My love affair with Radiohead's song Motion Picture Soundtrack began in January of this year. I bought the album Kid A online and was sitting in my room on E 118, listening and writing. As soon as the song came on, I stopped what I was doing and sat straight up in my bed. I started sobbing, and sobbed and sobbed. The song struck a very real chord in me, it felt like it had actually come out of me instead of coming from outside. It haunted me for weeks.
You can hear the original version of the song here.
The song played an integral role in the writing of my first short film, Love Sand, and earlier in the fall I was asked by Melissa Broder to write a poem inspired by it for her Polestar Poetry Series. The reading is Dec. 5 at Cake Shop, and there's a possibility that Love Sand will make a real-life premiere there - I hope some of you can make it!
I've never told this story on my blog, which is a massive oversight on my part. Better late than never: how I came to fall in love with St. Jerome's.
On a brilliant but oddly cool Sunday in April - it's always "oddly cool" in April in this city, it never seems normal to me - four friends and I got blitzed on bottomless mimosas at Benny's Burritos' brunch in the West Village. Then we went to a convenience store and bought Darjum Specials and walked around the city like we owned it before heading up to the High Line for a lovely stroll, then drinking (more) afternoon beverages on the Gansevoort rooftop. Two people had to make their exits, leaving Zachary, Jenny and I the sole troopers remaining to find something to do with the rest of the evening. We were still on the West side, but I suggested we go get dinner at the Sunburnt Cow, one of our favorite restaurants on the LES. So we hopped on a bus across town and got (yet more) wine and food while we talked about art and our dreams and hopes for the future.
The Sunburnt Cow, it should be said, has changed a little bit in the recent past, but it used to be staffed by only gorgeous and super-friendly Australian men. While we were drinking and eating, we decided we still weren't done with the day, and wanted to go to a bar to wrap it up. We asked our server what he recommended in the area, and he told us about an awesome bar named St. Jerome's on Rivington and Suffolk. He said, on Sunday nights they play an awesome mix of rock-and-roll and old school blues. He said, there's no sign on the door, you just have to know where it is. He said, I go there every Sunday night after work. We said, sounds amazing, before stumbling over, taking photos along the way.
Taken moments before our first trip to St. J, in a graffiti-covered alcove across Rivington.
We walked inside, and it was like a dream. It was dark and foggy. There was a disco ball spinning, and classic rock bumping on the stereo. The bar was practically deserted. I don't remember if there were any people in there aside from us and the bartender and maybe a few people sitting at the bar. The rounded seats were musty and falling apart at the seams. The walls were maroon, but everything seemed like it was in black and white. I didn't learn that the walls were maroon until later. Candles flickered on wooden tabletops. It smelled of whiskey and wood and tack on the backs of punk rock stickers. We sat down. A sign behind the bar read, $2 buds, every night until midnight. It was perfect. I had found my bar.
Before that first visit to St. Jerome's, I knew a little about Lady Gaga's pre-fame life go-go dancing and playing shows on the LES, but I didn't know any specifics. Some time after we first went there, I learned that St. Jerome's was her bar. She danced there, and she and Lady Starlight and Luc Carl and that whole gang of LES outcasts used to hang out there all the time. I couldn't (and still can't, really) believe that I learned about and fell in love with this place completely independently of any knowledge of Lady Gaga's former presence there. Some places just have energies.
Lady Gaga and Darian Darling in St. Jerome's, circa 2007.
Zachary and I in St. Jerome's, summer 2010.
Lady Gaga and Lady Starlight in St. J, circa 2007.
Zachary and I in St. J, summer 2010.
St. Jerome's is my bar, it's our bar. I haven't been in a minute, and I miss it terribly, especially now that Zac has moved to New Orleans. It just seems like our place, and it feels weird going there without him. I still love it there, and I'll drink a $2 bud anytime, but it's not the same.
Lady Gaga released her first song off her new record, "You and I," this summer. It's a love letter to her boyfriend/St. Jerome's manager Luc Carl, but I hear it, at least partially, as a love letter to St. Jerome's. I learned the chords and recorded myself singing a version of it - my love letter to St. Jerome's, a bar that materialized at a time when I was just beginning to be re-born and which has stuck with me throughout. I love you.
There's somethin, somethin about this place
Somethin about lonely nights, and my lipstick on your face...
On a late-night stroll through the LES en route to St. Jerome's this summer, Zachary asked me if I would write a script for our friend Haley - an actor transplanted in NYC from L.A. for the summer - that he would then shoot, direct and edit into a short film. I was sort of taken aback by his request, as I had never written a film before and had no idea how to do it. But I said yes, and asked if he had an idea of what sort of film he wanted to do. He said no, I could write whatever I wanted, no guidelines. Thrilled at the opportunity to create something without any rules, I played the phrase "no guidelines" on repeat in my head until the first scene came to me, while I was walking alone one night on Bedford in Brooklyn. The rest was largely inspired by Radiohead's song "Motion Picture Soundtrack" off their 2000 album Kid A, which had a deep impact on me during the winter months earlier this year. Love Sand was born.
We filmed it over the course of a weekend in June. It was an incredible experience. The filming fell together so beautifully and easily - we had 10 people come together and lend their talents for no pay to make it happen - that it seemed like it was meant to be. Zachary and I sound edited it on a Friday night over burgers and fries in his bedroom in Harlem. The entire thing was edited and uploaded using his four-year-old MacBook Pro. The film's budget was less than $10 - for a pack of cigarettes used in the third scene. Time is a more valuable currency than money.
I'm so excited to present Love Sand to the world now. Although the time it took to conceive and film the project is relatively small, I consider it to be the product of a year's worth of experiences. 2009 was one of the hardest years I've ever had, and I went through some things I had never been through before, and while I learned a lot, I was essentially destroyed. It's an incredible miracle to be able to take a year of my life that, at the time, seemed like it was comprised of pointless devastation, heartache and hopelessness and to have a group of super-talented people help me bundle it up into a singular work that gives validity and even beauty to those experiences. I now see 2009 for what it is, at least in part: the year that gave me Love Sand.
Sometimes things just fall into your lap and happen so easily that they seem to somehow spin your life in a new direction, and I think Love Sand might be such a thing for me. That's yet to be determined, but at the very least - the project is extremely close to my heart, and I feel proud of the finished product. Zachary put together a beautiful website for the film, and you can also watch it below or here. If you watch it on the Vimeo site, it's in HD, so you can blow it up to the size of your screen and the quality is the same. Pretty amazing!
A big thanks to everyone involved and especially to Zachary for doing so much work on the film, and for asking me to write it in the first place, for having faith in my words. And thanks also to anyone who takes the time to watch it - your thoughts and ideas are more than welcome.
This summer I told photog friend Jenny I wanted to get dressed like a man and have her shoot photos of me. She obliged, with Zachary art directing and lending boy clothes. The transformation shots ended up being some of her favorites.
Click on it to see it larger. My breasts were not all too happy to be taped down.
I thought I just saw James Franco on the subway platform. I imagined James Franco boarding my car and me saying to him, you're James Franco, and him saying, yes. And me telling James Franco I was coming to see him tomorrow night, I had a ticket. And James Franco asking me what I was doing today and me saying, going to work. Him asking me where I work and me telling him. James Franco asking me to play hooky. Cut to us sitting in a diner, drinking coffee across a table. Him telling me, this isn't about sex, and me saying, right because you have a girlfriend. Him saying, no because I'm gay.
Today is Veterans' Day. I think it's so important to take some time out to show gratitude to the people who have made so many sacrifices for the everyday freedoms we often take for granted. My dad is in the military, and has been my whole life, so I know firsthand even the smallest sacrifices armed service people and their families make in the name of serving our country. Say what you will about the wars we involve ourselves in and the politics of war - I've said them too, much to my father's chagrin - but there's no denying that as a woman, I can freely sit where I'm sitting and do the things I'm doing and write what I want to write thanks to the people who gave life and limb because they believed and had faith in something.
So, in this week's The Local Voice, I show my slice of gratitude by dedicating my column to all the veterans who have served our country. Thank you so, so much.
I know we've only won an hour,
But it feels like twenty, more,
The time fairy
Has dropped it off in the night,
Deposited it in a bag made of dreams.
How many hours I've spent
Pondering your eyes behind glass -
They remind me of childhood,
Like how the yellow bumps
Of a New York subway platform
Press into my soles,
Resurrecting an era of baths
In a stranger's house.