Venus DeMars

Venus DeMars
Glass Plate photo

Sunday, July 27, 2014

This last Thursday I drove up to Duluth for an overnight.

The small city 2 hours north of where I live. At the point of Lake Superior. Where I was born.

Two reasons: One, I needed to get my hair done at bstudio, and two, because I wanted to visit with family. Both of these things because I'm about to go on a long tour in about a week.

I drove home taking back roads. No radio. Driving south from Superior WI where I'd stayed. Joining 35W just before Sandstone MN. Just me, the light rain, the occasional slow car in front of me, and my thoughts.

I stopped at the first rest stop-scenic-overlook and took a picture.

My Mom died a few months ago. I sat with her the last few days before she died. I'm not sure she knew. My brother-in-law was the one who was with her at the hospice when she died a few hours after midnight. He said it was quiet. He hadn't noticed at first as it was such a peaceful passing. This was a relief to hear. Ten days before she'd started hospice because her memory issues had gotten to her body memory and she'd forgotten how to swallow. So she basically starved to death. She waved at me once while she was lying on her side. She couldn't talk by then because she was so weak and thirsty. But I bent down and waved to her. Trying to say "Hi." That's when she waved back. Just a small wave. And she almost kind of smiled. That was the only time I felt she saw me during those ten days. I had to leave a few hours after that. I was only there with her for three of those ten days.

It was horrible to watch. To know.

My Dad died a number of years ago now. From cancer. In the house he and my Mom built. The house I grew up in. He knew I was there. I gave him his last shave. We talked a bit during that week. Just now and then when he was strong enough. On the last night I watched him die. I think it was actually a heart attack. It was the way he reacted. As if something had taken him over. Suddenly. Painfully. He tensed like you do when something painful is happening. Made some small sounds. His eyes opened wide as he looked at the ceiling lamp above him. The one he'd put in so many years ago. Electrically wired into place. Plaster-patched around. Sanded smooth, and finished painted around.

Even though his death was reported as cancer, the heart attack was because his body had given out by then. Couldn't withstand the coughing fit he'd had five minutes before.

I almost had a heart attack last year. I had to get two stints put in. I know what a heart attack feels like now. I'd always wondered.

Just before I left for Minneapolis. In the morning. After I'd slept. I broached a short discussion with my sister. About things we have to finish now that both parents are gone.  It was tense. It involved money. In the abstract sense. I dreaded the talk. I knew it would be hard. Because of that my visit ended off balance.

But we're family. She's my only sibling. And I love her.

We'll figure it out.

I'm scrambling to get everything ready to begin our first "next level" tour. We're joining Laura Jane Grace and her band "Against Me."  I remember reading about her coming out as trans a few years ago. Actually fans of mine pointed the article out. And then I read it. I remember thinking that I'd missed the boat again. I came out twenty years ago. In rock and roll. Back when I started my band "All The Pretty Horses." Well, actually, I came out even before that. Maybe five years before that. I just brought it all into rock and roll with me. Into the new band I'd come up with. Coming out shut all the doors. I've been working as an indy-artist since. I had no real choice. It's been a long fucking time. I've grown older. Older in blood years as well as trans years. It's kind of hard for me to comprehend sometimes.

But I am amazed at how the world works.
And I never imagined this could happen. Going on tour with Laura. Breaking into this next level in music. I never imagined this would happen back when I read that article.  Even after I'd finally met Laura backstage of First Avenue this last winter. After we'd talked for a few minutes. It was still so cold standing in that big old bus-parking garage First Avenue has finally opened for loading in and out. Finally open now so you don't have to go nuts trying to find somewhere to park your band vehicle anymore. I still had to keep my leather jacket on. Jump around a bit to stay warm. But it was a nice talk. It felt really good.

I am humbled this is now happening.
I find I am often humbled as I age. And I try not to do stupid things anymore.
I still do, but I try not to.

A new trans friend of mine asked me yesterday if I still had any gender dysphoria. S/he's very young in trans years. I like H/er. I'm enjoying building a new friendship.

"How so?" I answered.
"You know, when you have some part of your body you're still uncomfortable with." S/he offered.
"Yeah!" I laughed, "Doesn't everybody?"

This morning I had a flash of emotion. A deep depression. Like that tunnel kind. A thick vortex of tar kind. Full of self hatred. Like my whole life is a mistake. And hard. Like a punch in the stomach. Maybe it was the gray morning. Or something I'd seen in the morning paper. I really don't know. It happens. It was just a flash. Then it was over.

It's cool out and the sun's come out.

It's a nice break from the last few hot days.

I'm ok.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day

My Dad and I met and talked about life.
The old bumper cars were under the wooden canopy behind us.
It was evening, or at least I don't remember the sun.
He asked me how things were going.
"OK" I said. I talked about a few upcoming gigs, and that Lynette was doing well.

Now I remember, it wasn't evening, and we weren't outside. That's why I don't remember the sun. We were in one of those tourist caves, those big ones with electric lights strung through out.

I was sitting on a low rock, or was it wood logs? I don't remember now... it was something like that. He was sitting across from me. I remember the endless single electric wire strung from point to point along the cave wall behind him. The occasional yellow, brightly lit bulbs hanging like over-ripe neon fruit, every ten feet or so leading away and down.
Leading past the bumper cars under the canopy. Leading past the railings along the path. Leading down into darkness and out of sight.

No. Wait.
There wasn't a canopy at all. It was just the cave. And the cars were all just there to my right and slightly behind. Just there under the vast cave ceiling.
Still. Ready to go.

He smiled and nodded as I talked, both of us gazing at the ground now and then, like we often did when we'd have these Father - Child talks. Glancing up at each other, accidently locking eyes then quickly turning away. Refocusing on something else. The tiny pebbles strewn around where we sat for example.
I focused on one.
Nudged it a bit with my boot. Pushed it back and forth with my toe for a while. The movements of which added a quiet scraping sound to the electric hum which surrounded us. I felt I could almost hear the dead silence around the hum. the depth of the cave blocking out any external sound. No birds, or wind. Just my toe pushing that pebble, the low electric hum, and silence.
Our voices so close. As if our words were spoken in a void.

I asked him how the afterlife was.
He shrugged.
Said it was alright.
"So is it all going well?" I asked, and added, "I mean, you know, is it all going ok for you?"
This time I really looked. Really watched his face. His eyes.

He paused. Looked up and at me, his eyes looking directly into mine.

I quit moving my toe.
The tiny pebble laid still.
"Yes." he said.
"Good." I said. "I was wondering."

Monday, January 13, 2014


...Me without make-up.

It's been some time since I blogged.  And it's because of the audit. And the audit is still ongoing. It's now in appeals and waiting for the MN DOR's response sometime in June 2014 or later. Then we'll deal with whatever unfolds from there. So I'm kind of in limbo for now. BUT I've been able to set it aside somewhat and get back to my work as an artist.

I've kept writing on my memoir, I've been gigging with the band as well as solo, I've been painting, and at the moment I'm finishing up a MN State Arts Board grant for performance art with a full stage performance on Feb 6,7,8 at the Soap Factory art gallery. I'm in rehearsals for that, with my five support performers, my two live musicians and my single tech person... I'm creating, directing, script writing, script re-writing, shaking out all the bugs, building the sets, creating the animations, fine tuning the thing... it's a lot of work and it feels good to be fully working as an artist again.

The past year was pretty much spent on fighting the MN DOR's audit decision that I wasn't a working artist, but only a hobbyist who was playing the system. And No amount of logical dialogue would dissuade their attitude. I felt as if somehow I'd found myself stuck in the middle of a Kafka novel.

I've lost almost a years worth of work because of it: The meetings, the audit interviews, the stress, the crunching numbers, the gathering documents, the back and forth with our lawyer, the legal fees, the fundraising..., etc, etc, etc.

Our auditor even re-printed parts of my blog here, in order to build their assertions that I was actually taking vacations, not touring. All based on my blog writing recollections of pleasurable experiences during those tours: my writings about time spent re-connecting with the people. The people I've come to know because of the tours. My writings about interactions with fans. My recollections of my one overnight stop in Kansas with a cousin, (their offer to me, in order to save me hotel costs once they realized I was touring through their area.)

I became exhausted.

But it's time.


I promise.
I will get back to this.
I will get back to blogging despite what may be taken as evidence against me as the audit continues to unfold in 2014.

It's time to just be me.
It's time to be the artist I am.

Thank you all for your absolutely stunning and humbling support through all this.

I felt crushed.
You lifted me up.

Thank you.