Venus DeMars

Venus DeMars
Glass Plate photo

Sunday, July 27, 2014

This last Thursday I drove up to Duluth for an overnight.

The small city 2 hours north of where I live. At the point of Lake Superior. Where I was born.

Two reasons: One, I needed to get my hair done at bstudio, and two, because I wanted to visit with family. Both of these things because I'm about to go on a long tour in about a week.

I drove home taking back roads. No radio. Driving south from Superior WI where I'd stayed. Joining 35W just before Sandstone MN. Just me, the light rain, the occasional slow car in front of me, and my thoughts.

I stopped at the first rest stop-scenic-overlook and took a picture.

My Mom died a few months ago. I sat with her the last few days before she died. I'm not sure she knew. My brother-in-law was the one who was with her at the hospice when she died a few hours after midnight. He said it was quiet. He hadn't noticed at first as it was such a peaceful passing. This was a relief to hear. Ten days before she'd started hospice because her memory issues had gotten to her body memory and she'd forgotten how to swallow. So she basically starved to death. She waved at me once while she was lying on her side. She couldn't talk by then because she was so weak and thirsty. But I bent down and waved to her. Trying to say "Hi." That's when she waved back. Just a small wave. And she almost kind of smiled. That was the only time I felt she saw me during those ten days. I had to leave a few hours after that. I was only there with her for three of those ten days.

It was horrible to watch. To know.

My Dad died a number of years ago now. From cancer. In the house he and my Mom built. The house I grew up in. He knew I was there. I gave him his last shave. We talked a bit during that week. Just now and then when he was strong enough. On the last night I watched him die. I think it was actually a heart attack. It was the way he reacted. As if something had taken him over. Suddenly. Painfully. He tensed like you do when something painful is happening. Made some small sounds. His eyes opened wide as he looked at the ceiling lamp above him. The one he'd put in so many years ago. Electrically wired into place. Plaster-patched around. Sanded smooth, and finished painted around.

Even though his death was reported as cancer, the heart attack was because his body had given out by then. Couldn't withstand the coughing fit he'd had five minutes before.

I almost had a heart attack last year. I had to get two stints put in. I know what a heart attack feels like now. I'd always wondered.

Just before I left for Minneapolis. In the morning. After I'd slept. I broached a short discussion with my sister. About things we have to finish now that both parents are gone.  It was tense. It involved money. In the abstract sense. I dreaded the talk. I knew it would be hard. Because of that my visit ended off balance.

But we're family. She's my only sibling. And I love her.

We'll figure it out.

I'm scrambling to get everything ready to begin our first "next level" tour. We're joining Laura Jane Grace and her band "Against Me."  I remember reading about her coming out as trans a few years ago. Actually fans of mine pointed the article out. And then I read it. I remember thinking that I'd missed the boat again. I came out twenty years ago. In rock and roll. Back when I started my band "All The Pretty Horses." Well, actually, I came out even before that. Maybe five years before that. I just brought it all into rock and roll with me. Into the new band I'd come up with. Coming out shut all the doors. I've been working as an indy-artist since. I had no real choice. It's been a long fucking time. I've grown older. Older in blood years as well as trans years. It's kind of hard for me to comprehend sometimes.

But I am amazed at how the world works.
And I never imagined this could happen. Going on tour with Laura. Breaking into this next level in music. I never imagined this would happen back when I read that article.  Even after I'd finally met Laura backstage of First Avenue this last winter. After we'd talked for a few minutes. It was still so cold standing in that big old bus-parking garage First Avenue has finally opened for loading in and out. Finally open now so you don't have to go nuts trying to find somewhere to park your band vehicle anymore. I still had to keep my leather jacket on. Jump around a bit to stay warm. But it was a nice talk. It felt really good.

I am humbled this is now happening.
I find I am often humbled as I age. And I try not to do stupid things anymore.
I still do, but I try not to.

A new trans friend of mine asked me yesterday if I still had any gender dysphoria. S/he's very young in trans years. I like H/er. I'm enjoying building a new friendship.

"How so?" I answered.
"You know, when you have some part of your body you're still uncomfortable with." S/he offered.
"Yeah!" I laughed, "Doesn't everybody?"

This morning I had a flash of emotion. A deep depression. Like that tunnel kind. A thick vortex of tar kind. Full of self hatred. Like my whole life is a mistake. And hard. Like a punch in the stomach. Maybe it was the gray morning. Or something I'd seen in the morning paper. I really don't know. It happens. It was just a flash. Then it was over.

It's cool out and the sun's come out.

It's a nice break from the last few hot days.

I'm ok.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day

My Dad and I met and talked about life.
The old bumper cars were under the wooden canopy behind us.
It was evening, or at least I don't remember the sun.
He asked me how things were going.
"OK" I said. I talked about a few upcoming gigs, and that Lynette was doing well.

Now I remember, it wasn't evening, and we weren't outside. That's why I don't remember the sun. We were in one of those tourist caves, those big ones with electric lights strung through out.

I was sitting on a low rock, or was it wood logs? I don't remember now... it was something like that. He was sitting across from me. I remember the endless single electric wire strung from point to point along the cave wall behind him. The occasional yellow, brightly lit bulbs hanging like over-ripe neon fruit, every ten feet or so leading away and down.
Leading past the bumper cars under the canopy. Leading past the railings along the path. Leading down into darkness and out of sight.

No. Wait.
There wasn't a canopy at all. It was just the cave. And the cars were all just there to my right and slightly behind. Just there under the vast cave ceiling.
Still. Ready to go.

He smiled and nodded as I talked, both of us gazing at the ground now and then, like we often did when we'd have these Father - Child talks. Glancing up at each other, accidently locking eyes then quickly turning away. Refocusing on something else. The tiny pebbles strewn around where we sat for example.
I focused on one.
Nudged it a bit with my boot. Pushed it back and forth with my toe for a while. The movements of which added a quiet scraping sound to the electric hum which surrounded us. I felt I could almost hear the dead silence around the hum. the depth of the cave blocking out any external sound. No birds, or wind. Just my toe pushing that pebble, the low electric hum, and silence.
Our voices so close. As if our words were spoken in a void.

I asked him how the afterlife was.
He shrugged.
Said it was alright.
"So is it all going well?" I asked, and added, "I mean, you know, is it all going ok for you?"
This time I really looked. Really watched his face. His eyes.

He paused. Looked up and at me, his eyes looking directly into mine.

I quit moving my toe.
The tiny pebble laid still.
"Yes." he said.
"Good." I said. "I was wondering."

Monday, January 13, 2014


...Me without make-up.

It's been some time since I blogged.  And it's because of the audit. And the audit is still ongoing. It's now in appeals and waiting for the MN DOR's response sometime in June 2014 or later. Then we'll deal with whatever unfolds from there. So I'm kind of in limbo for now. BUT I've been able to set it aside somewhat and get back to my work as an artist.

I've kept writing on my memoir, I've been gigging with the band as well as solo, I've been painting, and at the moment I'm finishing up a MN State Arts Board grant for performance art with a full stage performance on Feb 6,7,8 at the Soap Factory art gallery. I'm in rehearsals for that, with my five support performers, my two live musicians and my single tech person... I'm creating, directing, script writing, script re-writing, shaking out all the bugs, building the sets, creating the animations, fine tuning the thing... it's a lot of work and it feels good to be fully working as an artist again.

The past year was pretty much spent on fighting the MN DOR's audit decision that I wasn't a working artist, but only a hobbyist who was playing the system. And No amount of logical dialogue would dissuade their attitude. I felt as if somehow I'd found myself stuck in the middle of a Kafka novel.

I've lost almost a years worth of work because of it: The meetings, the audit interviews, the stress, the crunching numbers, the gathering documents, the back and forth with our lawyer, the legal fees, the fundraising..., etc, etc, etc.

Our auditor even re-printed parts of my blog here, in order to build their assertions that I was actually taking vacations, not touring. All based on my blog writing recollections of pleasurable experiences during those tours: my writings about time spent re-connecting with the people. The people I've come to know because of the tours. My writings about interactions with fans. My recollections of my one overnight stop in Kansas with a cousin, (their offer to me, in order to save me hotel costs once they realized I was touring through their area.)

I became exhausted.

But it's time.


I promise.
I will get back to this.
I will get back to blogging despite what may be taken as evidence against me as the audit continues to unfold in 2014.

It's time to just be me.
It's time to be the artist I am.

Thank you all for your absolutely stunning and humbling support through all this.

I felt crushed.
You lifted me up.

Thank you.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

In response.

Last week I was in San Francisco.  Well, not literally.  In my head.  That's the chapter of my memoir that I'm writing. The time we performed there. Flew out. Just a month after, a CBGB's gig in New York.

A well known San Fran band had invited us to be part of a monthly event they hosted... This was in 2001.

I remember the band ate breakfast in the French restaurant next door to the hotel we were staying at. Jendeen knew some French, and tried to ask for some ketchup... ended up with a plate and a fresh cut tomato on it. 

Which she ate with her knife and fork as we all teased.

Then I stopped writing.


I try and write every morning for an hr or so... sometimes I get up at like 6 am. set my alarm. Make coffee, and write as the sun comes up. Just so I can keep moving on this. The Memoir.

My bass player LeFreak said, when I told him about the idea a few years ago.. he said: "Isn't that the kind of thing you do when you're DONE with your career?"

So I think I stopped cuz of the damn audit shit again. It just kinda hit me. Again. It's been hitting me for all the damn six months plus now... Just out of nowhere. And Bam!! 

I'm done.

Just dead stop. 

Can't do anything.

Sometimes it's when I just wake up. You know... kinda coming up our of that lovely place were your dreams feel more real than the covers and the cat who wants to get fed..  Just then. And Bam! Oh yeah... That. And I can't turn over... Can't go back.  Got to get up. The cat's happy... but me... I'm not so much.

And now I'm here... trying to be normal. I'm in the back yard... sun's going down. I got a fire burning down over which I'm gonna make some burgers and a few. 

And I've got this fist in my stomach.

So I thought I'd write.

While the fire dies.

You guys, have been donating for two days towards our legal fees.
And let me say right now. You're damn making me cry. 
Cuz... I've been feeling so bad, and I'm thinkin' like I've just done the stupidest thing by trying to be some sort of stupid rock star... For too stupid long.

And now I'm gonna cry.
Cuz I feel so humbled.
Cuz I feel your support.
And I'm not some big headed 18 year old anymore.
I'm just me.

And I love you.

And thank you all.
Thank you so much.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Audit hell

It's been a bit.

I've been steadily working on writing my memoir. Plans are to have it far enough along to see if I can catch any interest in it by the end of the year (2013.) And yes, it's caused me to pull back on this blog... but I've been thinking lately. That I should not be so worried about all that, and get back on here.

So what's going on in my life? Well, since mid Nov (2012) my wife and I have been going through a MN State audit. It's because of me having been working as an artist, and musician for so long... but the agression I used, acting as my own record label, and facilitating the financial resources of my 4 credit cards, for 10 years, to bring myself and my band All The Pretty Horses to the world stage, caused a long string of yearly filed losses, which raised the red flag, or so the audit officer sez.

An audit, is suppost to be the way a business can explain the reasons for just something like this. For me it was the initial full-boar attempt to establish the band, which moved to building a presence in New York through touring there, which built up our notoriety back in Minneapolis, which caught the attention of a filmmaker, (Emily Goldberg,) who asked if she could follow us for a while to make a documentary of me and my band because of the uniqueness of my being 'out' with transgenderism back then, (which was unusual for the time.) This turned into a 4 year follow by a film-crew. Everywhere. It was kind of like being on a reality TV show.

It inspired me to continue with my tour plans which included a self created tour of the UK with the help of a promoter couple: Linda and Barry of 'the Mayfair Mall' there in England, who helped up get our work visas, and sort out bookings, and the tour itself once we landed.
Almost 2 years later, the documentary was finally completed; "Venus of Mars." It had it's world premier  in Amsterdam, having been accepted in their international film festival that year. They also invited the band to perform at the Paradiso. I couldn't refuse, so I pulled my credit cards out again, and we toured the UK again, and hopped to Amsterdam for the premier as performing guests of honer.

The opportunities kept coming, and I took every advantage the documentary film festivals offered, They were all "once in a lifetime" possibilities. We toured all over the US, we toured New Zealand, and finally performed in Spain, just as the stress of everything got to me and I toasted... the band dynamics had become bad, and I put the band into hiatus.

That ended 6 years agressive investment, and I had to now start all over. I formed a new band: "The House of Flowers" and re-invested in a new product: "Trashed and Broken Hearted" my debut solo album. This effort lasted 2 years, when I decided, in 2009, that it wasn't going to materialize in the way I wanted. "The House Of Flowers" was already crumbling, so I ended it.

I decided I needed to bring what I had achieved with the initial push with All The Pretty Horses, and what I'd just achieved with establishing my name, Venus DeMars,  apart from All The Pretty Horses. (No one knew me, but everyone seemed to know of my band ATPH when I started my solo project, but the end of the 2 years, people had connected the dots.) I re-formed ATPH, bringing the name out of hiatus, and added my own, "Venus de Mars & All The Pretty Horses." I wrote, recorded, and pressed "10 Bones" as our new album. And finally in 2012, I made my net-profit year.

BUT, audit hell had started. A 3 year period: 2009-2011 was being scrutinized. It happened to be this period with which I was re-casting, and re-presenting, the re-invented band, WITH a new album, so I thought no trouble.  I have no issue with being audited... it's part of running a business. Eventually you get audited. My number had come up. Our accountant, who we'd worked with for all these years.. 10 plus. felt the same. Told us to gather our receipts, put them in order, and everything would be fine. They just needed to be sure everything was in order.


We were all, wrong in that assumption.

6 months into the audit process, we've now had to hire a lawyer.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Quick catch-up

This photo was taken by Claudia who has been taking pictures f my tours while in Albuquerque NM at Burt's Tiki Lounge. This was during my solo DEAD tour (Oct/Nov 2012) while I write this, I'm in El Dorado KS at my cousin's house for my overnight before the last gig in Wichita KS at Kirby's Beer Store tomorrow.

I have just driven for 11 hours straight. and as you all know I'm transgender, so I have a single specific stop just along highway 52 just before I hit Texas from New Mexico, (or is it just after I hit Texas... I don't remember exactly, but I know it when I see it.) OH... I take the angle route from Albq. NM to El Dorado KS, mostly so I can avoid the bathroom crowds in the toll stops. ... So I stop just once to pee at this one single tiny small town store that actually has 2 unisex bathrooms!! Who Know!! But it's my stop, so I am waisted from lack of liquid, and the long ass drive I've just done.

It's almost 11 pm. my Cousins have made sure their hot tub is warm, and they also got sangria wine for my arrival. I've just soaked and drank too much to make much sense anymore, so this is just a quick explanation  as to why I've not written on this blog for the past year... I'm writing on a project, And I don't want to 'publish' any of it till I'm done. I can't say much more... but by the end of next year, I hope to be able to share it with you hopefully. That's my deadline. BUT I have to avoid 'publishing' even self publishing as in blogging.

I WILL however, (Once I'm a bit more sober in the morning maybe?) write a short reflection on this present tour. It has been very moving for me. These tours are almost a spiritual journey for me. The last one was tough. (I wrote about it, you can read it here in one of the past blogs)

It actually kinda burned me on touring again... but here I am. though This one I tackled completely solo. The first time I've driven so far, and done so many gigs all alone. (Even the cop who pulled me over a few hours ago for doing 41 in the 35 mile zone of his small town along highway 52 was taken aback that I was touring alone and for so long, when I explained why I was driving through his area... as did the border check-point cop earlier in the drive yesterday when I left from my 'pitstop' in Las Cruces NM at David and Donny's enroute from Bisbee AZ to Albuquerque.

Expect either an edited addition here tomorrow at some point, I think that's the best. But thank you all for supporting me along this journey. Trust me. this one's been quite powerful.


-- Strong sightings along this tour: an eagle, many hawks, a roadrunner across my path just this morning while driving..PS they can kinda fly for a bit, but mostly stick to running, which it did all the way across the highway!, a shooting star. a full orange moon, and Orion.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

'HAGALAZ' or 'Hailstorm.'

- to level.
"..consider what will remain after the disruption is passed - this will be your truth." ruin-cast before our "winter south/south-west" tour.

I sit under the stars back in my northland home. The temp is zero, and the windchill reaches near -20 degrees. I feel the bite of our outdoor hot tub water. I feel the ice form on my wet hair. The tub is a japanese style deep wood tub. Built from a kit. Too costly to keep heated throughout this particular winter, but I'd asked Lynn to turn it on for my return. It is old and worn. But I'm in it.
The rising steam impairs my view of the surrounding bare trees, and the dim light of the kitchen window appears and vanishes. The water is still and silent.
I sip my red wine and water, try not to think too hard about anything in particular, and I slowly get drunk.

Years ago, before cell phones, Lynette and I and a poet friend made our way from Duluth to Minneapolis after a visit. It was winter, near midnight, and half way through the journey when the car stopped running. The outside temp was sub zero, windchill much lower. I was trying to figure out how far away the last gas stop was, thinking of walking back for help, when a pickup truck pulled over. The man inside offered us a ride if we didn't mind sitting with his dog in the cab. He drove all 3 of us to our Minneapolis home's front door. The next day, the news told of someone stalled just a few miles from where we had also stalled on 35w. They had died from exposure because of the arctic cold front which had enveloped the area... they'd attempted to walk for help.

Is it just me, or does everyone flirt with death? Is it because we all know death wins in the end? Do we taunt it to feel better? Did we just give up?

I believe each of us reached a precipice on this tour. The point of self awareness which makes you just hurt.

I know, there's the blow by blow way to review this last tour, and I suppose I could do that. To be sure there were some wonderful times: the White Sands NM photo shoot, The wonderful overnights we enjoyed at each leg of the tour, and the beautiful food and visits we indulged in with each of our hosts... but I'm just not really wanting to go down that road for this blog. Simply this is what continues to pull me back on the road: Friends.

My band mates will tell their stories.
You will hear them. And I will also tell you the details, and the bits of mine when I next run into you at a bar, or over coffee... but for now, this is the story I will tell here:

I wanted to try for a 'sober only' performance tour... I gave up on this half way through when the carbon monoxide poisoning took hold in El Paso TX. I did however, refrain from getting wasted. So there is that. But I can't do what I thought I could. And I'm humbled with that knowledge.

I found performances became brittle... I pushed, stumbled, confessed, and managed, but I couldn't get to the place I love. Where I dissolve. Where music, where voice, where time stops. Where they all become one.
I lost.

My distraction with van repairs took a toll. Rebuilding the differential in Wichita was an expensive blow... but I felt lucky to have found someone who could do it so quickly. Mr. Jean-Claude (Damn Van) however, wasn't through. A minor loose hose lost a gallon of coolant 85 miles outside of Albuquerque NM and at 7pm, 40 miles from no-where, we overheated. We waited 2 hours in the dark, In the van, in front of the pumps of a closed gas station for a tow.
It finally came.
We arrived in Albuquerque by 10:30 pm, just a 5 minutes drive away from our overnight at Jules' place.
The next morning "Pep Boys" didn't charge us for fixing it. (Yay!!!) That night, however, at our gig at Burt's, the audience really wanted our knarly rock set.
We presented '10 BONES,' but I broke, and switched the set to 'sparks and speed' as soon as I saw the drift. It saved the night, and though it was all the music I love, I still went into darkness.

This night was my precipice. Cost, distraction, worry, depression, time, struggle, frustration, the years... and the years.... and the damn years.... and finally, the brittleness of not drinking collided. Everything was done. Anger was god. The world crumbled. I didn't break my hand...(as some of you know, I've broken both hands at least twice.) But I caused a great deal of emotional damage to myself and to my band.

And I apologized.


The El Paso drive ended with a major exhaust leak. We should have gone to an E.R.


I drank a few scotch's so I had an excuse for being so dizzy, and we performed anyway.


I almost fell asleep at the wheel on the drive back to Las Cruses that night. The only thing that kept me awake was the screaming bad leg cramps in my thighs and calves. Jazz road home with our hosts, LeFreak, also drifting off to sleep did his best to help me stay awake, but we both collapsed when we finally arrived at David and Donny's house.

... hailstorm.

Fixed the exhaust leak, but couldn't drive over 65 miles an hour and with no power either. We drove to Bisbee AZ.
My friend Ray (the mechanic,) there in Bisbee, made a house call and took a look. He found the new carb choke wasn't getting electricity, And most likely for some time (even though I'd made sure the hot lead was in place when I left.) My kick-down cable wasn't adjusted right either which added to the loss of power. I had no idea.
The air filter was dripping from oil blow-by caused because I was only ever using 2 of the 4 carb barrels for who knows how long!
4 hr's later, though, I had my old van back. Ray's adjustments worked. The new engine now kicked ass, and we had a killer set at "St. Elmo's Fire."
Then we drove to Phoenix without a hitch, and had another killer set at "The Rock."
The van climbed the mountain roads like a champ into Prescott AZ, and we had a lovely overnight there.
My acoustic set helped me drift back to the place where I love. Where I am lost in the songs... but only 3 people came to the show. With LeFreak, and Jazz, and the gallery owner Kim, and her assistant Laurie, that made 7 in the audience. It was lovely, but also troubling. It was a very tiny and intimate way to close the tour.

As we drove back and slowly descended the mountains, the van began to complain in the lower atmosphere. Time was short. and we kept driving without attempting adjustments... I wasn't sure just how to do them, and I didn't want to make things worse.
3 days into the cold north, the southwest warm choke adjustments Ray had done which worked so wonderfully there, just didn't work so well here. Then for some reason (which I am still investigating,) I lost coolant again, and we began to overheat at our gas stops around 8 pm, (still 3 hr's outside of Minneapolis,) and now, we were in the middle of this brutal arctic front. The engine stayed at normal temp as long as we kept driving, but climbed when we slowed to a stop. I assumed there was enough coolant to get us home by the way it behaved. The engine was too hot to try to take the radiator cap off to check for sure, and we were all so tired from the 9 hr's we'd already driven that day. I didn't want to give up. I kept on eye on the engine temp the rest of the way, riding it through the gauge's ups and downs till we were all back home.

Mr. Jean-Claude Damn-Van now sits waiting for me to gather up the energy to once again head out and sort what it needs... but I'm exhausted, and it's damn cold. Jean-Claude will just have to wait for a while longer.