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Wallflowers and Wannabes

swirlMood: Sunday Night Blues
Drinking: Liquids Only

Boy and I were invited to a fabulous party last week. The invitation caught us in a good mood, so we RSVP-ed in the affirmative.

But the big night snuck up on us much too quickly and truth is, we’re rather out of practice at these things. We sat around eating chips and watching some TiVo-ed Dexter goodness and then suddenly realized we only had half an hour until show time.

That’s where all the flinging of clothing began, and not in a fun way. Boy was at his closet, tossing ties, and I was at mine rifling through dresses.

It took me four frocks, one broken zipper, and the sad realization that I am so over my once-beloved gothy platform boots (ah, the sticky club floors we’ve danced around) — until I finally fell back on the terribly unimaginative but ever faithful little black dress.

Boy, meanwhile, had settled on silver for his neckwear, and I shoved a matching silver doodad in my hair and off we went.

As parties go, this one was a success. I’ve been to a few shindigs in my day, from the raucous hootnanny with guests puking Goldschl├Ąger onto the front lawn to stuffy old-people affairs with unpronounceable wines and gropey senior partners. This one was somewhere in the middle.

Adults (mostly) behaved like adults, meaning there was no puking into potted palms and the butt grabs were kept to a minimum (I personally witnessed just one driveby cheek pinch). But the most interesting part was simply that I had a good time.

I tend to be a wallflower at these things. Content to clutch my little glass of whatever in the shadows and watch. Once in a great while I’ll put on a little show in the limelight, especially if the party invitation said something about being my birthday.

But at this particular party, I didn’t have to hide or perform.

Boy and I and a few of our friends found a little table somewhere in the middle of things and settled in for some drinking (Boy) and some people watching (moi) and some extremely entertaining conversation.

All in all, I guess we could have stayed home in our holey jeans with our feet dangling over the armchair and had pretty much the same conversation, but there’s something much more subversive about doing it all dressed up, surrounded by strangers. (Plus, I don’t have a shiny Photo Booth at my house.)

Sometimes I wonder when I’m going to start feeling like an adult. Or, more acurately, feeling the way I always imagined adults felt. Most likely my imagination is the one at fault here, not my feelings. But at the party, sipping my amaretto sour and jangling all that jewelry, looking for all the world like a real adult, I still just felt like me.

And in my head, I’m still too young for all of this.

But the party goes on, dragging the years down with it and someday I’ll probably be 83 and wondering if I’m a real adult yet.

-Lo, whose mother always said there comes a time when a baby face is good to have.

Black Beauty

girl-in-blackMood: Ready, Set
Drinking: The tea with the ice

Packing for a trip, even a long weekend, takes me awhile. There’s so much to take into consideration: weather (do I need an umbrella or a big huge coat?), activities (kick-ass boots or hiking boots?), amenities that will be provided (my mom’s house is well-stocked with my favorite shampoos, soaps, and toothpaste), etcetera.

And when I’m going someplace I’ve never been before (Alabama) and doing something I’ve never done before (featured speaker at a conference and church service), there’s a lot of outfit selection, laying-out, trying-on, and discarding going on. (There may be some shopping involved, as well. I’m always happy to have an excuse to expand the overcrowded wardrobe.)

When I’m wearing something that makes me feel like me, something comfortable yet stylish, feminine yet odd, pretty but weird, something that makes me stalk around like a long-legged bird… Although that analogy is kind of creaping out on me, because now that I think of long-legged birds, I’m realizing that they’re not all that graceful. They’re actually kind of awkward looking, with the head-bobbing and the beak-pointing. But whatever. Long-legged and graceful. That’s what I’m going for.

So in the midst of all this packing and shopping and modeling in front of Boy and mirror and dog, I’ve been realizing something that’s really pretty damn obvious to everybody else.

I like black a lot.

It’s not something I do on purpose. Not anymore. Yes, there was a day when I used to comb the racks for the blackest inky blackness I could find. I even owned a tube or two of black lipstick at one point in time. But I’m not the queen of the underworld anymore. Not even a duchess. Maybe an acolyte, for old times’ sake now and then.

And I’m no Johnny Cash, either (and I’ll hear a thousand “Amens” to that one). I’m no romantic (wo)Man in Black. I’m not wearing black for the poor and the beaten down or the sick and lonely old. I don’t have any reasons as noble as that for my monochromatic style.

Actually, most times when I go on a shopping spree, I’m thinking in bright, starry-eyed colors. “Red this time, for sure.” “Maybe I could make violet work without looking to Grimace-y.” “Something green. Make my eyes pop.” But the color gods are not fans of mine. Most times, when I find what I’m looking for, guess what color it is? Yup. Black. I’ve even asked, “Do you have this in a nice cherry red?” Nope. “Just black, miss.”

So you see, it’s really not my fault that black appears to be my favorite color. It was just meant to be. And I’m not upset about it, either. Black is quite convenient. I’ve worn white on a few occasions and only last about 15 minutes before I’m looking all BritneySpears-frump with some anonymous stain marring my outfit. Black doesn’t betray you like that.

Plus, it just goes with everything. When you have a wardrobe that’s mostly one color, you don’t have a hard time matching.

And here’s a rabbit trail for no apparent reason…Wearing black does not make you “goth”. Yeah, I gladly wore the label not that many years ago, but truth be told, I probably only ever ascended to gothling stage. I was never a full blown goth like Siouxsie. (I never could get my hair to such light-socket stature.) But just because you like to dress in the color of night doesn’t mean that you secretly (or not so secretly) long to be a vampire or that you spend inordinate amounts of time languishing in midnight graveyards, clutching bouquets of dead roses and sighing while singing The Cure…

Anyway, my mother will be happy to know that I am branching out. I’ve recently discovered that navy blue has taken quite a liking to me. So much so that she’s earned a place of honor in my suitcase. Next weekend, I’m taking on Alabama while wearing the color blue.

Watch out world. It’s gettin’ crazy up in here.

-Lo, who had a very brief flirtation with the color orange back at age 15.

The Eyes Can’t Be Trusted

Mood: Sobered up
Drinking: No, thanks

The vampire fangs weren’t the only thing that made him hypnotic.

Something about the way he moved, full of predatory confidence. Something about the way he watched you from across the room, as if you were the most fascinating creature on the dance floor. Something about those fangs.

I was new to the scene when I met him. Just discovering the thrall of the black cotton mafia. I hadn’t done my time with Louis and Lestat yet. But the fangs, they got me. The fangs and his green fishnet shirt. He called it his “Madonna phase” that night. But Madonna never looked that good.

It didn’t hurt that he was a “bad boy” and that I was in my “bad boy” phase. For about 6 months, he was my #1 crush. My pulse took a crash course in speed racing whenever I saw him. I was so enamoured, I even wrote a poem for him, folded it in squares, and slipped it to him on the dance floor between JukeJointJezebel and Queer (the heftybag remix).

But once I got over the lure of those fangs, I realized that somehow, we had made a connection. And somehow that connection turned into a friendship. So that even now, eight years later, I can pick up the phone and call him and there will be a friend on the line.

My friends at the time thought my crush was ridiculous. What did I see in this underage roadie-turned-lead singer who spent more time on his eyeliner than most girls? The guy who had a dentist fit him for prosthetic, pointed canines. The club kid who got high in the boys room. The rockstar wannabe who taped razorblades to his mic stand (and used them on himself). The “freak” who got beat up by frat boys in alleys just because he looked weird. The poster boy for piercings — literally. (His photo was all over the tattoo shop on Belmont so you could look at it and say “I want that kind of hole in my head.”)

But all of that, it’s just what he looked like.

The person he actually was far more shocking.

He’s the guy who held my hand, just sat and held my hand, because he found out I was having a bad day. He’s the guy who took a whole box of my poetry books to show off to his friends. He’s the guy who always has an extra grin and a big huge hug for me, for Boy, and all my friends. He’s the guy who married the gorgeous girl of his dreams one warm night in New Orleans — and then posted giddy photos online. (He’s still married and still giddy about her, too.)

And today I found out that he’s the guy who just spent two days loading food, water, and supplies onto semi trucks headed for New Orleans. Who put together a New Orleans Charity CD to raise money for gas to get the trucks to New Orleans. Who spent the hours after the storm, after his last-minute flight to Louisiana was cancelled, emailing and calling everyone he knew to make sure all his friends in New Orleans were okay, were safe, were alive. Who was frantic with worry for the people and the city he loved.

To those who thought he was nothing more than a freak, a drama queen, an attention whore, a vampire boy, I say — yeah? Well, he’s not the one who sucks.

In the aftermath of a bitch named Katrina, we’re all seeing what really lies beneath. The apathy and amazing arrogance of the man who “leads” this country. The absolute incompetence of the powers that be. The courage of the destitute. The incredible will to survive that beats deep within all of us. And the compassion, the heart, the endless energy of an erstwhile “bad boy” who just wants to do his part. Hell, he wants to do more than his part. I think he’d drag the whole goddamn city to safety if given the chance.

There are so many unbearable stories in the news right now. So much sorrow. So much horror. So much to be ashamed of. But then I think about my friend Jeff. About how well he loves his friends. About how far he’ll go to help them. And it gives me enough hope to make it through tomorrow.

-Lo, who sends this one out, with love, to the Damnits.

Holly Would, If She Could…

Mood: Aspirin, please
Drinking: Water

So the new job is going well, as long as you don’t count the continual forgetting of people’s names and the constant feeling of having no idea what’s going on. Both of which are cured by time, so I refuse to worry about it. Or to type about it. Or to talk about it anymore, because…BORING!

Instead, I’m going to relive for a few minutes the weekend just past. My darling S and I drove LeeLoo and her canine cousin Yoda down to LA and then spent the weekend in Hollywood, shopping on Melrose and wearing swanky boots.

The long version of the story involves a chapter on how I babysat my sister’s dog, Yoda (also affectionately known as the Yodes, Yoder, Fatty, Stank-ass and Lardbutt.)

The Yodes is part Boxer, part American Bulldog, part Piglet, and we love him dearly in spite of his pimply and porcine naked pink belly. He has a sad history involving a deceased previous owner, full-body hair loss and two years doing time in a Chihuahua Rescue (don’t ask!), but my sister and her husband adopted him in January and his life has been much better since then. The LeeLoo likes to push him around, sit on his head and pout when he gets more attention than she does, but all that really means is that she thinks he is swell. Dumb, yes, but swell.

After a week of dog-sitting, S and I embarked on a 7-hour car ride down the 5 to return the Yodes to his home and spend a little time in Celebrityville. (During which we saw nary a celebrity. The trick to celebrity spotting is that, most of the time, you have to actually be looking for someone who has that entitled air about them. Most of the time I am not looking. And therefore the only time I ever see celebrities is if someone else spots them and gives me the elbow.) Since S gave even less of a shit about fame-seeking than I did, we had a celebrity-free zone in Hollywood and enjoyed ourselves immensely.

We spent most of our time on Melrose Avenue, home of the Serious store and several other little goodie-spots, although it’s not quite as chock-full of goodies as it used to be. My new friend L (formerly of Chicago) informed me that I should give up on Melrose and seek out some other happening spots, but I am lazy and it was too late–S and I had already conquered Melrose, all day long.

L, who is very much in the know about all things LA (or at least much more in the know than I am), took S and I to dinner at the Rainbow Room, right next to the Roxie on the Sunset strip. It’s the kind of place you walk into, out of the sun, and have to stretch out your arms so as not to blunder into the walls and knock off one of the many framed and signed photographs of the used-to-be-famous. See, the Rainbow, as L explained it, was THE place to be in the 1980s if you were a rock star. It’s still frequented by the excessively hairy such as Vince Neil, some guy from Pantera, and, a few weeks ago, Vincent Gallo (who posed for a photo with the suddenly star-struck L).

It’s one of those buildings that has a sense of possibility in the air. Sitting in the circular booth, sipping from mega-sized plastic soda glasses and squinting through the red-candlelit gloom, we could almost imagine ourselves to be three mysterious Somebodies, on the verge of stardom or backstage access or dangerous and disease-causing groupie behavior.

Of course, it kinda ruined the mood when we strolled outside after dinner and it was still light enough out to see the line of hipsters winding around the block by the Roxie, straining for a glimpse of Jared Leto as they clutched their tickets for 30 Seconds to Mars.

But me and S, we had two dogs to feed, a whole batch of new clothes to try on, and a midnight date at Bar Sinister. So we said our goodbyes to L and hit the 10. (All stories about LA must have gratiutious freeway references to the 101, the 405, the 5, the 10, the 110, the 710, and on and on. It’s nothing but freeways down there. Freeways, hookers and unemployed script writers.)

Several hours later, after making the trek from the 10 to the 110 to my sister’s condo, playing with the pups and donning our most luscious and boob-enhancing outfits (two girls, two corsets), S finally got to meet some old friends of mine, the Damnits.

A few years ago when I first moved to California, Boy and I stumbled across Bar Sinister on our first trip south to LA. It’s a gorgeous little goth club tucked on a side street just away from the mayhem of Hollywood Boulevard. And there we found Jeffrey Damnit, an old club-friend of mine from back in the Dome Room days of Chicago. (One of these days I have to write about the Dome Room. It deserves its own long-winded and nostalgic entry.)

I knew he and his blindingly beautiful wife, Star, had moved to California shortly before I did. And I should have expected to run into them at a place like Bar Sin. But for some reason, in California, I am always shocked to run into people that I actually know. I don’t feel like I’ve lived here long enough to have a history, to have random run-ins with old friends.

But there they were, Jeffrey & Star. And it’s been a few years now, but every time I make it to Bar Sin, I’m certain to see them again. So S got introduced to my “Vampireboy” and I got to catch up with old friends AND dance to a bit of NIN, and that in itself made the whole trip worthwhile.

S and I wandered back to the car around 2 a.m., our tired toes complaining inside the confines of our terribly sexy platform boots. Our hair was a bit bedraggled and the glitter was starting to slide off our lashes, but we were flushed with the satisfaction of a very good day. A day that only got better when we got home, kicked off our boots, unbuckled our corsets and crashed into bed.

But for one former punk drummer(yes, she had a mohawk) and one former gothling girl (yes, I had black lipstick), it was just enough of a return to our former glory to keep us happy for another year or so.

-Lo, who makes up reasons to wear those terribly sexy platform boots as often as possible.

Embrace the Farm Girl Within

There was a time, in the height of my gothling glory days, when I would do almost anything to keep you from finding out where I came from. I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t really ashamed of my hometown, etc., but it was a pretty feeble effort and failed rather miserably. See, it’s hard to be all melancholie and the infinite sadness with your long black skirt and piles of black eyeliner if people know that you used to be Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. It kind of ruins your gothy credibility. So I stuffed that adorable little skeleton in a musty closet and hid it as best as I could.

Of course, now that I look back on it, I can see all the drama for how silly it was. Now I know that Tom the Vampire was really a band geek from the suburbs who wore pink button-up business shirts with pocket protectors before he got his dentist to fit him with fangs. And Tink the twirling goth princess didn’t come spinning out of the womb wearing combat boots and lace dresses. Somewhere, in some small town, she’s the biggest dork in the yearbook.

All the arty little white-faced kids started getting their Siouxsie fixation and Bauhaus t-shirts at some point when they were still wearing polo shirts. Some of us just got started with the fishnet and eyeliner a little sooner than others. The rest of us had to play a bit of catch up and hide a few more preppy pictures, that’s all.

As for me, I grew up in a small little Illinois town in the cornfields that bears the singular distinction of being the Hometown of Ronald Reagan. Actually, I didn’t really grow up “in town”. I didn’t even grow up on the outskirts. Nope. I was a real live farm girl. I grew up baling hay and picking corn, chasing barn cats and riding horses. And yes, even milking goats. (Which is easier than milking cows because goats only have two spigots.)

It was an idyllic childhood, really. I had no reason to complain. Most girls my age asked for a pony and got the plastic version with the dollshair mane. I skipped right over the whole pony business and went straight to the real deal–a big, tall horse. I spent the summers brown and barefoot, finding the newborn kittens hidden in the haymow, picking strawberries in the garden and hanging overalls up to dry on the line in the backyard.

I got stung by the bees that hid in the white clover and I got kicked in the jaw by my sister’s obnoxious white pony. (His name was Buckwheat.) I’ve stepped on a nail and caught my pants on barbed wire. I won ribbons and trophies at 4-H fairs and county horse shows. I learned how to deliver baby goats (baby goats are called “kids”) and sew a fancy dress. I’ve canned peaches and packaged sausages. I’ve gone on foxhunts and hay rides. I’ve seen chicks hatch, puppies birthed and horses die in their sleep. I could climb a fence faster than most boys, drive a tractor before I could drive a car, jump a horse over a 4-foot gate and run barefoot on gravel without even wincing. I was a farm girl. No doubt about it.

I tried to deny it for a long time. Once I got all citi-fied and learned how to hail my own cabs, I thought maybe it was dorky to be a hayseed. Everyone seemed to think that you were smarter, sleeker and more sophisticated if you were spawned in the city. Especially if you were going for the my-skin-is-as-pale-as-the-moonlight-by-which-Lestat-hunts look.

There was a time when I would have given anything to be more Nicole Blackman than LaDonna Witmer. I wanted heroin friends and street smarts, KMFDM tours and childhood trauma. I wanted to have a better excuse for my darkness.

But even farm girls have their demons. You don’t have to have a miserable childhood in some dank tenement to be morose. You can grow up in the sunshine with puppies and kittens and still sit in a corner and cut yourself. Just because you have a happy childhood doesn’t mean that you can’t understand the depths of despair.

It’s all a lot more complicated underneath than it looks from the surface. And as far as my story goes, I’ve come to enjoy the contradictions. I mean, it’s kind of cool to know Rodeo Queens and Vampire Boys all at once, you know?

But where is the point in all this rambling babble? I have no idea. I seem to have lost it somewhere between Laura Ingalls and Emily Strange. Here’s my wild stab at wrapping it up:

Somewhere along the way, in the midst of all this growing up, I’ve come to embrace it all. All the pieces of me, from the little blonde tomboy pretending to be Princess Leia with a lightsaber, to the awkward teenager who knew much more about horses than boys, to the fledgling little goth girl who started stuffing her closet and makeup box with black. They are all part of me now.

There’s still an excess of black in my closet, but I just bought a dress that’s lime green. I’ve still got my Nine Inch Nails bumper sticker, but I’ve got Gwen’s new CD in the stereo. Somehow I’ve interwoven the farm girl and the gothling, the melancholy and the sunshine, the poet and the tomboy, the ruffles and the combat boots. It’s all mixed up. It’s all me. And I think it’s turning out alright, after all.

-Lo, who isn’t even sure what her real hair color is anymore, anyway.