Posts Tagged ‘AFP’

Finding Amanda: An internet love story

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Amanda Palmer and Courtnee Fallon Rex Photographed by Steve Kuhn The Art of Asking Book Tour. Sat, November 22, 2014. First Unitarian Church – Los Angeles

When I was young, I thought I had all the answers. Or at least, I thought I knew the problems, the deeper causes of the things I was seeing in people, that needed answering.

And I thought, since I seemed to be the only one who really *saw* what the problems were, saw them and felt them in my guts and talked about seeing them and feeling them in my guts, I was naturally responsible for fixing them, too.

All of them. Everywhere.

That turned out to be a bit of a problem for me. One I’ve since largely solved in my growth, accepting my role as a healer, an activist, and learning about boundaries.

Back then, I kept wishing I had been born earlier, so I could have been a part of the uprising in the 60’s, when “shit mattered”, when the ambient rage against this profoundly sick world order had a focus and a voice.
Now, I really really miss the 90’s.

I did my best to rebel and find my own way, but internalized a contempt for my own perspective and an intense hate for my sensitivity.

As a tiny girl I had started cussing and spewing sexist racist shit like a motherfucking truck driving military sailor, and I basically hated everyone. I lied about my age (when I was 11 I was 14) and hung out with older boys. I started smoking when I was 9, drinking when I was 10. I stole shit and resold it at school. I experimented with drugs.

In middle school I had found my niche as a leader of a small group of nerdy weirdos. I, like most middles schoolers, was bullied and pushed around, once by a large group in my own front yard.

I was the girl who peed her pants laughing, daily, at lunch. I was the girl who responded to being given flowers by immediately eating them. I was the girl who stayed at school until 6pm hanging out with the uncool teachers because they cared about me and I didn’t want to go home to an empty house and I secretly loved and adored them even though that wasn’t cool and I don’t think I ever told them how much they meant to me and I wish I had now (Thank you Mr. Pericone, Mr. Ebi and Mrs. Wollard).

By the time I was 15 I was so acutely aware that the system was a sham, I was going insane. I saw so clearly the dynamic of perpetrated violence in society, and in my life. I saw the pain hiding in peoples eyes, but I didn’t have the support to find my ground to stand against it. Everywhere I looked what I saw was how we were killing each other, and how I unconsciously contributed to that cycle.

I hated High School, even though I barely attended, and once I went there, I immediately fell deeply into drugs. I’m talking deep. Few know how bad it was. I quickly dropped out to join the workforce with a fast food job, so I could go on USEnet and use my minimum wage to buy Nirvana bootlegs, and more drugs.

I had no direct examples of self-supporting ways to cope with the cruelty of the world, and if I did come across them indirectly, they weren’t cool or appealing anyway because they weren’t ‘powerful’ like domination and violence seemed to be.

Emotionally, I was broken open and rawly empathic, connected with attrition and the damage we inherently do to one another simply by existing, and enraged at my impotence in fixing it. Physically, I was, frankly, killing myself.

I hadn’t lived enough then, well enough, to have the decades of varied experience and intense healing it would turn out I’d need in order to break out of my patriarchal conditioning and trust the instincts I was trying to snuff out. I was going crazy in part because that’s what I believed I was.

A new (digital) hope

In early 1995, in Sacramento California, from a commodore 8088 connected to a shell account with crl.com on a screechy modem with an actual WIRE, my dad showed me how to get on this Internet Relay Chat thing he’d told me about.

CRL’s root .ircrc file had a bunch of dead servers referenced in it, and I’d spent likely not nearly as long as it felt like I had being suicidally-frustrated with trying to figure out how to get the fuck online. Dad swooped in, figured out there was a /server command, and my life thus changed forever.

There were words on a screen attached to real-yet-fantasy humans who, when they weren’t talking about overthrowing governments and anal rape, were telling me I was not alone. That the social system we inherited was fucked and we were going to unfuck it by fucking it. There was a space, suddenly, to tell people what I saw.

There were vulnerable conversations about emotion and loss and pain where the ‘real’, world had been about image and learning how to be an expert on being fake. I’d found people who weren’t afraid to talk about the despair we all felt, through a medium that protected us better than any person had.

That was where, I thought, I found salvation. And for a while, I suppose I did. I wasn’t a sad sack high school nerd druggie statistic everyone fucking picked on, I was a social engineer in the thick of a god damn underground hacker revolution that only some people picked on.

My social life was with criminals on IRC, where I could explore my rage, screw the man, and say whatever the fuck kind of offensive abusive shit I wanted. I spent my time on meth and anything else I could find, listening to The Prodigy, chain smoking reds, fucking around with linux and waiting for the years to cycle to the next DEFCON.

I started maintaining my own web pages, gnashing my teeth about the worlds fuckedupedness (and how it caused me to feel), in 1995. I was one of the first webcams on the internet. I had my own irc channel (#nee). I had fans.

People emailed me often to tell me they’d found my site and how much what I was writing mattered to them. That my words mattered to them. I kept expecting waves of hate. They sent me fan art. They shared their stories. They told me I had saved their lives and that my spews of misery and hopelessness gave them hope. They told me I helped them feel less alone.

The first time someone told me I should write a book of my life I had been alive 15 years. I was a social advocate without really knowing it, a musician without accepting it, a community leader without being responsible for it, a digital artist. A flawed and miserable human being, with an intimate community online that fueled and supported me, nodding, saying; I see what you see, thank you for saying it.

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As a musician I had a bit of a business on the original mp3.com in 1999/2000, but had started recording cover songs long before. I went by the name Not Applicable, and I insisted, vehemently, proudly, that my music would always, always be available for free, on my site.

But things change, and so did all that.

The RIAA destroyed mp3.com, and with it, my faith in the world supporting my niche-y emo-enya never-gonna-sell-shit-for-sony music. I went from identifying as an empowered independent artist with a support structure that validated me, from being featured and interviewed by ABC news (and my cam images being used in the original piece as well) regarding the success of the movement I was a part of, to feeling displaced and bullied and utterly rejected, with my dreams in flames at my feet.

With the fall of mp3.com, I also went from being a part of a community of artists and musicians who were, once again, revolutionary, by collaborating worldwide via audio files online, to drifting alone in space. I was always in the top 3 of the ambient electronic charts, and many people sent me remixes of my work and collaborated with me by finding me there, including one of the trance musician idols I’d had at the time, and lots of unknowns who are still unknown.

We were a creative artist economy birthing cross-pollinated artwork existing inside the payback for playback and DAM CD models for making money. It wasn’t going to make us all filthy rich, but it was a god damn fucking internet revolution utopia all the same.

I shrugged it off and didn’t let myself think about losing that community part all that much. I spewed anger at how unfair mp3.com’s demise was, and suddenly focused on the money, the wopping $2700 I’d made in a year, because of course it was just weak and selfish and shitty to want support and connection and love from people.

It had taken such immense courage for me to share my deeply personal and vulnerable music, music that made me cry from being so good and double over in pain for being so raw, music that rose out of me from a dark place I didn’t understand. I kept waiting for the hate to come, especially after I joined the mp3.com community from sharing my songs by DCC sending to friends in my IRC channel.

mp3.com was my taste of vitality as an artist. It was the first place I was confronted with irrefutable proof from strangers that my music was good. It was my bridge, back when I was still the only Courtnee on the internet, and the internet was all the connection with the human race I had that fucking mattered to me. It was a community that I’ve never found a comparable replacement for.

The hate never did come. Perhaps because it never had the chance to. For my efforts, for my courage, I received virtually nothing but waves of acceptance and love, feature after feature on the site praising my work even though I was a screwed up crazy hermit making weird whiney sad music that would never end up on the radio.

Losing that relevance changed me, reconfirmed my doubts in myself. I utterly loathed the music industry, threw up at the thought of playing shows. With mp3.com, I had let myself open up, and feel some hope. The loss of this flow of connection for me was staggering. And because of it I hardened.

I turned to the other revolution I was a part of for comfort and belonging while grieving my artistic self, to find it wasn’t there anymore, either. The geeks, the remaining foothold of my revolutionary home base, are no longer the underdog freedom fighters, and they haven’t been for a very long time. They’re the ruling class in the same system we despised.

It hurts to see your revolution become the system. Maybe even more than it hurts to see the revolution get flat out crushed by it. It’s a fucking betrayal I can only barely wrap my head around, but I feel it in my body. It’s a fucking betrayal I keep seeing over and over again in my life. Seeing the entropy, seeing the fear, seeing how the people who are doing what is most needed in this world are getting fucked and assimilated.

It got under my skin when the powers that be managed to napalm the countryside we were beginning to settle with mp3.com. Feeling like I almost had it, like I was almost valid — and then I closed my eyes and covered my head while the power in the world which already had way more than it needed clubbed me, and when I opened them again everything was different.

I didn’t realize how much I was still hurting. Not until Amanda walked into my office.

I can articulate now, after a lot of processing, and galvanizing our connection a few weeks ago by performing for her and her fans in Los Angeles, I hated Amanda Palmer because she represented for me the person I was who died with mp3.com and the internet as I had known it. Died “because” I didn’t have what Amanda Palmer had — a stream of fanbase supporting her when her conventional link to them [a record label], which I knew would have fucked me, fucked her, too.

She represented who I could be now if I hadn’t divorced from my core and spent years of my life chasing money and stability betraying myself in the tech industry before finding my way back to myself.

She represented for me the damage I did to my soul by choosing to take that path, for going through the motions while shutting down who I really was, for taking the RIAA attacking the home I’d found in mp3.com so unbelievably personally.

She represented the pain in becoming even more isolated and quiet as a musician, my most vulnerable and profound form of art, the paralyzation of being introverted and insecure and losing my foothold.

She represented the reality of only knowing how to be a solo musician making music in the safety of my dark little cave and posting it on the internet.

Healing is a pretty important aspect of being a revolutionary. It’s hard to cheer someone on who breaks through the glass ceiling you’re still concussed from smashing into and weakening for them.

In the rise of the digital music revolution, the unsigned artists of mp3.com got royally fucking fucked. As we grew in closer path alignment over the years, Amanda served as a screen for me to project that disembodied grief.

I had it first. I was there first, I had it, I had the following, I had the waves of love, I had the future, I WAS the future, I was AHEAD, and then I fucking wasn’t. In utter projective emotional simplicity that makes little logical sense, I was an Amanda Palmer before Amanda Palmer.

And then I wasn’t.

In the decade after the blow of mp3.com, and countless other events that knocked my fragile sense of self around back in those days, I am finally beginning to feel and trust in the ripples of reward for the tremendous amount of exertion and surgical accountability it’s taken to come back to where I am ready to step into myself again. Into my seeing, into my caring, into my vulnerability, into the vivid authenticity that steams off of me as a performer and a music maker and a singer, into my talents, and into my contributions.

It’s been a long decade.

Finding that I was still so emotionally fucked up over a website going down a decade before was an embarrassing reality to resign to in order to write this, but it’s just the honest truth of things. The impact to fragile hiding 22 year old me, losing mp3.com and what it represented in my life, at that time and at that point in my delicate career, caused a painful rift between me and myself that has taken a long time to sew back up.

Thank you for helping me heal it, Amanda. Thank you for helping that part of me come back.

Full Circle

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

For many idealistic years, I vehemently declared that I would never, ever step foot in LA, certainly never to perform on a stage. Nope. And at one time, I fiercely convinced myself I hated Amanda Palmers guts, too.

This Saturday not only am I going to LA (for like a third time now.. shhhh), this time it’s to be on a stage, talking with Amanda Palmer as part of her Art of Asking book tour, in which our first encounter is mentioned.

What keeps going on in my head right now, is that I didn’t have to let her into my office that day. I didn’t have to rearrange my schedule to be able to see her. I was genuinely busy, genuinely had every opportunity and, on the surface, reason to let her pass me by.

But I knew atmospherically that *I* was worth it. I knew *I* was worth more than the behaviors I had identified with, I knew *I* was worth growing into newer better behaviors, into newer better ways of thinking and relating. Even if it was fucking embarrassing and challenged my ego and was scary as all fuckin shit.

I really can’t imagine a better way for all of this to have happened with Amanda. I wouldn’t have been able to join her, be open to receiving this opportunity, unless it was specifically to talk about the transition in my perspective of her. How we grow and connect and heal each other and love ourselves as human beings, how we can forgive each other, but most importantly, how we can forgive ourselves.

At the time I met Amanda, she was shining a light on everything that was wrong with me, and also everything that could be right if I just stepped into it. Part of me wanted to stay “busy”. I knew I was going to have to face some big ugly shit in myself if I let her in, things I had identified with “being” for a long time, things I was confused and embarrassed about.

I knew being vulnerable to her, no matter what came of it, would just be the beginning of something new for me. I could feel it in the air and in my blood and up my back and in my overheated face. And I knew that maybe I was going to get the shit kicked out of me for it.

I am reminded of a span of 7 recent months I spent writhing in intense emotional pain, trying to show someone important to me how much their unconsciousness, their turtled up insistence of “THIS IS HOW I AM”, their utter self loathing, was hurting me, disrespecting me, and was finally irrevocably destroying our relationship.

I am reminded how much I wanted to do that same thing I witnessed him doing — to dig in my heels, say no, to stay willfully obtuse — when I was faced with the prospect of Amanda showing up on my doorstep.

I did face it. But no one else could have made me do that. And if there is one hard lesson I think I’ve finally, finally learned, it’s that I couldn’t make him, and I can’t make you, do the same.

But I can remind you that you are worth healing for. You are worth reconsidering. You are worth examining. You are worth forgiving. You are worth more than your patterns. You are worth healing what your defenses are covering up. You are worth a kick in your own ass. You are worth more than what you were taught. You are worth raising your standards. You are worth your own honesty. You are worth being seen. You are worth being supported. You are worth letting go of what doesn’t belong to you. You are worth going deeper. You are worth your love, your energy, and your commitment.

You are worth facing your shit. And no one else can do it for you. But when someone comes along who can help you along your way…

Take. The fucking. Doughnuts.

Meeting the maker

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

I’m pretty sure I’m at another one of those places in my life where a big internal shift is about to click into place after multiple weeks of limping around funny, like when every step hurts your ankle because the bones aren’t lining up quite right.

I am transforming. It is intense and embarrassing and lonely and hard.

Any minute now I’m going to start those ankle circles again and this time, on maybe the second or third one, something is gonna snap and suddenly my leg will fizzle in relief and come back to life.

As part of this multifaceted, uncomfortable time, I am finding that the internet — which has been my line for social interaction for most of my life — especially in times like these, doesn’t seen to really work for me anymore. The interactions I do have online nowadays are weak and hollow feeling when all is said and done, like a fancy dinner you drive away from in a fancy car, but it’s in exchange for your soul and your health which are far more valuable. My relatedness with technology and the internet tastes like cheap chemical candy once the bulk of it has melted in my mouth.

Which brings me to the other piece of my skewed anklebone puzzle; My anger, which I often focused through online tirades, isn’t working for me anymore, either.

And dammit, I fucking like my anger! I didn’t run an early 00’s “Courtnee’s Hate Mail” column on stileproject for fuckin nothing!

The upshot is that my perspective has deepened to the point that I am uable to blast that adolescent, fiery hate without being distracted by the tender underbelly and potential consequences of slashing at it. As such, I don’t rant like I used to, as often as I used to, and for Previous Me that was a major stress outlet for a long time (not to mention a source of endless amusement).

I think the best example of this movement in my life, at least the most shattering one, would be an experience I had recently where I met a celebrity that I had previously foam-mouthed ranted about online, in person.

Not only did I meet this person, who I never imagined I would meet, I met them in the context of my massage practice. They had come to me for healing and support.

In that moment that I received the email reservation request, I thought maybe my friends were fucking with me. Kinda wanted that to be the case, but, I think I knew it wasn’t. I began the process of soul searching to determine how I would respond to it, every shitty, petty, mean thing I had said in my rant neutralized — Simply at the thought of potentially interacting with them face to face, things I had written in a vacuum, things I actually believed and meant at the time, vanished.

It was then that I remembered the little uncertain voice that had been whispering at me while I was writing, the one that caused me to take the rant down a day later. The one that tells me that the way I historically harness and point my anger isn’t working anymore. The one that tells me I have to go back to work and level up, again.

*sigh* again.

And I knew that this person contacting me was no joke, and no accident. I knew that I needed to step into the opportunity to take responsibility for what I had said, why I had said it, and to approach this client with integrity. And I had about a half hour to figure out how I was going to do it.

When Amanda Palmer arrived, I said there was something we needed to talk through, and I told her that I needed her to know that I had said some pretty shitty things about her on the internet.

I explained that while I had had some true disagreements with her, what I said was bullshit. Mostly, it was uncalled for vitriol from all sorts of places in my life that I had projected onto her image as a celebrity – and that was why I had said the things I had said.

I confided that I needed for her to know that about me before I could be comfortable sharing an intimate energetic connection, such as having my hands all over her. And I said I was sorry. Because I was.

The response to my emotional risk was overwhelming. Tears, relief, and “I was supposed to meet you today” kind of overwhelming. The massage was magical, as was the massage I gave Neil after working on Amanda.

After they had left my massage studio, I checked out Amanda’s blog, to gain some kind of insight into why she thought meeting me that day was kismet. I was taken aback by how powerful the experience had been for me, and as someone who is generally on the other side of the coin, invoking transformations and shifts for others, I was interested in what made this situation uniquely mutually beneficial.

I found a lot of similarity and relatedness there.

This person had come to me from a very vulnerable, familiar place, and we had deeply connected. That would not have happened had I not had the courage and insight to risk myself, cop to having been an asshole, and opened myself to the possibility of rawly connecting with the real person who had presented to me, as the real person I also am.

The night before I met Amanda, I was falling asleep on my office floor to a flimsy cocktail of a few pills on top of champagne. I had just sold a painting and been taken to an amazing meal, yet I was on my floor crying, fantasizing that by some miraculous fluke the chemicals might align just right and I wouldn’t wake up.

Clearly, the universe had other plans.