In my late teens, I read an article in SPIN magazine discussing artists on the “margins” of popular culture. In it, one of the reviewers mentioned (Lisa) Suckdog and (Jean Louis) Costes:
She’s from New Hampshire and he’s from France. They sing over tapes that they’ve made together, or stuff that they’ve taped off the radio, generally really horrible AM radio sludge, whatever they could find. And they put together their own 30-minute rock operas, usually separately, sometimes together.
Up until that point, it hadn’t really occurred to me that you could DO that. Outside of your bedroom, I mean. My sister and I created elaborate performances and interviews with each other on our matching tape recorders, until we “grew up,” stopped talking about the strange things we saw, and pursued more acceptable forms of expression, like Chorus and Drama Club. That this Lisa Suckdog (real name: Lisa Crystal Carver) was STILL doing these things, and getting attention for it, blew my mind.
A couple of years later, she began publishing her own zine, Rollerderby. Again, this challenged my ideas of what it was to be successful, and what was considered worth publishing. In Rollerderby – EVERYTHING was worth publishing. Interviews with Courtney Love and Beck were run alongside creepy found love letters and musings on Claudia Schiffer’s cheekbones.
Lisa Carver fascinated me. In all the years I was a Rollerderby reader, I never once attempted to contact her. I didn’t feel that I was the least bit interesting to her, even though she seemed to find something interesting about everybody.
So I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that our friendship started over something completely trivial and mundane: pizza blotting. The internet emboldened me to the point where I wormed my way into some online conversation of hers, and declared that anybody who blotted his or her pizza with a napkin before eating it was stupid, that’s all. Stupid.
Her response: “HEY! I BLOT MY PIZZA!” And somehow that led to us going out for tea. We’ve been friends ever since.
I’ve said this before: people like to tell things to Lisa Carver. She is as interested in the daily peccadilloes of the postman as she is in the full-on debaucheries of rock stars. Everyone’s story is valid and worthy of telling.
But there are things that Lisa has only just begun to tell about herself. In Rollerderby she was joyful, thoughtful, and in perpetual motion. I think I might have sensed some real pain in her stories and reviews, but knew it was not my place to demand any more than what she was already giving. But the words of the SPIN reviewer who first caught her act years ago were never far from my mind.
…something really bad happened to her at a young age; she’s very strange–it seems as though she’s eight or nine years old and she’s never trying to come off that way.
It turns out that something really bad DID happen to Lisa. A lot of things, actually. Things that most of us cannot even fathom. Things that would rightfully turn a person off from the rest of the world. But nothing has ever killed Lisa’s spirit of inquisitiveness, her pursuit of what is right and ethical. Her childhood taught her what NOT to do in raising her own children, Sadie and Wolfgang (Wolf).
She has (with his full permission) released a startling book of Wolf’s artwork called Wolf The Artist: From Apocalypse Back.
Wolf is a strange angel, a young man who was born with a chromosomal deletion, a hole in his genetic blueprint that’s taken 17 operations to “correct.” He lives in this world with us, but he is not of this world. Lisa says:
He is missing the Western individualist division between self and the rest of the world…(he does not) intuit the invisible lines between valuable people and things and the not so valuable. It can be irritating to people that he doesn’t seem to see their clothes, their position, their authority or importance, their mood. The thing is, he doesn’t see those things about himself, either.
What Wolf does relate to is nature. Moss, rocks, hamsters and sheep all carry the same weight with him. Wolf notices the things the rest of us — mostly — do not, as absorbed as we are with things that are not real to him: celebrities, fashion, small talk. What is real: “animals, ghosts, life on other planets.” He picks up the frequencies of the spirit realm. He is a challenge to those of us who can’t, or won’t, see “reality” as fluid, changeable, subjective. I know that if I got to sit down with Wolf, if I got to tell him that my sister and I have seen ghosts, he would nod and say, “Of course you have.”
In some ways, Wolf reminds me of my niece. Kiki, who is on the autism spectrum, also struggles with finding her place in the “real” world without having to abandon the world she knows. We have a bad tendency to wish “normalcy” on these kids, when it’s the last thing they want for themselves. Lisa understands Wolf’s needs and wishes, and challenges a system that would have her believe it knows what is best for him. As a result, Wolf is now allowed to learn at his own pace, in his own world, contributing to THIS world in the ways he knows how.
Wolf’s father is out of the picture; he has been for years. I am sorry for him; he is missing out on a relationship with a truly spectacular human being. It’s sad for Wolf, but I can’t help but feel that he has become the best of all possible Wolfs having Lisa, and Lisa alone, fight for him.
Please buy your copy of Wolf’s book here.