Friday, May 30, 2014

Will never get over it.

My dead gothic vampire wolf boyfriend was a feminist.

Every year, sometimes more than once per year, I remember that Peter Steele is dead.  This is still pretty hard for me to accept, and I generally mark these occasions by watching a million live shows and interviews on Youtube, and feeling very sad, then feeling ridiculous for feeling sad, while still feeling sad. 

This year, I was joined by my jewelry bff, with whom I spent all of this week's idle hours at work discussing the matter at length.  I think we are probably friends because of Type O Negative, in fact.
Soon after meeting in a jewelry class, she showed me a keychain or pendant or something that she had made.  "Looks like the Type O Negative logo," I said, instantly regretting my comment.  My foreverlove for this band isn't really something I bring up in mixed company, because most of the people one meets while out of the house in this town have a "Rascal Flatts" air freshener hanging from their rearview mirrors.  Those who do know the band instantly call my taste credentials into question.

Worn constantly in the 90s and never again. I keep it with the clothes I wear regularly, though.
Mock all you want, jerks.  DGAF

"It is the Type O Negative logo," she said.  I raised one eyebrow.  We were now besties.

So anyway, in trawling interviews this week, I noted how remarkably without prejudicial hangup Peter seemed to be.  Believe it or not, a 6'8 white guy with a Brooklyn accent who fronts a doom metal band is fed a lot of baiting questions by music journalists, trying to lead him into representing the cliched mentality of many of the genre's fans.  He batted each of these questions away with bored yet witty answers that would have made any one of today's contributors to give a reply of, not bad.

Despite insisting that he hated everyone equally, Peter kind of sounds like a third wave feminist to me.  Labels are offensive to everyone, and I wouldn't go around re-casting a dead person's values to better suit my own, but it's true and you should know it.

In one early interview, he was asked about the recent national criminalization of marital rape (1993).  Obviously, it was a leading question intended to elicit a controversial reply re: marital rape isn't real rape, that you somehow forfeit sexual sovereignty when you marry (if you're a woman), or whatever stupid ass opinion stupid frightened men were having at the time.  He instantly rejected this position and instead talked at length about consent, the lack of which was completely unacceptable to him.  I don't think I can over-emphasize how unusual his approaches to topics concerning women were for his lifestyle and surroundings at the time, not to mention the fact that there was no mainstream outlet for feminist thought at the time that could have influenced him - he was influenced by his lifelong positive, supportive or familial relationships with women.  He may not have described the issue in the way that I would have, but the message was the same.  Certainly not what that two-bit music journalist was expecting to hear, no doubt.

He was accused of misogyny, and rightly so, in response to the band's first album.  The songs are frantically angry, all written about and immediately following a breakup, and the music sounds like 80s hardcore.  I bought the album as a young teen and pretty much instantly threw it out a window.  It was not the band I knew from the super baroque and atmospheric Bloody Kisses album.  Peter took a lot of heat for the lyrics on this album, again rightly so, but I believe his explanations when he says he was a very angry, very young and emotionally shattered person at the time of the writing.  Additionally, the songs were not written for an album.  They were demos that he had made for himself which were made into a record in a very questionable move by the record company.

Believe me, I almost never accept the inevitable excuses when a guy is accused of misogyny.  Rarely do these characterizations result from misunderstandings - many men express themselves expecting the support and lauding that they've received all their lives, and when they get busted for crossing the current societal boundary line of acceptability, it's all a big misunderstanding, no one has a sense of humor, it's a witch hunt, they're being discriminated against, and all of the other tearful protestations regular white guys get up to every time they get into trouble.

But I believe Peter.  And not because I love him.  I believe him because everything he said from the beginning of his career to the painful end was almost confrontationally authentic.  At the height of his career, he discussed his fear and insecurity, his self-loathing, his suspicious feelings about praise, and all of the other issues that people of his particular emotional constitution feel on a daily basis.  When asked about how he got into bodybuilding, he says flat out, it's vanity and insecurity.  He thought he was unattractive and that his considerable height made him look ridiculous, and he did what many young men do in response: worked the hell out.  People rarely admit that kind of shit, particularly not when someone is writing it down.  When he became a sex symbol among female fans, many of whom rabidly pursued him in person, he said, "What's wrong with you? I'm just another asshole in a band."  He openly discussed his drug addiction and subsequent destruction late in his career, and it is heartbreaking to watch.  Aged beyond his years, these interviews show a frightened and gaunt-faced man discussing the bitter experiences he had in the penal and institutional asylum systems as a result of his addictions.  His eyes were wild, his teeth were rotten, and he could have walked through a crowd of his own fans without being recognized.  That is, if he hadn't still been the size of Andre the Giant, with hair down his back like the metal version of Marius the vampire.  (Anne Rice, fool! It's goth night)

His bandmates and family say that he was finally clean and reasonably happy or hopeful when he died.  His cause of death was aortic aneurysm, a breach resulting from the weakening of the walls of the aorta - an ironic, fairly common malady among recently rehabilitated long-term addicts.  It's a fast death following a very long one.

If I misrepresented him when talking about his openness about his discomfort with life, it's because I didn't mention that he normally expressed this with a black, rapier wit.  He slipped dark jokes into his conversation constantly, sometimes absurd one-liners, and sometimes subtle, razor-thin remarks that only revealed themselves when one started to bleed.  He seemed to enjoy expressing his frustrations and troubles comedically, and he was very, very funny - but then, his brand of bleak wit is just the kind I like, just the kind I am attuned to look for, one that we all possess in some way but that few are able to hone.

Plus he was hot.

The end.

Scraggly, early 80s, Carnivore-era, cartoonishly adorable.  Fascinating for the Brooklyn street scene, too.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tile Parade

I started a new tumblr about vintage tile.

I'm not generally looking for tile in my day to day life, but when I see it, I remember how strongly I feel about it.  Tile may very well be my number one concern when house/apartment hunting, aside from obvious things like structural integrity, air conditioning, and a dishwasher - one thing that is never guaranteed in a historic house.

Other people seem to think that caring about antique tile is a strange and trifling dissipation, or at the very least something that should be left in the hands of middle aged gays, but that's because other people are tasteless fools who own suede furniture and don't know why.

The address is after Charles Lamb's "Old China," because it is relevant and because I am a pretentious fancyperson.  Get over it.

I kind of figured that tumblr would end up being full of pictures of bathrooms, but I'm way more interested in that old subway tile.  It's so fucking DAZZLING!  Especially when it's all dirty and forgotten and maybe halfway covered with new construction, and finding it feels adventurous and like looking through a grimy peephole directly into the past.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mommie Dearest

I watched Mommie Dearest for the first time in my life recently. My main question was,

Why would Faye Dunaway do this?

All the Hollywood Babylon types despise Christina Crawford and reject she and her book as lies, but in the interest of fairness, I decided to research (Google for 10 min) this matter.  There are quite a few people, all as credible as the deniers, who agree that the kids did seem to be receiving some kind of abuse, and that Joan was, at the very least, unusually strict.  Her drinking was also completely out of control while her children were young.  Christopher Crawford always backed his sister up, while the younger two (four adopted children in total), twins Cindy and Cathy, have staunchly denied all allegations of abuse, even in the decades following JC's death.

I think the youngest two not only benefited from not being the first drafts of Joan's motherhood, but they also saw the frightening dynamic between Joan and X-tina and probably learned how better to deal with their mother.

Even if she wasn't really waking them up in the night to beat them with cans of Comet or, you know, strangling them, Joan's mothering skills still seem to have failed.  All of her children grew up to be unhappy underachievers with emotional problems, and they all seem to have reverted right back to poverty after her death.  Her estate was pretty small, at only $2m, and even the "good kids" only received inheritances of <$80k.

The movie is a camp classic now, but it wasn't really intended to be, which is why I wonder why they picked such creepy actresses to play Christina.  Both the child and teenaged actresses are strange, dead-eyed white blond things that make me think of those Fortean Times stories of black-eyed zombie children who kill people.  Even though her character is clearly being mistreated, the kid's creepy expressions and staring eyes don't stir a ton of pity. 

But seriously, even to non-fans of Joan's (I'm still not sure), this movie's bullshit is visible to the naked eye, and it lies by omission all over the place.  In the movie, it's implied that Christina wrote the nasty old book because her bitch mother left her with nothing at her death, but in reality, she was already writing the book, and it's reasonably likely that Joan knew, hence the expulsion.  Oh what she and BD Hyman couldn't talk about.

Just two regular gals

I used to think of my stepmother as a Mommie Dearest type.  No one had ever given me rules before my dad married her, and all of a sudden, I had this grown woman following me around, commenting on my behavior, and forcing me to adjust it.  I was horrified.  Looking back, I wonder how different I would be now if she had not been around.  I suspect I'd be messier, and I probably wouldn't notice the dog-like eating habits of other people.  In short, life would be easier.

She made me eat all meals at a fully set dining room table instead of on the floor in front of the tv.  Additionally, I had to eat all of the food I was served, something that felt like abuse when the meal was a giant bowl of navy beans and ham, like we were some wartime military regiment eating for energy and sustenance only.  I tried everything not to eat that (generalized anger about legumes continues into adulthood), and there were times when I was forced to sit alone at the table staring at the food I couldn't eat, but unlike Joan, she didn't make me sleep with the food in my room or eat it the next morning.  I had to keep arms off the table, chew with my mouth closed, never drag my fork on my teeth and keep the sound of silverware clinking against plates and bowls to a minimum.  Next, I had to shower.  I was seven years old and despised bathing.  As children are wont to do, I would take much more time in trying to deceive her than just taking the shower would have.  Eventually I gave in and got used to being clean.  I also had to dust all the wood furniture on the weekends, which she would check afterwards, usually ordering me to re-do it for unacceptable work quality.

My stepmother was irritable and prone to moods, like Joan.  Like Joan, she was vain, and her young prettiness had changed into a sort of severe, angular handsomeness with age, all heavy eyebrows and long acrylic nails.  She really was a sort of middle class Mommie Dearest, sans violence.

Oh, and.  She went to therapy to deal with childhood feelings of abandonment, as her parents had pretty much left them to themselves at a young age.  The therapist's recommendation was for her to engage in the activities that a child would, to nurture her inner child.  She also had to call the child by name, to differentiate from her adult self.  Thus "Little Nancy" came into our house, and she bought toys, crayons and coloring books for "her," all of which I was strictly forbidden to use.  Although I was still very young, I thought this was bullshit and couldn't believe I was not allowed to play with those things despite being the only person in the house, Little Nancy included, who wanted to.

I'd write a tell-all about her, but I guess I just did.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Too Much/Not Enough Information: Complaints

Why is it so hard to maintain an appropriate amount of information on anything in particular?  I'm living a life in which I know way too much about people I don't care about, yet I am not quite sure if my dad is married or not.  This lack of clarity can only be expressed in .gif form.

I'm frustrated because I'm trying to finish my research on my diarist, Anna.  What I need, and all I could really hope to acquire in this type of case, is her obituary.  I know her birth year, birth location, and probable location of death, which SHOULD make finding the obit fairly easy, and yet I have nothing.

Corresponding with her nephew's wife was not as fruitful as I had hoped it would be.  Once she decided that I wasn't of much use to her for her own genealogical needs, she blew me off.  SUCH TYPICAL.  I did learn that Anna remarried someone named Charles "Chick" Davis, that she was living in Phoenix at least in the late 60s, and that her daughter married a doctor, which is why I can't find her by her maiden name.  She did send a picture of Anna, though, which was worth a million dollars to me. has a social security death index entry for an Anne C. Davis (could easily be my Anna H. C. Davis), who died in Maricopa County in 1996.  None of our online newspaper databases have a corresponding obituary, however.  I think that means I have to drag myself into our disgusting main library and look at the microfiche.  Seriously, navigating through that place reminds me of the old Simpsons Nintendo game.  End of analogy.

If I can find the obituary, then it might include the married name of her daughter Colleen, which might allow me to locate her now.  But if I have to search in the microfiche, then I have to look at every paper from that year.  Because all I have is the year.  Do obituaries only come out on Sundays?  I need to locate someone who reads actual newspapers and ask them.  Looking at microfiche is incredibly tedious even when you know exactly where you're going, so I expect that looking at all of the obituary pages for all of the papers in an entire year would take months, at least.  And I'm not even sure I have the right year.  Those death indexes are often slightly off, and that might not even be my Anna.

It might be easier to apply for a copy of her death certificate with vital records first just to be sure I have the right date, but they are somewhat tough customers at that office when it comes to handing shit over to non-relatives.

I wonder, if I found everything I needed and then located the daughter, if she would want the book.  What if she packed the diary with a bunch of other Goodwill stuff because she hated her mother?

And yes, I could just ask my dad if he married his longterm banshee (actually, I have called her La Llorona for years), but he can be oddly secretive, and if he didn't tell me, then perhaps he doesn't want me to know for some reason that I suppose I will respect.  He hasn't told anyone.  He informed my uncle that he was considering doing it, then never followed up or announced anything.  I only know because my uncle told my cousin, who told me.  I assume they probably did marry because they each wear a matching Harley Davidson ring (real cool, guys) on their ring fingers.  Dweadful.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

C. Hitchens

Speaking of Hitch, I read this today and it was like a simultaneous punch to the gut and flying fist pump into the sky.

While dying of cancer, he addresses rumors and jokes made by his detractors about a possible imminent conversion to religion: "If I convert, it's because it's better that a believer dies than that an atheist does."
Christopher Hitchens

This made me want to scream and clap like a baby.  Why?  Because no one is ever unapologetic or relentless or consistent when it matters.  Because so many truths are blurred, diluted and softened in worried anticipation of interpersonal conflict.  WHO CARES.

All of the time that is spent pussyfooting and apology-making for offending the religious has become imperceptible (and therefore, undiscussed) to the American because it is so ubiquitous that it's become the baseline, the very atmosphere.

This courtesy is, of course, never extended to the other extremist religious groups, and certainly not to the unreligious.  This is like a one-sided moral relativism that, when you think about it, is wildly ironic considering the fact that most Christians believe in a sort of bastardized moral universality, that is, that there is one generally correct way to live, regardless of your circumstance or culture.  That the religious right are allowed to run roughshod over laws and freedoms is a result of constantly applied moral relativity or misplaced tolerance. What these groups do is often wrong by western moral standards, and frequently by our laws too, but it is continually allowed because somehow (not somehow - through tradition, corruption, and the ravages of a flagging economy and poverty on society), the religious freedoms of one group have become more important than the legal freedoms of all.

I think this happens in part because non-believers can't let go of their rote understanding of what tolerance means, furthering the irony in that intolerant groups become overly protected by the concept.  That inability to reinterpret rigid definitions is the downfall of both the religious and the non-religious.

That's why I love the Hitchensian manner so much.