fleetingly hip

June 28th, 2007 | Uncategorized


It’s the end of my book tour. I’m getting ready to check out of my fancy NYC hotel and return to my real life, but I don’t want to waste this incredible view I have of the city. So, here.

The reading last night at the Happy Ending Bar was just as hip as it sounded it might be. Here I am out front before it started.

health club

Here are the very cool musicians, One Ring Zero. They were wonderful. You can see their accordions here, but one guy also played the theremin, which provoked lots of dorked out commentary during the break–it was rather like reading the comments on this blog. (Thank you, Josiah)
one ring zero

All the readers, in addition to reading, had to take a “risk” onstage. I crushed and smelled a capsule of smelling salts like we used to have at my family funeral home. Here I am in mid-huff.

smelling salts

Here I am getting ready to do the actual reading, which went quite well given that it was in a crowded bar and all. What an extremely glamorous time. Soon I’ll be at home in VT being ravaged by deer flies as I mow my foot-high lawn. But right now I can still see the midtown skyline shimmering in the June morning sun.
ab wed

57 Responses to “fleetingly hip”

  1. reed_maker says:

    Hi Alison,

    I was there last night sitting at the bar. You did great, but you are way too cool for that place! Jean Thompson was my teacher at University of Illinois, and I have to say, she was also way too classy for Happy Ending. The two of you are such exceptional, clean, smart, FUN writers (in spite of your dark subject matter, which is very touching to me). I enjoyed the show very very much.

    Josiah, if I had read your post before the show, I would have looked for you in the crowd.

    Good day to all.

  2. Rose says:

    The only thing that could have made last night any more hip would have been relocating the entire evening to brooklyn. You were by far the classiest in the place. It was great to see you read, I have long wondered what its like to see a reading of a graphic book, and your book in particular, since language interacts with the drawings in so many different ways (speech bubbles, narration, labels…). Your presentation was quite elegant.

    You were very sweet to sign my book and speak politely to me even though I was all dork gush. What I was trying to say is that I study the performance of language, and your work makes language perform in very interesting new ways. Your book is a great read period, but its also been a fascinating puzzle of sorts, for me to explore and try and work out how you have made language act in what I think are new ways, what’s going on linguistically, and why it works so well with a story of queerness specifically.

    An evening with Alison AND a thermin. I doubt I’ll have a night like that again soon.

  3. Erica says:

    I rolled my eyes (and tripped over a slope in the floor, invisible in the dark bar) when I entered the place, but I thought the content of the evening was much less hip than the locale and totally excellent. I especially loved singing Sweet Caroline with the crowd (which I had sung at karaoke two nights earlier) and the reader before you from the midwest. I think the host needs a new psychopharmacologist, though.

  4. lenore says:

    It was a bit too cool for me… and I couldn’t stay to hear you last. So I went home, moped and blogged about it.


    But thank you for answering my question before I asked it!

  5. Lester says:

    fare thee well Alison. and thanks for enjoying your work so much you tour to promote it. i look forward to your next book on “relationships,” as you were so vague in your description at the Tempe Phx reading.

    i’ve been re-reading my “Indelible” and i loaned the Fun Home out to some friends who’ve never heard of you (read: male) and they’ve all been blown away… you are supernova.

  6. reed_maker says:

    Amen to Rose’s Brooklyn comment and Erica’s psychopharmacologist comment.

  7. JK says:

    I was afraid it would be even hipper than that, I thought it was pretty comfortable and not too hip. : ) I love Alison’s Q&A so I missed having that there. But it was fun to have a variety of folks presenting.

    So were those 2 dudes in the cautiously checked shirts & khakis there from the New Republic, or what?

  8. Tim T. says:

    DTWOF blog readers: Check out lenore’s blog (above) and find out why you shouldn’t attempt crop circles while high on cocaine.

    note for lenore: Don’t be dissin’ Family Circus…they rock!

  9. reed_maker says:

    I enjoyed the cocaine crop circles, too, as well as Lenore’s comment that, while she likes NYC, she doesn’t love it. Funny how that happens with lots of folks, despite the endless praise heaped upon this town. I’ve never been to Amterdam, but will try it out someday…

  10. joy says:

    Allison. Loved your reading at Happy Ending last night!
    You had quite the comedic timing! Fun House is the first graphic novel I ever read, because prior to your book I did not know comics could be such satisfying literary novels. I could not put it down! Now I’m addicted to comics!
    Overall it was such a nice relaxed (and free) evening to enjoy such varied talents, and the only hip I noticed was that of all those lovely ladies enjoying the readings.
    P.S. Allison, nice biceps!

  11. Jeff says:

    Thanks for a great reading! It made a wonderful finale to an excellent and memorable evening. Even got my first whiff of smelling salts.

    P.S. The surgical glove was a beautiful touch.

  12. panorama says:

    Joy, Alison with a single l, or were the double l intended to match the (very nice)biceps?

  13. joy says:

    Oops. Thaanks foor catcching thaat Panorrama! Yes. you’ve one-upped me with the very-nice biceps that I was too shy to stress upon.

  14. Ginjoint says:

    Hey! I’m not a dork! No, I most certainly am n….well, maybe a little. Because after reading Josiah’s explanation, I was curious for more, so I Googled Leon Theremin. ‘Cause I’m that way. *sigh*

  15. DeLandDeLakes says:

    Golllll-yyyy Alision! Rockin’ out to the theramin and snortin’ powder onstage! Sounds like you had yourself a time!

    Just in case anyone’s interested, check out the documentary _Theramin_ – it’s amazing. The guy who invented it actually got kidnapped by the Russians for his inventing skills!

  16. van says:

    Holy crap! I didn’t pay much attention to the previous theramin talk– but after seeing this, that is one hell of a cool geek instrument! I want one!

    Aside from the theramin, I think that video also proves not all humans have the need to blink.

  17. Aunt Soozie says:

    well…I’m no geek either…
    and I am not in any way obsessive or compulsive
    but I did google Theremin as well
    and I’ll just note for the hell of it that it’s Theremin, not Theramin.

    I did a youtube search cause I had to hear the theremin to be fully satisfied but the link Van provided is the best…that dude has some serious theremin chops.

  18. Al, et al. says:

    So, what did Alison do onstage that she had never done before?

  19. Ginjoint says:

    I want one! I want one! It’ll be fun to freak out the neighbors in my building with the Twilight Zone-y sounds…and the cats too.

    Also…Leon Theremin married a black ballet dancer – this was in the 1930’s, and lots of people weren’t happy about that. She knew right away that he’d been kidnapped by Soviet agents, and hadn’t taken off back to Russia on his own, as the story was put out.

    One more thing…yes, van, that theremin player must go through a lot of eyedrops. A. Very. Serious. Theremin. Player.

  20. Doctor E says:

    I’ve always wanted a theremin, but after my futile attempt to learn musical saw collapsed in frustration, I realized that theremin would be an order of magnitude harder, and abandoned that ambition. I’ll stick to more realistic goals, like turning lead to gold, or teaching George Bush to pronounce “nuclear.”

  21. filosopher says:

    A lot of folks don’t know that theramin means NATURES backward.

    (A generational joke.)

  22. van says:

    Ginjoint, yeah, I bet that’s how his CV reads:
    Profession- Very Serious Thereminist

    I bet he loves meeting new people:
    So wdya do?
    I’m a thereminist.
    A what?
    A there-what??
    A thereminist, you know, theremin.
    Oh! You one of those folks who stuff dead birds?

  23. kate says:

    i love that first picture (that was a great room)

    how are the birds?

  24. Lizen says:

    I used to live in that neighborhood on Broome St. about 16 years ago. Back then I described it as “close enough to hear the shots in Chinatown.” Went there recently to find hip bars and boutique hotels, but still the wonderful economy candy store. They have all the old penny candies including candy and gum cigarettes, which I couldn’t resist buying.

    I guess I got there too early to be hip.

  25. lurknolonger says:

    I’m finally posting on this blog! I promised Alison when I met her at Happy Endings that I would stop just reading all of these wonderful entries and actually contribute something. The reading was amazing! Totally a hipster bar, but between the music and the words, the energy in there was tactile.

    Hey Doctor E- if your dream of playing theremin is still alive, you might try easing yourself into the process by building one. Here’s a link:


    It’s a simple circuit that has photocells, so you manipulate the amount of light that hits them and that’s what causes variations in pitch and volume. This schematic is what I used to build one in college. So fun, and yet so nerdy…

  26. Tim T. says:

    Hey, Doctor E:
    I’d think that learning how to factor polynomials would be a hell of a lot easier than fixing the President’s English! (BIG GRIN!)
    Best wishes to all.

    P.S. I thought Theramin was some kind of cold medicine…

  27. Aunt Soozie says:

    Anna Lee,
    Thanks for the link.
    I found the lyrics to Long Time Friends in an old song book and I did make a really crappy audio recording of it, as per, sort of, suddenly anon’s request.

    but, I sent the link to my paramour instead of posting it here. The paramour and I were doing a bit of research cause where I found the lyrics it said that Cathy Winter wrote Long Time Friends, not Judee. Still not certain. There must be some ol’ time Lesbian out there that knows the answer. paramour says it must be Cathy but…???

  28. DeLandDeLakes says:

    Forgot to add that the greatest theremin player alive is a woman, Clara Rockbourne. She has a very prominent part in the Theremin documentary as well.

  29. Feminista says:

    Aunt Soozie et al–This ol’time hetero folky (and soon to be abuela) thinks that Cathy wrote Long Time Friends.

  30. Jana C.H. says:

    A few years ago I saw an old silent horror film (I don’t remember which one) with live music provided by a theremin. In that particular venue the music for silent films is usually provided by the Mighty Wurlitzer, which is never mentioned without the adjective. The theremin was an interesting change.

    On a tangent: my grandmother (whose quotation about singing tenor I use as a tagline) was a wonderful musician, and in her youth she played piano for silent films– in the next town, because it was not something a respectable young lady in Michigan should be doing.

    Jana C.H.
    Saith JcH: If you don’t know the tune, play theremin.

  31. Doctor E says:

    JCH: I laughed out loud at your modified tagline.

    lurknolonger: Thanks, I’ll take a look. I also saw a neat set of instructions a few years ago for turning a Playstation powerglove into a theremin controller.

    And of course we all remember that great ’60s psychedelic band, Lothar and the Hand People. “Lothar” was the name they gave their theremin.

    Strangely, their first album has been reissued several times, and is even available on CD, but their much more successful (artistically if not commercially) follow-up album, Space Hymn, is a collector’s item, selling for hundreds of dollars if you can find it at all. I’ll never part with my copy!

    The Chemical Brothers sampled them a few years ago, generating more royalties than they ever made on their own recordings!

    Sorry to go on, but I haven’t had an excuse to talk about L&tHP in years! Just ask, and I’ll tell you about their Jimi Hendrix connection.

  32. Aunt Soozie says:

    see…I told you Dr E has many passions!
    And he’s not a stranger to the notion of build it yourself musical instruments.

  33. Anna Lee Sand says:

    Aunt Soozie,

    Judee Sill wrote “Lady-O” for the Turtles — she was commissioned by their bass player. I have a long article about her from the Washington Post I can email to you, if you supply the address. I don’t know the author of the song “Long TIme Friends,” but no one will ever sing it more beautifully than Ginny Clemens.

    The Beach Boys used a theremin in the song “Good Vibrations.” And if anyone has ever read the wonderful Herman Wouk novel “Marjorie Morningstar,” there is a hilarious set piece near the end about a theremin going berserk and ruining a wedding ceremony.

  34. a plug for ya says:

    a little note for the folks at DTWOF: my theory is that there is probably only one or two real bloggers on this site, and it’s bs. at least, this post is bs. but it doesn’t matter. you’re playing a few of my lines, and your own laundry. great. but i’m tired. and i’d like to stop the bs fun now. so if you could, ever so kindly, write an email to explain what you’re up to, and maybe be humanist, like they teach you in school, if you have the nerve. the nerve to be human/humane. how’s that for viva la socialisme? ciao ladies of the lac du royale bs.

  35. Aunt Soozie says:

    Thanks Anna Lee,
    I’d like to read the article about Lady-O.
    you can send it to

  36. kate says:

    wasn’t the theremin used by les paul and mary ford in their music? lots of sixties surfer music on my ipod used something that sounds like it? and then i think remembering something on npr about hawaiian music and the use of the theremin. i wonder about the word origin? maybe it’s obvious but i’m clueless.

  37. Rose says:


    The theremin is named after its inventor, Leon Theremin. But I think the surfer music sound you’re thinking about might in some cases not be theremin but be someone actually using a lap steel guitar or using electric guitar to mimic the sound of a hawaiian lap steel guitar. Lap steel guitar example : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFwO2PVvsBc

  38. LD says:

    Just want to briefly apologize for my post on this discussion board (see, plug for ya above). I’m sorry. It was out of line, I realize, as a discussion merits friendly exchange, and what I wrote was not friendly.

    At any rate, I get a lot out of the website and enjoy the spirit of your collaboration.

    Many apologies and thanks.

  39. van says:

    After a dizzying case of pass the book (my copy, which I haven’t even had the chance of reading!lol), I am THRILLED my Fun Home has come back and now is ready to be read. I’ve two books in line for reading, but obviously, this zooms to priority. THRILLED I TELL YA! And am off to read it….

  40. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone have the SLIGHTEST idea what’s going on with *LD*’s and *a plug for ya*’s comments (above)? (Not that it’s any of my business, of course…)
    Best wishes to all.

  41. Free Library of Aunt Soozie says:

    I just bought the paperback cause my hardback is on loan to a friend. Last year I had two copies of the hardback; mine and one I bought for my paramour that Alison had signed in Phila.

    I lent out the paramour’s book before I got it to her!
    Now it’s back, thankfully, and paramour, you’ll have it soon, I promise. I won’t lend it out again!

  42. Josiah says:

    Dorked out Josiah reporting in! I was so nervous about meeting Alison that instead of telling her what an amazing artist and writer she is, I blathered on about the theremin. The venue was indeed far too hip for me. Erin and I walked up and down the Chinatown street a couple of times before we saw a woman with a short, sleek haircut heading for the “Xie He Health Club”. The only indication from the street that this was the same as the “Happy Endings Lounge” was a tiny monogram with a stylized “H E” on the doors. To an unsophisticated suburbanite like me, it felt like going to a speakeasy.

    We were late (having driven from central Connecticut), and missed the first reader. We arrived just in time to see the hostess flash her underwear at the crowd (but far too fast to see anything). The place was packed, but we eventually found a spot on the concrete floor near the stage area. Erin and I were feeling decidedly un-hip and out-of-place until Jean Thompson started reading a story which made fun of exactly the sort of people the place was filled with. The story was also about being from out of town and feeling intimidated by New York City, which was exactly how we were feeling, so that was nice.

    Jean’s story was called “Throw Like a Girl”, and for her “risk” she threw pages of her story out to the audience in exchange for throwing tips. I said that I couldn’t help her, since I throw like a girl too, and she said, “You get one” and tossed one directly to me. I think that was what gave me confidence to go up to Alison at the break, after she had set up her computer for the slide show.

    When I introduced myself to Alison I started babbling uncontrollably and provided the aforementioned “dorked out commentary” on the theremin. I was so abashed that I didn’t even ask her to sign the books I had brought (Fun Home, The Indelible Alison Bechdel and the first DTWOF collection). But getting to hear her read was as great as I expected it would be, and my insecurities about the place and New York and meeting the greatest graphic memoirist of our times fell away. I was rapt, enveloped in the story, like one of the Bechdel children listening to their grandmother tell the story about when their father got stuck in the mud. Alison wrapped us in a quilt with her tale, and put us in the oven.

  43. lurknolonger says:


    I am completely sympathetic to your AB-induced blathering! I did the same thing; never having met her before, I was so incomposed by the whole experience that the only thing I could think to say was about how I read her blog religiously but have yet to post a comment (until now). Geez!

  44. Rubicon says:

    I thought you all (and especially Alison) might enjoy this: this morning, in the loo of my favorite diner in San Francisco, I saw a bit of graffiti on the stall door. A heart with an arrow through it, and “Mo loves Sparrow” written in the middle.

  45. van says:

    ASooz, I have the hardback and really like the neon orange and jacket of the book, very nice touch, no? Btw, I just have to say, you’re the very first person I’ve “met” to use ‘paramour’ so casually; it sounds Victorian to my ears, but I think I like it. lol 🙂

    Finished reading it a while ago– and now it kind of makes sense why some people, as per recap here, were inclined to ask AB personal questions during the tour. The book is just too honest and is a raw emotional wormhole– it’s amazing. Everything I got from the book (probably due to the fact that I also had a difficult relationship with my own father) and would probably want to ask would fall as personal, too– but obviously would respect AB’s space as the author to not ask the questions, lol. I don’t really agree with the blurb that it’s hilarious, but it is very humorous. The two scenes that really moved me would be the knuckles-kissing part and the stilted conversation between the two on the way to the movies, near the end of the book. It really did a fine job showing human frailty, of her dad’s most especially, that it chokes me up. And so poetically. What a good read.

  46. filosopher says:

    I suspect that Aunt Soozie knows very well the origins of paramour — from Middle English: “For the sake of love, willingly.”

  47. Erica says:

    Josiah, I think you were sitting at my feet!

  48. Aunt Soozie says:

    I enjoyed your post. Too funny.
    I got this image of Alison going from reading to reading and being greeted by stuttering overwhelmed blathering fans…her with that kind, intent look on her face, trying to make sense of things…maintaining a soft smile but with eyes getting bigger and bigger just like the faces in some of her comics…
    BTW, I had four books in my hand in Phila. but only three got signed…there you go.

    raw emotional wormhole is such a good description.

    I didn’t know the origins of paramour but how lovely and truly apropos.

  49. Josiah says:

    Erica, were you the person who saved our “seats” when we went up to meet Alison?

  50. Josiah says:

    Oh, and Aunt Soozie, your imagination of Alison’s reaction is completely accurate.

  51. JJFLAP says:

    HI Alison- I saw you @ Lambda Rising- I was the one who had the cell phone interupt you- so sorry about that! My Dad loves your strip, since he read some of your work at our house on one of his visits, & I borrowed FUN HOME from him- so I guess I should return it soon- We all loved the entire book, as did my Partner Michael- I really enjoyed listening to you at Lambda- I cannot wait for the new DTWOF strip- golly, what will Mo do NOW?!?..Robert

  52. Amanda Stern says:

    Just a quick note to thank everyone who came to Happy Ending to hear Alison read and to meet her. It was an honor for me to host an author whose work means so much to me and a thrill to welcome new members of the audience to my event. Despite some feelings here about the bar’s classiness, or lack thereof, I hope you still managed to enjoy yourselves and will overlook any perceived flaws and return for future shows. The night was an enormous success, because of the warmth of the audience and the spirit and talent of the readers. Thank you Alison, for being such a trooper. For reading and risking it. –Amanda

  53. also lurking no longer says:

    Funny, it seems like someone had the exact same experience as me and posted before me–see Alison, babble about reading the blog, and then blush and run away. She’s very reassuring.

  54. Millie says:

    It was FANTASTIC finally being able to hit one of your events (I was way too burned out pride weekend to hit the MOCCA festival like I’d been planning to). I really like how Happy Ending keeps opening itself to fun things like this despite the space limits, but I won’t lie: hopefully next time will be someplace less “intimate” so I don’t die of fangirl shock. ^__^

  55. Tera says:

    you look so angry in the pictures! how come you didn’t bring any smelling salts to the RADAR reading in SF ??
    : (

  56. Pedantica says:

    Amanda thanks AB for being a “trooper.” I suppose it’s possible that she wanted to suggest that AB is akin to a soldier or cop, but I suspect she actually meant that AB was a “trouper” — as in a member of a traveling theatrical troupe in the bad old days, one who gamely endured one-night stands, drafty, fire-trap theatres, flea-bitten boarding-houses, and fly-by-night management — or by metaphorical extension, one who persists through hardship without complaint. Oh, sure, some usage websites claim that “trooper” is an accepted substitute for “trouper,” but those sites are run by craven language sell-outs to whom no self-respecting pedant will give ear.