Installment # 3: Louis CK, R.E.M., and putting pee on your face

Installment number three.

In conversation.

Starring Chloe Caldwell and Frances Badalamenti.



Why the F was there no new Louie episode last Thursday? Remember one time you asked me if I met Louis somehow in NYC and had the opportunity to sleep over at his house, would I? And I said, “Yeah but I’d sleep on the couch” and you laughed and were like, “I’d sleep in his bed!” Tell me more about this hypothetical sleepover and what you guys what talk about and eat and do. 


First off, I just realized that you write in Helvetica and I write in Times New Roman.  I used to be into sans serif type and now I am into the more classic style.  Just had to bring that up, maybe it has something to do with age.  Sorry that I keep changing the font, you could change it back if you want, I don’t want to be a font bully.

Maybe we should just switch to Comic Sans. Dude, I have no idea why there was no Louie.  What I do know is that I felt a major void last week. We constantly talk about running into Louie in the city.  I asked a friend recently if she would give him a blowjob.  She said sex but no blowjob.

In my teens and through my twenties, before I started marrying people, I had some super close guy friends.  We would hang out and smoke Camel Lights, get buzzed, yack, listen to music, watch movies, and crack up. It would get super late and the night would inevitably end in a sleepover.  The Louie that I know from his show and stand up is, for me, the culmination of all of my close guy friends that made me really fucking happy. I would share a bed with those dudes and it would be platonic (they all tried hitting on me and I would laugh in their faces, awful) and yet there was this intimacy that filled many voids because I couldn’t seem to score a legit relationship.  I was completely un-dateable back then.

I’m sure the Louie character and I would talk endlessly about film and music and cool New York shit.  I would probe the living hell out of him about super personal things, as I do with pretty much anyone I can get my hands on.  We would go to some rad upscale market and collaborate on a sick meal and cook the fuck out of it whilst sipping good wine and listening to old school jazz.  And then because we are both in our forties and are parents, we would be tired at like midnight and so he’d be like, You could just crash here if you want.  And I’d be like, Okay, I’ll just sleep on the couch.  And then he would say, Just sleep in my bed, I’ll sleep on the couch.  And then I’d say, We could just share a bed, it’s no big deal, I did it all the time with guy friends when I was younger.  And then we would talk and laugh in bed until we fell asleep.


I just listened to Jerry Stahl on Marc Maron’s podcast. They’re so cute together, they get all hyper and were talking so fast, reminded me of us–he’s like, “You’re kind of my best friend, but I don’t even seen you that much.” My friend Andrew read our posts and thought you were “Finn” from my book Women. I explained you’re hetero and I met you when “Finn” and I had our final break up. Have you always made female friends really easily? When my mom read a draft of your memoir, I Don’t Blame You, she commented to me on how you seemed to have rad friends. Did you ever have a period where you had a hard time relating to women? 

Who would be Jerry Stahl and who would be Marc Maron?  You’d probably be Jerry because you were kind of a junky and I’m a neurotic prober like Marc.

My relationship some women in my life has not been an easy one.  It started with my mother and my stepmother who were not ideal female role models.  My mother was the walking definition of a hot mess and my stepmother is cold and mean.  As you know, I have had piles of interpersonal issues with my mother in law and my sister in law.  I have a strong personality and I don’t put up with a lot of bullshit.  I call people out.  I don’t do well with being treated like shit.  Many of my female friendships have ended in some dumb ass fight over a borrowed skirt or a misconstrued phone message.

Every time that I meet a lady and consider starting a friendship, I begin to think about the epic battle that will eventually ensue.  So either I don’t bother with the friendship or I keep a comfortable safe distance.  But I have been getting better about this and I am opening up more and getting softer. Our bestie friendship and our writerly relationship is a great example of this, because we are super connected. You texted me this morning saying that you have been able to feel that I’ve been going through a hard time. You were spot on. I’ve been constantly bumping into myself for the past few months.

I love how your mom noticed how I have curated a lot of super rad people in my life.  She is right.  When I get buzzed and if I am listening to classic REM on vinyl, I get super sad and I miss certain people so much that it can be devastating.

I am definitely not Finn.  I like real dicks too much.


You remind me of Pamela Adlon when you talk that way. One of the things I love about you is how you can relate anything to film or books or TV or comedy. For example, when a LA movie person found me in Portland (we can explain this next week) and told me she wanted to write a movie based on Legs Get Led Astray you told me to watch the film Personal Velocity based on Rebecca Miller’s short story collection. When we pretended to write a screenplay, you told me to watch the show Entourage, and when I worked for a catering company last summer you introduced me to that hilarious show, Party Down. Have you forever been interested in film and shows and books? Who introduced you to a lot of that stuff and when were you really getting into it? Is that your biggest form of escapism? 


Well, like so many single mom latchkey kids who grew up in the 80’s, I was raised by sitcoms.  Because everything else sucked in my life, my brain learned to feel happy while escaping into someone else’s way better life. When I grew up and started piecing myself together, I attended a commuter college in Jersey not far from Manhattan that had killer art and film departments.  At that same time, I tended bar at that indie music venue in Hoboken.  So I was surrounded by a lot of super smart arty people who would tell me about cool books and films.  I spent many an afternoon in small viewing rooms in my college library watching films that we could check out for free for a few hours.  I watched Raging Bull for the first time there with my buddy Jim from philosophy class.  I took film studies classes and learned about experimental film and camera angles and shit.  I got really into Hal Hartley and Jim Jarmush and Kristof Kishlovsky and Wim Wenders and Gus Van Sant. I worked behind the bar with these two groovy well-educated brothers, Butch and Mike, good friends of mine.  They turned me on to the writers Denis Johnson and Hanif Kureishi and Rob Bingham and the poet Elizabeth Bishop.

At this point in my life, books are my biggest form of escapism. Because if my kid hears me watching something at night, he busts into my room to check it out, like he is the only one that can watch shit around here.  Sometimes I let him watch stuff — one of his favorite movies is Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk with Me.  He talks about it all the time.  I let him watch parts of Louie, he loves the scene where Louie deconstructs that doll on Christmas Eve for his daughter.  He’s only seven, but I cannot wait for the day that I can show him some of the things that inspired me.  I can’t wait for him to read Catcher in the Rye.  I can’t wait for him to see Drugstore Cowboy.  And I can’t wait for my kid to grow up so we can get all film noir together.


My life has turned into this thing where I keep saying, “I’ll do it when I have the money.” You often say to me, “When you get a deal, you can buy these Swedish clogs” or, “We’ll go to Oaxaca when you get loot.” It’s pretty hysterical. I was talking with some friends recently about what we’d do if we got a six figure book deal. I said what I always say: save some, buy a few pairs of expensive shoes, a few classic pieces of clothing, go frolic around France, maybe buy a beater car. One of my friends said she’d buy a piece of land. What would you do?


I love how we were making a list of all the shit you should buy if you ever got a big advance.  I was being a total parental figure, telling you to consider taxes first and foremost.  I told you not to get all MTV Cribs and blow the whole nut.  I fantasized about creating a spreadsheet for all the things that you should get and in what order of priority.  I said, Definitely get a car.  You said, That’s what my mom said, she got in on it too.

You know how Portland drives me insane sometimes.  I dream of buying a small house in some groovy little enclave on the Hudson River Valley or on the Jersey coastline, so I could get the funk out of Portland and spend time with the people that mean so much to me.  I dream of taking the train into the city once or twice a week for a culture and food fix.  I would also take some killer trips.  You would come with me.  I wrote to you last week saying, Let’s go to Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and the South of France.  I’ll cook, I said.  I love shopping at the outdoor marketing and making simple meals and pretending that I am a local.


When I was living in Portland, I had a really bad acne break out, horrible, really painful and everywhere, and you told me to use my own pee on my face as toner every day. I did it, and I did see results. This has nothing to do with anything but I think it’s funny to talk about.


I was really worried about you and that acne.  I had heard about piss on the face from my friend who is a makeup artist.  She swore by it.  When I have facials, I probe the shit out of the esthetician about ways to deal with adult acne so I can tell you about them.  They never mention piss and I never bring it up.


You should ask your esthetician! In my book Women, I based the character The Female Woody Allen on you, because you get upset seeing people in exercise clothes, among other things. Once someone who read the book met you, and I told them I based that character on you.

“She’s so chill, she’s nothing like Woody Allen,” they said. “Yeah well that book is fiction” you said, which is true. Why do you think people are so hung up on fiction and non? I find it all so boring, you?


Like Woody, I am quite neurotic and do not have a lot of patience for certain things like the sea of asses that I have to witness daily squeezed into those awful synthetic yoga pants.  Please cover that ass.  Those pants don’t look good, even on the walnut butts.  My day is ruined if I see a thong triangle through those pants.

Francisco Goldman said in an interview a while back that in poetry there is no difference between fiction and non-fiction, why should there be in prose?  That is so perfect.  I think people are hung up because most people are assholes and assholes look for something to be hung up on.  Trolls.  I was at a party a while back and I was talking to this friend of a friend who has published some novels.  I told her that I had recently finished a memoir and she gave me this horrified look and said, Oh.  Total art monster asshole.  Like you, I think it’s all quite boring and is probably just a way for some writers to think they are better than other writers.  That shit is so dated.


Talk about your memoir. How long have you been working on it and how would you describe it? Where do you see it being published? The book reminds me a bit of The Chronology of Water in the sense that it’s experimental and not linear and just generally bad ass and unflinching in dark places. I’ve never read anything quite like it and think when it pubs people will love it. 


My memoir is a total piece of shit.  Just kidding.  Thank you for the kind words.  It really does help.  It’s been sitting in the drawer for a while now, like a sad malnourished dog in a shit-infested kennel waiting to be adopted.  I wrote the first draft in a fever state about a year and a half ago and then worked with Lidia Yuknavich last summer who gave me brilliant feedback that became a second draft.  I am not sure at this point where I can see it being published per se, but it is currently in some hands that could make me a very happy writer person.

The memoir is about a lot of things, but mainly it is about losing my mother two months before I became a mother myself so a lot of the book is about the course of me growing a baby while my mother was killing a cancer.  There is flashbacking to some hard coming of age shit, which I feel shows the reader who my mother was and who I have become.  There is a strong sense of place, as I am pulled between Brooklyn and Jersey and Portland and Amsterdam.  I do not think the book would necessarily resonate with tons but I think it could resonate with people who have worked their way through some heaviness.

You’ve been really supportive about this book.  And your mom was my first reader, does that make us cousins?


It definitely makes us second cousins. Yeah, my mom and I are total memoir junkies, it’s insane. My mom read your book printed out in bed with a pencil marking it up.

Sometimes I get too invested in my friends’ books I begin to think I also wrote the book. I’m like that with movies I deeply love too–I get super offended when people don’t love the movie if I loved it—I begin to think I wrote the movie.

We are totally manic these days. We text and email at the same time. Your book is gonna come out and we’ll go do “conversations” in Europe together, I know it. 


One thought on “Installment # 3: Louis CK, R.E.M., and putting pee on your face

  1. my favorite lines:

    I fantasized about creating a spreadsheet for all the things that you should get and in what order of priority.
    I’ll cook, I said. I love shopping at the outdoor market and making simple meals and pretending that I am a local.
    Please cover that ass.
    My day is ruined if I see a thong triangle through those pants.
    Francisco Goldman said in an interview a while back that in poetry there is no difference between fiction and non-fiction, why should there be in prose? That is so perfect. I think people are hung up because most people are assholes and assholes look for something to be hung up on.

    hahaha so good. please keep it comin! friendship dialogue is the best.

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