Sunday, August 17, 2008

My New Form of Therapy

Let me start off by saying that I don't consider myself a writer. When my husband suggested that I start writing autobiographical stories with the intent of working them into a book, I tried to put him off by insisting that I am not a writer. He pointed out that I had been writing a blog for the past several years, albeit sporadically, so I allowed that he had a point and I decided to try. He hinted that writing these stories would be good for me and that the process would help me to better understand myself, even if they never got published.

Sifting through long forgotten stories of my childhood and writing on a daily basis, I have become obsessed with following the threads of my memories, one leading to another. I start pulling on a single, seemingly trivial strand, but then I discover that it's attached to a larger strand; that one in turn is attached to an even bigger one. Sometimes, I find have I have tugged a whole, long forgotten piece of my past into view, one thread at a time.

I find that I doubt my own memories, wondering if my mind has confused situations or invented places that never existed or were in different times and places than I remember them. Was there really a carousel at Lincoln Park? Didn't my father like to eat Chinese food at a little diner on the lower floor of Grand Central Market?

I spend most of my weekdays - the days when I write - walking around like a zombie, my head filled with images and scenes from over forty years ago. Some of the darker stories still have the power to break me. I had to leave the supermarket the other day because I couldn't stop crying, thinking about one of many terrible incidents involving my parents. That day was emotionally exhausting and I realized that forcing myself to write these memories is a form of catharsis for me, in much the same way performing onstage with the Bags was.

Not all memories are dark and heavy. Thanks to my mother (once again) who saved all of our old family photos in albums, I have the ability to flip through pages of my history. Yes, there's the neighbor family just as I remember them; there's the old carousel at Lincoln Park, it did exist. The photographic images spur memories and then I sit down to write the stories as fast as they come to me.

My work in progress is called Violence Girl and you can read it here.

1 comment:

Jenny Lens said...

Alice, you truly were blessed with an incredible mother. I have few family photos. I hate having my photo taken. I still do, which surprises people due to my passion for taking photos.

You know that old story of people who refused to have their photo taken because they felt it stole part of their soul? It truly captures that moment reflecting our soul in many cases.

It's interesting how honest and revealing are photos. I was at the Ramones Hollywood Forever event earlier this month, signing my book, and people posed with me. I was not prepared: as usual, no makeup, no jewelry, just caught in the moment but not ready to be shot and posted. Finally my fan crowd cleared out and I could spend a moment with a dear pal, Haydee Ramone. She'd been looking forward to this event and we'd been emailing about it.

I was rather blase and only participated because Linda Ramone, Johnny's widow, invited me.

(People don't believe I'm shy and it's hard to get out and promote. But everyone was so nice to me! Whether Ramones performers, management, the cemetery personnel or fans, it was a delightful experience! I only had to walk about a mile and take one bus, so that worked out well.)

I'm not used to people wanting to take a photo with me. But the best photo of the night was with Haydee, because I felt comfortable and truly happy we finally could hang for a moment before the show started. It reminded me of another photo with my art/punk/raw pal Lisa. Both times just delighted to see my pals whom I usually only touch base re email or phone.

So many times people say I look fine in a photo, but I can see the tension, the unprepardness. Then I see the ones where I'm really relaxed, with a good pal, and I'm glowing, radiant smile and sparkling eyes instead of hesitancy and forced posing. That joyful feeling of connecting with the other person comes across so strongly in photos. Perhaps only I can see the difference, but it's there.

The power of photos goes way beyond what many people see or feel, and of course affects many in various ways.

I wrote you that I spent years crying when I first resurrected my archive (and cried in those years between taking the photos and re-emerging). I'd see faces long dead, stories untold, missed opportunities, or I'd be flooded with so many memories, or reminded of events I forgot. I would be so physically and psychologically exhausted I could only collapse on the floor. I had to learn to work with tears in my eyes and persevere.

I have a stack of Clash color slides which are so breath-taking, so alive, that I shake with tears, knowing Joe Strummer is dead, and the Clash and those days are long gone. And the power of those shows, in England, June 1980, still shakes me to my very core.

Or Joey Ramone leaning against the wall, by himself, the Whisky backstage, while Cherie the Penguin and Tony the Tiger (RIP) danced, and Dee Dee hung out on the sofa with Pleasant and Hellin Killer, while Tommy Gear talked with others, and KK, David Brown, Joan Jett and others hanging out. (it was a Screamers show and Tomata was off on his own). I vividly recall so many evenings filled with great shows and peeps like this, but to actually see it, is very powerful. And that Joey was just standing there, against the wall. Just brings tears to my heart. Although these memories might sound like so much fun to many, I recall the pain and tough times as well.

Photos, like great paintings, music, and stories, smells, random thoughts, are very powerful. They conjure up feelings and memories deep within us.

I applaud all you are doing, especially your honesty. Honesty that you dig so deeply and are dealing with what most people avoid. And you are sharing your journey with us. That takes a lot of guts and motivation. As usual, you are an inspiration! We are all blessed you have the time to do this! Thank you.