A Blow to the Head

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I am packing my books, pulling the dusty tomes down from a high shelf, when my dead friend’s poetry chapbook falls and hits me on the head. It is hot pink and stapled at the fold.

How I felt about her art always changed with how I felt about her, and our complicated friendship. It was:

Raw, vulnerable, essential…

or

Indulgent, sentimental, over-exposed.

Shifting all the time.

She made me angry and delighted. She was the one I called every day, with whom I shared a secret band name even though neither of us had any musical talent whatsoever. The one who got a matching tattoo. The one who was always spilling over at the edges. The one whose laugh was not very ladylike- almost exactly like mine. She made me feel less alone.

Dammit, I think, when I pick up the book. There goes my night. Now I’m gonna cry and hit the chocolate. I don’t have time for this. I’m moving, after all. Deadlines, kid on spring break, busybusybusy.

And then I slide down the wall, sit cross-legged on the carpet, and begin to read. How marvelous. To pause and have a visit with her tonight. When all I could think of was a to-do list.

I will meet you anywhere anytime, Jennifer Grant. I miss you every day, my friend.

I am grateful that the universe saw fit to drop her poetry on my head tonight.

Shadow and Light

I’m at a friend’s cottage in Joshua Tree right now. I got here while it was already dark, so I’m looking forward to waking up tomorrow to the pink and grey swirled sunrise above the boulders, framing the spiky, exuberant silhouettes of the Joshua trees.

I am reminded of the last time I was here.

Last year, we came to the the desert to shoot this video for Scott’s song, “Watch the Shadows.” We were a rowdy crowd: DJ Mendel (director), Kaz Phillips Safer (DP), Anais Borck (actor/pure loveliness), SS711 (soulmate/star), Tariku Moon (dinosaur wrangler/hellraiser), and me (cooker of pancakes/holder of sunblock).

It was a crazy and memorable weekend. We all worked our asses off in the desert sun, and wound up with that satisfying exhaustion that comes from pouring yourself into something you believe in.For a few different reasons, Scott hadn’t released the video yet. But something tragic happened last week and it lit a fire under his ass.

I got a call from DJ telling me Anais had died. The causes are unclear, but basically she died in her sleep at 31 years old.

I spent time with Anais both in NY and LA. It’s almost impossible not to talk about how beautiful she was. It usually annoys me when physical beauty is the first thing remarked on when someone dies tragically young. But. She was. She was like Disney Princess Fairy Angel pretty. Tall, effortlessly fashionable, blonde hair falling around her sculpted face, saucer stormy ocean blue eyes. She was gorgeous at the breakfast table, in curlers and horn-rimmed glasses.

She was kind and sweet, with something fragile or lost hovering around her edges. She always seemed to me not quite gritty enough for this world. I am glad I knew her, even a little.

Anais was a joy to work with- uncomplaining and game for anything. Tariku and I hung around the shoot all day. I was sort of the all-purpose set mom, toting water and sunblock and trail mix and making sure everyone was all right. Tariku was my assistant and he thought Anais was swell. He couldn’t get enough of her.

When my best friend died, I spent many sleepless nights combing the internet for any hint of her. We thought that we’d release this video now, finally, so that Anais’s loved ones, who are out there in the dark, hungry to see images of her, may spend some time with her soulful, indeed, beautiful, face.

Also, it’s an amazing song that has lived too long in Scott’s studio. It’s time.

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Physical Text

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Last weekend aerialist and choreographer Bianca Sapetto and I taught our Physical Text workshop for PEN Center USA.

Fifteen of us met in the bordello-red rehearsal room of the Fais Do-Do nightclub, on a Saturday afternoon. We arrived eager, reticent, caffeinated, exhausted, hopeful, skeptical, open, closed. A myriad of emotions ebbed and flowed throughout the course of the afternoon. The participants brought a level of vulnerability and courage that knocked me out. This workshop was a perfect three-hour distillation of why I find teaching so rejuvanating. Bianca and I were on a high for the whole next week.

This workshop has been a dream of mine and Bianca’s for months. It was born of a conversation we had while hiding out in a sun dappled corner of a coffee shop, brainstorming about our shared passion- how to make art in a fully embodied way.

I told her that in spite of my years of dance classes, I secretly knew that I had learned to put on a good show of things while not truly feeling my body at all. I was always working on the surface, convinced I could fool everyone and they wouldn’t notice I was clumsy, shy, messy, flawed.

The body is our greatest recording device, home of all that has happened to us and, to paraphrase Eve Ensler, I was totally obsessed with my body but didn’t inhabit it at all.

Problematic, because I have a life now that most days I would actually like to feel. I also have a writing life that requires I be able to feel. Every morning, when I face the blank page, I discover anew a pressing reason to push through the shame and fear and find a way back to myself.

Bianca and I synthesized an amalgam of movement and writing exercises designed to facilitate a greater flow between body and intellect. This workshop was our first laboratory and it was electric. We left inspired, edified and dedicated to further exploring this fertile territory.

Writer and entrepreneur Rachel Resnick attended the workshop and wrote a wonderful piece about it. You can find more at her website, Writers on Fire. Thanks also to Rachel for the pictures. I didn’t actually snap any myself because for once in my life I wasn’t hiding behind a camera!

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Magical Muddy Birthday

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I spent my birthday with old friends and new, sunning ourselves like lizards on the flat sandstone rocks on the banks of Abiquiu Lake. I am not usually a birthday person, but I had this odd thing happen. I was happy today. Like, heart too big for your chest kind of happy. Like, wade into the lake and look up at the Pedernal mountain and thank God for your blessings out loud kind of happy.

We swam out to the island in the middle of the lake, covered our bodies with mineral mud and just basked there topless, looking like blue-grey sea creatures, until we made our way back to the rocks. We spent the rest of the afternoon reading poetry and painting with watercolors and eating cheese. It was pretty much perfect. Every once in a while life gifts you a day that you couldn’t have written.

Even if my boobs did get a little sunburned.

Remembering Jen

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My dear friend Jen Wilson passed away last night after a long and heroic battle with cancer. Her friends and family are all grieving today.

Jen’s husband and mine are in the same band and we traveled the world together. Many nights, we said goodnight across a bus aisle before drawing the curtains of our bunks. In the morning, we stumbled into each other on our way to find coffee. We sat around together for hours in both grand hotel suites and crappy European dressing rooms. She was my stage-side companion for the last ten years and in a way, we were family.

When I showed up in the Weezer picture, she had been at it for years already. She welcomed me into the camp with open arms and taught me the rockwife ropes. I can only hope that I’ve learned to weather this blessed and challenging life with half as much grace and humor as she did. Jen was real. She managed to be the salt of the earth, while always carrying the latest Louis Vuitton bag. Above all, she was devoted to her family and friends.

When Scott and I were desperately trying to have a baby, Jen was already pregnant with their second child. Many of our friends with new babies acted uncomfortable around us. Jen was a notable exception. She was able to truly listen to me, sometimes offering advice, sometimes just being a sympathetic ear. More than once she prescribed immediate retail therapy and dragged me out in pursuit of some much-needed distraction. She was able to be present for my pain and so she was fully able to be present for our joy when Tariku finally came home. She threw me an amazing baby shower. Jen threw a lot of showers. She was the girl who wanted to give you a party.

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I love the story about Jen working as a barista at Starbucks when the “Undone” video first came out. People would come into her work and say, “I saw your husband on MTV!” She would just nod and smile but she hadn’t even seen the video yet, because they couldn’t afford cable.

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I remember a flight to New York one time, during which Jen was holding Ian and I was holding Tariku. We were across the aisle from each other and both the boys were being fussy. I was far tenser than she about having screaming babies on a plane. I remember looking at how she was rocking her son and shaping my arms around my baby in the same way, learning from the wisdom of a more experienced mother. Soon they were both quiet.

There is so much she taught me. I will take it with me. I will remember her sunny smile always.

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