Peace, Love, Empathy

Trigger Warning: Suicide

Did you ever have those nights where your parents would drag you to their friends’ house with them? It usually sucked. You’d just end up sitting in the basement, waiting to go home while half-watching TV. And when your friend came over, they got dragged along with you. It was so embarrassing!

April 5, 1994 was one of those nights. Me, my sister and one of my BFFs were flipping channels in a basement that wasn’t ours while my dad’s thundering giggle echoed downstairs from upstairs. Being the remote-hog I am, it mostly remained on the Nation’s Music Station, Much Music. I can’t remember what I wanted to watch… a Spotlight? Combat des Clips? It was too early for Electric Circus (plus I didn’t like that music, I told myself at the time).

The high-pitched guitars and drum machine of Fax came on. This was their news show, which had full half-hours and Rapid Fax segments played among and between shows. Host, Monika Deol, took her typically serious tone (she shed this tone during dance party show Electric Circus). She opened her bold-lipsticked mouth to tell Canada what happened that day.

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“Shocking news from the alternative music world… Kurt Cobain, lead singer of Nirvana, has taken his own life…”

I’m paraphrasing, but that’s all I remember. My friend was absolutely shocked and in tears. I observed her, wondering about her emotions from my adolescent perspective. Why was she so upset? She didn’t know him, and she liked Ace of Base better than Nirvana. I liked Nirvana, but their songs weren’t very meaningful to me. We knew he was depressed, we knew he did drugs. I recognized the sadness, but I didn’t exactly connect to it.

One of my childhood heroes had died almost exactly a month before Kurt. John Candy died of a heart attack on March 4, 1994 at the relatively young age of 42. Even though it’d been awhile since I’d thought of him, it was devastating. The affable, silly guy who flipped big-ass pancakes with a shovel in Uncle Buck wouldn’t be there to make people laugh anymore. I was sad, a few people at school mentioned it, then we moved on.

Kurt was different, though. We were all barely teenagers in Catholic school, trying to make sense of it all.

“All that money and fame. What a waste.”
”All that talent. What a waste.”
”Who cares? He was just a junkie.”
”I heard he was depressed.”
”Nirvana sucked anyway.”
”He was the voice of our generation.”
“Suicide’s a sin. He’s going to hell.”
”Suicide is selfish.”
”His poor wife and daughter.”
”That bitch of a wife killed him.”

The last one bothered me the most. It was the favorite theory of the immature boys at recess. It was my dad’s “joke.” That Kurt woke up from his “drug-induced stupor” and saw “[the woman] he was married to” and… you can fill in the rest. That being married to a woman who didn’t live up to my father’s particular beauty standards was worth killing oneself over. I rolled my eyes, but recognized and was hurt by the misogyny.

Hole’s Live Through This came out shortly after and I felt an immediate connection. The widow Cobain, Courtney Love, was loud and brash, but vulnerable at the same time. I loved her baby-doll dresses, messy bleached hair and the way she’d prop her foot on an amp not caring if anyone saw her undies. I read and watched interviews and learned about her tumultuous upbringing, her sex worker past and her frankness about her drug use. I was shocked to discover that she’d left Billy Corgan for Kurt and thought it was a boss move when she threw a compact at Madonna (I loved Madonna, too, but this is one of the most iconic CLove moments of all-time). I felt like Madonna walked so Courtney could run—unabashed, ballsy, smart, sexy, one-of-a-kind women who were seen as unruly.

If we had access to the public vigil for Kurt that aired on MTV, I didn’t catch it. But a few months later, a good chunk of it was included in a “Ten Years of Alternative Music” special Much aired.

The breaks and cracks in Courtney’s voice. Her ad-libbing, angrily calling him an asshole. Sniffles and audible tears. This woman whom I’d gotten to know as best as I could over the past few months had lost her husband, the love of her life. Kurt left his daughter fatherless. And I couldn’t believe the crowd of people in Seattle. I knew that Nirvana were popular, but the mass of crowds crying, mourning, lighting candles and leaning on one another opened my eyes to how much he meant to my generation.

Over the past 25 years, some of Kurt’s closest contemporaries have died by suicide or overdose—Shannon Hoon (Blind Melon), Layne Staley (Alice in Chains), Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) and Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots) come to mind. Beyond grunge, some of my faves like Michael Hutchence, Prince and Amy Winehouse have gone in similar fashion. Nowadays, we’re less inclined to jump to conspiracy theories and snap judgments. We want to discuss addiction and mental health. We want to share about what they meant to us. Sure, a lot of the grieving on social media seems performative. But when it’s real, it’s real.

I’d like to go back to that girl on that couch who was wondering if she was a bad person for not crying when Kurt Cobain died and tell her that there are many ways to grieve. That she won’t cry at most of the funerals to come in her future. This girl was already wise to the fact that she knew what her depression was—but not why sometimes she felt so irate, so reactionary, so talkative and so not tired. I’d tell her she’d find out why, but it’d be a tough road and she’d be strong. She would think about suicide, too, and that’s okay. She’d even make a feeble attempt at it. She’d be brushed off by psychologists and be given short-term band-aid prescriptions. She’d make stupid decisions but she’d make lots of memories. She’d find a form of stability. She’d be able to share her writing. She would be loved.

It’s commonly accepted (though we don’t know if he ever had an official diagnosis) that Kurt Cobain lived with bipolar disorder. We lost Amy Winehouse to addiction while battling this mental illness. The other day, news broke that Britney had checked into a mental health facility to take extra care of her life with the same illness. When a bipolar person dies by suicide or dies by overdose, it’s easy to see ourselves reflected. Britney is surviving her battle. I have admiration and respect for all three of them. A bipolar life isn’t an easy one, but I’m trying. And to do a Kurt/Britney mash-up, it takes a little peace, love and empathy to make me stronger than yesterday.

Bi Arts Festival is next week!

Hey y’all!

Just a few things to report!

DC4B collaborated with Fraudster’s Almanac on a re-evaluation of the Smashing Pumpkins’ top-notch record, Siamese Dream. I’ll be joining them for the subsequent Smashing Pumpkins album re-evaluations, and if you wanna go for a ride, come along with us! And be sure to check out Fraudster’s Almanac’s irreverent musings on video games, books, beer, travel and more at their site!

Next, I’ll be participating in the Bi Arts Festival’s CRUSH zine launch party! It’s Tuesday, September 18 at Glad Day Bookshop from 7:30-9:30. I’ll be reading some poems, alongside other talented bi+-identifying individuals. You’ll also be able to purchase copy of the second edition of the Bi Arts Festival’s CRUSH zine before anyone else at this event!

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Finally, I’ve been taking part in a storytelling workshop over the past few weeks, courtesy of the Bi Arts Festival, and will be performing my piece in front of an audience (oh god!). This event happens Wednesday, September 19 7-8:30pm at the Palmerston Library Theatre.

You’ll also find me volunteering at a few events for the fest!

Come out if you can!

Writing happens when I don't know it does

Hey y'all,

Just a little Friday night blog while I nurse a Pamplemousse and stream some Hayley Kiyoko!

For the last half of 2017, I had a complete burst of creativity and a passion for writing I'd never thought I'd have in me again. Hell, I was writing at least 1,000 words or more every day in November!

I wrote down my goals for the year in early January, as one does. I've accomplished some - putting together the Tens of People zine, completing my Short Story II class, and I've learned to cook and bake quite a few new dishes! And some are works in progresses, still. One of the goals was to at least write something every day. That didn't happen.

And I was cool with it. I have less poems and short stories than I thought I would four months into 2018. But after watching a delightful domestic thriller/action movie from the early aughts starring one Jennifer Lopez, I realized I have been writing without knowing it. 

I joined Letterboxd in late 2017. A lot of my online friends with like-minded tastes and pop culture savviness were into it, so I signed up for an account. It's a much more reliable system of knowing what movies I'll probably like than, say, The Tomatometer which has too many problems to get into. I thought it would be fun to document every movie I've seen in 2018 there.

I watch a lot of movies, and my taste ranges from classics to camp classics, teen romances to foreign arthouses, dark comedies to social sci-fis, and, as my Netflix account can attest to "Movies Featuring a Strong Female Lead," anything LGBTQ+ and anything with Riley Keough in it. I don't do quests, wizards or wars (on earth or in the stars).

So, I've reviewed over fifty movies already this year thanks to Letterboxd. I don't consider myself a great critic, but I know what I like. Sometimes the review is just a three-word quip, sometimes a quick couple of paragraphs, but either way, I've written something! It's so low-pressure that I didn't even realize that this counted as writing!

Anyway, feel free to follow me on Letterboxd if you like!

 

Two new zine contributions

Hey y'all!

I was invited to contribute to Fag Presses' two debut zines, Boiled Gatorade and The Over-Thinker!

Boiled Gatorade features queer comedy and I wrote a poem about Antoni Porowski for it.

The Over-Thinker features queer poetry and I wrote a poem about the film Carol for it.

You can order both zines here. Paper copies are only available for delivery to US addresses, but you can get a more environmentally friendly PDF version worldwide.

 

Tens of People zine available now!!!

Hey, y'all!

So I've been working on this project for awhile and now it's all up and ready to go and available for purchase!

One of my favorite podcasts is Who Weekly - A podcast about everything you need to know about the celebrities you don't. There are numerous Facebook groups dedicated to it and we've become a legit community. Lots of media types, writers and everyday folks who love pop culture have become my fast internet friends over the past year and a half.

With so many talented Wholigans (as we call ourselves), I thought it'd be cool to solicit creative writing and art and publish them in a zine. And now it's here! I've got two poems in it. :)

Tens of People - A Lifestyle Change Zine is available to order now for $9 USD

To order your copy, email tensofpeoplezine@gmail.com

New Stuff!

Hey y'all!

I started another writing class last week and so far it's going great! I actually brought in my latest essay to get some help with structure and was glad I did it.

Check out my post about how Bell's "Let's Talk" campaign rubs me the wrong way as a person living with mental illness here! Share with your friends!

Rejection Lessons

For my first blog post of 2018, I wanted to share my latest writing milestone - I got my first rejection letter.

I knew this would be one of the hardest parts about putting myself out there in the literary world, but I took it in stride. Lessons learned are:

- really get to know the publication you're submitting to to see if it's a right fit for your writing

- keep on editing to perfection... if you're at a point where you're sick of the piece because you've edited it so much, take a break from that one and come back to it

- just because it's not a right fit for the publication who rejected you doesn't mean it won't be right someplace else

- a rejection means someone took the time to read it!

I feel strong for submitting the piece. I feel good that it was actually read by somebody at a publication. I want to make the piece better and try to find its rightful place. I believe in the story, and I've worked so hard to believe in myself that it's finally paying off!