems down there, crime was also really bad. And when crack came in, the neighborhood got vicious.

But art was all over. Iggy Pop lived a couple blocks from me in one direction. Richard Hell and Allen Ginsberg lived a block away in the other direction (not with each other, though). Life Cafe was around one corner, where a number of my friends gave poetry readings, and The Ritz was around the other corner (where I saw many cool musicians, including but not limited to: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Nina Hagen, and Lou Reed. And back then, tickets to these shows cost $13.50)

There were a number of sex clubs in the East Village, where BDSM was going into some really dark realms. Stuff was going on that even I would shy away from.  There were a few after hours bars. The Mafia had a store front up the block from me. There were dirty cops on the take all over the place; cops from the 9th Precinct, which was just a  horrible precinct back then. Dirty cops scared me more than anything I had encountered up to that point, and by then I had already been raped a number of times. But dirty cops were just fucking scary. I accidentally walked in to a video store on Avenue A once, when a cop was in the middle of a payoff. He saw me see it, unfortunately, and even though I tried really hard not to see it and left right away, he followed me all the way home. And the cops did shit to my friends that was truly terrifying.

There were people having sex in the parks all night, including friends of mine who were turning tricks there to make enough money to score heroin. They were wretched little parks. They had swing sets and sliding boards and teeter-totters for the little poor kids who would play there during the day. But then public sex was rampant there during the night.

Of course AIDS was everywhere by then. Most of my friends were dying from it, right and left. I literally lost count of how many friends died from AIDS.  And it was also during this time period that I volunteered for Visiting Nurse Services of NY and watched a lot of people die (see my post about Peter Hujar here.) I was also taking that songwriting workshop with Jim Carroll at that point and was writing some really cool songs.

The one I posted today is called Avenue A. It’s a rockabilly number, actually. This is a 24-track demo, but still analogue. Rob Nash is playing the electric guitar (check it out  – he was great.) His wife, Judy, was on drums. Lloyd Blake was on bass and then me on acoustic and vocals. This is a really fun demo, gang. I always liked it.

All righty. So here’s the hair from that era. First, me on the Double R subway train during the daytime, with no make-up and no Aqua Net hairspray:

Me on the Double R

The performer version of me back then, with make-up and hairspray. You can see here that Aqua Net hairspray really was awesome stuff!

Marilyn Jaye Lewis with make-up and hairspray!! Although I went by the name Marilyn Jaye then. My legal last name back then was Chong.

All righty, gang!! I gotta get crackin’ around here.  Hard at work on Chapter 20 of Blessed By Light. Thanks for visiting! I love you guys. See ya!

To Heaven in a Hellcat!

I don’t know about you guys, but now that the full effect of that full moon is over, I feel 100% calmer around here.  The intensity as well as the giddiness have subsided. Yay.

Good thing, because I have a lot of work to do around here, and I need to focus.

Sandra, the actress I write for in NY, texted yesterday that she’s doing the Shakespeare Festival in NYC for 1 month, then another one-week gig back in Florida, and then she will be arriving here. Yes, HERE! In the Hinterlands! To begin rehearsing the one-woman play I wrote for her, Tell My Bones.

(The director of Tell My Bones, while also based in NYC, is the Artistic Director of a professional theater company in a town 20 miles from here and will also be here in the Hinterlands all summer. Except that he lives in a staggeringly lovely, palatial home with something like 7 bathrooms, privately tucked away at the end of a 3-mile driveway, hidden behind many, many tall trees; whereas I live in sort of the pioneer era; I do have indoor plumbing, heat and electricity but that’s about it as far as modern conveniences go in this 118-year-old house. And I have a wonderful little raccoon living in my 108-year-old barn. Anyway, the director has an incredible theater-rehearsal space right there in his home, naturally, which is where we will rehearse.)

So that means one less 11-hour drive (each way) to NY for me this year. I have to say I’m relieved about that.

However, this little reprieve brought on by Sandra’s Shakespeare Festival run means that I have this sudden chunk of time to complete Blessed By Light, and even have it off to potential publishers before Tell My Bones gets underway. (With The Guide to Being Fabulous on the heels of that.)

Hence the need for focusing around here.

The editor in NYC finished her final edits on the first 19 chapters of the novel last evening and sent them to me.  So I will begin writing Chapter 20 today. I don’t envision more than 10 more chapters before the book is done.  So completing it reasonably soon is doable.

The editor made my day again yesterday with her concluding comments. She said, “This pulses with passion, love, sorrow — damn! Congrats to you. Nobody writes like you.”

And I have to say that this made me feel intensely relieved because, as loyal readers of this lofty blog no doubt recall, Blessed By Light, while it has lots of erotic stuff in it, is unlike any of the other novels, or even short stories, that I’ve written thus far. And “thus far” now entails 30 years. It’s sort of an unusual point in my career to begin writing so differently. And I had no control over this sudden change; the novel simply began coming out back in late August and all I did was try to keep up with it, you know?

Oh, something really cool happened to me yesterday afternoon.

I will preface this by saying that my dream car is the Dodge Challenger Hellcat. I really want one of those cars (in fact I write briefly about the Hellcat in Blessed By Light), but readers who know me even only slightly, know that I already have a problem with speeding when I’m on the highway. And I’ve never once gotten a speeding ticket, or even a parking ticket for that matter. And owning a Hellcat would probably just be too much of a temptation, you know? (It goes up to 210 MPH.) The Sheriff and the Highway Patrol would probably be all over me then. You know, they do target certain cars and a Honda Fit (what I currently own) is not one of them.

Well, yesterday I discovered that a young guy I know casually out here in the Hinterlands, has a brand new HEMI Challenger! Holy Shit! His is black and I really like the purple ones, but still. I couldn’t believe it. After asking him a little bit about the legendary speed of the car (he barely touches the gas pedal and he’s going 145 MPH), he told me that if I wanted to, he would let me drive it out on the highway.  Of course I said yes. OMG! I’m so excited.

Hellcat. My dream car.

Well, all righty, gang! I best get going around here. You know, today is the final day to stream Distant Sky Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Live in Copenhagen for free. I am so tempted to watch it again, but Jesus. I really gotta work. But don’t let me stop you if you haven’t seen it yet! God, it was good.

Have a great Monday, wherever you are in the world.  I leave you with this: The most depressing although truly beautiful song about a fast car ever written!! Thanks for visiting! I love you, gang. See ya.

Wow, Looks Like A SUPER Happy Easter!

For these two, anyway! (Have you seen any of these XXX Bunny videos? They’re so funny. Well, it’s hard to laugh through some of it. Actually, it’s hard to know how to react since they’re pretty hardcore but the guy’s always got that ludicrous bunny head on the whole time.)

Yeah, well, okay. For some reason, I’m just feeling really silly about Easter this year. Not the part about Christ dying, or any of that stuff. But just my overall feelings this weekend are silly.

(And as an aside, if you are into the Secret Gospels – the Secret Gospel of Thomas or the Secret Gospel of Mark specifically – you have to wonder if maybe Jesus the man would have found XXX Bunny videos rather engaging. Honestly, the secret gospels are more interesting to me than 90% of the accepted Gospels. The kernels of truth within them, that seem to be hiding in plain site, I believe point closer to the direction of Jesus the man than anything else does. Except, perhaps, the Beatitudes. One point of interest, to me, anyway, is the role of Lazarus in the Secret Gospel of Mark. The concept that we achieve salvation through sin. I know that I’ve always kind of felt that to be true.  Anyway, check out the scholarly writings on the Secret Gospel of Mark, if you’re interested.)

I guess the nonstop stress I’ve been under with so many darn writing deadlines since September, is needing an escape valve, finally, so here it comes.

And perhaps it also has to do with that “Pink” Moon this weekend (a Blue Moon, but for some reason because it’s a double-full moon in April, it’s called a Pink Moon). I’m usually really sensitive to full moons, but with this one, I’m going from feeling intense to suddenly finding everything silly.

Oh, and I have to say that last evening, a total stranger – a woman in her 60s, I think – came up to me and gave me a big hug. She was so nice, so friendly. She was with her husband. She said, “Don’t worry. You’re going to make it! You just looked like you needed a hug.”

It was so nice, because I actually did need one at that moment. I was probably thinking something confounding about Nick Cave, but honestly, I don’t really remember. I just know I needed that fucking hug! And suddenly there it was!

That’s another nice thing about living out in the Hinterlands. A total stranger can hug you just because they think you need one and then you’ll never see that person again.

Another thing I love about the Hinterlands is how people, just in general, express how they feel. Especially on their bumper stickers. I tend to find that I don’t agree with anything written on bumper stickers. I’m not sure why that is, but I do find it interesting to read what people feel so passionate about that they feel they have to broadcast it across their bumpers. (Usually truck bumpers, or the back window of the cab of the truck since, out here, most people drive trucks. They also own a heck of a lot of guns.) Across the cab window of one truck I saw recently, there was a decal that said, in huge letters: Shoot Your Local Heroin Dealer. That was pretty passionate, I thought. And entirely unexpected.

We have a terrible opioid epidemic out here in Ohio. This past Christmas, I was driving along the highway on a very chilly, grey day. It looked like it would snow at any moment and I turned off down this short road that I drive down a lot, and suddenly there was this small truck, sort of like a box truck that you rent when you’re moving. And it was parked at the weirdest angle at the side of the road.  It just looked eerie. And when I drove past the driver’s side of the truck, the young woman was slumped down a little over the steering wheel and she looked dead.

I dialed 911 and they came right away. It was breathtaking how fast they came. And then I drove on. I don’t know if she was dead yet or not. And all through Christmas I wondered about her. Who she was. If they’d managed to save her or not – just in time for Christmas. And if they had saved her, I wondered if she was pissed off about that or not. Maybe she wanted to die. And I wondered if her family was happy she survived or if they’d kinda been wishing she’d die and be done with it. Opioids really destroy homes and families and lives. So who knows what was going on there.

I know from my own experience, that during my first suicide attempt, when I was 14, my life was just so awful.  Yet, underneath my unconsciousness (this was after about 16 hours already), I could hear a voice from God or the Universe or my Higher Self, telling me not to die. And I struggled so hard to regain consciousness. The nurse in the Emergency Room was the kindest person I had ever met in my whole life.  That’s the kind of angel who can really help you pull yourself back in from the abyss. I don’t recall too much of what happened, but I do remember her saying, “Come on, Marilyn, who’s the President of the United Sates?” and I kept replying “George Washington.”

But she did pull me through and obviously, I’m still alive. However, the truth is that my life got a whole lot worse for several years after that. And I often wondered what I was still alive for. And so maybe the woman in that truck at Christmas already knew there was nothing ahead of her but more bad stuff. I don’t know.

I do often think that, if I were capable of believing in vigilante justice, that awful year in my life of being 14 (after my boyfriend was killed), could have been salvaged somehow by simply shooting the guys that raped me; shooting my parents for being so disgustingly ugly in that courtroom during the custody fight; shooting my mother’s lawyer for being scum. You know, BAM. GAME OVER. Stuff like that. But we have these rules here that encourage us to rely on laws that let horrible lives and horrible people just drag on and on, forever, right? We’re not supposed to just shoot everybody, contrary to what life in America is like these days. But I feel sometimes that if some sort of concrete justice could have been done, then maybe – well, who knows.

All I  know is that once in awhile, an angel appears and is so kind that she can make you hang on, at least until the next moment of kindness finds you. (For me, that next moment came 6 years later, when I met my first husband in Brooklyn, before we were married, I mean.  Just meeting him. He was so incredibly kind to me.)

All righty! Wow. I do indeed digress! I wanted to post about something entirely different:

The feedback last evening from the editor regarding my new novel, Blessed By Light, really made my whole night.  She had a list of minor edits and then she said, “Marilyn, you’ve written a fascinating book.”

Yippee ki yi yay!! And so on me go!

Okay, I gotta get ready for my call with Peitor in Los Angeles because we are working on one of our scripts here this morning. I hope you have a terrific Holy Saturday, wherever you are in the world!!

I leave you with this, just because I’ve been listening to it a lot lately! Enjoy. I love you, guys. Thanks for visiting. See ya!

An Appendage to the Day’s post!

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Okay, so I streamed Distant Sky Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Live in Copenhagen! (See today’s earlier post just below.)

Oh man, it was such a good movie. Although certain songs are gonna make you want to shoot yourself.

Meaning, pretty much any of the songs from Skeleton Tree. They were just too beautiful. Honestly.

The whole concert was amazing. Sort of a full disclosure here, though: I’ve watched quite a number of the homemade – or iPhone made – unofficial videos of Nick Cave’s concerts from this particular tour, so I knew pretty much what would happen throughout. But the production values of this movie in Copenhagen aren’t even in the same universe as any of those phone-made videos on YouTube. Just breathtaking. Truly breathtaking.

Speaking specifically for me, the two early songs he does (Tupelo and The Mercy Seat), were incredibly good and particularly hard to take because of all that life that has now passed under my bridge. So many years ago, I first heard those songs alone in my room in the tenement on E.12th Street and I loved every single moment of discovering Nick Cave. (A tenement that, ironically, Lydia Lunch used to live in, but that was before I put in my own years in that same hellhole in NYC that I called home.)

Anyway. It’s hard for me to understand what the passage of time means. I do not understand it. I only know that you blink and a whole ton of time is just plain gone. I remember every minute, perhaps even every moment, of the “gone” time (I think that’s what makes me neurotic), but I cannot figure out how time “goes.” Where it passes to. And a song like Tupelo triggers something in me from so long ago, which is just so unfathomably deep, and now that he’s added certain lyrics that seem to speak of the death of his own son, it also becomes just too full of love & heartache. And then for me, the song becomes too beautiful for words and, in my mind, or my heart, “too beautiful” translates into something really painful. So hard to endure.

Loyal readers of this lofty blog unfortunately know that I suffer from suicidal depressions. So, no, I don’t own a revolver.  I’m just making an illustrative joke. I’m not going to shoot myself.

Nevertheless, Nick Cave’s music, for me, is a minefield. His use of the English language is staggering. There’s a way he strings words together that absolutely confounds me – in its unexpected imagery, its beauty, its darkness, its power. From my perspective as a writer, his use of language amazes me and always has. Sometimes I do not know how to process it. So I think, I have to shoot myself to stop thinking about it.

I have no real clue why any of us are here, but I do feel very strongly that once we’re here, we should stick with it somehow and work it out in the best possible ways we can manage.

There is a very old convent an hour away from me.  Carmelite nuns. There is always a room available when my mind becomes too much for me to take. And, trust me, that’s where I go. To the convent. A room with a simple bed, and then a small, very old stone chapel where I’m basically on my knees alone the whole time, talking to Jesus, and that’s no joke. I joke about my ministry all the time on this blog, but I actually did go through divinity school; I did get ordained; I do follow the call of Jesus Christ, my problem (or my joy) is that I hear him in a way that other people simply don’t. And that includes every single one of my professors at school. And I’m guessing includes every single one of those nuns at the convent.

The nuns are amazing, though. So kind. And they have that vow of silence going on that they expect you to participate in. Everything is just so quiet. They’ll ask you to turn in your cell phone and then they’ll tell you where your room is, and then that’s it. Silence until you’re all prayed out and ready to leave.

I guess this is an odd way to give a good review of a movie I loved. But I have so many issues with Time right now, and where on earth it’s going to. And that movie triggered that for me. But I don’t want to lose sight of how beautiful the movie was. And it’s so blessedly un-American. The music is so intelligent; so intellectual, so deeply emotional, complex and often abstract; and sometimes so politically incorrect (his version of Stagger Lee springs joyously to mind) that it is simply glorious to behold — all that un-American, non-Puritanical stuff going on, among thousands and thousands of enraptured people. The audience, I mean. I love it just so very much. Because to me, Nick Cave’s music is all about a Mind thinking; a Heart feeling; art in process.

So I loved it, even though it was hard for me.

Exciting day here!

As soon as I finish posting this, I’m going to go plant myself in front of my iPad and watch the free streaming of Distant Sky Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Live in Copenhagen. 

I think that’s going to be a really nice way to kick off Good Friday, right?  (If you’re not a Nick Cave fan, that comment will be meaningless to you. However, Nick Cave has a very interesting relationship with Jesus. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but it’s there; a relationship running like a wildly un-navigable river beneath his life . At least, that ‘s what it looks like from the outside.)

Anyway. I’m excited to watch the movie.  I’m guessing you can still sign up to stream it. It’s free all weekend.

I’m also excited because tomorrow, I resume working with Peitor Angell on our micro-short comedy videos. Working some more on the scripts. He’s been in Italy for a really long time and he is finally back in L.A. and I will have his complete attention for maybe 2 hours.

Loyal readers of this lofty blog no doubt recall that when I was in L.A. with him back in early December, he and I formed a writing-producing company, Contextual Absurdity Productions. Just for creating & producing micro-short comedies.  (5-15 minutes in length.)

Peitor is primarily a music producer and composer, and we have been close friends since my singer-songwriter days in NYC – 35 years ago already. And I have to say that I am so looking forward to getting back to work with him on these scripts because he makes me laugh so hard. And I really need that right now. He makes me cry, I laugh so hard. And, with my steadily advancing age, I also have to try really hard not to piss myself. I’m not always successful there, because, man, he makes me laugh just so hard.

It’s all absurd, dark humor. The scripts we’re writing, I mean. Getting back to it will be a welcome change to all the sadness around here.

Although I have to say, when I was feeding all the cats this morning, down in the kitchen, handing out their food bowls to their happy little selves, I felt Daddycakes behind me, in the spot he was always in when it was feeding time. I truly felt him.  To the point that I was surprised when I turned and there wasn’t a cat waiting there.

I do really believe his essence is with us. And that gives me a sense of quiet joy.

Of course, loyal readers know that ever since last year, when I moved into this old house here in Crazysburg (118 year-old house in a 200 year-old town), I have been astounded by the amount of spirit activity that goes on around here. As if not only my house but the whole town is some sort of friendly portal. I have never once felt afraid, but I am positively sure that I will never bring a Ouija board into this house, because I think that would be truly overwhelming. I think the spirits would be lining up around the block to get a chance to come through on the board. I really do. And I’d kinda rather not know for sure just how many spirits there are in this house or in this town.

However, my other novel-in-progress, Down to the Meadows of Sleep, is all about this town and its spirits. I do love living here.  Wish it weren’t quite so far from the airport, but oh well.

Okay, gang. Gonna go stream the film now. Then get back to work on Blessed By Light.

As always, thanks for visiting. Have a meaningful Good Friday, in whatever way works best for you. I love you, gang.  And I leave you with THE most beautiful version of The 23rd Psalm ever, which was the theme song to one of the funniest shows, ever. Okay, guys. I’m outta here. See ya!

He Is Risen – The Cat, I Mean

I know, it’s sacrilegious, especially the day before Good Friday. But I’m an ordained minister, gang. Jesus already knows full well that I’m full of sacrilege. (Hence, I have no church of my own; no flock to lead. And not ever likely to get one.)

First, though, I need to tell you that late last evening, the director was finally able to get back to me about my revisions for the staged reading script for Tell My Bones.

Loyal readers of this lofty blog no doubt recall that for 2 months, I labored over how best to take the director’s comments and not only revise my overall play, but also trim it down to under 30 minutes for the upcoming staged readings in Rhinebeck and NYC. And by “labored over,” I mean that I was truly near tearing my hair out. I really struggled.

But I was finally able to get the revisions to him, right on schedule, late last week. And last night he wrote and told me that it was “captivating”, while staying true to my original script and that he loved it. And that now we have to begin.

So that truly excited me, gang. “Captivating” is quite a cool and entirely unexpected word. It gave me those butterflies down in my tummy! It’s the beginning, now, of such a very long process: 3 staged readings in the NYC area, then it transfers to Florida, for a staged reading there (and hopefully an actual run of the play), before it transfers back to NYC, Off-Broadway. We’re literally looking at years (plus, multiply that whole scenario by the other play we’ll be doing in Toronto) — it is a long, drawn-out process, indeed. But I am so excited, and so happy. I’ve already been working on both these plays (with/for Sandra Caldwell) for 7 years.

Anyway, the part about Daddycakes being “risen”…

I awoke this morning around 6 a.m. I turned over in bed and saw Doris sitting in the open window, looking out at the dark street (there is a screen, btw), and right next to her was Daddycakes, standing with his two front paws on the window sill, also looking out at the street.

He was really there, gang. I really saw him. Of course when I looked away for a moment and looked back, he was gone. But I could tell his spirit was free now and that he was visiting us, part of his little clan again.

It really made me feel peaceful. I could feel it intensely – that his spirit was so free now and happy.

When each of my past cats has died, they always, without fail, make one final visitation to me from beyond, to let me know that everything in their new world is okay. Usually I only hear them or feel, but this time I saw Daddycakes. I really did. It was so lovely. To see him happy there, with his daughter.

Okay. I’m gonna get started around here today, gang. Gotta get back to Blessed By Light. The editor, and the edits, are almost done and I will soon be getting started on new chapters. Only about 80 pages to go and the novel will be complete.

Have a wonderful Thursday, wherever you are in the world. Thanks for visiting! I love you, gang. See ya.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering yesterday why on earth I had one lonely CD of Anne Murray’s amongst all that Nick Cave and Tom Petty stuff, here’s why! Listen and enjoy, folks!! This is such an addictive song!)

 

 

 

The world of author Marilyn Jaye Lewis