Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Year of the Smartass

Things are looking up.  Looking up indeed.

Since despite all Chinese Calendars telling me otherwise, 2012 for me was apparently the Year of the Anxiety Attack.  And this was a rousing follow-up to the previous year 2011 which most undeniably turned out to be the Year of the Endless Writers Slump.  (I mean, we can go back a bit further too if we wanted..though 2010 was admittedly a bit of a high AND low for me in many ways.  So, that would probably have to be considered, since everything seemed to revolve around it, the Year of Turning 40.  Or more to the point, the Year I Rediscovered That I’m Still 14.)

But- looking forward- this year will most assuredly unfold in all its glory as the Year of Our Lord, 2013, the Year of the Smartass.  And of course, by smartass, I mean me.  Not the “This is my year!” in that annoying way that people in films of the 80’s and 90’s used to say with accompanying fist pumps.  But this is the year I get my Smartass On.  Because let’s face it, Hol, you’ve been kinda down in the doldrums for awhile.  And the only way you’re going to come out kicking and screaming and surviving all this is by using your wits.  You ain’t got much else.  Sure- a pretty good singing voice.  Occasionally you can write a song or two. Some fairly decent legs, and now that my hair is growing back in after the scalp revolt brought upon by the Sorrowful Brazilian Hair Straightening Incident of 2010….wait, wait- I’m digressing.  Perhaps my wits aren’t the ONLY thing I’ve got going for me- but they just might be the most important thing right now.

And this is because my smartassity very well may turn out to be the thing that keeps the panic attacks from winning, whereby I become one of those folks who never leave the house, or when I do, have to employ one of those “What About Bob” baby-steps tactics just to reach the mailbox right outside my front door.  My smartassness just might be my ticket to feeling like I’ve written myself authentically upon the world in some teeny tiny way- finally.  Like I showed up.  The teacher called “Long, Holly?”  and I for the first time answered “Present!”

My smartassiolity keeps nipping at my heels like the patchy Chihuahua/Bull Terrier that it is.  Whenever I stay for too long a time in that really comfy seat of melancholic blue-green tinged despair- the seat that my ass has carved a painstakingly perfect-fitting dent into- it’s Smartass that yanks me out by my fingernails.  Sniveling and snotty nosed- glancing back longingly over my shoulder at my personal ass-dent in the middle of the squooshy Everything Sucks seat that I’ve somehow been ripped asunder from. Smartass knows its time.  Time to get some mojo back ON. Which I suppose I’ve been doing sort of on again, off again, for the latter few months of 2012.

Here’s what happened in 2012 that I think is worth mentioning:  First of all, I realized I was a total wanker for not really ever picking up the electric Telecaster guitar the universe sought to inexplicably plant upon my doorstep in the winter of 2000.  So I started actually playing it- and more importantly, with a little help from my friends, bought a killer vintage Guild amplifier for said guitar which has so much more legit street cred than I could ever manage to summon. (This task was accomplished specifically with a knowledgable dude musician friend with whom I could plunk around on a variety of amps in the music store without feeling like all the other musician dudes on either side of the counter were constantly sniggering behind my back. Or at least if they were, I wasn’t by myself.)
Second of all, in 2012 I pulled out my old turntable and not only began listening to my old LP’s, (the most notable of which for my musical purposes became, in this order:  The Pretenders first album, David Bowie’s “Young Americans” and Tom Petty’s “Hard Promises”) but I started buying new albums on vinyl, and listening to them.  The result of which… I believe… is that for the first time… I have started to rock.

Smartass-1.  Squooshy ass-dent seat-0.

Now there are obvious drawbacks to realizing at the ripe age of 42 that what you really want to be when you grow up is Chrissie Hynde.  But there it is.  That’s sort of what I have discovered.  (There is also a vague Dorothy Parker/Chrissie Hynde version of me that will also suffice for my Grown Up fantasy of myself. Or maybe a Laurie Anderson/Kate Bush/Chrissie incarnation too…though I really don’t know much about Laurie at all, other than she along with Dorothy joins the ranks of the Really Cool Chicks who said Fuck It and did a bunch of groundbreaking stuff similar to what only men were doing at the time she decided to do it.)

And in order to overcome those drawbacks, I’m going to have to enlist the Smartass.  Oh, wait—I’m sorry- what’s that you say?  You ask, what drawbacks could you possibly be referring to?  Well, for heaven’s sake let me list them here for you.

1.  Nobody in the professional pop/rock music world gives a shit what you’re doing after you pass the age of say, 25.  If you haven’t made a dent- if you haven’t already sparked real interest by either procuring some sort of a deal or building up a large, strong fan base, you might as well have not existed at all.  Die- not Fade Away.
2.  There is no way I’m going to leave my delightful family and go on the road for nine months out of the year at this point in my life, which is the only thing you can really do to earn a living and ply your trade as a rock and roller.
3.  Plus, usually when you’re doing that whole nine months on the road thing, you’ve got a BAND that you’re doing it with. If what you’re doing is mostly rocking. And that brings me to the final current drawback.  I have no band.  And I’m so old and comfortable in my entitled middle-aged American lifestyle, that I can’t imagine how it could come to pass that I would eventually hook up with the few number of young, hungry, talented other musicians I would need to hook up with in order to form said band.

Squooshy ass-dent seat- 1.  Smartass- 1.  Curses, a draw.

So the Smartass needs to show up now.  The smartass needs to come forth and trumpet- I DON’T CARE.  I don’t care what the drawbacks are.  I don’t care that this is the silliest endeavor I’ve heard of since the Sorrowful Hair Straightening Incident of 2010.  (Let’s just refer to that from now on as the SHSI of ’10.)  You, Holly, need to get off your ass and stop believing your life is over.  You must rock, and if at all possible, find yourself a band. You need to fight those horrible hormones that have you convulsively shaking through your panic attack, spending large amounts of time on the loo at 3am, stuffing down Ativan tablets, praying to a god you kind of don’t believe in anymore that this one will end soon.  This attack will be over within an hour or so and you can go back to what you’ve apparently lost any real talent for lately, which is sleeping through the night.

I DON’T GIVE A POOP ANY LONGER FOR WHAT MAY APPEAR RIDICULOUS.  I’m a woman fighting for her life now.  I’m a woman with a whole lot of snidey growly stuff to say- I’ve always been.  And I’m tired of being afraid.  Just plain effing tired of collapsing under the significant weight of my well-tended mountains of fear.  Because when I think about what I used to be afraid of, versus what I’m actually afraid of now (please refer to the previous paragraph where I roughly outline my delightful 3am bi- or sometimes tri-weekly activities) my old fear just seems flighty and stupid.  Just totally weak.  My old fear was simply- I was afraid of being rejected.  I was afraid of being unwanted and scorned and forgotten.

My NEW fear is so much more completely awesome than that.  It’s MUCH more intricate and simultaneously simple and predatory and well-groomed and historical and primal and basically human. My NEW fear kicks my OLD fear’s ASS.  Because my new fear is simply... that I am...going ...

To die.

And when I say that- please understand that I don’t mean fear that I’m going to die whenever that eventually is.  Not that I’m going to sort of tarry and fritter away the years I have coming to me before I eventually end up face down, breathless, in a salt-free bowl of chicken noodle soup during lunch at the Green Hills Manor.

Though those thoughts do terrify me, they’re still not nearly as arresting as the death fear I’ve encountered staring at the bathroom tile in the wee hours.  And that matured and well-developed fear is that I’m going to die RIGHT NOW. Truly.  My heart will feel like it is beating so hard and also so fast and fluttery that it’s amazing I’m managing to get any oxygen into my lungs and through my bloodstream at all.  My thoughts will become so furiously fast and dizzingly abbreviated, scorching paths through my brain like a PCP-laced dose of heroin that I just want to shut the brain down entirely.  And those thoughts usually include some bizarrely uber-rational thought.  Specifically, the sort of bone-piercing sadness that whatever is about to happen in the next few moments, I can only marvel at what a shitty parenting job I will have ended up doing.  My poor beautiful babies will simply become motherless.  My previously ebullient, rakishly boyish husband will have to deal with being a widow and raising our children on his own.  If only I wasn’t dying RIGHT NOW.  Everything would be so great- so rad- if only my time hadn’t JUST come up.
That’s what a motherfucker these anxiety attacks are, if you’ve never had one.  Akin to back labor during child birth (I know- I went through it twice with both kids.) Akin to a horrendous car accident which leaves one motionless and helpless in the hospital.   Akin to your worst nightmare you ever had- the one where you couldn’t shake it off for days after you awoke from it.

But, but but.  As maybe you can already glimpse, dear reader, there is a bright spot to all this darkness.  My shrink keeps reminding me.  (Easier to recall and embrace more fully in the safety of his sage-green hued office miles away from the eerily lit floor tile four inches below my heaving sweating face the night before.)  All this trauma, all this shaking, all this horrid feeling of staring at death in the FACE--- is healing.  Is helping me.
Is strengthening the Smartass.

Who’s gonna start taking the lead a bit more in my life if I have anything to say about it.  Who’s gonna start breaking through those fear walls for me, “There you are, Holly, Darling, just paved the way a tweensy for you there…yes yes, step on gingerly through to the other side, that’s my girl…”  Because there’s nothing else for it.  There’s no other way.  I know (well, let’s say I hope, because enough professional people have told me) that the raucus anxiety should abate in my later 40’s.  Maybe even as early as the mid 40’s.  Which really, other than the happiness of my own kids and eventual world peace, will probably be the only thing I end up wishing on stars for the rest of my life until I am no longer a regular victim to these hellish night episodes.  Geez, I thought chronic cystic acne sucked in my 20’s.  That was nuthin.

But until they’re over, I can only use them as fuel, I am discovering.  There’s nothing else for it.  I can only use them to get me the fuck onstage much more often with my sweet ass Guild amp and my beat up Mexican-assembled Tele and SING.  (Hopefully with what will become my band.  Whatever that means. Whenever that comes into being.)  There’s nothing else for it but for me to perform, snarling and giggling and yelling and growling through my songs. And to write.  And play and play and play and laugh as much as I can.  I think it may be  all we’ve got, y’all.

So- that's what Smartass sez you’ve got to do right now, Hol.  Since so far, you’ve been wrong every time about it being NOW that you’re going to die, maybe you should take it as a sign that you should live a little wilder and freer and who gives-a-shit- what all the moms at the school think about you, the odd conundrum of a wealthy-by-proxy, mostly-stay-at-home, curmudgeonly, rock and roll West Los Angeles parent.  Who cares what the other supreme hipster musical beings of Venice make of the late 30-something? Early 40- something?  I hear she’s married with kids? Tall rocker lady in the pleather pants and Sex Pistols Tshirt up on stage rocking it to them along with her tiny little muffin top, her oh-so-vaguely Cellulite-ridden back thighs, and her needs-a-bit-o-Botox worry lines. Maybe to really rock just means to not give a fuck.  It doesn’t mean you have to actually look exactly like Chrissie herself, you just have to channel her.  And maybe because in this dawning Year of the Smartass, I’m finding I really, truly, for the first time don’t give any fucks, whatsoever.  At least not about what I used to. All that personal time with the bathroom tile has earned me that honest to goodness gold star.

I shall close with a quote.  Not my own- because, goodness, I’m not even quoteable to myself.  No no.  This quote happens to be swiped from the lyrics to a song belonging to a fellow musician dude. The song is called “It’s Your Life” and is sung and written by an LA east-sider whom I know only very tangentially through the vague tendrils of the music scene here.  His name is John Gold. I really like his stuff.  This feels particularly relevant to me at this juncture, and who knows, maybe you too, so go google him and this song if you dare- it’s bouncy and fun, in a good way.  For the time being, here are the words, dear reader, please pay attention to the very last part, and thanks for reading.  Your Own Personal Smartass, signing off for now:

“IT’S YOUR LIFE” by John Gold

When you get up you get up
When you're down you go down
I hope you're getting a kick out of this sweetheart
I hope you're gonna laugh as much as you can

Try to do them right when they do you wrong
They might be writing you this song
We've got the same spider that's creeping in
And you know the kind of rough that you're a diamond in now

Baby it's your life baby it's your life
You gotta love your life have fun with your life
When you're in the zone when you're on the shelf
When your real id says you are somebody else
When you're on a plane when you're uptown
Or you're in the nude all wrapped up in a towel

If your high heel gets caught up in your gown
And you tumble down the stairs right into a crowd
I hope you're getting a kick out of this sweetheart
I hope you're gonna laugh as much as you can

Baby it's your life baby it's your life
You gotta live your life have fun with your life
Baby it's your life baby it's your life
You gotta live your life have fun with your life

Don't freak out
Don't freak out
Don't freak out

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