Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie

I am heartbroken, shocked, and not quite sure how to respond on hearing of the death of David Bowie, just moments ago.

So I'll write.

This blog was/is a way to post stories of my childhood, growing up with a mother who was a David Bowie impersonator. She hand fed my brother and I his music from the time we were born. Hearing his songs is like coming home for us. We knew every word like most kids knew nursery rhymes.

Mum (Donn Shy) as the "Thin White Duke."

Having no idea of Bowie's state, I texted my brother the following at 5:27 p.m. PST this afternoon:

"Cleaning house, listening to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust. Reminds me of being kids and doing the same. And then--HOLY SHIT--what an amazing album! My God! What lucky monkeys we were to be introduced to this music when we were. Beyond comprehension."

Mind you, I'd been listening to that album on a loop since yesterday. Driving to Ojai from Malibu, I cycled through Aladdin Sane, Hunky Dory, as well as TRAFoZS. When driving through Oxnard, the California town I grew up in, I sang Drive In Saturday loud--not a care in the world--reminiscing on the times we listened to the album on tape in Mum's Toyota Celica, then Suburu station wagon, driving that same road when we were all much younger.

Mum became Bowie night after night, performing at clubs and such. It was a bit annoying as kids because, hell, we were kids and just wanted our mum to be a mum. PTA meetings, award assemblies, sandwiches. But as adults, hell if we don't think she was a Badass with a capital "B".

The week mum died (January of 2012)--I couldn't believe it--David Bowie graced the cover of Rolling Stone. 

I bought it. 

I kept it.


After my best friend, Great Dane Audrey, passed away, not long after Mum left this earth, I decided I was getting a tattoo. In fact, I was going to design that mother. And I did. 

Mum's symbol in her illness became a butterfly. I had given her, just before she passed, a bracelet I had made with a butterfly on it and a print of a butterfly with the following quote:

"Just when the caterpiller thought the world was over,
it became a butterfly." - Anonymous
She cried. And that memory is forever burned in my mind and when I see a butterfly approach me or my windows, "It's her," I say.

And Bowie. And then there was Bowie. And I sketched. And a butterfly came about with Bowie as Ziggy Stardust as the pattern it the butterfly's wings. And Audrey on the other side, soaking up the sun in a henna-like pattern. And I found one of THE best tattoo artists, Louie Perez at Shamrock Social Club in Hollywood, to finish the design and ultimately create what is now on my left arm for life. I'm so grateful for that and that he was available and up to the task.

Yes, I'm rambling. I have no idea how to respond other than to say this one cuts deep, for so many reasons. And though I don't know what I believe anymore when it comes to the afterlife, I wonder if he is where she is and if she is finally able to ask him all the questions she wanted to ask.

I have a special keepsake of hers that I've been searching for for a week. It wasn't where I last put it, the special place where I have been keeping it. I pulled down every storage bin, looked through every file. No where. And was feeling quite devastated. How could I be so irresponsible to misplace it?

When the news broke tonight about Bowie's death, I decided to pull out my "Bowie is Inside" book to have a look, hoping to find a photo I could post to Instagram with my sentiments. 

Out fell the keepsake. 

I don't recall putting it in there, but must have. 

Or must I have?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

What's Harder? Losing the Dead or Losing the Living?

A hat, a couple of bloody t-shirts, and a plastic hospital pan.
Mum's life in a hospital pan. A plastic freaking hospital pan. 

This is it. All I have in my possession from my 36 years of life living on this earth with my mother. My creative, driven, beautiful, yet tortured soul of a mother died in January 2012 from complications related to a rare stomach cancer brought on by her years of alcohol overindulgence. 

It's been three years since Mum's death. It is strange indeed, but life has moved on, as it does. All of her things, her furniture, her clothes, her shoes, her knic knacs, her photos, her jewelry, her keepsakes, have all been moved into a storage unit at my step-father's job--I was told recently it's all being kept there without the owner's consent and could be found and dumped at any time. So, naturally, I'm panicked. 

When I was young, before my step-father and sister entered the picture, Mum was an artist. She painted, sketched, played music, and for years worked as a David Bowie impersonator (which I despised at the time, but now of course realize how badass she truly was). She painted an incredible abstract depiction of Elton John that hung above our orange '70s sofa for years, and as a little girl I'd stare up at it and counted the shapes and colors. She created ceramic pieces that she placed throughout the home. I cannot imagine my childhood without picturing these pieces--pots, psychedelic cats, busts--giving texture and color to life's background. Her music album collection consisted of Queen, David Bowie, The Beatles, The Kinks, Adam and the Ants, Alvin and the Chipmunks. She'd place these albums on the record player and we'd clean house or play games or dance about like the crazy neighborhood freaks we were, and those memories are held dear to my brother Tony and I. 

My step-father and sister never knew this woman. Only Tony and I were lucky enough to embrace her before she abandoned her for another persona. 

Somewhere in taped up boxes in my step-father's work warehouse lie Mum's Kink's albums, her sketches, her ceramic creations, her Bowie costumes, her complicated yet intriguing history. Somewhere in those boxes (that can be gone forever at any time) lie my brother's and my baby pictures, our special newborn outfits, the blankets she made especially for us, and small keepsakes from our respective fathers. 

Bill and Kelli never knew these memories, these blankets, these fathers, these moments, this life. And yet, they refuse to let them go--to us, at least.


I'm working on a video project for disadvantaged children, connecting them with grown, successful mentors of sorts via video interviews. Starting in August of last year I was attempting to gather any equipment I could, and being on a tight budget, remembered Mum had loads of video and camera equipment in storage that wasn't being used and had sat there gathering dust for the past three years. If Mum were alive, she'd want to help. So I called my sister to not only discuss borrowing Mum's equipment for a few months, but also to arrange a special birthday dinner for her in Los Angeles.

After discussing the dinner in high spirits, I brought up borrowing the video equipment. 

"I don't want to keep it, just would like to borrow it for a few months. I know Mum would want it to be used and especially for something positive."

"No! That stuff is all MINE now. I don't care. Not you, not Papa, not Tony, not me, NO one will touch any of those things. I'm locking them up in storage until I die!" she replied. 

"I'm not asking to keep . . ."

"I don't care. No." Click. 

That was the last time I spoke with my sister. And no, we didn't end up going to a special dinner for her birthday. 

Months went by and after discussing the situation with my brother Tony, we decided we should give Bill, our step-dad, a call. After all, legally, my Mum's possessions were his, as they were legally still married before she passed (even though she told me just after her surgery that they were about to divorce). At this point, all Tony and I were looking to have is our baby pictures, our baby clothes, and a few knic knacs that meant something to us that they would have no clue of the significance. It would kill us if they ended up in a landfill next to soiled diapers and yesterday's treasures being picked at and shat upon by seagulls. No, please, no. 

I wish she'd written a goddamned will. 

His bottom line was, "I'll have the stuff moved into a storage unit. When we do that, anything that has your name on it I'll put it outside and good luck getting it." 

Trouble is, it won't have my name on it. Nor Tony's. 

Before Bill gave me this incredibly generous offer, I had offered to help them move it. I offered to get dinner, pizza, and help sort through all of it. We could do it as a family. I told him I was in no personal rush to get it, but I wanted to be sure it didn't end up in the dumpster before Tony and I have a chance to go through it. 

"I don't ever want to see your brother again." He said. 

"Why not?" I asked. 

"Because I'm sick and tired of hearing about how bad I treated him."

I wondered where he was hearing these stories as Tony and I had forgiven him long ago for the abuse. Must be his conscience, I thought. 

So, family members die, and I have to wonder if the most pain comes from losing the dead or losing those who are still alive and well. At least when losing the dead, there is a reason: car accident, long-standing illness, suicide, or in Mum's case, cancer.


The hat I have sitting on the hospital pan represents a mum I didn't grow up knowing. It was her newer persona, the persona Bill and Kelli knew well and embraced, the persona loved and adored by her paranormal society colleagues, by her newer friends. I know my little sister would love to have this hat, and I'd gladly give it to her because I know how much it would mean to her. 

But she won't talk to me.  

No reason.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Rights Are Nonpartisan

I was bullied in school. Of course I was. I was a weirdo. A freak. I preferred reading the entire encyclopedia and discussing sedimentary rock to playing hopscotch and wearing dresses. I ran around the playground barking like a dog. Why? I watched my grandmother beat the crap out of our Cocker Spaniel on a daily basis and he showed no pain. I wanted to show no pain. 

What I needed was just one kid to stand up for me and say "stop it" to the bullies. Because once one kid does it (especially a popular or at least a likable one), more will find the courage to do the same. And there are far more non-bullies than bullies, a truth we are too easily blinded from.

But that's not usually how it goes down, is it? You see, a bullied kid is more apt to be surrounded by others who look the other way due to feeling uncomfortable or fear being bullied themselves. "Not my problem." They'd say. 

All the while, they are next in line--as long as they remain silent.

My bullying experience continued until one lucky day in high school, my freshman year, a girl (a big, intimidating girl who may have been 6 feet tall) had heard a group of kids calling me names and throwing gum in my hair. I watched from afar as she approached the group. Heard a bit of yelling, saw some neck rolling, a push and a shove, and somehow, from that day forward, I was never picked on in school again. Just. Like. That. 

My guardian angel left my high school soon after that . . . don't know why or where she went, or even who she was, but I never saw her again. 

This is not a girl I would have probably bonded with or hung around with at lunch or at dances. I don't think she wanted that. We may or may not have agreed on much, but how would I know? The important thing was she recognized that I was human, that I mattered. That's all I needed to help me move through a time in my life that was painful enough.

Did I deserve to go to school without having to worry about if I were going to be beat up while walking home, or who would be waiting for me around the corner to spit on me or punch me in the back of the head? Of course I did. And so did every other student in my school and ALL schools. Just as every citizen of this country and every being on this planet and beyond deserves to have the same rights, equally. Not just the ones you or I agree with. 

Our rights are our rights and RIGHTS ARE NONPARTISAN. If some of us lose them, we ALL lose them

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.

-Martin Niemoller, 
Protestant pastor who spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Think of this when you see a community other than the one(s) you directly relate to fighting for their rights. Turning the other way may stall the bullies, but it will never stop them. Speak up.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Always Opt to Be A Badass

Wearing the label we've been given, many of us tend to feel oppressed and "wish" to fit in. Do you not realize those who have been oppressed in history have always been intimidating to the ones doing the oppressing? 

The introverts, the aspies, the weirdos, the loners--look at those who have come before us who were similar to us . . . Mozart, Poe, Tesla, Einstein, Dylan, Akroyd, Kaufman, Daryl Hannah, Susan Boyle, David Byrne. Read about them and be inspired! 

Drop your story of the label that oppresses and be a badass. Pick up a guitar, a pen & paper, a brush & easel, a keyboard, a book. Take on a cause--be arrested for it, make a stand, speak your mind, share the deepest depths of your heart. Be embarrassed, be mysterious, be outrageous, be unique, be quirky--be YOU. 

Those who "fit in" have never made a significant mark in history. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Saying Goodbye & Unconditional Love

"We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached.
Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan . . . "
 -Irving Townsend

Said goodbye to my girl last night. "Just a dog" you say? I know not. 

When everyone, family and supposedly close friends turned their backs on me, she looked at me with love. When I was weak, she was strong. She never left my side, never lied, never manipulated, never gave a false compliment, never competed, never abused or took for granted our friendship. She was my teacher of unconditional love. She was a piece of me and always will be, though right now I feel empty. I can only rest in the thought that she is pain and cancer free. The struggle is over. 

Why do souls so good and pure occupy our world so briefly? And war addicts, criminals, ungrateful, mean people stay for so long? We have a lot to learn. Our teachers are all around us. So many locked up in shelters sleeping on concrete floors whilst the arrogant manipulators sleep on plush beds. These animals who ask for so little are our true teachers, our true friends. And of those teachers, Audrey was the best. I'll never forget her. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

She Won't Eat.

I just want her to eat. 

Something. Anything. 

Just a few years ago, I was saying the same thing about my mum. "I'll make you anything you want, Mum. Anything. Is there anything you could imagine eating?" Everything we tried, she just couldn't. And she was 88 lbs. when she died in January of 2012. 

My best friend for the past 10 years had a cancerous tumour removed in July. After several tests and stains, etc., the doctors couldn't give an exact answer as to what type of tumour it was and whether or not it was the type to spread. We hoped the removal of the tumour and supplements would do the job, as chemotherapy was not something I would put her through. 

Her normal weight fluctuates between 95 and 100. Just before the tumour was removed she had lost her appetite and she lost 20% of her body weight. Post-surgery I was able to get her weight up to 90 lbs. and then two weeks ago her appetite again was lost, she began losing weight, so I took her to get an ultrasound. 

Could the cancer have returned?

"Unfortunately, her stomach lining has thickened again and we found some nodules in her liver. Looks like the cancer has spread and there may be a new tumour in her stomach." She said. "You may want to talk to the oncologist and see what options you have to treat her. I'm really sorry for this bad news." 

Audrey, my best friend, is a Great Dane I adopted 10 years ago. She had been severely abused before I met her, and so had I. I suppose we rescued each other. When I was sat at the rescue organization looking at potential fur kids to take home with me, a couple was also there adopting a Great Dane puppy. 

"Can we see the mother?" They asked. 

And out came an extremely thin, hesitant black Mantle Great Dane who looked as if she would dart away if anyone were to stand up or perhaps sneeze. Her bones were protruding. She had scarring on her back legs. What was her story? She walked straight over to me and lay her head in my lap. I felt an instant connection, cried, then signed the paperwork and took her home a few days later. 

I had just recently lost a Great Dane puppy I had purchased from a breeder. Jude, a gorgeous Merlequin with crystal blue eyes, was 14 weeks old when he died due to a reaction to his immunizations that caused his immune system to attack itself. Jude went from vibrant, cheeky pup who enjoyed the crazies every now and again, chasing a ball, and jumping up on the sofa and peeing on it (grrrrr!!!) to a limp, lifeless puppy who couldn't even lift his head in the blink of an eye. He died within days at the vet's office despite treatment. "But I did everything right!" I thought. My partner and I at the time were completely gutted and still, years later, I can't hear The Beatle's "Hey Jude" without becoming emotional. 

Audrey came just in time and we had a lot of work to do. She was deathly afraid of men. She needed to put on weight and had an infection in her teats that needed treatment. When my partner took her for a walk the second day we had her, she escaped her leash and ran out to Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica (a very busy street) and the police had to shut it down in order for a woman who worked for a dog rescue to gently coax her and catch her. The pads on her feet were bloody and torn. She was a mess.

And then we managed to live together as best friends. She traveled with me on location when I was shooting the film Evan Almighty in Virginia. She supported me through a rough break up in which she was also separated from her "dad" and brothers, a Great Dane/Dalmatian mix named Bouj and Chihuahua, Man Lee. That was hard. It's still tough to think about.

She moved with me and healed with me in my little sanctuary in Malibu, where we lived, just the two of us, staring at the ocean and growing up together. Healing. Feeling and accepting peace. Enjoying life on our own for the first time. Hiking, walking the beach, waving to dolphins, building new friendships. 

She moved with me to Philadelphia when I moved for another job. She completely accepted my new partner as her friend and new dad. And accepted a new sister, Greta, a Coonhound from Delaware, and her brother Man Lee who came back into the picture. 

She loved and supported me through a two year bout of deep depression and the horrible death of my mum. She's never left my side.

She's become the best dog and friend I've ever met. I love her more than life. And now, here she is, thin again and won't eat. It's tearing me apart tonight. 

I'm frustrated. I'm sad. I'm angry at her for not eating. I'm angry at the still unknown cause of this disease. I don't want to lose her. I don't want her to be in pain. I don't want to lose her. 

We're trying turmeric, Essiac tea, L-Arginine, L-Glutamine, Ginger, Milk Thistle, Salmon Oil, and other alternative methods. Everyday I read something else online, run to the health store and add to our protocol. 

But she needs to eat. 

Have tried raw, organic meat of all sorts, cooked organic meat of all sorts, cooked chicken, organic canned wet food, fresh eggs from our hen, cut up veggies - she's gone from eating bits to eating nothing today but two or three bites of kibble. 

So I'm writing this blog with no other point than to let my feeling explode onto "paper" while listening to Bob Dylan and eating chocolate chip cookies in a weak effort to comfort myself, just hoping and praying she'll suddenly want to eat the house and all its contents.  

The more you love the more it hurts, I find. I don't want to let go. Not this time. Not now. 

And I'll never be ready.