Thursday, May 19, 2005

manhattan and back

last night i joined in an enjoyable and somewhat surreal trip to nyc. shiny white limo, dinner in the surprisingly pleasant capriani dolci in grand central station, VisionIntoArt's "A Tough Line" in the lobby of the Whitney/Altria building across the street, dozens of attractive 20-somethings not really moving or being moved by the terrorist event. an interesting piece, though, as i commented to the tall and cord-clad animator -- the aesthetic distance created by the large and graceful ensemble spoke to the production's root in the compositions. the tone testified to the positions of its young and intelligent creators, poetic images of sundered and traumatized families as though sundered and traumatized families were something they had once heard of. which is probably true.

when we got back to philly i hopped in a cab ("where to, sweetheart?"). the cabbie asked how my day was. i mentioned the limo. he asked if i was in the limo with my boyfriend.

a: no, my boyfriend...was...elsewhere. this was for my work, actually.
cabbie: are you going home to your boyfriend?
a: no, i have three housemates.
cabbie: husbands?
a: no, housemates. i have three roommates.
cabbie: ah, roommates. where is your boyfriend?
a: he' york.
cabbie: so you see him when you go to new york?
a: sometimes, when i'm not with my work.
cabbie: so how does that work, your boyfriend being in new york?
a: (pause) it's a bit tricky.
cabbie: you should find a boyfriend in philadelphia.
a: well, i'll worry about it when it's time.

at the intersection outside my house, he looked at the 4.50 meter and said, "450 dollars."

a: i'm a bit short (handing him a ten).
cabbie: ah, 1000 dollars.
a: i'll just take 3 back.
cabbie: 300 dollars (returning change with some ceremony). find a boyfriend in philadelphia.
a: thanks for the advice.

Monday, May 16, 2005

so this is what the volume knob's for

one of my biggest surprises at tassajara was the full moon ceremony. conducted once a month, unsurprisingly, on the night of the full moon, the ceremony is for atonement. the line goes something like: "all my ancient evil twisted karma, which has its beginning born of my body, speech, and mind -- i make full confession of it."

also, the ceremony is rock n roll. greg fain, a big, tall, recently married, zen cowboy priest who wears elvis costello glasses and gave me one of the best hugs of my life, agreed with me on this. the ceremony packs everyone into the zendo, cushion to cushion, and involves a lot, a LOT of bowing and prostration: up, down, up, down, forehead to the zabuton, throwing all that karma back over your shoulders, heart beating fast and palms in gassho -- there's no stopping. atonement at a run.

i only got to attend one of the ceremonies, in august. i missed july because of my grandmother's death. that night, following the ceremony, still buzzing with spiritual feedback, jared pointed out the moon for me, and it was the brightest i'd ever seen it, out there in the semi-arid central california mountains east of salinas. it was gigantic, silvery white light shouting down, out, everywhere, dousing everything. how could it be a reflection?

that night i was on firewatch, which meant that i walked around the center grounds clacking some sticks together (clack-2-3-4-, clack-2-3-4-, clack-2-clack-4-...) and blowing out all the kerosene lamps, which provide pretty much all of tassajara's exterior light. every time i blew out a light, tilting up the glass and leaning close to the flame, in the moment it extinguished it was as though someone turned on another light behind me. i'd look over my shoulder, and there was nothing. just moonlight.

i was all stirred up. i went down to a far end of the grounds to sing, searching for a way to expel or express the energy, the insides of me blackening like the globe of one of the kerosene lamps. they smoke more when the wick is cut crooked. on later occasions, when anger and desire mounted and merged until i had no idea of what i was feeling, i would go charging up the steep dirt road out of the place, make it as far as the first lookout and stand there with the valley's panorama filling up my eyes, wondering what the hell to do.

atonement is just beginning to come clear. the ceremony, that place, lit a fuse, or helped light it, and it's only now, almost two years later, that the karma of envy and resentment is revealing itself to me for what it is. it is not a polite revelation, mind you. the powder keg has exploded; i don't know what will be left of me when this dies down, but in the meantime my poor tear ducts are trying to put the blaze out all on their own. good luck, tear ducts.

i'm trying not to force sense from this. the wounded childhood origins of poetry, of writerliness, fantasy and spirit, are coming to me, the compensation i took for my brother's (and others') blessed, vital unknowing.

In the room where I couldn't sleep with you
I felt myself smudged across the air, golden with pinewood,
As though the thumb of your unknowing
Took quick strokes from my forehead and shoulders.

what i can't figure, and won't figure, but try instead to put to rest, is the panic of not being enough, and this wasting, recursive, unnecessary pain. i only know one way to do that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

the armpit chemical

funny-because-true lines from the Times' gay men and pheromones article:

"Dr. Savic said that she had also studied gay women, but that the data were 'somewhat complicated' and not yet ready for publication."

"She said the Swedish study was extremely interesting, even though 'humans are a terrible experimental subject.'"

and, queer girls = more babies?

"Gay men have fewer children, meaning that in Darwinian terms, any genetic variant that promotes homosexuality should be quickly eliminated from the population. Dr. Hamer believes that such genes may nevertheless persist because, although in men they reduce the number of descendants, in women they act to increase fertility."

food for thought on the gender asymmetries front.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

last night was a good night; today is a good day

first, the concert was great: a solid but unsquished crowd of maybe 100 kids, most of whom looked younger than me. that was a first. the basement of the unitarian church is a dim (or maybe the lights were just out?), wood-paneled room, the sort of room that reminds me of the late 70s, early 80s, like it probably had shag carpeting at some point.

we arrived for the end of shearwater (or is it sheerwater?) - tallish kid with a guitar, then a banjo with the recently resurfaced ivory-billed woodpecker drawn on it, flanked by a very girlfriend-looking cellist, a drummer with very bad hair, and a violinist who resembled a lion both in mane and fighting spirit. they played well. the lead was best loud.

mr. goats is a strange one, the kind of strange you are when you're strange in conservative places: an unsocialized strangeness. he spoke eagerly of his hypochondria, wife, ending forever the cries of "free bird!" the banter was excellent, mostly conducted with his bassist, a kind of bullfighter/the jesus type. did he have a mustache, or would it just have been appropriate? goats' best line, in my opinion, was, "we intuitive types, you think these things slip by us, but no. we skip reason and go straight to suspicion."

his songs are short, full of mornings, grass, and blood - compulsive. it was just what i needed, i said, something lo-fi but intense, something i might conceivably do. reading Herzog is giving me same feeling. i laughed out loud in the cafeteria reading:

"Then he realized suddenly that Ramona had made herself into a sort of sexual professional (or priestess). He was used to dealing with vile amateurs lately. I didn't know that I could make out with a true sack artist.
"But is that the secret goal of my vague pilgrimage? Do I see myself to be after long blundering an unrecognized son of Sodom and Dionysus--an Orphic type? (Ramona enjoyed speaking of Orphic types.) A petit-bourgeois Dionysian?
"He noted: Foo to all these categories!"

this, by the way, is on page 17. on my walk back to the office i thought about being a sexual professional or priestess, how there is a choice between that and children, and that, for me, a relationship that includes babies will almost certainly be a relationship that demands fidelity.

so i guess i'm into today. overslept, which does not surprise me: up too late every day since sunday. reading TMN, i encountered bear. i have made a special new friend! i wrote to bear, and he wrote me back! he said:

>> dear alyssa,
>> thank you so much for writing.
>> i am so happy you liked the pictures of my travels...
>> even though some are actually not from paris...
>> the jesus pictures are all from washington dc.
>> actually all from one room at the national gallery
>> can you imagine?
>> yes, please feel free to use the pictures for your desktop.
>> which one will you choose?
>> sorry for the short email.
>> typing is not easy for me.
>> waving
>> -bear

i'm so happy. bear makes me feel very gentle like when it starts to snow as you're walking the city. recovering something like childhood is so precious. bear lives with an artist in brooklyn who does fantastic drawings. what do you think, anyone, should i write to witold, as well as bear?

heard from another wonderful friend today: roomie c! with whom i plan to room during our 2-year reunion in june. she has registered me as her "spouse." and i get to see her this weekend for alcohol and strawberries. and N is back, and m is coming, and i am so excited to see all these friendly letters.

in other swat-related news, gilmore stott has died. this is a man i did not know, but who appears to have been incredibly wise and responsible for the mccabe scholars, of which our good friend wh is one. you should read about him here. i would be honored to have such a life. reading about his encouragement of students, as well as maurice eldridge, made me remember that eldridge once emailed me - out of the blue, never having interacted before - to compliment me on a story i'd published in Spike. i'll take those words seriously now. and perhaps i'll get in touch.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

the Diotima of DIY neo-punk collectives, and Plato

here is some of the text about a new installation at Space 1026:

"Paper Rad began a long, long time ago in Boston, during a living room seance. Everyone in the house that night was sitting Indian-style, holding hands, saying magic words, when they summoned a long-dead Spirit back to the Land of the Living. This ghost was half-Lioness and half-Terrier, and her codename was Moonglade. Eager to impart the wisdom of the Spirit World, she talked a lot about eschewing hesitation, self-seriousness, dollars, ego, drama, professionalism, and about getting on with the project of total affirmation. The true end of culture, she said, was to deliver us every last head on Earth into a rich and rewarding, eternal adolescence. This definitely struck a chord with everyone there. After she finished talking, she blew a whistle and vanished again, into the carpet forever."

okay, so, they're artists, so they don't really have to be serious about any of this. i've been to one end of the irony cul de sac and back, and i enjoyed it. what struck me, and what i so helpfully italicized for you, dear reader, is (1) the list of vices that Paper Rad offers via Moonglade (apparently the Diotima of - what? - DIY neo-punk collectives?), (2) a similarly Greek-happy (ie, eudaimonist) "project of total affirmation," and (3) Moonglade's vision of "the true end of culture" (telos) as "a rich and rewarding, eternal adolescence."

heck, it sounds good to me, too. i've always been a fan of, for example, Mat 19:14, "Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" yes i looked that up.

just one quibble: are we, or they, or anyone who these days has visions of human flourishing, able to conceive of rich and rewarding, eternal ADULTHOOD? in other words, why choose adolescence, which i remember as, yes, heady, and full of excitement, but just as ensnaring as these more grown-up fittings, if not more so? wherefore the imaginative impoverishment of adults, and why do we ever ever ever agree to it?

as for the list of vices, it is one configuration in a long line of such. the history is one i'm reading about these days in Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue, rapidly becoming the bibliographic mascot of my friend group. drama and professionalism seem the newest contributions; hesitation, self-seriousness, dollars, and ego being perhaps counteracted by courage (Homer &c), amiability? (Austen), charity and humility (Christianity). drama and professionalism. huh.

and, for your edification and mine, Diotima proper. it's about Love.