Tag Archives: sara m.

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!

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!

i ♡ jezzy belle’s

IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME AGAIN.

This time I have a $25.00 credit for my favorite Etsy vintage boutique, Jezzy Belle’s, up for grabs!

All you have to do is comment on this post!  Just say that you want to enter the giveaway, and I’ll draw a winner at random on February 13th — consider it a Galentine’s Day celebration, except instead of a throw pillow with your face and the newspaper headline from the day you were born on it, you might get an awesome twenty-five bucks to spend on vintage clothes and accessories.

My girl Deborah, who runs the shop, sent me this awesome leopard silk blouse to entice you:

I don’t actually wear a lot of vintage, which might result in me having my fashion blogger card revoked if my fashion blogger card hadn’t been lost in the mail (I mean, that’s the only reason I don’t have one, right?). It’s not that I don’t like vintage clothes — I do — but I’m in Southern California, where the thrift stores are picked over and the vintage stores are totally overpriced. I live all of two blocks from Long Beach’s famous* Retro Row, a whole strip of really cute vintage shops, but I’ve never been the type to spend a day scouring the racks for hidden treasure. Lack of patience, I guess. And lack of money (because anything worth buying from Retro Row is usually priced exorbitantly high). That’s why I like vintage shops on Etsy like Jezzy Belle’s — someone else has already done the work for me (I’m lazy and not particularly talented at spotting gems amongst crap), and things are generally priced way more fairly.

Like, I probably never would have caught this leopard-print silk blouse in a thrift store, but thank god someone (Deborah!) did, because it’s really cute.


I’m wearing it with a retro-style longline bra and a pin for my friends’ band Honey Badgers.  Also hot pink lipstick to match the hot pink pin, because I’m matchy like that.


Vintage blouse from Jezzy Belle’s, Mossimo for Target skinny jeans, Forever 21 belt, Rampage longline bra, Qupid velveteen loafers.

After a long search for the perfect hot pink lipstick that also costs less than $10, I finally hit on Cover Girl’s Lip Perfection in “Spellbound” (stupid name, cute color).  For some reason it doesn’t show up nearly as vibrant in photos as it does in person.  The webcam shot is much more true to life.

Don’t forget to leave a comment and enter the Jezzy Belle’s giveaway!  I’ll draw a winner at random and announce it on February 13th!

 

* Not famous.

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.