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Adoration Revisited, part fifteen

Welcome to Not Knowing How: Adoration Revisited, a capsule newsletter by Lisa Locascio Nighthawk in sixteen parts. Names have been changed. The version of events is my own.

Hi friends. Before I launch into this long-delayed installment of my newsletter, I want to acknowledge how difficult it is to live right now, in this time of war and genocide, and how much all of us are carrying, especially Muslims and Jewish people. Here are two resources that have helped me feel less helpless.

Middle East Children’s Alliance - Amidst the ongoing attack on Gaza, MECA team and partners are providing emergency assistance to families who have fled their homes to seek shelter with relatives as well as procuring emergency medical supplies for hospitals and clinics. You can make an emergency donation now at their website to support this important work.

5 Calls - Call every day and demand a ceasefire now.

It’s not much but it’s what I’ve got. Thanks for reading.

On September 16, 2023, Billy Corgan married his partner Chloe Mendel, the mother of his children Augustus and Clementine. Fittingly for a rock star and a fifth generation French couture scion, the wedding included multiple costume changes and a skirted tuxedo for the groom. It was held on the grounds of their family home in Highland Park.

Both of Billy’s weddings have taken place at home. He married his first wife, the art conservator Chris Fabian, in 1993 at their Victorian house at 3448 North Greenview Avenue in the Chicago neighborhood of Wrigleyville. Much of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was recorded there, in the home studio Billy named Sadlands. Corgan wrote of the wedding twelve years later, during the 2005 sacred graphomaniac spree of his LiveJournal Confessions:

since we both live together already in the house, it is a natural fit to stage the wedding there, because the house is a symbol in our minds of the type of love that we have: sentimental, old, delicate, and wishing…

Immediately after he and Chris are wed, Billy writes, “I know I have made a mistake, but I don’t care as the tears roll down my cheeks…I feel very alone…”

The party is pleasant and anti-climatic, and when all the guests and friends and family finally gone home, Chris and I decompress some of the tension of the day by cleaning up a little, happy to have our home and our life back to ourselves…the hour comes and it is finally time to go to bed, so we head upstairs hand in hand for the first time as husband and wife…she is beautiful, my wife…a sweet soul, whose entire demeanor is that she doesn’t want to hurt a fly…when we join together, it is as close as I ever feel to her lost heart, because normal everyday life just overwhelms her…I slowly take off her dress, laughing, and we kiss tenderly in a moment that only happens once in a lifetime…and I feel her closer than I ever have, and ever will again…

When I discovered the Smashing Pumpkins, I had no idea its lead singer had been married. Billy and Chris Fabian separated in 1995 and divorced in 1997, the year Adore was made, at which time Corgan describes himself as “completely, utterly drained”:

all the things I had been putting off facing emotionally (as I “allowed” myself to get lost in the glare of success after unprecedented success) came around not so quietly and demanded I deal with them RIGHT NOW!!!!: so, of course, I ignore it…from Jimmy’s firing (and the loss of my best friend and musical soul mate in the band), to my separation from my wife, the untimely death of my mother, and musical burnout (writing and recording over 50+ songs in such a short time, not to mention all the shows around the world), I had built a highway over these traumas and planned to just keep on moving (it had been a effective strategy for the past 10 years, so why not now?)…

In this state he goes into the recording studio to make a new album.

the general idea was a good one, to record one song per day, and in the beginning of the sessions this proved to be exciting and stimulating…I was mostly just working by myself, as it was easier and quicker and less stressful…after so many years of a passive-aggressive relationship of who plays what, and when (and how), James and D’arcy now knew to just get out of my way… […] …everything I touched (for about 5 years) seemed to literally turn to gold…this created a sense that I could do whatever I wanted, , [sic] and go wherever I wanted, and now I was going to tackle some sort of futuristic, electronic folk-rock (and it would sell too!)…but as often happens to an idea whose foundation is not based on pure intent, I ran out of gas fairly quickly…


My general idea was a good one, too.

Last December I started this newsletter, Not Knowing How, with a bold plan: sixteen weekly installments of a capsule newsletter called Adoration Revisited, one about each track on Adore, ending on March 17, 2023, Billy Corgan’s fifty-sixth birthday. It was ambitious, over-the-top, and contingent on a calendar that meant more to me than anyone else. I kept to this schedule, more or less, for about two months, until late January. Then my posting became got erratic: two newsletters in February, one each in March, April, and May. I took an unannounced, unplanned break for the better part of three months.

Psych! On November 1, 2023, I resumed work on a draft of this post which I began in late July. It’s been five months since the last Adoration Revisited.

While not writing my newsletter, I’ve thought a lot—too much?—about its structure and meaning and execution. What was it about? The Smashing Pumpkins? My childhood? The suburbs of Chicago? My late mom? Cheese sandwich details of my life as a new parent in L.A.? Did I turn it into a one-trick pony? Have I been using this space to just process whatever I shake out of the purse that is my brain at the end of the day? And if so, is that bad?

Many of the newsletters I read1 show up in my inbox weekly or even more frequently. They are reliable. Several of their creators produce their newsletters as a job. I started my newsletter to create a way to write despite my jobs. Not Knowing How was that for a while, until it wasn’t.

Back in July, after an unpleasant few days being defamed on social media platforms by a person I’ve never met, I deleted my Twitter (sorry, I’m never going to call it the other thing) account and made my Instagram private. I’d considered both of these actions for a long time, and the additional privacy has comforted me. But it was a little sad to think I’d lost a way of reaching people who might be interested in my writing. Not Knowing How is now basically my last public-facing platform, my best shot at maintaining a connection to my readers. But I haven’t been treating it like that, either.

This year I have had to recognize, over and over again, that what I am doing with my writing—what my writing is doing with me—isn’t what I planned. My writing, my writing life, my art, my life as an artist; all of it resists my efforts to bend it into a recognizable shape. To put it on a calendar. To sell it in a way that makes me feel powerful, and desired, and pretty, and rich.

Kind people told me they loved my Smashing Pumpkins newsletters, using the past tense. I didn’t correct them, but Adoration Revisited is not over. I have two more entries to write.


the most magical moment of these first sessions came when we were set to record a long instrumental piece, at that time called “48 chords” (notable for the fact that the chord sequence did not uniquely repeat until 48 successive chords were played)…2

“48 Chords” became “Blank Page,” and it might be my favorite song on Adore. (I know I keep saying that.)

“Blank Page” has a toothsome endlessness. No matter how many times I’ve listened to it in a given day, or how long it’s been since I heard it, the opening piano chords always impel my arms into a my attempt at a balletic posture of conducting, of receiving.

“Blank Page” is one of the songs that provokes the secret pleasure gesture in which I count fours down and then up again with the fingers of my left hand. To no real end, and from no real knowledge of time signature. Just because I like doing it, because it makes me feel woven into the music.

The moment 3:45 when the chorus comes up like the lights going down in a theater—

“Blank Page” has held space for my grandiose emotions for over half my life, now.


What if I was gentler with myself?

What if everything I fell in love with didn’t feel like a puzzle I had so fiercely to solve?

What if I loved Adore and left it at that?

“I’ve always preferred remote loneliness, a contemplative life, and loving someone deeply,” Linda Perhacs, creator of the lost and recovered 1970 album Parallelograms told my ex-husband when he interviewed her in 2015. “Those were my priorities, so I walked away.”

He wasn’t my ex-husband when he interviewed Linda Perhacs. But I get ahead of myself.


I had not dealt with my divorce in any of the new songs […]…I woke up early on a crisp, sunny morning, and reeled off a stream of consciousness type poem that seemed very much to deal with my anger towards my ex-wife…this surprised me, but I thought little more of it once I got in the shower…I typed it up, and put it in my pocket thinking I might rip off some of the better lines for a song as yet unwritten…3

Billy Corgan was twenty-six at the time of his first wedding. I married my first husband two days before my twenty-sixth birthday. I never thought I would get married so young. But I also never thought I would meet a person who could effortlessly explain anything to me, anything at all, from Hegel to the differences between black metal and death metal. Because of my first husband, I understand rock music in a deeper way that I did before I knew him—for example, the way Black Sabbath, a band I’ve yet to seriously listen to, is the underlying source code to not only the Pumpkins, but to most of the music that has given my life verve, and texture, and meaningful vibe.

Dookie by Green Day is the first rock album I remember loving. In fifth grade, I heard a boy talking about Green Day, and, excited, told him I liked them, too.

“I bet you don’t even know the lead singer’s name,” he said.

“Billie Joe Armstrong,” I told him.

He ignored me after that. It didn’t matter that I knew the answer to his question.

That was how I learned that it was humiliating to love what I loved. My passion for music couldn’t be expert enough to count. I could never compete with the musical knowledge held by guys like Dominic and Jeff. There would always be some piece of technical knowledge or band arcana I didn’t have. It has always been embarrassing, somehow, for me to love the Smashing Pumpkins. Loving the band had to be about my crush on Billy. A girl could have desire, not taste.

My first husband was the only man, after my father, who didn’t gatekeep rock music from me. He had recorded albums, toured as the frontman of a punk band, lived in anarchist squats. He was happy to share what he knew with me so that I could know it too. And he knew so much. I could ask him to tell me anything, to make me understand it, and he would.

We used to remark to each other that we were living our thirteen-year-old selves’ fantasy life, watching all the TV we wanted, going out to concerts and bars, reading books, going to see movies on opening night, hanging out with friends until the wee hours of the morning. Our favorite movie was Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, and with our esoteric PhD programs and passionate love for culture few other people seemed to care about, at our best we were like those glamorous vampires. Frozen in time. Enjoying forever. And for a long time that was true.

Our life in Los Angeles had an air of unreality. We couldn’t seem to break through to the real, no matter how hard we tried. It was always summer and our calendar was the academic calendar we’d lived on since kindergarten. But it’s hard to stay little forever. Our relationship was the last gasp of my childhood.

We used to fight bitterly about my family, to whom he was always loving and kind. “I am not your parents’ child, I’m not your fucking brother,” he’d say, after another two-to-six week visit to Chicagoland spent sleeping in my childhood bedroom, going on family excursions, and helping my parents by sorting through the treasure troves of clothes, books, music, and other precious miscellany, finding things to give away or try to sell. His anger about wanting “our family” to be separate from my nuclear family scared me. It made me feel sad. I didn’t want to be separate from them. In marrying him, I had wanted to extend my life with my family, to reinvigorate it with a new person, to create an annex of it, a blooming limb. But I couldn’t have explained that if he’d begged me.

We spent a lot of time begging each other. Once, we visited the campus of the university where he had been admitted to a graduate program. We spent a pleasant few minutes walking around, admiring the heroic architecture, before I spotted a pile of full-color antiabortion pamphlets, placed to draw the eye of passing undergraduates. I remember the pamphlets as lurid and huge, Rolling Stone-sized magazines. Their claim that abortion was “unnatural,” along with the idea of some scared eighteen-year-old encountering them, filled me with righteous fury. I picked up the pile, a hundred or more pamphlets, and dumped it in the trash. It was a public university, I was a taxpayer; I felt more than justified. I turned to my husband, expecting him to commend me.

Instead we had a fight so severe that we both ended up in tears and I threatened to walk the nine miles back to our apartment instead of riding in the car with him. He didn’t disagree with me about the antiabortion tracts, but what I did with them made him afraid that I had damaged university property, that my rash act would be connected to him, perhaps through footage of me throwing away the pamphlets, and negatively impact his standing at the university. He was worried the university would rescind his admission because of what I had done.

We had many arguments like this. Returning home on the evening of our first wedding anniversary, I said something in passing to our annoying neighbor—I can’t remember what—that agitated my husband because he thought I was encouraging the neighbor’s annoyingness, letting him off the hook somehow. We argued until I was crying in the nice dress I’d worn to dinner at Yamashiro and to ride the elevator at the Bonaventure Hotel, a date planned because we had both read Frederic Jameson.

We married because together we experienced greater happiness than we’d ever known, and as his wife I experienced greater sorrow than I had ever known. We spent hours opposed to each other, in silence, me down at my end of the big brown couch, calculating how to fix things.

I decided we should start watching television during dinner so the sound of my chewing wouldn’t bother him. I switched us from beer to weed because I thought it would be less destructive on our bodies. We fought and fought, trying to stay together, and I developed a secret life, separate from him, in which I smoked cigarettes and felt joy.

It took me a long time to figure out that we couldn’t be ourselves together.

One day towards the end he drove me back to that same campus before dawn. I was teaching there by then, and he was going to bed before sundown and getting up in the dark to avoid traffic, he said. I paced and smoked and drank black coffee in the same quad where I had once thrown away the antiabortion pamphlets, calling doctors until one agreed to see him for $500 an hour. He saw the doctor, and said he felt much better, and shortly after that I told him I wanted a divorce. He was gone so quickly that I hadn’t yet paid that doctor for his time. I wrote the check in the new apartment where I lived alone on the other side of the country.

I feel compassion for us, so young in a city where neither of us had family. Our friends and teachers could only help us so much. The pleasure we found together was so ecstatic at the beginning. Neither of us understood that it was ebbing until we found that it could not be regained.

When we separated, my ex-husband gave me a card that said I LOVE YOU LIKE THE SUN LOVES CALIFORNIA. On the inside he wrote: We are going to have some of that good life we deserve. And I think we both do, now. Just not together.

I never regret my first marriage. I suffered terribly and yet it still seems to me to have been a wonderful adventure. It gave me—as much as any experience has given me any writing—my first novel, my most consumed work of art. It was my last great fantasy and my first attempt to build a new world.


Two weeks ago I gave my first reading in four years, at Dog Eared Books, my favorite San Francisco bookstore, in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of Fourteen Hills, a journal I will always love because they published my poem “Secret Society,” the last line of which is “our handshake / is my fist in your ass.”

It felt obvious that I should read from my novel in progress, but that manuscript is in a great disarray following this summer’s revelation that, although I have “finished” it following massive revisions three times (I even have a tattoo acquired to mark one such finishing), it needs yet more work.

This year, the fifth I’ve spent writing it, my relationship to my second novel has become more terribly tender than ever before, a tenderness I have felt might threaten my very identity as a writer, and sometimes in my blackest moments, maybe my sanity. I want so badly to share it and yet I can’t.

So I wrote something new, about my mother.

My friend Sarah McColl’s memoir Joy Enough is about twinned losses—of her first marriage, and of her beloved mother. Just like Adore. She writes:

Empty rooms, carrying the laundry, the bed so wide I began to sleep diagonally across it. I could begin to wrap my arms aorund each instance, one by one; I could get my sea legs on the ocean of aloneness. As a divorced person, it was not terrible.

As a daughter, it was.

My divorce preceded my mother’s illness and death, and I don’t think of the two as connected, except when I give into the inclination to think of the end of my first marriage in 2016 as the beginning of life becoming more difficult for my family, a turn whose upward swing away from difficulty and into reward we are still awaiting. But I have struggled, and to some extent resisted, writing about both experiences, divorce and death. In part because, I now realize, I am afraid that writing about these relationships that shaped who I was and who I have become, the most intimate connections in my life, will fix or change them in the world and in my own mind.

The essay I read about my mother was a hit. Strangers came up to me on the street in the hours afterwards talking to me about how much they enjoyed it. My fear that in writing it I erased some other part of my mother not included in the essay has not disappeared, but it is quieter.

I have poured so much of myself into finishing my novel, this hard-to-explain, hard-to-share object that is necessary to me. It must exist to make the years I’ve spent on it meaningful. I still believe that.

But the reading reminded me of every beautiful thing readers of this newsletter have said to me. It reminded me that it is not over.


When I was almost all the way moved out of the last apartment I shared with my first husband, my good friend came over and we tore the bed we’d shared apart with our bare hands. The bed was seven years old, from Ikea; my mother bought it for me weeks before I met my first husband. (She bought the Ikea bed my partner and I now sleep in, too.) Underneath its pressboard veneer, the bed was made of a soft, porous material.

When I remember the end of my first marriage, I remember that satisfying, cathartic destruction. The way we carried it down to the street in chunks.

The friend who helped me had once shared a bed with me, too. He was my college boyfriend, one of my first husband’s truest friends in Los Angeles. He understood what it meant to break something down to nothing, to have to start, again, in the space left behind.


When I started writing this post in July, I included the below video of the Smashing Pumpkins performing “Blank Page” on a rooftop in Paris, leaving a note for myself to finish later: Billy—yeah, I’ll say it—sexy as he’ll ever be, so do what you will with that, I have no further comment on that specific subject.

Rewatching the performance, I note its strangeness. At about three minutes, we see D’Arcy for the last time, looking as if she’s about to walk offstage, despite the fact that she’s clearly meant to play with the band for the song. The camera zooms to Billy, and stays tight on him for almost two minutes, until James’s guitar solo begins at 4:40. After that, Billy continuously looks stage left, for D’Arcy. She never comes back.

This performance captures the song’s essence. It is one incredible crescendo, one giant thrust, a glory that starts to end as soon as it peaks.

I was going to write that it is over when it begins, but that’s not right. The beginning is the climax, its slow build. The ending is right there in all of it. Written in. Essential to the beauty of the piece.