Friday, December 31, 2004
(Photo of Phil Nicolo behind the mixing board while being filmed by Don Argott for the upcoming DVD)
So yay! Finally I got a few minutes with my son, Eric, who spilled all the gossip coming out of the recording studio this week. I'll also be posting additional pictures of the Rock School musicians in action as soon as I can figure out how to download this freaking camera...grr...where is Julie when I need her.
Anyway, the kids are recording at Studio 4, owned by producer Phil Nicolo. Phil has been telling them stories about the industry all week, and my son shared some of them with me...just great little vignettes. For one thing, Phil told the kids that the Beatles and Frank Zappa are the reason he does what he does. He's a total Beatle maniac, and he talked about what it was like doing the remix for the Lennon/Plastic Ono Band CD.
"It was the call everybody in my business waits for."
He was referring to being tapped to handle the remixing of "Do the Oz" for the John Lennon-Plastic Ono Band reissue.
Nicolo helped produce the 1999 Cibo Matto LP Stereotype A which featured Sean Lennon on bass guitar. From there, he became involved in the still-in-progress second solo album by Sean.
Yoko didn't attend the sessions, but liked the direction in which Nicolo was helping Sean bring his music. Nicolo said that Yoko's in a tricky position with the fans, especially when it comes to John's unreleased stuff. They're really curious, but in that let-me-see - no, don't show me way.
He was working in his studio when Yoko phoned him to tell him that she had rediscovered a track that the Plastic Ono Band had recorded on April 17, 1970. "Do the Oz" was a benefit for a British underground publication called the Oz. Yoko was putting together reissues of John's first and last solo records, "Plastic Ono Band" and "Double Fantasy" - and wanted to include "Oz" as a bonus track. The song had been released previously, but it had been assembled quickly and wasn't fully finished.
The only stipulation Yoko made was that Phil not add anything to the existing tracks which he was assembling from the original session.
Despite what he felt was a major restriction, Nicolo said he got lucky anyway because a horn section, led by saxophonist King Curtis, had been previously recorded that went mostly unused in the original version. John's guitar line was a constant throughout as well.
He put the parts he had into his ProTools computer software and juggled the elements to create a party atmosphere, with Yoko's vocalizations dropped in at -- ha ha -- explosive junctions.
He said that when he first met Yoko to the do the final mix, she began the session by expressing regret that she'd placed any restriction on him. She told him he could start over if he wanted to, using all of the elements and tricks in his bag.
He declined the offer. He told her he was glad she did stipulate no additional material be added, because by being forced to use what was there, he had to be creative in a different way.
And it was all there. Nicolo said he just uncovered the magic.
So that's one little story about Phil Nicolo. Eric's been telling me such incredibly interesting stuff that I can't tell you how excited I am that my kids are being recorded by this man. And the CD will be available everywhere in March, 2005! I mean, like, all over the world. And while they're recording, Don Argott, director/producer of Rock School, is recording them and all of this footage will be released with the DVD of the movie.
Happy New Year indeed.
Thursday, December 30, 2004
This is an amazing book. If you love short stories, this is a collection so brilliant it will take your breath away. If you don't love short stories...well, I suggest you get over it and sit the hell down and at least pretend to be intelligent and have a read because just maybe you'll understand what I'm talking about. Rarely does something come along so special.
Anyway, you can order it on Amazon.com right here
Oh man, do I have the holiday blues.
I walked into work this morning with Julie, who had to take an early train to the recording studio because today they’re laying down the tracks for Iron Man and since recording is her major in college, she’s responsible for doing overdubbing, etc. even though the studio is famous – in fact, they just did the remix of the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band CD and worked closely with Yoko and Sean. Eric laid down the tracks for ten songs and his work is done – Julie will be in the studio for the entire month of January though her four songs are finished as well because she’s a part of the production staff and I think that’s awesome and I’m way proud of her.
All week, every time I asked her a question, she was too tired to answer because I would annoy her when she got home at night. So this morning on the walk in I tried again, only this time she was too stressed because she’s leaving for New York right after the session today where she’s spending the weekend with her boyfriend.
It’s not like I’m this prying parent – I give her total freedom and never bother her. I’m honestly interested to know if she’s heard any John Lennon stories; I know she’s recording Markie Ramone on Monday doing I Wanna Be Sedated…but she bit my head off, leaving me in tears at the moment. She knows what a music nut I am; especially what a Lennon nut– it’s almost like she’s punishing me and for what, I don’t know.
She couldn’t even tell me the name of the hotel in New York where she’s staying this weekend but luckily I remembered it from the first time she told me though I feigned ignorance just to see if she’d talk to me.
I have a cell phone if you need me, she said.
Yeah, but every time I try it, I get your answering machine, I replied.
My phone is on all the time. I get no service. I have a crappy phone, she snapped back.
And so it went on like this for the entire mile, mile and a half of our walk.
This is the first New Years Eve we won’t be together and I know kids are self-absorbed; I know she’s a sophomore in college, but I thought our friendship/relationship was better than that. She’s barely spoken to me all week, and when she has, it’s been ugly.
Oh fuck it. Julie’s a great kid. I guess all parents go through this. My son has been more open with me but he’s been missing in action – he goes out at night after the recording sessions because he has a ton of friends and they're all on holiday break from school.
I guess my real problem is I’m getting older and am having a hard time dealing with it as I’m part of that “Hope I Die Before I Get Old” generation only now that I am old, hell if I want to die but hell if I want to be considered uncool, either; I’m struggling with severe depression; my diet has been just terrible which I know adds to it all…but if I could just go somewhere and really cry right now, I’d probably feel a lot better.
Or, if I could go to a nice tropical beach…
Oh god, that just made me think of the tsunami. Now I feel like a whining bitch for caring about anything else.
Actually, I have some leads for charities to whom you can donate money where it won’t line the pockets of the wrong people. Here's a brilliant idea courtesy of my good friend, author Kay Sexton:
"At the moment, disaster relief is all they need, and that's best done by the local charities, hospitals and churches working with the international teams who are already flying in.
In the longer term, please consider Intermediate Technology Development Group - www.itdg.org - an amazing group that helps find, supply, design or fund appropriate technology for the world's poorest regions. I've been lucky enough to watch them at work several times and they are brilliant at helping communities find ways round problems. In India I saw them create a drip irrigation system that covered nearly twice as much cropland as the old western pump system AND didn't need trees to be cut down to clear the land for the irrigators. In Mali they helped a village create a solar laundry and bath house. If any group can improve the lives of the surviors in the long term, I think it's ITDG. And like most good groups, they work quietly and well and never have enough money. And they design disaster mitigation systems ..."
Also, and this is Robin speaking now, please consider donating to Doctors without Borders. You can access their website here: Doctors Without Borders.
Yeah, as I said in a former post, I'm a bottom line person and I just realized, little tiffs with my equally hormonal daughter are just tiny blips on the big screen of life. I know she loves me and I love her with all my heart and soul. There is real suffering going on in South Asia right now...way beyond the scope of anything we can imagine...and we need to help out any way we can.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
I hate New Years Eve. I don't understand why people love to party that evening and worse, get dressed up in uncomfortable, fancy clothes for it. I mean, it's a total nightmare in the streets -- what possible reason could anyone have for wanting to be a part of that?
A few years before the kids were born one of my friends talked me into a "couples" evening where we had a double date to a show and dinner.
First let me say this. When I die and go to hell...well, I don't believe in hell but if there is one, yeah, yeah, I'm going and they'll be playing Aerosmith or Sting or U2 or the Indigo Girls' music non stop, but for sure in between they'll have me tied to a chair, watching "shows". By shows I mean those wretched Broadway productions such as CATS, or, in the case of my lovely date that night, GREASE.
I remember in spite of smoking a ton of dope and drinking two bottles of wine before we even left the house, I wanted to slash my wrists all during GREASE. I'm trying to remember the so-called "big names" starring in the Philadelphia production but I can't...I'm most likely blocking it out on purpose. Actually, now that I think about it...maybe Sandy Dennis was the star. Bleh. That sounds right. I could check Google I suppose but is it worth my time? I think not.
After the final curtain went down on what was probably the longest evening of my life...I know at intermission I considered bolting but I chickened out...we went to a popular steakhouse. Only on New Years Eve, most restaurants have "special menus" featuring things no human could ever, ever want to eat any other night...made worse by the fact that by the time GREASE ended and we got there, in spite of having reservations we were made to stand like a herd of cattle at a crowded bar for two more hours with drunk morons wearing crooked party hats and blowing horns even though it wasn't midnight yet. When we were finally seated, our waitress, who had obviously been pushed to the max all night, nastily told us they were out of everything but the prime rib.
I don't like prime rib except at the very best restaurants where of course they usually have something way better to order anyway so I avoid it. It's fatty and when mass produced banquet style for New Years...oh god, I'm remembering that "dog" I just ate in New York's Chinatown. But by then we were starved and we had no choice, so another thirty minutes later, the waitress plopped it in front of me with a hard, cold, and here's something even more horrible than gristly prime rib -- foil wrapped baked potato (I always eat the damn foil by mistake and is there anything worse than biting down on that?)
By then it was midnight and now the other worst thing possible occurred - I got kissed by a million sloppy drunk strangers.
Ew, ew, ew.
I never went out New Years Eve again.
This year will be no exception, but I am ecstatic to say that in prior years I allowed the kids...well, I insisted the kids...have a party here so I wouldn't worry about them being out in that madness all night; plus it was fun to cook for them and then hide upstairs with my bottle of wine and CDs, but this year, no one will be home but me. Julie and Matt will be watching the ball drop in New York Times Square (and yeah, I will worry BIGTIME but she's a grown up now and I have to "let go"), and Eric has a party. So I'll still have the wine and CDs, but this time I'm gonna order take-out Thai food or cook up a filet mignon on the barbecue and feel very superior because I have brains and am staying home. I may watch ABC Rocking New Years Eve, but only because Billy Idol is on and my kids, who are recording with him this week, have told me he's been botoxed and has blonde hair plugs in front and, well, that's worth seeing, eh?
Not really. Though I may get wasted and blast Rebel Yell...
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
So I have this book coming out next Wednesday...
It's funny. One of my best friends is someone I know from cyberworld - a pretty celebrated, well-known writer -- someone who lives in another country and someone I most likely will never meet in the real world, which is fine. He has a family on one side of the ocean, I have mine over here in the U.S. and we're both content with the way things are. If writers can ever be content, that is. Anyway, we have a two year relationship solely based on web correspondence but as writers, the written word is very intimate to us, even if we're just talking about our kids or our leaking roofs or what music we're listening to at the moment. I think pretty much in our new on-line society this is more common than not - the internet has brought back the art of letter writing and enables us to get in touch and meet people with whom we'd never have come into contact otherwise. Anyway, my friend and I have become dependent on each other - always bouncing stuff and ideas around, not to mention we're a secret place for each other to escape, i.e., cry on each other's shoulders, etc.
So my novel Three Days in New York City sort of takes that idea a step further -- what if two people who never normally would have hooked up, two people from different countries - met on the internet and seemingly fall in love and decide to get together in the real world. Only of course it's very easy to become someone you are not on line...to develop a completely different persona -- and this is what happens to my female character. To say that she has her bluff called would be putting it mildly.
There is very graphic sex in this book for sure, but it's also the story of a woman in mid life crisis with hopefully laugh out loud moments as she agonizes over everything from cellulite and being naked at her age in front of a strange man with whom she's shared intimate thoughts via words on a computer screen to dealing with his rather, err, gourmet tastes in all matters sexual and the huge cultural and economic differences between them.
Anyway, I hope I can entice you to read Three Days in New York City and maybe even enjoy it.
Monday, December 27, 2004
To anyone who read that last post, I've deleted it. I was churlish, over-tired, and stressed, but even so, no excuse.
Kids making music is an incredible thing and fuck all the other bullshit. There were a lot of highlights in last night's Rock School show. As I've said before, my son is an other wordly drummer. He did a version of I'm a Man that gave me the chills.
I'm a bottom line person and I let go of things that bother me, so...
Sunday, December 26, 2004
What a lovely though bittersweet photo, huh. God I miss John and George.
I survived Christmas 2004. Well, it's not over yet.
Christmas Eve I had to do a rare road trip to the kids' grandmom's house. I ate pizza from a place called Taliano's where I haven't been in close to 25 years. Much to my shock, it's not owned by anyone named Habib or Jose or Igor (and this is not a racist remark, this is just a comment on the way the neighborhood has changed radically) but still the original owners -- yes, they are still alive -- and it was like a long forgotten taste of my childhood. Very odd, because with my own mom dead all these years and the rest of the family long split up, I have very few actual "trips home" I can take. So that was cool and we exchanged gifts and the kids' had arranged for their grandmom to buy me a one of a kind art piece - a black wrought iron wall hanging, sort of like a free form sculpture, of a quintet of jazz musicians. This will interest no one but myself, but I recently decided to paint my bedroom dark charcoal gray so this will look outstanding on the wall above my bed. (yeah, yeah, no floral girly prints for me. Laura Ashley go drown yourself. Oh wait - bad taste. She already died by tumbling down a flight of steps. Okay, Laura, tell your heirs to....never mind)
Christmas Day itself was amazing. I pulled off major surprises for the kids and I did't fuck up once, even in the boring sweater department, because my daughter, after scoring that Rickenbacker from Rudy's in NYC (and oh boy did she scream when she saw that) announced to me the following day sadly "that I know you must have spent a fortune on the bass and I'm not expecting anything else, which is cool, because I'm not a sweater person, anyway". Of course I'd already bought her really cute sweaters from the Gap and Urban Outfitters and I gulped because it was total news to me that Julie isn't a sweater person, so I frantically searched for the receipts and had them ready for the return process but turns out, she went nuts over said sweaters and face it, she'd look gorgeous in a shower curtain or a burlap potato sack.
Eric got some drum equipment (don't ask me, Julie orchestrated the entire purchase - the kid has three sets of vintage drums and all kinds of double pedals, etc. so I have no idea what I even bought him) but screamed out loud when he opened his turntable. "I CAN PLAY VINYL, I CAN PLAY VINYL," he shouted with glee.
God. It was just a year ago that he made fun of me for liking to still play my old albums even though of course, yeah, yeah, CDs sound better blah blah blah. Vinyl is suddenly "retro" and therefore very chic.
I still can't handle that the word "retro" means from the eighties. Retro to me sounds like art deco and I think of 1920, but then again, I would.
Eric also scored the money for a drum lesson with Gary Chaffee up in Boston in 3 weeks - Mr. Chaffee has only taught every great drummer alive today - and it's costing me $270 for one lesson plus the train fare to Boston but this is like a once in a lifetime opportunity and yep, I pulled that off, too. (www.garychaffee.com)
The family blew me away with a vintage Peter Max clock from the sixties still in its original box (thank you, Ebay), a brand new 20gb IPod, and all of these incredible craft vases and hand painted dishes for serving everything from sushi to a knocked out jug and matching tiny plates for olive oil and crusty bread dipping - it's too complicated to describe but it's gorgeous and I love it. It appears I almost have to have a party now - I've got all this fantastic serving stuff. Now if I only knew people I wanted to have over...
Actually, my brother and his family came for a visit last night - they took a six hour drive from Connecticut to celebrate with us -- and we ordered Chinese food and I did get to use some of it, but I don't think they noticed. They have little kids and we were all too busy playing with them. I bought my one nephew his first Game Boy and I think life as my brother and sister-in-law once knew it is now over. I warned them they'd better monitor that thing carefully. I know all the kids have them but I also know that they are totally addictive and destroy the creative process if you don't limit their daily time use. My kids were briefly into video games and I look at that as the darkest period in Slick family history, but luckily right after that they got heavily into music and I started them with art lessons at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Moore College of Art so they took all of their video energy into creating their own cartoons. So in case I haven't bragged enough about them, in addition to being rock stars, both Julie and Eric are also brilliant artists.
So speaking of Julie and Eric, today we go to NYC where Eric has a gig at BB Kings Blues Club (oh god, I can't believe I'm going back to NYC one week after my panic attack in Chinatown)...there's no rest for the weary this weekend at all...but then tomorrow, they go into the recording studio. As I said, Eric will be playing Rebel Yell with Billy Idol, etc. but there's been some new additions. Get this. Julie is playing Schools Out for The Summer with Alice Cooper and Peace Sells with Dave Mustaine of Megadeath. Both kids will also join Heart in a rendition of Baracuda. The kids are doing the tracks with these legends as this is the actual CD which will be the Rock School movie's soundtrack and distributed by Warner Brothers records or Universal...now I can't remember which one. Or is it Sony. Oh well, when the kiddies wake up, I'll ask them and clarify. If you go to www.newmarketfilms.com, the movie trailer will be available to the public any day under "coming attractions", and you can see Julie and Eric in action. I was privy to the preview, which will be shown on TV commercials for the film, and it's going to be surreal, seeing my kids up on the screen. You might not be able to live with me.
So...it's off to the showers because the NYC bus (this one is chartered just for us thank god) leaves at 12:15.
Hope everyone had as good a holiday as we did - and trust me on this - don't make any New Years resolutions cos' they never work, unless it's to eat plenty of good food, have a lot of great sex, and never expend too much energy unless it's on something or someone you love.
I'll probably start blogging a new novel starting tomorrow...well, I may be too hung over tomorrow...maybe some day next week...or maybe after the 1st of the year, but yeah, yeah, The Addicts are coming, The Addicts are coming. (..sigh...that's the working title of the book)
Hey..this just in...we're expecting six inches of snow today? Arghhh...and I'll be on a bus to NYC? Well, well, well. Doesn't that figure.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Yeah, right. Ho ho ho.
So there I was last night, feeling all smug because for once, I've managed to buy all my Christmas presents for the friends and family three whole days before December 25 - no standing in line with the other clueless masses of humanity on Christmas Eve this year for the first time ever...and then I remember something. I have to wrap the fuckers! Oh my god, I took stock and must have bought over 1,000 gifts. I don't even have a freaking roll of scotch tape in this house and a frantic search in the basement led me to one damp and slightly chewed (see, I knew there were critters down there - no one believes me) moldy roll of Santa paper left over from last year. I don't even have name tags! Where the hell is my head these days?
So I guess I'll be wrapping gifts with newspaper and band-aids (I found two boxes of those!) and scrawling the recipient's identity with magic markers.
Oh who am I kidding. I'm going to have to be pushed and shoved at the dollar store today with two million other people, juggling what's left of their already crappy gift wrap and bow selection, praying they still have name tags...but I'm gonna "borrow" my scotch tape dispenser from work because, well, enough is enough. And sob...my family will be out tonight because as I acted all haughty when they told me they weren't finished shopping and they informed me that they had not and had to go out this evening, and I thought oh goody, I can get drunk tonight all by myself and pass out all comfy under the tree...that's when I actually realized that instead I'm gonna have a broken back and paper cuts all over my hands as I wrap, wrap, wrap. Christmas Eve isn't an option because the kiddies will be here and we always do something fun here - even if it's merely the kids and their friends watching me get wasted on eggnog and acting stupid.
FUCK FUCK FUCK.
Oh well. Brandy and cookies for dinner tonight for me. I'll deal with the doctor's orders to diet and exercise for my blood pressure next week. Eating a salad under the circumstances is cruel and unusual punishment and I'm just not into that unless it involves....
Anyway, the best is, I get to go back to New York City on Sunday - one day after Christmas. My son has a gig at BB Kings Blues Club on 42nd Street. I can't even think about it.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Dog on a stick, anyone?
Oh yeah. I kid you not.
But I digress.
So prior to our trip, Julie actually had a color coded map printed off the computer with vintage clothing stores, music stores, etc. and we spent three hours walking all over the Village. We had a blast and found all of these cool stores she didn't have on her map, bought a ton of Christmas presents, and I notice that the sky is getting darker, it's getting radically colder, and we didn't even make it up to midtown yet. Julie was vacillating between software and a vintage bass for Christmas and of course I was trying to push her toward the bass because, well, buying computer software is just no fun for a hip Mom like me. So even though in theory it would have been cool to buy a bass in the Village, most of the music stores are in midtown at 48th Street and 6th Avenue, and Julie, being a traditionalist, wanted to continue our Christmas tradition of visiting Rockefeller Center, seeing the tree; going to Saks Fifth Avenue, ToysRUs, Macy's, etc. which are all in the same area. I really wanted to get there and buy gloves because of course me being me, I lose them every year with this year already being no exception. The temperature was rapidly plummeting and my hands were turning into ice blocks. But because we pigged out at breakfast, Julie insisted we hoof it instead of taking a cab.
We calculated that between the walk from our house in Philly to the Chinatown bus, all the walking in East Village, and then the walk to midtown, we logged in about ten miles.
My problem in all this is that I have really high blood pressure and take medication. I've been feeling like crap lately, dizzy and light-headed, and I knew pretty much it had to be because of my diet because as I said, since Thanksgiving I've been living on chocolate and cookies due to both stress and their blatant availability in my office. I had a doctor appointment first thing the following morning and I'm always supposed to fast the evening before because I get blood drawn. So it's now like 3:00 p.m. and I hadn't eaten since 10:00 a.m. and I knew I could eat maybe one more thing soon but it had to be small and light.
Anyway, as we neared 48th Street, I was starting to feel weird but I shook it off.
Julie and I went from music store to music store and she tried out a bunch of basses. As you can see from the pictures I posted previously when I wrote The Tour, Julie is more than a little gorgeous and everywhere we went, the guys in the store made a fuss, and then when she played, it was like they'd died and gone to heaven. But nothing impressed her, until we went to Rudy's.
Rudy's is a custom guitar shop and the walls are lined with photographs of Rudy and Eric Clapton, Rudy and Santana, Rudy and Paul fucking McCartney...etc. Their entire third floor is devoted to basses. Julie tries out several and falls in love with a few WAY above my projected Christmas budget for her, especially after spending a fortune on "vintage" t-shirts in the village. (Quotes around vintage because apparently vintage is anything pre-dating 1990 now. Arghhh...)
I can't say anything more about the bass at this point because Rudy made Julie walk outside while we wheeled and dealed since he knew it was going to be a Christmas present.
Rudy's maybe ten years older than I am and the two of us really hit it off; he's a doll, and crap, I wish I could tell the whole story here but I can't because Julie might read it and I don't want to give anything away before Christmas.
In the meantime, I'm feeling dizzier and dizzier. Again, I get pissed at myself because I tell myself I am in New York City with my beloved daughter, we had a fantastic day, and I've got to stop acting like a psycho or worse, an old lady.
Anyway, as I said, I've been making purchases all day with my debit card and when Rudy and I finally make our deal, I hand him my debit card and it comes back "Declined". This is when I have my first mini-stroke. Declined? I have over $5,000.00 in my checking account. I've been using the damn thing all day and I doubt we spent more than $500.00. I'm so embarrassed and freaked out...then I start thinking that someone in one of the "vintage" stores stole my debit card number and is walking all over New York charging on my account. I mean, I didn't know what to think, but who would have guessed this, Rudy tells me I can call my bank from his phone on a Sunday at 4:00 p.m. and find out what's going on.
I mean, I actually made contact with a human!
It turns out my bank, for my own protection, has a $1,000.00 daily limit imposed on the use of debit cards. In case my card was stolen, the most the thief could charge is $1,000.00 per day. Yeah, well, no one ever told me that, and I'm on the phone with the bank, assuring them it's really me and to please lift the god damn limit. I know high blood pressure is the so-called silent killer, but I could literally feel it rising and I broke out into a sweat as I told the bank rep everything from my social security number to my mother's maiden name to my date of birth to my fucking dog's name (my security question)and then finally, when I think I have him convinced at last that yep, I am Robin Slick, he asks me the exact dollar amount of my last deposit. Now, any other week I could have told him that, but this week I'd gotten my Christmas bonus and with taxes taken out, how the hell could I remember the exact amount I'd deposited? Frustrated and desperate, I started fishing through my coat pockets, and there must be a God, crumbled among the tissues, ticket stubs and empty candy wrappers I find my deposit ticket and am able to give him this information.
He puts me on hold for ten minutes while he gets permission from his supervisor. Do you fucking believe it?
In the meantime, Julie is outside in what is now sub zero weather, and I keep staring out the window, worrying and looking for her.
Anyway, the bank guy finally gets back on the phone and tells me that the supervisor is approving my purchase at Rudy's but after that there is a lock on my account until midnight for my own protection which will be lifted first thing Monday morning, and that if I want the amount raised, I should see a rep at my bank first thing or better yet, he suggested that I carry personal checks around with me instead because it's really not a good idea to have a debit card with unlimited spending in case you lose it because it's used the same way as a charge card and very few stores ask for identification or a PIN number.
So I figure I don't care, I have $18.00 and my bus ticket; plus, Julie has a debit card, too, and she's got around $200.00 in her account, so they can lock my account after the Rudy purchase; I spent a fortune already and basically it was so late now we had just enough time to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, run through Saks, hail a cab and get to Chinatown in time for the 6:30 bus home.
The one thing I didn't take into account was how fucking heavy a bass in a hard case is but shipping wasn't an option - I might not have had it before Christmas and I didn't want to pay $40.00 more in shipping charges. Julie knew she was getting a bass, she just doesn't know which one. So I leave Rudy's with the bass, she sees I have it and her whole face lights up, but Oh my god, it's gotten even colder out and it's snowing! She's so excited I don't want to tell her I think I'm dying. I'm serious...I couldn't catch my breath, I've never been dizzier, and as we walk through the snow, my teeth are chattering, I'm not wearing gloves, and the mass of humanity at Rockefeller Center...I've never seen so many people in my life. Nothing prepared me for it. On a late Sunday afternoon there had to be at least a million people out there. You couldn't get anywhere near the tree; you couldn't walk on the sidewalks which were now becoming icy, and we're lugging 87 bags and a two ton bass guitar.
Julie is dying to go to Saks because it is our Christmas tradition and she wants to use her debit card (which is new, by the way - she just became "legal" with a checking account and card and she's so adorable and grown up I can't take it) and buy some gifts for her friends.
There had to be another three million people inside of Saks.
They did ask us if we wanted to check in the bass and all of our bags but we started to get so worried about the time and missing our bus that we declined.
Within ten minutes, Julie exhausted all but around $20.00 of her funds in her checking account and I can't say anything else about that, either, or ruin Christmas surprises but all I can tell you is that with my $18.00 we're now down to $38.00 total and I remember we have to take a cab to Chinatown to the bus and then a cab home from the bus stop in Philly so we have just enough for that and maybe a bowl of soup if we can find a place and have the time.
I also realize I can't buy gloves, but I figure that's not a problem because we're going to be in a cab, on a bus, etc. now.
So we struggle out of Saks at 5:30 and now the real fun starts.
There are at least a trillion cabs running down Fifth Avenue and every single one of them is full. We stand on the corner of 50th and 5th for fifteen minutes trying to hail a cab and it's fucking impossible. I now have no feeling at all in my hands; the ice and snow are coming down; and my heart is racing out of my chest. Julie starts freaking out that we're going to miss the bus.
I curse myself for being a princess all of these years; taking cabs in NYC and never learning the subway or bus system.
We are so screwed.
I keep hearing whistles and realize like an idiot that the reason we're not getting a cab is because doormen for all the nearby posh hotels stand in the street and hail them for their residents.
So Julie and I hobble to the Waldorf Astoria and stand in the line, pretending we're hotel guests. I watch in disbelief as the people in front of us, dressed in mink and Armani hand the doorman $1.00 for hailing them a cab. I mean, I have a piddly $18.00 left and I have a $5.00 bill ready in my hand. Jesus. Well, I guess that's why they're staying at the Waldorf and I'm taking a Chinatown bus home. Ha!
The bottom line is that we finally get a cab, but we're never making that 6:30 bus.
"Don't worry, Mom," says Julie. "There's another bus at 7:30 and another at 8:30. I just hope they're not full."
"You'd better hope they're not full!" I shriek. This is not good. I'm stuck in NYC with no money and a worthless debit card. It's twenty below zero and I'm sick as a dog and I NEED to be at both the doctor and work the next day.
"Relax, Mom. Everything will be fine," she says.
And I believe her. As usual, I'm probably over-reacting. I just feel so drained and weird...but I know it's got to be because I over exerted myself and didn't eat since breakfast.
Oh, and did I mention neither of us used the bathroom all day, either?
I had to pee so bad it was coming out of my nose, but I figured, okay, I'll bite the bullet and use the bathroom on the bus.
Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, prepared me for what awaited me in New York's Chinatown.
There is a corner where the buses all line up at Allen and East Broadway. Frantic women sell bus tickets, conveniently only understanding English when it suits their purpose. There are three different bus companies and all compete with each other, holding up signs and screaming and trying to push you physically against a wall to use their buses. They sell tickets willy nilly, whether there's a bus or not. In fact, when a bus pulls up, the driver doesn't even know where he's going until he talks to one of the ticket sellers. If a lot of people want to go to Washington, D.C. then the bus designated for Philadelphia becomes a Washington bus instead.
We learn from the approximate 500 people standing there shivering that there never was a 6:30 bus - it went to D.C., and now the 7:30 bus, which we were promised was headed for Philly, will also be a D.C. bus, only half way through boarding they change their mind and say it will make a Philly stop, so we try to push our way on only there are no seats and they won't let Julie on with the bass...I don't know she isn't behind me and I get shoved and punched and pushed on my way squeezing out while she screams and I mean screams MOM MOM I CAN'T GET ON THE BUS GET OFF THE BUS GET OFF THE BUS.
So it's back into the ice and snow, no bus, no bathroom, no food, and I think to myself: So this is how it ends. My worst nightmare come true. Dead before seeing how my kids turn out; dead before seeing my grandchildren...exactly what happened to my own mother when I was exactly Julie's age. Only I'm not going to die in a nice warm hospital bed like my Mom; I'm going to die in a fucking street corner in Chinatown where a million frozen tourists are going to stomp over my dead body in a rush to get on a bus.
I'm now radically ill and I share the news with Julie because I'm scared shitless and we need a plan. Like, at what point does she use her cell phone and dial 9ll for an ambulance.
I mean, any other time it would have been a no brainer. I'd have gotten right in a cab and gone to Amtrak. BUT MY FUCKING DEBIT CARD WAS LOCKED!
"Mom, you look really awful. You need to eat something," Julie says, more than a little concerned.
I look around my surroundings dubiously. We can't risk sitting in a restaurant, a bus can pull up any time. There's no rhyme or reason as to how these things work and I tell Julie that. It's now almost 8:00 p.m. It's at least a two hour ride home...oh god, I almost start wishing for death. I've never been so cold or so sick in my life.
"Mom, mom, there's a food cart up ahead. Give me some money. Maybe they'll have some soup or something."
I don't argue. I hand her what's left of my money less what I know we'll need for the cab in Philly and pray she finds something.
Oh, she finds something alright.
She comes back with some ominous looking meat skewers.
"Beef on a stick?" I joke weakly, trying not to gag.
"I think it's chicken," she says. "At least that's what I think the guy said."
I sniff it suspiciously. It kind of looks like chicken but no chicken I ever saw. But I'm so dizzy and hungry and I just pray that if I eat it, I'll feel better.
In the meantime, while she's buying said skewered meat, I strike up a conversation with a very well dressed New Yorker who is going to a conference at the University of Pennsylvania and is taking the bus only because the Amtrak trains are sold out. (So there went that idea anyway, because I did consider getting back on the phone with Citizens Bank and asking them to unlock my account again even though I knew I'd have a coronary trying). He's very cosmopolitan and just appalled at what's going on at this freezing street corner. He's also been waiting since 6:30 to get to Philly and he can't believe he's being pushed and shoved like this; he's dressed in a cashmere overcoat...so Ivy League and so very New York and of course by this time, my hair is a nightmare from the snow, I'm white as a ghost from being sick, no make-up, and hands that are so red and cold I can't even feel them. Not my best fashion moment for sure.
Julie brings back the skewers and after I have a bite or two and am chewing it, I realize the texture, flavor, etc. is completely new to me and I get a little scared.
So what does Mr. New York say to me at this point?
"You know, you really shouldn't eat off the carts here. It's not a rumor they use dog meat."
Oh God. I know that statement is the most racist, cliched, horrible thing a person can say, but you have to picture this. I'm sick beyond belief; I have to pee so bad I think I'm going to wet my pants; I'm chewing on something that isn't breaking down in my mouth, and I'm like the world's biggest dog lover.
I start to feel tingling down both arms, I get sparkles in front of my eyes, and my jaw starts to ache and Holy fucking Christ, these are all the signs of a massive heart attack.
At least I think so.
Whatever the case, I go into a major panic attack. I've had panic attacks before, but usually in supermarkets where I can just walk outside, or even at home, where I shake for an hour under the blankets but in a controlled environment.
To say I completely lost control is putting it mildly.
"Julie! Julie!" I gasp. I can hardly get the words out.
"Mom! What's wrong!"
"I'm really sick. I'm serious. I might have to go to a hospital. Oh my god, I'm so sick."
That's all I remember at this point. I really lost it. All I know is that some really kind Asian guy took my arm and led me to his shop a few doors down. Only it's not really a shop, it's some kind of storefront thing with no bathroom, just a tiny shop with a tiny stool and an electric heater. He sits me on the stool, tells me in broken English to put my head between my legs and take deep breaths, and put my hands in front of the electric heater to get warm.
I look up at him, still in shock, and what the fuck do I say?
"I just ate a dog! I just ate a dog!"
He looks at me not comprehending and then smiles, opens up a cake box and offers me some pastry - bright green and red stuff and is insistent I take one, shoving them under my nose until I almost physically have to push him away.
"No. I can't. I'm going to be sick. I just ate a dog!"
Luckily, he must think I mean hot dog. At least I hope that's what he thought. Oh my god, when I go over it in my head now, I'm so mortified my brain won't allow me to think anything else.
So I sit on that little stool desperately trying not to faint, throw up, or die, methodically rubbing my hands back and forth in front of the electric heater, trying to stay focused by the rhythym. In other words, I'm like a crazy person rocking back and forth.
Yeah, well, now it's confirmed, I am a crazy person, but that's beside the point.
I can't even look around his "store" because needless to say, it's full of all kinds of weird things. Roots and weird fish and...oh god, I can't even go there right now.
Anyway, after what seems like an eternity but is only a half hour more, Julie runs to the window and screams "Mom, Mom, the bus!"
I refuse to believe it but I stand up and with very unsteady steps, manage to make it back outside.
By some miracle, we get a tour bus with a bathroom, beautiful, even with a TV.
I didn't die, I didn't throw up, I pee for like an hour in a shockingly clean bus porta-potty, and we get home by 11:00 p.m.
And that's why, after telling him this story, my doctor didn't feel the need to increase my blood pressure meds.
Julie and I went to New York yesterday via the Chinatown bus.
As soon as I see the doctor this morning and make sure I'm still alive, I'll report back.
I thought I'd write a whole diatribe now but it appears I can barely type.
But other than the bus and ensuing insanity, we had an awesome time.
...more text to follow (assuming I'm not admitted to the hospital later)
Okay, I'm back. The doctor did in fact give me bad news - I've gained weight (arghhh) and my blood pressure is really elevated and he's so concerned he wants to see me every four weeks now because he's afraid I'm going to blimp out and I don't blame him because I'm headed in that direction. I was honest, I said look, I work at a stressful job and since Thanksgiving, we've been getting gift baskets of chocolate and cookies every day and that's basically what I've been eating for lunch and dinner. Also, I told him about my bus trip yesterday, which I will now relate here below, but after I told him all this, he laughed and didn't increase my meds but made me promise I'd start eating salads again and exercise (my son is conveniently dating a girl now whose mother is the top personal trainer in Philadelphia so I asked him to put in a word for me but oh god, there are few things I hate worse than exercise. But if it's a choice between that and being dead, I guess I'll do crunchs and use words like abs and gluts and oh god, I'm gonna vomit just thinking about it).
Okay, my bus trip.
As anyone who knows me is aware, I love to spend money and have no problem taking Amtrak to New York; in fact, my daughter will have a heart attack when she reads this, but I even take Acela which is $50.00 (or $200 round trip) more because I like to be comfortable and not take public transportation with the common man. In fact, the less I have to do with said common man, the better. But it is Christmas and my daughter found out about bus services which run from Philadelphia Chinatown to NYC Chinatown, and if you book them on line, it's only $20.00 round trip. There are a few different companies, and everyone talks about Century Bus Lines because they run every 20 minutes, but for some unknown reason, my daughter chose a company called Apex.
Here's the first clue that something isn't right. Our tickets say 8:00 a.m. Philly to NYC but please get there one half hour early to insure your seat. So we get to the bus stop at 7:30 a.m. yesterday and there is a tiny storefront with a woman behind a glass window with bars who says "You miss bus. You late."
"Huh? It says 8:00 a.m. on our ticket," I say, incensed.
"We just change schedule yesterday."
Julie and I look at each other, pissed as hell. Like, you obviously have our email address, why didn't you write to us?
"Well, when is the next bus?" I ask.
"You stay here. Bus at 9:00, 9:30."
Um, I don't think so. We have reservations for brunch at 10:00 a.m. at this supposed fantastic place in the Village.
"Julie, that's it. We're taking Amtrak," I say.
"No, Mom, I know, let's walk to the Greyhound bus terminal (2 blocks away). Their tickets are the same price. I'll get a refund of these (even though I notice right on the ticket it says no refund, I stay quiet) and Greyhound has an 8:00 a.m. bus."
Okay, fine. It will take a half hour to get to the Amtrak station anyway and I don't know what time the trains are running. So we walk to the bus station, and unbelievably enough, there is an 8:00 a.m. bus, we get on, and of course the first thing that happens is that the guy in front of me eats a giant hoagie with onions and the guy behind me has a chronic cough which I just know is going to end up killing both Julie and me...we're gonna get TB for sure. Two seats behind another fellow is already snoring. And..sigh...of course we have the cell phone people who feel the need to share their personal lives with the world by screaming into those things non stop. Ah, if shooting people with a high powered rifle were legal...
Anyway, we do in fact make it to NYC despite the discomfort in time for our brunch, which was incredible, though when I got the tab and saw $43.00, I was stunned, until I realized they charge $4.50 per cup of coffee and $6.00 for Julie's fresh squeezed juice. Sorry, even I got annoyed at that one. That kind of money for scrambled eggs?
At this point it is important to the rest of the story...and oh what a story it is...to let you know that I had $100.00 in cash in my pocket when I left home and my debit card with approximately $5,000.00 in my checking account. I had no credit cards or checks - I didn't see any need.
So I've now paid for the Greyhound bus and breakfast with cash, which left me with around $18.00, but I didn't care, I had the debit card and ugh, the return bus tickets home.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
So. What do Gregg Allman, Brian May (Queen), and Billy Idol all have in common?
Holy cow, they're going to be recording in a few weeks with my kids. Rumor has it that Robert Plant is in negotiations as well.
Update: Eric just woke up and gave me the news. In addition to the above, he's drumming with Billy Idol on Rebel Yell; he's playing Black Magic Woman with Carlos Santana on guitar and the guy who sang with Journey doing the vocals; and Jon Anderson is doing Heart of the Sunrise with both Julie on bass and Eric on drums. They go into the studio December 27-30.
Excuse me while I have a heart attack.
Okay, I'll be calm now.
In other news, I've managed to generate some interest with my latest book, The Tour, but I'm superstitious so I'm keeping quiet about it until I have something concrete.
Let's see. What else, besides the fact that I'm extremely hung over from my office Christmas party yesterday, where I was turned on to something called Lemon Drops, which are shots of vodka, licks of sugar, bite of a lemon. Only of course me being me, I forgot to take the sugar lick and almost died from the lemon bite...okay, I didn't almost die, I made a horrible face...but um, I could learn to love those things.
Other than that, tame party, which is good...I was home early and still coherent though I haven't checked my outgoing emails yet.
Tomorrow Julie and I are doing our yearly Let's Kill Ourselves Right Before Christmas and Shop in New York City day. Nah, seriously, I'm really looking forward to it other than the fact that Julie's cheap when it comes to stuff like this and she's making me take the bus instead of Amtrak. I see her point -- I mean, Amtrak round trip for one person is $100.00 and the bus is $24.00, but oh god, Amtrak is quick and you don't worry about traffic and we're in NYC in an hour and fifteen minutes. The bus...well, it takes over two hours and the people...err, okay, 'nuff said, but the cool thing is that it runs from Chinatown, Philly to Chinatown, NYC, which is basically where we want to be. Julie's into thrift and vintage stores and funky warehouse places...oh, and of course vintage music instrument shops...and that's where they all are and she's got a whole route mapped out. We're having brunch at a restaurant which features a home made bread basket with orange sour cream donuts, pear pecan crumb cake, and fresh buttermilk biscuits. That's worth the bus ride alone. Then we're going to be real...gasp...tourists and go to Rockefeller Plaza and ice skate. Okay, Julie will ice skate and I'll watch. Nah, I'll ice skate too, but if I break my arm, she's in serious trouble. And then we're going to ride the ferris wheel at ToysRUs, which, even though it is an in store ferris wheel with Barbie and Ninja Turtle cars and therefore for babies, I am still scared as hell to go on it but I've promised Julie I'll do it and she's going to take my picture which I will post here assuming I don't think it will turn anyone to stone. ToysRUs New York not only has the ferris wheel, they have a two story human sized Barbie House and yeah, yeah, I love it. Even better, they have a candy carousel which dispenses M&Ms in every color of the rainbow including copper and silver. That thing fascinates me. Why? Because I'm a sick broad.
Anyway, I'm working on a sequel to Three Days in New York City which I can't post here or my publisher will have a stroke, but I've decided that blogging a novel was so much fun that I'm going to pull out an old one I wrote two years ago and never edited. I figure what the fuck, I'm gonna edit it here daily and post it like I did The Tour. It's called The Addicts and it's about a twenty year relationship between an alcohol addicted man and his sex addicted significant other. So stay tuned for that, starting probably right after Christmas. Or maybe before, depending on my mood.
Okay, time to eat some cookies for breakfast. I mean, what else does one eat as a first meal of the day during the holidays when one has a hangover?
Bleh, will I be sorry later.
Friday, December 17, 2004
So today is our annual office Christmas party. At 2:00 p.m. we will be drinking martinis at the Continental. Let's hope this year we all behave. Check that. Let's hope I behave. I don't care what the others do. Note to self: Only have one martini. If you choose to have two, please remember to eat FOOD.
(Yeah, yeah, that's me on the far left. Har har)
And err...I hate asking this, but if you get a chance, please don't forget to place your vote below!
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
More from Picasso's blue period
I'm walking through streets that are dead
Walking, walking with you in my head
My feet are so tired, my brain is so wired
And the clouds are weeping
Did I hear someone tell a lie?
Did I hear someone's distant cry?
I spoke like a child; you destroyed me with a smile
While I was sleeping
I'm sick of love but I'm in the thick of it
This kind of love I'm so sick of it
I see, I see lovers in the meadow
I see, I see silhouettes in the window
I watch them 'til they're gone and they leave me hanging on
To a shadow
I'm sick of love; I hear the clock tick
This kind of love; I'm love sick
Sometimes the silence can be like the thunder
Sometimes I wanna take to the road and plunder
Could you ever be true?
I think of you
And I wonder
I'm sick of love; I wish I'd never met you
I'm sick of love; I'm trying to forget you
Just don't know what to do
I'd give anything to
Be with you
Sunday, December 12, 2004
If there's anyone out there who doesn't recognize this painting, it's Picasso's Melancholy Woman.
I'm taking a few days off to re-evaluate my entire freaking life.
No, seriously, I'm suffering extreme post-partum depression since I finished the first draft of The Tour and I've got to really throw myself into the edit, as well as write the sequel to Three Days in New York City as well as finish illustrating and writing a series of stories for one of my favorite magazines.
And have I mentioned my nine to five job is killing me? Another week like the one I just had and I may be able to apply for Social Security disability benefits due to stress and chronic high blood pressure (sad but true). Hence the remark about re-evaluating my life. Just how much does a fancy salary matter when I need to spend every morning gulping down half a bottle of Pepto Bismol?
So all that, and I think my kids will be extremely upset with me if I don't get my ass in gear and start buying them some Christmas presents and baking some cookies and at least putting on a happy face even though I'm slowing dying inside.
Worse, someone has to clean this house and I guess I'm elected. Oh do I ever hate domestic goddess duties, because as a goddess, I shouldn't have to demean myself thusly. I just started moving things around. Holy cow, I actually found a Tower gift card from last year I never used. That just doesn't happen!