Realizing Your Creative Life is having me back for a post on 7 Strategies to Keep Your Artistic Sanity. A lot of these I didn’t realize I did until brainstorming on the G – nothing like musing on “hmmm, what IS my creative process?” to brighten up a sloggy train ride. Which leads to Secret Bonus Strategy #8: wherever you go, particularly into the dark, soul-deadening depths of total boredom – ALWAYS bring a notebook!
Small-town misfit Trisha Bell is awakened from her grave by mysterious forces, and there are only two people in the whole world she needs to see: her also-undead greaser boyfriend Sammy, and her still-alive derbygirl best friend Soraya. Sammy joins Trisha in gleefully turning the tables on the small-minded locals, but Soraya is all alone in a town that took its post-9/11 terrorist hysteria out on her family. With gun-toting bullies aiming for her head, Trisha has to be sure her friend is strong enough to handle the panic – while craving a bite of her brains herself.
Have a slice…
The first thing I saw was pink satin, bunches and bunches of pink satin, and I raised a fist covered in white lace and rotting flesh and, oh, damn you Mom, damn you, you always took advantage of me when I was at my most vulnerable and you knew the only time you could dress me up like a pretty little princess was when I was DEAD, at my FUNERAL, not the fuck-you blaze I wanted to go out in at all but I couldn’t stop you, could I…I’m really hungry.
I pushed against the coffin lid, shit, for a corpse, I’m pretty strong. Dirt tumbled in but I didn’t need to breathe anymore and I swam up through it, burst through cemetery grass. All around me, other heads twisted and turned in a morbid ocean. Some of them had climbed all the way out and were staggering around the graveyard in tuxedos, pissing formaldehyde through satin gowns. A few more pushes, and I was up there with them.
I looked at my tombstone. Trisha Bell, Beloved Daughter. Yeah, right. Whip up the waterworks, Mom, center of attention, oh what a fucking tragedy.
First order of business: Find Sammy, who would be in here. Then Soraya, who would not. Not yet, anyway.
Sammy. My man. Perpetual cigarette in his heart-shaped mouth, slicking back his hair like a direct descendant of the T-Birds, the world’s most beautiful snarl. Mine all mine.
It happened on Soraya’s first night skating with the Rochdale Rollergirls. Our newest recruit, Number 33, ladies and gentlemen, give it up for DURGAAAAA DESTRUCTIOOOOOON! Soraya in the limelight, making fists and gliding around the rink to Slayer. Cheers from the home side, howls from the Danfield DevilDolls. I was three weeks away from turning eighteen and joining her, after a summer scraping our knees in her driveway, laughing and falling down, gradually streamlining our bodies into fierce, clean speed down her street. She was all business that night, gritting her teeth among her fellow blockers, crowding up the other team’s jammer while ours flew ahead, racking up lap after lap of points and delirious applause. Sammy and I were cruising to the victory afterparty in his Mustang. The top was down, the Black Widows were howling from the stereo as we recounted all the brawls. Life was good. Ahead of us, an SUV full of yahooing fratboys lost control and jerked all over the road. Ka-POW! That’s the last thing I remembered.
I looked down at myself. The first thing that had to go were the puffed sleeves at my shoulders, pure Cinderella, barf. Then, let’s shorten up that hem a bit, shall we? Clawed a hand inside a wad of fabric, ripped myself a nice tattered miniskirt, goth chic. Ran a hand through my hair. The clot that came away was dyed brown. So they’d taken away my skunk stripe, too. Damn them all.
Previously only available as a podcast from Well Told Tales, you can now read it all at Tales of the Zombie War.
So I have an upcoming guest post for Realizing Your Creative Life that talks about ways to preserve your artistic sanity. Consider today’s post a pre-addendum – watching B-movies.
It can be both creatively helpful and loads of fun to break the notorious block of Flawless Brilliant Craft, Always by watching lots and lots of screamingly entertaining things that…aren’t. Terrible dialogue, gigantic plotholes, tragic hairdos, the utter refusal to let talent or experience or pretty much anything stop these people from getting behind a camera – all of this can serve as a healthy reminder, while in the midst of a manuscript, that it’s OK to let a seam or two show.
There are loads of books roadmapping this dubiously cinematic terrain – Destroy All Movies not only focuses on the punk slice of schlock, but gives in to total compleatist zeal with a meticulous documenting of every punk on film ever, even if it’s just three seconds of a mohawk walking by in the background. Every flavor is covered, from the cynical commentary of Ian MacKaye to the partytime crazy of Lee Ving. Raw documentaries, grimy indie wonders, drive-in cheddarfests of postapocalyptic wastelands or terrorized highschools – all here. I first heard of it from writer Sherilyn Connelly, who, as one of the hosts of Bad Movie Night at San Francisco’s Dark Room Theater, knows a thing or two about godawful films. And does this book ever deliver. It was released a couple years ago and is now going for a pretty penny on Amazon, but if you can get your roommates to chip in, you have a lot of nights of quality MST3King in front of you.
Dead End Drive In: When the show is over, there is no way out! An Australian twist on Mad Max dystopia, which now kind of looks like Burning Man if it were mean and wearing a lot more makeup.
Liquid Sky: A New Wave indie gem where the lead plays both male and female roles, and is stunning in both. High fashion and futuristic technologies are elements that one tends to associate with a high budget – the filmmakers didn’t, and their persistence has left us with a hypnotic mishmosh of aliens, gender, art, drugs, and beauty, set to the bleeps and bloops of primitive synths.
Savage Streets: Linda Blair is the star of this teen-revenge flick, clad in 80′s black and total attitude, her performance a storm of GIF fodder. Trigger warning for the gang rape that dips the plot towards grindhouse – fortunately this is not Mother-of-God-when-will-this-END I Spit On Your Grave and most of the running time is devoted to Blair being a total badass.
Joysticks: The phalanx of punks on mini scooters – and Destroy‘s glowing review – convinced me to give what looks like a Porky’s ripoff a chance. It ended up quite unexpectedly hilarious in that zany 80′s save-the-orphanage way, except this time it’s an arcade that’s being saved, and carries on in a reality very similar to Rock’n'Roll High School. Major kudos to Jon Gries and Corinne Bohrer for getting me to enjoy two Hollywood stereotypes I usually can’t stand – punk thugs and Valley Girls.
Black Roses: I haven’t seen this yet, but this clip landed it in my Must-Watch queue. See, white dusters + ballads = Good, Safe Rock’Roll. Tight black monoleather pants (and really, what else) = Cheesy Yet Totally Evil Hair Metal. Note Carmine Appice on drums! Watch out, Sacrifyx!
Speaking of which: Mike McPadden has written the metal version of Destroy All Movies – it is called Heavy Metal Movies: From Anvil to Zardoz, the 666 Most Headbanging Movies of All Time and it is now available for pre-order on Amazon.
Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jocelyn Paige Kelley: creativity coach, hypnotherapist, and fellow writer.
How does sexuality, gender and music influence the themes within your work?
With the sex scenes, I wanted artistic or spiritual intimacy to happen before anything physical, especially in the relationship Danae has with Alex, because he’s the one who really starts her down the road of music. There is a certain vulnerability in practicing magick with someone else, or opening up your singing voice for the first time, it’s letting your guard down and trusting them. I used all this as a form of foreplay.
As far as gender though, there is romance, but it’s secondary to the adventure. There are other appetites Danae has besides sex and love that need to be satisfied – writing better songs, traveling to different cities, finding her family, learning different forms of magick, the whole question of Do You Dare More which won’t be answered if she decides to stay in her current situation. Pam, Alex, Devon, and Dahlia are all love interests, but each one reveals a different piece of her identity that she would have not have found on her own. All friends do this to some degree, but romance is an electrified form of friendship where you’re really going to find shit out. I wanted these relationships to have a lot of substance beneath them so there’s more going on than sex sex sexxay sex – they’re part of her quest, but not the quest itself.
The practice of magick in genre fiction, wielding the powers of death metal to annihilate writer’s block, and more, here.
Bordello? Or hospital? A visitor to Kue’s dingy boudoir may not be asking for mere fantasy play when he wants to be healed – especially not when the rest of the girls break out in gruesome, mind-eating diseases.
Here, try a sample…
“So, how long have you been working here, Kue?” It was an occasional power play, using my name when I was not allowed to know theirs. Grabbing for any little bit of control they could in this little bit of costly time, away from the electric eyes.
I lowered my lids. It made me look submissive and yielding, and it spared me any pretense of serious conversation with a boor. “Ah. Jando should have given you that information at the front, if that was important to you.”
“It is and it isn’t. But either way, I’ve paid.” There was a unmistakable First District undertone to his voice. The least of us is always more than the best of you. “Surely your talents can handle the task?”
I didn’t answer him. Instead, I took his face in my hands, laid his head in my lap. I ran my fingers across his forehead and wondered if it would go any farther than this, if he really did take me for some kind of vibal practitioner and this would be one of the rare transactions where I could sort of relax. But the tulip was painted on the wall, repeated in ink inside my left wrist. The symbol that announced to all: this one cannot refuse you.
You can choose the tulip, or the factories, they’d said, that day, as they’d pulled me from my mother’s callused hands. The steel gray of their silks were perfectly tailored business suits melted down into the robes of state, I was sure. And few are offered the tulip. I looked back into her grieving face, cadaverous, worn down from years of smoke and soldering. I knew the city would extract its piece of me, as it did from every unfortunate born into one of the Last Districts, one way or another. Through the tulip, at least some of the nights would be mine.
Thumbs soft over his eyelids, hands spread like little fans over his cheeks. Up the hairline and I brushed against something beneath the left temple. A bump. He took my hand before I could touch it again.
He moved my hand down, down, below the sash, within the folds of his robe. I closed my eyes as he swelled beneath my fingers, and I gave myself one moment. One that was mine and mine alone, that I always allowed myself, before beginning work.
This was the moment where I didn’t know yet if he was clean. He may not have washed beforehand. Some didn’t, coming in with months of grime accumulated in their underclothes, enjoying the disgust in our eyes, our attempts to camouflage repulsion with forced sensuality. I didn’t know if he would be gentle, or if he’d grab me my the hair, dig his nails into the tender skin of my belly, my breasts, my throat. I didn’t know if this would be over in the next ten minutes, or if two more hours of my life were about to turn black, disappear into the back of my mind where all the other lost hours were hiding. This was the one moment I needed to steel myself, for the all the ones that were about to happen next.
I took a deep breath. Then I pulled his sash open.
Formerly only available in print from Not One Of Us, you can now read it all in the March 2013 issue of Niteblade!
“We’ve always said, there’s no way we can ever get to that level, so it doesn’t matter, you know, this is like, we can, you know, be as poppy as we want, we can do anything we want because, no one will ever discover hangedup, like, you can get a better audience, you can get more people listening, you can get better distribution, you can get more people writing about it, or what have you, but never will Top of the Pops be interested.”
Genevieve Heistek, hangedup
“We play fuckin’ 12-minute-long instrumental songs, you’re not gonna fuckin’ sell that on the radio, so they don’t care.”
“Those labels put out what they want. That’s the idea. The idea is not making money. I mean, you want to stay in business but, the idea isn’t to like make fuckin’ millions of fuckin’ dollars, like, if you’re playing music like that, you’re not going to make millions. But that’s not why they do it.”
J. Bennett, journalist
These are quotes from the excellent documentary Blood, Sweat, and Vinyl, centering on indie labels Neurot, Constellation, and Hydra Head, and the range of loud, ominious, experimental bands they release. There’s a lot of good stuff in here – how the bands persist despite limited outlets for potential listeners to find their sound, how hard it is to put a category on music that could easily be classified seven different ways, the (rather astounding) fact that some of these labels don’t have contracts with their bands, just verbal agreements. Very smart, very solid – the people here are kind of like the Ian MacKayes of metal – it was a pretty grounding dose of reality, in a good way. None of these people are ever going to get massively famous for what they do, but it’s obvious how happy, how fulfilled they are.
So all this was joyfully rattling around in the back of my mind when I came across this post on editorial revisions by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, which is a pretty good summation of a total nightmare for writers, and one of the reasons I chose not to pursue traditional publishing:
Here’s the problem. Editing, like writing, is a subjective job. So an editor whom I consider great might be—in your opinion—a total idiot. That editor’s suggestions on your work might have missed the mark so badly that you wonder if you’re speaking the same language.
And here’s a clue: you probably aren’t speaking the same language. A romance to her might be a happily-ever-after story only; to you, a romance might include Romeo & Juliet (who die at the end, for those of you who’ve forgotten). She might try to shoehorn your 1950s Romeo & Juliet story (wait! Isn’t that West Side Story?) into an Happily Ever After ending, and you’ll have none of it, claiming she doesn’t understand you.
She might not. She’s talking marketing categories. You’re talking art.
…even if you sign a contract that gives you (the writer) the final word, that doesn’t mean that your editor won’t give you an ultimatum if she hates the final manuscript. The ultimatum will be nicely put, but it’ll go something like this:
If we don’t have a happy ending on this book, we can’t publish it. I won’t accept the manuscript, and you’ll have to repay the advance.
Then, your decision to change your Romeo & Juliet story’s ending becomes a business decision. Do you want to break the contract? Can you afford to repay the advance? Can you make the revision work and still keep your novel’s integrity, while covering your financial ass?
You know, metal was there for me through the pressures of heading back into the dating world in my 30′s. Now, here it is again, the thrash-beast of evil and terror holding me upright through the pressures of modern publishing. As an indie novelist who’s currently forging the path on my own, I am very glad my beloved world of dark noise is alive with sage voices to keep me company.
…gazing into a pool of water. Standing at the edge of the next story. An evocative song, an enigmatic photograph, something fascinating glimmers from the bottom and draws me in. The little ones are ponds, the novels are oceans. Treasure in the depths – finding out what I know.
So, one of the biggest challenges for publishing my novel was finding cover art. This was a hurdle that could have stopped the whole process dead if I hadn’t run across an image on Flickr that I absolutely adored – and discovered a photographer who’s done beautiful work chronicling the CBGB’s scene in NYC from 1977 through 1981.
Eugene Merinov’s online gallery is a treasure trove of great bands caught in the heat of performance, right when their careers were just beginning. Bright lights, rawness and hunger, you can practically feel the perspiration leaking out of these photographs.
There is so much going on in this picture that captures what I was going for in Goddess of Thunder. A small, grimy stage that is most definitely not the terrain of Mary Sue Rockstar – whatever’s going on here, this band is going to have to earn it. Classic 80′s black tights and ankle boots and pyramid studs, a peek of lace, not a fancy costume at all and very likely thrifted. And that stance: there’s a smoking hotness factor here, but it’s not from fishnets and stilettos and vamping for the crowd. It’s because there’s power behind those legs.
Immense gratitude to Eugene for the use of this image. Sweaty girls off in the night howling their hearts out, really, a picture does say a thousand words. Or in my case, one hundred thousand of them.
Click here to see just whose legs those are…not vamping for the crowd, indeed. And check out the rest of Eugene’s gallery for a loud, energetic slice of New York Back In the Day.
My death metal fairytale is now online and ready for reading!
Here, have a taste…
It was just a guy in a t-shirt. On a barstool. All she had to do was walk up and hand him five bucks. Right? She should have asked Pam before she left. All these years reading about shows in Blast! and Aardschok America and it only just now occurred to Danae that she didn’t know how to get through the door. Sure, she knew all about who gave an amazing live performance, but the reviewers never mentioned anything about needing ID. And despite what the flyer said, this place kind of looked like a bar. Any kind of velvet rope, even one so mangy, made her anxious for not understanding how it all worked.
What spell could she cast, to get the door open? She was flipping through the runic alphabet when two kids walked up and handed him their fives, got their inner wrists inked in return. That was all. Feeling silly, she walked up to the door and held out a five to him with a small smile. He didn’t even look at her, eyes pointed elsewhere down the street as he raised the stamp and told her to turn her wrist over.
The stage was straight back. Bleacher-type seats descended from the wall all around the room, giant steps covered in black carpet. She sat down on the lowest step and commenced people-watching. The first band had already finished and were hauling their equipment offstage. Some flyers for upcoming shows were scattered nearby, local groups hoping to follow in the arena-bound footsteps of their Bay Area brethren. Their videos would play on Headbanger’s Ball, and Saturday nights she’d turn her TV up as loud as possible despite the abysmal sound. The city was their backdrop, slamdancing in the cells of Alcatraz or speeding through the steep streets when they weren’t wailing away before rabid crowds.
A guy in a Giants cap was talking about some blood-soaked show he’d been to last week; she couldn’t tell if he meant the band’s shock rock performance or an actual fight. Another guy in a handcuff belt was going on about his first lesson from a killer guitar teacher in the area. All around her, biker pins and embroidered patches, white basketball sneakers smudged over from mosh after mosh, punctuated here and there by spiky fingernails. Teased hair. The girls. Smudged black eyeliner, cigarettes tucked between filigree rings. One of them further up in the bleachers was wearing an amazing pair of spike-heeled boots, shiny buckles climbing up her calves, the perfect shoes to crush a man’s heart. And Danae hadn’t even known how to get in the door. A black wave of utter loneliness came rising up within her.
And then, before it could crash, a bass guitar came strumming up through the amps, followed by the guitars, quick sound check. She stood up to see the band – oh.
They looked just like anybody else in the crowd, the four of them: torn jeans, scuffed sneakers, leather bracelets. On the bass drum: ENSPELLED in angry black paint. She got up, slung her backpack over her shoulder and gently nudged her way to the front, the crowd letting her through, saving themselves for the headliners. He stood behind the mic, spotting her just as the drums kicked in. One nod, just to her: I have a show to do, but I know you’re here. Four cymbal crashes and the guitars came to roaring life.
Distorted riffs came galloping hard from the amps, mean and foreboding, a spiked gauntlet thrown straight into her bloodstream. The drums came in to nail down the sinister pace, and then the lead guitar sparked a breakneck tempo change, summoned double-blasts of percussion at manic speed, and they all jumped into the pandemonium at maximum volume.
And his voice joined the cacophony: guttural growling over the chaos, his dark side unleashed as the lights played over his face. The boy from the woods – onstage was his photonegative, wrenching all the doom possible out of a human voice, the guitar in his hands now electric and arachnid and obsidian.
The others she caught in glimpses: the lead guitarist whipped a long mane of straight black hair around a determined sneer, plucked the notes from the neck of a flying V; the bassist, shaggy blonde hair that dusted his shoulders, tall and solid and holding it all together from the low end, glancing at the others as if keeping them in line; the drummer, a blotch of eyes and curls and sticks and derangement.
Most of the metal she knew was the kind conjured from leather jackets and beer cans, sweat-soaked missives that raged against conformity, corruption, the lies of the family and state. Fast and severe and truthful. Then there were the glam acts from L.A., spandex and sequins and rock’n'roll benders. Fun, but they were the junk food of metal, Pam’s favorite but not hers. And then there were those who dabbled in arcane lore, singing of ancient battles and spirit evocations, but she hadn’t heard anyone do it with this kind of ferocity.
And the stories they told. A cathedral full of murderous ghosts. Wasting away from a flesh-eating disease. Planet Earth, poisoned to death. Dark visions, all; and, she noticed, not one word about fallen angels or eternal damnation, no supreme being above to defy, no infernal puppetmaster pulling the strings from below. That eternal game, that endless source of lyric fodder, completely absent.
Beside her, the rest of the front row was a line of crossed arms and hard eyes: impress me. A few of them were nodding their heads, only a couple dancing. This was the mad whirl around the bonfire, the destination of all those witches on their broomsticks, delirious rites of yore reincarnated right here between pawnshops and discount clothing stores. All this bedlam, for only five dollars, and hardly anyone was enjoying it. What idiots.
She dropped her backpack to her feet, banged her head. I understand this. I like this. Her hair flew, her fists clenched, lifted up on all that sound, and she escaped inside the pounding drums, the shrieking guitars, ravenous for whatever horrific scenario they would fly her to next.
Three furious riffs to end it all, and the lights went on. The audience broke up behind her, knotted back up in their cliques, lighting cigarettes or going off for cokes. Wow. Just…wow. Whatever wild art the candle was nudging her towards, whatever form it would take, it was definitely here. She rummaged in the pocket of her jean jacket. She needed her notepad. Her mind was on fire.
Sneakers hit the floor in front of her. She looked up.
Hello, said the gray eyes.
What to say? You were great? No. They were no mere “great.” I found it to be very…ugh, too pretentious. He was staring at her. She had to say something.
Your band is fucking amazing, she was about to blurt, but -
”What were you writing?”
Deep voice. Totally hot. Writing? Writing what? She hadn’t even gotten the notebook out of her pocket yet. What did he mean -
The word, that shared sunlit stretch of time in the grove, it shone like a piece of gold. She didn’t even know his name yet and already something was theirs.
”Poems. Well, not really, not like rhyming stuff, more kind of freeform.”
He said nothing, just waited for her to go on. She felt her chest tighten as she saw all her work, all the dreams she tried to capture with words, and tried to figure out how to cram them into the tiny box of her next sentence.
She took a deep breath, and continued.
”I was writing…I was just listening to you play. And the wind, and the trees, like the forest was part of it. Like some kind of instruments themselves. I listened to all of it together and tried to follow where you were going. It was like you were painting pictures, and I wrote them down as I saw them.”
”What’d you see?”
She paused, thought about the harsh gloom his music had cast over her hand. It was like her mind wasn’t even there, just the conduit of her pen pressing onward into the paper.
”At the end of it…blood. Lots of blood.”
His eyebrows lifted. “From…that?
She shrugged and nodded and tried to slow down her pulse.
”I wanna hear more. Come back with us.”
She followed him up onto the stage as he led her through the rest of the band, still packing up. The platform beneath her feet was just one foot up from the rest of the club, but a whole other world – like standing on a giant altar, where all the power came from. A hallway appeared beside the drumkit. Oh, yeah. Her first night at a show, and already she was going backstage.
My essay for the Heavy Metal Trauma reading at Duff’s!
This piece was somewhat inspired by Helen Gurley Brown – she wrote Sex and the Single Girl in the 60’s, which is one of the cultural milestones that started to open things up for women – she also unfortunately promoted some rather constricting influences as well. She recently passed away at the age of 90, she was a grand old broad and the love/hate relationship I have with her was present as I wrote this.
* * *
My first taste of the single life was also the tenth time I saw GWAR.
The relationship I’d been in for ten years wasn’t over yet, but the end was coming, and this was one of the first shows I’d gone to on my own. Going alone was something I was starting to get used to – I still didn’t really know anybody in NYC yet, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from getting my annual dose of gore. There had been a snowstorm that afternoon. I’d called the venue to make sure they were still going on, and of course they were, Antarctica, right? I spent the night happily slipping and sliding around the Times Square theater that they’d coated with their bodily fluids, reveling in the old-school slam circles, standing in the green rain of a Lady Gaga decapitation. But the show came to an end, and it was time to head back. I walked out of the venue into an urban winter wonderland. I had never seen Times Square so quiet, it was silent – I stood there staring out at the lights of Broadway, my skin covered in fake blood and sweat, watching the neon glow across a perfect blanket of fresh snow. It was beautiful, one of those rare amazing moments that stick with you forever…and there was no one to share it with.
There is not a lot of encouragement in the world to be single in your 30’s. There’s a cultural pressure to be coupled up, to find that perfect mate – or desperately settle for one that will do. Wedding rings, biological clocks, the preservation of youth at all costs…these are the things society seems to want me to be fixated on. It’s hard enough to feel lonely, it’s exhausting when these slings and arrows won’t stop coming for your self-worth. (And wallet.)
It’s even worse when your tastes are of a non-mainstream flavor. “Haven’t you outgrown all that yet? All that senseless noise? Aren’t you a little too…mature, to be living in a fantasy world?”
And living in NYC while female and single means the Sex and the City comparisons are going to happen whether you like it or not. Especially when you’re a writer. Believe me, with all the uncertainty of where my future was going to end up, the last thing I needed was to feel like Carrie motherfucking Bradshaw.
Perched at my keyboard while contemplating the posh, fabulous view of a Montrose Avenue parking lot from my bedroom window, I had to wonder…wasn’t this all a steaming pile of necro-bestial anal buttsex?
A really good piece of advice I once read on a radical feminist blog, and found repeated in various permutations over the years, is this: “Do what you love, and do it with a vengeance, to keep the soul-destroying stuff from seeping through.”
For me, that meant senseless noise.
By the time GWAR came to Williamsburg a couple months later, my eleventh time seeing them, the relationship was over and we were starting to go our separate ways. I had no idea what kind of new home I’d be able to build for myself. I have always had a place in my heart for metal – this was a time in my life when it found a place in its heart for me, when I most needed one.
Here’s where having non-mainstream tastes came back to save my life: I’d already been to Motorhead and Dimmu Borgir and Grave and countless nights at Duff’s drinking my way through the breakup. What I began to sense was that yes, I was alone, but…I belonged. Metal meant camaraderie. It meant community, unlike the excruciating meat market of a singles bar. I was coming to discover that if romance wasn’t going to happen, the night wasn’t over – there was music, there was art, there were horror movies and epic shows and favorite albums to keep a connection going. “So we’re not gonna be fucking – OK then, I’ll put you on my mailing list.”
Metal was there for me in a way that Cosmo certainly wasn’t going to be. Metal loved my chipped nail polish and combat boots and Headbanger’s Ball VHS tapes. It was not ever going to tell me I was being too loud, or smart, outspoken. It has always been about living life on your own terms.
And given how many other women were at the show, dressed in white and eagerly anticipating the rain of beheadings, it felt good to not be alone in this philosophy.
So there I was, feeling again like a stray molecule within clusters of excited fans, but it was as if the ambient tension to grow up and be feminine already was making me more determined to enjoy myself. And oh, did I ever. Headbanging and screaming and laughing and pushing back the moshers and flinging back wet hair and sizzling in other people’s body heat and midway through everything, I felt a hand on my back and suddenly I was launched forward and I made it into the front row. I was so close I could see the eyes on Oderus’ cuttlefish. Even better, I was right in front of Balsac, Jaws of Death. Now, Balsac, Jaws of Death, is one of my totem animals. He has a face made of teeth. He has really cool horsey feet. I have a statue of Balsac, Jaws of Death, on my desk at home. He was there while I was writing my first novel, presiding over everything, reminding me that whatever I was doing, be utterly ferocious and have a great fucking time doing it. I knew it was Mike Derks inside the costume. I knew that this was a whole reality made of foam latex and food coloring. I didn’t care. I was communing with my muse, and I was shameless. No matter what happened to me, I was going to have this. Volume, and power, and a firmly entrenched sense of the absurd. This is what was going to get me through. And as if the cosmos decided to confirm all this, Balsac threw me his pick.
And the show came to an end, and it was time to head back. The Music Hall of Williamsburg brought the lights up along with “Stayin Alive.” The dirty, ragged, drenched audience members started to file out but not everybody – quite a few metalheads were still on the floor and grooving along to the regional delicacy. There was one tall, pierced kid standing by himself in the middle who looked a little like the way I’d felt back at that lonely snowfall in Times Square. I danced up and did the bump, and that got a bit of a smile out of him. Just one little moment before the exit and the walk home, where I would triumphantly add Balsac’s pick to the statue on my desk, where I would shower off most of the show but traces of red and green would still show up tomorrow anyway. Sexecutioners and Salamanizers and part-time antichrists, all seeping into my skin, making sure the soul-destroying stuff doesn’t get through.