Tag Archives: Virginia Woolfe A Room of One’s Own

Hmmm. What Fucking Planet is She On…

Yeah, well, I guess it would have been nice to have been alerted that a little PR blast about “me, the playwright” was going out yesterday. I probably wouldn’t have chosen yesterday to blog about being suicidal and going off to a convent…

Crap. You know?

This is why blogging is always so dicey for me. I actually blog about not only my real life, but also the constant insanity that is really in my head. And as pretty as I am on the outside, well you know, the Portrait of Dorian Gray is often in full bloom on the inside.

So there we have it. My experience of yesterday. All kinds of new traffic coming in through my (outdated, inaccurate) Wikipedia page because of a new crop of strangers googling me; and then finding out about all the joys of being moi.

Okay. We’re just going to move on. But I’m also going to bring this up again, as I so often do around here: When you’re a woman and you’re a writer, nothing will likely speak more to the heart of you than Virginia Woolfe’s A Room of One’s Own. If for some inexcusable reason, you don’t know the book; her overall premise:

“In referencing the tale of a woman who rejected motherhood and lived outside marriage, a woman about to be hanged, the narrator identifies women writers such as herself as outsiders who exist in a potentially dangerous space.”

And once having read it, nothing will feel so horrific as knowing that, even while Virginia Woolfe understood all of it,  she ultimately walked off to the river with rocks in her pocket. She should not have ended that way. I am not going to end that way, I just refuse; even if sometimes the only thing that will help me is taking cover amid a bunch of Carmelite nuns — women who also reject motherhood and live outside marriage but inside the auspices of the Patriarchy. (Wouldn’t that be cool? To just go off and let some guy take care of you? Jesus Christ, right? And no pun intended there… But the minute you let some guy take care of you, he gets to tell you what to do. And loyal readers of this lofty blog no doubt recall that I will always, without fail, say “NO!” even before I hear what the guy is even trying to say!!! AAAAAaaaarrrrgh!!!!)

But, Jesus. Come on. Even in a First World country, in the 21st Century, it is fucking hard to be a woman, be a writer, and live on a single, wildly fluctuating income — and afford a room of your own that’s quiet so that you can focus and write.

The pressure in my life sometimes feels insurmountable. I am someone who pulls miracle after miracle after miracle out of her hat. But it gets not only exhausting but also daunting: looking into that hat and wondering if another miracle is gonna manage to come out of there one more time.

And in this instance, unfortunately, I am talking about a situation involving other, private people that I cannot blog about. But it’s making me feel undermined and sniped at. And it hurts.

So — on to more beautiful things.

Nick Cave sent out a Red Hand Files newsletter yesterday that was just beautiful.  You can read it here. You know, is it wrong & selfish  to say that it’s too bad men like him (meaning, “rock stars”) weren’t around when I was growing up in the 1970s, or do you just feel appreciative that he’s alive right now?

Oh, and also, during one of Nick Cave’s Conversations in Austin the other night, a woman was sitting next to him on his piano bench while he sang “Shivers.” I ask you, just what kind of hat do you have to have in order to pull that kind of miracle out of it???!!! I thought my Miracle Hat was pretty cool but au contraire! It pales in comparison.

(The people in Austin eventually put a whole bunch of cool stuff on Instagram.) (I believe he’s going to be in Portland tonight. We’ll see what kinds of magical hats the people possess in Portland…)

Well, this week, when I’m not gently tearing my hair out over rewrites of Tell My Bones, I intend to write another short segment of In the Shadow of Narcissa. It’s a difficult one because it goes deeper into the abuse my brother suffered at the hands of our adoptive mother when he was just a little boy.  And to write it from the perspective of a 4-year-old girl. And not through the lens of my own fear of our mother, but from that desperate feeling of wanting to help my brother but being given the constant mandate from her that I was not allowed to care about what happened to him.

Not being permitted to feel things was probably the hardest part of living with her.

The fucked-up-ness was simply manifold.

But I’m also going to take a look at the 4th segment of Girl in the Night: Erotic Love Letters to the Muse. It’s going to be that “Litany” segment. It should just be very interesting. I’m very eager to write that because I can’t imagine how it’s going to hit the page.

Meanwhile, I’m going to get laundry started here. And at some point, I have to go back into town and buy groceries. I’m gonna wait until the fog lifts, though.  We’ve had an amazingly dense fog here since late last evening.

The fog as seen from my kitchen window just now. The same Carl Sandburg fog that “crept in on little cat feet.” Oh no!! Not more cats!!

Okay, gang. I’m gonna scoot.

Have a terrific Tuesday wherever you are in the world. Thanks for visiting. I leave you with two options, both equally from my own perception of life. The first is one I really enjoy believing in. I really, honestly do. Someday, I’ll meet my soulmate and we’ll go off to the Chapel of Love.

The second is more like how I experience love, for real. You know, intensely deeply, but no chapel anywhere on the horizon. (This song was actually playing on the record player when I lost — or got rid of — my virginity. Go figure. The gods are funny, for sure.)

All righty. I love you guys. See ya.

“Piece of My Heart”
Oh, come on, come on, come on, come on!
Didn’t I make you feel like you were the only man -yeah!
Didn’t I give you nearly everything that a woman possibly can?
Honey, you know I did!
And each time I tell myself that I, well I think I’ve had enough,
But I’m gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough.
I want you to come on, come on, come on, come on and take it,
Take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Oh, oh, have a!
Have another little piece of my heart now, baby,
You know you got it if it makes you feel good,
Oh, yes indeed.
You’re out on the streets looking good,
And baby deep down in your heart I guess you know that it ain’t right,
Never, never, never, never, never, never hear me when I cry at night,
Babe, I cry all the time!
And each time I tell myself that I, well I can’t stand the pain,
But when you hold me in your arms, I’ll sing it once again.
I’ll say come on, come on, come on, come on and take it!
Take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby.
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah,
Oh, oh, have a!
Have another little piece of my heart now, baby,
You know you got it, child, if it makes you feel good.
I need you to come on, come on, come on, come on and take it,
Take it!
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!
oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart, now darling, yeah, c’mon now.
oh, oh, have a
Have another little piece of my heart now, baby.
You know you got it -whoahhhhh!!
Take it!
Take it! Take another little piece of my heart now, baby,
Oh, oh, break it!
Break another little bit of my heart, now darling, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,
Oh, oh, have a
Have another little piece of my heart now, baby, hey,
You know you got it, child, if it makes you feel good.
c –  1967 JERRY RAGOVOY / BERT BERNS

You Do Indeed Turn Me On, Baby

Happy Saturday, gang. Wherever you are!

The photo above is a photo of Cleveland in 1960. A Rexall Drug Store. I don’t know this particular Rexall store but it’s what Cleveland neighborhoods looked like, in general, when I was born and then got adopted by a couple who lived up there.

(My birth parents were from southwestern, rural Ohio – a world that could not have been more different from Cleveland, especially back then. Cleveland was an intensely urban melting pot of European immigrants, with a lot of racial tensions between blacks & whites beginning to bubble up in the early 1960s. Cleveland was also hugely influenced by the Arts — museums, theater, music, movies.)

There is a new segment posted at In the Shadow of Narcissa, my memoir-in-progress about my early childhood, specifically about my being raised by an adoptive mother with a narcissist disorder (told from the perspective of me as a child). Hence, the Cleveland stuff here today.

I can’t linger too long on the blog today because I am indeed working over the phone with Peitor later this morning, getting back on track with our current project for Abstract Absurdity Productions, after a  3-week hiatus.

I’m exhausted today. I know it’s all entirely emotional stuff. So I’m hoping it will clear by the time Peitor calls me.

Part of it is a personal thing, a relationship thing from the past that popped up this week, making me have to look at stuff, to make choices, making me feel old.

Most of it, though, comes from writing the Narcissa segments. Even though each segment is very short, it takes a lot out of me. Such an intense focus on a period in my life that was both truly beautiful and truly awful.

(This was in the very early years of my life, before my mother sort of completely unraveled and life swung way out of balance and was simply truly awful, every day. I want the memoir to capture only those early years in Cleveland — the first 11 years of my life, when my mother progressively got worse. And, culturally, it coincided with the 60s itself unfolding, so all around us, the country was changing like crazy. And it certainly affected our home. I also know now that my dad was starting to have affairs. I did not know anything about this at that point in Cleveland, but my mother must have known, because it coincided with her starting to go just completely nuts and over-the-top enraged and unmanageable.)

Oddly enough, in a part of my childhood that extends beyond what I want to write about in Narcissa — when I was 12 and we were gone from Cleveland and I believe that my mother thought her marriage was back on track — at that point, the summer I was 12, I accidentally discovered that my dad was having an affair. I didn’t tell anyone. And to be honest, I was very, very happy for him. I still really liked my dad at that point, and I was glad for him that he had a way to be free of my mother.

The following summer, when I was 13, he came into my room one afternoon to tell me he was leaving us, that they were getting divorced. I told him I was really happy for him. He was stunned, you know? “You’re happy for me?” I didn’t tell him I knew he was having an affair, or that I knew her name was Linda and that she lived in Cincinnati and that I knew her home phone number… I said, “Yeah, you get to get out of here.”

At that point, we were upper middle class and had a really beautiful home — and every square inch of it was filled with a palpable aura of ugly, awful, nasty, mean, horribleness. It truly was. My mother was absolutely out of control.

My dad said later that, had he realized she had a mental illness, he would never have left us with her. But even at 13, I knew that when my dad left us, there would be no buffer at all between me and my mother, and I knew there was no direction left in that house but for me to go down, down, down. Which I, of course, did.

After my dad left, he became all about money. It was absolutely all he cared about — making millions, which he did. And if you didn’t care about his money — which I didn’t, I didn’t care about it at all — then he had no use for you, really.

I have nothing at all against money — even great big piles of money. I don’t see anything wrong with people being rich. I think money’s great. But it’s not what I live for and never has been.

For some reason, for me, it has always been about expressing myself.  I don’t know why it is so important to me to get certain things out of my head and onto paper — into the concrete physical reality. For me, it has always been imperative that I do this before I transition back over to the nonphysical “other” side.  To the point that, now, as I’m aging, I sort my many, many projects into mental stacks:

Will I be okay if I die and this project is not finished? Yes.  So then it goes to the back burner.

Will I be okay if I die and this project is not finished? No. So then I spend every waking hour trying to get it out of me and into the world.

I try to figure out how love figures into that, because I have always been that way about expressing myself — writing, specifically. To the point where it’s been impossible for me to sustain relationships if the person won’t give me just tons and tons of personal space. Quiet space.  Because I’ve got to write.

In New York City, that meant “give me a room I can go to that has a door I can close.” If you’ve ever lived in Manhattan, you know that a separate room with an actual door is not always an easy thing to get in a city apartment. For me, it was very Virginia Woolfe and A Room of One’s Own. A woman will thrive if she has a room of her own that she can go to and close the door.

Yet, I love people, dearly. I feel love intensely. If I love someone, there is no escaping it for me. It overwhelms me in the most beautiful ways. It makes life worth living. And I want all the sex stuff, too — the eroticism of it. And all the beauty of that.

But then it’s also me, saying: “Um, do you think you could go do something now? Because I gotta be alone here.” And that part rarely goes over very well.

For reasons related to the past relationship mentioned above, I got out Joni Mitchell’s Greatest Hits and was playing that in the kitchen yesterday. I’m not a huge Joni Mitchell fan, but I do love a lot of her stuff. And my favorite song of hers is “You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio.”

When it came on the CD player in the kitchen yesterday, it was clear that I still loved that song very much because I didn’t want to stop playing it. It was a hit when I was in Jr. High School, and even though I was too young to truly understand it– from my own experience — yet. I viscerally understood it. To me, it was the only love song that ever made sense.

I’m not talking about the sad love songs, when your heart is broken. I’m talking about a true love song — I love you, and this is why, and this is who I am.

“You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio” is saying: I love you, and I am so happy that you have a life of your own that you can really enjoy living and when you get that need to see me, baby, come on by. Meaning: give me a head’s up and I’ll stop writing & I’ll make time for you. Because I love you and I would like nothing better than to be with you. For a little while…

Okay, gang! I’m outta here!! Thanks for visiting. I love you. See ya!!

“You Turn Me On, I’m A Radio”

If you’re driving into town
With a dark cloud above you
Dial in the number
Who’s bound to love youOh honey you turn me on
I’m a radio
I’m a country station
I’m a little bit corny
I’m a wildwood flower
Waving for you
Broadcasting tower
Waving for you

And I’m sending you out
This signal here
I hope you can pick it up
Loud and clear
I know you don’t like weak women
You get bored so quick
And you don’t like strong women
‘Cause they’re hip to your tricks

It’s been dirty for dirty
Down the line
But you know
I come when you whistle
When you’re loving and kind

But if you’ve got too many doubts
If there’s no good reception for me
Then tune me out, ’cause honey
Who needs the static
It hurts the head
And you wind up cracking
And the day goes dismal

From “Breakfast Barney”
To the sign-off prayer
What a sorry face you get to wear
I’m going to tell you again now
If you’re still listening there

If you’re driving into town
With a dark cloud above you
Dial in the number
Who’s bound to love you

If you’re lying on the beach
With the transistor going
Kick off the sandflies honey
The love’s still flowing
If your head says forget it
But your heart’s still smoking
Call me at the station
The lines are open

©  1972 Joni Mitchell