Friday, November 07, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me

I will be taking a very brief hiatus from posting new entries in my ongoing autobiography
True Life Adventures of Violence Girl while I mark my 50th year on the planet. Violence Girl will be back with more stories of Plungers, Weirdos and the early LA punk scene next week.



Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Euphoria

I'm still smiling over the exciting election last night! The sudden countdown to the West Coast states' poll closing followed by an unexpected projection that Obama had won the presidency was like the giant orb dropping at Times Square on New Year's Eve. My daughter and I clapped and cheered in our living room last night, surrounded by silent neighbors here in Phoenix, Arizona: McCain Country.

Congratulations to all of my friends who worked so hard to get Obama elected. Even though we did not back the same candidate, I hope you will allow me to bask in your triumph. After all, I was a Democrat for most of my life before deciding to go Green. Voting Green this election was a personal triumph for me and my own contribution to political diversity but last night I celebrated a different sort of diversity along with the nation and the world. My heart was jubilant at seeing our first African American president-elect and at the seats the Democrats gained in the house and senate. I was proud of John McCain, whose concession speech was gracious and upbeat. And when Obama spoke about being a president for all of us, I allowed myself to hope that he wasn't just speaking to the far right but to the far left as well.

It wasn't all good news. The right to a legal gay marriage was denied or lost in some states, including California. But after witnessing Obama's impressive victory, I can't help but be hopeful that these are temporary setbacks and that tenacity and tolerance will triumph in the end. President Obama has inspired me to dream of a day when Gay, Lesbian and Transgender couples will once again be able to say "I Do." After all, it wasn't so very long ago that the idea of an African American being elected president was almost unimaginable. Let's all join in the hope that some day soon all Americans will enjoy equal rights under the law and we will live in a country free from discrimination.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

It's A Big One!

It's almost my birthday! It's funny the way we sometimes attach so much meaning to birthdays and other times we completely ignore them, well, at least some people do. I don't think I've ever ignored my birthday. I may have had quiet birthdays and loud birthdays but I always know they're there and I wouldn't want to ignore them.

This birthday is impossible to ignore. It's my half century mark. I still remember turning twenty and crying on Craig Lee's doorstep because I was so old and felt like I had done so little with my life. Craig was older and much wiser and assured me that I still had many, many years to make my dreams come true. I didn't dare tell him that I was certain I was going to die at the age of 24. That idea had just popped into my head one day and over the years it had grown roots, irrational roots but when I was young it was much easier to do a doublethink, or to think one thing and believe the opposite. I can't seem to do that anymore, notwithstanding the fact that I still buy lottery tickets and engage in vivid fantasies about spending my winnings when I know what my odds are. But 24 came and went and I lived. The failure of prophecy didn't deter me. Like those psychics who every now and then predict that California is going to fall into the ocean, when the expected event doesn't arrive we simply change and update our prediction; thus, my new expiration date was moved ahead to age 34. Obviously, I lived through that one too. Not that I was afraid to die; mind you, I felt liberated by the fact that I didn't fear death. I think if I feared anything it was the fear of being old and brittle and forgetting things. Now that I'm old, brittle and forget things, I realize it's not that bad.

It looks like being old is in my cards. I even had a baby beyond my expiration date. At age 36, I already considered myself a mom of two beautiful stepdaughters, then I had my own kid and I was suddenly filled with a freaky fear that I would die before she could talk, then walk, later finish elementary school, etc. Every year, for the first few years of motherhood, I saw the Grim Reaper around every corner. Now I did fear death, not because I didn't know what was on the other side of that filmy veil between life and death but because I wanted to be around to watch my kids grow up. No offense to the fathers out there but I saw the difference in the way my hubby and I related to our girls and well, I thought they needed me.

Then my step-kids got older and stopped coming around as often. They had those damned boyfriends they wanted to spend time with instead of me! My little one was in school and she had special needs so she still needed me, but being a parent advocate is all work and no play.

Throughout my life, I had been playing in different bands pretty much non-stop since I was seventeen, up until I was about 6 months pregnant, which is when my doctor told me I had to be on complete bed rest. I was playing, practicing or recording until the last possible minute. I remember tripping over a PA monitor on stage when I played with Goddess 13; I turned to the side as I fell, trying to protect my swollen belly. I was playing with Cholita during that time and I had to hold my guitar over to the side because my fingertips couldn't properly grasp the neck of the guitar while reaching over my baby bump.

I took a few years off to be a full time mom and with no music in my life, I became a ticking time bomb: angry, resentful and with no creative outlet, I was a real Stay At Home Bomb. I formed a new band to express my frustration. That - together with a long overdue hysterectomy - gave me a new lease on life. Suddenly, I felt excited and in charge of my own life in a way that only music has ever made me feel. I had no delusions about the viability of a forty-something rocker chick but it didn't matter. All that mattered was playing, writing, singing, collaborating with musicians I admired and respected. I think that's when I started to understand that my best years were in front of me, not in the past.

I went out to lunch one day with a bunch of my middle-aged girlfriends whom I affectionately call The Rolling Crones and as we sat around sipping Margaritas, I thought about how strong and powerful we were. We laughed out loud, comfortable in our own (slightly) wrinkled skin, confident enough to intimidate younger men, knowing that we could and would do whatever we wanted. Every woman sitting around the table that day was talented, beautiful and wise and it made me proud to be in their company.

In about a week I will be turning 50 and I am excited about it. I think of it as the beginning of part two of my life. It's a time to try new things, to bring out those old, stored dreams that I never got around to and dust them off. I want this year to be a year of closure and rebirth. Already I'm behaving differently. I'm writing my autobiography, The True Life Adventures of Violence Girl. Last week, I sent in my absentee ballot and voted for the candidate I like best instead of the candidate that seemed least offensive. That's a first for me and it felt good, really good not to compromise. I also signed up for an oil painting class at a nearby community college. I've been wanting to learn to paint with oils ever since I walked into the Los Angeles County Art Museum as a kid; how I got to be nearly 50 without ever doing it is a mystery to me. I'm finally going to cross that off my to do list.

"Maribel With Marigolds" - I just painted this last week for Dia de Los Muertos, it's one of my very first attempts with oil painting and I can't wait to do more.

Sure, age has it's setbacks. My knees are messed up and I can't drink everyone under the table the way I did when I was young but there is so much that I can do better and with more confidence and conviction that I have to say I wouldn't want to be any other age. I don't know what I'm going to be when I grow up, but whatever it is, it's going to be fun because now I know that the journey is more important than the destination.

Mexicans have a special holiday to acknowledge the inevitability of aging and death while at the same time, celebrate living. It's called Dia de Los Muertos and is celebrated on November 2, All Soul's Day. It's the perfect time for remembering those friends and family who have passed through the filmy veil separating this life from the next and taking stock of which dreams we have accomplished and which ones we have yet to accomplish. In that spirit, I'm off to watch one of my favorite Mexican films, Macario.

Death shows Macario that life is as brief and vulnerable as the flame of a candle. From the great Mexican film, Macario.

Viva la vida!