My name is Alisa Starr. I make Snarky Cards: Brutally Honest Greeting Cards. I sell them in bars from a box that hang beneath my boobs. They say hilarious things about fucking. They will crack you the fuck up.
Last year, my friend Taryn and I decided to start making some Snarky Card Commercials.
At the time, I was living in a little studio on Capitol Hill. We filmed the commercials. Our actors were brilliant. Our cameras were pointed in the right direction. And we overcame some sound problems heroically. Taryn and I edited the shit out of them. We took 10 hours of footage, and sifted it down into 6 kick-ass commercials. We were going to use them to make a kickstarter for the Snarky Card Book. Or, maybe they were just going to be the begining of our new Snarky Cards Show! We were on a roll.
And then my house started making me neurotic. My downstairs neighbor freaked out because I don’t go to bed when she does, at 9pm every night. Yelling at me, coming up to ask me about every noise. Banging on the ceiling every time I move (or sometimes when I didn’t move) in my own apartment.
I was afraid to do all the really good home stuff; cry, masturbate, have sex, laugh, have friends over. Some nights I would stay up, trying not to move, in my bed, for hours, waiting until I knew she was getting ready for work, trying to hold my pee so that my trip to the bathroom wouldn’t wake her. None of my efforts made a difference. She grew increasingly angry and frantic. I got more and more neurotic, weighing every step I took. I stopped sleeping altogether. I started to make less money, and stay home and worry more.
The problems were stacking up. I didn’t have any money for a deposit on a new place. And my arms were all messed up (Repetitive stress from hand-painting the first 55,000 Snarky Cards). And my legs still hurt all the time (I’ve broken both of my legs in the last 6 years. They have a lot of metal in them, and they take turns hurting worse). So, I wasn’t exactly sure how I would move any of my stuff out of what was quickly becoming A Scary Crazy-Making Studio Atop An Awful Witch.
Then a friend of a friend had an empty room in his house. So we met, and liked each other pretty well. And all of our mutual friends said they thought we would get along. So, me and my cats moved into his place. And that move left me alone, at the top of a mountain with a raging drunk. Something nobody mentioned when they said how much I would like to living with him.
Living at the top of this mountain was hard on my body: I had to walk up the mountain in order to buy food and wash my clothes. Which stressed out my lame legs and fucked-up arms. And taking care of the 34 year old drunk man-child weakened my boundaries.
Living with an alcoholic, like, super-charged all of my codependent tendencies. I found myself trapped in a weird care-taker cycle I didn’t want and I couldn’t figure out how to exit. And, frustrated with that home project, I found other projects, which I thought I’d be more successful at. Those people didn’t want to get better either, much like the alcoholic. And so I failed to help them, and trying to help them made them mad. And the whole co-dependent cycle started to eat up all my energy and my self-esteem. Making it harder and harder for me to figure out how to exit social situations that made me uncomfortable.
All of which drained my creative juices. And my giddy-up.
Between cleaning up after The Alcoholic at home, and selling Snarky Cards in bars, people who drank were starting to look super-gross. And drinking started to look bad. And smell bad. And suddenly shaking my tits seems tawdry. The same conversations over and over all night long started to bore me. My timing was off and I’d step on my laughs. When you do that while playing to a table of 4, it means you don’t make the $20 you needed for groceries.
Getting sick of all of it kept costing me money. Or just keeping me from making any.
And then I’d get home, and the alcoholic would have done something AWESOME again, like shitting with the door open, or Never Leaving The Living Room Couch Because Secret Drinking is Rad, and Hygiene is For Suckers, or spraying our only toilet with urine. And I kept checking the house for bottles, cleaning up after his messes and calling his friends when I was worried about him.
I needed life to give me a break. My friend Arlette suggested Al-Anon. So, I went to a meeting. And what struck me about it was that the people who the happiest, who had done a lot of work on their shit, also limited the time they spent with their alcoholics. And they set up firm boundaries around their alcoholic interactions.
I realized that I needed to change my house, my job and my friends. ASAP.
So, I hung up my pretty dresses, polished up my resume and started applying for Real Jobs. It didn’t go well. I got maybe 3 calls back for every 100 resumes I sent out. It was weird, I couldn’t charisma my way through the interviews the way I used to. I used to be a whiz at getting jobs. In the olden days of the early 2000’s, I used to get offered jobs left and right, I’d flash my smile and make the right joke at the right time, and take just enough interest in my interviewer. But this round, I couldn’t make the right jokes. I couldn’t take the right kind of interest. And when I was enthusiastic, it sounded fake… I guess my creative juices came from the same well as my charisma and my giddy-up.
The weird part is, I DESPERATELY wanted to do something mundane for someone else. I dreamed about filing someone else’s records. I fantasized about the boring squabbles people working in an office together get into. And, even $12 an hour was an improvement on the amount I’d been making for Snarky Cards, in the last few months.
I tried to reassure myself that I would get the hang of it, but it’s been 7 years since I’ve presented myself earnestly in front of another person and asked them to let me do something mundane for them. And I just couldn’t quite get the knack of it. I had to keep selling cards. It was like the dead-end job I couldn’t quit. My house became infested with fleas. The Alcoholic either didn’t see them, or didn’t care. Nothing I did got rid of the fleas. Eventually my cats stopped coming inside. I started to get used to flea’s biting my face as I fell asleep alone every night.
My life just seemed unfix-able. It was making me spiral into the kind of depression that gives you hallucinations. The kind of depression, where you just start to believe that you deserve everything bad that’s ever happened to you. And you give up a little bit.
So, I knew I was not OK, emotionally. And I knew that I needed to make some HUGE life changes. When I lined them all up for myself, they were over-whelming. But it was exciting to think that my life could get better. I started to really like the light I saw at the end of The Tunnel.
But I couldn’t figure out how to make any of the changes that I needed to. My job getting skills seemed rusty. The Craigslist Ads I answered for room-mates weren’t getting replies either. And I didn’t have enough money saved to move anyway. Every angle I worked wasn’t giving. And the light at the tunnel started to dim. So, I started to pray. A lot. Like, everyday.
Ani Difranco has this line in her song If He Tries Anything:
Tell you one thing
I’m gonna make noise when I go down
for ten square blocks they’re gonna know I died
all the goddesses will come up to the ripped screen door
and say “what do you want, dear?”
and I’ll say, “I want Inside”
I think this image has defined my understanding of Heaven and Shit.
So, when I say I pray, what I mean is, I talk to Lilian, Arlette’s Mom, who passed away 2 years ago. Sometimes we’re talking through the screen door, sometimes we’re in the kitchen. My grandmother, Zora, is there too.
Lilian had a blood cancer, which made her legs swell up from the waist down. Lilian was my Fake Mom. She and I loved each other fiercely. We were simpatico. One of my last happy memories of Lilian was her bitching because she couldn’t even masturbate anymore. She used to try to scandalize Arlette’s friends with her scandalous stories. She was a drinking, dancing, smart-mouthed show-off, who was worshipped by everyone who ever met her. My grandmother, Zora was a preacher’s wife. She collected stamps. She never danced, even with her husband. She didn’t make jokes or tell stories very well. I think of them as my own posse of bad-ass bitches on the other side. And it cracks me up to make them both listen to my problems together. I imagine Zora rolling her eyes a lot. And Lilian making some stern jokes, peppered with kind advice. This summer, my other grandmother, Esther, joined them. She mostly grunts, annoyed, judgy and nervous for me, as she listen to my problems, with the other Goddesses.
Talking to them this way makes me feel like my life is on a path, and this shitty, scary horrible part will unfold into a better thing. “Yeah,” Arlette mused once “You calm down when you feel like you’re part of some larger plan.” And remembering all the comforting things any of those women ever said to me, helps me imagine what they’re saying back. Making it feel more like a conversation. But, praying to her, means that Lilian’s really dead. And sometimes that’s hard. Esther and Zora are different. My relationship with my grandmothers is WAAAAYYY better now that they’re dead. Neither of them can talk shit on my clothes or hair anymore, and they HAVE to listen to my stories in full now. So, sometimes it makes me tear up a little in the middle, wishing Lilian was still here to talk to. But I’m moving through that. Besides, picturing Zora and Esther dealing with Lilian cracks me up enough that the prayers pierce through whatever despair I’m trying to pray away.
Anyway, talking to The Old Rad Bitches calms me the fuck down. And…these conversations started working. I don’t know if it’s because The Dead Old Ladies are really fixing things for me, or if having faith in something outside of myself just makes me feel better. And being calm helps me make better decisions. But at some point in my new religiosity, I started to feel like The Universe and I are having a conversation. I would ask for stuff, and thank The Old Ladies for listening. And then I would picture one of them saying something nice to me. And I’d cry a little. And then, like, 3 hours later, Something Awesome would happen to fix whatever I’d prayed about.
It’s weird because when I was a Christian, and I prayed, I always felt like I was just throwing words into a deep, dark hole full of judgment. Praying didn’t make anything better. It just opened up communication between me and a homophobic, sexist, dickish God.
Good things started to happen, after I started talking to The Dead Bitches regularly.
An old teacher, Miss Louise, came to town. She had been my college professor about 10 years ago. And she had listened to my dreams then, and nurtured the writer in me. She gave me the strength, ten years ago, to move out of California. This summer, she stayed in Seattle for a month. Once a week we’d hang out for an hour or two, making jokes, catching each other up on ourselves. She told me some sweet stories about her and her husband and her kids. I told her about my sad, broken body. And all of the wounds I’d managed to collect this year. I confided my fears in her. She wished for good things for me. Out-loud. And spun her theories of what I should do next. I basked in her unconditional mother-teacher love. And it helped heal me. Her kindness, attention and love boosted my confidence. The depression backed off. And suddenly, I didn’t deserve to live in a shithole with a man-child, or have to shake my tits to make $6 a pop anymore. I started to believe good things would happen to me again.
And then an old Snarky Cards Customer called me up and asked me to do some writing for him. I write business correspondence for him, and built a website. And it’s great. It really makes me feel like I’m contributing to something. That work makes me feel like I’m good at work, again. And the money from that work let me take a much-needed break from the bars.And writing for him really gave me back my sense of self-worth.
I moved into a well-lit room, in a moldy-but-beautiful-house, with an old friend.
My brain stopped working itself in anxious circles. Louise taught me to breathe deeply “You breathe better from your lower lungs.” She thought it would help me get my giddy-up back. Breathing, giving myself permission and stretching have become my new coping mechanisms.
I now live in a clean place, where everyone shits with the door closed. I got some respite and rest. I got some mother-kindness. And I let myself walk away from Snarky Cards.
After about a month and a half, I got 4 orders from stores for my cards. Two of them from stores in Texas, which pulls at my ego. I love entering a new state. So, I ordered some new cards. And I started typing and selling again. And it stopped feeling like the dead-end job of a tawdry whore. I started to hear the compliments I get when I go out selling. And suddenly, sharing my art was fun again. Life started to work out. And I noticed the difference. I really, really noticed life working out for me. And I decided to make it a new rule.
So, this year is apparently NOT the year I give up on my life as an artist/writer. But it IS the year that I start using a new philosophy: “Maybe life just works out nice for me.” Instead of “You’ll pay the price.”
I’ve spent the whole year being over-whelmed. And those commercials loomed over me. I didn’t know what to do with them. We worked so hard on them! I worried that I wouldn’t use them right. I couldn’t think of what to use them for. And in my worst bouts of depression, I couldn’t imagine anyone even caring that we’d made them at all. “Look, just put them up and we’ll make some more which we can funnel into a kick-starter for the Snarky Card Book. Or just a series of cool commercials.” Taryn interrupted my circular worrying with firm logic.
To sum up: I had a hard year. And I decided to try some new awesome philosophy shit. It seems like it’s working. So, to celebrate! I’m finally releasing my commercials! Please enjoy them! So, here they are! What do you think of them!?!
Go to Youtube, leave a comment, and you get a free Snarky Card! Say anything you want! I’d prefer interesting or funny comments.
I’ll need yer address so I can mail you your commenting prize, so email me your comment link and I’ll email you the code to get $10 off of your next Snarky Cards Order, which covers a free card and the postage. Thanks for listening to my wandering tale of woe, Dear Internets. I hope your stuff is going waaaayyyy easier than mine.