Tag Archives: personal

guitar therapy

I try to hang out with my guitar a little bit every day because nothing really takes your mind off shit like noodling around on the strings until your fingertips are numb.  I put a lot of work into writing my own material, but no matter how much time and energy I expend on creating my own stuff, the songs I always end up coming back to and playing over and over again were written by other people.  I’m hardly a musician, but I guess I do have a little bit of a knack for deconstructing punk rock songs down to their bare bones — that’s what I do in Cunt Sparrer, and it’s what I’ve been doing lately when I get frustrated with my inability to come up with my own tunes.

So, for lack of anything else to post about, here are a couple of my super-rudimentary punk rock covers, which I record periodically and upload to my Youtube account, saraplayspunksongs:

“All This & More” (with apologies to the Dead Boys):

“Adult Books” (with apologies to X):

“Don’t Mess With Cupid” (with apologies to the New York Dolls):

As you can probably tell, I can only play a handful of chords, but I make do with what I got.  And what I got (as one of my original songs says) has got me to the gettin’ place.

My buddy Kevin Seconds liked my New York Dolls cover enough to ask if I want to record it and include it on a new comp he’s putting out for his upcoming Arms Aloft Musical Roadshow tour, so that’s pretty cool.  (Actually, it’s really cool…like, a-little-bit-beside-myself cool.  I’ve known Kevin for a couple of years now and he’s watched me make a complete drunken fool of myself in more than one southwestern state, but I don’t think I’ll ever fully get over being able to collaborate with someone who has been a huge icon to me for, like, my entire punk rock career.)

A comment I hear pretty often from girls, both here on this blog and out at my shows, is that they’d like to be playing music but they think it’s “too late” to learn or that they don’t have the innate ability they think is necessary to get the hang of an instrument.  I really get this.  I used to feel like this too.  I didn’t start teaching myself to play guitar until I was 20, and I was almost 25 by the time that Cunt Sparrer started performing.  I still don’t feel like I have much more musical skill than I did back on the day I took my old Daisy Rock acoustic out of the packaging, but the point is that over the years I’ve managed, somehow, to fake it.  Listen — I really don’t have any illusions about my talent or lack thereof, but I used to not know how to strum a lick, and now I can get a guitar to do pretty much what I want it to do.  And it feels good!

It’ll probably be several more years (if ever) before I stop correcting people when they refer to me as a musician, but I’m at least starting to get used to the idea that talent is what you make of it.  There are detractors — there will always be detractors! — but having the confidence to put your shit out there is seriously way more than half the battle, and you never know, it could end up dumping some cool opportunities in your lap.

I think it would be cool to hear from female musicians (and aspiring female musicians!) in the comments.  What are you guys doing and playing and creating and covering and recording?  What projects do you have in mind for the future?  Show and tell!

Advertisements

l.a. zine fest!


On Sunday my best friend Jennie and I took our new music/art zine, Library Sciences, to show at the first annual L.A. Zine Fest!  We’re new to the zine world and we weren’t totally sure what to expect from the fest, but it ended up being the greatest DIY event either of us have ever had the pleasure of attending.  We were so happy to be a part of it, and the organizers really turned it out when it came to putting the whole thing together.  There were almost a hundred exhibitors from all around the country, and as you can see from the L.A. Zine Fest Flickr pool, the place was packed all day long.

What was really great about the event was the huge variety of incredibly talented people represented — everyone from Ayun Holliday of The East Village Inky and the trio behind Henry & Glenn Forever to local artists selling their print-and-staple comics — and how amazingly cool everyone was.  When Jennie and I walked in and saw all the girls setting up in their candy-colored tights and killer accessories, we felt like we had finally found our people.  The DIY spirit and sense of community was seriously inspiring.

Speaking of seriously inspiring, I can’t even tell you what a treat for the eyes this event was — everyone was dressed in cartoon style, looking effortless and completely delicious, and I was in total heaven.


Above are the really fabulous Emi of Pygmy Hippo and Marie of Agent Lover, whose ensembles I basically killed myself over from the second I saw Emi’s polka-dot headscarf and Marie’s hot pink knee socks.


Sheika of OMGcow.com was there with a ton of incredible comics and was basically a total beacon of adorability in her bright yellow dress — you couldn’t help but be drawn to her table!  And she drew a really cute portrait of me in about two seconds flat:


So cute!


Grissel, above, was at the fest with Never Press, and I loved her retro printed dress, nude fishnets and cute little flats, not to mention that hair (and her super sweet personality)!


Sylvia of The Doktor Is In was one of the first people I saw when I walked into the fest, and I was immediately drawn to her amazing tone-on-tone outfit, which reminded me a little bit of Velma from Scooby-Doo (a style icon if I’ve ever seen one).  I got to pick up a couple of her zines and I really love her self-deprecating sense of humor and straight talk.


And how cute is Sarah, above, who was at the fest with No More Geeks?  Girl is serving some modern indie Mia Farrow and I like it.

Thanks to our friend Emilio of Aperture Priority for the fisheye photos!

To our huge surprise, we sold out of the entire first run of Library Sciences Issue One!  We listed more on Etsy today and are really looking forward to putting out our second issue and participating in a lot more events like L.A. Zine Fest.

Not too shabby!

hairy teeth & bellbottoms

I can’t start this next post without acknowledging my last one. I really want to thank all my readers and friends, both online and in my real life, for the support and encouragement regarding my ongoing struggles with depression. It’s always difficult for me to come forward and talk about my own emotions (that whole issue of “having a wall up,” I guess), but it’s also always a huge relief afterwards to be reminded that I am far from alone in grappling with this stuff. All the emails and comments I’ve received have been hugely helpful to me — thank you guys so much. If you ever want to have a dialogue with me about this or anything else, please feel free to write me: mycartoonheart@gmail.com.

ANYWAY. ON TO LIGHTER THINGS.

My friend Josh, né JOSHR, is an incredible artist (I have a huge painting of his hanging over my bed to prove it), and his two-man show with Stink, called Hairy Teeth, is opening at Hurley’s H Space Gallery in Laguna Beach tonight.  My super-bestie Jennie was also heavily involved in getting this show together so it’s basically going to be a night of friends and art and tacos.  Really stoked that my amazing friends are getting some recognition for their hard work and serious talent.

Here’s what I threw on for the show tonight:

Gap coat, Ambience cardigan, H&M scarf, vintage t-shirt, Forever 21 bellbottoms, Steve Madden wedges, MAC lipstick in Russian Red.

Nothing exciting, basically just what I wore to work but with wedges and lipstick thrown in to fool people into thinking I made an effort. I think buffalo plaid and leopard spots are two prints that play well together, though. The white t-shirt is an ancient Neil Diamond concert shirt I’ve had since I was 18 or so, hence why the neckline is sliced off as if it is 2004.



Not gonna lie, I’m feeling the bellbottoms. I’ve been a skinny jeans girl since before skinny jeans were even something that you could easily buy in stores (before that it was all about hand-tapering for maximum tightness, usually using dental floss in lieu of thread because dental floss is more punk rock), but secretly I’ve always had a thing for bellbottoms. Probably because when I was in eighth grade I had a Really Extremely Cool1 pair with burgundy-and-pink tulips embroidered on the flares, which I always wore with a matching burgundy chenille sweater, and it was in this outfit that a boy first asked me for my phone number2. So clearly I equate bellbottoms (embroidered or not) with being completely and totally alluring.

Hopefully I’m right and they are completely and totally alluring and some dude will once again be hypnotized by the ringin’ of my bells and ask for my phone number tonight, though honestly, I’m not holding my breath, because there is still the whole issue of the Neil Diamond t-shirt working against me, and also that whole thing about how I am totally awkward and ridiculous in any kind of social situation. Oh and also that whole thing about how I am actually currently terrified of human contact and basically incapable of being in a relationship sooooo maybe not.

1 Really not cool at all. I was painfully uncool in junior high. LOOK AT ME NOW, SUCKERS! Oh, wait.

2 I was not even interested but the very idea that someone would ask for my phone number was so foreign to me at the time that I gave it to him. He used it to call and give me running commentary on the episode of “The Simpsons” that he was watching. I never have been a “Simpsons” fan. Needless to say our relationship was over before it ever truly began.

and miles to go before i sleep


Well…

For the past couple of months I’ve been feeling a little, for lack of a better word, adrift.  Last summer I wrote about my ongoing struggle with depression, and the cocktail of mood-stabilizing drugs that helped me drag myself up out of the bullshit.  At the time I felt almost elated, like through Zoloft and Abilify I had somehow found a magic cure that made me feel normal again.  And for a while I did feel almost normal, “almost,” I guess, being the operative word.

A few months after I lost my job I stopped taking the medication, in part because of the exorbitant cost of drugs when one doesn’t have insurance ($375.00 for a month’s worth of Abilify?  You must be joking me), but also in part because I no longer felt like being “managed.”  Okay, the pills maybe made me more pleasant to be around, they maybe chemically somewhat dissipated the weird invisible gray cloud I feel is always following me around, but I felt like I was living a half-life, like I couldn’t be trusted with my own emotions.  The very idea of “mood stabilizers” started to sound sinister to me.  I don’t want to stabilize my blacker feelings.  I want to be able to understand, wrangle, and get past them.

 So I stopped taking the pills.  Probably not the smartest idea, considering they say you should consult your doctor and be weaned off SSRIs rather than dropping them cold-turkey, but frankly my doctor was kind of an asshole who kept misdiagnosing me and asking me if I was on meth (what?) and didn’t seem to have much of an agenda for me getting better beyond dumping drugs down my neck.  Whenever I showed up at his office crying he just increased my dosage and said he was certain I would get past this.  For some reason it wasn’t reassuring.  So I just stopped.

For the first few weeks I felt strangely OK, a little blurred, a little off, but generally OK.  Then, somewhere around November, the full force of my depression started coming at me again.  I found myself having weird creepy secret crying jags on my couch in the middle of the day.  Sleep wasn’t coming.  My relationship ended (for a few reasons, but my depression and anxiety and the ensuing inability to be available to someone else who, incidentally, also suffered from depression and anxiety were clearly a major factor).  Social engagements started freaking me the fuck out.  My motivation to achieve anything came to a virtual standstill.  I felt like my resting heart rate was about 25% higher than it ought to have been.  Panic was mounting and I didn’t want to mention it to anybody because I thought, well, Sara, you kind of brought this upon yourself.  It was like, here’s your bed, now fucking lie in it.

So over the holiday season I attempted to muddle through, not wanting to mention my shit to anyone.  Although anyone who knows me in person will tell you I’m pretty outgoing, at the same time when it comes to matters of the heart and mind I have a tendency to keep mum.  It’s a condition that psuedotherapists on VH1 reality shows refer to as “having a wall up.”  My friends and family seemed satisfied with my condition and I didn’t want to alarm anyone.  Also there’s this whole thing about admitting you are depressed that causes the people around you to treat you differently.  I don’t like being handled with kid gloves, nor do I particularly like to talk about my feelings.  Keeping my shit bottled up inside prevented both of these things from happening.  Friends and family kept telling me I seemed like I was doing well, that I was happy, and these comments sparked a sort of perverse satisfaction inside me: Fooled you.  But also, You really have no idea.

Internally I was starting to lose it.  My life had become fraught with a neverending series of what-ifs.  What if I agree to go to that party and then I have an anxiety attack?  What if I get too drunk and start getting sloppy about my feelings?  What if while we’re out of town I suddenly really really need to be by myself? What if I can’t get out of this?  And, most distressingly, what if the people I love get sick of me for not being able to kick this fucking bullshit?  I’ve been around enough other depressed people in my life to know that it can take near-saintly levels of patience to put up with someone caught up in the throes of interior weirdness.  You want to shake them and tell them to snap out of it, to get right, to start acting like the person you know they are.  I felt like if I could fake my way through this period than I could get out of it on my own and no one would be the wiser.

Because honestly, it’s embarrassing.  As if I didn’t already have enough bad feelings to deal with, I was now dealing with the depressive’s guilt about being depressed.  Why am I depressed, you know?  Like, I don’t have it as great as some people but my life is in no way even close to being bad.  People tell me all the time how lucky I am, which I know, and which makes me feel like even more of an asshole for not being able to pull myself up by my bootstraps and fucking DEAL WITH IT.  I read Allie from Hyperbole and a Half’s hilarious webcomic about her own “adventures” in depression, and I related with what she said:

“It’s disappointing to feel sad for no reason. Sadness can be almost pleasantly indulgent when you have a way to justify it – you can listen to sad music and imagine yourself as the protagonist in a dramatic movie. You can gaze out the window while you’re crying and think “This is so sad. I can’t even believe how sad this whole situation is. I bet even a reenactment of my sadness could bring an entire theater audience to tears.”

But my sadness didn’t have a purpose.  Listening to sad music and imagining that my life was a movie just made me feel kind of weird because I couldn’t really get behind the idea of a movie where the character is sad for no reason.”

Man, I feel that.  And if there’s something I am good at, it’s compartmentalizing my feelings.  I wrapped up my depression and anxiety and put it in a box marked with a big sad face and tried to shove it into the back of my mind.

When I do this kind of thing, this whole pretending-everything-is-okay thing, I tend to fling myself with wild abandon into some kind of pointless but valiant-seeming distraction.  I become a one-track mind kind of girl.  I’ve had weeks where I did literally nothing but sit around the house with my guitar playing the same few chords over and over again.  All those runway photos I used to painstakingly trim the backgrounds from and arrange in Photoshop for days, even weeks on end, back in the WR2BAM days?  A symptom of my depression, for sure.  The intense spurt of creative inspiration I had at the beginning of my unemployment, when I was pumping out pins and jewelry at an alarming pace?  The same distraction technique.  It’s like my mind is going, give me something to do — anything — just keep me occupied so we don’t have to think about this other thing.

This time around this obsessive mania has manifested itself in an even less productive form.  In my spare time for the past month or so I’ve been doing literally nothing but reading.  I’m tearing through three or four novels a week.  I guess somehow devoting all my available mental space to other people’s fiction seems like a more lofty, intellectual way of dealing with my emotions than, for instance, parking it in front of the TV for hours on end.  “See, I’m not just wasting my life away!  I read Anna Karenina in two days last week!”  But ultimately, escapism is escapism, and no matter how many Russian classics I plow through, it’s not a replacement for my real full life.  And that box I had shoved into the back of my mind keeps dislodging itself and tipping over and spilling everything out all over my brain.  One minute I’m reading Jonathan Lethem and everything seems OK and the next minute I’m curled up in the fetal position, crying.

When you are depressed, bearing this shit alone can feel almost noble.  I just finished Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot (which I thought was pretty crap), but I did relate to the character of Leonard and how he considered himself to be a “superior” type of depressive.  I have found myself thinking similar things about myself over the course of my life when I have struggled with my own mental stability, like being depressed somehow makes me interesting or more valid as a writer.  The fact is, though, that that’s all the depression talking.  Depression validates itself.  But it will never fix itself.

So a couple of weeks ago I broke down and admitted to my family the rough time that I’ve been having.  I’m still working up the nerve to talk about it in more depth with some of my close friends, because I know my mental weirdness is affecting my interactions with the people I love.  But just admitting to someone, finally, that things are not going well almost felt like the first step in getting myself out of this mess this time.  I have made the decision not to go back on medication, and armed with that knowledge and the support of my family I now know that I can’t expect myself to deal with this on my own.  I don’t need the pills, but I do need someone to talk to — a good doctor that I can relate to and who won’t call me a narcissist and assume that I’m on amphetamines —  and I need to be more conscious of the support system I already have in place.

Ultimately I know this is not a burden that can be shouldered alone, no matter how alone it can make a person feel.  I have come to the understanding that this is not something I will ever be entirely free of — and that, in turn, has brought me to the understanding that the sooner I learn to deal with it, to understand it, and to do the things necessary to bring myself out of it, the better.  I feel like I’m ready to start the learning process.

I don’t know.  I’m not doing well.  But I know I’ll be all right.

odds and ends

I haven’t gotten many outfit photos lately (shocking, I know) so I did some quick drawings of a couple of things I’ve worn in the past few days:

What I wore for a girls’ night last weekend with some of my friends — Blood Is The Neck Black tank top, a buffalo-check wool peacoat from Gap that I’ve had for a couple of years, skintight leatherette pants and black suede platform heels.  I looked a little fancier in person than in the drawing above…but not much, honestly.


On Sunday I went with some friends for a picnic at the gravesite of our friend Lisa, who passed a year ago. She was a fabulous, flamboyant dresser with a penchant for dramatic skirts and outrageous hats, so I figured it was only appropriate to try to dress in Lisa fashion, in a sheer skull-print blouse, floor-length jersey skirt, floppy wool hat from Forever 21, and big sunglasses.

    

I’ve been kinda under the weather the past few days so I’ve just been laying low, messing around with my lap steel guitar and totally devouring 1Q84 on my Kindle.  I’ve got a friend coming into town for the weekend tonight and another coming out next week so I’m enjoying my last few hours of downtime before what’s sure to be a hectic but fun few days ahead.

rhinestone cowgirl


I.N.C. leopard swing coat, Target t-shirt and jeans, vintage cowboy boots, MAC Russian Red lipstick.



I always feel the most like myself when my outfit is a little on the ridiculous side.  This morning when I got dressed I was thinking about Exene Cervenka in her cowboy boots and red lipstick on New Year’s Eve.  I love that juxtaposition of glammy punk rock and relaxed country, and I think it’s pretty reflective of my personal style these days too.


My vintage rhinestone necklace was a swapmeet find that’s a little outside my normal aesthetic but that I really love, especially paired with casual stuff.  The mink jawbone necklace is from Skullery and was a Christmas gift from my roommate and heterosexual life partner Farron.  They’re not normally things I’d think to wear together, but I like the way the V-shape of the mink jaw kind of echoes the V-shape of the rhinestone necklace.


I picked up these old black Joe Sanchez cowboy boots a few years ago at a vintage store in downtown Jacksonville, Florida, while I was on a rowdy 1o-day jaunt across the South that included my making heart-shaped eyes at Unknown Hinson at the Star Bar in Atlanta and being thrown out of a Waffle House off the I-75 at 3:30 in the morning.  I love them not only because they are the perfect pair of basic cowboy boots, but also because they remind me of being 21 and partying all over Georgia with a bunch of awesome people I haven’t seen since.

loving and losing and learning

In the fall in San Francisco I was in the bathroom at Zeitgeist and someone had scrawled graffiti in red lipstick on the back of the stall door.  It was big and messy and earnest and it said “MY ♥ IS BROKEN.”

I thought, Me too, girl.  Not broken like brokenhearted — I was in love then — but broken, like, it just don’t work right.

I confess, I have a history of being a serial monogamist.  Since I dove head-first into the dating pool at the tail end of my teens, my longest solo stretch has lasted only about four months.  And even when I’m actively single (meaning actually going out and attempting to connect with other human life forms, as opposed to inactively single, which involves sitting on the couch in my underwear watching “Snapped” marathons on Oxygen), history proves that I tend to spend a lot of that “alone” time hung up on some unavailable asshole or another who gives me enough attention to keep me interested until I find someone else who is actually willing to date me.  Then, inevitably — sometimes after a couple of months, sometimes after a couple of years — I realize I’m in a relationship with someone who, while possibly wonderful, is also probably wrong for me.  And so the whole process begins again.

It was the same song this year.  I found someone in January that I came to love a lot.  I still love him.  But the longer I stayed with him the more I realized how incapable I was of being in a successful relationship.  I hadn’t given myself enough time to figure myself out before falling back into the comfort of being part of a couple.  Maybe I had never given myself enough time.  I thought for a while I could somehow both find myself and figure out what it is I wanted and still stay with this kind, sweet person whom I feel is so deserving of good love.  Ultimately I had to come to terms with the fact that I was wrong.  My search for myself made me neglectful of my relationship to the point where it was unfair to remain.

It hurt.  It still hurts.  It’s really hard to leave someone you love when things just aren’t working and you can’t put your finger on quite why.  But I’m trying to be an adult and being an adult, I guess, means facing up to your issues and dealing with them instead of repeating the same old patterns.  So that’s what I’m trying to do.

As I’ve grown older I’ve really come to terms with the extent to which I thrive on male attention.  It’s not a quality I find particularly attractive in myself.  I like to think of myself as a strong, independent person, yet I find that I seem to thrive in a relationship, at least at first.  I like having a partner, someone that’s always in my corner, someone that I can call and complain to about the most inane shit and someone that will hold me when I’m feeling lonely, which is often.

But, you know, who doesn’t like that?  Just because I like that doesn’t mean it’s what I need right now.  My girlfriends tell me that feeling of emptiness passes, that you get used to being by yourself.  I have to admit that I have never been alone long enough to get used to it.  I’ve never not had that void in my stomach when I’ve been by myself.  I’ve gotten pretty good over the years at filling it with meaningless pseudorelationships and half-hearted connections, but the older I get the more I realize that filling a hole with crap is not the same as repairing one.

So I’m attempting to avoid falling into the same pattern.  And it’s not easy.  When I’m alone by myself lately (which is often, now being single and still with that pesky issue of not really having much of a job or social life) I find myself doing weird things like standing in one place in the kitchen staring out the window and then looking at the clock and realizing I’ve been doing that for twenty minutes.  Or going on endless slow walks around the same block that I’m sure make me look slightly crazy to my neighbors.  Or reading sample after self-help book sample on my Kindle while rolling my eyes and feeling vaguely patronized.  Or playing the same song twenty times on my guitar until all the people who live in a 100-yard radius of me wish I’d never learned “Rainbow Connection.”  It turns out — for me, at least — that being freshly single is a lot like being freshly unemployed.  There’s the same overwhelming combined feeling of ennui and uselessness.  The difference is that at least when that feeling comes from being unemployed you can blame some other bastard, whereas when you’re single by your own fault, the only bastard is you.

But just like being unemployed, I think there’s a hump here that is possible to get over.  I’m just trying to figure out exactly how to pull it off.  I know it involves keeping busy and developing new hobbies and making a lot of time for myself and it probably doesn’t involve drinking a lot during the daytime.  So now, as I seem to be wont to do whenever I’m faced with any kind of internal problem, I’m turning to you, my infallible readers, because you’re always full of good ideas and great advice.

What do I do?  What do I read?  Where do I go?  How do I figure this all out?  I want to have a successful relationship someday.  I really do.  The problem is getting from Point A to Point B in one solid piece.