Christmas Lists (and my Anti-List)

My parents will argue I’m the hardest person in the world to shop for. My closest friends will say it’s absolutely the easiest thing to do. When I was younger, the things I most often wanted were not the easiest to muster. Such as: Florence Henderson to adopt me (age 8),  world peace (age 9), black baby grand piano (age 11), Barbra Streisand’s home number (age 14- which I eventually got when I interned… it was like Christmas every day), a recording contract with Sony (Age 15), David Letterman to be my prom date (Age 16).

In the past few years, I’ve kept it simple. I ask for what I love, what is cheap and tangible, and takes away the burdens of gift giving and receiving. This list systematically includes: my perfume (sophmoric, but I love Heaven by the Gap scents), Maranatha’s honey almond butter, Bailey’s and Malibu and that cheap Australian Shiraz by Yellowtail, fluffy socks, a new toy for my cat, scarves (because having thirty or more isn’t enough), something vintage, dill pickles, toilet paper (I always include items that I HATE to purchase for myself), and a confetti cake (with the Pilsbury frosting with the balls in it).

This year, instead of sending my parents on a mad chase around town, my mom wanted to buy me an acoustic guitar. For some reason, though we’re currrently arguing the scenario, she thinks I deserve more than my thirty-dollar, eBay guitar purchase with it’s rusty and poorly aligned strings. I argue, that 1. I should learn on something impossible so it will be easy when I play something else (sorta like learning how to drive on a stick-shift first, which I also did), and that 2. I don’t deserve to play something good until I am actually good. But, if my parents DO win this argument, then I’m going to have to accept their kind offer… and go for something purple:

Meanwhile, everyone else is blogging about their Christmas list, and I’m going to include my Anti-List. On this list is everything I do not want to happen in the coming year.

1. I do not want my mother to take any more trips to the hospital for her troublesome lungs, or random accidents where she breaks her leg, or random incidences where she burns her foot with an entire saucepan of boiling gravy (ie this Thanksgiving) or any other surgical procedures to take place. She works in a hospital- that’s enough time spent there.

2. I do not want to spend more than one-year from now in completing my next album. The new Vineyard song will be at www.myspace.com/michellehotaling soon… completing a vision feels so fulfilling.

3. I do not want to ever see any ex-boyfriend or ex-“anything” so long as I live.

4. I do not want my family to spend another year out of shape. It’s time for every one of them to live their lives to the fullest and most active.

5. I do not want to watch another year of war and hate. This includes all those nasty comments people write to each on YouTube, which is my latest pet peeve. How easy it is to hide behind a computer and put random strangers down with typos and bad grammar.

6. I do not want to listen to another random “dude” insult my appearance, my music, or anything else that validates him online or in real life. Egos sicken me.

7. I do not want to spend another dime on dental work.

8. I do not want to pass a day without gratitude. With or without lists, or longings and yearning for the next big thing… my life is awesome. I count my blessings.

But enough about the things I don’t want. What I want most of all… to find success and surround myself with people who are full of light and joie de vivre. I want everyone in the world to own a copy of “Chained by Dreams,” because, well that would help this journey. I want people to celebrate each other’s goodness. Life is too short to dwell on the darkness and people who are run by their demons.

Blow Some Smoke…

My Crazy Jobs

I
do not want to start with the petty woes of a pretty girl, and am
trying to find the right tone to present the bizarre jobs that brought
me through this week. Let’s begin with last night, where I ventured to
strut around in cleavage-revealing, though classy and sassy scarlet red
trenchcoat and black fishnets. I was at the Big Smoke, this
cigar-filled fest in midtown that attracts the people I wouldn’t ever
want to be. The corporate, married, unhappy, slew of old, horny men.
Allow me to share a conversation of the evening.

Enter
middle-aged man number 1, in his Cosby-style sweater that’s survived
twenty-plus winters and shows it’s age. He approaches me, looking me up
from head to toe.

Middle-Aged Man 1: Honey, you need to wear higher heels with those legs and those stockings.

Me: I am wearing heels (as I point a foot to reveal my 1-inch heels).

Middle-Aged Man 1: Those aren’t heels. You need stilettos.

Me:
I’m taller than you without them. I don’t need higher heels. (I
scrutinize the thinning hair on his head. He touches my shoulder.
Apparently scrutinization translates to an invitation for the invasion
of my personal space).

Middle-Aged Man 1: You are but you should have heels.

Me:
(getting testy. no, beyond testy and nearly hacking up black smoke from
every orfice of my body. The sarcasm in my voice marries the smoke
around me.) Sir, I’m so sorry that my physical presentation is not
satisfying enough for you. I truly apologize.

Middle-Aged Man 1: Oh, your physical is great! Just wear higher heels next time.

Me: Why don’t you wear stiletto heels and fishnets for eight hours for a room of drunken men and tell me how it feels?

Middle-Aged Man 1: Oh, yeah a long shift. You’re right. Smart girl.

Me: It’s only getting longer.

Now,
this exchange is just one of many that annoys the hell out of me. What
right does a 40-plus, obese, foul-breathed guy have to tell me what
shoes to wear? Do I pick out his sweater in the morning? No! I wore
shades the rest of the night, as it was part of our “secret agent”
costume. Even the organizers warned me, “NEVER make eye contact with
the guys. It just invites trouble.”

Another fine old fellow came
up to me and stated, “If I ever have a daughter I want her to grow up
and do what you’re doing.” I thought he mispoke. When I asked for
clarification, I learned this dude really wants his daughter to be hit
on by nasty men in a smoky ballroom for a living. Let’s hope he never
procreates.

And the married ones? How sad. I feel bad for
their wives- at least I was getting paid well to deal with them. What
amazes me is that the less of a chance a guy feels he has with a girl,
the more obnoxious and disgusting he acts because he has nothing to
lose.

There was one sparkling personality in the evening. He
asked about what I’m pursuing and I explained my musical endeavours.
“Keep pushing, girl. And push hard. You’ll make it happen.”

This
morning I awoke bright and early, dreading the day. I was due at MTV
where my task was to help children decorate cookies with vats of icing
and tubs of candy. Thankfully, I didn’t recognize any of their dads
from last night.

Then this afternoon, I was stationed at
another vodka tasting in a liquor store. It was like a daycare and a
homeless shelter all wrapped in one. The highlight of my entire week
was when a two-year-old girl began screaming as her mother continued
shopping throughout the store. I managed to coax her into fits of
laughter and smiles. It warmed my heart.

I want kids someday. I
also want an awesome husband. One who would not throw lewd phrases at
young girls for his one night on the town with “the boys.” You know, at
the end of the night some guy had to go the bathroom but was already on
the escalator. He actually shouted, “Forget the bathroom. I’ll just
find a girl’s mouth to go in.” If my eyes could become machine guns,
this man would be in scattered bits of flesh all over the hotel. And I
am not a violent person.

I caught Tom Hanks on Oprah while
pounding away on the elliptical at the gym. That’s a decent human
being. He said his wife made him a better man, and I believe it. I
remember running into him backstage at a concert in LA (with Stevie
Nicks, Billy Joel, etc.) and guess who was leading him from room to
room? Why his wife.

But first things first. I’m looking forward to the full transition from model at a lame event to a rockstar on tour.

Sid Bernstein…

Last night I had some argumentative moments with some “creative people.” When my home phone rang this evening (which very few people call or have the number to), I was prepared for another confrontation with a belligerent producer. I’m sure there was a hint of disdain in my voice when I answered.

A man on the other end of the phone greeted me. “Hello Michelle, I want to say that letter you wrote to me came on the perfect day. It was so nice. Do you know who this is?”

I have always been a letter writer. To me, there is something so permanent and personal about sending someone my thoughts and feelings on paper, with my own personal scroll capturing the words in that moment. I mentioned that last month I was hired to dress as a hippy and dance around Strawberry Fields to promote “Across the Universe.” Although, I don’t believe the photo of me in full hippy-glory ever ended up in the NY Post, I did come across the name of Sid Bernstein. He was sitting within the circle of musicians and John Lennon fans, as everyone whispered, “He’s the guy who brought the Beatles to America.”

I didn’t feel comfortable introducing myself or pushing through the crowds, as he was the recipient of a great deal of fanfare and attention. I went home that night and ordered his book, “Not Just The Beatles.” His book truly made my life richer, by highlighting the good in the entertainment industry and that one may truly thrive on the joy he finds in creating and being a part of it. He promoted shows with Tony Bennett and Judy Garland, was approached by an unknown Barbra Streisand on her quest to find a manager, and even managed Laura Nyro. Just as entertaining and touching to me as his stories with legendary acts and great accomplishments, was a glimpse into his personal life and the proof that destiny plays such an important role in the course of a lifetime. I really found the book to be a spiritual journey, as I find myself pushing forward in my own musical feats.

I sent the card with little expectation, other than to truly express my gratitude for coming upon his life story. When the man on the phone uttered tonight, “This is Sid Bernstein,” well I was more than a little surprised. We chatted a few minutes this evening, as he asked what type of music I sang.

“Well I really love classic rock, so it’s influenced by classic rock.”

“That’s my music. Classic rock,” he replied. This, I already knew, and found it so touching when he shared his home number and extended the invitation to meet when the holidays pass. It really warmed my heart to know that the kind, and honest person represented in this book came across just as kind as the work portrayed. He says my card meant a lot to him, but his taking the time call meant even more to me.

Nothing Like Drinks on a Sunday…

The title this of blog was once in a voicemail from a man I was crazy about. He was also an alcoholic. Being assigned to promote beer and spirits can sometimes leave me with a residue of guilt, particularly when I’m trying to push $30 bottles of vodka on people. It’s only natural that I began working for this vodka company when I swore off drinking hard liquor in favour of red wine. I know it’s been documented that the holidays bring out the sadness and binge drinking and depression peaks this time of year. I’d say a week makes all the difference in the world, and with Thanksgiving just a few days away, I was at the front line of dealing with the depressed and drunk today.

Enter patron number one, who was seemingly normal looking and sober. I offered him a sample of Russian vodka, and he nearly spit on my table, shouting, “Russian vodka is SHIT. Drink Polish vodka. If you knew anything, you’d know it’s better.” The Russian origin of the vodka did not dissuade him from chugging the sample cup of product, which he found to be appealing. He also noted, “This is three times what it should cost. It’s for those corporate whores on Wall St. Gin is a real drink.”

I simply nodded when he disappeared into the store to by his cheap jug of wine, which he shouted, “I’m drunk already but it’s Sunday and it’s my business. What else should I be doing?” He also warned that “The Milky Way is going to crash and our universe will explode.” It was dismal, but I must say I’ve been paying much more attention to the controvery over galaxies and UFO’s and all the interviews done with Shirley MacLaine. If they do exist, and they are as kind as Shirley MacLaine claims, I wish they would go to the White House and teach some empathy and enlighten our elected officials.

So the drunken Polish man was escorted out as he began shouting another anti-Russian vodka diatribe in my direction. He was proceeded by a familiar face; a red-haired woman occupied the same SRO building as I did a few years ago. She was quite harmless, but up until today I simply thought she was a mad hatter rather than an alcoholic. Her nickname was “The Crazy French Lady” but she was quite kind to me, and would often leave a bag of generic canned cat food around my door handle. I knew she had little money and it was such a kind gesture, but of course I wasn’t about to feed canned horse hooves and gelatin to my cat. I loved all the eccentrics of my old building, although I run into them often around town and they never remember me. Today was a similar situation, as “The Crazy French Lady” approached my table and said I was so gorgeous. She protested to not being a lesbian, but she was certainly getting close… and checking out my cleavage. The manager later warned me that she just might make a pass at me.

Like the Polish chap, she returned to my table after making a purchase and sipped a sample, saying “This is water, this is not vodka!” I’d imagine by the cheap booze she stows away under her coat, it did taste like water. But then she looked at me, her eyes sparkling with either inebriation or compassion, or maybe a hint of both.

“Don’t ever take a sip of alcohol,” she warned me. “Because then you have one drink and then another and another and then you are an alcoholic like me.” She laughed and did a little jig in the middle of the store.

“What are you doing for Thanksgiving? I am cooking a big dinner for friends!” I think she was about to invite me, when I mentioned having to visit my family. “But you must have a boyfriend, do you? Is he gorgeous? I hope he is just as gorgeous as you. That would be so nice.”

Her advances were intense enough I was ready to say I had a husband and family of three… but I was endeared to the “Crazy French Lady.” It was pleasant, although slightly uncomfortable, to run into her again. It’s amazing that the “successful” or the “corporate whores” as labeled by Polish dude, don’t tend to have the amount of heart and compassion as people like “Crazy French Lady.” Then again, my former crush was both an alcoholic and a corporate whore, so he really was double-cursed. I wonder where the hell I fit in. Pedaling vodka on a Sunday.  

I Have A New Blonde Idol

From Bette to Babs to Stevie and now moving on to Annie. I love this woman. Her new album, “Weapons of Mass Destruction” has been on repeat in my apartment for the past month. It’s another tie with Rosie, as it played continuously through her signing last week. I’m sorely disappointed that the Annie Lennox show in NY sold out and I didn’t get to attend. I hope she makes a return and advise everyone to check out her new album. It hasn’t been getting much radio play, as stations are clueless and dimwitted on how to implement her into their “programming.” Meanwhile, a certain processed blonde singer in breakdown mode gets more than enough spins.  “Weapons of Mass Destruction” is hauntingly beautiful, and tonight I was inspired to learn “Why.” It’s refreshing to play a song other than my one of my own for a change. I intend on getting a Flip camera in the near future, and may have the courage to share some live clips of my rendition. We’ll see… meanwhile, enjoy the real deal.

Rosie and Me

I have an interesting history with Rosie O’Donnell. When her talk show was on the air in the 90’s it was a major outlet for me and affirmation that dreams come true. She met all her idols (which were simultaneously mine- Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Carole King, Stevie Nicks, Karen Carpenter). She grew up in the 70’s and I wanted to be transported back to the 70’s. In a small town of 8,000 people, not many 12-year-olds wanted to grow up and be Bette Midler.

If anyone knows me well, or has read “Bette or Bust” then these stories are probably trapped somewhere in your unconscious. Here’s a refresher. When I was 16, I made my first real trip to Manhattan, meaning to spend my time auditioning and visiting college campuses while my dad attended a conference. Coincidentally, I received tickets to the Letterman show,  for the date that Bette Midler happened to be appearing on the show for the first time in years. This was a BIG deal. HUGE. Bette Midler was the entire reason I wanted to be in show business. So I saw her on Letterman, and afterwards stood outside the stage door with an original photo in hand for her to sign. She was mobbed and wisked away into her town car while I was pushed against a dumpster. I was devastated.

So, the next day, instead of going to visit NYU and Columbia, I dragged my mother to Rockefeller Center where we waited for standby tickets to see Rosie O’Donnell. I picked lucky number 2, was told I could go to that show or wait for the afternoon show. Of course, I didn’t want to wait. Once we made it into the studio, her warm-up dude announced Bette Midler would be there for the 500th Show filming in the afternoon. My mind was racing… after the show, Rosie came out and met with anyone under 16. I gave her my unsigned, original photo of Bette… still left in my bag from the night before. She instantly invited me back to the afternoon show, where my mother and I received the VIP treatment.

I met Bette that day, shocked that Rosie even remembered me with all the craziness of the big 500th show celebration. It wouldn’t be the first time she would do something kind for me or a friend. This point in my life it was major, to have that encouragement that I was meant to move to NY. I was a kid… with no money, no job, and no idea what I was getting myself into it. But the chain of those unexpected events was an omen to me. It gave me the confidence that everything would be okay.

Anyway, I’ve been having this nagging feeling that I should get my cd in her hands. As a recognition of that moment for me, years ago. In spite of the rain and nagging headcold, I got myself up and out this morning and waited in line for the Celebrity Detox signing. Now… let me say, this book does NOT come cheap. It was $26!!! That’s two weeks of groceries for me (I know, you can all complain I don’t eat enough). The proceeds are going to charity, but even my book never cost that much! But enough with my Depression-level frugality, Rosie was very courteous and genuine and promised to give my cd a listen. She was engaging and asked about my songwriting, which was nice. She is passionate and opinionated and offends a lot of people, but my personal dealings with her have always been positive. It’s funny it took so many years, but I got a photo today … have you ever seen two people look more uncomfortable in your life?

Insomnia Sucks!

I have to be up bright and early at 7 this lovely Saturday morning… which means I’ll be lucky to get four hours of sleep. Why can’t the time change be tonight? What rattles my mind? Just the typical concerns and thoughts racing over the new songs and material and fleshing them out into the most incredible songs ever. How to get the perfect team of fools who suffer me gladly, with guitars and studios and neverending optimism in hand. How to get on the road with a great tour so I can long for the nights of being kept inside my cozy apartment, dreading the alarm the next day. It’s not like curing cancer, or discovering a weight-loss secret that permits overindulgence at Cafe Lalo and lack of activity. Yet, as I type I can feel the developing calluses on my left hand as I have finally decided that I’m going to learn the guitar. I am like the opposite of a smoker who wants to quit. I’m an artist who wants to learn to play, but every time I start… I never continue. No matter how painful, how time consuming, or how frustrating, I’m ready to learn. I feel embarassed that I cannot play a single of my songs on the guitar (since they were all penned by a piano) and slightly inadequate. I suppose it’s the same as writing a poem and expecting to know how to recite the poem in ten different languages simply through an inherant knowledge. Every instrument is like another language.

So…. drumroll… the first song I’ve learned was sadly not one of my own, but “A Horse With No Name” because it’s easy. And because this time instead of being self-taught, I’m following a handy online tutorial. I’m reminded of being in the fifth grade and learning how to play the flute, completely unable to get a sound out and driving my family nuts when I finally did learn, making only loud whistles. In fact, for the first two years of flute playing, I would unintentionally whistle when speaking. Now, I just strum terribly and realize my voice in the strong part of this “music by guitar” solo performance. I look over to my poor cat, who suffers the noises with patience and throughout her naps. I suppose it’s her one downside for getting to live in this fabulous Manhattan apartment rent-free and to never have to change her own litterbox.


My red guitar from Ebay. It looks better than it sounds.
Um… sorta like me and my playing.

Maggie Estep

I’m not trying to be a lackadaisical blogger, and simply post other people’s musings, but I really love Maggie Estep. And in light of the last blog, this is the same poem that was stuck in my head at the time of yearning for a partner of that great guru’s advice. It cracks me up. It’s something I would’ve written if it wasn’t already written.

The Stupid Jerk I’m Obsessed With by Maggie Estep
The stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
stands so close to me
I can feel his breath
on my neck
and smell
the way he would smell
if we slept together
because he is the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
and that is his primary function in life
to be a stupid jerk I can obsess over
and to talk to that dingy bimbette blonde
as if he really wanted to hear about her
manicures and
pedicures and
New Age ritualistic enema cures and
truth be known, he probably does wanna hear about it
because he is the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
and he’s obsessed with doing anything he can
to lend fuel to my fire
he makes a point of standing
looking over my shoulder
when I’m talking to the guy who adores me
and would bark like a dog
and wave to strangers
if I asked him to bark like a dog
and wave to strangers
but I can’t ask him to bark like a dog
or impersonate any kind of animal at all
cause I’m too busy
looking at the way the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
has pants on that perfectly define his well-shaped ass
to the point where I’m thoroughly frantic
I’m just gonna go home
and stick my head in the oven
overdose on nutmeg and aspirin
and sit in the bathtub reading The Executioner’s Song
and being completely confounded by the fact
that I can see
the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with’s face
defining itself in the peeling plaster of the wall
grinning and winking
and I start to yell,
Get the hell out of there
You’re just a figment of my imagination
Just get a life and get out of my plaster
and pass me the next painful situation please
but he just keeps on
grinning and winking
he’s the stupid jerk I’m obsessed with
and he’s mine
in my plaster
And frankly, I couldn’t be happier.