Not every day is peachy. Some nights you’re in a cold sweat, staring down the barrel of the not-to-distant future with perfect clarity, knowing it could all end abruptly and you have no real plan B.
And then some days are like today. Not too cold. Not too hot. Your room is clean. Your friend, the musician you met on the set of a music video, texts you because he’s going to be down the block filming a scene in a movie and he wants to know if you’ll be around to hang out after.
Tomorrow you’ll tell a story in the city. Hopefully well. Hopefully someone will hear it and something unexpected will happen.
This isn’t a forever. It’s a now. But I know what it’s like to sacrifice the now for the forever. I’ve picked my poison.
Yesterday Harry and I went to see Everything Everywhere All of The Time at The Alamo in Brooklyn.
It’s so great in so many ways. Think The Joy Luck Club meets The Matrix.
I cried even.
The message was extra special because I got to watch it with someone who for me embodies the core values of the film.
We took the elevator to the basement and got peanut butter Jojos and soda and placed Google eyes on Everything Bagels and Everything Bagel seasoning as an homage to the movie. We also danced in front of the meat aisle.
Then we walked back to my apartment and made spaghetti sauce with vegan sausage and noodles. Kim joined us. We scarfed down dinner so that Kim and I could get to Jack’s solo acoustic set at Pete’s Candy Store.
I’ve never been inside before. The venue is tiny. It’s basically the size of a trailer. Very narrow. Jack did good.
Caithlin joined us there and we continued on to Barcade after Union Pool wouldn’t let me in without ID. Lucky for me Caithlin had two IDs on her so I borrowed one to get into Barcade.
And then we all caught the B48 out of Williamsburg.
I got off the first bus and checked to see when the bus that would take me closer to home was coming.
Fifteen minutes away. And then a 14 minute bus ride. Or a 19 minute walk. At 2:30 in the morning.
I don’t walk through the world feeling I’m invincible. I have quantifiable observable data to the contrary. I got aggressively hustled/kidnapped at Penn Station when I was 20, leading, in part, to a mental breakdown, leaving Princeton and severe agoraphobia. I dropped out of college. I wouldn’t leave my apartment except on short trips to buy alcohol.
I also have a neurodivergent brain that takes information in differently. It’s constantly registering tiny details that escape the notice of others. Yesterday on our walk, I pointed out several things to Harry, one of them being a broken bottle that we’d passed on a previous walk a month before.
I sense danger differently. I’ve been conditioned by certain people in my life to acquiesce even when engulfed by fear. I have a very difficult time lying. And a very difficult time saying “No.”
I have to live in the world. I have to be able to function.
So what did I do? I started walking. And I prayed. Not for safety. I just picked up the conversation where it left off. Talking to whoever listens. I wasn’t alone. Mostly I asked for some clarity about this panel that I’m going to be on at the end of the month.
On my walk I saw a mouse and I heard a disgruntled cat whine. I passed a man walking in the other direction. I passed a couple holding hands. And when I was two minutes away from my front door, I heard a voice. Gravely. Deep. Older.
“You going home?”
It came from inside a parked car with the driver’s door slightly opened. I couldn’t see the man’s face.
“Yup.” Yup? That’s me not being able to lie in the moment. Not being able to not answer in the moment. That’s me being something that everyone worried about when I first started coming to NYC.
“You have a good night.”
That was it.
It was grace. No angels with harps. No clouds parting and a ray of light shining through. No booming voice from on high. Just an older, presumably intoxicated stranger wishing me a good night.
Last night at karaoke a flight attendant named Coral asked Samy and me how we knew each other.
💁🏻♀️: Tinder 👨🏻🎤: Yeah, we had one really hot week in 2017
I explained that we are friends now. When I told her I was friends with other women in his life, she tried to read the situation for drama. That’s how most people read the situation. Hell, I’d probably read it that way too if it hadn’t been me.
For those of you who were around back in 2017, when I was venturing out into the world, you might remember all the fun 🦄/🦩 (unicorn/flamingo) stories. Me coming to NYC to see one and ending up with the other. Juggling them on trips. Juggling all the rest of the guys. All the fun sex. The concerts. The sweat inducing anxiety. The “Will she make it out there in the big scary world” terror. All of it scored by Matty Healy and The 1975.
That first week out here in May 2017 I left my backpack with all of my psych meds in the back of an Uber. I had no way of getting more. It should have been a shit show. Instead, Samy and my AirBNB host Darah (who is still my friend) covered me until I could get back to AZ.
In the course of five years, I’ve pummeled through my second adolescence, fueled by booze and cigarettes and weed and music. And…lots of sex.
Jack asked me this morning if I’m ready to date again. I’ve taken off time from dating. It isn’t important to who I am right now.
“Not just yet,” I said. “I need a win.”
The win is in the works right now. Just in time for summer five year anniversary of that first NYC excursion.
Drinks with Kim at Rudy’s in midtown with Chipotle chips and guacamole (which is such a luxury) and queso. Tyler introduced me to this place. The beers are cheap and the bouncer, Tim, is friendly. He saw my ID and told me he loves Arizona sunsets.
Then to see Company. I don’t know what anyone told you but I was certainly not crying the moment I heard Patti Lupone sing. That is fictitious and libelous and I shall…ok ok I cried. And all I could think of was my Misha, who is never far from me and invoked at the slightest sensation of beauty.
Watching Company feels too intimate. It feels like Sondheim stripped me naked and paraded me around to strangers in Times Square. There’s this line that goes something like, “Anybody else would be put in prison for doing the things you do to yourself.”
Yeah, I know.
The show has been updated. The lyrics changed to suit the time. Wife became prime. Life became Time. Still witty. It’s been reimagined as a fever dream of grey encapsulated in neon lined rectangles.
I’m never just in the present. Past me thought about Mary Ellen who went with me to see Anastasia in 2018. And that time a well-known NYC storyteller recognized me in Times Square in 2020 and I felt like a local. Or the first time I sat in this very Five Guys with a milkshake I couldn’t afford, experiencing free air conditioning after a night at Upright Citizens’ Brigade texting back and forth with Tyler about his show because I was too broke to pay the door fee.
I know it might seem like I know what I’m doing here and I’m a like a duck to water in NYC. It’s become easier. But there are days when I feel so defeated and turned around and lonely and wounded and…and…and…
And then I get dressed in spite of it all and I go out and I live. And questions aren’t so scary without answers. The answers won’t come sitting in my room. They come in the living part.
The cold that was “brick” relented tonight. I made my way to Crown Heights in the falling snow, earlier than my normal Sunday hour, to meet up with Micah, Marxist Queen, at Barboncino.
Sundays are family. And I hesitate to make that sound trite, like I’m shoveling unlimited breadsticks down my gullet and chasing them with sticky sweet Lambrusco at Olive Garden. But it’s true. This is the family of rag tag beautiful people who adopted me, even though I’m the only one who doesn’t and never has worked at a restaurant.
How much I owe to Courtney that she’ll never know. My Tucson life changed because I started ending my shifts at Williams-Sonoma with trips to a family friend’s restaurant in 2013. What I learned about industry folk changed my life for the better.
Mikey and I agreed on one thing tonight. New Years liberated us from a hellish 2021. I remember New Years Dat spent drinking Prosecco and grapefruit juice with Jack, this lovely human I adopted, thinking how I rang in 2022 exactly as I had planned.
Good omens today from Misha. Three in a row. A hat trick.
Now for sleep. The snow turned to rain and all has melted…including and especially my heart. All is well, my loves. Rest your weary heads. I am in good keeping.
At 5:02 this morning I was in bed, eating a bowl of homemade turkey soup. I was hungry after a night in Manhattan in sub freezing temperatures. That I even left the apartment was notable. Not just the cold, but omicron and money and HOOORMOOOOOONES and all the nursing that goes into a broken heart.
But I didn’t move to NYC to stay in my room unabated. There was a city to see and people to be enjoyed. Namely, Andrea.We got off the F train, paid our respects at CBGBs (now John Varvados) and saw Nikola’s show at Bowery Electric. So did Josh and Dusty. Josh is a happy hobbit. Dusty is a hobbit if they became nihilists. And not the fun kind. The kind that balls up their tiny fists and swings wildly at friends.
It was decided that Dusty, who could no longer stand or walk on his own, should be put in a cab and sent back to Brooklyn to sleep it off. It was good for Dusty. It was good for Josh. It was good for Manhattan in general. And for me specifically, because Tyler is the one who accompanied Dusty home.
I stood Tyler up on NYE. He knows why, or at least he should. Yes, that broken heart I mentioned earlier. I’ve never stood anyone up for anything ever. I don’t have it in me. I didn’t revel in doing it either. Well, maybe I reveled a little if only because I was doing unto him what he’d been doing unto me.
I love him in ways that don’t have words to explain them. Except that none of them are romantic. They only look that way because no one has come up with a word that I’m aware of yet to describe why I love him so much. It’s always the ones you love the most are capable of wounding you the worst. We hadn’t talked since the NYE incident. So, thank you, Dusty, because my night would probably have ended there if Tyler had come along. That can of worms can wait another week or so before I open it.
After Bowery Electric, we hit up The Library and KGB. The thing no one tells you before you move to NYC from the desert is how people still make it out in below freezing temperatures. Every bar was packed to the gills (we went from tinned worms to tinned fish there…). The Library was so packed that my glasses fogged up and my hair curled…and yes, I was thinking about our fearless leader COVID. How can you not? Was I wreckless? Yes. But I’ve been a very good girl and I need nights like this every once in a while. Believe me…I’ve been saying no to more invites than I say yes to, even when I really wanna see the people who invite me. It doesn’t justify anything. We all of us, dearly beloved, have to find a way to get through this thing called “life.”
A happy thing to report: the bouncer at KGB remembered me from pre-COVID days when I used to tell stories up at the Red Room on the 4th floor. I remembered him. We remembered each other. I remembered myself…the one who used to get up on stage and make people laugh ON PURPOSE!
What I love about this pack I travel with is that none of us went anywhere to be seen or particularly cared about meeting strangers or hitting on anyone or getting hit on or impressing or blah blah blah. No one was performing. Well, Nikola was performing, but that was LITERAL performing on stage. You know what I’m saying.
It was real. Real is my favorite flavor. It’s my favorite song. It’s my favorite season. It’s my favorite color. It’s my alpha and my omega. It’s why I love Tyler when it’s just us together in a room and why I despise him when we’re around others. It’s my true north. I set my moral compass by it and everything that emanates from it is what I choose to call a “life.”
I just flashbacked to this spring when I came home after an exhausting weekend upstate (lovely as it was…I was really ill and not up for a military exercise posed as a jaunty trip to the woods).
I left my bags at the door and took to my bed with a bag of dry cheerios.
When I emerged, days later, the entire west wing of the apartment was infested with tiny ants. They came through the cracks in the wall from the re-emerging garden, four flights down.
Knowing the reliability of my landlords to solve any of their problems and calculating the potentiality that any single one of my friends would come and rescue me from the insect army now feasting on my dry goods, I summoned all my energy and ordered AMDRO ant bait via Amazon.
It is most certainly not an indoor poison and never meant to be sprinkled in a kitchen, but it was me or them at that point. And maybe even me AND them. I was already at death’s door and I only needed a quick shove off the precipice to do me in anyway, ant poison or no.
Amazon delivered. I baited. And then I waited for what seemed like two weeks for the invasion to slow to a trickle and the trickle to abate entirely.
What would have been a minor victory in good times was a major one for a human nearly defeated by the medical establishment and her own body. I’d solved a problem entirely on my own, not counting Jeff Bezos and the Bezos band.
If those ants presented themselves today, they’d meet a formidable foe. I’ve plenty of poison and pluck at the ready. And with some distance between now and then, I can honestly say I am proud of my ability to survive in a city where only the strong do.
As for me today, I’m six months in to iron IV treatment. My hair has stopped falling out. I can climb stairs. Buy groceries and bring them home. And my brain is starting to fire again. Adderall helps.
In spite of this feeling I have that I got nothing done this year, I’ve actually learned a ton. Like how to navigate the municipal bus system. When to deviate from Google’s suggested routes to minimize walking or the chance of being late or avoid unnecessary flights of stairs. How to use my credit card to pay. Which buses are more reliable. The difference between the regular buses and the special long blue buses that have fewer stops and race down the streets. And how no one pays to ride the blue buses. Today I even learned how to use my phone to pay the fare (on non-blue buses and trains).
I’m getting lost less. I’m devoting less brain power to getting ready to go out on errands. I taught Jon how to maneuver around the city. I can give coherent directions sometimes to strangers.
And I never have to fill a gas tank or check tire pressure or get my oil changed or remember to pay car insurance.
Life is great, honestly. There are still things that need fixing. More doctors visits. Possibly more surgery. But friends abound. Events are plentiful. I feel very much IN my body. I know my worth. And I’m ready to grow in new ways. The “now” that I live in is great enough that it is beyond the “one day” I hoped for six months, two years, and a lifetime ago.
Yesterday: I took Emily for drinks at The River Cafe and then to a play at St. Ann’s Warehouse. Both are located in DUMBO (Down Under The Manhattan Bridge Overpass 🤦🏻♀️🤦🏻♀️🤦🏻♀️).
The River Cafe is about as fancy as things get in Brooklyn. It has one of those Michelin Stars everybody talks about and great views of the city. It also has a dress code. Men must wear jackets. I felt a little like Ferris Bueller trying to pose as Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago.
The place was decked out for Christmas and there was a fancy schmancy party going on with Germans in tuxedos. I was half expecting Bruce Willis to show up Die Hard style.
We had drinks at the bar (G&T for Emily and Calvados, Monkey Shoulder Scotch, fig grenadine and lemon for me). And fresh out of the oven bread with butter. And we reminisced about our childhoods as fancy ladies at fancy restaurants. And also talked about going to more fancy places together.
And then we went to the play at St. Ann’s. It’s a gorgeous brick warehouse on the waterfront that has been repourposed into a theater.
The play was great. I really loved it. And it will probably spark some good writing about my last time in a mental hospital, so that’s always a good thing.
Last, we went to Barboncino. The place was packed. People waited an hour for a table. I texted ahead and Mikey saved me some meatballs and tiramisu. It’s not something I wanna take advantage of. I’ve done it two weeks in a row now. But, honestly, I love seeing Mikey and Nikola at work on Fridays (Andrea works on Sundays). And getting spoiled by them. I love them. I feel safe and cared for. And I want the other people in my life to get to know them.
I went out with the kiddos to Bearded Lady afterwards and then walked with Mikey to his place in a salty mist and came home. Hungry because it was now 4 am. So I ate one of Jack’s bananas. He doesn’t mind.
These are the good days. The ones that you look back on wistfully. The ones you hope will come again when the chips are down and you can hardly find the energy to get out of bed. This is why you did it, Vene. To be here. In this now.
That band marks time for me. It reveals all sorts of things to me. Beginnings and ends. New connections.
The last time was the end of J. The time before that was the previous end of J and the beginning of COVID.
After the show:
Remember that I told you The Lemon Twigs are all about beginnings and endings? Well…
This guy Jesse (aka Taylor Hicks) was at the show. He’s the first guy who ever introduced me to Crown Heights. He insulted Tyler the first night I met Tyler. Travis called him Taylor Hicks to his face. He introduced me to Érica who introduced me to Maddie. He DATED (and was not nice to) Imani Coppola who just happened to have been in a band that Tyler ended up being in. Oh and we have the exact same birthday. 6/15/1979.
We matched on Tinder in 2017 but never dated. It wasn’t until August 2018 at the Gary Clark Jr. show that we met in person. And he was THE PITS.
It’s not a total surprise that he was at the show. We went to a Lemon Twigs show together at Baby’s All Right in 2018.
He knows better than to talk to me now. But there he was.
And then Harry, a friend of Susie’s, comes up and says hi to me before the show. I’ve apparently met him TWICE now. The last time was at Mikey’s birthday where we talked for hours. And I still manage to forget his name and introduce him to Emily and Anthony as David. As soon as I realized my error (thanks, Andrea), I ran past Jesse/Taylor Hicks to apologize to Harry for my error.
He tapped me on the shoulder at the end of the night to say goodbye so I don’t think I did any permanent damage.
But yeah. I live here and run into people I know at places in different boroughs.
The Lemon Twigs were great. Their bassist wasn’t there. They had some other guy instead.
It’s my 8th Lemon Twigs show. I love them so much.
I don’t know what this show marks beside all that I just told you. I probably won’t know for a while. Tune in and find out.
Later at home:
I’m in bed and the Observant Israeli just texted me.
He saw my Instagram story and told me that I talked about The Lemon Twigs on our first date.
Another Lemon Twiggy thing to happen.
Also, I was kinda cute tonight. At least from the waist up. Here’s a very lightly filtered video. You can tell it’s not very filtered. It’s just good lighting and great makeup (if I say so myself).