I’m forever fascinated by the fringe, particularly the fringe of the 1960s and 1970s. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is required reading for any serious reader, but this is Thompson showing his ability to create order despite his MO as one of the chief agents of literary chaos. I was sort of shocked at how formal and structured this book was - Raoul Duke was only a glimmer in Thompson’s eye when this was published in 1966 - and how much Thompson wants to show he’s not quite one of the savages…yet. References to his own drug use are kept coy, and the prose features footnotes Kudos to him for presenting such an even picture of the Hell’s Angels - there’s plenty to loathe about them, and this is far from a glamorous portrait of some stylish outlaws. Instead, it’s about outcasts who’ve found brotherhood on a bike, the one thing in their shitty lives that allows for a moment of freedom, release. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for? Some of the Angels are decent, some aren’t. Some live up to their raping and pillaging hype, others have kids and work on assembly lines. I found, duh, the exploration of Hell’s Angels female hierarchy (mamas, old ladies, etc.) to be most fascinating, and you’ve got have a bit of grudging respect for dudes willing to signify their willingness to perform cunnilingus on a menstruating woman with a pair of Red Wings. I look forward to continuing to work my way through the Gonzo cannon - Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72 is next for me.
I try to be positive. Really, I do, despite any amount of snarking. But this year has put me (and Jack) through the wringer in ways I never thought possible. Let’s take a look, from minor to major, at the last six months:
3 months of unemployment followed by shitty jobs
Summer in LA with no AC
Multiple stomach flus + a regular flu
Month-long pregnancy scare (PHEW)
Multiple parking tickets + a flat in the middle of the canyons aka nowhere
Jack spending an entire month on graveyards
Mildew infestation of apartment
Roach infestation of apartment
2 dead relatives + another in the hospital
Broken bed + infested coffee table
No Suicide Girls job
Bed bug infestation of apartment
Landlords now telling me I owe them $750 when they in fact owe me $750, despite my proof
IT HAS TO GET BETTER, RIGHT? I’m on day 11 of the current sickness, and the last two items are lingering. I’ve decided to start laughing about this madness because I’m tired of crying. In the eternally wise words of blink-182, I guess this is growing up.
Ah, alas, alack - another brief digression into the land of what the fuck am I doing with my life and what the fuck is my life doing with me. Mentally, I’ve been doing a bit better, despite a lot of not so great things going on.
My maternal grandmother, Mary Alice, has been in and out of hospitals since visiting with my family in October. Her health problems are exacerbated by her mental ones: we’ve been through this before, when I was a freshman in high school. She would neither eat nor drink, nor allow any light to fall on her, convinced of her imminent death. My mother and uncle took turns dealing with these massive, massive swings of anxiety. She comes from the school of four Valium a day housewifery school, and her fixation on an inability to swallow is particularly curious - part of me wonders, sadly and with disturbing pause, if she wasn’t forced into some sort of sexual trauma there. She has good days and bad - tomorrow she gets her pacemaker battery replaced, and I’m hoping all goes smoothly. No one wants to admit that even as a tough old broad of an 85 year-old, she’s still 85. My poor Memaw. I’m looking forward to eating Graeter’s with her at the end of the month.
There have been two deaths in the past month - my cousin, Mike Drake, and my great-uncle, Arley “Eugene” Cotton. I wasn’t particularly close to either of them, but I certainly absorbed the ripple effect through my family. Mike Drake was stricken by brain cancer just before Christmas, and lasted barely until Valentine’s Day. A devout Catholic, who gave his life to the church, and what did it get him? Three sons without a dad, a wife without a husband, and grandchildren that will never know their grandfather. What good does a life of abstinence do when death comes for us all? Uncle Gene had been on a slow, steady health decline for the last decade - not so surprising when you remember he’d been a smoker since childhood and not seen a doctor in forty years. I saw him at Christmas, and he looked to be more than ready to shake off this mortal coil. His son, Randy, (a damn fine marijuana grower) gave excellent care to the bitter end, and I was sad not so much for the loss of his life, as no one wants to see suffering, but for the loss his life’s end created for my father and my grandmother and aunt. We’re such a small family on both sides, these deaths are acutely felt. Both men were blessed to be surrounded by love as they parted ways with this world, and one could argue til blue in the face over whether a quick death like Mike’s or a slow one like Eugene’s is more preferable, but both paid the ferryman.
I wish I could have been home for these events. It’s unrealistic to think I could make it home for every major event, but still, I wish I could be there to lend support to my parents especially. One of the best things about being an only child is that as you age, you become a peer to your family, not just their child.
Part of the reason my mental state has been better is that I’ve been doing my daily diligence on the job front: scanning Craigslist, Idealist, and Entertainment Careers once in the morning, once at night. This way, at least, I can’t be mad at myself for not trying my damnest to get out of education. When I found an entry-level position doing social media for Suicide Girls, I was ecstatic. I applied, and was brought in for an interview the next day. It felt right - the day of the interview, my hair was great, the weather was beautiful, and I got to walk through Hollywood on the way fantasizing about the ways I would spend my first full-time paycheck. My anxiety grew upon entering the very warm office, and seeing the staff - unsurprisingly, they all looked the part. Being fat in LA is a major detriment to industry jobs, plain and simple. But what the hey - I certainly wasn’t about to be deterred. The interview went well: met the co-founder, made them laugh talking about Real Sex, etc. etc. I was thrilled when then sent me a follow-up challenge to choose five SFW photos from the site and write Facebook captions to direct traffic back to their main site. I was proud of the copy I wrote and the diversity of the photos I chose. I thanked them profusely, they said they get to me by early last week. And I waited. And waited. Called in good karma from friends and family. By Wednesday, nearly all the wind had gone out of my sails, and I had been woken up by news of Gene’s death. My students were the worst they’ve ever been, and in a spare moment, I checked e-mail to find that, yes, of course, they had chosen a more qualified candidate. I really, really wanted this job and can’t shake the nagging feeling that my appearance not my personality or qualifications, kept me from getting it.
I’ve been trying to push it out of my mind since then, but goddamn, can’t a girl get one fucking break? I’m nearing 200 job applications sent in the past year, have gone on about a dozen interviews, and all I have to show for it is a 20-hour a week job, that after rent and bills, leaves me with $100 a week to live on in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I am SO thankful to have any job, do not mistake me, but this financial strain is really driving me mad. Our friends are leaving, have left, jumped ship and that’s terrifying. I squandered so much loan money on stupid shit, forgotten pieces of Forever 21 junk and second drinks I didn’t even want in Chicago. I’m constantly stressed about money, as is Jack. We’re trying really, really hard, and it isn’t enough. Our lease ends May 1, which means a move to a safer neighborhood, a bigger place, but already I’m freaking out about summer employment (I can work for my current employer, but I fear my hours will be greatly reduced) and increased rent. Stress is manifesting itself now as illness, my second bout in three weeks. I’m on my third missed day of work, still full of fever and hacking my damn lungs out. Jack got food poisoning this weekend as well, and we’re fairly convinced the universe in conspiring against us.
I get it: LA is a tough city. The job market is shit. No one wants to hire twentysomethings. Pull up by our bootstraps, blah blah blah. I do think I’ve moved past anger and have found myself laughing at how tough things are more than crying about them, a healthy step I suppose. Letting go will hopefully lead to some better news on the horizon. I’ve been mad at myself for some empathy issues - I’m just having a really hard time feeling sympathy for people who still live at home, or live on total financial assistance from their families. It’s less about the money and more about the mindset: my old boss had a mantra that being broke isn’t about deprivation, it’s about isolation. I just can’t find a lot of sympathy for people who don’t have to buy their own groceries or can go buy half of Target’s spring collection without consequence. I am truly lucky to have a partner to keep that isolation from making me go totally mad, but we both find ourselves asking the universe what exactly it is we’ve done to keep us from catching even a tiny break - a finished piece of writing we like, a free couch, a month without sickness, etc.
There is something freeing in letting go, realizing that I’m going to be put through the ringer until the exact moment I’m not, and then, there will be another ringer to be put through. My number one goal right now is some bit of financial and job improvement, and I’m doing all I can do on that front, plain and simple. Another major goal I have is to learn how to drive (yes, I know, shut up) something I want to do this summer. We’ve been doing much better with eating, and I’ve lost some of the pounds that were making me uncomfortable, and eating better is improving my overall state of mind. More yoga is next on the docket, and more crafts, like those badass loteria cards I made this weekend. I’m on my fifth book of 2013. And I’m writing here, again, finally. It may not be screenplays, but it’s something and I can be proud of that. Things will improve. I know this much is true.
- 12 months ago
Babea Majora(s): Tattoo Edition
I’d very much like to get more tattoos, but if I’ve realized anything in my 2+ years since being tattooed last, it’s that waiting for a great artist to give you a great tattoo is worth it. I can’t afford the caliber of tattoo I’d like right now, so in the meantime, I’m drooling over the incredible work by these women. It’s also given me time to think about what I want: color, women, floral, kitsch. In order, of course, all credit where credit is due:
Lauren Winzer: http://www.laurenwinzer.com/
Virginia Elwood: http://www.virginiaelwood.com/
Esther Garcia: http://butterfatstudios.com/home.html
Mez Love: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mezdeathhead/ - This tattoo belongs to my friend Samantha, and is the most incredible tattoo I’ve ever seen in person. I WILL get my Mucha Medea from this woman.
Briana Sargent: http://www.bujutattoo.com/
Alice Carrier: http://www.alicecarrier.com/index.html
- 1 year ago
I hate to just be like “DAMN THAT ASS” but sometimes you gotta do it. Gina Torres, a badass babe with a cool husband, Laurence Fishburne. Please put her in more stuff, yeah.
- 1 year ago
Babea Majora: Allison Anders
I’ll spare you the long post about inequality in the world of film when it comes to gender and people and instead, focus on a woman who’s been fighting the good fight for over twenty-five years. Ex-girlfriend of Quentin Tarantino and John Taylor, MacArthur Genius grant recipient, and single mother who put herself through graduate school, Allison Anders is cool no matter how you slice it. Oh, and her films are some of the most underrated pieces of film in the last few decades. As far as female filmmakers that inspire me, Anders and Lynne Ramsay are my twin peaks of auteurism with bitchin’ soundtracks.
Border Radio, her debut with longtime collaborator Kurt Voss, while messy in some stretches, has all the promise you could hope for from a first feature. It very much feels like a companion to Stranger Than Paradise, just with a better soundtrack. There are many small, great moments in this film, and the black and white cinematography places you in the ramshackle of these people’s lives. Criterion released a sexy disc of this - I wish they’d only rescue some of Anders’ larger filmography.
Then we come to Gas Food Lodging which is about as perfect of a character study of three women as we’re ever likely to see. In this film, the sensuality of Anders’ work - the feel of a vintage dress, the shine of a rock in the desert, the dustiness of a trailer park dining room - really begins coming into its own. Sensuality is perhaps the only thing I’ll ever designate as something done better or more exclusively by women than male filmmakers - this isn’t to say male filmmakers don’t do it, but it is certainly easier to find in women-made work. Fairuza Balk, Ione Skye, and Brooke Adams turn in great, lived-in performances here, and I love that despite being a loving family unit of independent women, that doesn’t mean they like or even tolerate each other most of the time. This is rightly Anders’ most celebrated film, and essential viewing as part of the 90’s independent film boom. Criminally out of print, I stress seeking this one out at all costs, especially for its heartbreaking final reveal. Plus the score is by longtime Anders collaborator and Dinosaur Jr. frontman, J. Mascis.
Mi Vida Loca took on a personal resonance for me after moving to the Pico-Union neighborhood of LA, an area not far removed from the Latina girl gangs of Echo Park in the 90s. Very much of the same behavior and rituals still continue, and you can tell Anders was no bullshit when chronicling the lives of these women - she cast real women from the area, and one died, she adopted her son. Like GFL, this film has a real lived in quality and finds profundity in the day to day of the lives of these unique women. And there’s a great lost AM radio track, “Girls, It Ain’t Easy” to end the film.
Anders did contribute a segment, “The Missing Ingredient” to the much-maligned 90’s anthology Four Rooms. There isn’t much to say here as all of the segments in Four Rooms feel a bit half-baked, but Anders’ tale of witches certainly provides some laughs, and teams her back up with Ione Skye (and Madonna!).
The other stone-cold classic in the Anders filmography is the Martin-Scorsese produced Grace of My Heart, which should be a cult favorite by now. Following the rise and fall of a Carole King-esque singer songwriter from Brill Building hit machine through to the deeply personal seventies chanteuse, Illeana Douglas is excellent in a rare leading role. The rest of the cast - Matt Dillon, Eric Stoltz, Patsy Kensit - are great as well, and the deep love and affection Anders has for female singer-songwriters resonates throughout. I don’t understand why this film isn’t loved - stellar, awards worthy lead performance as well as strong supporting turns, a pastiche of the greatest era for American music (with of course a great soundtrack, duh), impressive period details on only a $5 million budget, and another wholly empowering story about an imperfect woman trying her best. The lack of love for this film is especially devastating when you consider that it lost a lot of money, and probably cost Anders her shot at the big time. PLEASE RESTORE THIS FILM’S REPUTATION, MARTY.
On the other side of the music coin is Sugar Town, a look at fading musicians (John Doe of X, John Taylor of Duran Duran, Martin Kemp of Spandau Ballet, Michael Des Barres of Silverhead) getting the band back together in LA. Only since moving here have I understood the attention to detail in this film, the vibe of aging creatives nailed so well - Doe’s home in the Canyons with a hippie wife, Des Barres’ reluctance to sleep with a woman his own age. Again, this film works because of small, sensual moments and great performances.
The last film Anders made that truly feels like her own (aside from some of the better Sex and the City episodes as well as a few other TV gigs and Strutter, which I have not seen) is Things Behind the Sun. This is perhaps the most dramatic of Anders’s film, and certainly features some of the most harrowing work she’s ever done. Kim Dickens (Deadwood, represent!) turns in an outstanding performance (ya think maybe Anders has a knack for directing actors?) as a perma-drunk, destructive club singer who finds her life scrutinized after recording a hit about her own rape. This becomes complicated when a music journalist (Gabriel Mann, understated and excellent) investigating her case ends up knowing more about her than he initially thought. There’s some very tough to watch rape content in this film, but it feels like a much more thoughtful portrayal of survivor’s guilt than most sexual abuse narratives.
I love Allison Anders - she’s one of the few filmmakers I can look at and say “shit, I wish I made this movie”, which for me, is the highest praise. Her intersections of femininity, music, and film are exactly the sort of thing I love most and find inspirational. These are precisely the sort of films we’ve forgotten about making. You can find her on Twitter (@MsAllisonAnders) or here at Tumblr, where she blogs about gems from Greta Garbo’s record collection, which she owns. And, she’s working on a June Carter Cash biopic for Lifetime in addition to teaching sometimes at UCLA, yay!
Allison Anders, our very first Babea Majora.