November 23, 2010

Sick Of Goodby's

In 1994 I was living in Seattle, WA and coping with the death of my oldest brother Peter as well as my Grandfather Frank. I was also a member of the band Dalia Seed and we were in the middle of writing our next record that would eventually and aptly be called Survived By. The rest of the group was located on the East Coast (as was my entire family) so I was feeling incredibly alone and detached as I began working on my portion of the album and tried to wrap my head around my first real experience with human loss.

As a band we had a highly unusual way of working on new material. Faced with the challenge of living across country from each other, we mailed cassette tapes back and forth with ideas for songs. I didn't have a proper 4-track recorder so I would actually play their new songs recorded at a practice live on a little hand held tape recorder and then record myself singing over it by jamming a guitar pick in my answering machine so it would record for an extended period of time. I was broke and this was pre-computer so it was the only way I could offer the rest of the band a blueprint of what I was thinking for each new song. "Jet Spin" was among the first songs I recorded this way and it was one of my first attempts at purging my emotions seeped in helplessness, anger, frustration, and grief so openly.

I had named the song "Jet Spin" after a local amusement park ride at the base of Queen Anne. the neighborhood I was living in at the time. I was terrified of the thing and I looked at it as a living symbol of the topsy-turvy ache my heart was ravaged by and sick over.

My father had given me a subscription to Vogue magazine and that same month there was a story on the photographer Robert Frank who as a kid of 23, I had never heard of. The story featured a few pieces of his work and among them was "Sick of Goodby's". Upon seeing it I instantly burst into tears because I was looking at this stranger's raw messy grief sprawled across a mirror hauntingly written in what looked like blood.

This was perhaps the first time in my life I connected so heavily with a piece of art and understood, no actually deeply felt the electrical power of it's truth, sadness, and beauty arc from the page into my body. I tried to buy the book so I could own it properly however it was too expensive for me then so I lived with that page torn out from Vogue pinned to my bedroom wall for months.

Robert's words "Sick of good-bys" echoed inside my head for months and with nearly super natural force, it found its way into the lyrics of Jet Spin.  Most of the Dahlia Seed songs are extremely personal but this one in particular holds deep meaning to me because I associate it with finally grasping the importance and power of art. Imagine my relief to discover another human who had expressed themselves in a way that literally mirrored how I felt but was unable to express on my own. His image and words gave me the courage to eventually communicate my pain which I can only describe as something between an orgasm and projectile vomiting. It was also the first step to healing, something else I couldn't fully understand or appreciate at the time.

Robert's photograph changed my life, opened creative doors, and was the catalyst to a life long passion for photography. For my 39th birthday this year my boyfriend Kenny surprised me by giving me a copy of RF book The Lines of My Hand, knowing that within the pages of the book lies the ever meaningful Sick of Goodby's. I may have never fully come to terms with death or life as a survivor (having also buried a second brother, my parents, and too many friends) but sixteen years later I am honored to finally hold in my hands an official collection of Frank's work that is a permanent reminder that I am not alone and that art carries all of our voices, even the silenced ones.


  1. It is my honor and pleasure to deliver such a special gift.

  2. Like everyone, I read a shitboat of blogs. This post -- along with your whole blog -- reminds me what a pleasure it is to read thoughtful posts written in a thoughtful way. Thanks for doing what you do.

  3. Thank you Chan, that means a great deal to me.