Melpomene Whitehead||Photos by Pruiga Phur
I hate to break it to ya, but there is a huge myth in this country regarding affordable and safe birth control for women. You thought we had this, didn’t ya? A very dear friend of mine, who unfortunately cannot use any estrogen-based birth control (translation: she can’t use the pill, Depo-Provera, or Norplant), recently experienced the dreaded birth control failure. However, since the ‘morning-after pill’ is also estrogen-based, and she was figuring that there was only a 1 in 28 chance that the failure occurred on ovulation day (ok, maybe 1 in 14, or 1 in 7, depending on what you believe, but still the odds were in her favor), she decided to wait it out. Uncle Red did not visit at the scheduled time, but she was going to the doctor that day anyway, and he did a pregnancy test. Negative. A week later, Red was still MIA, so she did a second pregnancy test. Negatory, good buddy. But her breasts were so sore! None of this made any sense. A third test, a full three weeks after Uncle’s missed appointment confirmed her suspicion—she was pregnant.
Now, this should be no biggie for women, right? You have it or you don’t. Unfortunately, the miserable health care system in this country has made either option a horror show for women who are not middle class or above. My friend was recently laid off from her job, and her health insurance cost almost as much as her monthly rent, so she could not afford to pay for it after the lay-off. But she couldn’t apply for Medicaid or Medicare or whatever it is because she’s not yet poor enough. No matter—those guys don’t pay for abortions, do they? I don’t f’ing know. And even if she decided to have the kid, how could she raise it? If she had a job, she’d be out of the house all day, and if she didn’t have a job, she couldn’t afford it. She briefly considered having it and selling it to a gay couple (she was thinking this would be a nice thing, add karma points, and get her some health care for the next nine months), but then she realized her father would fight with her about it and demand that he raise it, and he sort of raised her and she wanted no part of that. She decided on an abortion, and she decided that, if she could, she’d go route RU-486, otherwise known as the abortion pill.
When she had money, she’d donated $200 to Planned Parenthood for George W. Bush’s birthday (they sent him a card!), so she called them looking for help. She called me later in tears. “They’re not answering the phones today!” It was Monday! They’d been closed since Saturday. She finally got through to them on Wednesday, they could not give her an appointment until two weeks later (making it too late, possibly, to take RU-486, which is generally recommended for abortions up to 7-9 weeks), and refused to tell her the price on the phone! “How are you paying for this?” they asked. “Well, I dunno,” she said. “I’m unemployed. How much will it be?” “I can’t give you that information over the phone,” the Planned Parenthood ‘counselor’ said, “You need to discuss that with the business manager.” It seemed clear to her (and to me) that Planned Parenthood doesn’t want to deal with you unless you have some sort of insurance or oodles of available cash. I’m glad I gave my $200 to NARAL for baby Bush’s birthday. (When I called subsequently and asked to speak to a press liaison, the ‘counselor’ acted as if she had no idea what I was talking about. However, I still could not get general pricing information over the phone.)
I called around to several women’s health clinics for my friend, since it was clear that Planned Parenthood would not be an option for her. Despite the fact that RU-486 was being touted as a safe and more affordable abortion option for women, it turned out it cost at least as much as a traditional “vacuum” abortion, and oftentimes more. This is in spite of the fact that RU-486 is easier for the gynecologist. At most clinics, the patient only sees the doctor briefly, while he/she explains the procedure. Prices ranged from $425 to a whopping $900, and several clinics’ exorbitant prices did not include follow-up visits, which are necessary to make sure all the fetal tissue has passed. Park Med, also known as the Ritz-Carlton of abortion clinics, charged $600, and did include follow-up visits. But my friend was feeling cheap and reckless and decided to go with the least expensive clinic.
Thank goddess Westside Women’s Medical turned out to be a pleasant, clean, efficient clinic. Although the office was packed, the staff did their best to keep things moving along and managed to inform people of how long their waits would be. The handouts they distributed upon check-in thoroughly explained the procedure, and a nurse later explained it verbally. There was none of the chaos I would have expected from a gynecological clinic. The $485 fee included a necessary injection because of my friend’s weird blood type (they type your blood at the clinic, you don’t need to know it before showing up), a sonogram (this is standard, to determine the age of the fetus) a follow-up visit with a second sonogram, and, if necessary, additional medication or surgical procedures if the fetal tissue didn’t expel.
The RU-486 abortion was pretty brutal, my friend said, possibly worse than a surgical abortion due to the time it took and the cramps and body aches. The procedure itself takes no time at all—a couple of pills in the doctor’s office and some vaginal suppositories a few days later, but the cramps that began several hours after the suppositories were intense and long-lasting. They do warn you about the pain, and at Westside they give you a prescription for some Tylenol with Codeine, which my friend foolishly did not fill. And then you can’t drink alcohol either, until all the bleeding stops, which may happen in a couple days, or a couple of weeks. RU-486 is not for the squeamish. To put it in blunt terms, you’re inducing a miscarriage. Unlike a surgical abortion, where the fetal tissue is sucked through a tube while you gaze up at the ceiling (or sleep), the RU-486 abortion forces you to stare at gloopy clots each time you go to the bathroom to change your pad (you can’t use tampons, of course). Sometimes the clots are so thick you can feel them slither out of you, my friend said. Eww!
So, why would anyone get the RU-486, or medical, abortion? Did you know that it can be too early to have a surgical abortion? Usually, under six weeks, which would be a full two weeks after your missed period, is too early to have a surgical abortion. That means if you’ve been paying attention and you miss your period, you might be living with this big yucky event coming up in your life for two weeks. Not fun. You’ll be screaming “Serenity now!,” at ya peeps for 14 days. Also, many women would just prefer to do this at home surrounded by friends and ice cream. For those who don’t want to undergo anesthesia, RU-486 is perfect. And there are fewer complications associated with RU-486—excessive bleeding would be the worst, which could be easily taken care of at the doctor’s office. A surgical abortion runs the risk of complications of anesthesia, perforations, infections…
M. David Hornbuckle, Noah Tarnow, and I joined the lovely and intelligent peeps of Team Kick Ass for Thursday Night Trivia at Rocky Sullivan’s (129 Lexington between e. 28 and 29 Street). We had a big advantage, as the category that evening was music, and we’re all lint traps for musical trivia. For the first few rounds we were in the top three, and then we pulled ahead into the lead. We loved the lead and never let it go. It was our special friend. “Do you win every week?,” I screeched ecstatically to team members, who confessed that, no, they didn’t. It was the magickal powers of the unholy trinity. But they do win a lot. Trivia night is fun. What could be better than drinking and trivia and hanging out with friends? I know, trivia and sex, but sometimes you gotta leave the apartment. And sometimes you wanna team up with people with whom you’ll never have sex. Winning team gets a free round of drinks. We got cotton candy shots. Check out rockysullivans.com for more info
“Twenty hours later I fill the room with bad sex and bad TV”—“When I Was a Painter,” The Breeders
When I was a melancholy baby, I’d spend long winter afternoons in my room with the shades drawn listening to Television’s “Marquee Moon” over and over again. Television broke up before I was able to sneak my way into CBs, so I never got to see them, but even now, twenty years later, I can vividly recall Tom Verlaine’s voice, which reminds me so much of an open wound—tender and gloriously painful. I remember how the darkness doubled. I recall lightning struck itself. The beauty of Verlaine’s lyrics mixed eloquently with Richard Lloyd’s jagged guitar, I’d sometimes find myself forgetting to breathe.
Television, 13 years after “Marquee Moon,” at Irving Plaza was like an acid trip: the first half was beautiful, and then you were wishing it would end. I’d forgotten that the songs went on and on, which is fine when you’re sitting cross-legged on your bed reading tarot cards, but not so fine when you’re in a crowd of old people and some of them are bumping their wide asses into your neatly shaved crotch. And they made us wait until the encore for “See No Evil,” which was cruel enough, but Verlaine neglected or refused to sing the rousing coda of “pull down the future with the one you love.” Then they did a very strange cover of “Psychotic Reaction.” I probably would have liked it all better had I not been phenomenally ill and achy. This is what happens when you’re old. Verlaine’s voice was a little weak in the beginning of the show, but he got warmed up pretty quickly. Verlaine and Lloyd sounded excellent together.
Unfortunately, since Television was a one time event (well, they played the day before too, but I got tickets for Wednesday) I missed Madame Chao’s Magic Theater at the Remote Lounge. The Madame is a video artist from the bizarr0 world who hits you with too much, too soon, too fast. Like the best acid trip, it’s horrifyingly beautiful. Chao takes time and space, warps it, and shoots it at you through a cathode ray gun. Get a taste of Chao at madamechao.com, and check out some of the terror from the night (3/20) at remotelounge.com.
Girlbomb’s faux-talk show, A Beautiful Scene, at Surf Reality was excellizent! Despite some minor techinical difficulties, we were treated to a bizarre cartoon featuring a baby squid in a cradle, and fabulous performances from Curtis Scagnetti, porno star Chazz Pulmonari, comedy Professor Kiffy featuring Touching You, Shelley Mars (I forgot her character’s name, sorry) and a special guest appearance by Michelle Amato, who has changed her name to Via Satellite. I was seated next to some lovely wowombs in the front row who adored Scagnetti. I was particularly entranced with Via’s venomous attacks (at one point she declared that Girlbomb’s “cunt is the widest circle of Hell”, la Girbomb’s flirtation with the separatist poetess jewess played by Shelley Mars, and Chazz’s blond moustache. Musical director Hornbuckle serenaded us with several snarky hits (“Things About Which” and “Valentine’s Day”) and accompanied la GB on her final number, “Macarthur Park,” which managed to be different from both the Richard Harris and Donna Summer versions (although she did use the disco lyric ‘playing Chinese checkers’). I can't even imagine how la GB will manage to top this show. The next Beautiful Scene will be April 12 at midnight, also at Surf.
Coming up in April:
4/4-4/20 (every Thursday & Friday 8:00 PM; Saturday 8:00 & 11:00 PM) Episode 17 of GARVEY & SUPERPANT$! PLACEBO SUNRISE or “...A New Context For Living” at The Pleasure Center Chashama’s 125 W. 42nd St. b/t 6th Ave & Broadway (tickets: $3; $7; $12 or Imperial Box Seats [2 drink all inclusive] $20 SEATING IS LIMITED! Reservations 212.726.3054.) Last season’s Garvey and Superpant$ show got rave reviews from sources as diverse as Peter Etc of the Liquid Tapedeck [Fast Forward Flood] and Time Out New York, proving that you can indeed please all of the people some of the time. Peter Etc says of this year’s show, Placebo Sunrise, “This is one of the most elaborate, insane, cuddly, toe-tapping spectacles on the planet. I see tons of live stuff in this town, and most of it SUCKS. These hot kids are the most clever and irresistible bunch of buffoons on this god-awful planet. Puts all other experimental theater to shame.” Honestly, reservations are strongly recommended, and don’t wait until the last minute. You would have had a better chance getting Producers’ tickets last season.
4/4, 4/11 + 4/25 (almost every Thursday in April) at 10 pm: The Porno Jim Show. Yes, there will be porn, and Porno Jim will explain why it’s bad, or good. Featuring music by Bex.
At Surf Reality, 172 Allen St. bet. Stanton & Rivington Sts. $8 Bring your own tissues, boys.
Shauna Lane will be at Caroline’s on April 9, and back with Shauna’s World, at Surf on April 26 at 10 PM (right before Scagnetti, who will not be here)
4/5 + 4/19 (every other Friday, midnight til cows leave): Thems Good Eatin presents: Braincell Genocide XI Five hours of music, booze and chicken for $9. Surf Reality. Special Guests on the 5th- The Guitar Situations, with Jeffrey Lewis
4/12, 4/19, 4/26 (Friday nights in April) at 10 PM (note: 4/26 show is at midnight): Scagnetti wuz not here, an evening of misery and nonsense, at Surf Reality. What to say about Curtis Scagnetti that hasn’t already been said about someone else? Ooh! I got something! He’s my favorite dada-ist comedian. M. David Hornbuckle, my favorite musical literary critic, will be opening the April 12 show. There will be special guests, special films, and very special feelings in those most private areas. $7
4/12, midnight: the second A Beautiful Scene: A mock talk show at Surf Reality, Hosted by Girl Bomb, with M. David Hornbuckle (the ‘M’ is for ‘mmm’) as the smart-assed musical director. $8 check girlbomb.com for further info.
4/18: I (as in Melpomene Whitehead) will be reading as part of Lit VIII--written word readings at Surf Reality Thursday, April 18, 10pm, $6. Also on the bill will be Sarah Fisch, who not only tells a good story, but has a lovely voice that will make you feel all warm and tingly, the ever-lovin’ Girl Bomb, Liam McEneaney (fresh from a hylarious appearance on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend), KE Seims, and Anne Sussman. It’s a pawty. BYOB (that’s bottle, beer, or bear) and your PJs and I’ll tell you a bedtime story that will hopefully give you nightmares.
4/19, 10 PM: Sprinkle Genies at Sidewalk, 94 Ave A. and…
5/2, 10 pm: Sprinkle Genies infiltrate Asbury Park. Hell, it’s May! You could leave for the shore after work, see the Genies, then drive down to Seaside Heights and get a room! Take Friday off, walk the boardwalk, get a hermit crab and have your fortune told… The Sprinkle Genies will be playing at The Saint, 601 Main St. in Asbury Park, NJ
Melpomene Whitehead is the snevil.com girl email her at email@example.com