Lou Reed Died

I hate when a famous person dies and everyone who ever met them once writes stuff about the person.

But I’m shaken about Lou Reed dying.

As I sit here (and, for some reason, my hands are literally shaking) I realize I took Lou Reed for granted.  I assumed he would always be here.  The music and also the person.   He just doesn’t seem like someone who could die.  He was part of our souls.

Also, Lou Reed once swatted me on the ass and I don’t know why.

I’ve forgotten entire years of childhood and adulthood too.  But I remember listening to Lou Reed starting at about age 14.   Over and over and over and over.  I never fell out of love with his music and it imprinted all over me.

When my friend Knox Chandler and I made my second record, Love is a Dog From Hell, we recorded a cover of Lou’s Vicious. It came out pretty well and remains one of my favorite pieces of my own work.

Steve Buscemi liked it and agreed to direct a video.  This alone was a pretty big deal.  But then, somehow, Lou Reed himself heard the song and LIKED IT and WANTED TO BE IN THE VIDEO.

The day of the shoot came and things rolled along nicely.  Steve is a great director, everyone in the cast and crew was pleasant, it all went really well. Then, it was time for Lou Reed to arrive.  I was nervous as hell.  We all were.  Except Michael Portnoy, the performance artist, who plays my love interest in the video.  Nothing makes Michael nervous.

Lou Reed arrived without fanfare.  He was friendly and said nice things.

I only exchanged a few words with him.  I was terrified.   It was almost like meeting Bach somehow.  I mean, not quite.  He hasn’t influenced my soul to THAT degree, but, pretty close.

Here is a weird edit of the video, the only version I could find.  I think Michael Portnoy posted it, so it includes Michael’s opening monologue, which was cut for the version of the video that eventually aired on MTV etc.  And the song is kind of chopped in half in this edit.  But watch through to the end and there is Lou Reed, I promise.  Vicious video here.

A month or so after the Vicious shoot, I was doing a reading. A few minutes before going onstage,  I  saw Lou Reed walk in and sit down in the audience.  He was by himself. I was still terrified of him but I went over and said Hi.  Then, I asked: What are you doing here?

He looked blank for a second then said “I came to hear you read.”

I was incredulous. “You did?” I asked.

He laughed.

We talked for a few minutes.  But he still made me nervous and, as soon as I could, I fled to the backstage area and tried to forget he was there.

I saw him a few more times after that.  We did a Def Poetry Jam taping together sometime in the early 2000’s and, right before I went onstage, LOU REED SWATTED ME ON THE ASS.   I swear. You can ask my cousin, Shahram.  Shahram was at the taping and, because Shahram sees EVERYTHING, he somehow saw this moment where Lou Reed swatted me on the ass and I probably would have long forgotten about it, but Shahram loves telling that story.

I didn’t know how to interpret that ass-swatting.  I mean, it’s not like Lou Reed and I were bosom buddies or had dated or really done more than exchange a few words here and there.  Why did he swat my ass?

The last time I saw Lou Reed, maybe two years ago, I saw him across a room and found he still sort of filled me with nervousness, so I didn’t go say Hi.

Now, he is dead.  And it makes me feel shaky, like a small piece of me is gone.

And I’ll never know why he swatted me on the ass.

Please Lock Me In The Museum

When I got  invited to Christopher Wool’s  opening at the Guggenheim, my first thought was: I GET TO WANDER A MUSEUM AFTER HOURS.

I long to be locked in museums after hours.

The chief problem with museums is PEOPLE.  They cluster, they talk, they bump into one another and frequently ruin any possibility of true communion with art.

Once, in London, I very briefly met the late Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud was very polite but he was in a hurry. He was on his way to the Tate after hours. Being Lucian Freud, he could do whatever he wanted.  Including going to the Tate by himself,  late at night, to hang out with paintings, undisturbed.

This, however, is not what happens when you go to an opening at a museum.   There were people everywhere at Wool’s opening.  And lots of security guards.

I noticed the guards because, since the age of seven, I’ve harbored fantasies about  stealing a painting for a while, just so I could spend time with it, undisturbed.  I’d return it eventually.

I  get a little shiver when I think about the paintings stolen from the  Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston. I know. One is supposed to be all outraged about it.  But, since the only thing you can do with such recognizable paintings is keep them in a secret chamber in your house, presumably whoever orchestrated the theft did it so she or he could wake up every morning and go look at her Rembrandts.

There is the ethical problem of depriving hundreds of thousands of other people of  ever seeing those paintings in person. Which is why I’d have returned them by now.  But, still. I  REALLY understand the impulse.

Our experience of art should be visceral, private, yet the only way most of us see any of it is  public.  Extremely public.

Richard Hell (and woman in black dress) standing in front of Wool paintings

The art world is so elitist it makes the literary world look like hillbillies eating deep-fried Twinkies .

Which is one of the things I like about Christopher Wool and his work too.  He’s not much on self-importance or snobbery.

When I ran into Wool at the opening, he was hovering about halfway up the long snail shell of the museum, standing, appropriately, near his word painting TRBL, looking slightly frightened.

Wool at his opening. My iPhone lens was smudged, but I like to think it is fitting.

We hugged hello and then he said: Can you believe this?  He seemed genuinely stunned.  He wasn’t cocky.  He was just standing there, in a suit Dior had given him, surrounded by 30 years worth of beautiful paintings he had made.

As I remember, Wool went to art school for half a minute then went off to the woods somewhere, grew a huge beard, and just started FUCKING SHIT UP, making paintings.

He’s part of the art world – actually a really BIG part of the art world, but he’s the same maniac who grew a huge beard and fucked shit up.

I think a lot of people go to museums and feel  they’re SUPPOSED to be taken with certain works, but maybe  aren’t all that moved.  Partly because there are so many  PEOPLE mucking about, distracting from the view.  But also because people don’t just wander, passing by the obvious,  waiting for their eye to fall on something,  waiting to fall in love. This was how I discovered my love of Hieronymus Bosch.  Wandering. Then going: WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT? THAT LOOKS LIKE MY SOUL.  HOW DID THAT GUY DO THAT?

It sucks that developing a personal relationship with art isn’t something many people get to do.

I’m lucky I got to fall in love with it and learned ways to spend time with it. Like going to the Met Friday nights in winter, when it’s open late and there are way fewer people and you ALMOST feel alone with all those beautiful things and can feel thousands of years of wisdom and wildness pouring from them.

Or going to semi-obscure museums. Wandering small town galleries, seeing a lot of stuff that does nothing for you but, once in a while, getting that burst of joy when love happens.

I want EVERYONE to feel that.  To long to be locked in the museum overnight.

As for the Wool show, GO SEE IT.  But go at some obscure time.  And just wander and wait for love to happen.  It’s a magnificent show.  It’s lone failing being the glaring omission of the painting Maggie’s Brain:

Yes.  That painting was named for my brain.

So they left it in Chicago.   Just in case I got locked in the museum and tried to steal it.





I’m Just Petting Ratso

I think I am the only person in the world who doesn’t have Attention Deficit Disorder.  It seems like 98% of the people I meet claim they have A.D.D.

Why do people want to have A.D.D?

As a species, we seem to be cultivating A.D.D.  Like it’s some sort of badge of honor.   We ingest information too quickly to process it. This leads to struggling to focus on one task or idea. I get that.

The thing I don’t understand is how a lot of people seem PROUD of this and loudly proclaim self-diagnosed A.D.D.

I  don’t mean to poke fun at people who truly have it or have kids who have it.  It certainly does exist, just that, like almost every other ailment under the sky, it is wildly over-diagnosed (or self-diagnosed) and I feel like sometimes it’s a big fat cop out.

“I can’t call you back,  I have A.D.D.” or “I can’t hold down a job/relationship, I have A.D.D.”

It would be so much more glorious to have an honest world where we just said “I can’t call you back, I don’t feel like it” or   “I can’t hold a job because I daydream too much.”   “I struggle with relationships because I was raised by wolves and people frighten me.”

Wouldn’t that be more interesting/honest?

I don’t have A.D.D.  Like, at ALL.

I can stare at the same page for DAYS. .  I can be very content with stillness, solitude and silence.

Many years ago, I was maybe 19 , I did lots of drugs.  As will happen when you do lots of drugs, I lost my apartment.  I  found a friend who agreed to take in me and my cat, Ratso, on the condition that I wouldn’t do drugs while staying in his house.   Of course I agreed to this. And, of course, as soon as he went off to work, I was in the bathroom shooting heroin into my jugular.  Okay.  That’s a mild exaggeration.

That night, my friend came home from work. I was lounging in the living room with Ratso.  Probably doing nothing at all. I was really good at that.

Not actually Ratso

My friend coming home made me need to do more downers so I went into the bathroom and popped about fifty more.  Then, as he made dinner,  I sunk into the couch.  And nodded out, spilling forward, belly on thighs, head hanging down over my knees.

“Hey, Maggie, you’re STONED!” My friend said.

I jolted to consciousness, looked around as I wiped the drool from my mouth, saw that Ratso was nearby, and said “I’m not stoned, I’m just petting Ratso.”

Ratso and I were out on our asses the next day.

These kinds of violently self-destructive trajectories don’t last long.  Either you die or you clean up.  I cleaned up.

But it is maybe as a result of this that I can focus FOREVER.  I’m not saying my brain is always working at its very best, but it IS focused.

This is fortunate since I now have three jobs.

Yesterday morning,  I wrote for about 90 minutes, then went into the real estate office to start learning the ropes. My “boss” is  a lively, warm woman who is a fellow vegan AND has a dog she adopted from death row at Animal Control in Harlem – where Mickey came from.  We’re a good match.

I spent a few hours learning real estate stuff then changed into yoga togs, went to the yoga studio, and taught yoga.

The transitions, from writer to realtor to yoga teacher all in the space of nine hours, were a little disorienting.  It’s possible that by the time I was done teaching yoga, I felt like I had A.D.D.  So I just sat.  Staring at the peeling nail polish on my toes for a while.  It’s really good to stare at your toes.

There is a passage somewhere in one of William Burroughs’ books about staring at his own shoe for an inordinate amount of time.  As I stared at my toes, trying to reset my brain and mind after a day of startling transitions, I probably had Burroughs in the back of my mind.

I love that Burroughs had such a keen sense of enchantment.  He famously zonked himself on drugs for long periods of time, but then he would un-zonk and pour out some writing, streaming that shit directly from the collective unconscious, the place where dreams dwell.

I love how he blended the mundane and the awful and the magical.  I love that he stared at his shoe for a long long time.

As a result, I had a dream about Burroughs last night.  I only met him two or three times in life. He was polite and he had wolf eyes.  I love people with wolf eyes.

In the dream, he was very much alive, albeit very old.  Somehow, he and I had grown quite close and he was telling me his body was wracked with pain.  So I gave him a neck rub.

Then, I woke up.  And felt like William Burroughs was with me most of the day.

I think, when people run around proclaiming they have A.D.D and can’t focus and can’t sit still or be alone, maybe they are killing off the place where dreams live.

I don’t want to kill my dreams.



I Will Be Hot At Ninety

This morning, idly glancing at the Twitter feed on my phone while spooning gruel into my mouth, I clicked on a link to a blog post entitled “You’ll Never Be This Cool: Women of a Certain Age Edition” written by Michele Tea.

Michele Tea has some serious feminist and literary cred so, all the more surprising that she doesn’t see what she’s doing here.  In short, she’s lumping all women over 40 (including some who are so far over 40 that they’re DEAD) into the “Women of a certain age” category.  This includes Emmanuelle Alt,  the incredibly hot and powerful  42-yr-old editor of Vogue.

Ms. Tea means well, I’m sure, posting photos of eccentric, interesting women old enough to be Gaga’s grandma, but it’s not very well thought out (like anyone would lump 42-year-old and 80-year-old men into the same category of OLD) and ends up TOTALLY feeding the hype that a whole bunch of us are past our prime and can only distinguish ourselves by wearing garish outfits or being famous and, even so, we are still “of a certain age”.

Generally, I don’t go on about this sort of thing.  I’m reasonably confident, I look pretty good, I figure I’ll still look pretty good when I’m 90, if I make it that far.  But I hate to see a smart sister with lazy thinking.

I’ve had some Botox injected into the area between my eyebrows, the frown spot,  because, while I’m fine with crows feet, perpetually tired eyelids,  and all the other things that happen to faces and bodies as they march through the years, that one little spot feels like the spot where bad thoughts collect. By paralyzing it with botulism, I discourage bad thoughts from coming.  Seriously.  I feel like it works.

But that’s it for me.  No face lifts or liposuction or implants.  One, those things are expensive but, more important, they usually end up making the person look REALLY FUCKING WEIRD, a walking placard that screams: I HATE MYSELF.

Even when I was really young, I found old guys as attractive as young guys and that’s never really changed. I find some 75-yr-olds as hot as some 22-yr-olds.  But, as any of my friends will attest to, I have “weird” taste.  I don’t see the physical vessel as much as the spirit it’s carrying. I think that’s why I inject my frown spot with botulism.   I feel like it’s the one area of my body that advertises worry,  that works against the basic tenets of my spirit.

Maybe that makes no sense at all.  But that’s okay.  I don’t claim to make sense.

I do claim to despise the very expression “women of a certain” age though.





Kill The Poor

I finished real estate school and, amazingly, passed the first of two exams, math included.

But my soul is a little sick.

I met several interesting and lovely people who I know will be honorable in their future real estate dealings but, mostly, real estate school taught me a lot about capitalism, the killing of nature, and why most folks are suspicious of real estate agents.

To wit, the instructor for our final three sessions.  We’ll call him Mr. Kill The Poor.

We were discussing deeds and deed restrictions.  You know, that piece of paper, handed down from the original owner of the property to the next owner. If that original owner put a restriction saying No ranch houses may ever be built on this property then that has to be adhered to by every subsequent owner.

The only way a deed restriction can be removed if it discriminates against a protected class of people.   For example, “No Irish” won’t fly.

After our instructor had repeatedly used the phrase  “the blacks” to refer to black people, telling us that it is a violation of the Fair Housing Act to say to a client “South Albany is where THE BLACKS live” (and he was not referring to The Blacks, that displaced Hurricane Katrina family who moved in with Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm) after Mr. Kill The Poor had referred to black people as THE BLACKS for the third time, I got agitated.

Then, he made some remarks about “foreigners.”  When he and Mrs. Kill The Poor go shopping at outlet centers, most of their fellow shoppers are FOREIGNERS and all announcements are made in several different languages, “You have to hear an announcement in four or five foreign languages before they finally say it in English.”

At this point,  I innocently raised my hand and asked:  “So, If I want to put a deed restriction that says No members of the Tea Party may ever buy my land I can do it?”

Mr. Kill The Poor choked slightly then said: “Yes, you could.”

Some of my classmates laughed.  Some never spoke to me again.

The real estate school is in the outskirts of Albany.   A sprawl of industry, malls, chain stores. There was an “Impeach Obama” placard in front of a Rite Aid just down the road.

We moved on to the topic of investment property and Mr. Kill The Poor started talking about landlords who own buildings and let tenants live there while paying below-market rents because they good tenants are nice people.

“That’s just stupid.” Said Mr. Kill The Poor.

When Mr. Kill The Poor buys a building (and he buys a lot of buildings) and finds someone (he used the example of a little old lady)  living there paying $600 a month when market value is $1000, that person is OUTTA there. 

“And if you’re concerned for that little old lady,” Mr. Kill The Poor said,  “then you should go into social work.  But first, become a Democrat.”

He really said that.

It gets better.

Back to deed restrictions.

He gave an example of an older gentleman who owned a corner lot near the Albany airport.  This gentleman, we’ll call him Mr. Bicycle, had a bicycle sales and repair shop on his corner lot.  He’d been there since before time.  Or at least since before the value of his land skyrocketed.

Mr. Bicycle was a stubborn ol’ coot and didn’t want some corporation buying his land and putting in a chain store.  In his deed, he specified that the land could ONLY be sold to someone running a bicycle shop.

“We were all wringing our hands,” Mr. Kill The Poor said, referring to himself and his fellow investors.  “That land was worth millions and we were afraid the old man would die with that stupid bike shop deed restriction intact. But he finally caved when CVS threw millions of dollars at him.”

I felt my heart breaking into many pieces.

Now, there is the billionth CVS where the bike shop once stood.

If you have a bicycle and it needs fixing, I guess you put it in your CAR, generate some emissions, and drive 20 miles to a bike shop.

Mr. Kill The Poor said a few more awful things.  Like how “the government, and I don’t mean THE RIGHT” wants to make investors pay capital gains tax on Like Kind Exchanges.

Like Kind Exchanges are basically a real estate shell game enabling wealthy investors to avoid paying a cent in taxes — (And, yes, I was the only one to raise my hand and ask: And that’s LEGAL?)

Mr. Kill The Poor is what many of us think of when we think of folks in the real estate business.  He would have been the Alec Baldwin character in Glengarry Glen Ross. And proud of it too.

I don’t know why so many rural poor and working class people are Republican, and vehemently opposed to Obamacare.

I understand that these folks wish to keep the government out of things. In the case of working class Republicans, mostly out of their automatic weapons (yet for some reason, they WANT the government inside women’s bodies) and in the case of rich Republicans, the basic idea seems to be “I was crafty and got rich (or was born rich)  and I’m not paying out a percentage of my income to fund those stupid lazy poor people.”

My grandfather was a Republican.  He was soft-spoken, gentle man who loved cats and was devoted to my grandmother who was gravely ill for many years.  He  worked his way from poverty to being Senior VP of a  major corporation.

My grandfather and I started butting heads over ideology when I was  six-years-old.  But we loved each other deeply and disagreed amicably.

If he were here now, I feel confident in saying he would strongly disagree with most current Republican agendas.  Still, he did NOT think a portion of his earnings should go to funding programs for poor people.   He had worked his way up from nothing, why couldn’t they?

This is perhaps the biggest flaw in the thinking of otherwise intelligent folk.

A lot of people are born into the kind of poverty and circumstances that NO ONE could work their way out of.

Some of us have minds that are just not wired for the rote learning required to take tests with only one correct answer, to work at jobs with strictly prescribed thinking and behavior.  We make up for this by inventing things and creating things.  And most of us are poor or crazy or miserable or all of the above.

For me, selling real estate in an honest way while writing books I  care about is a good path.  My next adventure.

For many, there is no path at all. Through no fault of their own, eating is barely an option, never mind making art.

Mr. Kill The Poor wants those folks out of his buildings and deprived of healthcare and food.  Though, of course, I’m sure they are in his prayers.  Because he is, as he told us, a “church-going man.”











Machine Guns and Underpants

I just finished my second week of Real Estate School. One more week to go then, October 15th, I take the Department of State real estate person test.

There is MATH involved.

I’ve reached a point where I am interested in EVERYTHING (I think we all reach a point when it finally dawns on us that our time in this life is finite and there is so much we don’t understand and haven’t experienced.)  Which is to say, I am actually interested in math, but have come to the conclusion that it makes no fucking sense at all.

Math is, from a philosophical standpoint, COMPLETELY illogical.

I know that can’t be true.  I know that music is math.  That the universe is math.  That math is the explanation of order and of chaos.  But the explanations for math don’t satisfy me.

All the same, I should be working on MATH and  going through my real estate school book with different-colored highlighters, memorizing the way words are used (usually illogically) in contract law and banking lingo.  At the very least, I should be planning my future Realtor Outfits.But I am typing instead.

I never ever ever tire of thinking of Truman Capote’s quip, when asked what he thought of Jack Kerouac’s work: “It isn’t writing, it’s typing.”

That’s why I like to say I am TYPING.  (Incidentally, I like both writers just about equally.)

Today, I’ve been typing my noir novel.  The really squirrelly, unruly one that seems like it was written by a machine gun on acid.  It is almost unreadable in its present state, but I am going to get to the end, discover what the whole story is and how it all resolves (or doesn’t) then go back and instill some sort of order.  (Once I’ve figured out math, I’ll be able to do things like that.)

Last night, after going to yoga and starting to recover from my week at Real Estate School, I put unguent in Mickey’s rapidly healing ear.

I then read the paper, looked at some blogs,  and watched the Miley Cyrus video that Sinead O’ Connor is all up in arms about – (She thinks Miley is being exploited.)

I love Sinead O Connor’s music and met her once when we were both dewy and naïve. She was kind and beautiful.  Now, she’s very upset with Miley Cyrus (whoever that is.)

I watched the Miley Cyrus video in question and just kept laughing.  It is REALLY EMBARASSINGLY DUMB.  It looks like an SNL send-up of those 1990’s Calvin Klein underwear commercials.  Shot all clean and crisp, advertising-style, with a cute girl in white underwear. 

Then the cute girl LICKS A SLEDGEHAMMER and swings naked on a wrecking ball.  I can’t believe anyone thinks it is anything other than goofy.  The only thing anyone is exploiting here is lack of imagination.

In the state of Mississippi, if a person makes more than $3,000 a year, they make too  much to be eligible for Medicaid.  $3,000 a year.  That’s $250 a month.  $8.92 a DAY.  (Yes, I just did the math. Okay.  I used a calculator.)

No CIVILIZED country would allow that.

I never read Martin Amis’ book The Moronic Inferno, a book of essays about America (he borrowed the title from Saul Bellow apparently) but I always liked the title.

Any country where it is legal to deprive people of medical care is a moronic inferno.

Every year, we seem to lurch closer to living in Mike Judge’s movie Idiocracy, which, in summary, is a vision of America where stupidity is lauded and intelligence is considered un-American and punishable by prison and or death.   If you haven’t seen it, watch it.  It’s funny – in a sickening, heart-breakingly accurate way.

What does poverty and the celebration of stupidity have to do with Miley Cyrus licking a sledgehammer? I don’t know. But probably a lot.

And now, I’d better hurry up and figure math out, or I will be contributing to the moronic inferno: Fearing what I don’t understand.