Guest Post at The Insatiable Critic

Liz, who is one of my favorite people on the entire planet because she’s another fashionable lunatic like me, invited me to write for her awesome blog The Insatiable Critic.  This prospect terrified me, because I’ve seen four movies this year and two of them were Muppets Most Wanted (I fucking loved Muppets Most Wanted) and I got thinking I had to be all smart and cool and not just YEAH PUPPETS ARE FUN.

So when she agreed to let me ramble about Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, I jumped at the prospect of judging a movie I haven’t seen and will do so only out of gun-point nostalgia, and also because Mike said we could see it at the drive in and I will see anything at the drive-in (including You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, Godzilla, War of the Worlds and Fast & Furious 6). Having opinions is something I’m very good at, and Liz is pretty damn generous for letting me voice them on her nice website.

(I also recommend you go over there because there’s a picture of 22 year old me in a black corset and fishnets with Bettie Page bangs.  I was pretty smokin’.)

But after you’re done reading that, I recommend you go to your local comic book shop and buy The Goon and then read that instead of wasting your brain cells seeing Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.   I’ll take this one for the team.

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Partners

goon_damesI’m kind of obsessed with Eric Powell’s The Goon these days — Ian got back into it and I got tired of hearing him snicker from the couch and not being in on the joke, sort of how he felt when I was reading Hyperbole and a Half and got laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe or explain why I was laughing.  The Goon hits all the right notes for me; neo-noir, paranormal, voodoo and old-skool zombies, violence and humor and hyper-stylized, Depression-era settings.  Plus I have a weird little crush on Franky that I can’t quite explain.

…But I just finished reading Chinatown and Holy Cats, I haven’t read a comic that awesome since The Hard Goodbye (also: I don’t read comics very often).  I actually cried at the end, when Franky’s sitting there at The Goon’s hospital bed after taking page after page of beatings while The Goon is out kicking it with Isabella.  It hit home, in a strange way.

Most people want to be the hero of their own stories.  Me, I tend to be the Sam_&_Maxsidekick because I’m high strung and excitable and I generally need someone to keep me leveled out.   I’m the Max to Ian’s Sam, the Shane Vendrell to Matthew’s Vic Mackey.  I’m good in a fight and quick with a quip, I’m smart and I think fast and I’m good on my feet.   Great skills to have as a reporter, good skills to have when you’re trying to say, gaslight someone and weedle your way into their empire.  The downside, especially with someone like Matthew, is that damn it, sometimes you need to go in with shotguns blasting and not take so damn long to put all the chess pieces in place.

The problem with being a sidekick, however, is that sometimes, well, you get pushed off to the side.  I once got left the edge of a dance floor because Matthew got wrapped up in talking to a girl he didn’t even like, a girl we called The Jawa.

And that’s where Chinatown hit so damn hard for me.  Because when you’ve got male friends, sometimes dames get in the way.  Sometimes those dames are great, like my friend Bridget, who married my friend Eeon.  Sometimes those dames are no good, and the worst part about a no-good dame is that no one wants to hear their dame is no good.  And when you’re a dame yourself, they’ve always got that “you’re just jealous” card to play.  And sometimes I was jealous, because I was young and stupid.   But I’ve lost more than one friendship over no-good dames, and though I’ve manage to recover all of them, there were a lotta years of heartbreak in between.

So when The Goon’s mummy’d up in bandages and Franky sits down by his bedside and says “Dames come and go, but pals stick together,” I just started bawling.  Like, mascara-down-the-cheeks kinda crying.  Partially because the characters feel so real, not just bullshit neo-noir stock types like every Sin City comic after The Hard Goodbye, but mostly because it reminded me of all the times I stupidly let a dame — or anything, really — get in between me and a friend.

 

Sad Songs (Say So Much)

Jason and I are doing this MixCD thing pretty hard.  It’s a language we always spoke, a means of communicating what neither of us were very good at saying aloud.  In the two months since we’ve been back in touch, we’ve made a total of seven albums, (four from me, three from him).  It’s a tad obsessive.

But just because we didn’t speak for seven years didn’t mean that there weren’t songs that didn’t remind me of him that whole time;  The Killers “Miss Atomic Bomb” and The Smiths “Rubber Ring” and The Cure’s “Cut Here” that made this Cold War almost slightly bearable.  Because that’s what I do, that’s how I process emotion.  Elton John was onto something when he sang “If someone else is suffering enough to write it down/When every single word makes sense’Then it’s easier to have those songs around”

But now Jason and I are back to being cool, there’s just one teensy little problem: What do I do with all these sad songs?

Any mix-tape enthusiast knows that you can’t just pretend a song doesn’t remind you of someone anymore.  It’s not an emotional connection you can just flip on and off.  After seven years of playing Go West’s “King of Wishful Thinking” and crying whenever I got nostalgic, I wasn’t going to not be able to think of him when I heard it.  I don’t have any emotional use for these songs anymore,  but they’re too good to just lock away.  And I certainly can’t give them to him; we’re past the stage of past sorrows and regrets.

Ultimately, I gave him a few of my broken-hearted tunes as a way of illustrating “This is how much it sucked when you were gone.”  I let Morrissey sing my apology on “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and Tom Waits lament “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart.”  I let Warren Zevon beg him back with “Reconsider Me” and, luckily, he did just that.  And in time, I’m sure his memory will fall away from Nick Cave’s “Nobody’s Baby Now” and Stroke 9’s “Letters.”

But until then, well, sad songs say so much.

 

The Authentic Self

Self Portrait

I’m just shy of 23 in this self-portrait, taken in early 2007 in the bathroom mirror of a $350/a month firetrap Binghamton apartment with windows that barely opened and a radiator on the ceiling.

It’s my favorite photo of me; one of the few photos I feel that really captures my full self.  I look defiant yet vulnerable, tender and tough, all the things that I was at that miserable and glorious age, when the world still seemed new and I was still foolish enough to believe that it was all just waiting for me to come grab.

I’ve spent the last few months trying to write and be beautiful and fancy, with my leather journal (a souvenir of Jason’s trip to Italy, sent back for my 22nd birthday) filled with cutouts and illuminations and pages written sideways in a desperate attempt to channel something beautiful and romantic, to attach pretty words to the depth I felt inside…but all that came out was empty prose that had no meaning, just lightweight words that sounded good, I guess, but lacked the gravitas I needed to carry, you know, a story.

But this photo, this Libby, this is the self I want to write from.  My authentic self, the self that isn’t afraid to be a little fragile at times.  Sincere.  This is not a polished pin-up, this is the raw me, with my hair a little messy and my shirt a little too big and no makeup, nothing “put on.”  When I took this picture, I was really finding my footing as a writer, but more importantly, I was writing from my gut.  I was writing what I wanted to read and not worrying about anything but getting those words on the page.  The rest, I trusted, would fall into place.

I keep this photo above my desk to remind me to write from that same place.  To remind myself not to worry about languid, lovely prose or journals that people will pour over when I’m dead.  No more pretending I’m fancy.

Just write. I need to tell myself.  Find that place and just write…