Saturday, December 22, 2007

Season's feelings

An excursion to Florida, with tropical breezes turning slowly to cold rain during the long drive back. John K. in a Santa Claus hat. Bette making delicious soup in the house in the woods. Beth laughing in Bruce and Ryn's kitchen, putting on her Tallulah accent. New faces on the periphery, people with high-tech jobs. A new kitten in my house. Rigid schedules failing, giving way to spontaneity. Scary for a person like me, even for a few days. Christmas doesn't carry the meaning, something else does. I feel the planet turning, banking, skidding across space, but I stay on my feet. Waking up is like riding a bicycle; you keep remembering how to do it even if you haven't for a long time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A blue and white dance

Worldly things seem to be coming together for me. Despite paperwork SNAFUs, my degree-obtainment is drawing near. I’ll “walk” on December 16 at the winter graduation. I’ve bought my master’s gown; it comes with some kind of blue-and-white hood. This is to distinguish the graduate degree obtainers from the bachelor’s degree obtainers, I suppose. Blue and white are my university’s colors, but I am not sure university spirit is the reason for their presence here. Maybe they mean “English Literature.” I suppose I should find out, research the matter, which is easily done these days. Ah, here we go: “A master's degree gown merits three inches of velvet trim in the color of the college awarding the degree and an oblong sleeve, square-cut at the rear with an arc cut-away at the front.” Does that answer the question?

I have already been offered a basic English composition/literature course to teach in the fall of 2008. It will be strange to be going back and forth between buildings, a secretary for most of the day and a “professor” for a few hours a week. (The part-time adjunct instructor category is officially “lecturer,” but the students tend to think that the person in front of the room is actually a “professor.” Or a fool. Or something in between.)

Oh, I have all sorts of plans, daydreams. I want to make them write. I want them to crave and adore the written word despite its failures and flaws. Like the deaf, dumb and blind title character in the rock opera, “Tommy,” with his pinball machines and blindfolds for everyone, I want to inflict my own idiosyncratic solutions to not-necessarily-universal problems on vulnerable others. While they pay for it.

From a slightly different angle, it can be seen that to teach is to perform, but it’s also to invite others to perform, whether out loud or in writing. Such invitations may be ignored, and instructions for performances are always provisional and often misunderstood. Still, something might happen when I teach my first English class that won’t be happening if I’m not there. Although that can be said about anyone, that would be cool!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Red, red wine, stay away from me...

I have a problem with red wine. I like it too much. Maybe it’s the sugar in it, or maybe it’s the particular type of “buzz” it gives me. Or maybe I’m actually an alcoholic. Whatever the reason, it’s red wine over which I have less control than other beverages. After the first speculative glass, I begin pouring and quaffing it like it was grape juice. Which it is, only fermented. I down it like I’d down handfuls of salty peanuts--absent-mindedly--but of course the effects are slightly more obvious.

Social situations make me uneasy, although I do love socializing with even vaguely like-minded people. I must have residual self-consciousness; a feeling of not being good enough; a feeling of having to play a role in order to be liked. These feelings are somewhat stressful. Wine brings relief. Unfortunately, wine comes in bottles bigger than a bottle of beer. Once opened, a bottle of wine is, for all practical purposes, gone. And often, it’s gone into me.

Sometimes I don’t realize I’ve had too much until I knock something over or bump into something with more than my habitual clumsiness. My intellectual capacities feel the same as usual (which could be illusory). The ability to express my ideas might diminish, but that is not always noticeable to others. Or is it? I cherish the notion that I can express things well, so that a reduction of quality in MY expression merely brings it down to average level. What hubris and denial, eh?

No, I’m not having wine now. I’m having a beer.

But, seriously, I need to curtail my inclinations when it comes to that red wine. The merlots, the cabernets, the shirazes, and especially, the red zinfandels, so light and playful and deceptive. Oh, and the pinot noirs, brought to public attention by the film, “Sideways.” At least I’m not as bad as either of those guys!

Has anyone ever noticed that they might have a weekly alcohol quota? I think I do. If I skip a drink of wine or beer on one night, I seem to make up for it on another. I should measure carefully for a month. I’ll bet my weekly consumption is quite regular. The question is, is it increasing? Let’s hope not. I know it’s increased in the past, but at the moment, I intuit that it is decreasing, as my DVD-watching, exercise, and clarinet practicing increase. Nothing can replace oblivion, but that’s what sleep is for. Let us toast to a good night’s sleep!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin'...

Bought a used bicycle, as if I had the leisure to ride sedately to the grocery store, waving at neighbors and hoping for good prices on the makings of an autumn soup. As if I could hang around yard sales or appreciate gardens. As if I weren't compelled to show up at the same office at 8:30 am every weekday and stay there until 5 pm.

I am not as counter-culture as I used to be. Not conscientiously green; not an advocate of social experimentation. Long ago, I used to take public transportation and live in communes. Now I'm married, drive a car everywhere, and live in a small house that we own, but there seems to be no time to take care of the house anymore. Despite finishing my thesis (which was supposed to give me more time), I still can't keep up with the messes and the lack of organization in my own home. My new boss is excited about doing exactly those things in the workplace. Old files are being thrown out; old gadgets and chairs are being surplussed (put in a metal building on campus where some low-life company may eventually bid on them as landfill). My limited energy for optimizing my immediate environment is thus being sucked away, and I become slightly depressed on weekends. This leads to focusing on a rental movie or a series of pointless clarinet notes, or even the dreaded SLEEPING LATE, instead of the housework that I KNOW my boss is doing in her lovely home, in addition to bringing up her children and preparing for her classes, and her meetings with important people.

I need to believe that this is because she isn't "deep" or "questioning" like I am. Except for questioning how she wound up in charge of someone like me.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

All's well that is?

And, life goes on. Not sure if there is any point in my taking clarinet lessons (which I am doing). I’m not “obsessive” about practicing, which I’d hoped I would be. I am, however, influenced by the sound I produce, I seek a better sound, but it’s not my only thought these days.

There is no ANSWER, only the process of asking or wondering. I have flashes of places I’d like to be, like Marseilles, or Arizona. Or in Toronto at some sort of advanced workshop on meta-cultural criticism. Or maybe in New Zealand, visiting an artist friend.

A friend was sharing pictures this morning at the coffeeshop of his experience at Burning Man (in Nevada) last year...or was it the year before? Seems an interesting interlude, but not “reality.” Still, I’d like to go sometime. I think I could enjoy an amusing non-reality right now. I’ve been so serious for so long.

Reading “The Wisdom of Insecurity,” by Alan Watts.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Look Ma, I created a new self!

I successfully completed my thesis “defense” this past Friday. On the way out of the building, I used the word, “ascertain,” and my friend from the Biology Department who participated in the defense as the “Observer” from another College, said, “See, you’re smarter already.”

“Welcome to the community of scholars,” called out one of the art professors from my department as I drove up to the house where Women’s Studies was conveniently having a party that night. She was enacting a mild parody, and I understood that, but I do feel different, somehow.

My decades-long recurring dream of having a baby (however deformed or non-human it turned out to be, and even if I accidentally lost or destroyed it later) recurred that very night, after the party. This time, it felt as real and true and as non-surrealistic as a dream can be. I was pregnant, and had gone into labor, and realized that my identity would soon change forever. Then someone in the dream reminded me that most women are mothers, and it’s not really anything special in terms of human achievement. But of course it’s special for each mother. And, it follows, for each master’s degree candidate, although they are legion.

Since I don’t have any “real” children, my “baby” has always been something like a thesis, some project or other. Perhaps this is the first time the "baby" was legitimate and had all its proper parts: brain, legs, arms, chapters, endnotes, bibliography. It certainly wasn’t premature. It took me six years. Ten years before that I was merely thinking about returning to school for English literature. In between, I somehow got halfway through an art education master’s but changed my mind. (From that experience I learned not to pay for graduate courses by credit card.)

Yes, I am one of many. I am officially in the circus-like “community of scholars” now, and for some reason, although while I was “pregnant,” I very much wanted to quit, I now want to “have” another one. Someday. Or, maybe I’ll adopt.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A woman's place is inside a bubble?

I have just returned from a nine-day solo vacation, visiting friends and family in New York and Massachusetts. There is a mood I get into while away from frequently-seen faces and practiced routines that is a sort of pleasant isolation, as if I am in a bubble of non-judgmentalism that has a sheen of good will. It may come off as pleasant to others as well, though it is not necessarily my usual style. Since I am not investing daily in the outcome of the situations I enter while on a trip, I can be generous and calm. But it’s not a personal generosity. My mind feels empty, unattached. I imagine it’s Zen-like, but it could be merely repression (my dreams during trips are quite complex and intense). But during the day, though conversation abounds, emotions were either absent or stifled. I could barely detect any within myself, aside from the two flares of irritation that burst briefly when my parents called my name as I was leaving a room, forcing me to pay attention just as I was about to do something else. This happened once with each parent. I hope I made up for this by simply staying in the room next time as long as possible, giving what seemed to me benign (non-resentful) attention. What did it cost me? I could only act like this because I had little else to do. I participated in social events with friends and at-home time with family without experiencing a strong sense of involvement, whatever that means. This cannot happen in my “real” life. I have too much energy to remain detached. I often throw myself into my non-vacation life the way I used to with the pretend games I played as a kid, like “cops and robbers,” or “house.” This suggests that my non-vacation life is, in fact, a collection of games, such as “job,” “marriage,” “creative community participation,” and so forth. If so, I am happy to be “winning” some of them. On vacation, I could place bets, but I wasn’t really allowed to play. You know what I mean?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Too much writing going on

Last week I waved yet another printout of my thesis (at that point about 100 pages) at my boss passing by in the hall, my boss who has nothing to do with the project of me getting my master's degree in a different department at the university we are both trapped in. "This is like a big piece of goddamn meat," I said to him, by way of random complaining and explanation of why I hadn't been enthusiastic about my actual job tasks lately. "I have to DO something with it before it rots. It's been marinating, but now I have to throw some spices on it and grill it before it's too late!"

So, that's what I'm doing. Got the fire going, but I'm still throwing more spices and herbs on that sucker. More than 120 pages now. But soon, soon, the smell of words roasting will fill my nostrils, and the taste will probably confirm my suspicions that not only has it been overcooked, but that steak isn't even good for me.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Natural occurrences

It's hot out there. The grass is dry, and some lawns look scraped and scalped, patches of parched red dirt pushing into view through straw-colored remains. We're keeping the AC around 78 degrees, and it feels cool. I don't go out there much except to get into my car and drive to work, or to walk my requisite hour after the sun goes down. There are places on my walk that seem cool and breezy. That's because the people have just watered their plants and the sidewalk is wet and evaporating, creating a tiny local breeze. It would be interesting to be one of those people. The people who care about the outsides of their houses.

I walked past one of the don't-care houses, and the little boy on his motorcycle-looking bicycle said, "There's a bottle!" I had stepped on part of the same bottle the night before, so I followed his pointing finger, and there was the bottom of the broken beer bottle. Then I noticed he was about to contact a stray piece of it with his bare heel. That wouldn't do, so we both spent some time collecting all the pieces while his mother watched, immobile it seemed, from her chair on the front porch. "People just throw things out of cars!" I yelled, cheerfully. She nodded or something. I walked on.

The cop who lives on the corner has got the poison ivy starting up again by the big tree on the edge of the lot. But the drought has brought the vine so little fuel that it remains tiny; the three-part leaflets haven't even reached the trunk. I am not sure if I'm gung-ho enough to bring along my spray bottle of ivy-killer on my walk. Where did the expression, "gung ho" come from, anyway? It can't be good that I use it. Anything automatic has to be suspect. As well as anything over-considered.

I am trying to finish a tiny poem. It has eight short lines. It was an assignment from the Soul Mistress of my writing group. It's supposed to be about writing poetry, and has to contain an onomatapeia. I've written it, but it doesn't have quite the impact I'd like. I can see becoming obsessed with perfecting it. What other activity to pour oneself into than something as insignificant as the arrangement of a few words? Because, after all, a poem IS a magic spell, and the spell has to be cast correctly.

Then again, how can I "pour myself" at all in this weather?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Nothing is real; nothing to get hung about...

The near impossibility of getting any sleep in my tent during the Memorial Day weekend music festival helped me appreciate my conventional house and its dusty bedroom. My state of mind at around 3 am both nights at the festival was bizarre. At that hour, music was still heard intermittently in the campsite area, followed by whoops and hollers of drunken delight. It was all very benign, but still, it forced me to go into meditation mode, discounting all worldly phenomena. Such mental “nothing is real” efforts tend to carry over into the next few days, when things are back to “normal,” and should be considered “real.” So I am not sure what the benefits of another such “vacation” would be, except that the music was very enjoyable. I am considering doing it again next year but bringing my earplugs and getting there early enough to secure a less public campsite. Seeing people’s feet shuffle along six inches from the tent opening was disconcerting. It made me think about homeless people who live on the street in cardboard boxes. My husband, who joined me for the second night in the tent, commented that in fact, it did not resemble the experience of the homeless, because we could look forward to getting back to our conventional house and its dusty bedroom. A homeless person, by definition, could not do that, but would be in a continual state of insecurity and anxiety about their own welfare. Perhaps he’s right.

Everything is so impermanent: our houses and cars, our clothes, our jobs and their technologies, the things we think we are interested in, the fluctuating states of our health. I always revert to being a “big picture” person, maybe because I’m lazy. But most involvements, intellectual, personal, or artistic, seem sort of illusory to me. Or they do now that I’m older than I ever thought I would be.
There is no reason to post the picture you see here except that it’s a “scene” that's now gone: my 19-year-old self, with my little brother (the Incredulous Pithecanthrope whose link is at left) during one of my infrequent visits to my family’s big suburban house (long since sold to another, more “together” family). It was 1969, and I was in recovery from the excesses of urban hippiedom, wearing my other brother’s hand-me-down vests and shirts. This was probably a few months before I moved in with a boyfriend and began working for a well-known Cambridge movie theater that, surprise, no longer exists.

The idea of impermanence (a shibboleth of Buddhism) is useful when you’re squirming in discomfort with just a thin mat between you and hard ground and being frequently jolted awake by sudden loud sounds as if undergoing torture by sleep deprivation experts. But it’s an idea that also gets you thinking—too much.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hippie dippie time

It's probably been about 30 years since I attended a "music festival." Not that I haven't been to concerts in the park, and such. A few years ago I even went to Lilith Fair for an evening with a friend, but we didn't camp out. I recall being angry because they wouldn't let me take my bag of healthy food into Lilith Fair, but instead wanted to make sure I purchased their crappy food for lots of extra money. But the music was good. I even got to see the multi-talented Jewel belt out some classic blues and jazz. (After that, I couldn't resume my ignorant, jealous disparagement of her.) My point is, though, that I'm going to a "grassroots" music festival called "The Acoustic Cafe" this weekend with a girlfriend and her kids. I'm actually bringing my tent. And mosquito repellent. My spouse may join me for a day; that will be nice; it's only a short drive away from the old homestead to which we daily cling. I hope I can forget my troubles and get happy. Honestly, I don't HAVE any troubles, really. But perhaps I can focus on enjoyment rather than anxious feelings of "what am I supposed to do next?" I may even eat a baloney sandwich on white bread! But I am bringing my special, healthy beer.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Home stretch?

I shared my 87 pages of rambling on my topic with my thesis advisor. He said he liked the writing. In fact, he was in Mexico, working on an academic study-abroad program, and had taken the thesis with him. He said that he enjoyed reading my thesis as much as the New Yorker magazines he'd brought with him. Perhaps he was just flattering me, but why would he do that?

He did say, however, that I needed to restructure the order in which I presented certain topics, and that I needed to provide some context information for the "reader." Darn. I was trying to avoid that! To heck with the reader! My writing is about satisfying MY whims. Or used to be.

It's going to be a slugging-away summer.

Friday, April 27, 2007

"You were not a woods-colt, Janey"

After a couple of intensive reading/writing weekends, I’ve completed an 87-page first draft of my “thesis” on the books and films surrounding the legend of “Calamity Jane.” The initial response from my advisor was positive. But as for me, however much I’ve done, I know it wasn’t enough. I did not read every damn thing there was; there is always more. I barely skimmed the surface, drilling down in a few areas, like the various attitudes in 20th-century depictions of Calamity as mother. The possibility of Calamity Jane being a birth-mother who gave up her baby for adoption first came to the surface in 1941 when a woman named Jean (Hickok) McCormick claimed to be Calamity’s daughter by Wild Bill Hickok. On a Mother’s Day radio program, Ms. McCormick read for an eager public from a diary and letters that she said her “mother” left for her. The content of McCormick’s material gave new energy to the Calamity Jane myth. Such films as Jane Alexander’s 1984 TV movie, “Calamity Jane,” and Larry McMurtry’s 1990 novel, “Buffalo Girls,” were based on these letters. Many people believed that Martha Canary (“Calamity Jane”) wrote them, though she was thought to be illiterate, and presumably dictated her autobiographic-ish “Life and Adventures” pamphlet that was sold at dime museums in the 1890s. If one were to make an irresponsibly general division, it would turn out that male scholars do not believe Calamity wrote these letters, and female scholars and writers do. We women want this renegade to be more like us; to have experienced not only the hardships and wildness of frontier life, but the womanly pain of unrequited devotion and nobly motivated maternal sacrifice. The diary and letters give her a new voice, even though it might be the voice of Jean McCormick, the wanna-be who at least got a government pension out of the deal (because the documents were allowed to serve as proof of her birth date, not necessarily her lineage). Most interesting to me (at one point in my scholastic frenzy) was the seeming absence from contemporary academic “discourse” of an anthropology Ph.D., a woman named Leslie A. Furlong, whose 1991 dissertation on Calamity Jane’s social/symbolic role in the Wild West was fascinating reading. A footnote in this 500-page tome, near the end, asserts Furlong’s belief that Martha “Calamity Jane” Canary was the author of the McCormick diary and letters. Being the suspicious person I am, I can’t help but wonder if Furlong’s admission of this belief somehow cost her an opportunity because it was considered a fantasy (by some male committee member), and her imagination too active for the tenure track. Or maybe she just had kids and kep’ ‘em, and said to heck with academic stardom. She did turn up on the 'net as an adjunct instructor in Virginia, but she hasn’t yet answered my e-mail! And the mystery continues. But this weekend I'll put my magnifying glass down and try to have some fun.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

On being mistaken for a man

I know of two women who have, well, turned themselves into non-women. One can’t take testosterone but (s)he’s doing his best. The other’s verging on manly. They’ve adopted new names. I try to remember to use “he” when speaking of them. I accept the situation without thinking much about it. They’d likely be pleased to be mistaken for men. Being a make-up wearing, male-gaze-craving female probably doesn’t seem all that swell to them. They haven’t even gazed at me much, that I can tell.

When I was growing up, the fairytale still shimmered. If you were beautiful enough, sweet enough, and lucky enough, you’d meet some man who would “take care of you” for the rest of your life. You’d have children, and devote your loving attentions to them and to him. You’d be honored for this, celebrated. You would work hard, but it would be a different kind of work— for love, not money. Your dependence on your provider husband would be echoed by his and your children’s dependence on you for those magical nurturing qualities. A seductive scenario, but one that seems a bit delusional nowadays.

Never mind that women (and men) have more abilities than are utilized by the above plan. Life takes over. Even if a person does marry early and “well,” suffering and learning inevitably occur. Poverty, boredom, abuse, incompatibility, angst, divorce, child custody battles, the Iraq war, you name it. Some of these I’ve experienced, some I have not. I never did produce offspring, so I often wonder if others consider me a “real” woman. However, I profoundly do not want to be mistaken for a man. But why not?

In the 1953 musical, “Calamity Jane,” Doris Day has an epiphany midway through: Darn-it-all, she looks like a guy! That’s why she can’t get the guy! Changes ensue. She must give up her wild ways, fix her hair, clean up her act. For the love and attentions of men (everyone has desires, right?) she must at least appear to be pedestal-worthy and risk being domesticated. Cultivating a single-gender appearance might skew one’s experience of oneself and others, but it’s worth it, isn’t it?

When I saw the movie I was nine years old. I did not laugh at this boisterous “Western” romp; I cried. I wanted to have it both ways. I understood that I was not beautiful (I wore glasses and had crooked teeth), nor was I sweet. I liked to play boys’ games. But, I now saw, unless I underwent a major overhaul, I’d have to sacrifice love. I couldn’t bear the thought of either. The film induced a three-year depression, or maybe a hiatus. I emerged as more of a girlie-girl, naturally. By 16, I was ready to “give myself to someone forever.” But no one I knew wanted that overwhelming a responsibility. So I tore the gift tag to pieces and went about my business for a few years.

I was tromping one day on Coast Guard-owned land near Plymouth, Mass., happily watching sea birds and feeling the wind. A stern voice called out from the next hill, “Young man! Better clear off! You’re trespassing!” My instinctive fear was not of being arrested or fined; it was of losing my gender identity. “I’m NOT a young man!” I retorted in a panic-stricken tone, strangely ashamed. I had not thought about being pedestal-worthy in a long time, but I apparently still wanted to have the option; I was still half-dreaming the dream.

I furiously strode off the property, not looking back, and the next time I stopped at a drugstore, I considered buying lipstick.But I thought of something else, too, in the wake of that unwanted authoritative attention to the “wrong” part of me. It had never occurred to me that love went both ways. I had to take charge of myself and my persona(s). I needed something solid to give, regardless of what biological sex I was or what gender I appeared to be. I’ll bet that my transgender acquaintances have known that for years.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Multi-tasking, interruptions, non-productivity

OK, not that "productivity" is the goal. I mean, we live life just to LIVE it, right? Seizing the moment and its pleasures and pains? Or have I got it all wrong? I think my job is interfering with my brain. I knew that all along, but it was confirmed by an article I just read in our local paper, about the downside of multi-tasking. It seems my IQ is fluctuating. I knew it! I'm constantly interrupted by phone calls just as I begin to compose an art show press release or figure out a budget. People burst in wanting to talk with me just when I start on a big re-filing task. Sometimes I can't think of what to do next when I KNOW there are several urgent requests or looming deadlines. I have for the past two years or so congratulated myself for training myself to switch my attention easily, and for remaining "pleasant" while doing it. I have taken pride in relinquishing perfectionism, and perhaps even mere high standards in favor of not pissing anyone off! I do so want to be LIKED, since my "abrasive" personality has been a factor in losing jobs in the past. But gosh, I can't get anything DONE these days, let alone done well. And I know this mode of being at work has affected my ability to concentrate on ANYTHING when I get home. My willpower only goes so far; it gets me to the gym and keeps me there for a while. What a relief to be able to put one foot in front of the other repeatedly without anyone (including myself) bugging me about doing something else instead! So, then I'm supposed to go home, grab a snack, and work on my THESIS? I don't think so. And now I know it's not my fault, it's that my IQ is (temporarily) lowered due to the nature of my job. Nice to have something to blame!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

About my friend Bronwen

I just added a new link, to Bronwen's Melancholy Garden.
It's a blog I started for an online friend who lives in England. (The photograph is a triptych of Blackpool in winter, created by her daughter, Charlotte). I haven't heard from Bronwen in a while. Sometimes she is too weary to get online. She has MS, and is in her forties. Since being diagnosed, Bronwen spends a lot of time collecting realistic thoughts about life (in contrast to the cheery remarks of medical professionals), and has compiled an anthology that covers centuries, which she sent to me. I posted the introduction, but I haven't posted all of the anthology itself yet, which I want to have available as a link to a PDF file. Until I figure out how to do this, you can read Bronwen's well-written personal philosophy. She also added a profile. I am concerned now, because if she is unable to get online, I don't know what's happening. She could be in the hospital, or she could be gone. It was more than a year ago that I saw one of her "cynical" remarks on another website, and complimented her on it; everyone else was dissing her for non-positivity. That's how we started corresponding. Anyway, read the introduction to her anthology if you like, by clicking on the new Bronwen's Melancholy Garden link, and I will soon post a link within that to her complete book (which she had sent to a publisher, but which had so many copyright issues due to song lyrics that were included that the outlook wasn't good for an actual book). But the internet is another matter. I send my love to Bronwen, wherever she is.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Context is everything

I have no topic tonight. Realizing how much the needs of "others" motivate me. If no one needs what I have to offer, then why exist? The genius of some people is simply to NEED things. I am so grateful for those who make me believe I have something to offer, even if it's only the use of a pencil sharpener. I want to be IN THE THICK OF IT. I am still inside life. Let it flow around me and knock me off my sandbar.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Spectator sports

The other night, we went to the Sex Workers Art Show. It happens here at a run-down factory building, the same building where there's an open mic poetry night I sometimes attend. I'd been before, but it was the first time I took my hubzand. It was a different show than last year's, with more spoken word and fewer dances, but what dances there were were fun. Especially Ms. Dirty Martini's "Patriot Act," a dollar-bill-swallowing, bump-and-grinding, assinuating, irreverent, very fleshy spectacle. Ms. Martini at one point extracted a long necklace-like length of paper money from her ample rear end, prompting the Amazing R to pay a visit to the "merch" table to talk with her about magic and tricks. I stayed up too late, but it was worth it. The organizer and emcee, one Annie Oakley, wanted to remind everyone of the thankless anonymity of sex workers and also of those in service industries and low-end jobs -- basically, the minimum wage earners of this country. The Sex Workers Art Show is politically correct in a good way, and I'm proud that our city somehow snuck it in. And yet, it still raises questions about how much and in what ways the "sex industry" should cater to naturally arising "needs," and how much it manufactures those needs. Business has never felt obligated to question its own morality, and the business of America is still business, even if we are farming most of it out. At least the Sex Workers Art Show was American-made, but then, it was show-biz.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Living, not writing

It's not working. Life is taking over. I'm helpless to resist. Long ago, I wrote, "Why must it be either live or write? This question keeps me up at night." I'm now getting plenty of sleep, as if it's been decided for me. Does this mean I'm a failure? Ah, but the time's not up yet. I still have weeks and weeks. Sort of. It feels as if time's going too fast, though, and that a huge paper is not a contribution to my well-being or the world. No, I'm not being lazy. I do plenty. But I just can't focus. I have produced approximately twenty-five rather dull pages on my topic. It required staying in my pajamas and not doing ANYTHING else those days. But really, I just want to be a person and enjoy my friends. Have coffee, talk. Write personal poetry. Any suggestions? Does a master's degree matter at my age? Haven't I proved ENOUGH just by surviving and thriving?