the long ships (frans g. bengtsson)*
CHALLENGER: neon angel: a memoir of a runaway (cherie currie with tony o'neill)

bookstore browsers (those still exist where you are, right? bookstores, i mean) could be forgiven for being a little fuzzy on the connection between neon angel, cherie currie's memoir, and floria sigismondi's the runaways (the 2010 biopic starring dakota fanning as cherie and kristen stewart as joan jett). as far as i can tell, neon angel was first published in 1989 as nonfiction for young adults; currie rewrote it (with a different cowriter) in 2002 to "tell the stories [she] couldn't tell in [her] young-adult book" and "bring it up to the present." the updated story was optioned as a film, and...then purchased and published, also in 2010? nuts and bolts aren't currie's strong suit, though she still tells a good story.** let's move on to that.

currie had the kind of relationship i wish i'd had with david bowie; she hit her teen years in the san fernando valley in the seventies, and her formative show at the universal ampitheatre in LA, the lucky little thing, was bowie on his diamond dogs tour (mine, in turn, was the cure on the swing tour***). echoes of her musical adolescence seeped into mine via the local FM stations; rodney bingenheimer, he of the storied english disco, was on KROQ as of 1976 and kept at it straight through my radio years. along with the sugar shack, that disco was ground zero for underage glam-rock kids like cherie and her twin sister marie, who'd duck out of the house looking like the wakefield twins and slither into platforms and body glitter in a gas station bathroom (fellow survivors of southern californian gas station bathrooms, i salute you). after one such reverse-molt, they met record producer (and allegedly epic creepster) kim fowley and joan jett; marie wasn't interested in their girl-band pitch, but cherie was all ears, and she was soon a runaway (fowley and joan jett wrote "cherry bomb" at cherie's audition; she'd arrived ready to sing suzi quatro's tragically unsuitable "fever" cover, so they dashed off a new song to give her material). rock and bitchiness—two of my favorite things—ensued.

On Lita Ford: "Every so often she would make bitchy comments about how skinny I was, and it was obvious this was because she was starting to have some weight issues of her own. Weight issues as in she was getting a fat ass. When you live on a diet of cheeseburgers and beer, keeping in shape ain't easy. That's why I'd only eat fish and vegetables—that drove Lita fucking nuts."

On Etiquette: "After [Cheap Trick] finished their set, Kim grabbed me—literally right as I was about to walk onstage—and said, "Someone wants to say hello!" I thought maybe it was my family—Kim had insisted that we couldn't see our families until after the show, though.
  "Oh, yeah?" I said, and turned, only to find myself face-to-face with Rod Stewart.**** What do you say when you are confronted with a bona fide legend in the music industry? I just smiled and said, "Nice to meet you, Rod." It didn't end there. Marie and I ended up snorting coke with him and Ronnie Wood at Rod's mansion following the after-party. Talk about life in the fast lane! Rod was as drunk as a skunk, and actually started crying when I pulled out the coke.
  "Oh my God!" he said, with tears in his eyes. "Nobody EVER gives me blow! I'm always the one expected to have it! You're so kind! Thank you..."

On CBGB: "[T]he audience was a mixture of bums and art-school freaks, a show that landed us an article in People magazine. I remember we played alongside Television (who played very long guitar solos) and Talking Heads (who had a female bass player, and a really weird, pale, and sweaty lead singer). "You girls should stay out of the bathroom," [a roadie] had warned us. "I've been in there, and it ain't pretty."*****

as someone who deals with ladies and stories and lawyers all the time, it fascinates me that currie is able to tell her story as she does. she opens by noting that "all incidents and dialogue are to the best of the author's recollection and knowledge," and that "[s]ome identities were changed to protect the innocent, and in some cases, regrettably, the not so innocent," which...would keep me awake at night, were i her editor. were the seventies so sketchy that one can just whip out sex, drugs, and rock and roll anecdotes with relative impunity? (i'm familiar with the customary answer, but currie's "adult" anecdotes involve rape and kidnapping; i'd love to know which identities were obscured). opportunities for accusations of libel aside, though, what sticks with me about her narrative is the ultra-mundane stuff: she opens with earnest, thoughtful tales of that mind-blowing bowie concert, her parents' separation, and the evolution of her self-confidence. i read keith richards's life in the months between my first and second passes through neon angel, and in all seriousness—particularly for those of us who will never need to master the intricacies of open G tuning—currie's is the more enjoyable book. she's more active in the way she talks about her former bandmates, even as she criticizes them; she takes the time to recreate the events of her life instead of indicating points of interest like a bored tour guide. david mitchell she ain't, but i like cherie currie; i believe she gives a shit.

VICTOR: the long ships; both tales were harrowing (and currie's boasts an amusingly ambivalent foreword by joan jett), but one must write like a viking to best vikings.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 would you be pleased or dismayed to find your "sorry i haven't posted" blog entry on cory arcangel's blog (which consists entirely of them)?
02 when was the last time you were in a bookstore? which one was it?
03 what was the formative show of your teens?
04 what would you do with CBGB's bathroom door?
05 why do you think cherie's sandy west memorial chainsaw sculpture [runaways drummer sandy west died of lung cancer in 2006] was of a mermaid playing guitar instead of a mermaid playing the drums?
06 if you've read keith richards's life, did it improve or lessen your opinion of ol' keef?
07 if you're a fan of groups which are mostly ladies, which is your favorite?

*previous battle here.

**which i have now read twice; i'm so far behind on THUNDERTOME at this point that my poor old memory, never a finely-oiled machine, needs a kick here and there. sad.

***i'd begged my mom to let me see bowie and nine inch nails at the forum the previous fall, but i got nowhere. man was she smug afterward when rumors started circulating about stabbings in the mosh pit.

****i passed rod stewart in a crosswalk on eighth avenue yesterday afternoon. he was eating a granola bar, placid as the buddha.

*****one of my fellow editors here at the ladymag grew up in the city and met her husband at CBGB; when it was gutted and became a john varvatos boutique a few years ago, someone saved the bathroom door and gave it to her.


[The balloonist John] Wise had made roughly four hundred flights "and had had all manner of thrilling adventures," [the Swedish aeronaut S.A.] Andrée wrote. "He had flown with [balloons] in sunshine, rain, snow, thunder showers and hurricanes. He had been stuck on chimneys, smoke stacks, lightning rods and church spires, and he had been dragged through rivers, lakes, and over garden plots and forests primeval. His balloons had whirled like tops, caught fire, exploded and fallen to the ground like stones. The old man himself, however, had always escaped unhurt and counted his experiences as proof of how safe the art of flying really was.

"In order to convince a few fellow citizens who had been inconsiderate enough to doubt his thesis, Mr. Wise once made an ascent in Philadelphia, and while in mid-air he deliberately exploded his balloon. Then using the remains of the bag as a parachute he landed right in the midst of the doubters. What effect this had on them I do not know, but the old man himself felt better."


Not long after that Andrée fell sick with an intestinal complaint that he believed was caused by drinking ice water, but may have been from his living mostly on cake, candy, and ice cream, according to his journals. Having stayed five months in Philadelphia, he went back to Sweden.

(alec wilkinson, from the ice balloon: s.a. andrée and the heroic age of arctic exploration)


conversations with dr. omnibus {omnibus syllabus edition}

doc: you need to get away from what's in your head.
LMO: what does that mean?
doc: you need to take action.
LMO: i'm not hamlet.
doc: i don't think i ever had to read that.


when our little cat died in front of us a few summers ago, joe and i spent the afternoon dazed and drifting around the city, beaching ourselves at meaningless corners and patches of grass like sea creatures with inner-ear damage. you're married, i thought, when you hold something down together and you kill it. months after that, when our friend judd called to tell us we would be allowed at last to buy our apartment and i cried with relief at my desk, you're married, i thought, when you turn yourselves inside out for your home.

our dear friends lesley and cody were married at a storied old chorizo factory in the village last month. the building's core had been reimagined as an atrium, and light from the glass roof filtered all the way down to where they stood together on the first floor. we gathered with the other guests at the rails of the great staircase-whorls above them, the steps and landings following the walls like the chambers of a nautilus. loving cody, lesley explained to him, was something she couldn't not do; it was breathing. you're married, i thought.

i don't know that my relationship - or any relationship - is especially instructive; each pair is its own species, i think, and things we find toxic are quite nourishing for others (and vice versa, i'm sure). i do know that the thirteen shitty, wondrous, improbable years since joe and i met in a garden in oxford have been the best of my life, and that as i married him - six years ago today - i became myself. that's all.


it's the last of my summer fridays out of the office, and i've done my best to make the most of my freedom: thus far i've made dioramas with the cats, grumbled out four miles on the treadmill, spray painted a wristwatch, and eaten three quarters of a peach. (make that a whole peach.) in the tub just now it occurred to me that it's been a terribly long time since i've presented you with a frustrating game (a la mystery train); here's a new one, inspired by naurnie's talk of "all i want is you" and reality bites,* as well as douglas's bangles tweet.

below is a re-soundtracked film; i've replaced songs from the original playlist with songs which recall them (in lyrics, tone, or both). a few hints: the film does not feature julie andrews, nathan lane, or paul ryan, all of its music is original and performed by its characters, and the songs are listed in the order in which they're performed. (make that two peaches.)

mystery film I

girl, you'll be a woman soon - urge overkill
magic - the cars
tear off your own head (it's a doll revolution) - the bangles
nothing matters when we're dancing - the magnetic fields
with or without you - u2
under my thumb - the rolling stones

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 pray, can you guess the mystery film?
02 is that peter dinklage at the beginning of the "all i want is you" video?
03 reality bites v. singles: which had the better soundtrack?
04 fellow working stiffs, does your workplace observe summer fridays?

*ethan hawke, don't call me.


it was our excellent friend judd's birthday last weekend. he loves prince almost as much as i love candy, so i made him an artist-formerly-known-as piñata (on his 35th birthday, you see, prince announced that he was O(-+> henceforth); i filled it with peanut butter candy, purple-wrapped kisses, and tiny purple glow sticks, as one does.

birthday piñata: it begins

piñata part two

piñata the third

piñata the fourth

piñata 5 (the striped menace)

prince piñata: fin

i won't deny that tactical errors were made: i taped up the piñata's recycled-cardboard endoskeleton with such gusto, for example, that (like keith richards or blitzhund the deathless) it could not be killed by conventional means. judd owns a hacksaw, so i figure he can access his peanut butter and glow sticks if his need for them grows keen. truth be told, i never really thought the piñata would meet its end at the party; maintaining possession of one's bat is a key tenet of bartending, no? i also neglected to source fringed crepe paper or fringe scissors, so i burned a few hours listening to the olympics (grunty!) and making it the old-fashioned way. i also also neglected to consider the possibility of steve developing a crepe fetish. readers, i overcame all of those piñata tribulations; fuck yeah, time-intensive homemade presents.