California Dreamin’

11/5/15, Thursday, 6:15 am

Hi & I  woke up in the living room, as per usual, at 4:09 am and headed to the bedroom.  As I needed to get up at five am, I didn’t have much time, and fell into a fitful, dreamy sleep.

By some miracle we had flown from Memphis to Oakland and managed to arrive at Chaos by 6:25 am, the last leg of the  journey executed at a frenetic pace in a bus with Love at the wheel.  We arrived to a dark common room, greeted by S. who said she’d call someone tomorrow and ask them to give me a job.  The conversation was brief and to the point, and soon  we found ourselves in D.’s room.  I was pretty panicked because I couldn’t find my phone, but Hi crawled right into bed with D.  K. was  there as well and initially started out in the bed right next to theirs, but when I fell briefly to sleep in the 3rd bed, I awoke to find him asleep beside me.

I slept fitfully, alternately worrying that I couldn’t find my phone, and panicking when I thought about how to explain to work that we were in Oakland and I wouldn’t be making my opening shift.

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Apologies for Silence (Post-Laptop Reality 2.0)

It’s been months since I’ve posted anything of length here.  In the interim, I ‘ve done a lot of traveling, a good bit of introspection, and as I have  moved back towards writing and posts of real substance I’ve hit a small speed hump that means regular posts are still, for now, a thing of the past and future but not something I can commit to now.  My laptop is officially on life support, having been resuscitated temporarily by a computer-savvy friend and returned to me with instructions to retrieve anything I have not backed up ASAP or risk losing it forever.  It turns out laptop video cards, at least in the case of my model, are soldered to the motherboard, so when they go out your options are replace the motherboard (which is expensive) or replace the laptop, which is (apparently) only slightly more expensive.  The DIY temporary fix involves covering the intake and exhaust ports of the machine and then turning it on for half an hour so that it overheats.  Sounds dreadful but it is simply a dire patch for a permanent situation.  Apparently, the intended result (and the result that my friend achieved in my case) is that the heat causes the solder points to expand and fuses the cracked solder back together however temporarily.  This fix, he says, can last for a day, a week, a year, two years, etc., but that when the solder cracks again, as it likely will now that it is weak, you will have to undergo the overheating process again.  Which may fix it again, or may not, as overheating the computer may cause other problems.

With that as my new reality, I have ordered another cheap back up drive to archive and possibly image my laptop before stripping it of substance and consigning it to the role of guest computer, I suppose.

So here I sit, at a Memphis Public Library  public computer, hammering out this place-holder for real prose (not lovely but certainly long overdue).  The guy next to me just left (finally!) after playing video games, punctuated by game-over sounds and repeated, more-than-audible, exclamations of, “Oh! My! God!” after each termination.  When his session ended (they have patrons on a two-hour timer here), he started singing (terribly and nearly tunelessly, of course) about computers and video games.  I believe the tune was “Deck The Halls,” but with more nasal delivery than strictly necessary for someone who wasn’t actually striving for obnoxious.

The going forward plan is that I will continue my lack-of laptop until after Christmas, so that we can take advantage of after Christmas sales to pick up another cheap laptop for regular internet use, bill-paying, ordering online, playing DVD’s outside, etc.  In the mean time, we will set up my study/office in our old bedroom (when we finish the floor of our new bedroom), and I will bring a much older desktop model out of mothballs and set it up again as my writing and blog-only computer.  I will in the meantime look around for a cheap (used) flat screen monitor to use with it, as the only monitors I have left from the old days will swallow half of my desk.

Until all of that happens, I have only these fleeting moments to log on and post, so that is the state of things for now.

The “perks” of writing and the compulsion to create revisited

One of the blogs I follow regularly is by a writer named Cristian Mihai, who often writes about creativity and the art (and business) of writing.  Although I’m not yet in his league as far as earning money for my writing, I do think this guy hits it spot-on about the “perks of being a writer.”  In a lot ways, reading this I found myself thinking, “oh, this is what I have to look forward to if I persist in writing regularly to the point where more people notice.”  At the same time, a big “perk” for me is one that he didn’t really mention: one of the best parts about writing, for me, is the ability to regularly and reliably stretch my creative and intellectual muscles. Why am I a writer?  I am a writer because I have to write.  The need to create and transform language and  thought compels me, and has for as long as I remember.  When I write, I am engaging with my world and my environment, while when I don’t write I feel like I am treading water and not making any progress at all really.  Here’s one of my favorite parts of this piece, which is worth reading in total as well:

“Okay, now on a more serious note. The perk I like most is that once in a while someone tells you they love your story. Whether a five-star review on Amazon, an e-mail, a blog comment, it doesn’t matter as long as someone genuinely loves your writing. Money can’t buy this mixture of admiration and envy that people feel when they read something really, really good. A paragraph or just a few short sentences that describe exactly how they feel in the world.

Two strangers, the writer and the reader, locked in this strange dance… there’s nothing that can compare to it. And you, as a writer, realize that you’re not as alone as you thought. Someone else feels the same way as you do.

As Tennessee Williams once said, you’re not lonely alone.”

For more on my thoughts about creativity and writing, you might check out these earlier posts from Greenfae’s Leaves (tagged “Creativity”).  Here are a few to get you started: 

The Recommitment

Not Writing Easily Now, I Find Myself Watching Old Movies And Trying To Stay Focused…

Another Great Article On The Origins and Practice of Creativity

A Universe of Its Own (this one is a perennial favorite of mine)

 

 

 

 

Two Vignettes: Studies in Dominance & Submission

English: The Eye of Horus, done in photoshop

English: The Eye of Horus, done in Photoshop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

22 September 1998

I was thinking just now about this ring I used to have, the one with the Eye of Horus on it.  It was just a cheap metal thing, seemingly entirely forgettable, and yet it was my first ring, and I really liked it.  Curious about what it looked like?  I Googled Eye of Horus ring and found one almost just like it, except mine was sheet metal.

I lost my original ring in a parking in Arizona in 1992, when I was on a pilgrimage to see the Grateful Dead at the Sacramento Speedway.  I was with one of my best friends and his then girlfriend, who we’ll just call Bella.  My friend, Gene, could be a real  dick, but he could be sweet and was, in any case, attractive and a real cock tease, especially with his friends.  I was really hung on him, but he was one of my best friends, and we were on a buddy trip with his girlfriend to see the Dead when we happened to stop in a parking lot in Arizona.

I no longer remember why we stopped at that point, but it was such an intense trip and even though we had a destination, we had a bit of time to get there, so we were probably just tired of driving.  I remember it was nearly dusk, and we were just hanging out, talking shit, and kicking the dirt.  At some point, Gene started teasing me, which was a favorite pastime of his.  He grabbed my key ring and began throwing it up in the air, blocking my attempts to catch it, letting it hit the ground, and then snatching them away when I tried to pick them up.  If his girlfriend hadn’t been there, we would eventually have gotten to wrestling for control, and if the ground wasn’t too rough, we might even have ended up rolling around in the dust until he had me pinned.  Knowing him, Gene would rub in the fact that he had the upper hand by pinning me with his crotch or his pits in my face so I could feel how fully in control he was and smell his dominance.  I can even now remember many times in our room at college when he would pick such a “fight,” and we would wrestle for control.  We’d roll around, knock over furniture, twist the carpet into a ball, and nearly always we would come to an impasse.  Gene would pin me in a wrestling move.  I would twist out of it, he would pin me again, and many, many times, I can remember feeling how excited pinning me had made him.    Gene wasn’t bigger than me, but he had played competitive sports for most of his life, so he usually had the upper hand.  We occasionally had these wrestling matches when he had a girlfriend, but mostly I think they occurred when he was in between girlfriends and needed to work off some sexual frustration by dominating a friend.

But back to my ring and that parking lot in Arizona.  His girlfriend was there, and he couldn’t really properly torment me in public anyway, so he was taking it out on my key ring.  He threw it up, blocked me, and caught the key ring, or the key ring hit the ground while he was blocking me because he was, after all, not superman and sometimes he couldn’t control both the ring and me simultaneously.  Anyway, the second or third time the ring hit the ground, there was a little flash of metal, and when I retrieved my keys, the ring was gone.

Truly, it was just a sheet metal ring, but I can remember being really irritated.  It didn’t help that Bella said, “Well, maybe you weren’t supposed to have it, ” as if cosmic forces instead of common rudeness might have been to blame.

*

[This next bit originated when I still did a radio show on a community supported radio station, which I is something I did for about a decade between 1996 and about 2006.]

Last night I had a “grandfather moment.”  What happened was, in the last half hour to forty-five minutes of the show, I got in an increasingly discordant mood.  I finished the show with ten minutes of a fourteen minute piece featuring rusty hinges.  About six minutes before two AM, this furious older gentleman called and hissed through clenched teeth that he was a card-carrying member of the station and that he did NOT like what he was hearing through his radio.  Then he hung up on me.

I let the track go on for another three to four minutes (I am not one to let go without a fight) and then eased into “Coil” by Robert Rich off of his album, Seven Veils, a stunningly sinuous album of experimental electronica and percussion that is well worth hearing in its entirety.  As was my habit, I slowly faded out of the rusty hinge track while gradually blending in the Robert Rich track and in my best, soothing radio voice, I described “Coils” as soothing to the savage beast and ruffled listener.

Later, after I had signed off, I realized why the incident had both upset and unsettled me.  It’s not just that I don’t like upsetting people.  There was more to it than that.  I was flung back into my childhood, when my family was visiting my Cape Cod grand parents one summer.  I was still a kid but had developed a habit of locking myself in the restroom when I needed to use it.  (Don’t ask me what that was about — maybe bathroom shame, I don’t know.)  Anyway, my grandfather tried the door and found it locked.  I guess maybe he was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get out, and he’d be left to figure out how to unlock the door.  Instead of going away and leaving me to poop in peace like any normal human would, he hammered on the door with his fists until I fumbled it open, and then he stood towering over me yelling without explanation until I ran sobbing to my parents’ bedroom and hid behind my mother.

I had  forgotten about that moment right up until that old man yelled at me and I had my “grandfather” moment.  For a drawn out, discomforting instant, I was back on that pallet on the bedroom floor with my mother kneeling at my side trying to comfort me.  Sobbing, I saw over her shoulder, through the partly closed-door, the reflection of light off my grandfather’s glasses.

Talking in my sleep

Trolling through old journals when I was at home with a sinus infection yesterday, I came across this little curio.  (Apparently, sometimes in my sleep, I say interesting things.)

Talking in my sleep [again.]  Chris told me that this is what I said last night:

“I like it

when the music

goes

DOWN

LOW

and

DEEP.

If it’s a sound

I’ve never heard before….

I

like

that.”

The intriguing thing about this to me is that this is a pretty good description of the music, especially the electronic music, that I like.  I like intense, psychedelic trance and sample-intensive or  bass-heavy tracks. I have always collected media, especially books, CD’s, live concert tapes, and vinyl albums.  I have an especially large collection of what I might describe as Net Label audio and found sounds.  When Black Lodge Video first opened here in midtown Memphis, I often rented unusual fare, and when I found soundtrack dialogue, music, or atmospheric material that I thought might sound cool sampled into music, I ripped it to cassette, so I have somewhere a fair-sized collection of stuff like that too.  Even as a child, I did stuff like that.  One of my earliest audio projects as a kid involved making audio cassette recordings of  one of HBO’s first original programs.  These shows were a series of very atmospheric, half hour-long renditions of Raymond Chandler’s early 20th century detective stories, featuring the private investigator, Sam Spade.  I faithfully recorded every episode but made the mistake of leaving the tapes in my parents’ basement while I was at college.  My mother, bless her heart, threw them away in one of her anti-stuff purges.  Periodically, I have looked for that series online, with thoughts of replacing those lost tapes, though buying them would only be step one, with re-recording all of those audio tapes a major step two, and I do have other projects.  Of course, the other side of the coin here is that this occurred a long time ago.  Why do I even remember this event at all?  I made those recordings years before I came to understand the reason to buy the highest quality recording medium you can afford, so I most likely recorded those shows on cheap cassettes that would have disintegrated or melted long before now in the less than archive-quality purgatory in which most of my remaining cassettes now live.  At the same time, if I still had those cassettes, I could have used them as sample fodder on my radio show or as fill when I was still doing the DJ thing occasionally.

Nonetheless, the pattern of sampling and archiving is one I began very early in my life.

Perhaps this isn’t a surprise, given that my mother was a librarian, and my father was a teacher for almost 40 years.   My father has always been quite rigorous in his archiving tendencies.  He keeps journals (as I do) and freely admits having kept a copy of just about everything he has written as well as copious notes on anything he’s read that relates to any of his several research subjects.  From my dad, I learned to archive my work, to keep journals, and to take notes on (and in) books, magazines, articles, etc. that touch on my subjects of interest.  My mother’s influences in this area are more subtle but still there.  She is ardently (and increasingly) anti-stuff, where I have always been a collector.  The collector impulse I got from my father, but my mother’s work as a librarian has meant that I spent a significant part of my younger years in and around libraries, and because both of my parents worked for the same academically rigorous and resource-rich private school, I had early access to world-class libraries with college-level resources.  As a child, I spent any afternoons not otherwise engaged in after school activities hanging out in the library where my mother worked.  As time went on and I outgrew the kids collection, I graduated to the teacher’s reading room where the grown up fiction was kept.  From my mother, I learned the importance  of reading, for pleasure as well as for a purpose.  Spending so much time in libraries helped me see the utility of catalogs and lists to create order.  By extension, keeping clippings and notes on an array of subjects has helped me to impose a kind of order on my otherwise chaotic universe of interests.

While on the subject of the personal archives to impose order, I just read an excellent eight-part series of reflections by London-based evolutionary biologist and writer Olivia Judson on the New York Times blog .  Called “The Task,” the series was an extended meditation on the power of stuff and on our complicated relationships with objects, mementos, and emotional debris accumulated over a lifetime. Judson talks a lot about the emotional attachments she uncovered after her father died, when she and her brother had to dispose of forty-five years of her parents’ accumulated stuff.  The author details some of the conflicting emotions that came to the surface, while at the same time conveying to us what interesting folks her parents were.   Apparently, her dad worked for Time Magazine in 1960’s, and he kept everything he ever wrote, as well as file cabinets full of notes and clippings.  And books.  And stuff.  Lots of other stuff.  At the time of his death — he was the surviving parent — his house brimmed with mementos, memories, and emotional landmines for her and her brother.  I read the entire series and can say that it is well worth it and is a surprisingly quick read at that for what it is.  I was most struck by Judson’s last few paragraphs of part one, though, and found these words most germane to my thoughts on the power of stuff.  In closing, I’d like to offer this quote from Olivia Judson’s “The Task” because it encapsulates a lot of my conflicted relationship with  stuff, both having it and collecting it.:

“…To anyone who suggested that maybe he did not need all the stuff, my father would invoke the great psychologist William James, who wrote that the loss of possessions gives ‘a sense of the shrinkage of our personality, a partial conversion of ourselves to nothingness.’

“I never agreed with the idea that personality is defined by objects; I would rather say that objects are defined by personality. Yet when someone is dead, and their belongings are all that is left, dispersing those belongings feels like an erasing of their physical presence on the earth.

“Moreover, although my father didn’t mean it this way, there is a sense in which James was right. An old T-shirt waves at you and says, ‘Remember when we went to Hawaii together?’; a plastic cup reminds you of a party you went to one hot summer day. A dried corsage — where was the dance? who was the date? — reminds you of the girl you were, who thought a corsage worth saving. In other words, objects are keys to remembering what happened and who you were, and their loss can make the memories inaccessible. So — for me at least — this task also brings with it a fear that in throwing things away, I am also throwing away access to parts of my mind.”

To a certain extent, Judson speaks to my fear too.  On some level, I think my objects (and the collections of which they are a part) are like place holders for the memories and experiences they represent.  I wonder if I’m afraid that parting with my things, whether journals, or books, will erase the memories or experiences they represent.  Should I continue to buy (or collect)  books, music, etc.?  Am I afraid that without such reminders, I won’t remember the present five, ten, or even thirty years hence?  On what level do I use objects to hold space for memories I’ve made and experiences or connections I’ve had, and on what levels do the memories impart relevance unto the objects?  Does collecting these things help me to form or hold on to my memories?  Do these objects enhance connection or insulate me from it?  Which objects enhance and extend my life and which detract from it?  Does having these books, journals, magazines, and media in general offer enough value to my life that it is worth it to have them around, or do they mostly provide another excuse for why I am so rooted in my life in Memphis?  After all, I can’t load all of this stuff in a truck and go on the archetypal Great American road trip across the country, or can I?  And would I even be able to enjoy such a trip if I hauled all of my stuff with me?

All are good questions, really, but there are no easy answers here.

The best I can hope for, I think, is that wrestling with these issues will help me live in the present, write honestly, and continue to engage in my life while not simply archiving or recording it.

Freeman Dyson on Career and Work

Freeman Dyson on Career and Work.  I find this quote oddly inspirational and motivating.

[13 January 1998, Tuesday, ~12:45 pm] In deed, if not in word

English: Graffiti in the Tenderloin, San Francisco

English: Graffiti in the Tenderloin, San Francisco (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Rodney’s teaching me something.  Spending nights out on the prowl with him, I am having to confront over and over the prejudices I hold.  His feud with his friend, Patrick, has reminded me that in some ways, I am unfortunately not as enlightened as I would pretend.  His friend, Patrick, would sterilize all rednecks, and — literally — put all beggars and bums to death.  Patrick’s boss, Michelle, the owner of the coffee shop where we congregate late into the night, “just” thinks they should ship all bums  away somewhere, though perhaps not kill them out right.

 

My views are neither so extreme, nor so dark.  I believe in principle that I should love everyone; Rodney actually seems to put this into practice.

 

Specifically, I’m thinking of the homeless souls we encounter while on our photographic jaunts together.

 

In my fear of the Other and of being taken advantage of, I project not love but a callous indifference.  Contrary to my principles, I negate their very humanity through my negligence.  I am, in other words, prejudiced in deed, if not in word.

 

While Rodney and I are out roving, I look to him to see how I should act.  After all, he knows these downtown streets of night better than I.  When street people approach us, which happens regularly everywhere we are, I look sideways at him for clues: is this one genuinely in need?  Is he helpless?  Is he full of shit?  Or are we in danger now?

 

It’s like being with Greg in San Francisco: I feel helpless, new-born.  That night with Greg, I ran, genuinely afraid, through the Tenderloin and back to the safety of Tapestry’s second floor apartment in the Haight.  Now, I am out for a leisurely “stroll around the block,” safe on deserted Memphis streets and back alleys, shielded from any real harm by Rodney’s spirit and idealism.

 

Je ne suis pas d’ici.

 

 

dreaming, fragments

dreaming, fragments:

like a rocket

only bigger,

and more beautiful,

and more pristine

than anywhere.

A level above,

at the tippy top,

of a long ladder

(beyond a trap door)

A penthouse,

roof of the world

At the end of eight days with no internet, a brief quote by a creative genius to warm up to the task of writing again

“I deliberately chose to break with traditions in order to be more true to Tradition than current conventions and ideas would permit. The most vital course is usually the rougher one and lies through conventions oftentimes settled into laws that must be broken, with consequent liberation of other forces that  cannot stand freedom.  So a break of this nature is a thing dangerous, nevertheless indispensable to society.  Society recognizes the danger and makes the break usually fatal to the [one] who makes it.  It should not be made without reckoning the danger and sacrifice, without the ability to withstand severe punishment, nor without the sincere faith that the end will justify the means, nor do I believe it can be effectively made without all of these.”

— Frank Lloyd Wright, as quoted in Counterculture Through The Ages by R. U. Sirius, p xvi-xvii.

IDEA: What’s In A Name?

Downtown Smyrna, GA

Downtown Smyrna, GA (Photo credit: The Ken Cook)

17 Dec 1998 Thursday, ~8:40 pm

I’m stopped now beside the road within sight of Smyrna Boots on 70 South East in central Tennessee.

How is there a Smyrna in Tennessee and one in Georgia and yet another in New York and one in lower Delaware?

How are they connected by their common name?

Is any of them connected to the ancient Greek city of Smyrna?  In case you were wondering, this Smyrna, although Greek, was, according to Wikipedia, in what is now Izmir, Turkey.

View on the agora; in the back : columns along...

View on the agora; in the back : columns along the western stoa; Izmir, Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Someone, perhaps even me, should do a study of small towns, their names, and their origins.  One could pick any stretch of road in America — preferably one with some history to it — and devote a chapter to each small town and its name and history.  This could break down as a meditation on place.  We could get into the history, migratory patterns, local/regional character/color as well.

One could use one stretch of road and its small towns to extrapolate about the culture of small town America and the importance of a sense of place.  One could do this in any country, though America is the country of my birth, so I know it better than I would know any other.

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