July 22, 2010
posted by caroline picard
This week has been a busy week. Last week we more or less gave up on the Milwaukee/California space that seemed to be a good solution to the permenant space conundrum. For a variety of reasons, it would have been fantastic. Yet, like most of the properties that I would be able to afford, it too is riddled with practical snares, what is primarily–in this case–a result of the current owner facing a significant amount of debt. The last place we were looking at seriously was a foreculosure, which ended up having structural problems. Both buildings were also condos, something I’ve come to be additionally nervous about because as a condo owner (particular a business-condo owner) my interests would be signigicantly different from my fellow condo-owners. Nevertheless, with regard to that question (and even though I’ve come across purists who swear one should never get involved with a condo) I can’t help falling back on the idea that a large population of Americans are invested in condo-associations and, based on an overall sense that the world of home ownership seems to function (outside of the credit/debt horror show we just went through), condo associations, for the most part, seem to work.
I’ve similar sense about liquor licensing. There seem to be two schools of thought–at least those that I’ve encountered. There are the bar owners who, havings started their own bar, swear that the reciept of said license was more or less an act of god and something not to be counted on. After those conversations I’ve assumed the most reasonable course of action would be to assume an existing business with an existing license. Yet, when I talk to the more shiny people, those who wear suits and operate with what seems a curious power at City Hall, they seem confident that under their guidance and with their connections a liquor license could be procured easily. It is the discrepancy in accounts that I find curious. Meantime the websites are of little help, for they convey knowledge in bulleted consumer-friendly points which, to my mind, does not admit the various floors and offices that City Hall can make you run between after waiting in various waiting rooms with Kafkaesque malaise.
It reminds me, when I started looking for a lawyer, I ended up sitting in a room with a fellow wearing a tropical tie. He told me that any client of his had access to his rolodex. Based on the visible pride on his face, his roster of connections boasted some exponentially large power. On the one hand, I’ve some quiet and unexplored expectation that Chicago works that way. In other words, there was something compelling about his offer. At the same time, I couldn’t help feel like signing up for that kind of help would involve other compromises. For instance, he seemed like the sort of man who might slap you on the butt before putting you in a cab at the end of a lunch meeting. It was also funny because he had already googled me and started trying to talk about thee Iran Contras–an (arguably) inappropriate/irreverant improvisational rock band I’ve been in for the last several years. (My current fantasy–which I’ve been surprised none of my bandmates have gone for–is to make up the soundtrack for the forthcoming Catcher in the Rye movie.) He admitted to googling me. Which I also thought was funny. At any rate, I left that meeting and never saw him again. After all, there are other ways of doing things.
At any rate.
The search continues. It’s fascinating learning all this stuff. It also feels kind of mystical in a funny way–like each time I hear about a property that sounds like it’s going to work, I feel like I’m excited in a first-blind-date kind of way. Which I both indulge and make fun of myself for.
One of my authors told me to burn a mystical house candle.
And, in the interim, we’ll be in Ukrainian Villiage.
Which also made me happy.
posted & written by Caroline Picard
She drinks Carlo Rossi all the time. She isn’t an alcoholic but she admires the history of famous alcoholics and thus drinks as much as possible.
She has a chauwawa.
Because chauwawas are small they can’t process adrenalin very well. Because they are so small they are easily excited. Her chauwawa was always excited and the excitement sent him into regular epileptic fits. His eyes rolled back and he shook for 2-5 minutes a day.
The dog had a tattoo. She had the same tattoo. They each had dangerous body tattoos: an anklet of barbed wire that glistened in parts with blood. While the dog’s fur grew over the tattoo, it was enough for her to know the tattoo was there.
She faints when she sees blood and whenever she gets her period she faints. She only ever has sex when she’s wasted. She uses udder lotion on her hands as moisturizer and owns 10 different bottles of perfume; these she carries in a variety of different purses and by the end of each day she smells like an acidic vat of boiling carcinagenic flowers.
She’d never been to the gynecologist—not since she was 13 and her mom took her the first time. But since then, not at all. Not in 17 years. She avoided the whole thing entirely—drank an assortment of herbal teas instead.
Until she found a pamphlet about syphilis on the only empty seat on her commuter train.
Until she heard a story about boys who raced their STD crabs on This American Life.
Until she overheard people in the café discussing the percentage of urban men and women with herpes. The statistics were shockingly high.
And because she attributed great power to the Universe: its divine methodology, its tendency to communicate through coincidences, she understood the Universe was sending her a message.
At first she avoided it. Even though she was a terrible sleeper, she tried to sleep as much as possible.
Her antedote for sleepnessess, the only cure she’d found to have any affect, is a fantasy in which she imagined herself a pirate captain asleep in his quarters below deck. In the fantasy the captain spoons his pirate boy lover as the first mate steers the ship through the night.
When she couldn’t sleep she closed her eyes, imagined first the smell of wet wood, then the sound of the creaking boat, the rocking back and forth, the smell of salt against the small of her lover’s back, the pervasive damp, the clamminess of their legs entwined, his ponytail on her cheek, him snoring. Darkness.
Her imaginary lover wasn’t working anymore. She had to give in.
She made an appointment with the gynecologist’s office at last. In preparation she went to the store and bought a douche and, in the style of all procrastinators, douched herself with just enough time to get to the doctor’s office. Only she didn’t realize until she got out of the shower that the douche had sparkles in it—she’d bought a Glitter Douche. There were sparkles everywhere—all over the bathroom. All over her towel. All over her thighs, her knees, her calves, her toes. She wiped the tears from her face and flushed her eyes with glitter. She almost went back to bed.
But her dog had one of his fits and she drank some wine very quickly, put on some clothes and left wearing sunglasses.
When she got to the doctor’s office, she reclined on the long steel table, feet in the stirrups, she wore a paper shirt and when the doctor came in—a man—he quickly and efficiently lifted the shirt over her knees and sat down on a rolling stool.
She could feel his face between her legs. She held her breathe, listening as though she could hear the weight of his gaze. Her heart hammered in her chest. She hoped she wouldn’t urinate. The silence in the room endured longer than she felt she could stand, and she imagined the sparkles falling out and getting everywhere—all over the place, on the steel table, twinkling on her skin, glimmering under the hum of flourescent lights. She heard the doctor put on a pair of rubber gloves, snapping the wrists, his stool squeaked as he scooted in a little closer to her body. She felt the air change under the breeze of his motion. “Ooooh,” he said, peering under the paper shirt, she felt his breath on her thighs, she imagined all of the glitter, she felt sick, and all he said, real slow, self-satisfied and even, joyful, was “Faa-aantsie.”
It might as well have been love at first sight.
I keep all my records there
keep my 20’s folded inside the nether hair
the nether regions where no one can stare
at the risk of being arrested
o nature’s pocketbook
you’re so sweet
you’re so good to me
(i hate it when you bleed)
i have so many tender thoughts
although most of all you are my safe
i keep my treasures there
all my eggs
and all my jewel-ery
o nature’s pocketbook
o nature’s pocketbook
o nature’s pocketbook
my momma told me a story
when i was three
she said if you ever have a loose 20
and the cops come into the club
you can always hide it away
even if you’re naked
o nature’s pocketbook
o nature’s pocketbook
o nature’s pocketbook
What she didn’t know is that he had been through this before:
When he’d interned at a hospital in Baltimore. A prostitute came in with a bad case of the flu. She had no health insurance so she came into the ER and they figured they might as well check her out.
The doctor sat down in front of the stirrups—she wore the paper gown and he was nervous, his teeth chattering.
She asked him at one point, “Hey, while you’re down there, will you see if you can find an extra twenty?”
“Excuse me?” Flustered and blushing, he stammered in an effort to rethink what she said and revise what he had heard.
“While you’re down there—I was in the club the other night and the cops came on a raid—well, you know what my momma always told me—if the cops come you can always put your cash in Nature’s Pocketbook.”
The doctor leaned into her abdomen. He could not see money. He reached inside of her with gloved hands. He could not feel any money either. He did feel something hard. Irregularly shaped. Inorganic. It was not supposed to be there. He pulled a little. It gave. He could not concieve of its shape but he discovered its bounds. After pressing on some giving part of the object, an electronic song whined inside of her womb, warbling and muffled in her fluids—the doctor had never before been so conscious of the space inside a woman. Pale confused and concentrated he eased the object out: a purple plastic moon, glittering, attached by a single wire to a purple plastic glitter star. The star had a little button on it. The moon had batteries inside. He accidentally pushed the button again and the insipid electronic song started a second time. This time louder. With a higher pitch.
He held the thing over his head between her knees so she could see. “Huh?” he asked, pointing. He shrugged.
“That’s my daughter’s Precious Princess Doorbell!” The woman exclaimed. She laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed.
Years later, the doctor thought himself more sophisticated, less insecure, more confident. He had delivered babies. He had not known, however, that they made Soap for Feminine Interior Spaces with glitter. He blinked. It was blinding. Like the vampires in Twilight she sparkled when she came to.
This time the doctor laughed.
And though they didn’t understand one another, nor would they ever, he did make her feel better about things and, ultimately, that’s all she needed.
posted & written by Caroline Picard
what follows is an excerpt from a publication we are putting together – a program – a zine – for saturday evening’s performance…..
A house with five rooms stood on Colonial Avenue. We loved this house. There first lived 15 people, both the old tennants and the new.
As the old tenants moved out, as some of the new found other lodging, there were in the end five tenants.
I went to this house every day to see my friends. My father had not allowed me to live there myself because I was a girl and they boys. While I observed his wishes, I was only in my dormitory room six hours a night, if that, while sleeping. A big house with tall ceilings, it was often cold—my friends did not like to turn on the heat. It felt like a hideout and anytime you went there someone would be doing something of interest. For instance, you could sit in the window in the kitchen and wait for Naked Neighbor to pass behind her window across the street. Or walk to the gas station to get potato chips. Or sit on the porch playing a memory game, or playing backgammon and betting with cigarettes.
Everywhere there were piles. Peter Speer made sure the house was more or less tidy. The way he tidied was by stacking the stray assortment of objects—books, sweaters, papers, socks etc., in piles. While papers and books could go in the same piles, articles of clothing became a separate pile. And while the articles of clothing pile went at the top of the stairs, for all inhabitants to sort through, the piles of papers and books were in different rooms of the house, depending on where the objects had been abandoned. There were also piles of salt and tobacco, primarily from Justin, who lived in a small walk-in-closet upstairs for a mere hundred dollars a month. Justin didn’t have a bed, but slept in a pile of clothes. He called it his nest. Because he did not have a proper room with proper furniture, most of the piles (justly or not) were attributed to him, as were the piles of salt and tobacco—as he had a habit of making his own cigarettes using a cigarette machine and the result was always a waylaid mess of stray tobacco. We also had many parties. During those parties I made myself useful and asked for money. It gave me the opportunity to talk to many people.
In all of this, life had a comfortable balance. It felt for a while that the planets were in alignment, as each participant in the collective friendship provided a comparable gravitational pull, such that, without having to do very much at all, we turned around one another with an inherant delight. No one at this time could grow facial hair.
Three years later, in September, we learned that the landlord would evict the house on Colonial Avenue in April of 2003. Starting in September he hired three men. Those men came to Colonial Avenue five days a week from seven in the morning until four at night. They made coffee in the kitchen and spent the rest of the afternoon downstairs in the basement where we recorded music.
Exactly what they accomplished remains a mystery. Sometimes they sawed things—as evidenced by the sound of metal teeth chewing through wood and the remaning piles of sawdust they left behind. Always the sawing was done in the morning. By noon, these gentlemen sat around on practice room beach chairs smoking cigarettes and swapping stories. Moving Peter’s recording equipment back and forth and around the room on incidental purpose.
Eventually one man, Able, started asking Lucas for change. Presumably a practical joke, Able would wait at the bottom of the stairs for Lucas to come groggily down into the world, into daylight.
Months later everyone moved out.—
What furniture wasn’t wanted was left at the landlord’s behest.
In the dead of night, same day, everyone came back with a mob. Some thirty students returned to Colonial Avenue for a party. The front door unlocked, much of the furniture still there, the crowd discovered Able on the couch in the living room watching television. Someone gave him a case of beer and at first he was quite pleased.
Until someone else threw a chair on the ground and stomped it.
Someone else began to beat a spoon against a plate.
Someone else through a couch out of the second story window.
Someone else punched a hole in the wall.
Someone else—the angry hippy no one knew very well—began shooting bottle rockets in the back yard.
It was a residential neighborhood.
Eventually the house was destroyed.
The police came. Upon their approach the angry hippy turned off all of the lights. People indoors hid as quickly as possible and when Able finally had to get up to open the door, the officer turned on the light. Immediately apparent, three people hid under the bare, broken, kitchen table as though there was a table cloth to hid beneath, another hid with legs peeking out from behind a corner chair in the living room. Another could be seen under the living room couch, still another frozen on the stairs as though in perfect camaflouge….
Upstairs in the attic closet I held my breath with six others, wondering at my folly. For certainly if the police came up this way, there would be no escape save through the window, which was precarious. I realized then that someone else was urinating.
The police did nothing, but say “Stay out of trouble. There have been some complaints.”
To which Able said, “Yes sir,” denying any knowledge of any bottle rockets whatever.
When we came down someone put a bat through the television screen.
The house is currently on the market for $850,000.
February 18, 2009
posted & written by Caroline Picard
Back in January, a lovely serial publication 33.3 opened itself up to submissions. I submitted something, which I’ve included here; while I knew it was long shot, I took such pleasure in the crafting of said piece that it became a worthy task in and of itself. There are a host of reasons why it would not be published in the stable of 33.3’s books – for instance, I am talking about a band that no one knows about, or the fact that I am proposing a band of which I am a part. I like to think, however, that it’s worth reading all the same, and perhaps for those same reasons. Like apartment galleries, small independent, raggedy-anne rock groups have cropped up all over the place. Like crab grass – and with the internet what it is, those same bands have managed to squeeze out the larger infrastructure of Sony and Virgin Records: bastions of an older music-business-archetype made of people who still hope to make money at what they do. The alternative route, the route of basement record labels, like small presses, like non-traditional art venues press out out the older infrastructure because not a single soul is doing it for any kind of profit. In fact, many of the gleaming xerox-copy bands that tour the country are going into debt – to buy the van, for instance. So. To that end, I supply my proposal, applaude 33.3 and the world at large for its astonishing self-sacrificing individuals who make such idiosyncractic practice reach any kind of audience whatever.
Many thanks, 33.3 for wading through the (likely five foot deep) spread of proposals.
33.3 Proposal : Thee Iran Contras: The Murderbirds : “s/t”
FROM THE SHADOW COMES THE MOUSTACHE
There was a point at which I became an adult. While hardly perceptible, the moment nevertheless passed, and I along with it so that at once I found myself on the other side of a bridge. It was as if I stood in a new country, for with this new footing, I saw, as they were, the old tropes I’d taken for granted in my youth.
I recalled an instant in Peter Pan. Like Wendy, we meet him chasing after his shadow—a naughty thing that seems to have run off without warning, presumably leaving Peter in an existential Purgatory. He chases his shadow into the room of a sleeping girl, Wendy. He wakes her up and eventually, she helps him sew his shadow to the tips of his feet; he will not lose his shadow again. It is fixed. In the film the scene is less than three minutes, the shadow more an excuse for the characters to meet than anything (it seemed to me before) of real significance. It is forgettable. At least it was to me at six, lying on the floor of our living room. As an adult, however, the scene has gathered potency and, to my mind, is one of the most revealing scenes in the whole tale.
Peter Pan is a boy who doesn’t have to grow up, lives in Never-Never Land as a leader of other like-minded boys. Locked in a state of self-imposed exile, the feral children must stay children in order to remain free from the trappings of the world. They cannot reach puberty. Consequently, Peter is asexual: his shadow has split away from him. It takes the enchantment of a young girl, herself on the cusp of puberty, to rouse Peter’s lust. Unknowingly, she calls the inkling of desire to the foreground of his consciousness, and with a tender skill and compassion, Wendy calls Peter back into the world of humanity. She brings him back into time.
I propose a book about The Murderbirds, an album recorded last summer in Oakland California, in the cottage of a carpenter who lives kitty-corner to a halfway house. As an infrequent triangle player, he hosted Thee Iran Contras for a weekend, disappointed when his guests refused the elaborate breakfasts he’d prepared, “Because they were afraid I’d ask them to pay for groceries,” he said, mournful.
I am in this band. I am the only girl, now woman—a tambourine player and, along with Ben Young, a singer. I was not, however, present this last recording.
My mother used to call the Contras my “lost boys.”
My brother, eight years older, has sustained an elusive suspicion for the seven years we’ve recorded together.
My sister, an opera singer, suffered when I told her I’d joined a band in college. I could tell she thought it would pass as a fad, but her anxiety increased as I regularly called home with news of new gigs, borrowing the banter of my bandmates and talking at length about our collective greatness. For her, the band represented the cruel potential of fate: to have passed her over so many time, despite rigorous training, to show me favor, the youngest sibling without an ounce of musical ability or training. When she and her husband came to a show, “Loft of Love” in 2002, I watched relief relax her face. Peter Heyneman, our loyal drummer, was beating a set of bandstand drums we’d found in the trash with fly swatters.
We have always been immensely pleased with style.
My boyfriends admitted outright disapproval.
Because, I suppose, they see the band as a threat of some kind. In fact the scenario is reversed. It was I who sustained an unconscious androgyny. Just as it was I who would never grow up. It is as if I flew into the house on Colonial Avenue in Annapolis Maryland, perched on the eaves and waited for one of the inhabitants to notice me. And when they did I tried to beat them up, and when they thought that was funny, we started playing music. Playing music grew me up.
You may want this to be a story about sex, but it is not. Or if it is, it is indirectly so, and perhaps in the way that all of life is about some combination of lust and a desire for intimacy, those inclinations are essentially pulled by another pole of simultaneous and unavoidable individualism. All blessings and curses at once. Therefore the book I propose is not a series of confessions by a 20-year-old virgin. Nor is it a host of sexual escapades that come of sleeping with bandmates. Rather, it is a piece about a boisterous enterpise, the mythos we created together, and how that funneled into the final making of The Murderbirds—what is the final album. It is about the responsibility we all have to make stories and independent culture. Through these people, I learned about happiness for the first time, and for the first time cherished my position as a woman among men.
Last August, Knoxville residents Ben and Tara Young came to California for the first time. Upon arriving, Ben (a liar) took his wife on a tour of the town, boasting his knowledge of the city. They ended up in the Tenderloin—what is probably the only sketchy neighborhood in San Francisco. There they were propositioned by their first transvestite and ate at a Chinese-vegetarian-cult restaurant.
The Murderbirds incorporates about half of the band. It is quieter than most of our albums and primarily acoustic. Ben Young sings about how terrifying California is with the other, traditionally less vocal members of the band. It’s a little anti-climactic, the anti-hero of albums.
Over the seven years that Thee Iran Contras have been recording, we have put out 22 albums. There are over 12 alleged members, 8 core members and at any given time as many as 3 of those core members might be missing. In each instance, and at variant locations from Maryland, to California, to Chicago to Tennessee, we make up songs in an improvised, collaborative fashion. Peter Speer, Moog player and Label, records each take, every failed attempt, and every bit of gold. He edits his favorite songs and releases albums. The band, in turn, memorizes the albums for later performances. Through this process, we have built a collective mythos, establishing along with it an exponential sense of meaning. In order to portray that, I would share some of the stories about the band members. Stories, which I believe, the public would like.
The book would feature an extended interview with Peter Speer, as well as short stories that interrupt an otherwise journalistic account of how The Murderbirds was recorded. Peter Speer runs a Xerox copy Colonial Recordings out of his basement in Brooklyn. His father and older sister regularly take him aside to suggest that he set the music aside, offering him Burberry coats and shiny shoes and Brylcream. They do not see the merit of his practice. Without it, however, we would have no stories. Peter Speer points to the substantive meaning behind such forgettables. We make meaning for ourselves. We make up songs about gnomes and men on stilts and sneaky fat and facial hair options. We can’t help it.
Human beings necessarily do this; we necessarily fall in love and bind ourselves to a variety of created fictions. To share these fictions is to create a family; it is an imperfect and vulgar family, certainly, but it is nevertheless a family. To document these efforts, to log them and reinforce them with public appearances is an act of defiance. It is an act of independence. Making music is not about being famous. It is about participating with humanity in one of the most basic ways we can. Just as independent presses are important bastions of alternative non-stream culture, so independent labels and music, the rough cuts and Xerox copies, express a different, non-commercial, value system. One that is dedicated to the present just as it is dedicated to philos.
Without this family, I would have lost something. I would not be the same sort of woman, but likely a woman inclined towards Sarah Jessica Parker feminism. Happily, I am one instead who believes in the emphatic and joyous shaking of fists. One who picks fights in the style of Baudelaire, with joy and mortality mixed up at once.
This is a band that, for all intents and purposes, ought not to be remembered. The music is ephemeral, the shows more about performance and, even, a fleeting kind of activism, than anything else. Bands like these are not supposed to go down in the canon of history. Rather, they are recalled through oral tales told by mothers, fathers, and grandparents in the late hours of the evening: the hours when the imaginations of children are most susceptible to fancy.
Bands like Thee Iran Contras celebrate a non-commercial camaraderie. I think you should accept this proposal because, the music industry is changing, and the old Sony and Oasis hogs are being forced to slow down their operations because the Internet has become a new site for small-time distribution. Colonial Records might not be the most famous independent label, but for that reason it is an example of something peculiar to our times. A book like this reminds everyone that music is worth making for its own sake, not for all the glossy photos one may or may not be exhibited in. There are no eating disorders in this story.
December 16, 2008
featuring the writing of Moshe Zvi Marvit from “Urbesque,” and all other music provided by Thee Iran Contras. this film was created by Caroline Picard