Saturday, April 29, 2006

Time Travelling with Granny

A living doll, everywhere you look.
It can sew, it can cook,
It can talk, talk, talk. . . .
My boy, it's your last resort.
Will you marry it, marry it, marry it.
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) "The Applicant" (1963)

My grandmother Margaret is in her 90s. She lives in Strawberry Point, Iowa in the dementia ward of the Lutheran Home. Outside her window you can see the church steeple and she keeps an avid eye on the comings and goings in the parking lot. She is not so much demented as she no longer resides in this particular reality. Time has lost all meaning for her and she floats back and forth between the present and the past, stopping longest in her childhood with her parents. I find it interesting to imagine what time period I will choose if I make it that far? What was the best time of my life? The time I will want to relive over and over again once the present is meaningless to me and I am rootless and floating about?

Tell me the tales that to me were so dear, Long, long ago, long, long ago.
Thomas Haynes Bayly, Long, Long Ago

Speaking of a rootlessness, there was a period in my life when I was living in California and I went out of my way to call, write and visit my grandmother. This was partially because she is the only living grandparent I have left and also because I never really knew her very well and the clock is ticking. In fact, I never knew any of my grandparents very well and she is my last chance. She tolerated my calls and visits with good humor. She has become mellow and jolly in her old age and would sometimes ask who I was and why I was there but she is used to people coming and going around her. I began to look forward to our talks. She is pessimistic beyond belief and she seems to take pleasure in disaster. I teased her about her doomsday mentality and she didn't seem to mind.

What peaceful hours I once enjoy'd! How sweet their memory still! But they have left an aching void The world can never fill.
William Cowper, Walking with God

I always figured that my grandmother could have been an artist if she had been brought up in a different environment. The only proof that I have of her artistic inclination and talents are the many beautifully composed black and white photographs that she took over the years and her colorful, lively gardens. Because her family were Swiss immigrants who moved to the wilds of Iowa to farm the land, granny grew up in the middle of nowhere with no houses for miles around. As you will see in the following video, she actually did walk two miles to her one room schoolhouse in the snow every day (that ain't no myth!). She fed the animals, did her chores, sewed her hankies and quilts and married a Swiss man that also came from her small village of Bleienbach, Switzerland (my family is still there today!). They settled in Strawberry Point and grandpa opened his own mechanics shop. Granny did all the baking, sewing, gardening and housework and she never learned how to drive.

The problem that has no name - which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities - is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease.
Betty Friedan (1921-2006) The Feminine Mystique (1963)

It is hard to imagine what her life would have been like had she had more options. In some ways, I think I have too many options and that is why marriage and kids never seemed so pressing. But I know I would have gone mad living within the boundaries of my grandmother's rigid life. And I think she did go a little mad after she had her one and only child, my dad. It is always fun for me to consider what her life might have been like had she learned how to drive, made some city friends, left the house on occasion, worn pants and moved to the big city to get a job as a photographer for a daily paper! ?

I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well. - Diane Ackerman (1948-present) quoted in Newsweek, September 22, 1986

This is not in any way to disparage the life she ended up leading, but I think it would have been nice for her to have more options and I am glad that I, at least, have some choices in the matter of my life's course. Her life was plotted out for her from a young age. She never even went to high school. And now she has returned to her happiest time, that of a carefree child before adulthood hung its heavy weight upon her shoulders and the burdens of marriage, motherhood and life shut her up in her home for most of her adult life. She seems happy now, light hearted and carefree. She chats about her mother's 200 African violets and the difficulties of getting past a nasty rooster. Ninety years melt away and we are 7 yrs old and walking up the gravel road to get to her house and feed the cows. The mischievious spark that was in her eye in her childhood photos has returned. Perhaps that is all we can ask for in the end.

The history of all times, and of today especially, teaches that ... women will be forgotten if they forget to think about themselves. - Louise Otto

Here is a cheesy music video I did for my grandparents to Irene Cara's "Out Here on My Own" in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. My grandfather shot all of the super 8 and 16mm footage. He had an adventurous streak (which was slightly tempered by marriage, much to his chagrin) and he used to ride motorcycles, climb mountains and fly his Cessna airplane regularly. But I will save his story for another time.

Memories are all we really own. - Elias Lieberman

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Phantom and His Glam Boy Posse

I don't believe in dressing up reality. I don't believe in using makeup to make things look smoother.
Lou Reed
Well, I am still stuck on Lou Reed. Here is a little montage I did for The Deadbeat Club a year or so ago back when we were still doing the hot Babes of the Month segments (BOTMs if you will). This month was "Glam Rockers" although i know we were stretching the term a wee bit with Tom Waits (he is a glamerous lounge lizard!), Prince (again, glamerous wearer of heels and jewels) and Sting (glamerous white hair and hot body!). But David Bowie and Lou Reed definitely fit the glam rock bill to a high heeled "T" and some might say that they define the entire darn movement!
In the late '70s I started to search for the perfect sound - whatever that might be, before that I was mainly interested in drugs, insanity and the rock'n'roll lifestyle. Lou Reed
This sizzlin' montage is set to Bowie's "Rebel Rebel." There have been various times in my life when I can't get this infectious song out of my puny head and I walk around yelling, "Hot tramp, i love you so!" Perhaps it is my affinity for bad skin (if that is what "your face is a mess" means?), and men in tight pants, crazy color combos, high heels and make-up? These suave fellows are not afraid of their sexuality, they walk the boundary lines with daring aplumb!

Fresh from Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, David Bowie successfully mixed rock songs with theater, androgyny and glitter, and RCA was happy to give their fast fading star over to him for recording Transformer (RCA, 1972). For his part, Lou Reed was a willing participant in a make over which transformed him from an austere street poet into the Glam star dubbed "The Phantom of Rock" by his label. Angela Bowie described the new Lou Reed as "wearing heavy mascara and jet black lipstick with matching nail polish, plus a tight little Errol-Flynn-as-Robin Hood body shirt."
That's Mr. Reed To You—The Uncle Lou Story
By Richard Abowitz

David Bowie has said that Lou Reed brought legitimacy and a certain NYC grittiness to the glam rock scene which was in danger of exploding from all the poofy feather boas no doubt. I can see this being the case but it still stuns me a little bit to see an emaciated Lou all dolled up in lipstick. It is such a departure from his current thicker, leather jacket-wearing, tough-man-look. In fact, out of these five rather glamerous rockers - Bowie, Reed, Sting, Prince and Waits - only dear old Prince is still out there sexing it up in tight pants and high heels (that could be due to a height insecurity though). The rest have gotten older, thicker and more manly with time. Perhaps blurring gender boundaries became harder as the years passed by. Ah well, we will always have our memories and this hot, hot, hot montage! So get out your chocolates ladies, these glam rockers are glitzed out for your pleasure!

That's why I survived because I still believe I've got something to say. Lou Reed
Oh, and here is an interesting bit I found on youtube the other day. It is a very odd remix of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" using a zillion diverse artists like Bowie, Bono, Shane McGowan (toothless!! love it!!), Emmy Lou Harris, Elton John, and a bunch of opera singers to sing each of the lines of the song. Oddly enough, they each retain the somber mood of the song and no one gets all happy and dopey with it (maybe Hilary Duff might have had she been included) but nonetheless, the mix is disjointed and strange. It's like listening to your favorite song through a tin can attached to a string that is connected to your stereo across the street over 2 lanes of traffic and pedestrians gabbing. It just sounds well...wrong. I am glad Lou Reed and the song are getting their props, Lou certainly deserves them. And it is sweet that his wife, Laurie Anderson (how cool is it that they are married? like a perfect rock/experimental music merging!) sings the last line. But this remix is, well, it is a watered down bastard child. And did I mention the creepy clarinet solo? Blech. You be the judge:

Lou Reed in Dark Water

After a perfectly lovely dinner complete with beer battered fish, mango salsa, coconut rice, topped off avec swampy cocktails, Tanner and I watched the Japanese version of Dark Water last night. The film's dark yellow, jaundiced colors and ominous tone create a uniquely somber mood. It rains constantly throughout the movie and you can almost feel the humidity seeping out of the television and coating your skin. The apartment building the mother and daughter move in to is dilapidated and dank, reminiscent of anonymous Communist Block housing. Like most Japanese horror films, Dark Water takes its time to get to the scary stuff. It creates an intense mood that sticks you to your seat and then it proceeds to weave this magical web around you and, before you know it, you are deep into its clutches and there is no turning back.

Without giving away the ending, I can say that it is really, terribly sad. It hit me in some deep, dark, water logged, secret place where the lonely roar seems almost deafening. It makes you want to hug your mother really hard until she tells you to quit it because you are a 32 yr old grown-up and you can't sob like a little baby anymore. Like the single mother in the film, our single mom has always loved us so very, very much. As the mother in the movie says to her little girl, "I think everything will be ok as long as you are with me."

Oddly enough, this film reminds me of a song we were listening to last night on Tanner's ipod: Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" off his Transformer album. Like Dark Water, "Perfect Day" is dark, dank and bittersweet. It is seeped through and through with loneliness, angst and suffering. But I always thought that made it an even more intense love song. Love and sadness are so closely intertwined, right? To me, that song was Lou Reed saying to the world, "Yes, life sucks the big one. You come into the world alone, spend most of your time here in pain getting knocked about and then you die alone...but, the big BUT, there are those little brief bursts of sunshine that make the madness bearable. Drinking sangria in the park, going home when it gets dark, dancing to slow songs in the kitchen, watching a movie and cuddling on the couch, drinking swampy juice, getting your hair brushed and even arguing about a sad song - all of these little bits and pieces make life worth every penny.

Tanner didn't agree that "Perfect Day" is a love song. He thought Reed was being sarcastic. Lou is pissed at this girl that keeps him hanging on when he wants to let go. Bitter, yes, but sarcastic...? I don't get that. Call me dippy if you will but Reed sounds so darn genuine. Or maybe that is just the soaring melodies that make it feel real to me...? What a sucker I am, eh?

The one thing we agreed on is that these perfect days, as nice as they may be for a momentary distraction, don't change the big picture. You still wake up the next day facing the same demons and sinking in the same dark water. But I think ultimately, it is like Reed's last refrain, "You're going to reap just what you sow" which says it all. It is your choice to reap something nasty and dank or something fresh and vital. You choose the path your life is going to take (unless you find yourself stuck in a Japanese horror film!!). And if that path can involve a homecooked meal, green cocktails, ciggies on the porch, spirited arguments and snuggles with the most special, wonderful and amazingly sarcastic boy ever, then bring it on. I mean, how many people can make you forget yourself so that you think you are someone else, someone good? That is one helluvah perfect evening. Sing it Lou...

Lou Reed
Transformer (1972)
Perfect Day

Just a perfect day,
Drink Sangria in the park,
And then later, when it gets dark,
We go home.
Just a perfect day,
Feed animals in the zoo
Then later, a movie, too,
And then home.

Oh it's such a perfect day,
I'm glad I spent it with you.
Oh such a perfect day,
You just keep me hanging on,
You just keep me hanging on.

Just a perfect day,
Problems all left alone,
Weekenders on our own.
It's such fun.
Just a perfect day,
You made me forget myself.
I thought I was someone else,
Someone good.

Oh it's such a perfect day,
I'm glad I spent it with you.
Oh such a perfect day,
You just keep me hanging on,
You just keep me hanging on.

You're going to reap just what you sow,
You're going to reap just what you sow,
You're going to reap just what you sow,
You're going to reap just what you sow...

PS Me and Lou Reed both got the golf ball eye disease!!!!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

She Hangs Brightly

Today was one of those perfect dark days. The kind that make you want to curl up underneath a cat blanket with a dusty old book, a crackling fire and a pot of strong tea. I've been listening to this old tape of Mazzy Star's "She Hangs Brightly" in my car recently. It goes perfectly with this weather, my mood and the sky. The clouds have been trippy of late. Thick and rich, black and blue and multi-layered. It is hard for me to tear my eyes off of them to avoid ramming my car into people. Driving down Main Street toward the water at sunset was almost too perfect. The hard, black water sparkling in the distance and the sun bursting yellowish light through the black clouds in powerful shafts.

This Mazzy Star tape brings me back, way back to 1992-ish. It is funny how music can bring memories to life in a way that even smells or photos can't. I was 19 yrs old and at school in Norwich, England for a semester abroad. I spent my first month horribly lonely. I couldn't connect with the blase, fake-as-hell American bimbos or the redneck, pint guzzling Brit boys that populated my hall. It didn't make sense!? As one of the Brits pointed out while examining my music collection (a white boy named Miles Davis!!?), "All your music is British!"

It was true, I had been an Anglophile most of my life! I loved Brit music, literature, cinema, tea and the funny way they talked! My British accent was close to perfect, what was the problem? I was beginning to wonder if I could ever fit in, ever again. I spent so much time alone that I was beginning to lose my mind.

"Now how exactly does one speak out loud to other people?" I would ask myself. My only conversations were with people working in chip shops, newspaper stands and pubs. I spent hours upon hours alone in my room reading Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, wandering the city aimlessly, and drinking tea out of little plastic cups for 40 p.

My luck changed when I met Gabi, an Irish girl who had already graduated. She hooked me up with her clique of activist friends and got me a job scooping gourmet ice cream out of a little cart on a cobblestone street for 3 pounds an hour. Gabi was gay and most of her friends were too. We went to the only gay club in town and danced, drank, smoked rolled up ciggies and laughed our arses off. Then we'd eat tea and crumpets in the morning and I would tumble off to classes. Some girl with a large tattoo decorating her belly made me this tape of Mazzy Star. I listened to it constantly for months and took it on my trip to Ireland. This music will forever be entwined with the stark green Irish coastline and the bumpy bus ride that took us from Dublin to the coastal villages.

When I left England, I vowed to come back and live there very soon. 10 plus years later and I never set foot back in the country again, not even once. Even when I was in Switzerland visiting family. England, Gabi, Norwich, Reynaldo's Gourmet Ice Cream, and that lonely month at the University of East Anglia are wrapped up tightly in this old cassette tape like the newspaper surrounding my favorite meal of fish and chips. And it amazes me how popping a dusty old tape into my car stereo can bring all of it flooding back...just like that...

Monday, April 24, 2006

YouTube Bug-Eyed Fugly Frigid Man Troll

A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal. -Oscar Wilde

I have been having an odd experience at youtube. At first, it was all fun and games. Tanner got me started and within a couple of days of posting my first videos (mainly bits and pieces from The Deadbeat Club), Scott Westerfeld, one of the authors whose books we reviewed, (read "Pretties" and "Uglies" for some scary, futuristic fun) had watched our video review and plugged us on his blog. C'est magnifique! Thus began my love affair with youtube and up went a ton more DBC segments.

As is the way of the internet, next came the "haters", the "flamers," and the "missing a sense of humor-ers" and I began to wonder about the glories of youtube. The comments became cruel and personal and they seemed to be centered around the Britney Spears and Green Day segments. I was skewered for being a "bug-eyed, frigid man troll crack whore" (not necessarily in that order) and other such lovely descriptive terms. For example:

eew what an ugly narrating bitch, where does that thing get off dissing other people?! seriously with that bright red lipstick and big bug eyes make her look like sum crazy crack whore! and whats with the cheap lesbian video too? who cares if brit hasnt lost the weight shes still a great person so fuck off ugly crazy bitch!

Thanks btd456! At first, I tried to exlain myself to these little beasties:

"Now look here you kids, I like Britney Spears music! Like Spears, I myself have zits AND a double chin! I am lampooning her in the spirit of irony and comedy. I mean, don't you little turds watch Talk Soup? Do you see any colors besides black and white? Does grey even exist in your world? Why must you take everything so bloody literally?? And more importantly, learn how to spell you miscreants!!"

It was pointless, the hate mail continued and I stopped responding. The rabid Green Day fans were insulted by my tale about Billie Joe and his drunken temper tantrum. Again, I couldn't understand why this story would make them so angry? I mean, Billie Joe is an authentic punk rocker who throws temper tantrums and cusses out bar maids! That is rock star glory for you! He should be applauded and adored for his naughty behavior! He is the real deal kiddies! But no, instead all the teens ripped into me for making up lies about their perfect little saint of a punk rock star. Again, it doesn't bother me that they don't believe me, but why are they so humorless!? I have favorite celebs and what not too. But if someone made fun of Ewan McGregor (my dreamy favorite celeb), I wouldn't attack them personally for it. For example:

i just watched this video for a second time and it made me even more pissed. u can tell that this is fake. Billie Joe is the nicest person in the WORLD!! and he is not like that. he would never do that. and its funny u should say that u like Green Day bc it doesnt say u do on ur profile.

Thanks BillieJoeRox! And even better still:


Thanks kerplunkedpunk! Again, this is the glory of the internet - random, anonymous attacks on a spiteful, personal level. What fun! And when a teenage girl told me to suck a guy's cock because I was so annoying, well, I wondered why the hell I was bothering to post the videos at all....or live in this country, world or solar system for that matter. Jeez. Quel bore.

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. - Oscar Wilde

Listen to me, where has MY sense of humor gone? I mustn't be like these sour puss 13 yr olds who hate any shades of grey and humor beyond the potty variety (which I enjoy as well). My love affair with youtube was brief but I still get occasional kicks from it. Like my new youtube pal in So Cal and some nice emails from people in other countries who enjoy the show (!!??). That is all good. But it is always a terror to open up my emails and see who has ripped me to shreds each day. For example:


Thanks XxAlexanderGordonxX !

These sort of lovely comments give me pause when I read my emails. I think to myself:

"Hmmm...I wonder if "billiejoeisgod" will have something pleasant to say. Oooh, it looks like, not. And what about "britneyluver2006". Ouch, no, that is making my skin ache....ouch. Is my head really shaped like an eggplant?"

Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow. -Oscar Wilde

All this, and I am not even a popular youtuber! The popular youtubers tend to have videos about magic tricks, camel toes, funny accidents, or girls who talk to their computer cameras in monotones. Yipes! Pehaps this is 1% of what it feels like to be Tom Cruise. And Cruise, like the youtube teen watchers, seems to have no sense of humor or self awareness so maybe this crap rolls off quicker. Oddly enough, the Cruise scientology video I posted got lots of hits and no negative comments. Seems the rabid fans of scientology do not youtube...yet...(please don't sue me!!)...

Meanwhile, I am trying to take the daily youtube batterings and occasionally strokings with that famous grain of salt. I mean, soon there will not be much left about me to insult!!? They will have to get creative and then perhaps a sense of humor will begin to develop?! In fact, this flame about a Britney segment is rather well written, inventive and delivers a nice diss (yes, there are typos but that is standard):

I think that you are the deadbeat, look at you, you WISH that you could look a quater good as she does...i agree duckboy, this is the only place someone will watch your fugly face cause not even your "so called friends" will want to listen.... You MUST BE BORED, go and get a life golf ball eyes!!!!

You got me there Duchy0901! Oh well, try youtubing today!!! And if you stop by my videos, be sure to leave some creative comments (I beg of you, be kind)!

Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much. -Oscar Wilde

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Everyday is Like Easter Sunday

Tanner was nice enough to have me up to his family's Easter meals in Alburg and Highgate. We ate lots of tasty treats and had a neato time with his family. His grannies and grampy are the sweetest and his pop is super duper nice and understated. Tanner's dog Bean snorts like a pig when you put your head real close to her and give her kisses (which it is impossible not to do - over and over again). His grandparents live in a perfect little cottage right on the water in Alburg and his granny collects these cool little glass doo dads which are all over the house. They have an ancient, mysterious cemetery behind their house and it seems like they have found the best place in the world to spend their twilight years. It was one of those perfect, cloudy days which progressed slowly and calmly and involved decadent food, nice people, family and friends and lots of chill time in the car listening to blues, classical and jazz tunes. Here is a little montage to commemorate a gray, beautiful, rainy Easter Sunday in Northern Vermont.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Shoe Whore

"Women have a higher pain threshold," he said. "Men would not do this."
-Simon Doonan, the creative director of Barneys New York, had a simpler explanation for women's ability to wear the shoes they love.

Here is the thing. Like many girls, I find it hard to resist the persuasive pull of pretty shoes. In fact, walking by sweet smelling shoe stores, such as Stella, is nearly impossible to do. Just looking at their window display causes my mouth to salivate and my head to swim. Before I know it I am down the stairs and deliriously man-handling every pretty pump within range.

Now that it is spring and everyone is peeling off their layers and parading down Church St in all their naked glory, I find the pull of Stella too hard to resist. I have been good all winter, and even saved a little dough. It was time for a spring treat. So the other day I gave in to my addiction and bought some new shoes (at Stella as fate would have it). While walking around the store in my top 5 picks, I was amazed by how soft and comfortable they felt. Were these high heels or clouds?

"Wow," I thought to myself, "I thought heels were uncomfortable! But I could walk around in these for days! I'll never wear flats again"

I was in the middle of a shoe buying haze. The colors, shapes and styles were overwhelming me, I was frothing at the mouth, my head was cloudy and everything smelt like roses. My feet looked fabulous in the mirrors, I had to own these shoes! Must have them, have them all! Cha ching.

Moments later I was wearing the shoes down Church St.

"Ouch, ooch! Ow!! Oh my, this can’t be right." Clump, clump, clump. "Ooooow, oooch, owww!"

What had been a smooth, bed-of-roses-jaunt inside the store was like walking on stilts once I was on the cobblestones of Church St. I clomped along at half my normal speed to avoid breaking an ankle. It seemed like any moment I might hit a big cobblestone and topple over. Normally I walk quickly and sturdily, with a bit of a bounce. In these new shoes I felt precarious and vulnerable. If Church St was a jungle, any lioness worth her salt would have sensed my weakness and attacked me first. I would be dead meat in my pretty new high heels.

"How in the hell do women walk in these things on a regular basis? How can they navigate the streets of New York wearing these ridiculous things?? This is insanity!"

And the next day when the blisters popped up and lasted all week, I knew it was worse than insanity - it is sheer madness. How has the fashion industry managed to convince women that beauty can only be attained through suffering? Worst yet, I love these beautiful stilt shoes as well! I am infected with the beauty myth virus!

When I was growing up, my feminist mother made it very clear that high heels were awful for a woman's body and nothing but trouble. I grew up thinking everyone knew heels were bad for your body. Mom wore no make-up, jewelry, new clothes or high heels. She was about as traditionally feminine as an eggplant. We all wore hand me downs and thrift store fair. It never bugged me much when I was a kid. After all, I was a tomboy climbing trees and wandering the woods all day, what did I care about high heeled shoes for?

In my teens I longed for clothes from the mall and department stores. My first big purchase was a shiny white bubble dress (now back in style again, damn it, wish I still had it!) and white high heels with circles cut into them. I had no place to wear these clothes to in rural Johnson, Vermont. But I dressed up in them and wore them around my house and imagined one day I would have pretty places to wear my pretty shoes to.

In my 20s I indulged my inner girl to her utmost. Since my mother never taught me how to be a girl, I picked up bits here and there. Brandy taught me how to die my hair and pluck my eyebrows. Joy taught me how to apply lipstick and Robin taught me how to do it without a mirror. Nessa taught me about toenail painting and Jen showed me how to scour the thrift stores. I amassed bits of jewelry, lingerie, shoes, make up and other girlie fare.

Now that I'm in my 30s, I try to indulge my inner tomboy and my inner girlie girl. It's sometimes tough to balance them but somewhere in the middle is where I am most at ease. I guess that is part of the growing up process, finding exactly where your own style preferences reside.

In China, women once bound their feet to attempt to attain a higher social status. There is no easier way to make someone powerless than to take away their power of movement. Even more extraordinary is when women choose to bind their own feet, by choice. And yes, I mean you and your Manolos SJP.

Oddly enough, I still love my high heels. I love to look at them and fondle them and sometimes wear them out in public. But the other 95% of the time, give me flat, secure shoes that I can walk tall, proud and confidently down Church St in. Cause I know when the jungle comes to town, the lioness will be far more attracted to the teetering high heeled ladies than to my solid frame.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Toothless Circus Freak

Most people go through life dreading they'll have a traumatic experience. Freaks were born with their trauma. They've already passed their test in life. They're aristocrats.
- Diane Arbus, photographer

Ok, so my bum is healed but now my face is all busted up. Imagine, if you will, being pummeled in the mouth by two prize winning fighters for 2 hours – only these fighters have the additional assistance of sharp steel instruments with which to poke around in your sorry ass mouth as you bleed and gag. Got a nice vivid picture? Can you feel the hammer slamming the screws into your jaw bone? Taste your blood as it seeps past the suction tubes? Smell the fighter's after shave as he punches you over and over again?

Well, that is the joy I underwent in a dentist’s chair 2 weeks ago while getting dental implants. Apparently, I was a very “tough case” (he tells me laughingly afterwards). Oh yeah, not only are my missing teeth front and center (thus making mistakes all that more awful) but my bone mass has receded so they jammed some cadaver bone up there to pad the sucker. That’s right, there are anonymous dead people in my head. And when I ask them about who these people are and where they come from, all I get is weird looks. Like you wouldn’t want to know if there were dead people implanted in your gums??! Duh!

“There's a quality of legend about freaks. Like a person in a fairy tale who stops you and demands that you answer a riddle.”
- Diane Arbus

All of this melodramatic trauma goes back to when I was 9 years old. I was riding my bicycle up a hill near our apartment in Johnson, VT. It was a hot, muggy day and I was coming back from the swimming hole with my friends Noah and Erin. My bike chain had a history of falling off out of the blue, and it decided to fall off once again, only this time I was pushing my way up a hill. My head flew forward and smacked the handle bars. Next thing I knew, I was on the ground and there was hot liquid dribbling out of my mouth. I put my hand up to catch it and it was immediately filled with blood. I felt no pain. But I also didn’t feel a tooth where there had been one moments ago.

Later, when I was home and cleaned up, I remember staring in the mirror at the gap where my front tooth had been. I had only grown it in a couple of months ago and now it was gone. A clean hole was all that remained. If I had known then what I know now about the years of pain, suffering and money that would be sunk into that gaping hole, I imagine I would have crumpled up in a ball and sobbed. Instead, I just wiggled my tongue through the gap and marveled at the presence.

Freaks was a thing I photographed a lot. It was one of the first things I photographed and it had a terrific kind of excitement for me. I just used to adore them. I still do adore some of them. I don't quite mean they're my best friends but they made me feel a mixture of shame and awe.
-Diane Arbus

Fast forward through braces, flippers, and flippers accidentally thrown in the trash only to be dug up after dinner to when I was 16 yrs old. I was living in Indiana with my father and a dentist decided to improve the aesthetics of my smile by giving me a new bridge. To do this, he pulled out my second front tooth - which happened to be perfectly healthy and was not hurting anyone. Then he shaved the two teeth on either side of my (now gone) front teeth down to little skinny teeth. He glued a 4 tooth bridge on top of them and called it a day.

For many years, this bridge served me well and all was fine and dandy in the land of teeth. In fact, over the years, I almost forgot that these fake teeth were not my own. They became a part of me, much like my real teeth had once been. Fast forward to 15 years later and the bridge is loose. Dentist after dentist (yes, I asked them all) tells me that I have to get dental implants. “No, no, no,” I say. I do not have 10 G to spend on new teeth. I like my old teeth. We have been together for 15 years!! We are attached, literally! Do not take away another part of me!

After much grumbling, complaining and putting off, I finally made the appointment to get the implants. The surgery lasted for 2 hours and even though they asked me to go under, I chose to stay awake. I went under to get my wisdom teeth out and felt awful afterwards, as though I had died and been resurrected or something. I wore my big headphones and played my ipod on shuffle and tried to pretend I was on a desert island. This was hard to do when the hammering commenced. Yes, hammering. They hammer the titanium screws up into your skull and your entire head reverberates. They also cut your gums open, flip them up and carve away at your bone ridge before hammering. But I am not here to disgust you. I am not here to complain about my bruised face and lip; the days of pain and suffering and healing and exhaustion; the creepy stitches that I have to leave in for 3 bloody weeks which make me smile all weird like I have facial tics; or the fact that I have to eat everything with a knife and fork, yes, this includes hamburgers and sandwiches.

“Everybody has that thing where they need to look one way but they come out looking another way and that's what people observe. You see someone on the street and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw. It's just extraordinary that we should have been given these peculiarities. Something is ironic in the world and it has to do with the fact that what you intend never comes out like you intend it.”
- Diane Arbus

No, I am here to tell you about the joys of being toothless! That’s right, I am coming out of the closet as a toothless super freak. We value teeth as one of the signs of good breeding and class status. Being toothless immediately throws you in with the the circus freaks, the unfortunates, those who are unable to afford good dental care. Turns out I am not alone in my freakiness. Shane MacGowan of The Pogues is my new super hero. He let his teeth slowly rot away due to drink and poor hygiene and eventually they all got pulled. And does Shane go around wearing the fake teeth the record company bought him? Hell no! Shane McGowan is a crazy drunk Irish rock star and he stalks around stage toothless and proud!

Regardless of how you feel inside, always try to look like a winner. Even if you are behind, a sustained look of control and confidence can give you a mental edge that results in victory.
-Diane Arbus

So viva le freaks! And may we all take out our fake teeth and be proud of our toothless status. And may my new $10,000 smile be worth every damn bloody, cadaver-filled penny.