Friday, March 11, 2016

Goth Chronicles part 5 of 500

I always thought it was kind of funny that my grandmother still listened to the music of her youth while she hung out at home in her 70s.  It can't have been that good, I thought.  Not tired of it yet?

One, it was that good, as I later found.  I love Glenn Miller just as much as she did.  And two, you never do get tired of it.

I found an old Sisters of Mercy cd somewhere in my car, scratched and beaten and practically trash at this point.  Within moments I was playing Marian at a dangerous volume in afternoon traffic and wondering what Andrew Eldritch was doing.  If women fell in love with Sinatra for his voice, it's because they never met Andrew.

I stand behind that comment.



I guess the SOM are the greatest goth band of all time.  Other greats are, as Eldritch often incorrectly claimed about himself, not truly goth.  The Cure, Siouxsie, only peripherally goth.  Siouxsie's baroque theatricality was much too big for such a label, and Cure are their own genre.  Also, the sheer amount of squealing and puppety dancing coming out of Robert should probably cancel out the one time he wore a net shirt and the tens of thousands of dollars he's spent on Wet & Wild products over the years.

I love to get super deep about this shit because I know absolutely no one cares anymore.  Except for Anita, but we have to be careful because we'll fight if we tread onto a topic where we disagree, such as Are persimmons good? or What is the greatest goth band of all time?  She'd say Christian Death.  And, as with many ancient friends who, in their ancientness, take on a sibling-like status, I can't back down.  Like two dogs seized on the same toy, we will shake and pull for hours, and it's best to just avoid it.

My goth playlists are my most popular playlists on 8tracks.com.  I feel the reason for this is because, unlike the old danceclub djs from "BITD" (as Cher says), I know that people just want to hear the hits.  Don't throw in some experimental crap or a bad b-side just to show how advanced your taste is.  No one wants it!  They want an 80s drum machine, an angry Welsh man singing, deep bass, some synth, and that's it.







When I was trying to write about Bowie's death, I ended up writing about the Nile.  It got too tangential, so I deleted it, but it was kind of fun to remember.

I might have been 15 the first time I went to the Nile.  Seems so crazy young, but I had already put in lots of time on usenet's alt.gothic, and after reading so much about goth clubs all over the world (mostly in the sentimental memoirs of 80s goths), I had to go to my own.

I went on New Year's Eve and arrived to a big empty room, as most people had chosen parties instead.  It was a cavernous black space, occasionally cut through by revolving blue and white lights, and Bauhaus' She's in Parties playing ghostly and tall in the dark.  This, I thought.  It was everything.

The walls, floors and ceiling were painted flat black, and the space outside the dance floor was pitch black.  Flickering prayer candles occasionally disrupted the darkness along the walls.  It was a venue for bands on other nights of the week, mostly punk and metal, and sometimes denizens of those scenes intermixed, bemusedly, with the goths, mocking and looking for girls.



Odd to think of being a teenager in this environment, out all night with this extremely motley cast of characters, and odder still that I feel I was entirely undamaged by it.  There were addicts and runaways, creepy older men who I disgustedly avoided.  Basic guys who thought they'd blend in by putting on their only black Hanes t shirt.  You didn't venture into side rooms lest you saw something you didn't want to, like kids shooting heroin, or people having sex while their spurned lovers cried in the corners.  That this happened an area overrun by Mormons was funny.



I didn't recognize the danger that was probably around, and I was completely unfazed by the people.  Many things converge in a goth scene, and pieces of other subcultural groups accumulate, having nowhere else to go.  Sexual fluidity, trans kids, nudity on the dancefloor, bdsm, genital piercings, occultism on behalf of people who actually believed in shit like enochian magic, these things were everyday.  Being gay certainly wasn't the source of tension that it could be elsewhere in life and otherwise straight people occasionally dated or experimented amongst their sex without notice from anyone else.



It feels a little silly to even point this out as a thing because it just was, but all of this happened easily 20 years (and many more before me) before the rest of America began its slow tread to acceptance.  That was the best part about the scene.  Everyone just belonged, without comment, as long as they were there for the music or the aesthetic or, at least, were affiliated with someone who was.  It wasn't very complicated.  I saw a lot of lifestyles that aren't for me, but no more than I would see on the average trip to a mall.

It's also why I'm so disgusted by people who insist on being shocked by regular-ass deviance from social mores.  The dichotomy of being an adult, yet operating with the mind of a flappable, naive child is sort of repulsive to see in action.  I can't stand people who shrink from or are shocked by a past or a garden variety weirdness.

Friday, February 12, 2016



So on point.

Instead of hammers, though, my dad talks about knives.  "No one ever talks about how dangerous knives are, no one's trying to ban knives! Do you know how messy a knife wound is? My friend the cop said he's more afraid of being stabbed than being shot! People die faster from knife wounds because they bleed out too quickly!"  It's called derailing, and the first sign that you've won an argument is when someone starts to do it.

I'd like to send this to him, but I want my inheritance.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Attn: World


Friday, December 25, 2015

Thanks, Gram(s).

I recently read that the reverberations of life experiences can be passed from generation to generation.  That the effects of traumas suffered by recent ancestors can rear up in your own life, can explain subtle lingering tendencies, anxieties, fears and problems.  The abuse or sufferings of the great-grandparent can apparently manifest in the 21st century descendant, but how?  In what ways.

It seems so fascinating, shocking, yet obvious.  It's a scientific confirmation of something we've always sensed - that nothing is ever really forgotten, as much as we wish it to be, and that each experience lives on in a new form.

I hate that.  A deeply self-conscious person for most of my life, the only comfort that I could ever accept was that no one would remember the interactions or experiences I regretted.  And maybe they won't.  But those childhood pangs and young adult anguish could live in the strands of my being for the rest of my life, and in the psyche of a child.

But that's a terrible example.  Consider the shadow that may live on behind the eyes of the grandchildren of holocaust survivors, of any victim of a cruel and unimaginable violation or torture.

I scanned back through the last few sets of my ancestors and could think of nothing so extreme.  Most of my great-great grandparents dealt with the stress and upheaval of a transatlantic voyage, of leaving their homeland and their native language for a land of commercial brutality.  But everything worked out in the end and they all experienced some prosperity and safety within their lifetimes as a reward for their courage.  Bad marriages, dead children, economic strife, it could all be in there in the cords of my DNA, but how does that compare to what they carried themselves, from their own ancestors?  Starvation and true poverty, uncountable generations spent in subsistence in the mud of some crevice of Europe, now known by another name.  Poor Irish, Italian peasants, German laborers.  Uneducated people linked by twining strands of bad experiences bound together through generation after generation like held hands.

If the experiences do carry through, how long do they last?  Long enough for you to create one for your own descendants?  Do the stains of the far flung past fade or remain, diluted but carrying potential, waiting for their activation?

Conversely, the positives do carry forward as well.  Perhaps these are easier to see.  The tender upbringing, the positive home environment, the lack of desperation can all make for more stable grandchildren.  In my family, going back to a time when it wasn't so easily attained, there was an inclination to formal or autodidactic education.  When my great-aunt led me on a tour of the farmhouse my grandma was born in, she took us down the stairs to a dank basement and clapped her hand on an old chalkboard.  She said my great-grandfather brought this home when the local schoolhouse upgraded to a bigger one.  On it, he taught his children, boys and girls, basic arithmetic to reinforce what they learned in the classic one room schoolhouse of Percival.  It was long enough ago that it was uncommon to educate daughters, because there was no point - she didn't need to know the rivers of the world to raise a baby adequately.

I know those things matter.  And I know they carry forward from generation to generation.  I'll spare the tender examples, but my grandmother spent her entire life in the casual pursuit of knowledge and so has my dad.  And their examples and teachings have led me to do the same.  I think much of this is an innate desire, but is it really?  If an example isn't made, do you know the option is there?  I've known many naturally sharp people who lack completely the intellectual spirit of the pursuit of knowledge for pleasure.  They have the raw material, but it's never quite realized into something coherent or refined enough to do much with.  Is that a shitty qualification of the various types of intelligence?  Probably.  Call the police.

Although the beginning of this thought seems fucking depressing - that we are possibly saddled with the residue of our ancestors' experiences, isn't that somewhat of a comfort?  It either explains heretofore inexplicable tendencies, or it lends some gravity to the things prior generations experienced.  Because isn't it kind of disgusting that generations of your predecessors had to spend their lives fumbling in the dirt so that you could drop pizza on yourself on the couch while proclaiming that today is the worst day in history because the Seahawks lost?

You know?  (I tried to use an example outside of myself for fun. Did it work? My example would be "because Matthew died on Downton Abbey" or something. SPOILER, but as I always say: if you found out after me, you're on your own)

Isn't it terrifying that we don't really know what even happened 50 years ago, not to mention 350 years ago?  The hardscrabble lives and lack of choices?  If we can't remember cognizantly, then we can remember subconsciously, celluarly.  Because I think it's diminishing and unfair to forget that lifestyles that we would consider worse than death were entirely normal once, and that you are made of the victory against nature that was survival, once.

So anyway, everyone's fucked because everyone suffered a while back.  Kind of takes the pressure off, though, does it?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Hexmas

I made a satanic tree skirt.  Actually, I made two, but the first one turned out kind of gentle, far more pagan than satanic.

The first one was for me.  White fur with a glittery pentacle, fringed in red pom poms.  I stand behind it.  All of my new friends in Austin are pretty establishment, so when they see my house or the way I dress on my own time, and certainly the crafts I engage in, I feel distinctly reminded of my mother's gentle disapproval.  I still love you, but I don't like this.

So they didn't really get the tree skirt.



But I love it.  I smile every time I see it.  Although my taste is that of a spinster aunt in 1967, I feel very happy to know what I like.  I will never struggle to decorate a house.  I will never be unsure what image I wish to project.  I will never be unsure of what I want to surround myself with for the rest of my life.

The only thing that inhibits me is lack of space, and my student loans.

I've struggled with Christmas in my adult life.  It's hard to preserve the childhood magic of a holiday when you scorn the way other people celebrate it, and when you hate religion.  But winter has always been a welcome, happy time for me, and I like to observe the way the year turns.  I like to see different things in the house, and in my familiar landscape.  I like a sense of occasion and ritual.  I love to buy presents for other people, and I'm very good at it.  So what to do?

Just do it.  I was too cool and noncompliant to celebrate anything from holidays to birthdays in my mid 20s, I was like an atheist Jehovah's Witness, but now I just don't give a fuck.  I go there.  I have a pink tree decorated with antique German glass ornaments.  Don't you know holidays are just another way to amass interesting shit?

After I made my tacky pagan tree skirt, I received a request for the gag gift of an unapologetically satanic tree skirt.  Christmas is hard for atheists, I think they feel guilty celebrating something so heavily knitted together with Christianity.  But when you throw in a tree skirt emblazoned with a baphomet, it feels a little bit easier.

I don't want to show it completely yet because I'm not finished, but I'm very happy with it.



A baphomet made of sequins.  There will be pom poms.  It may be the greatest thing I've ever created.

I hesitated when the girl at the fabric store eyed my armload of black felt and blood red pom poms.  "Whatcha...makin?" she asked.  Oh, nothing...

I think this theme combines well with my interest in the overblown tackiness of Hollywood Regency and late 60s ultra lush absurdity.  Although Anton LaVey was a silly fool, he cultivated a finely articulated aesthetic that still appeals today.  A mix of the medieval and the swinging 60s, with lush velvets, skulls, knives, altars, black candles, topless "witches" with big hair, fake blood, ancient books, bejeweled goblets, I could go on.

I never really bought into his philosophy, because it's for men - ridiculous men.  It's all plagiarized from Ragnar Redbeard's 1890 publication "Might is Right," which basically espouses a hedonistic "fuck all y'all" attitude, but which does ring true on some topics, such as how it's ok to reject the contemporary flow of society when you know it to be wrong, even when it means ostracization, because you must be strong enough to withstand the slings of smaller people and smart enough to know they will come.  Subtler souls prefer Nietzsche.

LaVey does make unique recommendations for women, which you can read in his book, "The Satanic Witch," and which are pathetic and condescending and all about fashioning sexual snares.  His ideas about female beauty really show his age and plebian tastes, too.  He may have made his bones in the late 60s, but he was already a bit old then, and his tastes seem so stodgy.  He's all about garters and brown pantyhose, bad blonde dye jobs and blue eyeshadow.  The ideal woman he described seemed to belong in a bingo hall to me.  Truly, only idiots idolize LaVey, but he is a fun character, and I do like that he organized all of these ideas into a formal "religion", recognized as tax exempt by the US government.  It's all a fun joke that may bring the attention of young people to ideas they should think about.

And therefore, satanic Christmas tree skirt.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I told you no


And you did it anyway.

Sometimes I feel self-conscious talking about my cat in the same way people at work talk about their small children, but now I DGAF.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Strange Magic

I've been in a Virgin Suicides kind of mood lately.  A sort of ELO, Carpenters, gold microphone, bad hair mood.  A dreamy middle child in a 1970s suburban development mood.

This is basically the last of the walls to fall when it comes to my ideas about things I will and will not do.  I don't care!



A few years ago, a friend and I decided to start a band.  I told her we should start a Chad & Jeremy and/or Peter & Gordon cover band called Brittany & Anita.  She was game - she had a maraca - and we eagerly planned to really annoyingly explore this development during a long winter weekend at her place in New Mexico.

So on a beautifully cold November weekend at the feet of the Sandias, I queued a playlist and told her, Here's the shit you gotta learn to play, bro.

I played "I Go to Pieces" or something, and she froze.  Then screamed, "Oldies? I HATE OLDIES!"  WHAT, I screamed back, hands flying around my face in horror.  "That's what Chad & Jeremy is!"  "I didn't know!" she screamed.  We just stared at each other in silent remonstrance, both disappointed.

And as amused as I am by her wild hatred of "oldies" and all sentimental music, I dissolved the band.

So I'm not going to send this playlist to her, because somehow I feel this is so much worse in her book than the Everlys or Peter & Gordon could ever be.







This Todd Rundgren song is one of my mom's favorite songs of all time, and ELO is probably her actual favorite band of all time.




I finally kind of get it.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

I'm pretty immune to typical Texas stuff because I hate Christianity and conservatives, but I went to an event in Houston the other week that took me right back to my childhood, a time full of horses and dirt and country music, and I loved it.

Everyone talks about how shitty country got after 1981 or whatever, but I actually secretly really love 90s country.  I don't care, some of it is excellent!

Austin isn't very country.  I know everyone's experience is different and that Phoenix is about as city as it gets with miles of concrete and malls, but in the 90s, my family spent our weekends in Cave Creek or Casa Grande to visit our horses and go to rodeos.  I was the only kid in this group, so it was a little lonely for me, but I was surrounded by old cowboys and country women with work-gnarled hands and dogs and frogs and the smell of horse shit, which isn't so bad.

I felt like I was so fucking in love with George Strait then.  It made me want to cry.

One year, I would guess 1992, we spent the fourth of July at our extended family's little ranch in Casa Grande.  Again, the only child around on a drinking holiday, I wandered out to the paddocks by myself and took my horse out.  I wanted to ride her, but she was a wild card and I knew I was inexperienced, so I put her in the round pen, where she couldn't get away.  My greatest fear was losing the damn horse.  I put a bridle on her and walked her out without a saddle, pulled her up next to the fence and used it to climb on her bare back.  We walked around the pen aimlessly for a while until the fireworks started.  I stopped trying to move her around and she just stood for what seemed like forever while I held a handful of her mane with the reins and watched the sky.  I felt that it was a very American thing to be a child sitting on a horse alone watching fireworks on the fourth of July while my parents laughed indoors.  It felt like a commercial about wholesomeness.  I put her away and thought about how no one would know that that moment had ever happened but me.

So anyway, I went to a fancy event out in Houston held at a polo club.  Even though the place is meant for elites, it still smelled like horse shit and the faint dirt kicked up by hooves still floated in the breeze and still smelled the same.  The horsey musk emanating from the clean, white paddocks paired with an endless playlist of 90s country hits took me all of the way back home.  Arizona's more country and western than Texas no matter what some a Texan will tell you, but you wouldn't know it in Houston.











Saturday, October 24, 2015

1933 Party

It's raining all over Texas, filling the creeks and roads with flood waters.  After this storm passes, the broken rains of Patricia will follow.

It's inadvisable to be out in Austin at times like this.  Road deaths are constant and flash floods really are flash floods.  Several people still haven't been found after 40 feet of water came crashing down the Comal River last May, pulling vacation houses into the water and snapping 500 year old Cypresses in half.

Better to open the house to the wet, Bay area style fog, bake, embroider, and listen to hits of the 20s and 30s.







Saturday, September 19, 2015

Ruined by Jesus: The Trials of Estate Shopping

Estate sales can be awkward.  It's uncomfortable to paw through the belongings of someone's dead grandmother as the family watches, listlessly attaching price stickers to obsolete serveware and Porter Wagoner cassettes.

I'm hyper-aware of everything that's wrong within certain discomforting scenarios, so I kind of hate estate sales, but I also absolutely love them because they are treasure troves of amazing, mint vintage being sold for change by people who can't believe anyone would ever buy this shit.

Today I bought an armload of 1960s nightgowns, from the carefully handmade cotton variety to flouncy pink chiffon with embroidered rosettes, and even a buttery smooth nylon gown that clothiers stopped making 50 years ago because of their extreme flammability.  If you fell asleep with a cigarette in bed, as people were apparently wont to do regularly, you would be quickly engulfed in flames in one of these gowns.  And now I have one of my own!

This was excellent luck, as I've recently become interested in vintage nightgowns and have wasted endless time searching the internet for new pieces made in antique patterns of the Edwardian and Georgian variety.  Let me save some time for you: THEY'RE NOT OUT THERE.  So this dearly departed old Texas woman has saved the day for me, although she's lent me an evening fashion that is less Lady Mary and more Priscilla Presley.  I'm ok with it.

It felt so strange and wrong to be standing in another woman's closet, shrewdly inspecting the state of her clothes, holding things up to myself, and debating on whether I could pull off her things even in jest.  I know she was very old because she had a large collection of hats and gloves, and not only that, she kept them.  She had polyester pantsuits, pencil skirts cut to a 1950s length, chiffon and silk scarves, and dressing gowns with matching housecoats that were too old ladyish, even for me.  They made me recall my great-grandmother, old Italian mother Marian English, and her rigid observation of outdated fashion practices.  Curlers, nightgowns, polyester, and bags that matched your shoes.

My great-grandmother wore a nightgown to bed every night, and put a silk housecoat on over it if she was still up and about the house.  For years, I spent Friday nights at her house, and I remember when she tried to give me a nightgown and housecoat of my own.  I was around 10 years old, and this was too much for me to handle.  We had clashed many times as persons of different eras, and with a diplomacy reserved only for her, I'd usually back down.  I'd eat her bran muffins instead of doughnuts and let her serve me a bowl of frozen grapes as a "treat" instead of candy.  I'd let her listen to Dr. Bob Martin at a deafening volume all day on the radio without complaint.  I followed her instructions on etiquette when it came to answering the phone.  I'd let her force me to wash my face at night even though I for some reason hated to do it, but the nightgown was where I put my foot down.

I looked at this thing made of slimy pink satin, tattered and moth eaten from literal decades of wear, and threw a fit.  I couldn't stand the sight of myself in it.  Something about it repelled me.  It was the opposite of the image I wanted, and I cringed at the thought of my friends somehow seeing me in it.  This went on for a few weeks until she couldn't take it anymore and doubled down on me: I could not wear my dirty clothes to bed on her watch.  I gave in and put it on.  She handed me the matching housecoat - another layer, this time of lace, with floppy rosettes sewn to all the edges.  She had won.

Today's old Texan grandmother also had linens for me, which I purchased for impending projects, a collection of stories by Dashiell Hammett, and various pieces of Limoges porcelain dishes.  She had a collection of dish cloths from the 70s, which I loved, until I unfolded them and found they were all covered with religious art.  More perfectly fine items ruined by Jesus!  The perils of estate shopping in the bible belt.

The grizzly old guy at the cashbox reviewed my items, shaking the nighties and the linens out one by one, and leveled a googly eye at me: You want all this stuff?  Yeah! I shouted defensively.  He laughed and said, "Uh, five bucks I guess."  He doesn't know what a pink chiffon nightgown goes for on Etsy.