Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I Fuck for Good Art: On Book Reviews

Because I have a new book out, I’ve been thinking a sadistically unhealthy amount about book reviews, because I want them. I’ve spent way too much time on sites like Goodreads and Amazon, and ended up reacquainting myself with book reviews that I myself wrote in the past. With time gone by, I thought I’d revisit some of those old reviews and examine what I think about them now, and what, in hindsight, I might change about them, if anything.

I’ve spent way too much time writing about jailbird provocateur Gene Gregorits. There is an essay in my new book that attempts to examine all the reasons why. (The spell is still not broken when it comes to my weakness for shit-fit creative types. Look what I’m reading now. Trust if I’d been more aware of Kinski when I was writing so much about Gene I probably would have made the comparison. Kinski’s book is hilarious. He admitted that a lot of it was made up. (I know what Pola has said about her father, so no one needs to drop down and gleefully/smugly attempt to school me.)

From the review I did of Gene Gregorits’  Dog Days in 2012:
“I fuck for good art—at least I have in the past. A staid “thank you for your work” has never  been enough for me. If it touched me, I wanted a piece of it, and if it was made by living, breathing hands, if possible, I wanted those living, breathing hands on me…I haven’t engaged in this kind of behavior in many years. I don’t live in New York anymore, and I’m no longer surrounded by great, accessible artists. I’m also much more secure in my own work. But if I wasn’t, and a few logistic variables were different—I’d want to be assfucked by Gregorits at the bottom of an embankment, just like Izabela, the lead female character in Dog Days. “

At the time that I wrote that last line, I thought the review was just going to remain a post on Gregorits’ webpage, but then I got the email where he mass forwarded it to all of his contacts, including quite a few writers I love and admire, and was mortified. I also got like fifty friend requests from dudes on Gene’s Facebook page in quick secession, some with messages that said things like, “You know, I write too..”

Nicole Brown Simpson, The Private Diary of a Life Interrupted review written in 2012, on Amazon.

 I mostly still like this book review, though I have zero memory of writing it. 1994, the year the Simpson murders happened,  was really my lost year, and I had very little access to media, so I was kind of excited when I stumbled across this book in the true crime section of the library.  I rather cynically subtitled the review “Twenty Years Tardy to the Party.” (I had also just seen Resnick on that infamous episode of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, where she gets into a heated exchange with Kelsey Grammer’s wife, while a creepy psychic puffs on an E cigarette.)
“While Resnick does spend considerable time on the brume of abuse and terror Nicole lived under as the wife of OJ Simpson, she spends just as much time sharing with us her insider's knowledge of the minutia of Nicole's sex life. She does this under the guise of her first mission, correcting the media's portrayal of her friend. In this way, the definition of what constituted sex to Nicole becomes very important, and Resnick goes on to differentiate between which relationships of Nicole's were just "play" (Nicole's word, Resnick's tells us, for any non-penetrative sexual act) and which relationships qualified as actual intercourse in glorious detail. How Resnick is able to recall with such accuracy her friend's sex (or "play") life one is left to wonder. She claims to have kept a diary (of her friend's sex life?) but that it was stolen after the murders. She frames this sexual straw- splitting and the gratutious revelations it allows for as protection of her friend's dignity. ("See, she wasn't really a slut! Most of her relationships were just b.j's!")

 What I still like about the review: my colorful language. “Sexual straw-splitting.” “Brume of abuse and terror.”
What I don’t like: this last paragraph, about the Kardashian clan, which reads like a judgment call:

 “Their mother was one of Nicole Brown Simpson's closest friends and their father, Robert, returned to law after years of working in the recording industry just so he could help in the defense of their mother's close friend's murderer. What a world to grow up in. I'd love to know what it was like, but I imagine those girls may not know a world free of spin. If I'm right, it may not be their faults if they don't know how to tell the truth.”
What the fuck did I know about what the Kardashians' knew about truth? My own truth be told, when I wrote this review in early 2012, I had never even watched a full episode of their show. I was defaulting to the popular opinion that they were just a family of attention whores. Which may or may not be true, but still. I should have done my own investigation and decided for myself first. I hate situations like that, be it in pop culture or otherwise, where I have to confront that I've done this. I want my opinions to be my own.

 Elf Girl/ Rev. Jen Miller
I’ve written about Rev. Jen Miller many times. Rev. Jen and Gene Gregorits are the prom king and queen of my reviewing scene. This was Jen’s first book by a big publisher, and though I liked the self-published version of the book that it was based on better, this book is still very good. I like this review but wish I would have sent it somewhere instead of just leaving it to languish at Amazon. It reads more like an essay, and I wish I would have tightened it up and submitted somewhere as one.

“My whole life I've made a practice of hitting interpersonal relationship benchmarks out of order. Many a time intimate activity has preceded introduction formalities. In keeping with this behavior, I was photographed au naturel with Rev. Jen Miller before I had ever laid eyes on her work. Now that I have, I can say without a doubt there is a world of brains, wit, and brawny vision behind her rockin' bod. Since then she has become one of my favorite writers and artists

When I was kid growing up in small town CT, I loved watching Geraldo in the morning when I could somehow finagle staying home from school. As much as I enjoyed the episodes that showcased brawling skinheads and bald headed Satanists, my favorites were always the panel discussions with Club Kids like Michael Alig and James St. James. What I enjoyed so much about the Club Kids was that they spoke to me of a world outside my window where people really were free to be you and me and individuality was celebrated as a fabulous, blessed trait. It made me want to move New York and be a part of what I was seeing on the television screen. More importantly, it made feel that I could be a part of it. I believe Rev. Jen and the stories in her book will inspire the same feelings in others.."
LESSON LEARNED: Though Amazon and GoodReads reviews are a huge help to authors, there are a world of literary sites out there looking for more detailed (well-written) book reviews.

 Happy Ending, David Rat

Last but not least: my most popular book review, ever, well, according to my blog analytics-- with over 2,000 views, David Rat’s Happy Ending, which ended up being the intro to the book. So why don’t we just reprint the whole thing here:

Most people have a dream epoch, a bygone era that they venerate and romanticize, thinking if only I’d been around for that. My pedestalled period on the space/time continuum is New York City in the mid 1970’s and early 80’s, my favorite city’s last gasp for vibrant, inspired living on the cheap. One could still move to New York just to be an artist, not to just look like an artist while spending all of ones time working a shitty job just to make the rent.
Engendered by the cheap rents and lowered cost of living, New York City experienced a gritty, creative renaissance led by an underclass of young throwaways cut from the same angelic/ demonic mold as Jean Genet and Arthur Rimbaud. Archetype artists like Richard Hell and Lydia Lunch sought reprieve from their damages onstage at clubs like CBGB’s, Max’s Kansas City and the Pyramid. Both were runaways to the city from screwed up homes.

Oscar Wilde famously wrote, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” In 1970’s/80’s New York, a generation of impassioned street kids used artistic expression to lift their heads from the gutter and towards heaven.

 Enter David Rat, a small town boy with the face of an Adonis and big city rock n’ roll dreams. Happy Ending, David’s new book, recounts his early adulthood in late 1970’s/ 80’s New York. The drummer for seminal art noise band Rat At Rat R, David works the door at the infamous downtown Pyramid Club, juggles clingy girlfriends and looks forward to finally garnering his father’s approval as mainstream success with his band beckons. The story-telling quality of David’s poetry recounts the lyrical elegies of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and Iggy Pop’s “Look Away.” Doomed, tragic luminaries of the period like Greer Lankton and Ethyl Eichelberger provide the inspiration for some of David’s best work. Once David becomes addicted to heroin, the names and wide-eyed descriptions of the era drop off, with testimonies to painful longing and the ritual redundancies of addiction taking their place.
I’ve always liked Angela Bowie, but I found her note to David that opens Happy Ending to be completely off the mark. In it, Angela flatters David but then asks when his “fixation” with writing about drugs will end. Writing about addiction when one has spent time counting lifelines from the inside of its clenched fist is not “fixation,” it's transcription. Reducing the impact David's addiction to some kind of fetish subject matter is not only smug, it completely nullifies the power of the book. It’s the optimism despite the ugliness that makes Happy Ending so potent. Heroin robs David of his family and his rock n’roll dreams, but he still eagerly reaches out for love, sees the beauty in the graying faces all around him and fights passionately for a better world for his beloved son. Happy Ending is about the resistance of the spirit to cynicism. It’s also about the hopeful exorcism of ones demons with the pen.

David Rat came to New York City in the late 1970’s to be an artist and as Happy Ending attests, David still believes that art can set him free.

 LESSON LEARNED: I love Happy Ending, and still really like this review, but I might take out the Oscar Wilde quote. As much as I love Wilde and his work and think the quote fits, at this point, unfortunately, I think the quote's become a little bit played. And I might change that line about "counting lifelines." While I stand by the sentiment, the imagery is a little over the top.

Oh, and here's my new book. Do you fuck for good art? If you think you might be interested in reviewing My Body Would be the Kindest of Strangers, "something" can probably be arranged.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Just Kids

In early 2014, underground writer Gene Gregorits asked friends and enemies alike to send him old emails and correspondence they’d had with him for his new book, Do You Love Me? The Gene Gregorits File. Since I hardly ever delete anything, I was able to piece together parts of an old email exchange of ours that took place over a few months in 2003. He never used it for the book. I think he thought it was boring and not useful enough to the wild man persona he was cultivating at the time. I’ve decided to post it here—just the fact that it’s 13 years old makes it interesting to me. We were both in our twenties, and I don’t care what the law says. To rip off Patti Smith, I think that makes us just kids. There are two essays about Gene, who is now in jail in Florida, in my new book My Body Would be the Kindest of Strangers.

Just Kids

----------- Original Message -----------
From: ******
Sent To: *******
Subject: Re: Hello honestly, does this suck?
Date Sent: 19 Mar 2003 03:19 PM

i don't know if you will get my first email. when i tried to send it, there was a problem, but it seemed like it went through. in case it didn't, my other email address is not working, because it is lame. my sister told me she talked to you. you can write back at this address. oh ya, and how are you? i’m crappy happy. bored and happy, but still crappy, maybe comparable to a pig in shit? i would appreciate knowing if you think this sucks:

He looked like Jim Morrison birthed by way of Nick Cave. He wore ties and rat pack hats. When he talked, I rarely understood where the conversation was heading, or what the inspiration was, though I knew it was intelligent and was transfixed anyway.

I'd go see him at his work or at the record store his band’s manager ran. He was nervous around girls, that was obvious. He kept a transvestite on the side, a hot transvestite, who he constantly dismissed by saying she was obsessed with him, if he broke up with her, she'd kill herself, she was just his meal ticket, they didn't fuck, he wasn't "A FAG." He liked to harp on this. HE WAS NOT "A FAG." I think he said he threw up on her once.

A lot of his friends were weary of me, though not to my face. They were right to be. I was on drugs. He was always saying he wanted drugs and made illusions to a drug problem in the past. I remember once I handed him a bag of dope over the counter at his work and he stared at it in shock. I think he wanted to throw it out. He might have later. I remember thinking I should have asked for it back. I remember giving him pills. I’ve always bonded with guys over drugs. He had too much ambition, I guess. My charms weren't really working. He’ll make a great rock star. Sex and drugs don't distract him. He thinks he wants them, but he’s really scared of them.

We kissed once. That was another problem, we were never alone, or we were always hiding from the transvestite. I hadn't "just kissed" anyone since high school. We went into the back of the place where he worked and he leaned over and kissed me. We broke away. I leaned back in for another kiss, to keep the mojo risin' and he suddenly looked very scared and screeched, “WHAT DO YOU THINK WE’RE GOING TO HAVE SEX BACK HERE? WE CANNOT HAVE SEX BACK HERE!"

Subject: Re: Hello again...Now honestly, does this suck?
Date Sent: 19 Mar 2003 03:50 PM

That DOES suck. I am certainly a pig in shit at the moment. Happy crappy. Happy crappy, busy and worried about $$$. What have you been up to? My book just came out....I am left strangely...indifferent. Send a recent pic of you. Very strange about bumping into your sister like that. Small world indeed. Liked your poem and story, send more! I've been obsessed with Shane MacGowan too. Very much into "The Snake,” with the Popes. Anyway, I have a new book out and am struggling to make rent, the usual, etc. Trying to avoid those naughty chemicals, reading a lot these days. Living on the outskirts of a small pappy town. I met a few interesting people here, one of them is a Hollywood refugee who used to drink with Bukowski. Very strange running into him. Going back to NYC anytime soon?

Friday, March 21, 2003 3:26 PM

the popes album is incredible. i love the snake with eyes of garnet and the donnegal express—“ka-ha-yah! you fuck! come hell or high water, i may have fucked your missus, but i never fucked your daughter!” i've been back and forth to new york three times in the past month. i'm sort of procrastinating when it comes to moving back. i can live with my sister in queens any time but here i have the creature comforts, i.e my mom buys my cigarettes. the environment is also the calmest i've been in in about a decade. well, with some qualifications. are you ever coming back to new york? nick hates me now, but that’s okay. i'll send you some pictures to prove i'm not beastly. what did you think of the poem i sent?
Saturday, March 22, 2003 4:30 PM

Nick and I have not spoken in 6 years. Your poem was really good, I thought I already said so. Can you send some more stuff for me to read? Indeed, SNAKE WITH EYES and DONNEGAL EXPRESS are both classics. My favorite is "Haunted.” Yeah, send pics. I have a bunch of me, too, to prove I am not (too) beastly.

Sunday, March 23, 2003 4:45 PM
actually, i wrote a short story the other day about a jack kerouac poster coming alive and saving a girl from  rape. i'll send you that.

Sunday, March 23, 2003 5:40 PM
Great story! Are you still doing video work?

Sunday, March 23, 2003 5:55PM

you liked it? all of my “critics” here sort of have a bias in my direction, or read very little, so i can never tell if their sentiments are genuine. i've written a few things but haven't filmed anything. i don't have a video camera. how was your weekend? we should telephone talk.

Monday, March 24, 2003 6:30PM
My weekend was depressing but turbulent, at least I stayed out of jail. That's something. Call me!

Tuesday, March 25, 2003 7:00PM

it was good to talk to you. inspiring. i'll call you again tonight. what time do you get up anyway? i wrote this morning. i think it’s kind of clever.

Have you ever noticed that almost any item of beautification-- be it drug (the world beautified), or cosmetic (your face and/or body beautified)-- can be turned into a militaristic implement with relative ease?

dye---happens in the trenches all the time, falls from the sky.

heroin(e)---your female savior, in battlefield death visions, most likely your mom.

lipstick---shaped like canisters, maybe the UN should check it out.

mascara wands look like rifle cleaners.

hot chicks are “the bomb.”

“xanax” sounds like “annex.”
eyeshadow is camouflage.

cover up--- hide those atrocities!

alcohol can clean wounds, make a solider more vulnerable, and an ice princess more likely to spread her legs.

“shock and awe”---a color scheme worthy of Revlon.

baubles and beads, how bout bombs and lead? perfumed poison gas, and necklaces of shrunken heads.

“methadone” comes from “dolophine” and “doloph” comes from “adolph” and that’s all swell and hitler.

"armistice," well that means to "make-up."

Tuesday, March 26 2003

 I like it....can i use it on the website?

Tuesday, March 26, 2003

yes, totally, put it up.

Tuesday March 26, 2003
What time should I call you? I got really busy with video stuff and didn't have time to gather info for our Interview Rampage...will start examining tonight

Wednesday, March 27, 2003

i just ruined a perfectly good bottle of jack daniels by pouring too much diet coke into it. i will call you later, maybe in like 5 minutes? i tried--it’s busy. i am going out for dinner w/ my psychotic penis appendage person (french fries, i'm sure). i deserve better, but always settle for less. the jack daniels is not so bad. i might consider becoming an alcoholic housewife, if i had a house. i will try to call you again. if it’s busy, i’ll call you tomorrow.
Sunday, March 30, 2003

Sorry I haven't written! We still gotta do this thing....but it may have to be delayed a while...I am falling behind in bills miserably and need a few weeks to re-stabilize financially. I'm out of long distance, can call you on Tuesday. How's everything in CT?

Sunday, March 30, 2003

keep in touch when you can.

Tuesday, April 1, 2003
oh my god, your book is great! thank you for sending it. some of the interviews are so funny. john waters and his comments about pedophiles and plo camps for fat chicks. your comments in the ron athey interviews had me dying. “IT IS MY CURSE TO BEAR THE INTIALS G.G" and "BRITNEY HAS HAD MORE PRICKS THEN A HEDGEHOG." ha ha, it’s so good. i did feel a little desire to shake lydia a bit. her rhetoric is getting a little old and seems somewhat rehearsed. the book is great though. the picture of you in the ad with the bandage on your head---that’s an ode to lenny bruce, right?

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Why don't you get a train down here and hang out with me for a few days? I really can't afford to come to NYC, but I'm only a few hours away, if you want to skip CT for a bit.

Tuesday, April 1, 2003
that would be great and sounds like fun though i don't know how likely it would be anytime soon being that i've decided to move back to new york. honestly, i am sort of scared out of mind to go back but i'm not doing anything here. you’re only a few hours away? you’re still going to be NYC for the book party, right???

4/3/2003 8:36:12 PM Eastern
Hell yeah! The book party is at 8 PM on the 27th. Didn't mean to fuck off all of a sudden, a lot of shit just fell into my lap and I'm swamped as hell. I still wanna do this interview thing. Will you be around today if I call?

Thursday, April 3, 2003
i've been really distracted too.  i'm moving this weekend. i definitely wanna see you when you come down for the book party or before, so let me know. i'm going to be staying in queens, living like an immigrant in a sardine apartment.

Thursday, April 3, 2003

I'll let you know exactly what days I'll be in NY. If you're going to be around, I'll try to come a day early so we can do an interview. I'll e-mail Richard Hell and we can interview him together.

Thursday, April 3, 2003
do you think will lydia hate me?????

Thursday, April 3, 2003

She'll be at CBs that night and I'll be introducing the two of you.

Thursday, April 10, 2003
could you email me your phone number again? i can't find it. being back in new york is cool and queens is surprisingly cool. i always dismissed it. i should be punished. can't wait to see you. here’s the phone number here:

 Monday, April 14, 2003

Looks like I'll be up there this week. Really excited to see you too. Yeah I'd love to talk to Ty Stixx...especially for the Sid and Nancy stories. More later.
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

you'll be here this week?

 Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I was considering coming today, but most likely I'll be getting in tomorrow. Do you have plans?

Wednesday, April 16, 2003
tonight we are going to ct for easter and will be back sunday afternoon. then on monday night for a few hours (til 7) i have to bartend train at this really crappy joint that it looks like i'll be working at. besides that no. should i beat up your girlfriend?

 Sunday, April 20, 2003

 I don't really have a girlfriend, but we have been seeing a lot of each other. Anyway, will you be around tonight? I'll give you a ring. When should I call you?

Sunday, April 27, 2003
hey-- i don't know how this instant messenger thing works, but i've been using my brother in law's handle thingy to communicate with my sister while she is at work. his name on it is ******. i'm going to get my own, but why don't you try using his to communicate with me? he never uses it, but just in case, just make sure it’s me who's on. i called you earlier but you didn’t answer. love and other indoor sports.

 Thursday, May 8, 2003

 Hey. Tried calling yesterday. I've been nearly comatose these past few weeks, drinking like a fish...that's why I haven't been in touch. Lemme know what you're doing next weekend, and if you want to hang out. I had fun with you at the book party. I'm trying to save some cash to get up there for a few days, this bullshit town is driving me out of my mind.

Friday, May 9, 2003

i went to see gram norton last night and didn't get home til late. when i got up to use the bathroom he called out to me from the stage “look at her sashaying like a model! she has to pee!” and the whole audience turned around and looked at me. i'm going to be in ct til tuesday, i have to get dental work done and i still have poor persons insurance there. we should try to hang out. i'll be back in nyc tuesday night.
Friday, May 9, 2003

I'll try you later this afternoon...sorry I haven't called. Been on a sleep binge, depressed to the point of rigor mortis...sure you've been there. Miss you.

Saturday, May 10, 2003
i saw joey zero yesterday- he said he’s emailed you a bunch of times but you don't respond.

 In a message dated 5/17/2003 2:24:28 PM Eastern Daylight Time

it would be very cool to see you as soon as possible. what was i doing in the dream you had? graphic things or g-rated.

 Saturday, May 17, 2003

Oh yeah, the dream was graphic but highly tasteful I can assure you.
Saturday, May 17, 2003

i think i'm going to call you in a second.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

 Hey. Doing slightly okay with money so I should be in NYC the first week of June as planned. We should get slightly tipsy at the Sidewalk Cafe, and walk around making fun of people. I don't know, maybe get high. You had GREAT hair in my dream. I'm sorry. Joey's great. Anyway...I really AM going to be in NYC the first week of June. Miss you....pissed me off we couldn't hang out more at the book party, and etc. There's something about you....I don't know, you really cheer me up.

 Thursday, May 22, 2003 9:05 PM
i look forward to getting to know you better too. like i've said, when i first met you, i was attracted to you. i feel like we’ve had some weird mutual experiences, like we've both been kind of warped by people we looked up to. i liked kissing you. think we will fuck?

 Sunday, June 8, 2003

 hey, my sister just told me you called. i'm at work. bartending didn’t work out, so i'm doing phone sex. i need a job that provides me with money everyday. i have to work tomorrow night too. how long are you going to be in town for? sorry i didn't call you back. i've been running around all over the place like a maniac. i will be home tomorrow morning if you want to call again.

Sunday, June 8, 2003

 Hey. Do you still wanna try to make plans for when I'm in town? If you're busy, I understand....just let me know one way or the other. As long as I hear back from AWK between now and midnight, I'll be on a train to NY tomorrow. Any chance I'd be able to crash at your place? I'll buy you dinner. Hope you're well

 Monday, June 9, 2003
we could hang out thursday morning or friday. i don't know yet if i have to work thursday night, i'm here til 4am. i’ll be here tomorrow night too.

Monday, June 9, 2003

 Wow, I didn't know you did phone sex. I'll be in town tomorrow no later than 5PM. Leaving Friday morning at the very latest. Any possibility of crashing at your place? Try to let me know tonight....I know how these things work, plans fall apart etc, but I really wanna see you, so let's try to work something out. Don't you get a break or something tonight? I'll call you if so. Give me the number.. Phone sex...hmmm...sounds tasty. You should come along with me for my AWK interview. Interested?

 Monday, June 9, 2003

when and where? does he have publicists and stuff or are you guys going to be one on one? i don’t know much about him but he seems interesting. i will see if I can get out of work tomorrow. i don't know if i can though. i’m new here, and the manager is tough and no nonsense. are you interviewing him tomorrow?

Monday, June 9, 2003

I won't know when and where until tomorrow. What is of EXTREME IMPORTANCE is that I know you will be free and off work tomorrow so we can drink, goof off, have fun, and do nasty things to each other. Let me know what time I should call you tomorrow morning so we can arrange our debaucherous festivities. There will be no publicist, it will be me and AWK solo, with YOU, if you are able to attend this meeting. I will give you co-credit in the article and it will be well worth your time. I just talked to an agent. This piece may well be published in SPIN. Get back to me! We can't fuck this up!

 Monday, June 9, 2003

i hit the reply too soon. the timing really sucks. i just got this job and i have no money. let me talk to my boss. i am more than a little stressed.

 Wednesday, June 11, 2003 2:10 AM

 i don’t want to talk to horny lonely people anymore. all the woman that i work with say they’ve put on at least 10lbs while working here. are you in town yet? i am exhausted. i want to go home.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Send me a NUMBER so I can call, and do it now. I will be in NYC tomorrow by 3 PM and we need to get together, no? We'll work it out on the phone...but please get back to me within a few minutes, I need to sleep so I am up in time for my train. I am sorry about the stress, I know it must suck. I'll buy you drinks and we'll get away from all the bullshit for a while.

 Wednesday, June 11, 2003

call me tomorrow morning.

 Friday, June 13, 2003 11:55 PM

 What makes people disgusting and worthless is the fact that they are not honest, and honestly speaking, would you mind explaining why you have been avoiding me? It's not that I really care, but at the same time...when a girl openly invites me to have sex with her, and makes references to our alleged similarities, I have to be curious when she decides to blow me off.

 Sunday, June 15, 2003 2:12 AM

 Just got really sucks I couldn't see you. I know you're stressed, hang in there. Phone sex must be a real fuckin drag. I was really drunk that night we were e-mailing each other back and forth. Hope I didn't piss you off...I think I was kinda rude. Interview with AWK went well, got a few pictures. It was very exciting. Unfortunately, my excessive drinking this past week left me terribly ill for the duration of my trip. And yeah, I was bummed out we couldn't at least get a drink or something. I left mean spirited and ominous graffiti in the Mars Bar toilet and sweated a lot. My friend John videotaped me acting like a belligerant swine, but it's kinda funny. Needless to say, I had to destroy the tape.  Hope you're doing better...let me know if you wanna plan something again, I want to come back to town again next month. I gotta get out of this hideous town, for good...take care

 Sunday, June 15, 2003

i’m not avoiding you. i have a lot going on right now, that’s all. i tried to explain that to you before you left. it hardly makes me disgusting or worthless to have things i have to deal with. it makes me fucking human.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

 I didn't call you disgusting. You're actually very pretty and besides, I was drunk. My apologies. Regardless, I was there for two whole days. If you'd wanted to get together, it could have been worked out. I just wish people would be straight with me

 Sunday, June 15, 2003

 being drunk is no excuse. you’re acting like a baby. i owe you nothing. i wanted to hang out with you, but i'm sorry i just can't drop everything when you end up rolling into town.

 Sunday, June 15, 2003

 Sorry. I don't expect you to drop everything. It should have been better planned or something. it's just that my circumstances out here are so fucked. I'm stranded in the middle of nowhere....I haven't seen anyone except for redneck strangers and bartenders since that CBGBs party. It's making me stir crazy, desperate to see a familiar face. Anybody in my position would start to fuckin lose it.  That's got nothing to do with you though and I'm sure you'd rather not hear about it. Anyway, best of luck, hope things straighten out for you.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Again, I want to apologize for being such a dick. You're right, you don't owe me anything...I'm sorry for giving you the impression that i thought you did. I'm just a lonely bastard, staring at the walls waiting for something to happen all year has made me a bit infantile, and I ought not to drink so damn much. I really do like you though, still looking forward to seeing you again sometime. Maybe next time then. Hope you're doing good.

 Saturday, June 21, 2003

 i don't know if you know, but nick bohn died yesterday. there is a memorial next week.

 Sunday, June 22, 2003

 Okay, you're not replying. Guess you're mad at me. That's okay, but I was curious how Nick Bohn died...can't believe I didn't ask you in the first e-mail. I just assumed it was drugs.

Monday, June 23, 2003

 i'm not mad. i never got the other email. you’re right though, he overdosed. he'd been clean for a while though. so sad.

 Thursday June 26, 2003

 Dear friends,
 I am moving to Detroit on Monday and will be cancelling this e-mail account in 24 hours. My new e-address is: *****@****** Hope everyone's well.

 Friday, June 27, 2003

 what’s in detroit? so no new york? good luck.

Wednesday, July 2, 2003

 Hi. I wanted to come to NYC but you never got back to me! Remember I asked you about your schedule? I was looking forward to seeing you. There aren't any friendly or familiar faces around here, except for my family, which is why I have to move. Detroit is cheap and nasty and full of crazies, so at least I won't be broke and bored. They have some great clubs and a ton of even greater bars. I'll be getting some warehouse work within a few weeks and moving into my own apt. in the downtown area.  How are you doing? What's been going down with you in NYC? Maybe we can have a chat on the phone before I leave. Lemme know if you wanna...I'll call you...

 Thursday, September 18, 2003 1:47 AM

 i don't think you sent the email. i never got it, the last email i got from you was about the shane pictures. things here are good, more or less, i'm working at barnes and noble and learning how to play the banjo. or more like making rock star faces in the mirror while holding the banjo. either way i'm trying to do things with a banjo. not writing as much as i'd like to be though, the quiet of ct was more conducive to that. what’s up with you?  as for getting together, do we really want to start that up again?


Friday, July 10, 2015

Delmore's at The Dixie

Delmore’s at The Dixie.
He drinks a fizzy Coca-Cola breakfast
Surrounded by magicians
In The Terrace Room.

Delmore’s at The Dixie.
It seems he’s in a hurry
He’s writing angry letters to the editor
Of The Partisan Review.

Delmore’s at The Dixie.
Like Dylan's at The Chelsea
And Sylvia's at The Barbizon
Throwing her clothes from the roof.

Delmore’s at The Dixie.
He stumbles to The Strand on Sunday
Looking for a book by Sigmund Marx
Called Das Oedipal.

Delmore’s at The Dixie.
He finds it hard to ignore the festive season
With an explosive- laden Christmas tree
In the bathtub where he bathes.

Delmore's at The Dixie.
Rockefeller is the reason
This broken bard wears grass- stained suits
Afraid to read his mail.

Delmore’s at The Dixie.
He tells Lou Reed, I won't meet Andy.
Then adds, And who the hell are you?
Don't sell out just the same.

Delmore's at The Dixie.
The bellboy says he's been talking about Trotsky.
Ginsberg thinks, This sounds just like Naomi.
Could this be fate that awaits all Dreamer Jews?

Delmore's at The Dixie.
Soon it will be over
He'll check out and graduate to God
From an Ivy-league hotel.

Delmore's at The Dixie.
He says in his best James Cagney:
To the destructive element
C'est vrai! C'est vrai! C'est vrai!

©Fiona Helmsley

This poem was published on Radius: Poetry From the Center to the Edge in May, 2015.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Quickest Way to Attain Village Weirdo Status

The quickest way to attain village weirdo status in a small town is to walk everywhere. Try it out. As you’re transitioning, people will stop and ask you if you want a ride. Say "no" and tell them you like walking. Watch their eyes get wide, as if you’ve just said you like the burning feeling that comes from having chlamydia. The most random people will stop and offer, and saying “no” is often awkward. Once, an obese woman in a beat-up station wagon followed me down a main thoroughfare screaming, "Ralphie's mom!" "Ralphie's mom! "Ralphie's mom!" It turned out she’d been my son’s bus driver, at a preschool he'd attended, more than three years ago, although my son's first name isn't "Ralphie." If they go through the inconvenience of stopping, you will learn that they expect you to say “yes,” and get in the car.

In the early days of your identity switch, you will meet all the people who make Nancy Grace so popular: the 40+ crowd who sees only killers and rapists in the joggers, dog walkers, and stroll takers you share the sidewalks with. Some of them will tell you that they see what you’re doing as "inspirational," make a comment about your "tight buns," then stick a pastry in their mouths as they dismiss hoofing it as too assault-risky.

Once you’ve ascended to village weirdo status, you will be mentioned in the same breath as the woman who hangs out outside Stop ’n’ Shop, wears multiple, heavy coats in summer, and supposedly lost her children in a fire. You will become community property. People will comment on your clothes, your pace, and scold you out their car windows as they pass, "Don’t text and walk!" Some will find that they have developed a quiet affection for you.  On the days that they don't see you out there walking, they will wonder where you are, and how you are traveling. They will have come to count on seeing you as a regular thing. They will hope that you are ok. They will find that they miss you, even though they think you are weird.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Oona Poem

I wish I was an Oona
but I am a Fiona.
I would make a good 4th wife.
I could heat the milk just right.
I wish I was an Oona
but I am a Fiona.
I would make a good teen bride.
I know how to roll my eyes.
I wish I was an Oona
but I am a Fiona.
I'd give up all my lofty plans
just to be his unseen hands.
I wish I was an Oona
but I am a Fiona.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Life Cycle of a Resentment

I’m not one to hold on to resentments. Thanks to Ebola, I've learned that my resentment cycle is similar to what the human body goes through when infected with a virus. I get actively angry for a few days (entry), storyboard elaborate revenge fantasies in my head involving the shaming and embarrassment of my resentee (replication/shredding), then let it all go, usually having done nothing (latency, "proliferation of the virus particles has ceased, however, the viral genome is not fully eradicated"). Probably the last real resentment I had was towards a friend’s wife, and while I’ve done things to her in my head, and to her image, via Photoshop, that I'm not proud of, I’m to that stage in my resentment cycle where she rents no space in my head, if I don’t go out of my way to think about her existing.

A few weeks ago I sent out a book review to a website. I’d originally sent it to another website, one that I read all the time, and have erotic fantasies about its editor- in- chief, but they messaged me back that they had commissioned a review of the same book to someone else, the week before. I didn’t really care either way about the website I send the review to next. I liked it well-enough, but really, I'd spent a bit of time on the review, and just wanted to see it up somewhere.

Let’s say the editor of the second website was named Jessa. Let's say that even though I got her name right in her email address, I didn’t get it right in the note I sent along with the review. Let's say I addressed my email message to Jessica not Jessa.

If you didn't know, my name is Fiona. My whole life people have gotten my name wrong. I've been called Frances. Something about a first name starting with the letter F that's not Frank or Fred throws people. I'd be an idiot if all these years into my life I still let it bother me. If the definition of "insanity" is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results, the sub- definition is still getting mad about something that you've had years to develop a thick skin about. (Obviously, this doesn't apply to violent assault, and the like.)

Five minutes after hitting send, an email appeared in my inbox. This was good, because usually if an editor replies fast, it means they like your work.

“Dear Fiona,” it began.

“Word of advice: if you don't want your writing to end up in an editor’s trash unread get their name right.”

No signature.

My first inclination was that she was right. Her response was very effective, because I was instantly in a state of deep mortification, and got on the phone to go and cry to a friend. But soon afterward, I started to get angry. From one often screwed up first named person to another, words (because more than one word is plural) of advice: Chill sister. Then it occurred to me, this person is making a lot of assumptions. This person doesn't know me. She doesn't know my circumstances. For all this person knows, I could have composed that email on shitty voice activated software after losing my arms in a fire. Maybe my hard of hearing home health care worker composed that email for me, absolving me of any responsibility and making me the improper beneficiary of her snooty words of advice. What did she know, maybe ableist.

So I composed this response:

Dear J,

Thank you so much for your timely response. F. who is lying here besides me, shivering in her bed sheets, yet somehow managing to look angelic, would want me to stress to you how grateful she is for this. Being that she is so vulnerable to infection, timely responses to her email inquiries, especially ones in regard to her writing, have taken on a great and dark importance. We are, after all, talking about her legacy. Death portends.

I have to make this fast. Because of the state war machine, budget cuts are again victimizing the most vulnerable among us, and my hours helping F. as her eyes, her ears, and-- I am woe to admit-- as her editor have been greatly reduced.

Your response shook me, J. If it can be any consolation to your delicate sensibilities, I want to come clean to you about something.

I see Jessicas.

That infamous Missouri outlaw shot down by a treacherous friend? Jessica James. That wrestler who held public office in Minnesota? Jessica Ventura. It's like tunnel vision. I can't explain it. Any name that begins with Je: Jessica Lopez. Jessica Aniston. I even hear names this way. Rick Springfield's song is an anthem of equality with gender neutral pronouns as he wishes he had Jessica's girl.

Do you remember that movie, with Bruce Willis, and that darling, cone headed boy, Haley Joel Osment? The name of the film escapes me, but there was that famous line of dialogue from the film that was everywhere for a moment: "I see dead people."

I see Jessicas.

I thought I had it under control; I reinvented myself as one of the people who refer to others by their last names. People assumed I was a gym teacher.

Do what you must J. Empty the email from the trash. Rid yourself of it for good; but please, do not hold my affliction against the poor, wounded girl who lies besides me.

I have told her and will tell her nothing of this exchange.

Love and other indoor sports,



It’s a few weeks later, and while I've yet to hear a response, I’m happy to report I am 100% resentment-free.