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...and they lived happily ever after. Smith & Lady: poets, artists, photographers & adventurers.
Our relationship was forged to the soundtrack of Yoko Ono's magic,
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my wife has always been strange

Lady August 1st, 2010, in Public Square at Daniel Thompson Memorial reading – foto by Smith

This blog is too long — six pages and 3,000 words — so I’d quit right now if I were you.

Unfortunately it’s the condensed five year love life loop story of Lady and I and is absolutely fascinating.

~ ~ ~

My wife has always been strange.

Lady and I first took up September 2005. Early on, as we left the studio one evening, I stopped on the second step down, turned around level with her, looked her in the eye and said “Toll stairs, for your crimes and punishment.” She smiled, leaned forward and gave me a kiss.

I kept it up — in odd descending places I’d go ahead, then stop and turn when we were the same height and say “Toll stairs” and get a kiss.

After weeks of looking her level in the eyes, I realized there were several distinct Ladies I was dealing with, multiple women in one body. It was as if I were dating a bevy of B-movie beauties from 1940’s films — one would be the spunky girl reporter, another the funky funny best female friend, and then there were the troubled stranger, the ever helpful hopeful secretary, the wounded urchin, the slinky seductress, the beatnik chick, the maybe untruthful enigma, the mysterious ma’am, and more.

Some of these personae were accomplished with hair, make-up and clothes; others by mood and emotion; many a mixture of both. Often times it was sheer playfulness on her part. These weren’t assumed roles either, unless I’m much more naive than I think, but differing aspects of herself.

I called her my ever-changing B-movie film noir star, and she laughed.

She was sleeping with at least three other men when we started: a crazy psychologist who wouldn’t let her take her own underwear out to his island home because of his germ and smell phobias, a schizophrenic poet artist who is basically a good man, and a certified psycho who joked he was thinking of kidnapping her and keeping her captive in his closet.

The psycho started stalking her after she dropped him for me, threatened to kill a random stranger before killing me to prove his love for her. He began showing up at every poetry event we attended, usually causing us to leave due to Lady’s unease. At one reading where we stayed, I took a couple fotos of him and he became enraged. We still have a crazy tirade he wrote to his mental health handlers and gave to lady to publish about wanting to blow up his mental health agency and maybe killing folk and explaining why he wasn’t really stalking his female psychiatrist even though he kept showing up at her home. I got so I would scan the terrain everywhere we went, looking for him. I was mentally prepared to kill him in self defense if he attacked because that is the only way to stop his kind of crazy.

Later at our last art show before leaving the country, her odd psychology professor ex-lover showed up to see and feel superior to the ape who took his part-time mate away.

Her third poet artist ex-lover I see all the time at poetry readings, and he’s still a good guy, gentle and authentic.

Except for the physical danger from her stalker, none of this bothered me.

I took in all this stark strangeness and started calling her Kafka’s Lady. As we became closer and I became more used to her inner darkness, this changed to Lady Kafka, then Lady K, and finally simply Lady. She’s still the strangest person I know, but friendlier nicknames necessarily flow from familiarity.

But we need some background.

Lady had taken up poetry in 2000 when she was 28, then left her husband in 2002 to live with an older married fireman poet. That lasted two years, then she moved out and started staying with girlfriends and/or three new lovers.

During her marriage she had gained weight due to a fast-food husband and her fast-food life consisting of years of driving between full-time work and college after work to graduate as an electrical engineer. She eventually reached 300 pounds. After she took up poetry, she also started E-Diets and serious jogging and in the five years before me lost over 160 pounds. During all this she became depressed and went on Prozac for a year.

She also became bulimic. The six months before we began, she was so miserable she was trying to kill herself by throwing up ten, twenty times a day, hoping to either die from lack of electrolytes or else get thin enough that someone would love her. So in certain ways, I was her last chance. She says I saved her life, which is ironic because she also saved mine by getting me to have my voice box cancer removed.

While walking through the 2005 annual Rainbow Tribe Gathering with her poet friend Wendy Shaffer, she realized all the strangers they met would smile and nod to Wendy but ignored her due to the stress anger unhappiness showing in her face. She resolved to change, find a better way to be, and thought she’d start with me.

I did not want a relationship at this time, or for the twenty years previous for that matter. Except for three one-night stands with an artist friend of mine 15 years before, I’d been voluntarily celibate for twenty years because after going with artist Masumi Hayashi and artist-model Anita, I realized there was no such thing as free sex, that sex without love and respect and affection eventually gets boring and wasn’t worth the work and emotional hassles involved.

My doormat literally said GO AWAY, and the words were facing outward to whoever was at my door. Most folk respected my anti-social hermit-hood, but not Lady.

Months earlier she had seen fotos of my studio online which showed art and cultural chaos from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, like “something out of Bladerunner” she said. She asked to see it so I gave her one of my “Go thee and suffer less” cards from my mythical The Church of Not Quite So Much Pain & Suffering and suggested she stop by. It wasn’t a romantic ploy of “come up and see my etchings” because I knew she was going with the quiet fireman; besides, I was safely in my 20th year of celibacy.

Months later I get an email from her. I invite her over, not knowing she’s broken up with the fireman and is now literally sleeping around with three or more others, moving from place to place each night while having an extended base at a girlfriend’s where she keeps her cat and stuff. She asks what foods I like so she can cook for me. I tell her food doesn’t interest me all that much, it’s just a chore that needs to be done to refuel. She says fine then, she’s not coming over. This makes me a little interested so I write back “That’s too bad” and drop the whole thing.

Then Mother Dwarf dies, and we need more background.

After my brother Cat took a hand gun and blew his 30-year old brains all over the back of his pick-up truck in Las Vegas back in 1987 and my father Pappy died 18 months later from missing him, I’d had to move mom in with me because she only got $400 a month from Social Security and I couldn’t afford to keep two households going on my paycheck and still continue with my heavy drinking and drug use. But after 16 good years of her living with me (15 of them with me sober) and our becoming best friends and artistic collaborators, she collapsed on the floor in late 2004 due to bone infections in her legs and spent the next nine months bouncing between emergency rooms and physical therapy homes, until finally getting back home June 2005, only to die with me holding her hand seven days later.

I wrote nine short non-fiction pieces collectively titled “Lab Rat, the quantum collapse of Mother Dwarf Smith by Son of Dwarf.” It was some of my best writing — stories on my slow serial suicide by alcohol and needle; my brother Cat’s suicide and me keeping his ashes in a temporary cardboard cremains box for 18 years; about Mother Dwarf’s dying and how I disposed of Cat’s and Dwarf’s ashes on the rocks of Lake Erie; and about my sister who had some cult help her recover bogus “lost memories” of mom and dad and grandmother and grandfather sexually abusing her during Satanic rituals when she was four to eight years old, — an accusation which broke Mother Dwarf”s heart, especially when sis said “Don’t ever contact me again unless you’re prepared to admit all this.”

I have trouble understanding how sis could live with our folks for so long and not recognize what exceptionally good decent people they were, people totally incapable of even imagining such sins, much less doing them. But that’s her problem; she’s invested twenty years of her life in these lies and can’t afford to see the truth — it would make her responsible for too much pain. I know it’s all bullshit because I’m four years older than she is and I was there. I know she still believes it because after 18 years of silence, she contacted me last year via the internet. We have a polite relationship online because she’s my blood, but it can’t really go anywhere because we have to tiptoe around her delusion.

After I posted my nine stories to much acclaim, Mark Kuhar of Deep Cleveland invited me down to Border’s Book Store to read “Lab Rats” at his monthly reading, and Lady emailed me asking for a ride down. I was probably the only poet in our group who didn’t know she’d broken up with her fireman friend, so innocently said yes.

The reading was a success; and after we drove back, she accepted my invitation to come up for a pipe. I didn’t know she didn’t smoke grass, outside a few teenage tries; and since I always smoked, she walked into a virtual wall of marijuana.

For hours we talked as she sat unmoving in the chair, higher than she’d ever been but hiding it so well I had no idea. At first I figured she was merely too stoned to leave, because I had very good grass. But after awhile I saw she had ulterior motives and realized unless I wanted to get into an extremely sticky situation, I’d have to outwait her and give her no sexual or relational openings.

Finally she saw I wasn’t going to make a move and stood up and very quietly simply said, “Don’t you want to hold me?”

I almost said no because holding leads to touching and kissing and fucking but thought that reply rather indelicate to a young woman who seemed so open and vulnerable, fragile even. Besides, she was cute and I hadn’t held a woman in decades.

We held, and of course kissed. And my hands roamed. I asked her just what she expected out of this and she replied “Experience,” which I could understand and live with. Finally I said if she were too stoned to drive she could stay over and she said fine but we couldn’t have sex since she was involved with three other men. This relieved me no end, let me off the hook, and we went to bed. After awhile she said it was too hot and took off her blouse, bra, and jeans, whereupon I said “O no Lady, the panties go too,” and that was that as they say in the trades.

After she left next morning, I reread her half book of poetry I had. She and Charles Potts had shared one of Bree’s Green Panda Press books, and my sculptures had been used as cover art for both of them. I was relieved to see she’d written some extremely good poems, such as “Special Creatures”.

We met again that afternoon at Russ Vidrick’s monthly open poetry reading; and although I was treating the whole thing as a one-night stand, as we dispersed she asked if I wanted to see her again and my sex said yes.

In our first two weeks I explained to her I could not love her, would not love her, did not want a relationship, that we had nowhere to go not only because she was 27 years younger than I but that I no longer believed in either love or relationships because Masumi had killed that in me.

I also explained I was probably a symbolic replacement for her bio-dad who had abandoned her, which actually was kind of kinky. I had a heck of a time trying to balance my morals and honest talk with my lust and affection.

After hearing her story of basically being used and abused by men, I made a compromise deal in my mind and decided I would simply be her temporary safe harbor, give her shelter and comfort while she bailed and repaired her battered boat, and then she’d move on and I would have had a guilt free sexual adventure with an attractive young intelligent talented lady. By doing this I would also show her not all men were complete assholes (though most I must admit are).

I knew I was in trouble when I realized how very good simply holding her felt; I am not a hugger or toucher, and the way she made me feel caught me off guard; it felt like recharging my batteries. After two weeks I gave her a key to my place. At four weeks she and her cat moved in. At five weeks we decided to sell the place and move to Europe.

And then our troubles and joys began – her stalker, my throat cancer operation and eight weeks of torurous radiation, her bulimia, my nose polyps removal operation — all mixed with our giving away all my stuff and fixing up the place to sell so we could travel, and publishing the last issue of ArtCrimes, and Lady taking up art and being in our last two art shows, and multiple poetry readings, and six newspaper articles on our way out of the country. As Dickens once wrote – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

We were married by a Wiccan Witch six months after we began, but it only took that long because she was still married to her first husband so she could be covered by their health insurance and had to get divorced.

Eleven months after we took up, we left the country, spent 14 months living out of backpacks in north England, London, Amsterdam, Croatia, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, and then England, France and Spain again before returning to the U.S.A. with the intention of moving to Chicago to establish ourselves in the art and poetry scenes there. But back in the States we got nervous with the Cheney Bush Beast devouring the Constitution in their illegal occupation of the White House, and we didn’t really like the cold after having lived on the Adriatic and Mediterranean seas and in the African heat for 14 months, so we took off for 15 months in southern Mexico, a mile up in the Sierra Madre Mountains in Oaxaca where we finished the book we were writing.

Eventually she had a full-blown bipolar breakdown down there when we combined magic mushrooms with her previous mind problems and my nastiness and we came back home to Cleveland last year so she could be near her family and friends for comfort and support. Of course family and friends and the financial stress of living on little in these expensive States add their own stress so everything’s still in a state of daily flux financially and mind-wise.

But in four weeks, we will have been together five years. I had lead a pretty spectacular life in my previous 59 years of legal and illegal adventures before her, but I must say these past five years with Lady have considerably raised the bar. At the very least I’ve lived in ten countries on three continents over 31 months directly because of her. I now have a memoir written because of her insistence we could and should write it. And I’m totally in love with someone besides myself for the first time in my life. Plus being an artist poet writer publisher web designer living with another artist poet writer publisher web designer partner ain’t a bad way to go – it stimulates the mind and heart and creative juices.

It is still strange because I’m a foot taller than she is, as well as three years older than her bio-dad, four years older than her mom, five years older than her step-father, and 27 years older than she is — in fact I’m five years closer to her grandmother’s age than I am to my wife’s, which would make me your basic dirty old man if this weren’t all her idea – she chose me. People think she’s my trophy wife, but she claims I’m her trophy poet husband. Besides, trophy wives require fame, power and wealth, and I’ve none of the above.

We still have problems of course. It is much more expensive up here, there are more emotional demands from family and friends, and her bipolar breakdowns aren’t made any easier to repair because the cost of the medicines and counselors up here which might help are beyond our no-insurance healthcare-less reach.

Anyway, that’s the basic five-year loop of our life together, extremely condensed for our readers to digest. Except for the first 10 months of our relationship, all the rest has been blogged in 1,927 entries on, complete with over 4,000 fotos.

There’s more of course (there always is), but this is enough for now.

early us, 2005 – foto by Smith

4 Responses to “my wife has always been strange”

  1. Jack McGuane says:

    I can’t “LIKE” to work but I like.

  2. Jack McGuane says:

    I can’t get “LIKE” to work but I like.

  3. Geri Burroughs says:

    Great stuff, Steve! She also makes the BEST chicken curry you will ever eat….

  4. smith says:

    yup, she’s something. i’ll be writing a lot about her once i figure out how to go about it.

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