California performance artist Lisick offers bright, funny takes on her square upbringing in Sunnyvale during the 1970s and 1980s, her adult life in San Francisco’s 1990s counterculture and beyond.
A weekly columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle’s Web site, the author presents herself as “too weird to fit into the mainstream world, the one I came from . . . too normal for the fringe world I found later.” She highlights the contrast between normal childhood and freaked-out adulthood in her account of an annual ladies’ luncheon and Christmas gift exchange at which she appears first as an eager child waitress in 1976, then, in 1991, as a disheveled invitee with a hangover and bad hair bringing a poorly wrapped, last-minute gift. Lisick uses her uneasy stint as a homecoming princess and her appalling first date with a popular jock to create an entertaining glimpse of her high school years. Later, she’s at UC Santa Cruz stuffing $20 bills into her black bustier at a Catholic charities raffle because she needs money for an abortion. It’s darkly funny, and there’s more to come. After college, Lisick travels with an all-female punk-rock troupe named Sister Spit and explores her sexuality with a female construction worker named Trouble. Then, while living with her boyfriend in a San Francisco warehouse that’s flooded by broken sewer pipes, she is forced to move her possessions out in a beat-up shopping cart. When she eventually buys a house in Berkeley, it’s in a rundown, garbage-strewn neighborhood known as Brokely. Such personal disasters, small and large, are the stuff of these memoirs, providing her with the material for her sharp observations and self-deprecation. The final piece finds her a bemused new mother, coping with a drooling and crusty-headed baby boy who’s clad all wrong in pink and yellow. Exaggeration in the interest of a good story is no sin, and Lisick is above all an accomplished storyteller.
Light, flippant and savvy.