Thursday, February 25, 2010

Smash the clock that's ticking.

...because I'm drinking Black Russians. Not my usual drink. Funny. Why? Well, I had a hankrin' for something sweet and dark.

I played a long set at Toad, which I thought was one of my best. The weather's been really strange these days. If you didn't believe in global warming a couple years ago, I bet you do now. Cuz' it's just damn weird. Snow in Texas and Georgia. Torrential downpours in Boston. Lively stuff. The stuff of dreams. If you're talkin' the dreams of the frustrated. The dreams of those who think a lot, work a lot, and live hard, just a little, against their will.

I'm gonna miss this place. I'm going to move to Austin and be super lonely, all over again. Probably write a lot. That's good. It's hard to write or get anything done when you're working three jobs. That question arises once again: How did this happen?

"Dammit I miss you. I know you aren't in love with me anymore, but I just have to tell you I miss you. because I do. And because you changed my life. You changed how I see things. I'm not bitter anymore. I don't feel so poisoned. You may feel sick of me right now. That breaks my heart. And it's such a trap because the more you try to fix things, the more fucked-up they become. But the truth is, if you came down here, without any kind of notice, I'd still be so happy to see you. You could stay. Figure things out. I love you."

Ain't it a shame?
The way we turn. The things we do to hurt ourselves?
Let's's 12:53am and I have to get up at 5am. I can't sleep. Too much going on. I want to rock. I'm all inspired these days. I'm in love and I feel like I'm dying. When you put those two feelings together, you end up in a different city, far away. He said "you're not paying attention". And he was right. I wasn't paying attention because I'm exhausted. Because I want so much more and can't figure out where it is or how to get it. I'm distracted by struggle. How unfortunate. And yet, so typical.

Sometimes I wonder...
How badly do we have to beat ourselves up before we cut ourselves some slack? Jeeze. I'm so busy beating myself up right now...can I get back to you on that?

I'm sitting there, whacking away on this instrument that I can't even hear, having fun, and at the same time, feeling completely doomed because I thought things were coming together just fine. I thought that everything would be okay. I do feel that way. Except the equation has changed. I have this bad habit of assuming things will turn out a certain way. It's stupid. It's dangerous. It's painful. It's not fair to the other person to put such expectations on them or on the relationship. Yet, it happens all the time.

You know something? You may feel I haven't been paying attention, but I have. I see what you can do. I know you're capable of more. I don't want you to do more for me. I just want you to do more because I know you can. And when you do it, you're gonna blow your own mind, and everyone else's. You can sink down into some pit because your day job is sucking the life out of you. But it's not gonna kill you. You're gonna be alright. You're gonna plug-in, turn-up, and you're gonna rock. And when you do, I'm gonna smile a big, sick smile. I'm gonna be proud. I'm gonna want to fuck your brains out (I wanna fuck your brains out anyway). I'll want to, MAYBE, have your children. Or at least help you put out your first live record. Whatever. Point is, life feels fucking hard right now. I miss you. And I realize I fucked up. I fucked up because I dream big; without preparation or guidance.

In my heart of hearts I believe things can truly be good.
I just wanted to do it all with you.
That's all.

Whether you like it or not,
I love you.
And when you're all done being stubborn and cold,
I'll be right here.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


That was my nickname for Ron (Ronnie), my big brother. Step-brother actually. I didn't fully understand what "step-brother" meant until I was about eight or nine.

Ron was eleven years older than me. Born Phillip Ronald Garrett, to my mother's first husband Phil. I never knew Phil, but was told by my parents and by my big sister (step-sister) that phil was a bastard. He drank, was physically abusive, took pills, womanized, the whole nine yards.

Ronnie a.k.a. "Brotherguy" was my hero. When I was a baby we were a poor family just cracking middle class. My father George met my mother Alice on the assembly line, building picture tubes for RCA at a factory in Lancaster, PA. I don't really know how it was that Ron ended up with us and my step-sister stayed with their biological father, but this arrangement had its consequences: I never really got to know my step-sister until my teens. And by the time we did, I was met with harsh words and resentment.

Brotherguy took care of me. I recall times when mom and dad both had to work long hours and Brotherguy would babysit me. I don't recall that many personal or heavy conversations with Ron, but I always felt an incredible closeness to him. And as far back as I can remember he always seemed haunted. I always felt as if Ronnie was carrying a ton of pain in his heart but could never figure out how to discuss it. He fascinated me. In some ways I wanted to be just like him. He turned me onto so much good music that shaped me. His bedroom was next to mine and I'd hear a song like "Destination Unknown" by Missing Persons, or "Fly By Night" by Rush, and I'd nervously step out into the hallway and knock on his door, asking if he'd mind copying that record to cassette for me. He always would. I loved his handwriting, it was jagged and almost looked like japanese calligraphy. Sometimes I couldn't make out what it said. Didn't matter.

Ron got me into dirt bikes. When my father opened his own audio repair shop Ron was his apprentice. Mom and dad sunk loads of money into buying us dirt bikes and three-wheelers. We all had two vehicles. Things felt pretty good. It was the eighties. Too much was never enough. I remember the man hopping across the moon and the Buggles when MTV went on the air. Ron and I would play the Atari 2600 like it was the bomb.

I can't remember when it was that we started seeing less of Ron. More and more we just never saw him. He'd sometimes come home for dinner, but eventually it was just me, mom, and dad. I recall a couple incidents when my mom was upset and screaming that Ronnie had jumped out the window and had run away (this didn't really happen. He was just off at the neighbor's getting stoned).

Fast forward...
I'm 16. It's about 3am and I wake to the sound of furniture moving and things being smashed next door. My heart is racing. I jump out of bed and tip-toe to my parents bedroom, confused and scared. I didn't know what was happening but for some reason I had a hunch. I knocked on the door "Mom, Dad, um, I think something's wrong with Ron. I think he might be on drugs or something". My dad jumps out of bed in his underwear and my mom pushes herself up. They get their robes on. I vaguely remember being told to stay back or go to my room or something, but I couldn't. I didn't want anything bad to happen to Brotherguy and I couldn't stand not knowing what was happening.

The door is pushed open. I hear my dad, physically struggling, in a calm voice saying things like "It's okay Ronnie. It's okay honey." But my father was out of breath. My mother was trying to pin him to the bed so he wouldn't hurt himself. At some point mom and dad get Ronnie up on his feet, a sweaty, twitchy, lanky 6' 2", in sweatpants. Greasy, thick, wavy, dark blonde hair, sticking to his cheeks. Mom and dad are walking him to the stairs. Dad, stoic and calm (the world-famous Libran coping mechanism hard at work), says something about calling 911. Ronnie is saying things I can't understand. He turns and looks at me from the top of the stairs. He's smiling like a demon, with big, black, glassy eyes, and he's saying in a voice that doesn't sound at all like his "Lemme go! I can bounce!" He's shaking and buckling his knees, giggling and gagging, insisting that he's a ball and he'll just bounce down the stairs.
He jumps.

My father tries to catch him and they both go tumbling down the stairs. Upon impact Brotherguy goes into a seizure, turning grey, deep reddish-brown bordering his nostrils and eyelids. Eyes rolled back into his head. Yellowish, foamy spit webbing in the corners of his mouth. Mom's in the kitchen on the phone with 911, crying. I'm crying. Dad's crying, sitting at the base of the stairs with 25-year-old Brotherguy, a spitting image of Sam Elliot, draped across his lap. I've got my head to his chest and I just keep saying "Don't you die Ronnie. Don't you die. I love you. You can't die. Please don't die." Mom screams at me to run outside and flag the ambulance. I don't want to leave my brother.

Fast forward.

Medics revive him. He's agreed to let mom and dad drive him to the hospital and check him into rehab. While he's laying dazed and exhausted on the couch, he's still high on mainlined coke or perhaps a speedball. I look over at him and tell him I love him. He just stares at me like a wild animal and turns away. Breaks my heart and gives me a chill because I realize, at that moment, the lights are on, but nobody's home.

Who was driving? How can I not remember this detail? I remember riding shotgun. We were in my '56 Chevy Bel Air because it was so big and easy to get into. Good to lay Ron down if need be. Ron kept turning around, paranoid. He kept saying that someone was following him and that they were on roller skates, hanging onto the bumper.

Ron checked himself out of rehab the next day. He came home to a clean kitchen with syringes and other works neatly displayed on the dinner table. A family intervention took place that night. It was the first time I saw Brotherguy cry and it absolutely broke my heart. I wanted him to talk to me about his troubles. Even if I was too young to understand, who cares? I would've at least been a listener.

Ron bounced back and forth over the next couple years. He was going to NA meetings. He was looking better, seemed to put on a little weight, which was good because he was always very muscular, but got very thin when his addiction was at its worst. Brotherguy was a coke addict, well versed on cross-addiction. None of us knew until he was too far down the line. He had his coke friends, and his non-coke friends. They did not cross pollinate.

Tough love put Ron in his own apartment. Meanwhile all the hidden troubles between mom and dad are coming to a head. Me, I'm listening to Bauhaus, setting small fires in my bedroom, painting, shaving my head, cutting up my clothes, playing in a band and getting suspended for drinking Jim Beam in the locker room.

It's June 8th, 1990.
I just finished my junior year. Last day of school ends early. I come home surprised to find Ron relaxing by the pool. This is weird. I rarely see him anymore, and when I do it's never in the middle of the day. What's going on here? I don't remember what we talked about, if anything. A good deal of my time spent with Brotherguy was just being near each other, doing fun things, not really talking. We'd race together, hang out by the pool and listen to music, or watch tv in silence. Now, as I look back, I can be pretty sure that when we went down to Maryland to ride dunes and he would sneak away with Tom into his pickup truck, I'm quite sure they were doing lines in there.

June 10th, 1990.
I wake up with a profound emptiness in my heart. I feel a weird anxiety. can't find the source. Mark, my boyfriend and band mate at the time, takes me to Howie's (our drummer) uncle's place for a BBQ. All the while I feel a deep sadness and am distracted and not having a good time. I know that something is very wrong, that something terrible has happened, but don't know what it is. At some point I asked, or Mark suggested that we leave. As we're coming up 222 south, Willow Street Pike, on this beautiful day, my heart begins to race. I feel slightly sick to my stomach. As we pull into the driveway I see Dad standing on the sidewalk and that was it. I knew. I get out of the car preparing for the news, which is confirmed in my mind when I see my mother sitting in a chair on the patio weeping.

"How w ww was the barbecue, Honey?" Dad stutters, trying to fight tears.
Dad, it's Ron, right?
He squeezes me tightly and whispers "Yes honey. Ronnie's gone honey. I'm so sorry. Ronnie's gone."
My heart drops down into my boots and I feel like I'm going to faint. And yet, I knew when I woke up. I had a feeling I had lost him.

My brother was found dead in a hotel room, Holiday Inn, Reading, PA. He had bruises all over his body and cuts on his fists which the mortuary couldn't successfully cover with make-up. My mother was convinced that he was murdered, and went on a long investigation of her own to get to the bottom of what happened. Back then, in Lancaster, if you were an addict you were garbage that no one wanted anything to do with. Cops wouldn't help us. Ron's friends wouldn't help us, other than carrying his casket. Eventually I saw the autopsy report. He died from acute cocaine poisoning, or so they say. But I don't know more than that. I wonder how much it matters.

(I recently found out that a bag of cocaine was stuffed down my brother's throat. The main suspect was a fellow by the name of Randy Teiderman. His dealer. Damn you to hell Randy, however you were involved. You did nothing to help my brother. I need not seek revenge. You will carry this with you to your grave. And when your kids stumble upon my blog, best of luck to you in explaining how you contributed to the destruction of my family.)

A couple years ago Ronnie's biological father committed suicide on Christmas eve. He shot himself in the head after a long, painful battle with cancer. My step sister found him in his bathroom. This only exacerbated the fight my sister continues to have with her own demons. I couldn't get a read on my mother at all.

Love your family. Love them with all your heart. Never take them for granted.
My brother was a junkie and I loved, and still love him, more than anything in the world.

The first time I heard "in Spite Of Me" I thought "Man, Ron would've loved Morphine's music. He would've loved Queens Of The Stone Age." We all have various ways of torturing ourselves. Mine is imagining my brother alive, older, with kids. Sam Elliot, in Levi's and a cowboy hat, thick mustache. I wish I could've experienced a QOTSA concert with my brother. I wish I could've sat in a bar and drank beer with him. I wish I could've shown him Boston. I wish he could've come to one of my gigs. I wish I could've been the goofy aunt to his children. I wish he could've been the cool, motorcycle-riding uncle if I ever had my own.


Tomatoes are my favorite of all foods. I will eat them hot, cold, cooked, raw, chopped, stewed, blended into juice or gazpacho.
I can go for days without coffee, weed, sex, or NPR. But I cannot live a day without tomatoes in one form or another.

I hate Facebook, Myspace, Twitter. It takes up too much of my time and doesn't really give anything back. Goddamn the individual who developed iPhone applications for these social abominations. They have made addicts and monsters of all of us.

I'm standing on stage. I look out into the audience. At least seven people have faces aglow from their fucking iPhones. I'm thinking "douchebags." Then I'm thinking "Fuck. Do I do that? I bet I don't even realize it when I do. Shit."

On one hand you couldn't pay me to move back to Lancaster, PA. On the other hand, I'd give almost anything to be sitting in the familiar comfort of DipCo with Loretta and Chad, drinking my home brew of Yuengling lager, and discussing the similarities of stoner rock to early 70's prog, or some mickey mouse bullshit that doesn't give me gray hair and bum me out.

I hate shopping. I have no idea what's hip or trendy and can't be bothered to give a damn. Sometimes I take the bus to the Cambridgeside Galleria because that's where the nearest Apple store is (fuckers). Once I walk through the main entrance I am bombarded by lights, noise, mall cops on Segways (I shit you not). the way, why was Polyphonic Spree such a big deal? I find that shit there are all these people in the food court, stuffing themselves on cheap renditions of Indian Food, and sandwich wraps that are advertised as being "healthy alternatives". well, compared to McDonald's or Cinnabon, pretty much anything is. A majority of these people are overweight.

There are kiosks where early 20-something males (usually black or hispanic) are wearing crisp button-down shirts with slick ties, trying to sell imitation Ray Bans, or plastic iPhone cases with Playboy bunnies on them. Or perhaps they're just trying to sign you up for some T-Mobile action. Either way, it all sucks. And yet, there they are, people lining right up, droppin' cash on this bullshit.

I'm standing on the upper level, looking around. Feeling a little overwhelmed and confused. I think about the time, a couple years ago, when I had come here to renew my license. I was high as a kite. I had spent the day recording at home, and afterward, smoked a bowl while reading steamy emails from a married man I met at a Black Angels show a couple weeks prior. Somehow this memory is very nice to me.

Certainly if I had money I'd buy timeless pieces for my wardrobe: things of high quality, made with natural fibers, made to last. At what point did Levi's completely jump-the-shark, or rather, shit-the-bed? I recently bought a pair of 504s, which, to my pleasant surprise, are the best cut of jeans for my tiny waist, wide hips, big ass, and short legs. Their weakness is that the "denim" is thin as the shitty jeans you find at places like Urban Outfitters or H&M, made in China (or Indonesia, or Sri Lanka, or fuckin' Danny the douchebag's basement) and disposable. Perfect, I suppose, for people with disposable income who don't like to do laundry. I've only had them for a couple months and there's a hole where I keep my house keys. I remember buying Levi's 501s back in the late 80's and wearing them well into the mid 90s, and loving them until they fell apart. There was enjoyment in breaking-in good jeans and good shoes. Now you pay three times as much for pieces of shit that are mass produced to look broken-in and will fall apart after 4 washes.

I miss working at PÄ“tsi Pies. I didn't make much money, but boy did I love that job. I call or text her now and then to see if she just needs a little help with an early morning scone shift. There's something so meditative and centering about baking. I loved preparing pie shells. I also loved frosting the coconut cupcakes. I loved pretty much everything I did at that bakery, including cleaning out the walk-in. I took pride in it. I loved being around Renee. I can't put my finger on it. I love baking and cooking as much as I love making music. Sometimes I like it more because I can achieve a finished product quicker. I often thought that if I couldn't make a living doing music I could be very happy working in a bakery, or running my own ice cream business somewhere warm. A big problem of mine is that I lack patience and focus (can't you tell?). Though some of my friends would say it's just because I'm a typical Sagittarius.

Oh, tomatoes.
Tomatoes on toast with goat cheese.
Sun dried tomato pesto with black pepper fettuccine from Dave's Pasta.
Stewed tomatoes with mussels, garlic and white wine.
Bloody Marys with fresh blended tomato juice.
Heirloom tomatoes with mayo, sea salt and cracked pepper on 7-grain.
Tomatoes, warm, dusty, off the vine.
Rub it on my sweaty t-shirt and make it mine.

What happened when I "grew up".

What is it?

I thought I knew. Back when I was 12 it seemed so clear. I wanted to be a rock star AND a painter. Looking back and looking at myself now, I'm not sure I ever REALLY knew what I wanted to be. I could never understand why I had to be anything at all. Why couldn't I be a little bit of all things that I like? I guess I am, but the problem with that is that it isn't very lucrative. Here I am, 37, and working in a supermarket for $12 an hour, paying a thousand dollars a month for rent and hundreds in credit card bills (not seeing the balance drop), laying awake at night, wondering how the hell this happened. What happened?

When I graduated art school in '94 (with one of the most useless 3-year certificates one could get), I was angry, hungry to go somewhere, live a new life. "The future was wide open" as Tom Petty said. Lancaster felt like a prison to me then. Just like Boston does to me now. Hitting this sort of rut feels a hell of a lot worse at 37 than it did at 22.

I came up here to Boston with a goal, lofty and without any plan-B if it didn't work out, but I did everything I came here to do. Back in '96 I wanted to move to Boston simply because I wanted to collaborate with members of Morphine and their circle. I got it into my head that it would be good for me to play with people who shared a vision. Of course, I found out over time that maybe our visions weren't that similar after all. It's okay. I don't regret moving here. I've made some incredible friends, music, and have experienced a lot. In fact, the big problem these days is that I work so much for so little money that I feel I am experiencing nothing at all. I'm not learning anything. I'm not feeding my head in any way. I'm not meeting new people. I feel as if my creativity is slipping away from me. The worst part is, all this work and I'm not making any progress. I'm just existing.

(Actually, as I'm reading over this again, I realize I am experiencing a lot. It's just no fun is all. I'm learning hard lessons:
1. Never count on anyone. Not your family. Not your friends.
2. You cannot predict the future.
3. Things will get better if only you can get out of your own way.
4. Just because you're into something doesn't mean anyone else gives a fuck about it.
5. Money makes everything more possible....yes, and this is a shitty, dismal truth.
6. You AREN'T what you eat. I don't eat humans. Do you?)

I'm in love with a guy who lives far from me. Long distance relationships are always tough, but I just connect with him in so many ways that I never had with the guys I've dated here, in Boston. We share a lot of feelings about life, and we seem to be in similar places, in that we thought there'd be more to life than this.

So wait. Let's get back to the question again: Why can't I be many things? I want to be a musician. I am. I want to be a visual artist. I am (even though I haven't been able to produce any visual art in almost 10 years). I want to work with animals (I used to be a vet tech in an animal shelter here in Boston). I want to cook in a test kitchen and develop recipes and product ideas (I do, at home at least). I am these things. I have a ton of knowledge and experience and can't figure out how to make a dime from any of it. I'm tired of being poor and working 3 jobs for what feels like nothing. I've only myself to blame. I can't help but feel like I'm overlooking something that would be hugely helpful. More and more I'm just feeling pretty stupid.

It's never my intention to use blogging as a means to vent or bitch about the world, but here I am, venting, bitching, whining. Yes, I am aware my life could be much worse. But it's all relative. I only know the life I'm living. If I had grown up in a third world country I'd probably have a better idea of how to live within my means and I might also be more socially adjusted and be able to tolerate living with others (roommates, family, whatever). Instead, I was raised a spoiled child, and raised like an only child. I'd be saving a boatload of money if I could just suck it up and live with roommates, but all of my roommate situations were so terrible that I feel I can't go back. I know I need to get over this fast if I am to live as a sane human and pay down debts, but I'm just not there yet.

This blog is all over the goddamn place, but whatever...

This guy I'm in love with, I dream of living with him in Austin or somewhere in the desert. I wish we could just do what we want to do. I wish he could just play music and build guitars and do all the things he wants without having to break his back for shit-money. I wish I could play music, paint, and record. I also have this weird dream of running a sort of "underground" bed & breakfast exclusively for touring musicians. A place where they could crash (for low money), jam, record, recharge, and I'd be in my glory cooking whatever they want. I have this vision of living in a desert environment with a compound of small buildings, linked together by beautiful stones, with cactus, exotic plants, and some kind of pool or hot tub. A fire pit. A BBQ. Rooms painted vivid colours with artwork everywhere. A place where my contemporaries could also bring their kids, seeing as it seems unlikely that I'll ever be able to have my own.

I want everything that feels good and seems worthwhile.
Self-employment, money, status: these things feel so empty to me. Yet I feel like my life is shit because I don't have them.
How does this happen?

I just want to wake up next to the man I love, make us breakfast, step out onto a desert patio with a cup of strong black coffee, and ponder which tracks I'm going to record that day, then check my email to find 20 European tour dates that I need to prepare for. In my heart it doesn't feel like it's asking that much, but reality speaks a word to me flatly. It feels cold and calculated, and the word is "No."

I hate you, reality. I feel that I'm days away from cutting and running without a real plan, just so I have a pulse again. Just so my mind wakes up. I feel the urge to just deepen my debt to rent a Uhaul, pack the bare necessities into it and head west.

There must be others out there like me, who are feeling this. Where are you? I miss you and I've never met you. I'm trying to find you. Please try to find me. I'll do everything I can to build an arc with you so we can all sail happily off to a better place. My cat would love to come along and she's highly adaptable with a warm disposition. Find me. Meet me in Austin, or tell me where to meet you.