1. When I went to the White House in 1993, I didn’t meet Bill Clinton like I’d hoped – but the security guard did let me cuddle with Socks, the First Cat. New to America Online, I e-mailed (it was maybe the third e-mail I ever written) the President at the address I’d found on the White House website. I told him I loved it when he played saxophone, that Socks was the softest cat I’d ever touched, and asked if it felt weird that people sold postcards of his and Hillary’s head on other people’s undressed bodies. I signed my name and “age 9.” He never got back to me, but someone on his staff eventually did.
2. In the late ‘90s, I was in junior high and sent to a Jewish summer camp for the first time. Our session song was set to the tune of “Zoot Suit Riot,” but all lyrics had all been changed to Hebrew puns with the intention of inspiring Judaic morality. I’d recently learned, as they’d gotten famous, the singer of “The Daddy Cherry Poppers” (as my family mangled it) babysat me as a small child, as he had dated my cousin. It was cool, kind of the one connection to fame I had, besides Socks.
A lot of the kids I met at camp were from LA and they seemed to not have any identity beyond their family’s industry connections.
“Bob Dylan just bought my stepmom a BMW,” said one boy, chatting me up on Shabbat. I didn’t know how to deal with these new species of boys. My ideal male was small town and scratched off the letters on the back on his Toyota pickup truck so it just said “YO.” But those guys didn’t like me — and this one did. Quick to catch-on to JAP boy talk, I name-dropped the only thing I had (“Rad, I know the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies”) despite feeling embarrassed. Then he kissed me, it was disgusting, and I felt like a sexual failure.
3. When I started high school the closest thing you could take to anything “artistic” class was marching band. High school revolved around the football team, as it was the only way my school made any money. I played trumpet, and spent my time between a tiny, curmudgeon-y sci-fi-obsessed boy and two sweaty chubby boys who would have spit-valve wars and blow their trumpets on each other’s crotches. It was hours between those boys, in the hot sun on the football field, in my Roxy tank top, melting off coconut-scented Bath & Body Works body glitter.
We had a new teacher start that year. He had played backup in Sublime on 40 oz to Freedom. He wore horned glasses and ’50s button ups and was very passive. The school had hired a discipline-intense band leader from the U.S. Army band to help him transition into the new position and write the all-American tribute-theme formations.
Once I came back a few minutes late from the girls room. The new teacher, trying to ‘set an example’ and ‘gain control’ announced over the megaphone my behavior was unacceptable and awkwardly ordered me to do 15 pushups. I remember thinking, “Really, saxophonist on ‘Date Rape?’ You’re going to make a 14 year-old girl do pushups in front of a band of 100 people?” I thought I would make him suffer by moving extra slowly, and made sure to do girl-style pushups.
The next week he had us rip up our America tribute music and handed out our new disco-theme songs. I was already embarrassed by the band uniforms, but now being forced to dance The Hustle pushed me over the edge. However, it did inspire some kind of real game-changing “band nerd-pride” community of everyone else. But it just made me more depressed and I quit.
4. My first year in New York, my friend took me uptown to see her little brother’s friend’s band perform at a little bar. I think Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon’s kid was in it, because there they were, Sarandon acting like a band mom with a camcorder and Tim acting all band dad like lugging the amp with Sean Penn. Except it was real life. The kids were all 14 year old boys with long hair and blazers greeting each other’s mothers with kisses on the cheek. They played a few songs, and then the singer said, “Now my friend Ed is going to sing a song with us.” Eddie Vedder stepped up from next to me on stage, and started singing “All Along the Watchtower.” My friend said, in earnest, “It’s so cool he learned their song.” The 14 year olds started to look more intense, like they were trying so hard not to fuck up, like it was this big “we’re becoming men” moment for them. Eddie was right there in front of me, and I was standing close enough to see his cheekbones pop up like fists. When he finished, everyone politely clapped, like it’s was no big deal. Maybe one person took a cameraphone shot. Later my friend and I went to Elaine’s and shared an artichoke. I told her how I couldn’t understand how it wasn’t a big deal.
5. Two years later, I was in a club I used to go to a lot, sitting in a corner by myself, watching the crowd. There was a man sitting also by himself across the room. “I like this place because we can sit alone in corners and not be freaks,” I remember thinking to myself.
My friend from The New York Observer came over to me and told me he wanted to introduce me to someone, a musician, a singer from a band. He had been feeling bad and thought I’d cheer him up. I couldn’t understand his name, it was something I’d never heard before. Turns out he was the man in the other corner. My friend said under his breath something about Liv Tyler, and quickly introduced us. I asked him how he was and where he’d been earlier. He had a slight British accent but we didn’t have anything to talk about. We held hands, kissed, and watched the crowd together. After a little bit, a man came up to him, whispered something in his ear and he jumped on his back, piggy-back style and was gone.
In the cab ride home, I Googled him and pulled up the first search in YouTube on my iPhone. It loaded but didn’t look familiar.
Then the vocals hit. I was back in elementary school watching MTV and it was the summer my parents divorced. He looked the same.
6. A year later my friends and I went to a New Year’s party and Courtney Love was performing. She was incredible, but the party kind of died after she played and we got bored. I have this really charming friend, and she went up to the guitarist and I think just said “Hi” and he invited us down to Courtney’s room in the hotel. By the time we got there Courtney had gone, but oh my god, had she left her mark.
There were a few other people there, a girl just in her underwear and body paint that had been dancing at another hotel party all night, and Courtney’s therapist, who was wearing a necklace by a designer I’d knew. We ordered room service.
The song “The Boy is Mine” came on and someone said “I played bass on this. I’ve had a very lucky career.”
By leaving her mark, I meant her bed. You know Tracey Emin’s “My Bed” piece? On Courtney’s crumpled hotel sheets were just sequins, blonde hair, cigarette ash, and Junior Mints.
Sitting and hanging out on her messy bed eating oysters on her glorious girl filth, I felt almost nurtured.