Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Finding Comfort in the Familiar

Ebony and I were living together for four years when we finally started getting serious about making wedding plans. We were enjoying a lazy engagement and the pleasure of living together without roommates, while we worked and started to save. 
I had gotten Ebony a signed copy of David Tutera's "The Big White Book of Weddings," and we watched every wonderful and silly show about weddings. We loved "My Fair Wedding" and "Say Yes to the Dress," while Ebony particularly embraced "Four Weddings," a show where four brides compete for a free honeymoon by rating each other’s weddings. I found it to be sadistic as the brides were always harsh critics. Still, I watched it with her, and I would yell at the television, apoplectic, "How can you say that about someone's wedding you were fortunate enough to attend, eating and drinking for free? You didn't care for the centerpieces? Really?" Ebony would giggle as I lost it. "No one will ever make fun of our wedding," I promised her. 
As it turns out, sadly, I was right. 

In 2015, Ebony, who had migraines since she was a teen, found she was having them with more frequency and greater intensity. She take some over-the-counter pain relievers, drink some tea, lie down for an hour and be right as rain. When I expressed concern she dismissed me. She was fine, she said.

By June, it had become too much and I took her to the hospital, North Shore Long Island Jewish. Three days after being admitted, and a battery of tests and imaging, Ebony was diagnosed with brain cancer. Specifically, she had an anaplastic astrocytoma, a malignant tumor composed of a mass of cells with splinters. Doctors can remove the mass, but the splinters are difficult and can and will eventually form another tumor.

We sought a second opinion which lead us to New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell. The diagnosis was the same, but the enthusiasm of the medical team was very encouraging, although they said that if this had gone unchecked, Ebony would have been dead by Christmas.

In September, Ebony had brain surgery followed by aggressive radiation and chemotherapy. In January, the doctors told us that her imaging looked good and showed no signs of tumor recurrence. With this kind of cancer they don't say, "You're in remission," they say, "there's been no recurrence." This would have to be managed, however, with regular hospital visits: blood work every two weeks, MRIs ever six. One of the doctors told us he'd seen patients go as much as twenty years with recurrence. We were encouraged, relieved and, exhausted, returned to our lives with new hope.

I think we consciously knew we had to step things up. After everything she'd been through, a wedding seemed frivolous: Ebony wanted to live in the moment and not idle away her time planning for a one-day event. We loved each other, so hotly and so blissfully, anyone would think we didn't have a care in the world. We ate out, went to movies, comedy shows, ordered in and played video games; we traveled to Jamaica, to San Francisco; we took day trips to the north shore of Long Island to visit wineries and made frequent trips to visit my mother in Newport, Rhode Island.  

More than anything, we went to concerts. We both just loved to see live music. Metalheads, we met and fell in love because of our love of Brooklyn gothic doom metal sensations, Type O Negative. In the months that followed we saw so many bands including Adam Ant, Amon Amarth, At The Gates, Black Sabbath, Children of Bodom, The Cult, Filter, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Judas Priest, Lacuna Coil, Moonspell, Slayer, Sodom and Yoshiki at Carnegie Hall. Some of my favorite memories with Ebony was just watching her, so engaged with the music, smiling and swaying from side to side, or just putting her arm around me and knowing were so happy to have found each other.

In the spring of 2017, the doctors informed us that Ebony's tumor had recurred.

There are pictures all around the house, like a shrine. I see her everyday, in so many places. I see her in people, like Zerlina Maxwell when she's speaking out against injustice on MSNBC; I see her on Instagram when Jessica Williams is declaring how tall she is; I see her in the background of on-the-scene news reports when a crowd has gathered after yet another awful hate crime and a young woman is just looking into the camera and shaking her head. But mostly I see her in the faces of everyone attending a concert. They are alive and free from pain, celebrating the music, dancing and singing along among friends. When I go to these shows, It makes me feel like she isn't that far away and that somehow, Ebony is there with me. I sometimes cry but it makes me so happy. 

Friends tell me that my grief will get easier over time, and that's difficult to fathom; but right now, I am taking comfort in the familiar and, at least as long as I'm engaged with the music, I feel a little better, even optimistic. I feel hope and love and that's everything I felt with Ebony. 
I never know what to watch after SNL finishes. With a million channels to choose from, the thing I came across that is most intriguing is HSN.
HSN is one of a dozen or so dedicated shopping channels, like QVC and ShopHG. These channels each generate billions of dollars in annual sales. Clearly someone is watching and buying. And with numbers like that, it's no wonder that people are drawn to it to sell, sell, sell. I don't watch these things, but my mother does. She has one channel that she watches, with a show that features Waterford Crystal, the Irish crystal glass makers which she adores, and has actually called in and been on the air twice - TWICE - talking to the host after a purchase she made. About 20 years ago, when my mother was still teaching, she had difficulty sleeping (a trait I have inherited) and was prescribed Ambien for a short time. Ambien is a funny drug that sometimes can create in its host a kind-of "blackout drunk" state where the person functions as if they are awake but completely unaware of it later. During this time, my mother used to go on what I called "Ambien Shopping Trips," and days later she'd find packages at the door she'd purchased in this Fugue State. Thanks to this period, my mother has and continues to use a 6 1/2 foot artificial Christmas tree with built-in lights that never burn out. This is how I learned about the popularity of these channels.
Right now, the channel is running a marathon of IMAN: Global Chic Fashions, featuring Iman, billed here as "Designer." Currently — Live! - she is on with a blonde co-host (no idea what her name is) promoting her Luxury Resortwear line, and featuring Today’s Special ($39.95): a 2- pack of Luxury Palazzo Pants. And I am riveted because she was a) a supermodel; b) in Star Trek VI; c) happily married to the late David Bowie; and d) I think she's hot. Oh, and PS, she’s 65 and looks, I don’t know, 40? (Later on, her co-host will announce that she herself is 40 and it’s just awkward.)
I suppose i find it a little incongruous as I just imagine Iman jetting around the world or lunching at La Grenouille in NYC twice a week and yet here she is, a regular fixture on the channel formerly known by its full name, The Home Shopping Network. When she speaks, in her native Somalian accent, I try to focus, but cannot help hearing her saying to Shatner in Star Trek IV, "Not everyone keeps their genitals in the same place, Captain."
The entire show feels like an extended version of the two-minute “Fashion” segment of any morning network news and entertainment program ("This morning we'll be discussing the very serious and lethal threat of the Coronavirus; then later, we're checking in with Mizz Sheelah about the hottest shoes for summer and what sandals are right for you!"): it’s bright, breezy, upbeat and positive with a lot of descriptive detail about the clothes but also filled with uncomfortable, forced “funny” banter. But no commercials because the entire show is a commercial. So it's just 60 minutes of Iman and friends and I. Am. IN.
From the word GO, they start really leaning into how these pants, which have a pull-on style and are available in a variety of colors and prints, (notably solids and Leopard), will make you look “chic.” (The 2-pack will get you one solid and one print.) Also, the material (unnamed) moves. "It doesn’t cling on the body, and as soon as you put it on, it elongates your body, it’s fluid around the waist and it glides on your body like silk. And they’re machine-washable! So it’s a Win-Win situation.” Wow. I wonder if Iman has ever worn items from this line to the Met Gala.
They just look like cool pajamas to me -- the Purple Leopard-print Luxury Palazzo Pants look great with a red top, notably on the foxy model of a certain complexion who is wearing black Jackie O sunglasses and a Rhoda-esque Blue Leopard-print Luxury Headscarf — but I guess you can strut through the Casino Monte-Carlo or throw wine at one of your fellow housewives and still look fabulous. Also, Iman announces that “Leopard is in fashion EVERY SEASON and looks ELEGANT and CHIC however you mix it!” I’m pretty sold.
They have other things to sell as well, like the Luxury Resort 3/4-Sleeve Keyhole Tunic ($39.75); the Leopard Wedge Sandal, with a 1 1/2” platform and 4” heel (available in blue!). They also appear to have handbags but either I missed it or for whatever reason they aren’t going to discuss these today. OH NO! I stand corrected: for $44.95, you can also get the Luxury Resort Leopard Print Tote, (item #693-533), evidently available in Fuchsia, Indigo or Sexy Violet (I am guessing on the color names).
People call in and get to talk to Iman for a moment to genuflect and celebrate recent purchases and I wonder f anyone calls and wants to talk about “Let’s Dance” or “Blackstar,” though I suppose HSN screens the calls thoroughly. And it would be pretty hurtful and disrespectful to Iman but nevertheless, the thought ran across my mind, just for a second. I guess if I did get through I would tell her that I loved all his albums, and, “I miss him, too.”
They have since moved on to the Luxury Resort Duster Vest. I always thought dusters were a very strange item of clothing that serves no purpose - it just looks like a lab coat to me, for women who don't work in a lab but want the feel of being on "Grey's Anatomy" - but I know nothing about fashion, much less women’s fashion. Yet to me, a duster is neither “coat” nor “sweater,” as it won’t protect from inclement weather or (seemingly) keep you warm. I don’t understand what its function is but I see that dusters are incredibly popular. I see them everywhere on women of a certain age, especially in Spring and Autumn, so they must have some purpose. And I could easily see Ebony wearing all this stuff: she had a 3/4 length sweater- though to be fair, it was A SWEATER - so if she was here, she could buy the entire collection and winter in Monaco in style.
I find the co-host to be a little disingenuous discussing the Luxury Resort Blazer, an item which looks like a blazer and, which, as she is wearing it, declares, “I have been looking for a blazer like this!” And I’m thinking, “You work at HSN!” There’s NEVER been a blazer like that ever featured? I can’t tell if she’s reading from a TelePrompTer or vamping. It must be hard to stand next to Iman, who looks devastating at 65, and try to be cool and convivial while you are selling Hot Panamas.
Ooh! They just announced that, today only, if you donate $3. or more to NEST (Nest is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) building a new handworker economy to increase global workforce inclusivity, improve women’s wellbeing beyond factories, and preserve important cultural traditions around the world), HSN will match the donations. Pretty neat.
While I was typing, the hour ended and is now into an Encore presentation, so I guess they’re just going to run this over and over all night. Daylight Savings Time just kicked in and now it’s 3 instead of 2 a.m. but I might stay up and watch it again because listening to Iman’s mellifluous Luxury Resort Palazzo voice is enchanting and I can’t sleep anyway.
Check it all out at HSN.com...

Sunday, December 08, 2019

This is a long-read… 

Lost Without Love

I am a fuckup and a mess. I can barely function. I just want to stay wrapped in my blankets and warm under the covers and disappear from the world. I am so exhausted, so tired and so fried… I just want to stay in bed and cry myself to sleep. I shiver as if it’s 40 below and freezing and then an hour later I’m sweating like a New Orleans hooker on Dollar Day in July. Not only am I depressed but evidently I’m going through Menopause. I’m a mess. As the kids say, I. Can’t. Even.

I had to push everyone away. Everyone Out. There is only so much I can take and I was/and am overwhelmed. I couldn’t engage. I can’t. How can I? What can I say? I blew off all my friends. Childhood friends, people I have known since 4th grade, my oldest friend and her mother, my closest friends and acquaintances, people who barely know me – fucking Rockstars for God’s sake – publicists -- I pushed everyone out by not answering the phone. I deactivated my Facebook account. I went off the grid. I ignored the phone and messages from texts, emails, various social media: I pushed everyone out by ignoring them, avoiding them, and, like a Diva Opera singer after a bad performance, passively said, “Everyone get out of my dressing room!”

As of this writing, I have over 2000 emails I haven’t opened or answered; 32 phone calls I haven’t responded to; text messages up the ass and a host of other forms of socials that I just blew off. I blew off everything – because what the fuck is the point? I am alone and my love, my beautiful lover is gone. I had an exclusive interview with Adam Ant – that’s right, maybe he’s not your favorite artist but he’s one of mine and he only talked to me – to ME -- and no one else IN THE WORLD about his upcoming tour, a third leg kinda deal for the U.S. “Friend or Foe” tour -- and I couldn’t sit still long enough to transcribe it because I fell apart. That’s how bad it is. My anxiety was/is crippling. I was paralyzed. Immobile.
I pushed everyone out -- fully crazed – and basically – I gave up giving a Fuck. It got so bad that my editor at Billboard, Christa Titus, got in touch with a couple of friends – Dan Epstein and Rey Roldan, God bless them all – and she called the Newport Police Department – from New York -- and had them do a “Wellness Check” – which means the Police came by the house to see if I was alive. My 76-year old mother answered the door…. and had to assure them that I was, in fact, alive, but just broken down, miserable and fucking depressed. A wreck. But I had to check out.

I had to. I was like a plate spinner, a guy who juggles chainsaws. I was overwhelmed. After Ebony passed – I took care of her, with her Mother, who moved in with us into
our one-bedroom apartment in Queens, against all odds after her Cancer progressed and she needed 24-hour care – she couldn’t use her arms and her legs but yet she was cognizant about what was going on – I was not going to fail her no matter what -- and yet somehow I worked a full-time night job at ABC News Radio and still got up at 9 A.M. to clean her, change her, bathe her, make her tea… and make certain that she had a LIFE and not just an Existence in a place surrounded by LOVE – I did what any lover would do, I think -- I later resigned from ABC and I moved from Queens back home to Newport, R.I. to grieve and look after my mother and I was starting to mope… and Jamie Roberts, a publicist friend who used to work for Century Media, and who knows a little about depression, texted me and told me to go see one of her bands, AWOLNation, in Providence – a band I didn’t even know and isn’t in my iPod. – no one turns down Jamie Roberts, she used to handle Type O and Fear Factory -- so, after only a couple of months after Ebony passed – and thanks to some amazing publicists -- I was going to see bands – for free -- as Ebbs and I used to do so frequently – I saw everyone in the area – Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, Five Finger Death Punch, Adam Ant, The English Beat, Slayer, Powerman 5000, Bush, Stone Temple Pilots, The Cult – my 30th Cult show –
Jah 9 (I love reggae), Helloween (yes) –– I even saw Junglepussy and Hopeadope (female hip-hop rapper ladies) and everyone here back home just kept me so distracted from my depression. Ebony was gone and I was so miserable but there was so much activity I couldn’t focus on it long enough because there was so much to do. I was just putting on a good face.

AND I was taking care of my mother. Her health is failing. I don’t know how much time she has. She has respiratory and heart disease. It’s a mess. I have to help her up the stairs, among other things. During the time I was taking care of Ebbs my mother had been to the hospital three times and I was in New York and couldn’t get back there, to Rhode Island. Thankfully, I had friends here who looked in on her. But that was then. So now here I am. I am her only living relative. I wouldn’t turn my back on Ebbs, how could I turn my back on my Mother? Impossible. So, as Tennessee Williams wrote in “Sweet Bird of Youth,” when Princess says “a distraction from panic,” everything I was doing was keeping me so distracted and engaged, I never took time to seriously grieve.

Two months ago, more or less, Ebony’s mother, Sundai, called me. She lost her mother, Ebony’s grandmother. In less than a year, this woman lost her only child and her mother. We cried and cried and cried and shared our experience taking care of Ebbs. I was gutted. And suddenly, I had no distractions. Nothing. Zero. Nada. I was devastated. Already, in one year, I had lost Ebbs and then two of my closest friends lost their parents to Cancer. My friend Anthea lost her mother, Beverly -- the dynamite Beverly -- who was so nice to Ebony -- to Cancer; my friend Andrew lost his father and then he himself went through a traumatic experience with Cancer (He is a survivor, thank God, if there is one). People are getting sick and dropping like flies around me and it is heartbreaking and devastating. And I am constantly reminded of what Ebony and I went through. But it all came crashing down around me and all of the memories came flooding back. Everything.
I have been to some dark places lately.

I am wrecked. I’m 51 and still bite my nails. I can barely keep it together. My hair is a mess and starting to lock up into dreads. I have so many split ends Tim Finn wants royalties. I’m barely able to get through the day without crying seven times or more. I couldn’t even sit still long enough to write this without Soviet courage and American Spirit(s). I’m in chaos. I break down at everything. I haven’t even been able to listen to Christmas music. My mother goes around talking about how this will be her last Thanksgiving, her last Christmas, and “let’s make it a good one.” I can barely stand for falling over. Color me Elvis Costello, but I can’t stand up for falling down.

I was holding it together for so long and thought I would get through it. But – as Hemingway wrote in “The Sun Also Rises,” everything fell apart – “gradually, then suddenly.” -- All of my feelings and emotions came crashing down around me like the scaffolding at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. I am alone and the woman who blew my mind, who loved ME, whom I took care of… is gone. I can feel her absence. When I can sleep, I sometimes dream and I wake up thinking that she’s here… and, confused, I wake up and realize, she’s gone. And here I am, alone, and wondering what the fuck is my purpose anymore?

People say, “Oh. You need to get help” … but you don’t understand. None of you do. You know that scene in “The Departed?” The one where Matt Damon and Vera Famiga talk over dessert and reference Freud, who said the Irish are the only people who are impervious to psychoanalysis? That one. I’m half Irish (just the good half), so yeah, but it’s more than that.

People say, “Hey, you should see someone.” Like some psychoanalyst? You don’t understand. I was raised by a clinical psychiatric care specialist. My mother, after her divorce, an RN, went back to school, got her BS, her Master’s, her Ph.D, her C.S. and used to counsel people. When most kids would get yelled at for not cleaning their rooms, My Mother would sit me down and say, “Why do you think you shouldn’t have a clean room?” I have had psychoanalysis my entire life. And, “Oh, you should be on drugs…” Oh yeah? I spent 4 years with hospitals and drugs – do you know how many drugs Ebony had to take? – No. Fucking. Way. I’m sick of it all. Sick of it. I spent four years in hospitals – and going to the hospital in Ambulances TEN FUCKING TIMES – not counting the time – December 9th, 2017 --- I was hit by a van crossing Queens Boulevard – and I want nothing – NOTHING – to do with pharmaceuticals – nothing. I don’t want to put some garbage into me to take away my pain. 

“Oh, you should talk to someone.” Oh yeah? Let me tell you something. My Mother, God bless her, treated me like a colleague – a colleague – she always treated me like an adult -- since I was ten. TEN. She was working at Butler Memorial Hospital and the Pawtucket Mental Health Center and came home from a frustrating day and she and my Nana and I went to the Newport Creamery in Middletown – an ice cream place that is kind of a diner – and she told me this story. Keep in mind – I was ten. TEN. Some guy she was counseling, he had traumatic stress or something. He came home early one day and found his wife fucking his son. He caught them “in flagrante delicto” and the son, he pulled out in shock and he had an erection covered in blood. That’s right. His wife was on her period and her son was fucking her. The blood was visible on his dick. She told me this over ice cream. Over ice cream. Just said it like it was no big deal. Like a colleague. I have never shared this. Now how am I going sit in a chair like Tony Soprano and listen to someone question me about my feelings? “Oh, how do you feel about losing Ebony?” FUCK. THAT. You wanna know how I feel? Everything sucks. That’s how I feel.

There was only Ebony and no one else. And no one else can understand. People don’t and will never understand what we had. I loved Ebony, desperately. We were an unlikely couple. We were incongruous. But we loved each other so much. She was tall, I’m short; she was black, I’m white. She was born and raised in Queens and I’m from Newport, Rhode Island. If you looked at us, you might think it didn’t make sense; but really, it did. We were both Only Children, raised by single-parent working-mothers, two people who both loved rock-n-roll. We were a natural fit.

And it was not just romantic love but a fierce passion. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other. The first time Ebony and I were together she grabbed me, pulled me in close by my shoulders, looked down at me and whispered, “I want you and I want to give you everything.” And then she kissed me like the world was on fire. Perhaps because of the nature of her job – she was a flight attendant for JetBlue – she would travel and be away for 3 or 4 days. We would miss each other in this time and when she returned, we would go at each other like cats in heat. This went on for ten years. TEN. YEARS. And I knew with Absolute Certainty that Ebony loved and desired ME as much as I loved and desired HER, and I don’t think I ever knew that with anyone else. I don’t know. And, my God, she was built like a Mac Truck. I was so dating above my pay grade. After we had been together for a few weeks, I sent Sir Mix-A-Lot a Thank-You note. Oh. My. God. I loved her so much, totally, haplessly, fully crazed all the time and I just miss her desperately.

And now I’m alone and miserable. And the pain is stultifying. I listen to Sade on repeat, over and over – “By Your Side” – from “Lover’s Rock (2000)” and cry. I am suffocating with the bleakness of existence. The world is coming down yet here I remain. I am standing on the beach with the waves crashing cold upon my feet. Darkness swaddles me like a shroud. There are no stars in the sky and there is only the sound of the ocean. I am staring into the blackness of the abyss and the pain is shattering. I want to wade into the sea and float away, wondering if there’s a Heaven. And yet, in spite of this chthonian misery, I stand: desolate, unattached, abandoned, still, voiceless and alone. Nevertheless, I am still here, though I don’t know why. But I am going to figure it out. On my own terms, and in my own time. Please forgive me if I had to disengage, but it’s what I need right now. I don’t know the right road to Salvation and currently I’m a little lost, but I’m working on getting there. I’m just moving slowly… I should be driving a Caddy but I’m walking.

Like the Springsteen song… “Eldorado fins, whitewalls and skirts, rides just like a little bit of Heaven here on Earth. Well, Buddy when I die, throw my body in the back, and drive me to the junkyard in my Cadillac… Cadillac, Cadillac, long and dark, shiny and black, open up your engines, let ‘em roar, tearing up the highway like a big old dinosaur… James Dean in that Mercury ’49, Junior Johnson runnin’ thru the woods of Caroline, even Burt Reynolds in that black Trans Am, all gonna meet down at the Cadillac Ranch… Hey, little girlie in the blue jeans so tight, drivin’ alone through the Wisconsin night, you’re my last love, baby, you’re my last chance, don’t let ‘em take me to the Cadillac Ranch… Cadillac, Cadillac, long and dark, shiny and black, pulled up to my house today, came and took my little girl away…”

I am lost… without love. But trying to find my way back. It might take a while, I don’t know how long… but I am still here. In spite of all of this…. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, June 30, 2019


This is a lesson for everyone, regardless of what kind of music you like.
Context: when I met Ebony, all we did was go to shows. That’s a vague, sweeping statement, but that is kinda what we were into. Live music. We would go see shows. Rock, Metal, Industrial, Reggae… new wave stuff. 
After she passed, I was devastated and didn’t want to go out, didn’t want to be among people – kinda social anxiety disorder -- and couldn’t be happy – couldn’t see myself being happy, it didn’t seem right – so going to shows wasn’t an option. An old friend and colleague, Jamie Roberts, knew a little about this from personal experience and called me up and said, “Hey. You have to get out. You have to live. Because Ebony would trade places with you in a heartbeat. You have to get out and start seeing shows because you’re a music guy and that’s what you do and that’s what she would be doing. What’s the matter with you? Celebrate Ebony!” 
So that was harsh. Hard to take. But she was goddamn right. Even though I didn’t want to. So she put me on the list +1 to go see her band AWOLNation, a band I had ZERO knowledge about. But I got a good friend and we drove to Providence and we saw ‘em. And they were great – not in my zip code and won’t make my iPod, but an incredible live act. And it was awesome. And thanks to Jamie, I kicked off a nonstop tour of SouthEastern New England seeing shows. Saw the Cult with Bush and Stone Temple Pilots (my 30th Cult show -- thank you Anne Marie Foley), saw the English Beat (thank you Rey Roldan), saw about 30 or 40 bands that summer and fall (2018, thank you ALL publicists) and that carried over into the new year. Saw Blacq Audio and then Bush again and have been trying to hold that down seeing bands in my area while I figure out the next chapter.
So one of the artists I saw in 2018 was a Jamaican reggae performer called “JAH9.” Her real name is Jeanine Cunningham and she’s a prophet, a mystic, a poet and a revolutionary – AND – she rocks. Amazing. Turns out, I found out only days before – she’s playing the same venue (The Ocean Mist in Matunuck – Wakefield - Rhode Island). So of course I got tickets. So I got my buddy Alan, who’s a real estate attorney in Westchester who has a condo at the end of my Mom’s street, and our mutual friend Anthea, who is going through a world of shit because her mother has Stage 4 Cancer. 
And for more context: these are two people who knew and loved Ebony and when the chips were down, they were there. Not going off on a tangent about that, but they were there. But both of them are going through horrible shit right now with their loved ones and I TOTALLY GET THAT. So I said I would drive (because Alan and I had been to the Ocean Mist twice the year before to see the English Beat and JAH9 and we took a Lyft. A little pricey and I am trying to save money so I said I would drive) and they could get White Reggae-blasted and we’d all have a good time. No worries, mon. 
SO. I pick ‘em up and we drive to Matunuck, which is about 40 minutes from Newport on the mainland. No worries. Everything was good. Get there about 7:30 and order. I had Buffalo Wings because I started watching this show called “Hot Ones” on YouTube and went down this rabbit hole about hot sauces, which Ebony and I loved to try. Now: Alan and Anthea are going to drink, I’m not. BUT: I was having hot wings and they have these flights of hot sauce so I ordered ONE BUD LIGHT BOTTLE. I had a Bud light at like 8 and a plate full of wings and DID NOT finish the Bud Light (because, let’s face it: it’s pretty good cold and then goes warm and it’s shite). So I ate the wings with all these hot sauces and DID NOT FINISH the Bud Light because it’s garbage after ¾ of the way down. 
So the waiter comes over – band hasn’t gone on – and I switch to ice water because I’m driving and we’re going to be here until Midnight. Alan was like, “OH!” but quickly recognized that I was here for Anthea and him and I got ice water, which I continued to drink all night (although I switched to Coca-Cola at one point). I was fine. No worries, mon. We’d been there for 4 hours +. 
Saw JAH9 KILL IT. UH-MAZE-ZING. So brilliant and also, kinda easy on the eyes. Seriously, I don’t even know what to say, she’s awesome. She’s a little skinny, but, you know: vegan yoga Rasta, that’s how it do. But damn, what a show. And the drummer: wow. John Bonham – “Fool In the Rain” – you would’ve loved this. 
Show ends around, I don’t know, Midnight. I’m good, they’re good, so let’s go. Get out to Route 1… I’m in a 2018 fully-loaded Toyata Corolla. All the bells and whistles. Backup cam, SiriusXM, this thing BEEPS when you get even one centimeter over the median on either side and we’re off. About 15 minutes down, heading back to Newport, and this is the fucking part where it gets crazy – there’s a fucking police car behind us and they pop the cherries. I’m getting pulled over and I don’t know why. 
South Kingston police come to the passenger side, where Alan is sitting (my attorney) and it’s “License and registration.” I haven’t been stopped since one time in the late 90s or early 2000s -- I have a PERFECT RECORD. But I am a mess. I don’t even know where the registration is. I give him my license, he goes back to the cruiser. I am a wreck. What the hell did I do? Comes back, “You were kinda swerving…” Okay. This thing BEEPS when you do that and on a curve, I did for like 3 seconds. And I said, “The thing didn’t even BEEP!” He’s gone.
I am fucking terrified. I was not drunk, no way beyond the limit. Like. At. All. 
Gets worse. 
Another guy comes out, “Sir, would you step out of the car.” HOLY SHIT. WHAT. THE FUCK. But what do I say? “Of course.”
I walk to the back of the car, mortified. “Sir – (by the way – these two were like, easily 20 years my junior and they’re calling me “Sir” and I have fake blonde hair halfway down my back, not feeling like a “Sir.”) – and he wants to give me a test. It’s one of those, “I’m going to move my pen left and right and you follow it with your eyes.”
Yes. Yup. It’s GO TIME, BITCH.
In my head, I’m thinking back and wondering how ANYONE could think I was drunk driving. I avoid that like the plague. Because I cannot possibly imagine THAT PHONE CALL. “I’M IN JAIL.” Fuck that. That’s what’s great about New York: you go out, you party, you get in a cab, you go home safely and no worries, mon. Irie. 
SO now I’m standing at the back of my car and terrified and wondering WHY? and now I have to follow the pen. He’s holding the pen, this guy, this police officer, and he keeps saying, “Don’t move your head.” I am thinking, “I’m not moving my head. I’m doing the side-eye thing like Corey Booker listening to Beto O’Rourke. This felt like it went on forever. And then he thanked me – thanked me – and said, “Go ahead and take a seat in the car.”
He and the other officer come back after AN ETERNITY and hand me back my license and say, “Thank you, sir, try to keep to keep the speed down and watch the road.” 
I was a wreck.
Now I’m driving like a sloth on a eucalyptus tree. I’m terrified. I did the right thing and I am terrified. We’re all going over it but my voice is getting dry and I keep wondering if Ebony had moments like this for, well, maybe DIFFERENT reasons, and I am a mess. I am driving easily 10 miles under the speed limit. 
NOW. We get to Newport. You get off the bridge, turn on to Van Zandt Ave., and then you get to the intersection at Malbone. You go forward to Summer Street and there’s parking on both sides. Hard to navigate. You go, you pull in left between cars, you pull out, you go left again while someone passes you. I pull in for this guy, I’m between two parked cars on the passenger side and one guy goes by…
So we get Anthea home. Turn around, go back onto whatever they’re calling the boulevard next to 1st Beach and this car, looks like a Newport cop car (now that they have those fancy SUVs) and I am driving at like 20 to take Alan home and I am a mess. Turns out: it was a fucking bullshit silver minivan. I hate those things. Soccer Moms, my ass. It’s a buncha short girls who want to sit up high. One person in those things all the time and they’re 4’11.” WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Where are the kids? You fucking poseurs. I hate you. 
Drop Alan off and get home – relatively – unscathed. But it’s after 8:00 and I haven’t been able to calm down. I’m a wreck and WIRED FOR SOUND. I did not do anything wrong. 
And now I know for a fact, at least as much as Ebony told me, what it’s like, in a manner of speaking, to feel persecuted for no reason. That might be a stretch but that’s my go-to experience. Not that I wasn’t sympathetic, but I didn’t have any Rosetta Stone to compare. Maybe this brings me a little closer. Maybe not. I don’t know. Court of public opinion might feel differently and no disrespect, but HOLY SHIT I WAS TERRIFIED. 
And now it’s --- what? 8:05 A.M.? – and I can’t sleep. 
Next time: LYFT. I will spend the 80 bucks to avoid this feeling but there won’t be a lot of times I can blow 80 bucks. 
Moral? No idea. Ideas? Take a fucking LYFT or UBER if you’re going out in Rhode Island this summer – or any summer – because who needs that shit? Certainly not me. THIS IS WHY I HATE DRIVING AND LIKE TO WALK EVERYWHERE. You can make fun of me all you want for whatever: but I sure as shit knew not to fuck around and I got into an incredible night of crazy. Imagine if I didn’t care.
Oh, and the lesson? Figure it out. I think you got it. 
By the way: the wings at Ocean Mist are great and so was JAH9. 
So happy to be alive. Irie. 
Yes I. 
And I am still going to fucking shows. For Ebony and for me. Because fuck that. 
PS: Still awake right now. So if I don’t answer emails today, well… 
*with apologies to Zakk Wylde

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Palm Sunday Game of Thrones

I lazily schlepped downstairs this morning, as I had been awake all night it seemed, desperately seeking coffee and thinking about a bagel and cream cheese, only to find my puritanical WASP mother – a woman whose priggish Anglomania can be evidenced by her boundless devotion to Agatha Christie and incessant viewing of Victorian mysteries and droll BBC police procedurals -- in the den, binge-watching Game of Thrones. 
"Happy Palm Sunday," she said. "Joffrey is a bastard." 
I don't know how other, normal families work: I never did. My mother pines for an era when people would dine in full dress then retire to a book-filled room painted a deep crimson – “the library” – and have intellectual discussions about culture and spatial arbitrage. Now she watches “Ren Faire, Incorporated.” 
"Tonight's the big night," she shouts, over the already climbing volume of the television, as she struggles to hear characters whisper, only to be followed by the deafening sound of the score as the scene changes to an army on the march. 
There are no bagels. 
The score swells again and that maddening opening theme begins. It drives me nuts. It’s ubiquitous now as I have seen two bands perform this theme in concert, including last summer when the progressive Nothing More, on tour with Five Finger Death Punch, opened their set with it to cheers. CHEERS. My mother does not turn the volume down as images of Westeros flash across the screen and I suspect that the birders out at the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge must be in a tizzy that the cacophony is shattering the tranquility of observing the return of the Northern Harrier. At least it’s not “Baby Shark.”
I have mixed feelings about all of this, as Ebony adored this show. She actually read all the books. More, she was a stilt-walker for two summers in college at a Ren Faire in upstate New York, so this show was like candy to her. I remember her imploring me, as the first season was ending, to watch it with her On Demand and catch up. This was so not my thing. I played Dungeons & Dragons once, as a kid, with some of the “smarties” in my class at lunchtime, for maybe a month. They gave me the polyhedral dice to roll and determine my “character” – something I was completely averse to simply because it was the 70s, I was a kid and l grew up liking Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels; Marvel comics and Star Trek reruns (basically: speed, fire, outer space and hot women in mini-skirts with phasers) and naturally I rolled some piteous malcontent who was destined to shamble around the forest waiting to be set upon by one of my sadistic classmates, a Warlock, who would kill me in two turns with spells that would turn “Flesh to Stone!” and then, “Stone to Mud!” And then I’d have to sit there and watch them collect gold or whatever for three consecutive lunch periods before I could roll another character. 
And then I would cry to the universe, “Why am I always a Cleric?” They don’t do anything cool. I’d ask them, “Can’t this guy have a van or something? And how come there are no girls? This is so boring.” 
I’m not friends with those guys anymore. They all went to M.I.T. and work for the Department of the Navy building onboard guidance systems for Tomahawk missiles used by Virginia class nuclear-powered fast attack submarines. 
But Ebony loved that stuff and I loved her and so, I watched it. It was pretty much, as I saw it, with its lavish sets, costumes and beautiful scenery, “Blood n’Guts LARPing for Shut-ins.” I imagine young actors in college are now auditioning for Shakespeare productions by reading sides of Tyrion Lannister. I did enjoy many of the actors but sometimes I would drift off and imagine them doing something I could really get behind. I would love to see Sean Bean and Iain Glenn as MI:6 operatives in the Cold War Europe of the Thatcherite 70s, dealing with the intrigue of Soviet spies and “the Troubles” with the I.R.A. 
But Ebony would be really excited to see the premiere of the final season tonight. There would be wine and cheese and chocolates and probably an hours-long joke-filled discussion following the show – if we didn’t immediately re-watch it. 
And of course, Mom is psyched. 
“I wonder who’s going to die? Do you think anyone is going to die tonight? I can’t wait until Cersei dies!” 
Nice, Mom. “I don’t know. You know, Jesus dies this week. Every year, same time.” 
“Oh, will you cut it out! You’re watching tonight, aren’t you? The Night King is coming! What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m watching Jesus of Nazareth. Big week for him. Maundy Thursday…”
“Ugh! Stop it! You don’t even go to church!”
No, she’s right. I’m going to watch Game of Thrones, somewhat wistfully, and remember all the times Ebony and I watched it and how she giggled every time I groaned. 
But then I’m watching Billions. Because that show rules. 
I have to go out and get bagels for tomorrow because I have no illusions that when I get downstairs in the morning, no matter how hard I try to avoid her, my mother will want to discuss the show at length. 
I wonder if Advil makes cream cheese.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Thinking about EBONY. March 20, 2019

Today marks one year since Ebony passed. I have been through each of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief, from her book, On Death and Dyingdenialangerbargainingdepression and acceptance. In her second book, co-authored with David Kessler, On Grief & Grieving, she expanded this model to include any form of personal loss. As her book and model were initially concerned with terminal illness, and as a partner and caregiver, I found these stages to be especially and profoundly true. I would, however, add emotional agonysleeplessnesslistening to Sade a lot and inappropriate and ceaseless crying to this model, probably somewhere between depression and acceptance. 

I don’t know if I’ve reached acceptance, but lately I’ve been feeling better. I don’t know at what point this occurred, but after seeing tons of concerts – which is what Ebony and I loved to do (thank you, publicist friends) -- and probably hitting it too hard on some of my darkest days -- I started making pizza and picking up a lot of work for Billboard, which has been immensely helpful. Some time in the last two or three months, I just started feeling a little less filled with despair.

I had a great deal of difficulty dealing with her loss, particularly because the last three or four weeks of her life were so excruciating to bear. And that is what has haunted me. I have obsessed about this for months. I would suppress it and tell everyone, “Yeah, it’s okay… whatever.” But I was dying all the time and on a daily basis.

The tumor – she had had brain cancer in the form of a tumor, an anaplastic astrocytoma -- having resisted treatment, had by that point, affected her ability to swallow. She had already been affected so as to have lost her ability to speak and use of her right arm and both of her legs. She needed 24-hour care and, in spite of what the doctors and social workers recommended – “a 24-hour care facility” – a fucking “facility?” – I said no fucking way and, with Sundai, her mother, we took care of her at home. Granted, we were tragically and comically unprepared for what was in store, but in no way was I going to subject her to that. I loved her more than life itself, more than anything, and just accepted it and said, “Fuck it!” We had been together for 10 years, lived together for seven and in no way, shape, or form, was I going to allow her to be subjected to that. Nope. Strangers turning her bed, changing her, coming in and going out, different people, different days: No. Absolutely fucking not. I vowed she would be surrounded by love, her family and friends and she was going to have a life and not just have an existence. No. Fucking. Way. Not on my watch, pal. Fuck you. Maybe I’m just a tempermental Irish motherfucker, but: no fucking way and that was my motto.

So we did that. Broke all the rules and fucked up everything. Her Mother and I – we just didn’t know. We just didn’t know. Nobody tells you how it’s supposed to work and what you’re supposed to do. We just fumbled through. We made mistakes, but Ebony was never in a room without love. And she needed to be changed, bathed, cleaned and fed, but I saw it as a privilege. My honor and duty. She was always – ALWAYS – there for me. How could I do any less? Ask yourself: can you do that? For your loved one, your significant other? Could they do that for you? I had no idea if I could do that. No idea whatsoever. So… I said “Fuck that.” I loved her more than life itself, more than anything and I was there for her and down for whatever. It was pretty much, kinda Zakk Wylde-style, I said, “Fuck that, we’re doin’ it.” So we took care of her at home.

I have heard, from friends, friends of friends, that…. I don’t know. This or that. Someone gets Cancer and the partner – husband/wife/whatever – bails. I don’t understand that. Not at all. I am not here to judge that and I didn’t judge that then, but there was NO fucking way I was leaving this girl. No fucking way. Zero. You don’t even know. She was so fucking awesome, there was no fucking way anyone was taking her from me. No one. I would have taken a bullet – a fucking hail of bullets -- like James Caan in The Godfatherat the toll booth – for her to live on. My life is insignificant and hers was majestical. No. Fucking. Way. So yeah – when the fucking social workers came at me with all of their “this is the best thing for Ebony” bullshit, I said, “Fuck you. Go to Hell.” And so…  and so… with her Mother’s help, we took care of her at home. 

So that meant that her Mother, bless her soul, moved in with us to our one-bedroom apartment in Queens. And I worked nights at ABC. And that was how we rolled. It wasn’t great… Holy Hell, it was not great. We messed up a lot, but Ebony was surround by love, all the time. And we made sure she had a life, and not just an existence. So that was the deal.

It was not fucking easy. I say “fuck” a lot in various forms and it is an adjective that I adore. Please forgive me.

This is the kinda shit that I have been dwelling on for, well, now a year.

When things winded down… when things got bad… we had to admit her to the hospital and, in the emergency department – they don’t say “the emergency room” anymore, they say, “the Emergency Department” -- they had to administer a feeding tube through her nose. At that point, she had stopped being able to swallow food. We had, by that time, switched to feeding her soup, but… it was not working and it was more than we could handle. So we went in.

Because Weill Cornell is a teaching college – Cornell University -- often you don’t deal with doctors, you get residents and interns; well, some fucking jackass resident came in – who didn’t know Ebony and had never treated her -- and didn’t know what she was doing and didn’t properly lubricate the tube and anesthetize Ebony. While she was inserting the tube, Ebony let out a squeal of such intensity it haunts me to this day. To. This. Day. You understand? Ebony was the toughest person I have ever known – she stubbed her toe once in the apartment, yelled out, and for a moment she looked really fierce and pissed off, but only at herself for doing it, and then she just moved on, sat down on the couch and that was it – that was Ebony -- she was a badass -- but now here she was, no longer able to speak and eliciting a sound like a baby bunny or a kitten being strangled. And I started losing it, “What the fuck are you doing?” Sundai, Ebony’s mother, was at her side next to me and started stoking her arm, holding her hand. The resident removed the tube and started again, and again, Ebony squealed. I started swearing a lot – a lot -- at the resident, “Get that fucking thing out – you’re hurting her – you fucking FUCK -- go get somebody who knows what the fuck they’re doing!”

It was not a pleasant, ah…  time. Yeah, it was bad. The resident looked pretty startled by my outburst and removed the tube and went to get the doctor. While we were waiting – like, forever –  Ebony had fallen asleep and the attending physician making rounds came over with some med students in tow – he did not introduce himself or even look at her chart or ask about her – he just started poking her sternum with his index and middle finger. Now, I have seen doctors do this before with Ebony, as a means of waking a sleeping patient, but they did it gently.— and they always said, “Hey, we have to wake her up and this is formality and this is what we do.” This guy was poking her with increasing force because she was not responding. I mean, like, what the fuck? I said, “What the fuck are you doing?” He was this tall, older white man, white hair, white coat, really condescending, and said, “Young man, I am trying to establish her condition and she needs to be awake for that.” And so I said, “She’s resting because one of your idiot residents doesn’t know how to insert a fucking feeding tube and was hurting her. And now you’re hurting her. Why don’t you come back later?” He got all snippy with me, puffing out in front of his team and said, “Sir, calm down. I can get security and have you removed if you don’t calm down.” Calm down? Calm down? That’s when I lost it. I just blew up. I absolutely lost it.  “Oh yeah? Well, I can come back with a news truck from ABC and their prettiest correspondent and she can interview me outside the hospital and I will shit-shame you to whole world and ask why an institution as revered as Weill Cornell – (I really punched that) -- employs doctors who actively hurt their Cancer patients. How do you think that’s gonna fuckin’ fly with Administration when it runs on GMA, World News and Channel 7?” Of course I was totally, totally full of shit and letting my Irish freak flag fly high, but he left without saying anything and went on to the next room. I was a complete, total wreck and I apologized to Sundai but she kinda smiled – she knew I was just trying to protect Ebony -- and I just stayed next to my girl, holding her hand until one of her regular residents – who knew her and worked with her before – came in to make things right, and assured us that he would insert the tube himself, he’d done it many times and so on.

At this time I was living on 2 or 3 hours of sleep a night. I was going from the hospital to ABC and back to the hospital –- and the fucking subways, don’t get me started – fuck De Blasio and Cuomo, those petty bitches --- until Sundai arrived around 10 and then I’d go home, sleep for a bit, get up, shower, go back to the hospital and so on. Wash, rinse, repeat. By this point, I had to call out of work. Ebony was given a room and her doctor actually made an appearance and took us aside and said that, you know, this was a late-stage symptom of her cancer and they would have to insert a gastric peg, which is a fucking medieval apparatus that requires an operation. They insert this into the stomach and once it’s in, a protein-rich foodstuff is injected directly into the stomach through the peg via a large plastic syringe. She would no longer be able to ingest food orally – no more Friday night pizza, no more Lay’s BBQ chips, no more anything. It was awful just to even consider. I knew we were near the end.

When Ebony got out of surgery, and came around, her mother and I were there and the nurse came in to check the wound and explain to Ebony about the gastric peg. The nurse peeled back the gauze over her stomach and I saw Ebony look at it and in that moment, she looked at me and I saw a look of defeat that…. I’ve carried with me, along with that squeal, and it haunts me to this day. It fucking haunts me. It was just heartbreaking because I couldn’t do anything to help. I was powerless to help the woman I loved. I just told her over and over not to worry: we would learn to handle it the way we learned to handle taking care of her at home. “No problem, baby.” I kept saying “I love you so much, honey,” and I just held her hand and kissed her and said that over and over and over.

Shortly after that, maybe about a week, we had to make the decision to move her into hospice. There was nothing that the doctors could do at that point. The tumor was resisting all treatment. I just stayed at the hospital and spent my time at her side and going to Au Bon Pain for coffee. She was on some pretty decent medication and slept quite a bit. Judas Priest’s publicist, Chip (seriously), sent me the advance of their then latest, “Firepower” and I loaded it to my phone and played it for her. When she was awake, I told her to squeeze my hand whenever she heard a song she liked. She squeezed my hand the entire time. Priest, of course, was her favorite band. And I will never forget that. Never.

In the dark days leading up to the 20th, I had been at the hospital pretty much round-the-clock, not sleeping at all. I was overcome with fear and such sadness, people would call me – “How’s Ebony?” -- and I would just start crying. That kind of awful, heavy crying where you’re just unable to form words and the tears run hot down your face and your nose is running and there’s never any Kleenex around. I’d get it together and go back in the room and was all ‘Happy Guy’ when Ebony would wake up. “Hey, baby!” Finally, after four sleepless nights at the hospital, Sundai said she would stay and I should go home and rest. I kissed Ebony goodbye and went home and crashed. 

At little after two in the morning, her Mother called. She couldn’t even speak, so the nurse got on the phone and said, “Her breathing is dropping. You should get here.” I was still dressed when I crashed so I got up and grabbed my phone and punched up a Lyft. 3 minutes later I was downstairs and crying to the driver, “My wife is dying. I have to get to the hospital right away!” The driver, whose name was Ralph, picked me up at 2:37 a.m. in Jamaica and got me to the hospital, on the Upper East Side on 68thand York, at 3:04 a.m. If you know Queens, you know that even at that hour, that is a fucking miracle. A fucking miracle. I tipped him twenty on the app and gave twenty in cash and ran upstairs to her room.

Her Mother was next to her and moved for me. Ebony’s breathing was labored, but soft. I sat next to her and held her hand. I kissed her and said, “I love you,” over and over again. The machines were beeping so I put some music on with my phone – I played “Legend,” the hits collection by Bob Marley and the Wailers – I thought that would be pleasant and peaceful – and put my phone on her shoulder. Ebony passed shortly after 7 in the morning, while I was holding her hand. “Stir It Up” was playing... I would have preferred “One Love” but you take what you get. 

For months now I have been reliving those final weeks over and over. Ebony was everything to me. She wasn’t just my “fiancée,” she was my best friend, my lover, my confessor, my life coach, my dream girl, my champion and when I lost her, I lost fucking everything. Every goddamn thing. She was the one person in my life that I knew, without a doubt, loved and desired me as much as I loved and desired her. Ten years and never once was it anything less than that. Even right down to those last weeks, when her Mother would leave the room and we were alone, I’d say to her, “Hey, whaddya think? Can we fuck in this bed or what?” And she would give me a look and a half-smile. Yeah, jokes: but all love all the way.

When she passed, I was a total wreck. I didn’t want to accept it. She was still warm, her hand in mine, and I kissed her cheek and once on her mouth and I wasn’t ready for her to go. I wasn’t prepared. It wouldn’t have mattered, I think. I just could not believe it. Thinking about it now… thinking back, I remember all the people that helped us, especially those who actually came to the hospital in those final weeks. Angus McIndoe was among them. He came up a lot, actually; I think he was there for me more than anyone, just because of his work schedule. He got out late and he’d show up at like, 2 in the morning and we’d have coffee and he would talk me down from whatever ledge I was on at the time. He also went through this with his father-in-law and knew what I was facing. One night, he brought me a meatloaf sandwich, which was awesome, and said, with his amazing brogue, “I can’t remember if you said Meatball sandwich or Meatloaf sandwich, but this is fuckin’ great. It comes with ketchup and gravy…” (I had told him I had been craving a Meatball sandwich at some point, and there ya go… the sandwich was awesome, by the way.)

My buddy, John, came up to see me and was terribly perplexed.  I know he didn’t like seeing Ebony like that, didn’t like hospitals, but she was asleep and that was pretty much where she was at that point, but she looked peaceful. But he was there --  there for me --  and, stymied, was like, “Do you want to get a coffee?” Just what I needed at the time. My friend Leslie, this kinda famous hot-shot actress, whom I have known as long as John – since I was 18 –came and brought her cool black esoteric shamanism and comforted me with her presence.

Kerry Anne DiGiovanni arrived -- and I will NEVER forget this – she totally looks like a young Rhoda – Valerie Harper – and the night before Ebony passed – Kerry DeeGee, DeeGee, Deeg -- and brought bags of snacks. Pirate Booty popcorn – of course she had to bring something about “Booty” – it’s a long story --- but nuts and a bunch of stuff… basically for Ebony’s Mother and me, but she was a welcome presence because she and Ebony had kinda palled-up in Newport. Deeg was no-bullshit – her mother was fully Irish and her dad is Italian and that’s a comical recipe for a no-bullshit SNL skit. Deeg was and is no BS and neither was Ebbs. Deeg was from Jersey and Ebbs was from Queens and they bonded over that. “Outer boroughs, baby!” I am totally, kinda, almost, basically pretty sure Deeg is mobbed-up and I am terrified of her. But of course that is absolutely not at all true. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS THE MAFIA. Nevertheless…. Ebbs would say, “So what? She likes you, her family likes you. You’re not getting clipped.” – Okay, so just right there – that’s how awesome Ebony was! She was totally down with my absurd, idiotic fascination with the Mafia (there’s no such thing as the ‘Mafia’). Like, she could quote “Goodfellas” and watched reruns of “The Sopranos” with me. And, ya know, here we were. Just, ya know, whatever. How fucking cool is that? Yeah. It’s that fucking cool. ANYWAY… neither of them was taking shit from anyone and they both loved cars and just her being there made me feel kinda okay for a little bit. That was it. Just people being people and sharing themselves in our time of need. Deeg, by the way, drives a stick. Yeah. Ebbs was always envious of that. “She’s a badass,” Ebony once said. So her presence that night was magical and fully appreciated. I will never forget that, or anytime friends came and visited. 

They all made things a little better, at the time. But no one and nothing could truly prepare me for the moment when Ebony passed. There is nothing anyone can say or do: as Liam Neeson’s character says in “Love, Actually” – “You’re basically fucked.”

When someone passes in a hospital, I learned, you get three hours and then you have to leave. The doctors came in, residents… nurses… social workers… they tell you, “Her body is transitioning, you have to leave…” I didn’t want to and I wouldn’t leave. Fuck them. But they keep coming back and telling us this. Eventually, there was no getting around it. But I wouldn’t leave the room until somebody came and sat with her. I didn’t want my last memory of her to be alone, in a hospital bed, in a cold room. Nope. Fuck them. I started cursing and said, “I’m not fucking leaving until someone comes in here and sits with her. That is not going to be my last memory of her, alone. Fuck you.” So there was some small commotion and then Winnie, this Jamaican RN came over – she had been around since Ebony was admitted and we’d talked about reggae and Jamaica and stuff – and she said, “I will sit with her.” And so she did. And we packed up everything, her Mother and I, and I, crying like a bitch – we left.

Pretty certain I spent the next few weeks getting out of my head, drinking my face off. It was total fucking agony and I spent nights in the apartment, knowing I had to leave as we were a two-income household – trying to figure out what the fuck to do – and obsessing over pictures of her and watching videos of things that made her laugh. Key & Peele, SNL, Graham Norton, Chappelle, Mitchell & Webb, various late night talk show bits… one of the things she loved and made her laugh that I am just thinking of at the moment was an SNL skit with Andy Samberg playing a white rapper named “Blizzard Man.” She would giggle hysterically when he would rap, badly, while all around him people were scratching their heads. “This is stupid,” she would say, and just giggle and I would lean over and tickle her, which she hated, and we would make out for a bit and then go back to watching the show. She loved the movie “Keanu,” also with Key and Peele, and especially liked the “code-switching” scenes. I asked her about that, “Did you ever have to do that?” And she said, “Yeah. Not with you. But with black people who think that because I’m black, I must love Beyonce.” That’s how I discovered Junglepussy. One day Ebbs came home from a four-day load flying around the country, and some FA or ground crew guy started talking to her about Queens underground hip-hop. She came home and said, “Hey, do you know Junglepussy?” And I was like, “Is this a test?” And she explained that someone had told her about this chick who was pretty cool and rapped and, eventually, we looked her up and Ebbs – who was not into rap – said, “She seems cool.” And PS—we were living in Briarwood, in Jamaica county in Queens, just 15 minutes from where 50 Cent got shot and Nicki Minaj broke – so we were at least vaguely aware of upcoming artists. So later on, I went to see Junglepussy in Boston because Ebbs had turned me on to her. But that was not at all even close to her musical interests. She loved metal. Rock and metal and the more extreme, the better. Our first show together was an extreme metal band from Greece called “Rotting Christ.” Yeah. Not something you’d put on the wedding invites.

Race was a thing. Not a thing I was psyched to talk about, but it was very real and affected us, both as victims and bystanders. I thought when I moved to New York Fucking City that there would never be baggage. Nope. Ebony and I experienced some of the worst shit I have ever seen or heard. In New York City, where I foolishly thought that could never happen, and also in my hometown of Newport, where I ignorantly thought that would totally never happen. It made me sick. Mostly, I was in shock; but later disappointed and aggrieved because I wanted to protect her and wanted nothing to harm her. We were walking to the beach one day when some jerks drove by us and yelled, to us, but at me, “N----- lover!” I was so stunned I was speechless. Speechless. Like, what do you even say? She seemed to take it in her stride, “Baby, do you think this is the first time I’ve ever encountered racists? This is now not new. I love you. Don’t sweat it. Those guys are dickless.” Still, I was ashamed.

The whole race shit bothered me, because I didn’t know how to make to make it better for her. She was just a really cool person and had to try to walk between the raindrops and it broke my heart to know she would have to suffer any indignation in the least. That was something I knew I would never truly understand and it upset me because I couldn’t ever make it better. Like cancer. She was just this awesome person, born and raised in Queens, who loved metal and white boys with long hair. She could talk you under the table about Motown and Stevie Wonder and Donna Summer and all the shit she grew up with, around her – she was born in ’76 in Queens, a neighborhood over from Hollis and her early years were spent growing up with people blasting hip-hop – and her (she said) “bougie” relatives on her father’s side, who had owned a hip jazz club in the 60s --Run DMC, LL Cool J – from their cars, boomboxes, whatever – and she – having black friends and white friends – happened to like Anthrax (a thrash metal band from Queens that blew up around that time) and eventually, got into more and more extreme metal. She didn’t like Hair Metal at all, although she liked Love/Hate, though I suppose it’s because she was attracted to (LH singer) Jizzy Pearl. But she wasn’t a fan of hip-hop either. But she was all about the rock – “the rock” – and followed that. In spite of what others thought of her.

Yeah, I’m rambling. So what? Are you in or out? She was a fully-Hell-bent individual, totally her own person and PS: she fucking loved Slayer. When I met her… oh, it was magical and perfect. At that point in her life, she was into industrial and goth and goth-metal. We met because of the Brooklyn goth-metal superheroes, Type O Negative.

Before I left Rhode Island, I had once gone to this radio promotion thing at a Strawberries somewhere upstate – Pawtucket, I think -- hosted by Michael Gonsalves. Michael Gonsalves was a DJ on 94 WHJY in Providence. You might have heard of him. He put together the Great White show at the Station in Warwick. I was on the guest list for that show and was still in NYC and couldn’t make it back. That was the night of the Station fire.

When I met him, back then, up at the Strawberries, he was doing some in-store thing and he had this late-night metal show on weekends and he had exposed me to a ton of cool music. So I went up there, not really sure why, but just because and I got to chat with him for a bit. “What are you liking right now that I should check out?” I said to him. And he – short RI guy with long brown hair and wearing a long leather trench-coat – very of the times and Bon Jovi  “Bad Medicine” era – and picked out a CD and handed it to me. It was “Slow, Deep and Hard.” The Type O CD that featured the incredible punky-metal doom song, “"Unsuccessfully Coping with the Natural Beauty of Infidelity.” I bought it and played it and was forever changed.

Turns out, Type O drummer Johnny Kelly – well, his ex – used to tend bar in NYC with a buddy of mine. And I had told my friend about this awesome band – and that’s how I met Johnny Kelly. We’d both come in one this one night when we could get hooked-up on free booze and he was like, “Oh, you should come to such-and-such show.” So, that’s how I got to know Type O. He put me on the list and I never missed a Type O show in the area. Later, I was dating, um, an adult entertainer, and she was shooting for Hustler with a photographer who was dating the drummer from Life of Agony, who used to be the drummer for Type O before Johnny. He has a band now called “A Pale Horse Named Death,” and me and my then-girlfriend were at his 30thbday party and Johnny was there…

Now flash-forward a few years and Johnny and Kenny Hickey (Type O guitarist) have a side project going on and Johnny wanted to drum up some press because they’re going to shop their record. Peter Steele, Type O singer, was, um, indisposed at the time, so Johnny and Kenny had this going on and it was produced by Big Vin – Vinnie Paul – the drummer from Pantera and Johnny asked if I would help them get a little press and I agreed to interview them for KNAC.com. 

So… on December 27th, 2006, I am at the show, saw the show and Johnny brings me out to Duff’s in Williamsburg (the old Duff’s) and says, “We’ll do the interview here, but let’s get a drink.” So we go in… and that’s when I first saw Ebony. Ebony was 5’11” and wearing 6” platform creepers and towering over everyone and she just looked so fucking hot. I said to Johnny, “Who’s the foxy black goth girl?” – I literally said this -- And he was like, “I’ve seen her around… she’s a metalhead but I don’t know her. Slitzy knows her. Go talk to her!”

I think about this moment a lot because she was so beautiful but so intimidating. And Johnny, God bless him, was so blasé. “Yeah, whatever.” So later, Johnny and I did the interview in his truck and then I went back in and tried to figure out how to talk to her.

Not easy: she was surrounded by guys. But I just got my Irish up and decided I would stay until I was ready to fall over, but one way or another, I was going to talk to her. Right about the time when Johnny and almost everyone left, I was ready to throw in the towel… and I turned around and she was right there, with a mission to talk to me. “You look like Lestat!”

I was confused. “Lestat? You mean like Tom Cruise?” I couldn’t even imagine how anyone would compare me to Tom Cruise. “You mean because I’m short?” I didn’t get it.

“No! Like the book! Did you read the book?” I was like, “Uh, no…” And she went on to tell me that, according to her, Lestat looked like me. In the description I guess. And that’s how we met. But I was so freakin’ hammered, I didn’t want to embarrass myself and did and Irish Goodbye when she was talking to some other guys. I figured I would see her back at that bar another time. So I kept going out there looking for her. It took me a year, but on Superbowl Sunday, 2008, I ran into her again.

Now I know I am WAY off the topic, but we’re goin’ now.

So, I met Ebbs again and we closed the place – Duff’s, the old one in Williamsburg – and went out for breakfast. She said, “Hey, there’s a show this week with a band I love. You should come.” That would become out de facto first date.

I knew the second band on the bill – an Austrian Satanic Black Metal Band called Belphegor – and their publicist, Charles. I called him up. “Dude, what’s up?” he said. I said, “Charles, I met a girl.” And he said, “Oh, shit! What do you need, brother?” And I asked to be on the guest-list and a photo-pass (because Ebbs had also told me she was an amateur photographer and loved to shoot bands). And he said, “Dude, you’re in. Let me know how it goes.”

So I met Ebbs at the show and gave her the photo pass and she was giddy and cool and that night I asked her out on a proper date. And she said yes. And that was the night I fell in love. And I think if you asked her, she would say the same. And that show was headlined by an extreme metal band from Greece called “Rotting Christ.”

Yup. That was how we met.

Please forgive me for my rambling nonsense. It’s been a year and so much has happened. But sometimes I am stuck, reliving all this, alone and sad.

Lately, recently, I guess except for writing this, I have been thinking more about all the great times, the wonderful, silly, amazing things that we did together and all the little things. The happy things. Making pizza. She was born and raised in Queens and very, very particular about pizza, and the ones that delivered in the neighborhood she thought were, “just okay.” -- Once she went out with her fellow flight attendants – FAs – and they went out somewhere in Los Angeles (the JetBlue hub out there is Long Beach Airport) and got pizza (for reasons I will never comprehend) and Ebony, reluctantly, agreed. She told me she had a slice, took one bite and was like, “No.” -- So we decided to try making our own, you know, for fun. That quickly turned into: I would make the dough or roll it out and prep the pizza and she would stand in the kitchen next to me, or leaning against the wall, wearing high heels --- she loved to wear heels and I loved that she did – and drinking red wine, and just looking sexy and making me laugh. That was our little thing and I miss it so much. I miss so many things…

I remember the first time we kissed and we were just looking at each other, very closely – doe-eyed – and I said to her, “You smell SO good… you smell like the beach.” And she stared laughing. And I was like, “What?” and she said, “That’s cocoa-butter. I’ll explain it to you later.” And then she kissed me. I had so much to learn.

I think that’s about where I’m at right now. It still hurts and I think of her often, but when I do I think about all the things that were wonderful and I try not to dwell on the rest, the “bad.” Sometimes, I can close my eyes and picture a moment we had together and it seems so real, so tangible, it’s like she’s right there and it’s hard not to cry, but it’s a happy kind of crying.

Ebony’s final wish was to be cremated and have her ashes scattered over the water/along the Fjords of Norway. I had originally planned to do that today, commemorating her passing, but financially, it wasn’t in the cards. I still plan to do that, but it will either be later this year, in the fall, or in 2020 on this day.

At this point, I have listened to all my smart friends, people that have been through Hell, and promised myself I would not make any “major” life plans for a while. I have decided, now that, after living at home, I know my Mother is better and okay on her own, I am moving back to New York City. I’m not stupid – I’m going to stay here now that the weather is changing – and enjoy the summer – and I will move back in September. I will hold Ebony’s ashes for now because they mean so much to me; but I will honor her. I think, either in the fall, or on this day next year. I owe her that and I will honor that. Right now, I’m getting back to whatever is fucking normal, or at least normal for me. And right now, I’m actually in a pretty good place. Mostly because I loved and lived with the best person ever. I know who I am, I know what I’ve achieved and I know what I’m capable of. And it was because of Ebony.

I’m a prankster, a joker, a sarcastic prick, a self-effacing asshole: but I am all about love and living my life to the fullest. As Ebony would. And I have to carry on, and love her -- and honor her --- and remember her and stop sulking and feeling bad. Because she fucking loved life with both arms around it. And isn’t that how it should be, for all of us? Yeah. I’m in. I’m totally down for that. Because she was fucking worth it. She was a badass. And she would have pushed me forward.
And that’s where I’m at right now.

Fucking hashtag EbonyRules. #EbonyRules