Thursday, September 20, 2018

It Was An Era

Last week was the 17th anniversary of 9/11. Every anniversary of 9/11 makes us all relive what we were doing on the day the Twin Towers came down. I was on the Staten Island express bus on my way to work at a law firm one block away from the World Trade Center, and I found out from one of the few people on the bus who had a cell phone who got a phone call saying that "a small plane flew into one of the Twin Towers." As people learned about the events occurring from more calls on their cell phones, I was reading a computer print-out of a J.D. Salinger story that my friend Chris Dillon let me borrow from a rare collection he printed off the internet.  I listened with one ear and read about J. D. Salinger's character stuck in a partially underground trench as a soldier in the other ear. It wasn't pleasant reading, and that image of war from J.D. Salinger's story is the last thing I remember thinking about before the actual painful truth of the terrorist events of 9/11 unfolded and clouded all of my thoughts for days, weeks and months. I lost six pounds just from being upset. Last Tuesday morning (9/11 happened to be on a Tuesday also), I didn't know that while I watched the footage reliving the days of 9/11, Chris had died the day before on September 10th from tainted heroin.

New York City had a very different vibe before 9/11. We used to feel free in New York City, but on September 11, 2001, the City forever lost its innocence. During the first half of 2001, Chris and I were musicians on the East Village, NYC music scene and even played in a band together for a short while. The clubs were always packed, and it was an exciting time to be in NYC. But after 9/11, the clubs were suddenly empty, losing money, and nobody wanted to go out anymore. It was depressing to accept the sad truth that our City could be attacked that way, and nothing could ever feel the same again.

On September 10, 2001, I ate my lunch sitting under the Twin Towers. I didn't know that would be the last time I ever sat under those silver towers. About two years ago (maybe it was less, I don't know), I saw Chris, and we talked all about the old days. He had gray hair now and told me that his dog who he loved so much was named Katniss after the "Hunger Games" so he nicknamed her "The Hero Pup." He handed me some Hero Pup stickers, which was his new band that was really just him, singing and writing songs, that had a caricature of his precious dog on it. I put it on my Kindle that I carry everywhere. I didn't know that would be the last time I ever saw him.

 As soon as I learned of Chris' passing, thoughts of the days I knew him flooded me. I remembered the poetry written in magic marker on the walls of his attic room, the candles that smelled like chocolate that were always burning as we talked and talked and talked while we drank wine around the coffee table that was my grandparents' when I grew up. I was so grateful he took some furniture I'd remembered from my childhood home in Bay Terrace so they didn't have to be thrown away, and I could still enjoy a piece of something left from when I was a kid. At Chris' memorial, his brother and I reminisced about how often we all saw each other during those days many years back. "It was an era," he said, and that's the best way to describe it. Life is full of eras that come and go. But those long days existed, and certain things will always unexpectedly pop up to bring them back from time to time. It's true that things can never be the same again. But at least we had that era.

RIP Christopher Dillon Micha a/k/a The Hero Pup

Monday, July 9, 2018

I'm Celebrating That Summer Feeling! (Oh and more of my writing being published!)

Summer is finally here! It's my favorite season because it's the time of year when I feel the most free. Something about it being hot all the time reminds me of being a kid and playing with my friends in the street when the days seemed like they'd never end. The way I feel freedom these days is through my writing. This summer, I am honored to have three of my short stories included in an upcoming Anthology called "Howls from the Underground" which is being released by an independent publisher called Screamin' Skull Press. I couldn't be more excited! Here are short descriptions of my three short stories:

1. "Beer and Sunlight"

This is the longest short story I have in the Anthology. It takes place in the early 1990's, and it is about the unique friendship and relationship between a young woman and an older man. The illustration at the top of this blog entry is a picture I found in my writing sketchbook from my initial notes of the story.  A short time later, I did a psychological quiz from one of my books where you had to draw the sun, a tree, a house, a river, and a snake. When I drew the house and the sun, I drew the sun shining over the house in the same way I had drawn the sun over the bottle of Heineken beer in this illustration. The quiz said that the house symbolizes yourself and the sun symbolizes your father. I suppose I could have drawn the sun way above the house, as you often see in children's drawings, as a circle having short rays extending around it. But I've never drawn the sun that way. I've always drawn it the way it is here, radiating over the beer bottle. Possibly, the memory of my dad encompasses everything in my life.

2. "We Love to Watch Zee Cockroaches"

This story is about an Austrian woman who uses "Z's" in her speech because she is unable to use the "th" sound we use in English. She has a Spanish boyfriend, and the two of them entertain an American couple in their rather odd apartment. She offers the couple straight vodka in a shot glass with a glass of water on the side and insists that this was never her original idea: “You know, we never drink vodka zis way till we meet you," she tells them. "We never have straight. Wiz ice and juice before.” But the vodka drinking is the least unusual thing about her living situation.


"I'm Sexy AF"

This story is my take on Instagram "models" and the general degradation and dumbing down of our society thanks to fads like the Kardashians. Reality TV and filtered photos aren't real. I'm very much looking forward to the day that all of this self aggrandizement goes away.

In addition to "Howls from the Underground," I am working on my fifth novel. I'm looking forward to writing it this summer but have no idea when I'll finish it.  I don't even know if I'll release it independently as I did my first two novels: "Iggy Gorgess" and "Bliss, Bliss, Bliss." I still fantasize that someday I'll publish a blockbuster novel. But right now, I'm content with being an indie writer. Sometimes I wonder if I resist making commercial novels my goal because I don't want to sound like everybody else?  In my mind, the appeal of commercial novels to the majority of people is the same thing as how most people identify with music like the Beatles and Joni Mitchell. Maybe my novels and short stories speak more to the primal parts of ourselves and would resonate better with passionate, wild people who prefer a musician like Brian Wilson during his "Smile" period or every song that Laura Nyro recorded on her own? The best scenario would be to appeal to both sets of people, similar to the way Anne Rice's vampire books are commercial but also literary. But those books are rare. I just hope to someday find an editor who will understand me or an agent who will know exactly where to place me. In the meantime, I'm perfectly satisfied with being labeled as an underground, independent writer, and I just aim to get my writing read by as many people as possible.

The other thing that makes me feel free is swimming in the ocean.  Last summer, I went to Florida but didn't get to swim in the ocean because I went to the beach during a thunderstorm!  This summer, I need to get myself into the ocean so I plan to go to a New Jersey beach or to Coney Island. I'll just pretend I'm in a more exotic locale. Fantasy is another amazing vehicle for feeling free. I love to just imagine and live vicariously through others. I'm going to do this by watching the entire series of "Parts Unknown" by Anthony Bourdain. I literally was JUST getting into his show when he committed suicide. I still don't understand it. How could someone who gets to travel the world, eat the best food, and drink the best liquor -- all while getting paid for it -- not want to live this life anymore? I know from reading articles in the wake of his death that he had been fighting "demons" which nobody else could really understand.  So I just want to honor the legacy he left us. I plan to sit with a glass of wine and a plate of cheese and crackers and celebrate his life, reveling in that feeling of freedom I always strive for during summer.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

My Top Four Female Artists Most Important To Me In The Trump Era

The above photo is a Joan Semmel self-portrait.

The one positive that came as a result of Trump becoming president is that women are finally able to speak out against sexism, sexual harassment and sexual abuse. When we now have a president who is on tape saying: "Grab them by the pussy," what more do we have to lose? What do we gain by staying silent when the leader of the United States has displayed a complete lack of respect for women? We've already hit rock bottom.

I've compiled a list of four female artists who I feel have created works of art that reflect our newfound freedom to express ourselves in ways that go against the grain of what we've previously expected from women artists. Some of these brave works were created before the Trump era, but they should be revisited because they perfectly reflect this move towards a change in consciousness. These examples of their art below bend our way of thinking and push us toward new directions in our roles as women:

1.  "Locker Room Talk" (song/video by Dolltits) - Musician/Songwriter Therina Bella and Musician Magie Serpica have refused to let Trump's "Grab them by the pussy" words be forgotten. Instead, they've recorded a song and video that will keep his words remembered forever, and they've laid it all out in the open by using Trump's own actual words as every single lyric in the song. We've all heard Trump's own words in the recording of the "Access Hollywood Locker Room Tapes": "You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful...It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything...grab them by the pussy. You can do anything." All of these words sting, but my particular favorite part of Dolltits' video is when a little girl appears and sings along to the line: "You'll never be a 10." This stings even more than the "pussy words" because think of the message the president of the United States has given to young girls by rating females for their supposed "beauty" or lack of it? Think about it.

Dolltits (Still from "Locker Room Talk" video)

2.  Joan Semmel - A female painter born in 1932, Semmel decided to paint female nudes in the 1970's, but the dilemma of painting the female nude body - which was usually seen as an object of desire for men - created a conflict with her identity as a feminist. Semmel resolved this problem rather perfectly when, while in her seventies, she took nude mirror selfies and then painted them. It is rare to see older women in nude paintings much less based on nude photos they have taken as selfies! Women continue to be sexually active throughout their eighties and beyond, so why shouldn't Semmel paint her own nude female body too? Semmel is an inspiration as an older woman who refuses to be pushed into the background and meant to feel that only younger women can openly display their bodies.

3.  "Trapeze" (book by Anais Nin) - Nin was born in 1903 and is best known for the publication of her Diaries which are the unabashed, brave and honest account of a woman constantly torn between needing to identify herself as an artist and wanting to take care of the men and friends she loves. Nin struggled to not confine herself to the traditional role of woman, and her diaries depict this battle of gaining her own identity separate from the men in her life. By the time she wrote the diaries that were published last year as "Trapeze," she was living a complicated bi-coastal lifestyle in which she had a longtime husband, Hugo, who lived on the East Coast in New York City, but also had a new lover, Rupert, who lived on the West Coast in California. "Trapeze" shows her near impossible feat of bouncing back and forth from coast to coast while keeping each relationship secret from the other. In Nin legend, before "Trapeze" was released and we could get her uncensored version of the story, it was believed that Nin only remained with Hugo out of loyalty and really wanted to be with Rupert full time. Most romantic tales would have us believe that too: The long-suffering wife as the victim whose unfaithfulness we forgive because she really only seeks love just like every other woman and has no other reasons behind her bad behavior.  But in "Trapeze," we learn that Nin enjoyed the wealthy, New York lifestyle she had with Hugo where she had a maid and could be a writer 24/7. She claimed the sex was better with Rupert, but he drove her crazy with his fastidiousness and insistence that they save money and eat dinner in, and that she do all the housecleaning herself. After a couple of months of this, she often couldn't wait to get back to Hugo and her New York lifestyle. In "Trapeze," Nin gets real and admits that she has chosen to stay with both men because of her own needs. She doesn't try to write a romantic story with a happy ending. Instead, she tells the truth of her story wherein she makes the best out of her imperfect relationships and imperfect life. She does this with a maturity we don't always see in both fiction and memoirs of women who are often depicted as near children and as victims of the people and circumstances around them.

4.  "Peek Hour" (short story by Adrea Kore) - Kore's brilliant and sexy short story refuses to stay silent on an issue that women usually don't speak about: penises. At least, they don't usually speak about it in the manner that female protagonist Roxy in "Peek Hour" does. Roxy has what she describes as "feelings of affection and admiration of the penis." Her favorite thing to do is ride the crowded train where she weasels her way into the specific seat that gives her the best view of the "packages" of the men standing closest to her. She says the men don't even notice that she's eyeing their pants because they've traditionally been too busy focusing on HER parts so it never even occurs to them that she's obsessed with stealthily examining THEIR parts. She examines their bulges and notices their different sizes and shapes and whether they lean to the left or the right. She laments the fact that most penises are hidden away and wishes to liberate them all. She wants to build giant statues of them so they can be monuments that people can visit. While she fantasizes about these things, the bumps of the train often force men's crotches into her face. This excites her, and she says it happens so fast, the men usually don't notice, and it's her little secret. She does whatever she can to brush into men's crotches "by accident." I love this story and find Kore's depiction of Roxy's penis obsession fascinating because for once we can see a woman's point of view of the penis that doesn't seen to be influenced at all by the man's point of view of his penis.

This is a penis sticker by Luna Snaps that is on Redbubble.

I hope to spread the word about these amazing artists and their music, stories and paintings! Women have been categorized, marginalized and misunderstood for too many years. We have different things to express than what has previously been expected of us. These women are my favorite examples of a new feminine consciousness, and they remain such inspirations to me!

You can find my Top 4 at their websites listed below. Please check them out!