In honor of the SISTER SPIT 2014 FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN, I present another offering from the 1997 Sister Spit Tour Diary! This entry was written from a CYBER CAFE by one of the Valencia directors Samuael Topiary!!!
DAY 4 or 5, from topiary
Hello and hope you are well. We are now on day 4 or is it 5? Driving all night through major heat and find ourselves in Tuscon.
After nice opening shows in Santa Cruz and LA, we really hit our stride in Las Vegas, out-performing ourselves to a rowdy and diverse Vegas crowd of locals, a mix of heckling straight men and appreciative dykes and many others in between. Our most excellent and talented host Dave had hooked us up w/ free rooms at the illustrious Stardust Casino and even got us a grant from the Nevada State Council on the Arts. The free “ass juice” the bar kept doling out definitely heightened the energy. Heckling was raised to a new level. And believe it or not, we even did a second set!
I think it’s safe to report that we all had a blast in Vegas especially after Ali treated some of us to her expert slot machine techniques.
It’s fucking hot as hell here in Tucson and we’re all a bit punchy now after driving all night from Vegas to Tucson. Am writing you from the cyber cafe next to the Hotel Congress.
Hit a traffic jam in the middle of the desert on the road from Vegas to here at about 3 am. We wondered about the alien abduction possibilities, but it turns out there was a murder…. probably by human hands, though. The landscape is surreal here.
I lost $3 to the nickel slots. It’s very hot in the van. We have to drive at night and sleep by day. Wish we had more time in Tucson, it seem so interesting, picturesque.
The tour is really starting to get rolling now. I can feel us as a show gelling, getting the hang of it, getting funnier and easier and less precious with each other. The traveling is harsh, though.
In honor of the SISTER SPIT 2014 FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN we’ve dug deep into the Sister Spit archives for some must-see-gems from the vault. So today, for your #FBF viewing pleasure, I present DAY 33 of the Sister Spit Tour Diary 1997, written by Michelle Tea.
Below is it exactly as it appeared on the ’97 website:
DAY 33, michelle
Greetings from the illegal insides of the Budget Cargo Van!
I’m bouncing & rocking all over the place as the van zooms out of Cleveland and on towards Detroit. This whole part of the country – particularly the east coast (is this still the east coast?) – has been such a crazy whirlwind.
Philadelphia was a great all-ages show at the new gay center, we each got to do one piece written by someone else on the tour, something we’d been talking about doing for a while. It was pretty hysterical, the big highlights were Ali doing Sini, complete with the trademark yellow glasses; Sini doing Eileen’s ‘Merk’ in pure Sini fashion – very loud, with a couple “Fucking”s thrown in. And Eileen doing Tara aka ‘Pantena’ was completely insane, performed in some kind of weird snooty british accent, wearing a feather boa, doing Pantena’s strange yoga-ish moves on the floor. I was a little afraid our gigantic in-joke performance would bore & alienate the audience, but they really liked it.
After Phili was New York, where all the girls were split apart, staying at different houses and it felt more like a weird vacation than the tour. I saw Rod Stewert eating breakfast, he looked really bad but I still got excited seeing him. I went to see the Cindy Sherman show at MoMA, it was sponsored by Madonna, who Eileen believes should sponsor next year’s Roadshow. So if anyone knows how to get in touch with Maddy, please let me know. And did anyone read her goodbye to Versace in Time? What a fucking idiot! I’m so sorry she won’t get to stay in his villa & be pampered anymore, this must be a really hard time for her. But I still would like her to kick down some cash to our traveling all-girl literary revolution.
ANYWAY, NYC was rad, a little show at Rising Cafe in Brooklyn, and a sold-out house at P.S.122, a show Topiary & Eileen put together from the road, a very tricky thing. It was a great night. Next was Boston, another sold-out, people turned away at the door, standing-room-only show – can you deal with all these people coming out for poetry!!! It’s pretty fucking incredible.
Boston was wall-to-wall excellent girls, and there were a bunch of moms & assorted family members in attendance, including my own. It was the first time she ever heard me read, actually it was the first spoken word event, lesbian event, weirdo event, whatever event for my mom, and I think she held up pretty well & even enjoyed herself, though she was also slightly disturbed. It’s good to periodically disturb your mother, don’t you think? Ali’s mom stole the show, joining her daughter on stage to read her lines from Ali’s piece “The Story of Slutty.” She made all kinds of great exasperated mom faces while Ali read about being 15 years old smoking pot in a changing stall with a 27-year-old floosie.
Next was fantastic Provincetown, by far the hardest place for us to leave. Well, it was hard getting out of New York, but that was because Cherie took the wrong train and got lost in Queens for 2 hours. But Provincetown was fabulous! Another packed show, where we were joined by local poet Kathe Izzo, the lady responsible for the terrific event. Kim Silver & Annie Sprinkle opened their homes to us vagabonds, and Annie taught Ali a new boob trick – how to light matches off her nipples. She nearly got arrested on Commercial Street one night lighting up her tits for our entertainment. You’d think the cops in P-Town would have more of a sense of humor. A bunch of girls went whale-watching and had very spiritual experiences watching the humungous mammals flip around and wave their fins. Cherie, who used to live in P-Town, took us across the breakwater to her secret swimming hole, and we swam with the crabs & minnows, and I held a couple starfish and as you could guess that was pretty cool. We got some good illegal tattoos from Cherie’s friend Chris – tattoos are still illegal in Massachusets, and you still can’t buy booze on Sundays either. Coming into town right as we were leaving was Club Casanova – a very swanky & hilarious drag king show from New York City. We got to catch their act the night we left, Mo B. Dick, Dred, Will Doher and Labio, Fabio younger brother. Cherie & Sash hopped onstage and sang a country song as a pair of incestuous brothers recently kicked off the Garth Brooks tour for their forbidden love. Finally we tore ourselves away from Provincetown. It was very hard.
Back in the van for an overnight 15-hour drive to Buffalo, we haven’t had to haul ass like that since Texas! We were like a bunch of 7-11 hot dogs on one of those rotating hotdog warmers, all of us lined up & sleeping in the back of the Budget. In Buffalo we were welcomed into the House of Kate, who not only put most of us up in her huge & excellent house, but also kept us thoroughly entertained. Our show at Hallwalls was great and very, very bittersweet because it was the final show of the original Sister Spit line-up. Marci & Ali have since returned to their lives in San Francisco & New York, and Eileen is off writing in the woods at a writer’s colony in upstate New York. I don’t have to tell you that we miss them a lot. Marci was a really good, solid, sensitive & stable girl to have on the tour. Ali is not exactly stable, but her constant humor & sweetness even in the tensest of situations, is sorely missed. Plus, Sash has lost her drink…
(……oops!!!!…here’s where michelle ran out of batteries … we’ll get the rest of the story soon!)
While being raised on the shrinking teat of Catholicism, I did get to experience transubstantiation in my mouth, but I never really got into how groovy this miracle can be till the other night.
The utter night, in the doorway of Florentino’s, an El Monte restaurant where you can order a pepperoni pizza with a side of Meso-american mini-pizzas (sopes), I communed with a British God by reaching for his proxy Latino. Through our touch, I learned that when Mexican Morrissey hugs you, real Morrissey is draping his ancestrally-Irish limbs around you, too.
This is Pedro Infante, the Mexican Frank Sinatra.
This is Frank Sinatra, the American Pedro Infante
My 75% Mexican/Mexican/ancestrally-Irish three-way was facilitated by the South El Monte Art Posse and Art Movement, two Moz Angeles area grassroots organizations that invited weirdoes to come experience why E, M, and O are critical to spelling El Monte: SEMAP and Art Posse put on a show to venerate Los Esmiths and Morrissí through music, art, and poetry flavored by emo bouillon.
Did you know that Morrissey ends in a backwards yes and a phonetically Hispanic affirmative! Guau!
I got to Florentino’s like fifteen minutes before the homage was supposed to start and admired how a candle vendor was forcing Candy Darling to mingle with Mexican ghosts.
To set a British mood, I set up camp in a corner booth, ordered a cup of tea, and willed my melanin to cool it.
A very tattooed Latina and her less tattooed friend took the pleather bench across from mine. I asked them, “Are you guys from El Monte?”
The very tattooed one nodded and answered, “I grew up here.”
“What’s El Monte like?” I asked. I explained, “I only know two things about El Monte: there’s a grip of Mexicans here and James Ellroy’s mom got strangled here.”
The very tattooed Latina agreed that there are grip of Mexicans in El Monte but hadn’t heard of James Ellroy or his strangled mother. She explained, “I live in West Covina now. A lot of athletes come out of there.”
I expressed my interest in her statement by blinking.
At the front of the dining area, near the john and a claw machine bedazzled by white Christmas lights, a dude of color spoke into the mic, welcoming us to an evening of stuff inspired by you already know what. The very tattooed girl whispered, “I thought it was Lakers night.”
Unfortunately, the emcee handed the mic over to a man who rambled in an affected Jamaican accent against American incursions into Syria. When he said terror, it came out Tehran.
Jah works in mysterious ways, I suppose.
After the Rastafarian event hijacker went away, a she-poet bearing the Aztec name for flower and then some, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, smiled at us. She gave a shout out to the 626 and confessed that while she’s not that into Morrissey, she’s brown, and therefore, somebody in her family loves him. She shared a piece inspired by this cousin: ” When I was thirteen, my bangs never fanned right…” Miller’s Outpost, wannabe Docs, and how to scrunch socks peppered her brief performance with flashbacks to the late 80s/early 90s and then claps and Caribbean Fragoza approached the claw machine.
I know Caribbean cause we’re in a literary salon, Las Guayabas, together and her stuff always guaus me with its lush repugnance. It’s lushly repugnant the way silken larvae hatching in your eye socket might be.
She shared a piece inspired by the song The More You Ignore Me the Closer I Get. That song reminds me of an orange and white cat that likes to sit on my fence and watch me go to the bathroom. Softly stalkerish.
The second piece Caribbean read mentioned nothing about The Smiths or Morrissey, but it totally extracted their bouillion; it possessed their mojo. The spooky little naca narrating this story was a crow of a girl I could totally imagine belly-flopped on a mattress on her bedroom floor, painting cool words on her walls with black fingernail polish, speaking these lines: buy viagra online without prescription
“Crows have imaginations.
Crows hold grudges.”
The spooky little naca story held us all together in a singular dark but ticklish vibe, the way Morrissey’s songs do.
Kenji Lu followed and gave a taste of Morrisssey a la Snookie.
Lu explained that he encountered Morrissey after cliquing up with the only Mexican in his New Jersey high school, and sharing a piece inspired by Everyday Is Like Sunday, Lu’s poetry made it even easier to visualize apocalypse godzillaing the garden state. Lu went on to share a poem inspired by Depeche Mode, the DJ played a snippet of Personal Jesus, and I wondered, “Are these poets using the posters from adolescent bedroom walls as their muses? Is Siouxsie next?”
She was not.
Modern English was.
Mike the Poet followed Lu and the Poet said his initial exposure to Los Esmiths happened in 1989, during his freshman year at Artesia High, and he spoken-worded a mashup of lyrics, an emo sound collage.
It was time to cede the stage to Mexican Morrissey.
The Mexican Morrissey’s real name is José Maldonado. By day he’s a LIFEGUARD, and I’ve seen him perform with his cover band, the Sweet and Tender Hooligans. The Hooligans’ performances combine agony with mextasy, especially when confused cholos weep and/or mosh.
Maldonado sat, perched his guitar on his knees, sang a couple of unplugged, bilingual covers, and thusly, made us acknowledge his gift: that his imitation of Morrissey is so uncanny it’s Catholic. Through the son (Maldonado), we experience the father (Morrissey), and through the father, we experience the holy ghost (Oscar Wildean/Aleister Crowleyian magic).
Anyways, Maldonado left us wanting more of what he clearly had plenty left to give and Vicky Vertíz jogged up to stand where he’d channeled our leader. She shouted, “Happy birthday to Gloria Anzaldúa!” and declared that Nepantla, the Nahuatl concept of kooky, spiritual betweeness, is thee gothest thing ever. Being in a partially Italian restaurant, Vertíz urged us to buy calzones. This evoked ja ja jas.
Mexican calzónes. The space between their calzonic worlds is Nopantsla.
Vertíz preached that Chicanos relate to The Smiths and Morrissey as alienated nerds of color and dove into a piece about camping at the Salton Sea. Like Caribbean, that piece, and her next one, which held the phrase “a 50s guitar in the key of sorrow,” extracted that emo bouillon we’d come to savor. Her work reminded us that it can be good to create a subculture that lusts after death by bus.
(Hell, if it was good enough for Frida…)
The hungry Mexican audience wanted more Maldonado and shouted, “Otra! Otra! Otra!…” and Maldonado obliged, scurrying back to the mic, perching the guitar back on his knees.
Before giving us more song, he treated us to a retelling of the time he met Morrissey sucking on a Corona in the corner of Pasadena bar. He asked him for his autograph, requesting that he, “make it out to José,” and Morrissey put him on the ethnic spot, asking Maldonado why so many Carloses, Marias, Josés, and JosBs want his autograph.
If Gloria Anzaldua had been there, she would’ve whispered: “Nepantla…”
If Gustavo Arellano had been there, he would’ve cracked open his book ASK A MEXICAN and begun reading the entry on page 126…
Maldonado mumbled something about how many of us there are and then told us, as he choked up for a sec, that he confessed to Morrissey, “Everyday of my life is that much better because of your songs.”
Morrissey responded to his flattery with equal cheese.
A few hip hoppers and false prophets hijacked the mic post-Mexican Morrissey, the plug got pulled around ten, and I noticed Mexican Morrissey was leaving. Since he’s probably the closest I’ll get to communing with Morrissey, I abandoned my tea, speed-walked to him, and directed my compliments at his pompadour: “I’ve seen you perform before, and I really admire what you do.
He smiled, said, “Give me a hug,” and the güero became my cleverly fay Englishman for a seven seconds.
I’ve had a lifelong thing for rabbits and an end-of-summer visit to Pasadena’s Bunny Museum showed me how, with enough eccentric grit, such a thing could be monetized.
Year three of the Great Depression and the address of the Bunny Museum!
Polyglot plaques hanging along the BM’s stuccoed porch announced to me and my person that we’d arrived at the appropriately deranged spot. I knocked, summoning the keeper of the madness to her front door. Dressed in violent reds, this blonde emerged and greeted, “Did you bring the bunny money?”
“I brought cash,” I said with uncertainty.
“That’s bunny money,” she lectured. “It’s for the bunnies. We have several live bunnies on the premises and they have to eat between three and five fresh fruits and vegetables a day. It adds up. Six dollars.”
She stuck out her pawlm.
Being a rabbit caretaker myself, I subscribe to guidelines that privilege timothy hay as a dietary anchor, but I wasn’t there to proselytize my gospel of fiber. I was there to be awed. Reaching into my tote, I groped for…bunny money.
“Do you have any rabbits on your person?” the lady asked as I handed over six dollars which I really wanted to garnish with sixty six cents.
“I had a figurine I was going to give you but-”
“No!” interrupted the melaninly-deprived bunny mistress. “On your person.” She gestured to show that she meant bunnies in my skin.
“Oh, yes,” I said. “I have this.” I rolled up my left sleeve and showed her.
“What is that?” she asked.
“It’s a rabbit pirate. Her cutlass crisscrosses this delicious carrot because vegetables are the booty she seeks.”
“I’m gonna have to get a picture of that. Place your hats and bags in the chest.” She pointed at a wooden chest stenciled with rabbitry. “And then hop on in.”
Dumping hats and my tote in the piratic thing, we ferried our wallets and phones into the BM’s foyer. There, the bunny mistress stuck a doctored sign in our hands. She styled us and became our Annie Leibovitz.
After taking shots of us with her camera and mine, she faced us down, treating us to an oral history of the BM. During our baby carrot of a lesson, we learned that the BM accidentally began when the bunny mistress and her husband exchanged rabbit-related gifts for their wedding anniversary. They continued exchanging rabbit-related gifts for the next three hundred and sixty-five days. As friends learned of this daily hoppening, they heaped rabbit-related gifts on the couple, and eventually, the two amassed an excess of thirty thousand rabbit-related collectibles, many of which are housed not there. The bunny mistress rabidly stressed that the BM is a living museum where she, her top rabbit (husband), their bunnies, and some cats (which bothered me: cats prowling a shrine dedicated to rabbits is like Amish wearing Velcro) perform their daily what-have-yous. So, at the Pasadena home we’d paid to enter, this family entrepreneurially receives gawkers while cooking pasta, watching DVDs (probably not Fatal Attraction), perusing cialis with atenolol the TV Guide, and, of course, experiencing the occasional BM. The bunny mistress explained that she and her husband have dreams of relocating the BM to a larger site with a bunny-shaped parking lot. She described the lot’s layout while I zoned out, imagining traffic flowing according to the rabbit’s digestive journey.
Fun Lagomorphic Facts: The rabbit’s digestive tract more closely resembles a pony’s than a rat’s but rabbit connoisseur Amy Sedaris stresses that whenever the rabbit asks the horse to borrow money, its phone calls are never returned. Rabbits also munch on a special blend of their own poo pooetically known as night feces.
There was no humble bragging at the BM. The bunny mistress pointed at the tribute wall behind her so that we could not overlook her awards from Guinness World Records, TV Guide, and LA Weekly, and then, she hopped away, allowing us to bask in the kind of extravagant hoarding that makes me proud to be an American.
Somebunny’s watching you.
Doesn’t the middlemost impostor look like it’s silently screaming for help?
Oh, the dust bunnies.
And so on
Our paths, or bunny trails, crossed with the bunny mistress’, again, in her dining room, where three of her freeze-dried former pets added morbid flair to her collection.
Craving a rabbite to eat, we roved into the kitchen.
In the cucina,
we spied this marshmallow enjoying the spoils of bunny money.
Even the fridge was a bunanza.
to the f(l)ur.
Stepping out of the kitchen and into the backyard spared us from nothing. In fact, the objet de rabbit Alice in Wonderlandishly swelled in size…
Rabbits attempting AWOL smashed against the glass.
I worried. My person was blending in with the cute coprophagists.
S/he and I strolled back inside, to check out the room with plushies flattened against its panes.
We wheeled through a doorway
and discovered the TV room, a place to watch porn while sneezing.
Reemerging into the dining area/gift shop/bookstore, I glanced at the scrim featuring local celebrity visitors. Meanwhile, the bunny mistress bragged about Elijah Wood’s Funny or Die commercial for the BM.
A hobbit in a BM commercial?
“Its so nice that you get to perform your obsession,” I told the bunny mistress as my person looked through her books for sale.
I asked to take the bunny mistress’ picture and before shooting it, she disappeared to an off-limits part of the BM to preen. Returning, she posed at a table with a Bunniculaish creature on it and my anemic flash did its best to illuminate her. I thought not quite aloud about how this was a very queer place and a very queer thing was hoppening, this straight couple selling access to their rabbitcentric lifestyle, but I refrained from vocalizing my assessment: the bunny mistress also happens to be thee self-proclaimed Christian Ann Landers and organizer behind Los Angeles’ annual Angel Festival and if there’s anything I’m not, it’s an angel.
DENIM is JEANIUS.
Chelsea Martin’s newest notvel (that’s the genre I’m going to categorize it in) barfs a series of philoselfiecal chunklets that are as deep as they are forgettable, and that’s not bad. In fact, Martin’s notvel flatteringly imitates sentient female life.
Being in the driver’s seat of life, and life is a Kia, exposes us to a series of forgettably deep moments. Fur example, when many women are alive, we get these moments when our brain makes us feel a wild oneness with all things, we feel connected to every stupid shrub, every pinecone, every deer, every grain of Morton’s salt, every spider, every crab, every cloud, every sunset, and then, when this sense of connectedness loosens up, we never return to that precise moment of oneness again. Something related to autopilot or the color taupe replaces this sense of mysticism, which is waiting to be re-experienced by us further down the lane. This sense of flawless oneness is waiting to be triggered by something as banal as a sunset or a sunup or the sun. Meanwhile, we text while driving.
Yodaishly, I’d like to say that picaresque are Martin’s philoselfiecal chunklets. White curtains separate them.
Is EVEN THOUGH I DON’T MISS YOU linear? Probably not.
Its structure and vibe are kind of like Amy Fusselman’s 8’s but with so much more mental intimacy that at times, EVEN THOUGHT I DON’T MISS YOU feels distant.
Here’s an example of a poemish paragraphical blob that occupies its own page. OCCUPY CHELSEA:
Yesterday I saw a girl walking down the street, tears streaming down her entirely unexpressive face, mouth open, while emitting no noise and neglecting to wipe the tears from her face and neck, so now I know for sure I’m not the only person who does that.
A mirror motif pops up narcicystically and here’s one particularly moving mirror chunklet that will never allow you to look at the dirty chones you catapulted from your big toe and onto the carpet in the same way again:
There is a piece of clothing thrown on the floor in the shape of what I look like to myself.
This statement is wildly stupid, wildly deep, wildly feminine, and yet unladylike, and also, it makes me consider places where my own reflection has ambushed me, mostly zoos.
Yesterday I cried over a 30-second trailer for a Robin Williams movie I saw fifteen years ago.
spoke to me. Cold Play’s Viva La Vida can only affect my my soul when I’m menstruating and sometimes, I think Gwyneth Paltrow’s husband wrote that song with the knowledge of my menstrual cycle, which he must’ve heard gossiped about in mythological proportions.
Also, Martin writes about love like a modern, savvily banal Carson McCullers:
It’s upsetting to feel so close to someone yet not have the ability to control their thoughts or effectively manipulate their feelings.
Throughout her notvel, Martin’s narrator, which I suspect is a version of Martin reflected by that garment tossed on the floor, describes many small interactions with a lover. Sometimes, she and the lover are fighting, sometimes, she’s suspicious that the lover is using her for her antacids, sometimes, she’s proclaiming to the lover her readiness to crap with the bathroom door open, and startlingly, at least for me, Martin’s narrator breaks down the third wall to ask, “…do you have any personal philosophies having to do with pants?”
THESE PANTS ARE HOT FOR AMERICA.
Last spring I heard a radio evangelist with Scottish accent preaching about how women need to develop a theology of clothes, especially pants, in order to live righteously. He beseeched women to consider Christ looking at them, judging their jeggings, and I imagined the redeemer dangling from the cross, wearing his designer crown of thorns, peering at a lady without a theology of pants, and, in spite of Jesus’ pain, a thought bubble appears above his crown. In that bubble appears the Aramaic word for slut.
My mother, pardner, college roommate from frosh year, and I were sitting around the night after I’d had some very minor gynecological surgery, and I was sharing with everybody this radio televangelist’s urging, and in the course of trying to come up with a collective theology of pants, somebody, I can’t remember which one of us, spoke this Spanish malapropism: putalones. Pantalones means pants viagra pharmacy in Spanish. Puta means whore in Spanish, which makes the Spanish word for computer a brothel.
Part way through EVEN THOUGH I DON’T MISS YOU, the narrator reveals that EVEN THOUGH I DON’T MISS YOU is a novel, although not really, and that perhaps she is a strong female lead in this novel, thought not really, and that her relationship with this guy or girl or dog or whatever (that’s one of the things that makes EVEN THOUGH I DON’T MISS YOU so interesting, the beloved’s gender is never explicitly given and neither is their species which allows you, as a reader, to project your own issues onto that blank space, kind of like how America did that all over Trayvon Martin’s dead body), which has seemingly inspired this novel, yields a low emotional payoff but not really. In fact, if EVEN THOUGH I DON’T MISS YOU is a notvel, its style is but not really.
Everything the narrator metaphorically touches becomes but not really.
Martin writes like Tao Lin could if he could more readily access his heart through his vagina.
Like the narrator agonizes for months about what to post to the lover’s facebook wall for their birthday.
The narrator writes, “I think I’m at a point in my life.”
So true. We are all always at a point in our lives.
The narrator makes excellent use of an often over-looked natural resource: self-depprecating humor. Self-depprecating humor shoots through the notvel, giving it the texture and flavor of cotton candy Spam. Despite this humor being mixed with deep shit, it is never too much. In order to manage pain, which the narrator frequently does, one needs humor in excess.
ACCORDING TO THIS MEME, HE DEPPRECATES ON HIMSELF.
The narrator alludes to something shitty she did to her lover, which it seems has driven the lover away, and given her psychology, I got the feeling that it could’ve been something really itty bitty not to really worry about or maybe something that should make the reader hate her. That this sin goes left unsaid, kinda like the beloved’s gender, lets the reader project what this slight may have been and forces you to try to get the narrator and through getting her, maybe find a clue as to what she did, but not really,
It would be cool to read EVEN THOUGH I DON’T MISS YOU backwards.
The notvel closes with a but not really love song and more musings on love and more musings on love and more musings on love and the identity of the lover eclipses the beloved’s. Her narcicystic narration effaces the beloved in the same way that Cecilia Gimenez’ over attentiveness and BELIEF IN HER ABILITIES erased Jesus from the sanctuary wall in Borja, Spain’s.
EVEN THOUGH I DON’T MISS YOU is about a relationship but not really. It’s about the misfortune of being oneself. Says the narrator, “The main thing wrong with the world is that each person has to continue to be herself long long long long long long long long (I’m not sure if I got the right number of Justin Longs in there. Long Island) after it’s become completely unbearable.”
Any book that deploys the universal she is guaranteed at least 3 out of 5 stars from me and one of those stars is the sun, which the narrator describes as “haunting.” Ooh.
The mirror motif is extended by meta(mucily) phrases like “if we were both aware that we were both aware that we were both aware…”, reminding us of Aristotle’s theory that art goes deeper than mimesis. It’s metaphor and simile and shit like that (see, a simile).
Which leads me to the most sophisticated chunklet in the notvel. It combines the highest of the high and the lowest of the low in one, juicy scenario, bringing art into the crowning, or should I say enthroning, achievement of Western civ: the crapper:
“Some of my friends have a hard time reconciling the fact that I read poetry on the toilet with the bathroom door open, but they don’t read the kind of poetry I read.”
Here is our most modern reflection, the reflection of ourselves through the H20 filling the pooper, a pool for any NarcissUS who wants to see what we are made of clearly. Chelsea Martin is just such a narcissus.
Carmella Fleming is a poet currently living in Berkeley California. She will be appearing this month at The RADAR Reading Series on August 27th at the San Francisco Public Library. I asked her a few questions about her work and she provided me with some real talk about bouffants, sestinas, and Gertrude Stein.
What is your name?
Carmella Suzanne Fleming
Where are you from?
I was born in Washington DC and I grew up mostly in rural Iowa.
Name three ways you self-identify:
Goth, gay, and cuckoo bananas.
How would you describe your writing style?
I describe my style as ironic, terse, dissonant, and at times sassy. This is true of my creative nonfiction. With my poetry I try to embrace language for the sake of language as well. My writing is often high-pitched and childlike, but deals with adult themes.
What is your literary background and what have been some turning points in your development as a writer?
I basically have no literary background. I wasn’t raised reading much. I was a slow learner in school and my reading skills were not so great until I was older. My high school also had little requirements for English and so I am not “well-read.” I didn’t start writing creatively until about 4 years ago. As of late I’ve been cultivating a background in women’s and queer literature, and postmodern poetry of the U.S. mostly.
One turning point for me in my writing was taking a poetry workshop a couple of years ago with Ali Liebegott. That was my first poetry class, and it got the sparks flying for poetry. I wrote my first Sestina with Ali!
The biggest turning point for me as writer occurred last spring when I attended a queer writer’s retreat called MADCAP. I was camping in the middle of four-day rainstorm in rural Tennessee, reading and writing in an old barn with forty queer writers, none of whom I had met before. It was powerful. The experience was too big to represent here.
What is the writing community like where you live now?
It’s just so great. I have been well supported. I feel like I have three writing communities. First, I have all those queer and/or weird writers hanging out in the Bay Area, like the organizers of the Oakland reading series, Manifest, and the RADAR folks. I’m always forming new writing groups with strange people in the area.
Then I have my graduate community at San Francisco State University. They are an excellent group of people. Graduate writing programs have a bad reputation, for being too cutthroat, unsupportive, and homogenizing, but I’ve found the opposite. Workshop is a blast! My voice and individuality are cultivated there.
Finally, Sharon Coleman, a local poet, professor at Berkeley City College, and curator of the reading series Lyrics and Dirges, was crucial in my development as a poet and provided community for me. Her students have been of great support and inspiration at readings and in critique groups.
Who is your favorite literary hero or heroine?
Gertrude Stein. Her writing has been a huge influence on my style. I have a deep appreciation for my forequeers. In a literature class I recently wrote a paper on Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Butch/Femme Eroticism in Tender Buttons. It was great fun. I like to think about Gertrude Stein, a lot. Asking what would Gertrude do can really get me out of a rut or bout of insecurity. She was bold. I like that.
Who are some contemporary writers or artists that inspire you?
My biggest inspiration has been Jamaica Kincaid. I read Annie John in high school and it blew my mind. Now I read At the Bottom of the River on a semi-regular basis HGH. Kincaid gave me permission to be brief, direct, and terse. I admire the ways in which she explores experiences of childhood. She has a keen ability to expose power dynamics in her writing through very subtle methods. These are things I try to accomplish in my writing.
I am interested in writers that use history, archive, and found materials in their writing, like Frank Bidart. His use of letters and medical documents inspires me. The poem “Ellen West” is one of my favorites. I enjoy a good historical document, real or imagined.
My friend Caitlin Rose Sweet is a visual artist who inspires me. Caitlin does craft and textile work and she deals with some of the same themes that I do. We both like to question what is high and low art, and Caitlin fiercely identifies as a queer artist. A lot of queer artists and writers are hesitant to be labeled as a “queer artist,” but I, like Caitlin, am very proud to claim that title.
Then there’s Woody Allen…I could go on and on, but I’ll stop.
What are the biggest influences on your poetry and why?
I think my not being “well-read” or raised with a lot of literature gives me a fresh and nuanced perspective.
Comedies such as Anchorman and Zoolander influence me, however strange that might sound. Humor is important to me in my writing, and the ways in which those folks use language are so new and creative. In Anchorman, for example, when Ron Burgundy says that he will “get married on a mountain top with garlands of fresh herbs,” he takes a cliché and kind of explodes it.
What are some recurring themes that haunt your work?
Queerness, lesbianism, childhood, depression, time (I am obsessed with time), sex, disappointment and irony, and love.
Where does your work appear?
My work appears in, Milvia Street, Faggot Dinosaur, and the forthcoming Vincent Van Go-Gogh. I also have three self-published chapbooks, one of which is a collaboration with the photographer Elisa Shea. The chapbook, “We Just Got Here” features her photography alongside my poetry.
Tell me about “Let’s Be Loose and Relaxed”…
Let’s be Loose and Relaxed is a reading series that I started with my friends Lucien Sagastume and Elan Dia. We wanted to showcase queer writers. I personally wanted to focus heavily on poetry. It’s a laid back environment, hence the title. It also at times has turned into a dance party. The next reading will be in September.
What is the secret to big hair (Like the bouffant you are wearing here? )
A bottle of hairspray, a comb, and some positive self-talk.
What are some upcoming plans, projects, ideas, or events that you are excited about?
I am excited to read at the RADAR reading series with Dodie Bellamy, Alejandro Murguia, and Stephen Boyer. I am a student of Dodie’s, and I met Stephen at MADCAP. I couldn’t have picked a more exciting group of people to read with.
I’m looking forward to Dodie Bellamy’s new book, Cunt Norton to come out. It’s a follow up to Cunt Ups, but in this case she cuts up the Norton Anthology of Poetry with pornographic material. That’s quite a radical project. I love it.
I am working on a manuscript right now. It examines mental illness from what I hope is an odd perspective. It’s humorous. It features a lot of archival materials that I am so into right now. I’m having fun playing with psychiatric medical documents, getting my kicks where I can.
Shawna Elizabeth is a PhD Candidate specializing in Queer Theory. Some of her writing can be found online at femmetheory.com and she has also been a Guest Blogger for Ironing Board Collective- http://
She is originally from Canada.
After the explosion that is GOOGLE GOOGLE APPS APPS, I HAD to talk to my old friend San Cha about this most recent artistic triumph. San Cha and I first met when she was brand new to SF and we were both working in the box office of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Nothing fosters a forever-bond quite like being side-by-side in a glass cube for eight hours a day, and during that time I watched as San Cha’s music progressed almost as quickly as her outfits shrank. The more time we spent together, the more I recognized in her qualities that I attribute to all my favorite artists: She’s extremely driven, hard-working, fearless, fun-loving, authentic, talented, and hilarious. Her recent collaborations have pushed her art to the NEXT LEVEL- maybe a level ALL HER OWN. I’ve always sensed she was destined for greatness, and am so pleased to have front row seat to watch it happen.
Can you talk a little about your background and how it informs your art? What fundamental things define your outlook?
I’m a chicana. The child of 2 milk farmers from “Los Altos de Jalisco” (Jalostotitlan, Jalisco, Mexico) who crossed the border “illegally.” On this Mexican/Americana working class cultural backdrop, my sexual desires were suppressed by the catholic church under the interpretation of the bible of rural Mexico. Everything I grew up suppressing now comprises my performance in my own sexual liberation. And the tools that my culture would use to suppress me: religion, money, media and GENDER politics is what I like to fuck with.
How did Daddies Plastik form? Tell me about your relationship with the other members.
I met both Tyler Holmes and Vainhein at different times. I had a very similar experience with both of them, in that I adore their work as much as I am in love with them as people. It’s hard to meet people with the same frustrations, philosophies, temperaments and ideologies, and who at the end of the night are the sweetest, down ass bitches you’ll ever meet. As soon as all three of us got in the studio together, we knew we had something amazing going for us. Our frustration with money and how it runs our world, and our fascination with empty beauty and glamour. We are now all housemates in West Oakland. Vain and I actually share a room.
Google Google Apps Apps. Amazing. So amazing I can barely deal with it. What is the ideology behind the song and how did it all materialize?
We’ve been dealing with crazy living situations, living with difficult roommates or difficult landlords, and have even been plain screwed over just to stay in the city.We’ve had many conversations on race and the changes we are experiencing in this area. The tech boom is supposedly bringing in tons more money, but BART employees have not received a comparable raise. City College of SF is closing down, and the bridge fees keep getting higher and higher, making it that much more difficult for anyone not making tech/internet money to afford even commuting to the city. Persia came to us with an idea and a deadline (the “Save Esta Noche” event) and we made it happen in 4 days. Then we took it to our expert engineer Keith Tadashi Kubota, we recorded vocals, got it on the internet. The response has been overwhelming.
The video is BLOWING UP! With friction around tech-boom gentrification in the Bay Area coming to boil, did you have a sense that this video would strike a cord with people or is the success surprising?
Success is always surprising but the issues are not. In my circle of friends this issue is always floating around. It’s more surprising that more people aren’t already having this conversation. Racism/sexism/homophobia is something that people tend to forget because we live in the Bay Area bubble but its something that we have to unmask because its just in a different form.
How has gentrification in the Bay Area affected you as a person/artist?
As an artist you’ve had to adapt and keep in mind that at any point your venue of art may be changed. That your platform can be turned from a stage to a Starbucks.
I think of you as both a musician and a performance artist. How critical are the visual representations (ie costuming, make-up, sets, etc) to your music?
Visual representations are very important since my work is a whole experience. It entices the audience to not just listen but to either be comfortable or uncomfortable with my overt sexuality. It’s about freedom to me, it’s never just about the music. Ideas always come to me in story and narrative form. I dropped out of college because I did not want to be just a musician, I wanted the persona, the performer, the look, the politics and the music to fluidly be presented together. Giving myself a label is difficult because my work uses certain aspects of different mediums but doesn’t use them all.
Your identity as an artist was really fostered by drag communities in San Francisco. What is your relationship to “drag”? Do you consider your own costuming a form of drag?
I would not be what I am now without them. I respect and admire the drag performers/performance artist in the Bay Area. I’ve picked up costuming, make-up, performance tips and inspirations from many of these queens. What I learned from drag I could not have learned from following a band circuit. Drag performances are faster and drag in this city can mean so many things. You get 1 to 3 songs to captivate your audience, and these performers give you theatrics, passion and look, and they are so aware of the camera and their audience. I have so much more I want to learn from drag performers. My look is entirely inspired by drag. I love my drag parents Persia and Daniel Toribio.
Who are The Black Glitter Collective? What do you do?
We’re a group of creative homies that help each other out, enjoy each other’s company, trust each other and get hella down. We are Daddies Plastik (Vainhein, San Cha, Tyler Holmes), Persia, and Daniel Toribio. We also work with many other artists in the bay area. We’ve recently joined the Dark Room Family with Kevin Sniecinsky, Daniel Filipkowski, Omar Perez and Lady Bear. We eventually want to create an official record/production label to house all the amazing talent we have in the Bay Area.
Tell me about your forthcoming album? What can we expect to hear on it?
The album is called OFF HER THRONE. Conceptually the album depicts San Cha as a Virgen de Guadalupe/La Malinche/Marie Antoinette/Reality TV starlet. I played with the theme of womyn being assigned the blame for the downfall of humanity.
Musically I’ve been saying it’s xola goth. drawing on my chican@/latin@/church gurl upbringing. It’s a dance record with heavy synths, some songs are more electronic/dance, some more rock based.
When is the release date/release PARTY???
It’s July 27th at Cafe Du Nord for Dark Room. It’ll be my San Cha return to the stage, this time with a full band and back up singers and a full stage show. The lineup includes Tyler Holmes and Vainhein on backing vocals and synths, Eric and Tommi of the band Parae on bass, guitar, drums and vocals. Guest Appearances by Persia and Brittany B. of Hussyclub We’ve been working really hard and it’s all sounding like my dreams are coming true.
HERE is the invite.
Where can I see you perform in the near future?
Daddies Plastik is playing for Christaper Sings’ birthday party Saturday the 13th. We also playing a show at the Gilman on August 30th
What new secret projects are you working on now?
I’m always working on new projects and I’m not too good at keeping secrets.
Who are some of your favorite artists that should be more famous than they are?
Diego Gomez, Tyler Holmes, Vainhein, Persia, Dj Tori, Keith Tadashi Kubota, Parae, Jessica Amaya, Flynn Witmeyer, Brittany B. of Hussyclub, Julz Hale Mary, Craig Calderwood, Manuel Rodrigues, Sloane Kanter, Cle Torres, Gina Contreras, Abel Morfin, Jon Gourley, Believe, Double Duchess, Gaymous, Stevie Glynn, Hottub, Amanda Verwey #duhbye
The best part about the Crash Pad is that there’s value in not talking. The value lies in the sultry looks, the beckoning body language, and perhaps a good prop. If you really think about it, it’s a great film school. Tell a story with out words. Go.
Use the non-verbal. When I first started rehearsals for Valencia, a lot of the dialogue I had written didn’t sound or feel right. That’s really common in scripts, especially for newer scriptwriters like myself. As the words fell out of the actors’ mouths, I edited and replaced them with shrugs, glances and subtle eyebrow raises. There’s actually only one line of dialogue in the entire short that matters, “We don’t eat food that’s been cooked in bird muscle sweat.” And then at the end of the scene she binges on food that’s been cooked in bird muscle sweat. The average dialogue in a Crash pad shoot? One line from each performer. The math is perfect.
Keep close. Another rule of thumb we follow at the Crash pad is shooting with a specific lens length. We secretly (secrets out!) film with 50-millimeter lenses to capture what the true human eye sees. Well, that’s not really why we do it. It started because we were shooting two cameras and needed them to edit together well. We figured out that if we kept the same lens length, then most shots edited together smoothly. Also and most importantly, our various sets were always small and DIY designed, so keeping this tighter lens meant softer backgrounds semenax trial test and a greater feeling of intimacy with our performers. With Valencia, I shot mostly mediums and close ups. Whenever I shot a wide, I just didn’t feel close enough with the characters. My entire short only has one true wide edited in with a collection of close shots. And I don’t really like it.
Be collaborative! At the Crash Pad, we let our performers do whatever they want. If they arrive with a storyline idea, they get to perform it. They decide 100% what kind of sex they want to do in their scene, and we just follow like a documentary film crew. The only rule is you have to do everything on the bed because that’s where the light is shining. During rehearsals for Valencia, people started writing their own dialogue. I had written words that helped shape the character, but then during rehearsals I said they could translate that however they wanted. Of the dialogue that remained in the short, a lot of it was re-written during improv rehearsal sessions. This resulted in funnier and more genuine moments from non-actors.
And then of course, a handful of my actors were cast directly from the Crash pad. They had the most acting experience of everyone, only had a few lines each and gave a lot of good face.
Alexa Inkeles is a writer and filmmaker based in San Francisco. Currently she works as the video producer and editor for WIRED Magazine’s tablet edition. Her original films have shown in Frameline, Newfest and London’s BFI festivals. Her interests include magical realism, tipping points, and the effects of technology on popular culture.
After what I’ve been affectionately referring to as THE GREAT COMPUTER HARDDRIVE MELTDOWN OF 2013- I’M BACK with a new ART MONDAY. Although many adorable photos of my mutt, Pepperoni, will be lost forever….the blogging must carry on…..
And speaking of Pepperoni, he came along on this week’s adventure! Being a patron of the arts and unable to stand the confines of his crate, Pepperoni made it VERY clear he was not staying home. So, fearing I would be barred from galleries, I zipped him in my jacket and we commenced with the Oakland Art Murmur field trip looking like a couple of cartoon thieves sneaking into an exclusive event.
It’s hard to tell from this admittedly poor photograph but these mix media pieces were scattered sporadically throughout the gallery creating the illusion of false passage ways within the exhibition.
Next, I went back to RPS because the work of Nina Wright caught my eye. She is an Oakland based painter who is featured in the current RPS group show.
Until next Monday
Amanda & Pepperoni