o fuck my mouth has fallen into the john
This blog was originally posted to The Dresden Dolls Diary.
i’d been slowly and carefully composing a new diary entry in my head, which involved long-winded and clever meditations on the nature of art and street performance and blah blah blah (don’t worry i’m sure i’ll still wank it all over you once i get this out of my system) when my plans were laid to waste. the last 48 hours happened and it was all too good to skip.
we were home for about a week, and we’ve been back out on this european tour for about a week. it’s an odd one, we have no bus. we’re a crew of just 4, brian and me and emily and our wonderful sound-man psycho-dave, hopping from european city to european festival in planes and trains and automobiles and it’s incredibly uncomfortable and disorienting. there is not only no home routine, there is no road routine, there is just chaos every day. my inner rainman is really bitching. one day in germany, next day in belgium, then next day england, next in germany, next in england. i’ve stopped noticing.
i used to be REALLY bad about losing and breaking shit. beyond. i couldn’t keep a set of keys or a wallet for more than a year and every item of clothing, body part, family heirloom and any other possibly portable-outside-of-my-home (and even indoors, things weren’t necessarily safe) was invariably broken, lost, sprained, stained or otherwise mangled in my careless, billion-mile-an-hour clutches. at a certain point i realized that instead of adjusting my habits, which seemed impossible, i would simply adjust my sensitive attitude towards myself and my belongings and realize that they were simply fleeting, earthbased baubles, meant to be broken and lost ANYWAY in the great churning of cosmos movement (ohh and maybe i was just some cosmic helper, not only part of the universal puzzle but there to speed up the process of things!….oh!! special! special!! charming!) and fuck it let it break and let it get lost. i dun carrrre.
this may have started to be a decent solution for own collection of earthly goods and mortal coil, but it didn’t make me many intimate friends as i was likely to break them. there was a time when i was about 22 when i remember absolutely Freaking Out. i had been living in my little harvard square sublet, street performing and working at toscanini’s (the awesome ice cream & coffee shop) and basically living bohemian paradise before moving back to germany on my fully accidental graduate student scholarship. it was the day that i lost my wallet, my keys AND left the water running over a crate of strawberries in the kitchen sink for a full few hours until it hit me (one mile away) that things were getting out of control. i wondered if there was some kind of medication you could take for flakiness. i could go on and on about how i’ve left my wallet in my refridgerator, slept through my finals, accidentally brushed my teeth with shampoo, fallen over a 12-foot balcony, gone to the emergency room for drop-kicking a cactus which permeated my thick german army boots giving me possible tetanus, drank myself into a blackout in belgium and woken up naked and penniless in a strange….i’ll stop there. you name it, if it was stupid, i’ve done it. i need to spare my mother the details. hi mom. i know you’re reading this.
it wasn’t too long after that i discovered sitting zen and started slowing my shit the fuck down, even a little bit, and i think i’ve made progress. i even fold my clothes out of the laundry (once or twice a year) and have started folding my clothes when i pack for tour (they do not stay that way after first unpacking). i try to make lists. i try to take deep breaths. i try to clean as i go. it is not at all natural. but it does feel amazing when it happens. i started wondering what it was that made this way, unlike some Other People that i knew who were clean, organized, dependable and otherwise upstanding compared to my overwhelming (but charming!) haphazardness.
i developed the theory a few years ago that i had, at one point in my warped life, decided that cleanliness and dependability were the polar opposite of freedom and independence and must therefor be avoided at all costs. this is, obviously, complete bullshit. the total freedom to make a complete fucking mess of my apartment as i write, compose, sort, correspond, paste and create is one of the things i hold dear. but it took me years to realize that i could create much more effectively with a clean space. the problem NOW is that it seems i reallly have to choose between one and the other. my space is never dirty so much as it is cluttered; lists and piles and unpacked packages and clothes tower in my room from the dawn til dusk and i usually start any given day with the cheerful optimism that i can spend the afternoon attacking the piles and then retire into an evening of artmaking. but i can’t make art if the piles are there. so i work on the piles until 3 in the morning, fall into bed exhausted but feeling rather satisfied that, because i’ve made so much progress, tomorrow will be different. it’s never true. i wake up to 74 emails, a load of complicated problems, more CDs from tour that i uncover, there’s always something. i am unable to clear my mind. it stays perpetually cluttered. i think this is one of the essential keys to unlocking the mystery of Why I Cannot Write On The Road. things at home are hard enough, and when i start traveling my brain can barely keep up with the amount of daily to-do shit and stimulus that any creative output starts to seem like a distant dream. things come in, but don’t come together. things come together when the table is clear, when i feel like my brain doesn’t have mundane things to do. i’ve gotten to the point in my life where i feel like an “adult” because i am taking care of my “responsibilities” and the cost seems to have been the part of me that is an artist. self-fulfilling prophecy? probably. i thought that getting a team of managers would solve this problem but instead, because of the amount of shit involved with running a band, i spend more time keeping track of what people have and haven’t actually taken care of. shit, i digressed.
it’s 24 hours later but i must finish story……so. we came back on tour, played a few festival shows, and went to edinburgh for a few days off. i wanted to be at the fringe festival. i had wanted to be there for an entire month, but three days, with a show in the middle, was all i got. it was better than nothing, i fell into the fringe like a fucking junkie diving headfirst into a hefty-sized bag of dope…just walking down the street during the fringe is like paradise to me….theater everywhere, street performers everywhere, music everywhere. home. paradise. i found reggie watts, an amazing hip-hop/spoken word artist/singer/comedian and we spent the majority of the fringe hanging out and going to shows and generally making each other laugh. i took regina and her right-on russian mom over to his show (after hers, which was brilliant as always) and she loved him. everything felt good. even though i’d pulled my fucking neck out and spent every morning at the chiropractor. i turned my computer off and at this moment have an automatic message answering that i have vacated the planet and have over 450 mails to answer, post-spam. i don’t care.
the second night, i was kicking it at the spiegel garden outside the fabulous famous spiegeltent, a portable wood-and-glass circus venue i’ve been in love with since i first laid eyes on it back in melbourne a few years ago, and a general meeting spot for actors and fringe folks til late late at night. i was moving too fast, trying to meet up with one person and another, and rushed off to use the bathroom (they have these trailer port-a-bathrooms off stationed there all month) and there was a line of five or six women waiting for the female toilet (as they call it in britain). there was nobody in the line for the men’s. i went for the men’s, out of habit. years of travel have made me impervious to such distinctions, but i do still take pains to look as gay boy as possible when walking into a men’s room. i was wearing a freakish outfit (and i was at the fringe, for god’s sake, where everybody’s a fucking actor in a post-modern performance art piece anyway) so i figured i was fine. i got a few raised eyebrows from my friends at the urinals. warning: the following scene is about to become uncomfortably graphic. so i went into a stall, shuffling and huffing and covered with backpack and fanny pack (don’t say that in the UK, they laugh their heads off at you because it translates to “vagina pack”) and drink in hand and realized that i had to change my tampon. i usually use the sponge, but i was out of sponges, and i usually use applicator-less tampons, but i had left those at home in a packing snafu and so i was left with the box of super-absorbant tampax that i bought that day at the convenient store. i grabbed the box out of my backpack and ripped one open, whereupon it promptly fell on the floor of the stall and rolled neatly under the divider and into the well-polished shoe of a man at the urinal directly to my left. i made an attempt at retrieval while trying to utter a “he he why isn’t this just delightfully funny” little chortle but my grabbing hands pushed mr. tampon further out of sight and at that moment i was distracted by my ringing phone (my blackberry, to be precise, or crackberry (as they call it in new york, or blackmailer, as they call it over here). my ringing phone was Fabian from future cinema, i was supposed to have a business meeting with him and we’d arranged he would call me when he got to the area. it felt urgent. we’d been trying to meet all day and night, and i didn’t want to think i was blowing him off. i suppose i could have patiently ignored the call (ass on toilet seat, tampon-debacle in full swing) and waited for a calmer time, but noooo, i answered it. however, as i went to answer it i also realized that my Somewhat Feminine voice would give away my stall ruse, so i answered with a deep ” Hullo” that was, uh, the best impresison of a man i could muster at the moment. only about two sentences were exchanged while i tried to gather my self, my wits and my tampax and as i rose from the throne, mid-conversation, my phone slipped out from between my ear and my neck. it was one of those beautifully cinematic slow-motion movements where my face contorts into a silent “NNNNNNOOoooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” as i spin, looking toilet-ward, in just enough time to see it splash all swan-lake- like into the murky blue pond of port-a-john. this was a flushable port-a-john, so there was nobody else’s piss to contend with but my own, and my hand instinctively shot into the murk to try to slavage my two-hundred dollar device (and, if possible, my business meeting). no suck fucking luck, it was frantically vibrating with a blank screen and i heard that electronic death toll ring.
the rest of the night was a wash (no pun intended) and i went home to email fabian that, though it sounded like the lamest excuse in the world, i had indeed dropped my toilet in the phone during our conversation and could we possibly re-schedule our appointment for tomorrow evening? i thought i heard you taking a piss, he said. my god, is it always that obvious? i do it all the time, does that mean EVERYBODY knows? at least i know now. i glumly attempted to remove all moving phone parts and covers and batteries and sim cards, letting them air out in the clear scottish breeze, but to no avail. the phone stayed dead and i found myself giving myself that familiar old lashing. stupid stupid girl!!! what are you thinking, using mens bathrooms and changing your tampax and disguising your voice for important business meetings all at the same time. BAD!!! grow up.
as my friend asked when i told his this story: ah, pretty telling. are you TRYING to flush your life away? this was food for thought.
perhaps. yeah. maybe. so??
things went from bad to worse the next night, when i decided that playing a THIRD show, after our spiegeltent show (relatively awesome) and future cinema event (also awesome – these people created a MAGIC fucking space in a building based on the original nosferatu…). brian went back to our communally rented apartment to hit the sack and i met up with reggie watts at the bongo club for the after-after party. we didn’t have any songs planned, but we’;d been beat-boxing on the street the day before and it sounded pretty good (well, HE sounded pretty good, he’s reggie watts….i sounded like a white girl punk cabaret singer with a torn-up voice trying to beat-box…but, you know, charming!!!) so we grabbed two mics and mikelangelo, an amazing mulit-instrumentalist who had MC’d our show (and fronts an amazing band, i’l give you the link below), took to the drums. we just free-formed and got totally into it, jumping around on stage and acting like complete clowns until i knocked my front left tooth out with my microphone in a moment of over-enthusiastic mouth-drums. it (well, a piece of it) landed on my tongue and while reggie kept the bass going (and mikaelangelo didn’t miss a beat) i explained my situation to the crowd, handed my tooth to larisa, the gorgeous promoter in the front row (asking her to pleeeease keep it in this glass of water…cos….i might need it) and kept on singing. i’m not sure if it was the impact of the microphone itself that did it, i’ve certainly been whacking my teeth against the damn mic for years now, maybe it was just fractured….ready to go and wanted to wait for the right show. not to mention i use my teeth to open everything from beers and bottled water to bags of crisps (uk) and fedex packages and basically anything else that my impatient little mits can’t tear open in under 2.5 seconds. i may never know. but the tooth wasn’t even fully real to begin with. in true amanda fashion, i’ve knocked it out 5 times now starting with:
1 – age 7, ran down fiske elemantry schjool hallway in wet snowboots, slipped and face-planted. this was the original break
2 – age 10, was chewing feverishly on a tunafish sandwich when it gave way again. not so dramatic
3 – age 12, hit it on the pool-bottom while doing a backflip underwater in the lexington recreation center. i was probably showing off
4 – age 19, lost it in a clearly humilating make-out session with mike ouyang, with whom i was drunkenly snogging on an armchair at a college house party. he was rather taken aback and (perhaps wisely) we never made it to second base
5 – age 30 – beatboxing with reggie watts, hit with beta 58 microphone
if i view this as a kind of an ongoing life/status chart, i think i’m doing fine, making progress.
back to the night, i ignored the jagged gaping tooth-hole and we followed the beatbox numebr with reggie’s magic “what about blow jobs?” song – a heart-wrenching 80’s ballad in c minor (“What about blow jobs?/In the middle of a dark and stormy night?”), me on piano and impromptu back-ups and mikelangelo still doing drums. it was an epic rendition. i fell off stage, and started blearily wondering how i was going to fix my tooth, when larisa announced that she had found a dentist in the audience. what? there were only 60 people in the whole dark noisy club. she grabbed him. enter chris cunningham, the senior community dentist at Lothian Primary Care NHS Trust, had come along with his son sam, a 19-year old scottish lad. they were both fans. i love our fucking band. i love our band so much. they had seen the spiegeltent show and wandered over to the after-party to see what was happening. chris had the next day free, and he offered to fix my gaping tooth-hole, pro bono. i almost cried. i felt all covered in tired universe band love. i had to sleep. we set a time over the din of dance music and i grabbed our fine friend max melton, (who needed a crash space – and i’d offered the floor) and we went in search of a cab home. i was barely conscious. it took us half an hour to find one and by the time we got to the apartment, i could barely make it up the stairs. i didn’t have keys, brian had them, and he had left for home hours before.
we reached the fourth floor landing of the apartment only to find brian passed out, using his backpack as a pillow, in front of the (locked) apartment door. he’d been there for three hours. he didn’t have the key. much ironic laughter was heard. we called emily in despair to see if SHE had them, and she managed to bribe psycho dave to cab it over and let us in. it took another half hour. i collapsed into bed at 5 a.m., toothless, phoneless, lifeless….but actually feeling quite content.
1 – have i actually grown up? this may never happen
2 – is it time to throw everything i own into the nearest body of water and live in the woods,
until such point when i learn to fend for myself or get eaten by a bear?
i’ll leave the other musings i want to muse on for later but fill you in on the latest news & gossip, in no particular order.
1 – we went to see muse (great live, but i was zonked) in edinburgh right before leaving. amazing piano player, that guy is.
2 – my chemical romance opened and i met the singer, gerard way, who has been a really vocal fan of the dolls. he was a sweetheart and we talked for a while about music and music and touring then watched muse together…from behind a glass security window. seeing their life reminded me of being on tour with panic, though…their inability to go out because fans will maul you still seems scary to me. mental note to you: if we do get famous, please don’t maul us. what a terrible problem to have at a rock show.
3 – leeds was good but not fantastic and the kaiser chiefs song went over very well with the local punters. sometimes i wish we played dance music.
4 – mr ben folds and i have been writing and plotting and it looks like we’re going to join him on stage in aussie for a few of his symphony orchestra shows (for now, brisbane and melbourne, but its not confirmed). he’s awesome.
5 – i ordered a new blackberry from the states and as of today, have fully resumed sucking on the electronic teat. yum!!! i have decided, however, that my emailing habit is out of control. i have admitted i have a “problem”. we’ll see what happens next. my fantasy is to try to go a solid month of 2007 email free, once we get off the road
6 – speaking of which, we’re FINALLY TAKING A FUCKING BREAK from this madness, it’s official. starting in january, once the play in boston is over, we’re taking about five months off from touring so i can live, write, do some solo work and hopefully magically turn back into a Full-Functioning Human Being with Real Friends and Relationships, just like they have on the TV. joy!!!!!!!! rapture!!!!!!!
7 – my tooth is now repaired care of the Most Amazing Dentist in Scotland, who treated me like family in his little office. sam came along and we hung out and chatted it up and hit it off. i want to adopt them. chris put on his favorite Nick Drake CD while he drilled my tooth away and put on a nice new one. sam told me about drama school. we ate italian and chris and i discovered our shared love of bill bryson and john irving. we got sam a ticket to the leeds festival. when i come back to edinburgh (all of next august, if all goes according to plan), i’m moving in with them, if there’s room in their garage.
8 – avril got married. did you SEE the wedding pictures? WTF, avril.
9- before i lose my mind and keep going, one more thing…we are touring with the most incredible band from australia in the USofA this october (and in aussie, coming right up)…..and you should all educate yourselves and prepare to be blown away: www.theredpaintings.com. they are looking for live painters and human canvasses for the shows. email them. all tour dates are up at www.dresdendolls.com/calendar as usual.
and now, more links….
1 – reggie watts. my new musical hero: www.reggiewatts.com
2 – mikelangelo and the black sea gentlemen. nick cave meets cabaret. go, go go!: