– a reflection on Father’s Day, a father and a daughter

On a sweltering summer’s day in rural Virginia in 1970, a 7-year old girl was taken away from her home by the county sheriff and handed over to her mother. At gunpoint as the result of a court decision following a riveting divorce case that kept the local gossips occupied for weeks.

The next thing she remembered, she found herself in a car with a slim, elegant, deeply tanned man driving down a road in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area of Virginia. He was nothing like the men she knew before. He spoke ‘fancy’, meaning not-Southern. He enunciated precisely (as he did most things, she came to discover). He asked her questions. Not the usual kind you ask a seven-year-old, but what she liked and cared for, what she dreamed about. Then he said: “I know this must be really, really hard for you. Just call me Phil. You and I can figure this out.”

Over the course of the next two years, they did just that. He woke her up early in the morning and took her to the beach a short distance away to dig for clams and crabs. He showed her the lights of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge twinkling in the distance. He taught her that fall to find the wild black grapes that grew everywhere and tasted like nothing else. At night, he’d take her to the beach and teach her the constellations of the stars, and in daylight to read the weather in the clouds. He encouraged her reading, and asked what she thought of what she read, of what he did (he was an architect) and the houses he built. “All my houses have big kitchens,” he said. “Because in my family, the men cook.” He was also famous for that.

In short, this first-generation New Yorker Sicilian-American was something of a Renaissance man – well-rounded, educated, and with a truly unique ability to basically walk into any bar in any country and have the entire bar wanting to be his new best friend. He was a man completely without bias of any kind, and made sure to eradicate any of my own I might have developed.

About a year later, when he married her mother, she decided to call him Dad. For no other reason than they had indeed both ‘figured it out’.

The little girl was me, that elegant man – whether in a shirt and tie or bathing trunks and diving flippers, he always had that sublimely Italian ‘bella figura’– was my stepfather, and to all intents, purposes and meanings, my Dad.

My father cracked open the world and gave it to me. Always happiest on a boat, he passed on his immense love of the ocean and marine life. He taught me to swim the hard way – by putting me in a life vest, snorkel, mask and fins and throwing me into the Caribbean. He was an artist, too – painting on plywood and walls, painting everyone and everything he loved and cared about.

In those important years between the ages of seven and twelve, his indelible imprint shaped me in ways still with me to this day. At no point in our shared history did he ever make me feel I didn’t belong, wasn’t ‘his’, or wasn’t an important part of his own life.

When I aced my first SAT tests and scared my mother witless, he sat me down for a talk.

“You can go on to Harvard, or Princeton.”

“Why would I do that?” I was still smarting from being told I was too short to be a cheerleader at my junior high. These things matter when you’re eleven.

His voice dropped half an octave. “Because pretty is good. But smart is better.”

Even today, those words are engraved in marble on my heart.

As stories of fathers and daughters go, my own doesn’t end happily. A small package arrived in September 1974 – a baby girl who looked very much like her father. I hovered on the brink of puberty preoccupied with other things; straight As, my friends, viola lessons, music and always, a big pile of books. Whether because of my baby sister, my own increasing independence, life in general or for some other reason I’ll never know, my mother packed a few suitcases, wrapped up the baby, told me to pack and left him. I wouldn’t see him again for fourteen years.

He told me some long time later how devastated he was. So was I. I never received an explanation from my mother, wasn’t allowed to have contact with him and certainly never, ever mention him in conversation. When he sent me a huge birthday package for my twelfth birthday, my mother insisted I send it back. I refused. Not least because he sent me a lot of music in the shape of ´45 singles that reallyrearranged my adolescent mental furniture, never least David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’.

My Dad was cool that way, too.

Around age 24, I began to write him letters. Long, long letters written on a legal pad he sent me, letters about my life, letters about life, letters about whatever I thought he might find interesting or entertaining. “You should have your own newspaper column. You’re that good,” he wrote back. And he always wrote me back.

Today, the baby – that little girl he fathered who became his greatest gift to me – does. Her Father’s Day story would be different from mine, as it should be, because it’s her story and her life.

As for my own, we had one last riotous reunion in 2002, Dad and I. There was laughter, and food, and that sense of belonging he always gave me. We talked about that past, and the present, and a little of the future. He told me – this came as a massive surprise –he had wanted to adopt me properly, back in the day, and my mother wouldn’t let him, and wouldn’t say why. I still don’t know, any more than I’ll ever know anything about my biological father apart from what I had inherited, among them my blood type, eye color and insatiable curiosity.

In April of 2005, while getting his boat ready for summer, he died in an instant, aged 63. I was on maternity leave with a baby of my own, unable to attend his funeral. In a long transatlantic conversation with his widow, she told me how much those letters I had sent so long ago had meant to him, and that he kept them close by. All I could do was hold a baby tight through my grief and swear that some day, I’d tell him about my Dad.

On a dark November night in 2013, I sent my last edited and proofread installment of my first novel to my publisher. I bawled like a baby after hitting the ‘send’ button. I collapsed into bed that night and dreamed of Dad. We were somewhere off the coast of Florida, hauling up lobster crates. In my dream, I was overjoyed to be back with him, doing something we both loved. I told him I had just handed in my book. “Do you think I did OK, Dad?”

He looked up from a gargantuan pile of very large and lively lobsters. “Honey,” he replied, “You did GREAT.”

I woke up, a long way from the Atlantic, from lobsters, and from a father who had been gone for over eight years.

Then again, he never really left at all.

Thank you, Dad. You really, truly did GREAT.


In memory of Philip Caruana, 1941-2005



– being the true confessions of a singular sort of carnivore

Once in a far more innocent time, the term ‘cougar’ was exclusively applied to exemplars of the feline species Puma concolor, also known as the mountain lion, renowned for its fierceness and efficiency as a top-level predator.

These days, thanks to a TV show, mass media and possibly Demi Moore, the term is far more likely to describe a woman who dates much younger men. It can be applied with or without a smirk of envy and/or derision. Cue Samantha in Sex and the City and her long-term relationship with Smith for the latter, and just about any woman who dares to break the wrought-iron chains of middle-aged mindset and convention for the former.

How do I know? Because I’m one of them. And I never in a million years ever thought I would be.

I never set out to label myself as any kind of sexual predator, or even any kind of erotic iconoclast because for the longest time, I hardly dared define myself as a sexual being. Or if I did, it was in terms of a wild and wooly imagination that led to a novel among other things that some readers have described as ‘sexy’.

It had to go somewhere, people.

Now, I’m 52. Obviously, I’ve had relationships. I’ve even been married for 12 years, and those twelve years were not the unhappiest of my life.

Yet although I married a younger man, in terms of cougarism (let’s call it), he doesn’t count by virtue of being only four years younger.

Somewhere between the divorce and today, I dated or met a few men, most around my general age and even a couple I’ve known since my teens and early twenties. There was… the dishy guy who stated he was single (so a friend of mine looked him up and found out he emphatically wasn’t), there was the unattached ex-boyfriend who kind of sort of hoped for a mad, passionate reunion and blithely overlooked what I told him 25 years ago when we split up – that once it’s over, it’s o-v-e-r.

As we say in Danish, and it means more or less exactly what you think it means: You don’t go back to wet fireworks. (In case they explode in your face!)

Then, there was the unhappily married man who proclaimed he was nothing like the middle-aged schmos we both derided and that he had not stagnated at all, only to refuse to add me as a friend on Facebook because (and I quote verbatim)‘we knew too many people in common and what would they think if they found out?’

KTHXBYE was what I thought.

Of course, all of these dates/meetings/sob stories were predicated on the idea that I was even noticed. The sorry fact is, past a certain age – or below a certain socio-economic status – women aren’t noticed even as individuals, right at the time when men of similar ages are described with the phrase ‘in their prime’.

Which is unbelievably sexist in this day and age.

So far as I know, I’ve never trawled the streets where I live in search of younger flesh. Nor have I peddled my over-the-hill carcass in Irish bars, English-language bookstores or music venues (all locations where I likely can be found) looking into the possibilities of millenials.

All I’ve done was mind my own goddamn business, thank you very much. And one more thing.

Whether due to genetics, clean living or my skincare routine, I’ve also been gifted with the ability to not look my age and above all things else, not to act it, either.

Somewhere along the way, I caught a few dashing twenty-somethings noticing me. Yet the idea of ever taking it a nanometer further was as remote as the Kalahari.

Until four years ago, when my life and marriage was literally falling apart and a hunky millennial friend and former colleague confessed he had a massive crush. On me.

At the time, I was precisely twice his age.

Many lattes, never-ending conversations, five months and a few clandestine meetings later, I spent the night with him, hoping that might cure him of his delusions.

It didn’t.

Somehow in spite of it, we remained the best of friends and supporters for each other.

We both love horror movies and H.P. Lovecraft, sci-fi, chocolate, irony, Edgar Allan Poe, metal and comic-book art. We’ve seen each other through our own absolute worst and sometimes our absolute best. He knows nearly as much dirt about me as my best friends. I’ve even – cold heartless bitch that I am – kicked him out of my apartment at 3 AM to a long, cold walk home in the dark because I couldn’t face the consequences if he stayed.

And then.

One Friday night four months ago, after dinner, a few bottles of prosecco and a long evening of heated discussions (Gamergate/rape culture/Tinder/feminism/the tribulations of novel-writing), I didn’t have the heart to kick him out. He stayed.

He’s been around ever since.

One of my cats worships him and the other is coming around to the idea of not being the only male in the household. In most respects, certainly the ones that connote ‘relationship’, it feels like a lighter-hearted laugh of a massive love affair, nothing at all different than any other relationship I’ve been in, except it’s been ages since I’ve woken up in the morning, looked at the sleeping face beside me and thought:

Thank you.

I really don’t think of the twenty-three+ years between us. Nor do I feel maternal in the slightest. Instead, I think of ways to stay on my toes and above all else, stay fascinating.

Since I’ve been around the bend a few times (to put it mildly), I know how to pick my battles and stick to the positive side of things. I haven’t succumbed to a ‘younger’ wardrobe, age-inappropriate makeup or bought a Porsche.

I have re-read Colette’s immortal classic on the older woman/younger man love affair, Chèri. A masterpiece of a novel, and wow, was it depressing. But I am not Léa de Lonval, he is not Chèri, and this is not the Belle Èpoque of Paris, but the twenty-first century and a book-infested garret in the left armpit of Northwestern Europe.

Surely, age shouldn’t matter any more? It shouldn’t, but it does.

This was brought home to me on one sucker-punch occasion I knew would come some day, just not that day. We were walking, talking, holding hands and ignoring the stares of the people in the street, when he met someone he knew.

“So dude,” his friend asked, “you out with your Mom?”

*insert-instant-painful-death-by-total-mortification-here* Mine.

“No.” came the frosty reply. “My girlfriend.”

A long pause, then his friend uttered an embarrassed, definite lower-case “oh.”

He apologized on his friend’s behalf for several days after.

We both know we’ve transgressed the social norm of where we live and are skating on a taboo. Older men and younger women may be a hoary, ancient Hollywood trope, yet if a woman decides not to just slide into the long, slow twilight of Giving Up, if she decides to remain a sexual creature, then she will always, always be vilified, ridiculed and castigated for not giving up one of adulthood’s greatest pleasures and having the audacity to go after it. Which is another trope of cougarism – that I hunted my honey, when the reality is the other way around, and he was as cunning, as stealthy and as patient as any mountain lion on the prowl for some really Big Game.

I haven’t yet met the in-laws, thankfully. I’m not even sure they know about me, and I’m in no particular hurry to find out. You won’t find me fretting about the future or even the future of our relationship, since I’m far too happy with the state of here-and-now. The conversations are always made of champagne bubbles, his highly articulate sense of humor and the absurd always makes me laugh, and my outrageous opinions on anything and everything often make him think and/or laugh. I dress up for a date night and am complimented shamelessly. I spend our weekends together in a Moroccan caftan, no makeup and a terminal case of bedhead and am also complimented. First thing in the morning, before coffee.

No complaints. Certainly not about the reason for the bedhead dreadlocks, since that particular cliché is a cliché for a reason; it’s all true.

I’ve never been so disinhibited in a life that has known its moments of licentiousness, but I was in my twenties then…

All told, it’s amazing. He’s amazing. We’re happy, the cats are happy, my girlfriends like him and to hell with the rest.

If that means I’m branded a cougar (a term I’ve come to loathe), then so be it.

Even if I’ll never look half so good as Cathy Cougar in the flowers.


– When one word changes everything

For the past few months, I’ve had a sneaking suspicion I was slowly but surely going mad. Events blew up around me, I blew up around me, and everything – everything in my life seems poised on the verge of some massive sea change I could sense but not quite see.

It wasn’t me, it couldn’t be – but if it were, maybe I was…going crazy? Or had I been a basket case all along and no one had the nerve to tell me?

They say that so long as you’re able to question your own sanity, you’re sane. Somehow, that didn’t ring entirely true.

So I went through my own mental checklist. Hormones. Ladies of A Certain Age. Maybe HRT was what I needed, but that didn’t answer any questions of how I’d managed to be my own Mad Hatter for so many years before All This Shite Happened.

It didn’t explain…why I’ve only recently become even a very modestly renowned success – although in a fairly narrow sphere of influence and for one particular talent. It didn’t explain my low boredom threshold for events, people or situations I felt were somehow unworthy of my interest. To be fair…I had (and still have!) very many interests.

But whenever I felt bored, or restless, unmotivated or unappreciated, a relation of Edgar Allan Poe’s Imp of the Perverse would pop up like a jack-in-the-box to stir up trouble. Trouble that would cost me, trouble that would reverberate for years, trouble that would have my family and likely a few friends shaking their heads in despair or exasperation and sometimes both.

 “How could you be so irresponsible?”

“Why are you so impulsive? Why didn’t/don’t you think?”

“How could you do that?”

“How dare you? How could you?”

I didn’t know what to tell them. I didn’t know why. I just…did. And paid the price tag. For years.

My fairly short fuse I attributed to my Fire Sign-accented personality, my mood swings were, well…if not extreme, just a bit… random. I burn white-hot. I’m passionate about anything – or anyone –  I care about. And tend to stay that way, because I’m that much of a stubborn Bull, too.

Never the most organized of people, I had a hard time keeping track of bills, paperwork, paper trails. I used to joke that in an ideal world, I’d hire someone to take care of “all that” – all I couldn’t be bothered with. It wasn’t so much I forgot, it was simply…I’d make a reminder for myself, promptly park that reminder on a mental shelf – and forget all about it. Parenthood cured me of most of my slob housewife tendencies, but let’s face it…I’ll never give the Martha Stewarts of this world any inferiority complexes.

Most of my classmates from high school and friends from my twenties now juggle successful careers, marriages, teenagers, cars and real estate. As of today, I own five moving boxes of clothes and books, four pairs of shoes, two suitcases (one full of testaments to that Very Modest Success), two handbags, two cats and my laptop. Within the next two weeks, I can look forward to moving into a freshly renovated pied-à-terre apartment with not one stick of furniture. This is my life – now. I’m almost fifty years old. This is what I have to show for it.

On the other hand, I had a few things going for me. I’ve never, ever lacked at least ten creative ideas at any given moment. Visual ideas (I have a background in graphic design), verbal ideas or madcap ideas. Ideas for stories, ideas for blog posts, ideas for all sorts of things. I have an ear for languages, a smidge of musical ability, verbal acuity, an ease with hard-to-grasp intellectual concepts and a quicksilver mind to grab them in seconds. And just for the record, zip talent for mathematics. I never understood why everyone I knew couldn’t do the same. It came as easily as breathing, and to me it was and still is – easy.

I have a low tolerance for ambient noise – it stresses me out. Metal music on the other hand calms me down. Valium speeds me up. Another telltale sign.

Non-conformity is my middle name – at least as soon as I open my mouth. I’ve very rarely fit into any social context, unless it were an environment of like-minded crazies/compulsive creatives as ‘out there’ as myself.

I have a unique ability to ‘fall down the rabbit hole’ – and stay there. In that little understood space of concentration and creative effort, I have no problems at all forgetting all the appeal of the real world in favor of the world I create through that Very Modestly Successful talent. Absolute concentration – absolutely. In that Ideal world, minions would make sure the bills were paid, the fridge stocked and the floor clean while I got on with the Really Important Stuff. The rest of the world – unless they were my self-selected family of friends – could just eff the hell off, for all I cared.

People gave me strange looks when I declared:  “I’m an artist. I create. That’s what I do.”

Even with all of that, I still thought I was going crazy. The day before yesterday, I told my doctor the same. She granted me sick leave, although not before I promised her I wouldn’t kill myself before our next appointment. So I did. Whereupon she gave me a stern look and said – “Promise!” “I won’t. I promise.” That got me a hug. She’s that kind of doctor.

Since I’m living with a friend (of a kind who doesn’t happen often, although we’re vastly different people), I came home and told her the news. There was a long pause. She swallowed, and then she said those words that made my own head explode:

“Have you ever considered you might have ADHD?”

Only a brave soul and a true friend would dare to say such a thing and live to get away with it. Instead of blowing up at her, I Googled “Adult ADHD”.

And in one fell stroke, forty-nine years of chaotic, hand-to-mouth existence fell into place. My short attention span for what bored me, that Imp of the Perverse, my mood swings and temper flares, my impulsive urge to sabotage myself, my addiction to that Rabbit Hole of My Making, my 101 Bright Ideas a minute, my zoning out when boredom threatened me – everything, everything made sense in a way it never once had before.

All this time, I thought the problem was me, you see. I was lazy, I was unfocused, I was stupid, I was weird, I was…well, pretty much worthless, unless you needed 101 alternative uses for lightbulbs/turkey carcasses/dirty laundry. How often do you need those?

I’ve wanted to fit in and conform since childhood, and never did no matter how I tried. Not until now, thanks to that Very Modest Talent and a flypaper mind of information overload to go with it I was never afraid to share.

Smart-alecks are not appreciated. I learned to Shut The Fuck Up in elementary school, or else.

Can you imagine how I felt when my friend was brave enough to pipe up?


I had an explanation for everything crazy, impulsive or insane I had done for all my adult life. Or was it just a handy excuse for being completely off my rocker? I don’t know. But when two of the people who know me best – my former husband and great friend and my much-beleaguered sister – said it made perfect sense when I asked them for an honest answer, this told me it could very well be true.

If it is, then it makes me happy to say the world needs creatives – even creatives with ADHD. We can be incredibly productive. We can give the world all those bright ideas it needs so badly, thanks to faulty brain wiring. If that’s not a beneficial side effect, what is?

I intend to find out for certain. At least, it beats the heck out of jumping off a bridge. Then again, I promised not to! 😉

With my eternal gratitude to the truly exceptional (and true-blue) Mette Jensen. Her name – the DK equivalent of Jane Doe – is the only ordinary thing about her.

Image: Keith Haring, “Exploding Head”

For a birthday Goat who should have been here, but alas, is not!

It’s always a bit startling when your contemporaries suddenly die. When it happens at a time when you know it’s not the drugs, the booze or whatever else kills them these days and it happens to someone who has loomed so large in your own imagination and in your musical Multiverse, it’s, welll…devastating.

This was my state of mind when my daily fix of snark – also known as Blabbermouth – delivered the news that Peter Steele of Type O Negative had passed away aged 48 on April 14th, 2010. That was also the only day in my entire life where I cried on a bus over the death of a near-stranger…except…he wasn’t.

No band was more important in my world, no voice mattered more (except the usual dead suspects), and no one was more of an inspiration – not so much in his person (I met him twice), but in the music he created with his bands. Without Type O Negative, I would never have begun to write.

And without Peter, I would never have created one character in Quantum Demonology, Saint Peter the former Polish alchemist, whose introduction was this immortal line, said to the Devil at the Chelsea Hotel one early December morning:

“Pay up, asshole. You lost the bet.”

I was in a quandary that day. Because in the chapter I was writing that day, it was April 29th and he was very much alive, and also…immortal.

I decided to plow on regardless. So Saint Peter went on as a friend and a gatekeeper for my female Faust, and lived, so far as I know, happily ever after in Flatbush with a redheaded Norse Goddess…

Long before I ever met/created Saint Peter, who sprang fully fledged off the page and then refused to leave, I wrote about the real deal in several places. Below are the best…

Ode for a Birthday Goat

Halloween in Heaven

and the one it broke my heart to write:

The Day My…

Today would have been/should have been his fiftieth birthday. Alas, it was not to be. But so long as one person remembers you, you are…immortal.

Today, millions of us will make sure he truly is!

He even had the grace to leave his music behind.

Happy (late) birthday, Peter. I do hope you’re showing all those other long-gone Primeval Forces how it’s done…in whatever Heaven you happen to be in!

–  or why I won’t participate in the National Novel Writing Month

On the face of it, it sounds like a great kick in the pants/impetus/motivational tool. Write a novel in a month – which is to say, 50, 000 words – and see where it takes you. So all over the world during this dire and dreary month of November, writers and wannabes everywhere are banging away on their keyboards, filling out their notebooks, sweating over phrasing, plot, syntax, context and development. Several of my friends and fellow bloggers are participating, and I really, truly wish them nothing but the utmost of success.

I’m a writer wannabe myself. So why am I not participating and banging out with the best of them? Why, in fact, do I dig in my heels the most bullish way I know? Really, I don’t think I’m that bad a writer. (You may beg to disagree!) Honest, I can write a novel. In fact, I have written two and have synopses for four more.

Yet, I don’t and I won’t and I shan’t. On principle. Darlings.

Before I’m tarred, feathered, hung and quartered for my heretical stance on Rampant Creativity Romps, let me state a few things.

I believe with my heart and soul that anyone, anyone at all can…learn to write. Which is to say…learn to write in a coherent, logical and cohesive fashion that will relate to readers.

No matter what your theme or subject matter… Yes! You, too can learn to write…

Which is not at all the same thing as saying you will be the next Stephen King/James Patterson/Dan Brown/Stephanie Meyers, to name a few wildly successful novelists. It’s not even very much to do with that nebulous concept called “talent”. I’ll get back to that one in a moment.

Anyone can learn to write, and anyone anywhere can learn to bang out some semblance of a story line that may eventually become the next Kindle/iPad/Amazon/NY Times bestseller sensation.

Or maybe not. Which brings me back to my original premise.

Because what happens to all those millions of hopeful writers once we hit December? How many of them will actually walk the walk, talk the talk and swallow the gazillion compromises they will need to swallow before they see their own names on the books people actually read?

Put another way…How many words, plots and potential Hollywood blockbusters will languish forever in obscurity on hard drives and flash drives and DVD-Rs and notebooks?

Call me an arrogant bitch, but my guess is…most of them.

How many of those writers who wrote with such a fury in November will still be at it come July…polishing and perfecting their deathless November prose, investigating marketing their material, looking into literary agencies and Lulu.com and promotional PR strategies?

Again, I’ll venture…very few.

I say this not because I’m jealous, vindictive, envious of other people’s obvious talents/success, screaming arrogant (arguable!) or just plain mean, but because of the one overriding lesson I’ve learned since I began to write with a fury of my own.

Writing 50,000 words in a month – any month will do – does not make you a writer. Writing a novel, or two, or three does not make you a writer. Publication, even, does not make you a writer. Not even talent makes you a writer. Lots of people have a talent for writing. Not all of them become writers. And not all writers have talent, either.

What makes a writer is a combination of dedication, dogged determination and above all else the compulsion – not just the ability – to write. Write as if your life depends upon it, write as if the Hounds of Hell are on your heels, write to stave off death and despair and the fear of your own mortality, write as if…you can’t NOT write. Write when you’re sick, write when you’re down, write in your head as you go about your day, on the job, on your way home, standing in the checkout line, wonder as I sometimes have, how events in your life can somehow morph into a storyline, a plot device, a…novel.

Write for yourself, write what you want to read. That ephemeral ghost called ‘inspiration’ will sometimes make an appearance and sometimes – most times, in fact – won’t. The very act of nailing your posterior to a chair and opening up a notebook/laptop, wringing out a sentence that lands on the page like a dried up glob of toothpaste will eventually cede way to another sentence. And another. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Have faith when it bores you, have faith when your characters misbehave as they surely will, have faith when you are about as sick of your own twisted mind and story as you can get. Then, once you’ve made it that far, grow a rhinoceros hide for all those rejection letters you will also assuredly get, or all that pointed criticism you will also most assuredly get.

Do all of this, disregard the umpteen million and highly discouraging writing websites and online critique groups that more or less say ‘Just give it up already!’, and have the courage to fall down those rabbit holes of your own imagination. That’s the hard part – to trust the process and trust not being 100% in control.

Fifty thousand words in a month can’t teach you all of that. No one can but you.

On some dark and stormy night – it may be November, it may be January – the feather touch of a new idea will land in your brain to give you goosebumps, and you will find yourself in the throes of the fabled ‘What-if’….

‘What-if’ can strike at any time.

If you’re the type to need an excuse, or just a good, hard kick up the backside and a lot of support, then by all means, see if you can participate in NaNoWriMo. I’ll applaud your courage, and buy or download your book.

But for me, it’s #NaNoWriMo every month and every day of the year, and I don’t even get vacations.

I do it because I can’t not. I do it because I suck at everything else.

I do it because I’m a writer. In November, and in January, and even in July. And fifty thousand words is only halfway through most of the stories I want to tell…and not even a tenth of all the tales I hold in my hands.

Image: gracewhatareyoudoing.blogspot.com

#NaNoWriMo is the official Twitter hashtag for National Novel Writing Month.


***NOTE: This was posted on a fateful day, April 14th 2010, when songwriter, bassist and singer Peter Steele of Type O Negative passed away at the age of 48. No other performer had such an impact on my own personal life, and no other band has ever been quite such an obsession as Type O Negative. For one, that music made me write – which I still do! I’ve written other tributes to Type O as well as Peter Steele on MoltenMetalMama: Halloween in Heaven, Ode For A Birthday Goat, and quite possibly the most craptacular album review ever written, called The Aural Anaconda. But more than anything, he became the inspiration for one important character in my novel ‘Quantum Demonology’, where he lives on – and so I hope, always will. I’m grateful,that some people cast such long shadows, that we still have a lot left long after they’re gone. But he will always be missed. ***

There I was, a sunny Thursday afternoon in April – today, actually – doing my utmost to avoid anything resembling what I was supposed to be doing, which was working on my online portfolio. So, furthering the avoidance actions of Weboholics everywhere, I did what I always do when I don’t want to do what I’m doing.

I went to Blabbermouth to see if I could find anything to piss me off. And I didn’t find it. I found something else so shocking, so upsetting, so effing outrageous, I couldn’t even get pissed off about it.

Not good.

But there it was, in black on gray electronic letters. Peter Steele, lead singer and songwriter/founder of Fallout, Carnivore and Type O Negative, possibly the largest and certainly the longest lasting musical obsession I’ve ever had in my life, passed away some time yesterday, aged 48. Forty-eight!

What started as a rumor very early this morning CET via Twitter, began gaining legs and growing and growing. By this afternoon, there was confirmation from keyboardist Josh Silver, and tributes were crawling out of the woodwork of musicians, journalists and bloggers everywhere.

It can’t be true. But this time, unlike in 2005 when the band pulled a similar stunt (a hoax, as it turned out), many of us had the oh-so sinking feeling that it is – true.

I’m trying to accept it, and I can’t. Here’s another one of those Defining Moments in Music – Where were you when…John Lennon was shot, Kurt Cobain died, Layne Staley, and now…Peter Steele.

But why does it have to be when they died?

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I was working as a graphic artist for a Copenhagen cultural institution known as Huset. At Huset, my best friend was the secretary for the Huset booking office, a compleat metalhead with a sharp eye on The Next Big Thing. This day of all days, she was trying to persuade my pregnant self to come to a concert at Barbue that night. “I KNOW you don’t like thrash, I KNOW you hate too much…same old…same old, but THESE guys – are not LIKE that. You’ll dig it, really!”

Huset was and is a rabbit warren of hallways, stairs, sloping ceilings and other hazards to your sense of direction. Later that afternoon, I went in search of coffee. About twenty feet from my office, I walked – literally – right into a Moving Obstacle. Which was about as much as I saw, before I looked up. And up. And..Geezuz fuck, who the HELL was this, this – titanic hunk of testosterone bomb?

It was a very apologetic, scrupulously polite Peter Steele, who had got lost on his way to the Barbue green room and somehow ended up banging his head on the 18th-century beams of the hallway just outside my office. He kept apologizing, poor man, all the way back to the green room and I kept laughing it off.

My friend prevailed. Later that night, I showed up, looking only slightly improved. This time, I was prepared for the impact. I walked up and introduced myself properly, in my native American English:

“Dude! Do ya know, I could have a raging affair – with your navel!”

To his everlasting credit, he laughed, and so did the rest of the band, while I was busy trying to find a small and dark corner in which to hide my own mortification. In person, he had an alarming – and disarming amount of charm, even towards idiot midget half-Danes from the land of tall blondes. Of course, I was a redhead then, and that must have helped.

It was a show not like many others I had seen, just as Type O Negative was a band unlike any other. Beatles-meets-Black Sabbath-meets-gothadelic-hippie-punk-metal-with-a-sense-of-humor-so-black-you-had-to-wear-shades. But even then, even as I filched the office copy of “Bloody Kisses” one day no one was looking, I didn’t entirely…get that voice yet. The time wasn’t right, or my headspace wasn’t until a few years later, I walked into a record store as if pushed by some invisible demon and asked for “October Rust”.

I went home, I put it on, I turned up my amp and then…about three minutes into “Love You To Death”, my brain literally – blew up. I was in the grip of emotions I didn’t understand and had never known before, I was attacked by something I couldn’t even articulate, it was – that powerful. And it was a combination of music so achingly beautiful, produced to luscious aural perfection, and That Voice – asking the question that blew my brain to smithereens: “Am I good enough for you?” The very idea, that someone could sing that, that someone like Peter Steele could sing that so earnestly – that’s what hit my detonator.

Because this was that Band In My Head (if I had that kind of talent, which I don’t), and here was that Voice In The Dark, the guy my Mom would have warned me against, a hopeless, hapless heartfelt romantic who pushed buttons I never even knew I wanted pushed – and bad. “October Rust” guided me through a very nasty breakup, through my discovery that that writing thang was some kind of (bad) idea, through ups and downs and out of controls. To this day – it the only CD out of my entire collection I have had to replace – three times.

I saw them live, a year or so later, I faithfully bought all their CDs on the release dates, and always, the Baritone That Did Me In did strange and wonderful and weird and unspeakable things to my head, things that can’t be mentioned in daylight.

Carnivore’s “Male Supremacy” became the litmus test for potential boyfriends – only a very healthy sense of irony need apply. His voice became such an extended part of me it was a question of “love me-love my favorite band” or else – forget it.

His voice was a voice that followed me through writing The Effing Book (three times), through everything that gave me the written voice I have today, and even into my latest misbegotten project, so much, I took his physical characteristics and gave them to “Saint Peter” in my story, one of the Good Guys. Today, I’m wondering how I’m going to get myself out of that pickle, because Saint Peter is very much alive on April 28th, at least in my story.

But today, on April 15th in the real world is the day my iPod cries. I didn’t know Peter Steele as a person, I don’t have the right to mourn him on that level, but I have the right to pay homage to a musician, a composer and a singer that exploded my head and stole my heart – and never, ever gave it back!

For that alone, a simple “thank you” is never enough.

So these pathetic words will have to do!

Goodbye, Saint Peter. You will be missed by millions, and mourned by them all, but you never entirely left, did you?

You left That Voice behind, and the music with it. Thank you for that, too.

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We live in an increasingly homogenized, blinkered world. A Big Mac has become so ubiquitous you can usually count on it being the same from Beijing to Buenos Aires. We watch the same blockbuster movies, we aspire to the same objects of desire, whether it’s iPads, Louboutin shoes or Xboxes. We can instantly share whatever grabs our attention on YouTube in seconds of watching it, we can trade any information at any time at the speed of light. Newsfeeds and blogfeeds can be tailored to our personal tastes and interests, so can any kind of advertising.

These days, even the erotic – surely one of the most diverse of human preoccupations – has been standardized to such an extent that even ordinary women are feeling the heat to conform in order to aspire to being desired. There’s room for everyone and something for everyone, too – with a few provisos. Be young. Be blonde, if you can. Make sure your mammary glands are of a pleasing proportion and height. And for the love of dental floss, woman…would you please devastate that rainforest you carry around between your legs?

So you do just that. Stock in Gillette soars, and the lady with just the right deft, torturous touch with that hot wax knows more about you than even your sister can manage. You slather yourself with snake oil in jars to ensure you are as smooth and line-free as a virgin piece of paper. The only hair left on you is the hair you want to be there. You work out or you run or both, you buy other, different kinds of snake oil in many colors to accentuate and present your improved, desirable self.

And disaster strikes. One day you discover a tender spot that means an ingrown hair is making your overstressed life a misery, especially in jeans. But it’s located somewhere you can’t quite see, so you grab your magnifying makeup mirror to have a closer look.

OMG! How could you have lived all these years without knowing this…that you look nothing like those porn movies you have been known to watch? Those images in anatomy books with their clean lines and their perfect snatches – they ain’t you, baby. That…thing, that semi-hidden area of your body you have carried around since birth and had a wary relationship with since puberty, that source of pleasure and pain…is a bit less than perfect, even with a Hollywood wax job. It looks like an alien life form and not at all benign. It needs a face lift. And you need a Xanax at least. If you’re that ugly, that deformed, that hideous, how can anyone ever want you again? That’s just not…normal, is it?

Stop right there. Take a deep breath. Sit down. Calm down. Chill. Your life already sucks hard enough.

We live in an age that does everything to encourage serious body dysmorphia. No matter what we do or how we look, it’s never…good enough, which usually means we’re never good…enough. We constantly compare ourselves to other females in particular, positively convinced that they somehow have it all together, they have their lives, their souls, their traitorous, treacherous bodies under control in a way we can never quite manage ourselves. And it’s only getting worse.

So for the International Women’s Day on March 8th, the Danish Center for Information about Gender, Equality and Ethnicity decided to grab that thorny bush by the roots and instigate something…different. Something that would celebrate womanhood in general and women in particular, something that would quell that ravening industry-fed monster that feeds our perpetual insecurities.

To that end, they created an alternate kind of photo booth. Built and engineered by two female students of engineering design, constructed to look friendly rather than intimidating.

Here’s the deal: You enter a booth with a fully closed door, remove your undergarments and sit down on a specially constructed chair. Immediately below it is a light and a camera that for free and completely anonymously will take a photo of your private parts and upload them to a web page – so you can see for yourself that you’re nowhere such a freak as you think. I’d like to point out that this is completely anonymous, the photos are very tightly shot and really, ladies – who will know it’s you, even?

By taking our private parts completely out of any kind of sexualized contex and presenting them as such, we’re encouraged to talk about ourselves, discuss ourselves and maybe embrace ourselves and appreciate our own diversity.

Celebrate the different! That web page proves without a doubt that women and their parts come in as many shapes, sizes and versions as their owners, and demonstrates how far removed we are from our very selves in that perpetual quest for homogeny – a homogeny defined by a porn industry that’s fully aware of its own entirely artificial ideal – and that’s the point of it to begin with.

You realize of course, that the more you concentrate on looking, acting, embodying that very ideal is the time you’re distracted from how much inequality, how much misogyny still exists, don’t you? And perhaps being motivated to change what you can?

Once upon a time in the Western world, only burlesque dancers would ever dream of waxing. I once came across a French postcard from the Twenties or Thirties, judging by the hemlines and the cloche hats. Seven women – at every age and in several sizes – had lifted their skirts and undergarments to show – and show off – their luxuriant, exuberant bushes. Every single one of those women laughing – not in an artificial, posed manner, either. They were happy to celebrate their differences, happy to show off, happy to be there in that moment with each other, sharing one common secret – that they were all women, but not at all alike.

Once upon a time not quite so long ago, I sat backstage after a show with a dedicated libertine and lead guitar player in a semi-notorious American band. As we worked our way through a bottle of Jack Daniels, we discussed female anatomy, among many other topics. “You know,” drawled the libertine and passed the bottle, “I kinda wish so many women didn’t shave or wax so much. It takes away the mystery, that thrill of discovery – that you can never be sure of what you’ll find until you get there.”

I took my own swig off the JD’s and handed it back. “What about that involuntary dental floss thing?”

That made him laugh. “Battle wound, baby! Women get that, too, ya know. But the thing is…you don’t dare complain about it!”

I liked that guy, I really did.

Just as I like this initiative to celebrate our differences in any way we can.

The truth is, if we were absolutely convinced we were loved and adored for our true selves, we’d go out in to the world barefaced and unadorned. Instead, we rail and rant against headscarves and burqas and female circumcision, and are all too likely to forget that even in the liberated, secular West, we have it in different forms – that porn-star ideal of perfection, that eternal quest for perpetual youth, that constant pain of never being good enough, symmetrical enough, smart enough, pretty – enough.

But life isn’t perfect, the world isn’t perfect and neither are we. And neither is anyone else!

So you can conform at your peril and a not insignificant expense, or you can focus on important things instead – and change the world, or just the world you live in.

What have you got to lose?

Image: Georgia O’ Keeffe, Jack-in-the-Pulpit IV, 1930

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Today is Valentine’s Day, and all over the English-speaking world and indeed in not a few other places, today will be a pink/red, flowers, chocolate and wrack-and-ruin kind of day. Wrack and ruin, because there will inevitably be those caught without Valentine’s cards, or those who get them from the wrong sort of people, which is almost worse.

I’ve never quite understood the appeal of metaphorical red whoopee cushions plastered all over everything, or even why February 14th should be such a great day for romance. Does that mean it’s dead every other day of the year? I see broken hearts and salty tears on several continents. “But you said you loved me!” “That was a year ago!” “But…you said…”

I don’t get it at all. Then again, maybe I’m too old for this kind of spiel, too cynical or just too jaded. So far as I’m concerned, Cupid is well and thoroughly dead. Valentine’s Day was invented by the Hallmark company and the people who invented the Whitman sampler, followed by whoever jumped on the bandwagon of opportunity for exploiting the guilt of those hapless souls who’ve been too distracted for “romance” the other three hundred and sixty four days of the year.

It’s all one big commercial washout, and I’m…out of it, above it, soaring above on a gust of snide derision. Silly fools. What do they know?

Here’s what I know. Cupid is dead. D-e-a-d. I’m getting divorced, and although that should be terrible, it’s not, really. If life has taught me anything, it’s the truth of that old maxim:

“Shit happens.”

It’s not his fault, or my fault, because it’s not a question of assigning blame and pointing fingers and bewailing our lost illusions, because the sorry fact is, in love, we only delude ourselves. It just happened. One (very) early morning, I just woke up and realized, completely out of the blue, that I…wasn’t that person anymore.

I’m not going to sit around feeling sorry for myself. I’m going to look forward to all the things ahead of me – writing without distractions at my every opportunity, blasting my neighbors with very loud and obnoxious music, laughing with the friends I know I have and can count on, being able to live a bit more spontaneously and impulsively than before.

The last time I left a long relationship, I walked straight into another one. (He was that kind of guy.) That was a bad idea.

This time, I shall celebrate my freedom, celebrate life, and let nothing hold me back if I don’t want to. I can sit in a café for hours, setting the world to rights with a friend over latte, and try as hard as I can not to think of Colette and “Chéri”, because he’s a younger man, because I’m old enough to be his mother, because I don’t feel maternal in the slightest, because I’m that kind of filthy-minded woman who thinks in possibilities and it’s been a long, long time.

I can honor ten years of my life by not falling into that age-old trap of making my soon-to-be former husband into an enemy by default, simply by a applying a prefix called “ex-”. He’s a truly great guy, he’s one of the best friends I’ve ever had, he’s in many respects nearly perfect. I was with him ten years for a reason. In that time, I began to write, I began to grab the world by the tail and start getting in its face, I began to become the kind of person I’ve always wanted to be, as opposed to the kind of person other people expected. He has sat through countless reading sessions of both the Effing Book and That Other Book, the book that took both of us by surprise. He’s been my biggest fan from the beginning, and I suspect he will be until the end. Such a gift should be appreciated, so that’s what I’ll do.

On this Valentine’s Day, I’ll celebrate that I had that much, and I’ll celebrate that the future lies before me, full of possibilities. I’ll celebrate that I sense great things will happen in the coming year, and that I can play air guitar in questionable underwear all I want. I’ll celebrate the fact that I do have friends, I do mean something to other people, I do contribute in ways great and small to other people’s lives, and how cool is that, really?

Above all else, I’ll scrape up that dead Cupid off the floor, bury him beneath a mock jasmine bush outside, and wait for spring, and summer, and everything ahead, knowing that I have not given up on life, and certainly not love, so the odds are neither have given up on me! And there are not a few days left in this year for anything I want to happen.

I’ll make a wish tonight. And as even jaded former/present/diehard romantics will know –

Be careful what you wish for! You will get it!

Happy Valentine’s Day! 😉

Image: Not sure where to attibute it, but Olenska inspired it!

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*Author’s note: A birthday pastiche in honor of one of my all-time favorite writers, Edgar Allan Poe. Reposted from the original story written in honor of his bicentennial in 2009*

I have been sitting here, at this table, in this Baltimore establishment of dubious repute and doubtful merchandise and gutrot, for two hundred years now, lurking in the shadows where such as I are never seen, only sometimes sensed by the insensible, or sought by the dissolute, who never find me. The insensible can sometimes feel my presence, an invisible breath on their necks, the faintest of soft feather-brushes, softer far than the gooseflesh that follows, always just beyond their reach, and their reasoning.

So I, who have been doomed to exist as a shade, a thought trembling on the brink of consciousness, have seen them all come and go. The men and the women, the worthy burghers of this worthy town, the consumptive and the caring, the destitute and the debauched – I have seen them all come and go, these past two hundred years. I have seen hunger in all its human forms, I have seen want in all its lascivous shapes and sizes, ages and aches, I have seen the endless ambition of humans, and their blackest, darkest despair.

Yet never did I see, on all those endless vigils, such a one as that man, sitting over there, huddling over the candle, pulling at the frayed sleeves of a shabby black coat, a coat that should have been turned to rags or paper many years before. I know, as he does not, that that glass of sack in front of him will be his last, that in a few mere hours, he will no longer be, his death attracting no notice, nor causing much grief, until later.

He was a man you would pass on a busy street without a second glance, a man with no remarkable demeanor, no striking presence or compelling talent that would force you from your workaday reverie. Unless you should chance to look upon his eyes, and then, you, yes, even such a one as you, will stop for a heartbeat, or two, perhaps, before going on your way, perturbed by an emotion you cannot quite define. You might draw back, struck by the equally powerful fumes of alcohol and desolation, or else struck that those eyes, that flaming, burning soul you glimpsed, were the eyes of a madman – or a genius.

We, who live among the shadows in these places, will tell you that they are, to all intents and purposes, one and the same.

For that shabby, sodden man, spending his last few cents on the only brand of Nepenthe he can afford, does not belong here, in this time or this place. So unremarkable he seems, seeking a few fitful hours of oblivion or inspiration, and those two, I also tell you, are all too often one and the same.

He walks through the crowded city streets knowing he has never belonged, that the crowd he pushes against so gently, so apologetically, will never understand that his alienation, his unyielding, undying lack of compromise and conduite, is precisely what makes his eyes burn with that mad, incessant fever.

He is a writer and a poet, you see, and in this puritanical age has the temerity to believe that regardless of his reception, no matter the ridicule and derision his contemporaries have heaped upon him, his voice will be heard, it will be read, it will out, willynilly, and all he can do is to still himself for the storm to come and let it pass out and into the world, or else that all-consuming urge that fever-hot compulsion shall devour him alive, as indeed it has, and is, even as I whisper these words into your ear.

Being a shadow carries some unique advantages. I have hovered just over his shoulder, in those white and endless nights, and the whiter and even longer days when he would also write, to spare the expense of candles. Two hours for a story, with not a pause to reflect or consider a progression, nor to ponder a turn of phrase. Just one smooth, flowing descent – into the maelstrom, into a world where everything familiar is most passing strange, where everything strange carries the taint of the familiar. It is a world, or even a cosmos, where all things possible have already happened, and events long passed exist, not as memories or fleeting glimpses of a paradise you shall never know, but as states of being that reflect the outer world into the interior of the mind. It is a world of dreams that carry the dark-red taste of nightmares, and where even nightmares become transparent and shimmering dreams of such incandescent beauty that even angels could weep, and even the damned, such as I, might be redeemed.

In those burning eyes lie a lesson for you, who never did appreciate that shabby man with the burning soul and the flaming stylus. Never to judge one whose visions you would fail to comprehend. Some day, some future, some other lost and burning soul will come, in some other, transcendent age, and find himself, his nightmares and dreams and even some shuddering reflection of his soul, in the flawless words and rhythms left behind by that unremarkable man in the crowd.

I have lurked here, among the shadows, watching for one such as he, for twice a hundred years. I shall be lurking, in those same shadows, for many, many more. I shall be lurking, hoping against hope that some other day, or some desolate, desperate night, another such genius might appear. So far, I wait in vain.

(With apologies to the esteemed and much beloved ghost of Edgar)

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It’s the time of year for deathless nostalgia again, because unless you’re stuck in a yurt in Mongolia (in which case you’re not reading this blog, but I hedge my bets!), you know it’s the end of one year, and the virgin, untouched beginning of a new one, filled with hopes, dreams and possibilities that may or may not happen. On the other hand, hope springs eternal, tomorrow is another year, and nothing will ever happen the way you expect it!

The year 2010 was a strange one, strange in the real world of Big Decisions and increasing issues with severe weather and its consequences worldwide, strange in the world of music because of all the gaping lacunae left behind by those we lost, and strange in my personal sphere, mostly for good, somewhat for bad, but not so bad I can’t stand it!

Below follows my entirely idiosyncratic, tunnel-visioned view of All I Left Behind. What I loved in 2010, what I loathed, what I embraced and rejected and a few things I will never, ever understand so long as I live.

The Good:
Music-wise, I’m getting jaded. So jaded, it takes a major sonic blast that registers on the Richter Scale before I get up and flip out my enthusiasms and Air Guitar In Ratty Underwear. Having said that, there were a few that ended up on deathless repeat on my iTunes playlists.

I know I’m getting old. I know I’m getting old when I find it increasingly hard not to gravitate toward the old pros who know precisely what they’re doing, exactly how to do it, and still manage to be relevant, still blowing my mind to this day. There really isn’t a lot on the younger end of the musical scale I can get riled up about, and what’s far worse – I don’t care any more! I shall henceforth be doomed to eternal unhipness. Deal with it.

Best Ballad Of The Year:
Grinderman, “The Palaces of Montezuma”, from Grinderman 2
When it comes to ballads, I’m hardcore. I’m so hardcore, that unless I’m sonically reduced to a puddle of melted cherry Jello, bawling like a schoolgirl with the sheer, immortal splendor of a killer tune and lyrics a cut or two above the Moon-June-Youuuuuu variety, forget it. Ain’t happening. I can count most of those on the fingers of one hand. Well, along came Nick Cave and Grinderman with “The Palaces of Montezuma”, and the unforgettable lines “The spinal chord of JFK, wrapped in Marilyn Monroe’s negligé, I give to you”… and I was done for. Drip, drip, dripping cherry Jello, all over my floor. There are a gazillion songwriters who would give their eardrums for a chance to write something half so good, or their eyeteeth for lyrics half so original. (“A custard-colored super dream of Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen, I give to you…”)

Best Unexpected Happenings:
Sometimes, it can be good to push yourself above and beyond what you think you can do. Or else have someone around who can kick you hard enough to rise above your limitations! 2010 was the year I became a writer in earnest. Never in my sorry existence have I written so much, so varied and so broad as in 2010. More emails were sent, more blogs written, more rage was vented, more words were spilled out upon an unsuspecting world than ever before in my entire life. I managed to finish the first draft of “Quantum Demonology”, and I also managed to rewrite the first nine chapters from the bottom up. I still have a few miles to go and words to write before I arrive, but I can do this, I know. Whether the rest of the world agrees with me will remain to be seen.

Likewise in the year now dying, I dashed off an idiot email in response to a loaded question, and many, many emails, much venting on both sides, a sprouting, flourishing friendship and a telephone call later, I’m both flattered and privileged to be a part of “Retaliate”. Ray Van Horn of The Metal Minute– with whom I share not a few predilections, musically and otherwise – and I have plans to turn the world, the world of online magazines and the world of music writing slightly sideways on its axis, and so we will! Watch this space!

“Quantum Demonology” began taking over so much space on MoltenmetalMama, I had no choice but to give it its own blog. What a great thing I had hedged my bets beforehand and landed the title. What a great thing to write. What a bitch to revise! I wish I could say that should any of my four proofreaders show up on my doorstep, I shall be waiting with a pitchfork, four hand grenades, a Winchester, and a loaded AK-47, but in spite of all my griping, they’ve all four taught me more than I would ever know otherwise, and I am – willing or not – very grateful. And glad to have them. So long as no one mentions Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi ever, ever again. The horror!

I launched another blog – Scent Less Sensibilities – and without too much by way of promotion or even exposure, it’s taking off, giving me yet another kind of audience for my words, another focus for my writing, and best of all, an outlet for all my girlie sensibilities and the ability to connect with likeminded souls in the ether who share a love – and share the love. Ladies and gents, you know who you are. My life would not be nearly so complete without you, so fragrant or so much fun!

Best Albums of 2010:
This is where the metal hipsters will hunt me down and shoot me for my utter lack of imagination and sophistication. My sorrow to say it, ladies and gents, but there was not too much “new” to get newly enthused about. The albums that blew my socks off, the ones that had me playing air guitar in questionable attire, the ones I listened and listened to, the ones who likely will never leave my playlists, the ones I loved and love with a fury – all were issued by the pros who have delivered the deathless, timeless musical goods for decades. The rest in my view suffered from a distinct overdose of hype and expectations they couldn’t quite deliver. I’ll be getting back to those. The following albums are hated by my neighbors – for several good reasons!

Danzig: Deth Red Sabaoth
Glenn Danzig doesn’t need me as a press agent, but it’s not a state secret I’ve been raving about him for a while for many reasons, most of them dubious, some of them dangerous, and a few even libellous. For one thing, his discography gave me my novel and a very atrophied wallet. So when he released this, his first ‘proper’ studio album since 2004’s “Circle of Snakes”, I pestered the crap out of my CD pusher until it was finally available in Europe. It was worth the wait. Glenn Danzig returned to the blues-based metal he has done so much to invigorate, his voice as good and his songs as uncompromising, as strong and as solid as ever, and we were so thoroughly not disappointed. Tommy Victor showed his true colors at long last, Johnny Kelley proved yet again why he’s such a great drummer and I’m so grateful, it really is pathetic. Or I am. Bite me!

Grinderman: Grinderman 2
I’ve always had a thing for Nick Cave – simply because I have a thing for those songwriters who do their own thing and go their own way. But when I came across this one late and sleepless night on YouTube surfing the “You might also like” section, well, people, what little brains I have left promptly went splat all over my laptop. So embarrassing when that happens. It took me a long time to finally give in to this album, for no other reason than Nick Cave is a devious fox hell-bent on giving us a practical joke so well-crafted, we never even realize just how much we’ve been had. The energy level is through the roof, the insights into the middle-aged masculine mindset are staggering, and the lyrics are all Nick Cave shaking out of his sleeve what others toil years to achieve with only limited success.

Accept: Blood of the Nations:
Back to Ye Olde School Pros again. I wasn’t all that wild with Accept in the glory days in the Eighties, and I sorta wonder why, when they give us their all in this all-out glory of a comeback album. Love it, love it, love it.

Seventh Void: Heaven is Gone
Technically, this came out in the spring of 2009, so it is not, strictly speaking, a new album. But after a very respectable launch in the US and a tour with Type O Negative and a show with Danzig in 2009, Seventh Void finally found European distribution in 2010 and several of my friends silenced my incessant whining by buying me a CD. Despite sharing two members of Type O Negative and a love of sludge guitars, Seventh Void is more of an amped out, maxed out Alice in Chains on a combo of steroids and Demerol. Kenny Hickey’s vocals will not make Layne Staley rotate with envy in his cold and narrow grave, but who the hell cares? This is raw, immediate, Brooklyn sludge grunge, and it’s highly addictive.

Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier
I’m a sucker for Bruce Dickinson. I should know better, I know, I know, but I don’t care. Not even Henry Rollins’ brutally funny parody of Dickinson in his “Up For It” could ruin Iron Maiden, although he came close. If this album had been released by anyone else, it would have been declared a masterpiece. Alas, it was released by Iron Maiden, who then had to live up to their own reputation and back catalogue. It still blows me away, even as it means I can’t see or hear Bruce without hearing Rollins in my head ever again.

The Best Metal Autobiography, or Guiltiest Vicarious Reading Pleasure:
Ozzy Osbourne: I Am Ozzy
This book nearly caused a fistfight in my household over who got to read it first. Since I am by far the fastest reader, I won, hands down. And ghostwritten or no (it was, Ozzy is severely dyslexic), it was the most fun I ever had reading about someone else’s life. It could well be that apart from Keith Richards, not many rock stars have done so much, so wildly, and with such abandon as Ozzy. There can be only one Prince of Fucking Darkness. Any more would be far too much for the world to bear! I laughed, I cried, I had total hysterics.

The Bad:
Here’s what sucks in metal these days – the sad and sorry fact that so many hundreds of bands sound so…alike. It’s getting harder and harder to make any kind of distinction between the newer, younger bands, and although there are exceptions, I haven’t heard enough to blow my mind the way Ye Olde School pros can. For this and several other reasons, I’ll never understand bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan or Bullet For My Valentine. I. Just. Don’t. Get. ‘Em. Then again, I’m So Not Their Demographic. No. I’m a demographic all by myself. The demographic called…I’ve Heard Almost Everything, And If You’re Trying To Impress Me, Try Harder.

Another thing that totally, utterly, completely sucks: We lost a few of those who cast long, long shadows in the metal world. The Rev of Avenged Sevenfold, Paul Gray of Slipknot, Ronnie James Dio and one of my own Primeval Forces – Peter Steele of Type O Negative. Dio was a definite loss – few other performers had his staggering range or his charisma, and we were millions who were infinitely lessened by his passing.

But when your contemporaries die off, you start to freak a little. Peter Steele had been such a major influence and voice in my own life that when he died, I made a public spectacle of myself on a city bus during rush hour. Without Peter Steele, without some of the most beautiful songs ever written (and some of the most sarcastic), I would likely never have begun to write. Type O gave me the soundtrack of my life for the past seventeen years, and it’s been hard to find something half so good to fill the void he left. (But I did!) Meanwhile, the Type O discography has been on constant rotation on my iPod, but then again, it never really left. As the Egyptians used to say: So long as one person remembers you, you are immortal. Millions remember Peter Steele. We always will. Just as we always will play those haunting, evocative songs he wrote.

Bad was also…the weekend of Sweden Rock, June 9th. I wanted to go so badly, I nearly put my kid in a pawnshop. Bad was being completely unaware – such is the tunnel vision of a burgeoning writer in the midst of revision – that Seventh Void came to Copenhagen at one of my favorite music venues – and I missed them! Damn it! Bad was being forced to economize what music I really, truly, wanted to buy. Support your starving rock legends, or there won’t be any left, not even in L.A.

Bad was Ozzy Osbourne’s “Scream”. Apart from the title track, I was rather underwhelmed. Then again, I had a great excuse for hauling out all my vintage Sabbath, as if I needed one.

Bad was…Dimmu Borgir’s new album, “Ahabradabra”. Or should I say, not precisely bad, but not as great as I had hoped for. It sounded like Dimmu Borgir – an incredible collection of musicians otherwise – had fallen prey to what I could call “Satriani syndrome”. Virtuoso, no question, but where’s the soul? I couldn’t find it.

The Ugly:
The utter ubiquity of Lady Gaga. Puleeeze. That so much of the music industry has focused on hype over craft, and a lot of so-called bold-faced names now can’t deliver the goods behind the hype. That if you want a writeup in certain music publications, you have to pay for it. WTF??? That I’m almost a year older. That nothing is happening – nearly fast enough. That if it’s any consolation, I’m not getting any, either.

But the best thing about 2010, hands down, has been my readers. I could never have done this without you. And I do it all for you! And my vaunting ambition and oversized ego, too!

So – wherever you are on Planet Earth this New Year’s Eve – Happy New Year. Horns Up! May your 2011 be happy, lucky and make all your wishes come true!

I shall be here in front of my geriatric Mac, working on making my own a reality!

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