When I was 19 I had big dreams, but no idea what to do to accomplish them. My sense was that basically what you had to do was get involved with life. For me that meant:
- Moving to San Francisco on a whim and living in a big Edwardian house in the Western Addition with a chaos magician-cum-Big 5 Sporting Goods assistant manager; a clinically depressed baristo with a Leonard Cohen obsession; a speed addict who was hearing voices that blamed her for the death of Kurt Cobain; a neurotic mathematician from New York; and a heroin addict from New Orleans who also worked as a sound designer for Francis Ford Coppola. This was before dot com hit. My rent was $400 per month. We had stained glass windows and a view of the Haight Ashbury.
- Getting a job at The Lusty Lady, a peep show where men could pay a quarter to watch you dance naked on a stage covered in red velvet and surrounded by mirrors. Most of the women who worked there were in bands or working on their PhDs or sat around in the dressing room scratching their shaved heads beneath their wigs, reading Cathy Acker.
- Performing with a troupe called Dream Circus, most of whom were a few years older than me, which made me think they were super smart and worldly. Most of our performances consisted of us being naked in galleries or abandoned warehouses, covered in body paint behaving like lizards or monkeys or embodying one of the 7 Deadly Sins.
- Dating half of San Francisco.
- Dating a 27-year-old pixie drug dealer who threw away all my stripper clothes because she said I didn’t need them anymore because we were going to move to Scotland and live in a castle. I was terrified of her.
- Having a complete and total nervous breakdown, which landed me on psych meds and in state-sponsored therapy 4x per week.
- Writing a novel on a vintage Royal Typewriter, about a girl who, erm, felt like she was going crazy and wanted to be a dancer.
- Traipsing through the fog, clinging to the bus poles, pulling my fragile psyche together with glue and tape if it meant that I would make it to my dance classes on time. Ballet, contemporary, African. Whatever got me out of the danger zone of my head and back into my body.
I loved making collages and drawing with charcoal. I loved reading, the feeling of being high and in love and totally taken in by a character – I wanted to be able to create that sensation in someone. But the only times that I could really say I was happy was when I was dancing (the arty kind, not the kind on the pole, of course).
Problem was, I’d started dancing late, at 15. I wasn’t that great at it. I didn’t have any money. I was barely holding on to my sanity, making a LOT of dangerous decisions (more on that later), and had seen Dead Poet’s Society one too many times: I was determined to “suck the marrow out of life.”
So what was a wild, vulnerable, dance-loving baby witch to do?
I followed my dreams. One night, I had a particularly vivid dream where all of my friends were asking me what they should do, where in the world they should go. But I didn’t know. “How should I know where you should go? I don’t even know where I should go?” I told them.
In that dream, no sooner had the words exited my lips than a raging red fire truck came sirening past me. A man dressed as a stage magician stood atop the truck, tossing tarot cards out to the crowd, shouting into a megaphone, “Amsterdam! Amsterdam! Amsterdam!”
A few months before, some guy at a party had told me about the School For New Dance Development in Amsterdam. I’d forgotten about it, but within 6 months of that dream I was there.
Though I’d been brought up as a witch – my mother taught me to read the tarot at age 12 and initiated me into her Moon cult at 13 – I didn’t really start seeing the power, or the danger (!) of magic until I moved to Europe and all sorts of crazy things started happening to me.
Tune in to the next episode of “How I Became the Oracle of Los Angeles” to find out what!
Still sucking the marrow out of life… in solidarity with y’all,