Office when I Lived in Venice CA

desk in two lights

This was in 1978-1984.

In one place where I lived before Venice, the only thing I had for a desk was a coffee table, and I liked it so much I kept the floor desk thing going for years and years, sitting cross-legged on a giant pillow. At this version of it in Venice, I wrote a whole lot of papers for classes I was taking at Santa Monica College. Oh, and two books and a screenplay, and a bunch of other stuff. No computer then, of course. I had a small, lightweight portable typewriter.

cabinet side copy

Sitting at the desk, if I looked up and to the right, the side of the file cabinet was there with things stuck to it. Tom Robbins, Bobby Sands, the Tarot Fool card, and what might be a unicorn.

Above the file cabinet: The Lenny Bruce portrait was painted (from a photo) by Dale Hartman who gave me it for a birthday or Christmas present. The colorful painting was by Joy Doyle, a long-ago friend when I lived in Buffalo.

You can’t really tell, but that bottle on top of the cabinet was covered with macrame, an art form I’d only seen hanging on walls but not embracing glass bottles. There was a little metal cat on a stand, whose tail had holes in it from which to suspend earrings. On the right is part of a long panoramic photo of Niagara Falls which dated I think from 1910 or so. Years later I sold it on eBay.above cabinet




The closet changed a lot, depending on how fully I was inhabiting the room, which depended on who else lived in the apartment at the time. There was even a spell when the doors stayed closed with lights on inside, if you catch my drift.  That chair was a rescue – it had a broken leg, so I cut them all off, and made covers of South American textile.

The yellow poster contained numerous sayings by a sage named Vernon Howard, some of which I found very helpful. I kept an ever-changing gallery of magazine photos up there too, and of course, always, schedules from the Fox Venice Theater.closet

closet doors

small mattressSometimes just a small cot was in there, and sometimes a bigger mattress. When the room had to serve as combination bedroom and office, I got 6 rectangular boxes with one open side each, made from composite wood, for the mattress to rest on top of. If you arranged them right, it created a lot of storage space underneath. Some spaces could only be gotten to by removing the mattress, and that was okay too, as a place to keep things that other people didn’t need access to.

big mattress

When I Lived in Venice CA

V-livingroom01The TV was a bold innovation; we had been without one for a lot of years. Was I gonna leave the carton by the cans out back, and advertise a nice juicy steal-able TV?  Hell no! I think I cut the box into pieces and stuck them in a trash bag. It was of course an exercise in futility, because the kids who were in and out of our place all the time announced the TV to the entire neighborhood.

I had moved to LA to study screenwriting, so it seemed appropriate to watch the occasional movie. The electronic device on top was to receive Z-Channel and/or SelecTV.

This acoustic guitar is inexplicable. A friend must have given it to us.  My boyfriend played an electric, and would certainly not have left it in the living room under any circumstances. I had learned a few chords at some point in the past, but it’s no good if you don’t keep your calluses up to date.  The machine under the plastic protective cover was a TTY for my deaf daughter. The coffee table was a crate, with one of my collages on top, under clear plastic.

V-kitchen01&06The kitchen table – the art on the wall was a found painting, and the tablecloth a patchwork creation sewed by me. I wish I still had those solid, honest chairs. And then, another view of the kitchen, at least a couple of years later, with Dale Hartman paintings and a different patchwork tablecloth. The ceramic wind chimes were made by a friend from Joshua Tree.

V-kitchen04&05This architectural feature, which went almost up to the ceiling, enclosed the trash can, brooms and miscellaneous cleaning shit, with space in the top compartment for seldom-used appliances etc. It was always covered with comic strips cut from magazines or the Sunday color comics. The theme was to put up cartoons that reminded us of stuff that happened in the apartment, and our own absurdity. Making fun of other people was second-best. The cool thing to do was find illustrations of what was laughable about yourself.

That refrigerator, I’m pretty sure I bought it from the neighbor two doors down, when the landlord wouldn’t replace the one that died. Many of the grim details have mercifully vanished from consciousness, but all the facts are in Ghost Town: a Venice California life, so if you read it you’ll know more than I do.

Sometimes I was given tickets to advance screenings at movie studios, and American Pop was one of them. Just because the poster hung above the fridge, that doesn’t necessarily mean we went. But we probably did.

V-bathroom“He came in through the bathroom window” – No, not Furkey. (See what I did there? “Turkey” was once a widely-used term of disapprobation. And the cat was covered with…)

Before the burglar bars were installed, a youth tried to come in. My boyfriend was home alone and investigated a noise or just intended to take a leak, I forget which. By yelling and cussing very loud, and making a lunge as if to grab the guy’s leg, he repelled the invader. We found one of the towels out in the back parking area, but I don’t think that’s what Homeboy originally had in mind.

Next one down:   India bedspread curtains. I loved how the light came through them. That window faced the back parking area. When I moved in, it was the only one with burglar bars. Yes, the place was broken into, but not through the unprotected windows. Sons of bitches broke the front door. It’s all there in Ghost Town: a Venice California Life.


A bedroom shared with a musician. I made the patchwork pillow of course. A subversive poster urged NO DRAFT NO WAR NO NUKES. Over on the right, the fabulous hand-drawn map of Venice created by Jeffrey Stanton, who sold copies of it from a vending table on the boardwalk. When I got it home, I realized that the map’s title and legend covered up the part where we lived, authentic OG ghetto-ish Oakwood.


Next: Part of the living room, two different Christmases. Apparently, the bunch-of-branches-in-a-bottle concept was so satisfactory, we did it twice.  Farther down, a later Christmas, with a Dale Hartman painting.Christmas01&03


Time to move out, with stuff waiting in the living room to discover its fate. I had rescued and reupholstered all three of those chairs, but ended up giving them all away because of less space in the new place. Bummer.


Subsidizing the Artist


Yes, I am audacious enough to think someone will share space with me – a couple of rooms in a house, a converted garage, a granny flat. For one thing, they’ve done it before. I think someone will let me live somewhere either free or below “market value,” or in return for some kind of help, or take their payment in paintings, or have the book dedicated to them.

Yes, I have the nerve to think someone will help subsidize my life on a direct, one-to-one basis. I’m fine with that, because it will be voluntary. Besides, my karma as both a host and a guest is pretty clean.

A lot of times, other artists give me advice, and don’t want to know about the reservations I have, some combination of political and religious scruple. Like “apply for a grant.” Where does grant money come from?* Well, some of it is extracted from the people via taxation. I’m not in favor of that. Some of it comes from corporations, so most of it is dirty in one way or another.

But even leaving that aside, here is a simple question that has never been answered to my satisfaction: If the company is making so much that they can give away money, why don’t they just lower the price of their product or service, and let their own customers get the benefit? Or hey – how about giving the workers a raise?

People unwillingly and unknowingly support far-off projects because either the government or a corporation decides a particular enterprise ought to be funded.

I’m all for people supporting the arts voluntarily. Preferably, by sharing their extra living space with me so I can get this book written.

*Questions like this inspired the zine Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics, of which 25 issues were published over ten years.

A Little Activism, A Little Fun

Addicted to War

In 1966 Allen Ginsberg reasoned that if somebody could declare war, somebody else could un-declare it. (Of course, the Vietnam conflict had never been officially initiated according to America’s guidelines for war-declaring, so that only added to the irony.) Next came the Phil Ochs song “The War is Over,” which has, by the way, some kick-ass lyrics.

“I declare the war is over” was a brave, quixotic, flower-childy kind of an idea. The decree didn’t stop the Vietnam war, but if Phil Ochs had lived long enough, he would have seen wondrous things of a similar nature. One day everybody in Germany decided “let’s take down that stupid wall.” All of a sudden everybody in Russia decided that being Communist was no fun, and decided to stop it. Sometimes the course can be reversed. Sometimes it happens overnight.

Fast-forward to the fall of 2006, when the mood seemed to be “no more need for protest,” a feeling that we could all go home now and resume normal life as it was before Bush. As if people were saying the war is over, not in a wishful-thinking Sixties way, but in a way that meant they were sick of hearing about it and had better things to do. I didn’t quite get it. I wrote,

I wish Americans would learn more about the countries they carpet-bomb. That novel The Kite Runner I read last week about Afghanistan before everything went pear-shaped, was real good on illuminating the charming, civilized aspects of Afghan culture (and in reminding us that not everyone is a religious fanatic.) Here’s an example. Somebody is thanked for a favor. They don’t say “de nada” or even “You’re welcome.” They say, “For you, a thousand times over.” Wouldn’t you think twice about invading a country where they have such nice expressions?

That was written to Marc Madow of (both now deceased) and he sent me a copy of  Addicted to War, written by Joel Andreas and published by Frank Dorrel, which knocked my socks off. Dorrel made me a screamin’ deal so I bought 10 copies and set aside a day to bike around town. I left copies of the book at the public library’s admin office, at the library’s discard and donation shelf, in a Methodist church library, and at six coffeehouses. On the first page of the coffeehouse ones, I had written,

I was donated for lots of people to read. Please leave me here. If you must take me home, please bring me back or pass me on to a friend.

The establishment at the nearest major intersection to where I live was called Mugs, and on their bookshelf I also left a copy of Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer, an excellent companion volume to Addicted to War.

Three or four weeks later I was back at the shopping center, for groceries, and as usual I cut through the alley by the coffeehouse. There, on top of the dumpster, along with a couple of weekly papers, was Addicted to War. It couldn’t have been there long, it was all clean and no snow had fallen on it. From the evidence of the spinal creases it had been partly read at least once, before the staff rejected it. And just by the merest chance, I happened by at the exact right time to rescue the book.

Aren’t coffee houses supposed to be hotbeds of dissident thought? When such a place throws out such a book, what is America coming to?

Not long afterward I visited the coffeehouse again, and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a piece of cake, and put the same copy of Addicted to War back on the bookshelf. I hope it freaked somebody out when they found it there again, a reproachful revenant back from the grave.

My First Painting Ever

There always has to be a first time, right? It was around 1970, and somewhere a piece of paper torn from a notebook describes the exact circumstances by which it came about. All I can guess is that someone donated a canvas and a couple of tubes of oil paint, which makes this not only my first painting, but my first oil painting, and my only oil painting. Quite a lot of significance for one picture to carry!

first painting

It looks like shit with that glare, and one day I’ll crank up PhotoShop and do a reconstruction job on it.

The idea was inchoate at the time, which is probably why I felt such a strong need to paint it. Later on expressed in words it came out like this: The most highly developed form of human is the mentally androgynous person. Miriam says it better. “In Praise of Androgyny

When I left town, I gave the painting to Jim Perry. If you’re out there, Jim, I hope you’re still taking good care of it, and yourself.

Dream Sun, aka Dream Cliff

In my early 20s there was a breakup with a husband – again – and I was sleeping at my grandma’s, when I dreamed this. It’s kind of amazing that even as a couch-surfer, I had a sketch pad and watercolors at hand. That was the start of the picture I call sometimes “Dream Sun” and sometimes “Dream Cliff.”

A whole lot of years later, when I belonged to an artists’ co-op, I painted the square version in acrylics and someone bought it.


The next one is of course a collage, with pieces cut from magazine pages. I made it for a Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics theme issue on the topics of Love, Sex and Relationships. Since our process was straight photocopying, I knew it would only be seen in black and white so the colors didn’t matter. I did the lettering with typewriter correction fluid that comes in a bottle with a little brush attached to the lid, because it was easier than finding white paint and a regular brush. The words say,

“The ancients glorified the instinct and were prepared on its account to honor even an inferior object; while we despise the instinctual activity in itself, and find excuses for it only in the merit of the object.” ——Freud

salon_collage copy

Somewhere around that time, I was looking at a book of microphotographs and found this picture of the crystalline structure of basalt, which immediately reminded me of the look and feel of the original dream vision.


A lot more time went by, and the next iteration of the idea must have been my first rudimentary attempt at using a drawing program on a computer and it exists only as an electronic chimera, never having so much as been printed out.


A few years ago I decided to have at it again, partly as therapy for some emotional upset. I still like this one (acrylics, 18” x 24”) but might give it another go some time.


Dream Sun can be found at Etsy.

Art and Death


I have some discretionary writing time today, meaning it’s okay to pick any one of 99 things to work on. Unsure of where to start, I consult the heap of to-do notes. The top piece of paper suggests a little chore with no commercial value, and not germane to any ongoing project of mine. Something to look up just purely because my nosy brain wants to know. How are you supposed to say “euphemism”?

I once had a prof who said “yoo-foo-ism,” which I figured was either ignorance or affectation. Maybe at University he had belonged to an exclusive literary society, whose members recognized one another in the larger world by their twee mispronunciations of certain words.

So the other day I’m listening to an audiotape of David Foster Wallace essays (not the ones he himself narrated) and it includes lists of words that interested DFW. For one of them, the reader says “yoo-fee-ism” – which I assume is “euphemism” with the middle M omitted. The definition Wallace had jotted down for it was “ornate, allusive, overpoetic prose style” which sounds right.

So I goes to Wikipedia, and I skims the article, just on general principles, and there it is: the happy accident the Goddess wanted to guide me to, today. The nugget of novelty, the serendipity, the bit of information that hooks into something else I’ve been thinking about. Here it is:

Among indigenous Australians, it is forbidden to use the name, image, or recording of the deceased.

That opens up a world of questions. In my life as an artist, one of the peak experiences was an exhibit of Australian aboriginal paintings. I’m pretty sure some of their creators were no longer alive. Yet their names were displayed next to their works. In books, too. And theoretically, it would be wrong to use the name, image, or recording of any artist still living, either. Because after that person dies, the photo or recording, or the printed syllables of their name will still exist.

Maybe the names of the dead should remain unsaid, but no matter how fervently the indigenous Australians hold that belief, I’m guessing that the government requires every kind of name on every kind of paperwork. The corollary to that would be, I bet everybody has a secret name that is never, ever divulged to the authorities or written anywhere. Because that would be the only way to observe the taboo. If some ancestor’s name is on a gallery wall next to a painting, so what? It never was their real name anyway.

Or maybe I got this idea from The Last Wave. There’s another thing to look up. Along with the answers to several other questions raised by this notion.

Also, a dead guy is the screensaver on my computer. Maybe I do him a grave (ha) disservice by keeping him around like that. Maybe in the spirit world, it is considered incredibly rude.

P.S.      In “euphemism,” the middle M is definitely pronounced.

P.P.S   Ha ha, but I’m still wrong. The thing kept bothering me, so I found a picture of the actual page of the book, and what Wallace had on his vocabulary list was “euphuism,” a word new to me. The dictionary suggests what sounds like “yoo-fyoo-ism.” So the professor, all those years ago, was right, and not saying the word I thought he was saying, and that’s okay. But it still doesn’t explain why the narrator of the audio book said “yoo-fee-ism.”

And anyway, it led to the thing about the Australians.


The painting “Oubliette” could be yours!