Police State

They’re after us. Every state is broke and every city is broke and the way they can bring in revenue is with speeding tickets and parking tickets. I was going 61 in a 50 mph zone somewhere near Athol, Mass. — I had left Providence a few hours earlier- with a parking ticket attached to my windshield.  The parking ticket was issued after a ticket machine failed me– yes, put a note on the car, ran into library for two minutes to return a video. Back out to car – my note gone, ticket issued. Need to get to court by 8 am but am now in Vermont. The days of governmental clarity are over. You are guilty from the moment you wake up in the morning until you collapse at night– just trying to live simply and carefully. No. They’re after us. The credit card companies, the meter maids, the corner deli, where a cup of coffee is suddenly $1.30 up from $1.12 — seems like a little thing in and of itself but multiple, multiply — a sea of desperate business owners, cities, states, countries.  They will gouge you mercilessly. They are drowning and they are grabbing at you in subversive, mini-small ways.

Suddenly, you’re broke, too.  You consider gouging to get by. And the whole mess explodes into an underbellied world of rip-offs.  We all go down together.

I wonder what happens to us if we refuse to participate. There is no debtor’s prison. What if we all refuse to pay our parking tickets? I refused many years ago, in Newport, RI– and they towed my car away. I owed 23,000 dollars and could not pay, so they smashed my car into a piece of metal the size of a toaster oven.

You can’t get water from a stone and that is our strength, as struggling beings in a police state. So far, they cannot waterboard us to extract payment.  So much has been stolen from so many of us and we are the majority. Our strength comes from our collective weakness. When we foreclose, the house of cards collapses. When the squirrels stop running in the cages and the machine stops moving forward, entropy ensues, and as I said – we all go down together.

The meter maids, the policemen, the deli owner, the man who shingles the roof– the 2 bucks they add to the invoices, the notes they ignore on the windshields, will bring the whole thing down.


Torn Red Ribbon

I tore open the holiday gift basket (you know, the kind with assorted cheap toiletries from a drug store) in the usual manner. Using my teeth, a kitchen knife, all ten fingernails, I just wanted to rip into the thing for a bar of soap. I happened to be out of soap. Otherwise, I might never have opened it. I actually couldn’t believe it was still on my dresser, a month after Christmas, acting as a dust catcher. I didn’t throw it away, like I usually do with stuff that I almost want, but don’t. My life, after years of mindless shopping, was full of stuff. Stuff that I almost wanted, but didn’t. Stuff that I now could never throw away due to the recession my mother had warned me about when still alive and, must to my disgust, recycling her tea bags.

I thought about my mother and her coupon addiction as I jabbed a fork through the pink cellophane wrapping. I dug down for the soap, which was wrapped, like the basket, in a red ribbon with curly yellow tassels on the end. I pulled off the ribbon, grabbed the soap and was about to push all the wrapping into the wastebasket, but didn’t. I considered the red ribbon. It was cheap and filmy, slightly frayed where my teeth had hooked it. I saw a ribbon that might cost, new, about $3.50. My mother had always been right. I’d been wasteful in the past, ignoring the value of a dollar let alone a piece of ribbon.

I decided to save the ribbon, but where? Where, exactly, do you stash a used, torn ribbon so that you’ll find it in a few years, when you need a ribbon? We haven’t cared, have we? We could easily buy all the ribbon we needed, at CVS, 24 hours a day, in every city and town in the United States. The ribbon sat there on the shelves, all year, beautiful and neglected and begging to be bought and used. Most of the time we walk by ribbon on the way to the toothpaste or toilet paper. We know it’s there whenever we need it. We don’t panic about ribbon.

After years of throwing away stuff from abandoned apartments, stuff that I couldn’t bear moving again- to a new state, country, job, boyfriend, wherever I was headed – stuff that went into a big black garbage bag; torn, broken, tired, shrunken, ripped, or perfectly good stuff that I was sick of, I was at a loss. What to do with the ribbon? The world moved fast, and if I was going to keep up, I couldn’t drag around shoeboxes of string, wire, ribbon, rubber bands. Or could I? I tied the ribbon around a flower vase.

I will save ribbon from this day forward. I can feel it. Every object in my life has been imbued with a new value. In years to come, I will never look at a ribbon or any object the same way again, money or no money. Value has attached itself to everything I own, no matter its condition. Tonight, I almost swept a stray pitted olive, left out overnight, in the garbage disposal. I washed it off and popped it in my mouth. It tasted better than ever.

The Gypsy in My Soul


As the recession deepens and job losses mount, I am entertaining my artist friends. I’m not working so I have lots of free time between reading, painting, walking Howard, writing and drinking.  Having lived close to the edge for years, the economic melt-down feels like another day in paradise.  The paradise of reality. I was tired of being a dancing monkey in fur for the Bourgeois. It’s nice to take a long break and focus on entertaining my constituents and friends privately. Who needs a nightclub or restaurant to have fun? They’re all going under anyway. Why demand employment and add insult to injury? The best thing I can do for the economy right now is not look for a job. We artists are in a good position now. We don’t have any debt because we never had any credit. We know how to live on 5,000 dollars a year, maximum. The only big change I’ve had to make is in the quality of cheese and wine for my soirees.

Secret Recipe: Velvetta Cheese Melt Down: Two blocks of Velvetta Cheese, dissolve on stove in warm pot, add 1 can of black olives, 1 can of tomatoes and some spices. Pour in bowl and chill. Serves 20.

Wine: good red and white wines have always been within reach of the Bohemian. Just ask your local liquor store merchant for advice. He knows the best cheap wines because that’s all he can afford.

Believe me when I tell you that the best part of your life is about to begin. Stop crunching numbers and face the music. Find out what you really wanted to do with your one and only life and do it. You might have to sell that antique candy dish, but did you really need it?

“No cares, no strings…. My heart has wings…

If I am fancy free and love to wander, It’s just the gypsy in my soul”

Strange Bedfellows

what wuz I thinkin?

Buddy, Artin, Dawn struggle to comprehend Cabaret

one meatball
Meatballs? Easier to understand and they taste better.

Due to a strong sense of self respect and the inability to kiss ass, I will not be at the Sidebar again. It isn’t that they weren’t generous for a couple of months and also quite kind — It’s just that they don’t get it.  I felt myself getting more stupid as the weeks passed.  And, vise versa, I didn’t get them. You know what I mean.  I tasted the meatballs. To me, they’re just rolled up Hamburgers.  Undigestable. It isn’t that anyone was wrong, it was just a bad match. You can go into the Sidebar on Saturday nights and see the perfect music/restaurant match. Don’t forget to snap your fingers to “Fly Me To the Moon!” ….  Meanwhile,  I am invited to New York to be interviewed for some strange Russian TV program about Jazz which is shown in 17 countries. Hopefully I will get a gig in Siberia!   Google “Oleg Frish”….!! Will visit old friends at Don’t Tell Mama – and see if any previous pianists, for example, the great Paul Trueblood, are in the city, monitor my brain and see if I have it in me to go back permanently.  Old friends in a loft on West 38th Street offered me their spare bedroom. But truthfully, I feel beaten down at the moment. Beat. Like a Beatnik.  Christmas. Its ability to remind us of a previous Christmas, when we knew we were safe and Santa was coming. Be patient, Santa will return! Meanwhile, I’m singing at Ricardo’s in Lowell, MA for New Years Eve with Odie and Todd — Spending Christmas in D.C. with daughter – back to a  couple of comedy clubs I worked last winter. Then, to New Orleans for two weeks  – Newport is on the horizon and Boston, too, due to a reconnection with Joshua Jansen, Boston’s Gay Sweetheart and friend of nightclub owners all over Bean Town.   It’s got to be around here somewhere.  p.s. Check out Le Scandal in Manhattan, google them, I’m talking to Bonnie, there, about a spring fling.

Thanks to smarter nightclubs owners, live entertainers continue to eat well during this economic downturn. It was during the Great Depression that Cabaret and Vaudeville got their start as people swarmed into the pubs to forget their troubles for a few hours. The cost/value ratio of live entertainment suits the recession pocket book and mind-set. If you stay home and wallow about your wallet, you’ll soon find yourself in the emergency room for a failed suicide attempt, chronic depression or Epstein-Barr Virus. Without health insurance, your stress-related illness will cost you upwards to $1,000 dollars. A night out in a cabaret will run you about $50 to $75.  I rest my glass of champagne.xx

Nightmare Scenario

Post Recession

Today’s press release from Haiti includes a recipe for the dirt cookies that mother’s are feeding their children to fend off hunger pangs. Recipe: Dirt, salt, water, shortening. Mix Dirt with Water to create mud in a consistency not unlike cake batter. Add salt and shortening until mud is consistency of cookie dough. Press mixture into small pie shapes. Dry in sun. Serve with nothing.

That bit of news puts our own recession worries in perspective, although we are not as far from dirt cookies as we may think. Forever the prepared pessimist, I tracked down a woman living in the deep hills of Vermont who has baked extraordinary dirt cookies laced with hay and/or manure since before I was born. I could not ask her for any baking advice. Upon arrival I found her flopped stone dead on her porch floor.

My advice: Don’t eat dirt. More advice: get some money soon, however you can, LOTS of it and hide it.