Tuesday, December 24, 2013

May the bridges I burn light my way

"you," he said, "are a terribly real thing in a terribly false world,
                                          and that, I believe is why you are in so much pain."

For all the times I have stumbled home from excessive hours at work, black with steel grease or the dust of the piers, not bothering to wash the black from my hands when I actually take the time to feed myself, when sleep is so much more valuable than showering regularly and even my sheets smell like steel... I sometimes desperately drag my broken body into the random Vietnamese nail salon, even though I have to face the looks of horror from the man or women handling my calloused and work stained flesh. Part of me is apologetic to them for how much harder they will have to work to make me even presentable, but some deep part of me is begging for strong hands to press into my sore muscles and strained tendons, so much I could cry.

I can't help but feel the sidelong looks from the skinny dyed blonds, old fussy women and haughty preteens around me, getting their long, feminine nails painted boring shades of pink or shimmery brown while they gossip - polluting the calm with unnecessary complaining noises I have to tune out, to catch the twang of Asian instruments adding a subtle glamour of the geisha to the odd practice all of us are indulging in, however removed most of american culture may have come from the origins of this particular feminine tradition. I am no less a woman than anyone else in the room, and so much more in need of their arts than most of the women sitting around me, but I still stick out like a bruise. I'm not there to be pampered and girly - I'm there asking these craftspeople to cut away the dead and bruised skin, like sanding weathered wood, to find the natural beauty and form hidden underneath. Sometimes I need help to find myself. I just can't allow myself to feel too deeply judged, because it is already so hard for me to ask at all.

Today, Christmas Eve, I went to one such place, near where I am apartment sitting in the Upper West Side, a part of town that always tickles me, because I feel my difference VERY strongly here. One of my secret favorite things is to have searingly colored toenails hiding inside my smelly, beaten work shoe. The woman working with me quickly erased the caution yellow remnants of polish still barely clinging to my toes, to replace it with a violent neon fuchsia... but could not hide that she paused in horror when she reached for my hands. I asked for a back massage afterwards, something I never do, but was so desperate for it I didn't care if it seemed selfish, I didn't care who saw or knew. Since she would struggle working under my shirt, I simply took it off, sitting in my sports bra, exposing my tattooed and heavily muscled shoulders - from doing a man's job for a living - and the sturdy, cheerful woman grunted and thwacked, pushed and pulled as she wrestled with the demons that had wrapped themselves into the grooves under my shoulder blades and stretched themselves down the column of my spine. The woman working on my back chatted to me about my tattoos in her heavy accent, the people who work in these places usually are extremely appreciative of them - which makes sense to me, Asian/pacific island tattooing being such a developing factor for our own culture to embrace the concept of body art that sailors brought back with them in the 18th century. To the snotty women in the room, the ink in my flesh always seem to cause a specific negative reaction, as if it were in fact filled with some sacrilegious quality, whispering anti traditional and rebellious thoughts, threatening the rules of their pink and white world.

She ended emphatically, with loud thumps of her balled up hands up and down the length of my back, filling the space with the sound of my naked skin connecting with them. As I pulled my shirt over my head, I noticed the room was silent. As I paid and stuffed my feet into my boots, I felt the difference in the room, though I don't know what it meant. Nor does it even matter.

I left at least 2 inches taller.

Monday, September 2, 2013

but, if you pay attention, nothing is trivial.

Rolling out from the last stop in Montauk, NY, after a week off the grid. I feel my disconnect in a vastly physical way. Everything is cash only, and all I have is a useless piece of plastic, on a stretch of island without an ATM. I sacrificed my phone in my rush to assist a struggling black Labrador treading water and ropes just offshore at the beach, but even before, there is no reception out here, I had started leaving it in the rented house since it served me no purpose. half the weight of my backpack is an obsolete laptop, as there was no internet for me to connect to. useless pieces of plastic and circuitry that connected me to the future, but there is no future out here. Only yesterday.

The six of us, most of the Art Department for a Sci Fi film we had just finished shooting, had escaped the frustration and endless hours of working through futility and miscommunication to a house that was filled with the sleepy crust of childhood, of summers swimming and brown at grandma's house. We made meals together, we explored the local tourist haunts, the fishing boats, poked a beached jellyfish and had lots of ice cream and dollar beers. We napped on the beach, and we napped when we came home, wrung out with exhaustion from the sunshine and salt water, we played board games and read and jumped on the trampoline. We filmed everything, we secretly interviewed the locals (indigenous mermaids), and became zombies, camera pointed at the mirror, while we painted each other with lotion and flour, some of us choked and sputtered a fine ketchup blood, and for a brief moment, the outside world simply didn't matter.

It was like the mystical land of Brigadoon, or Avalon, where the worlds had started to drift apart, and time passed differently. At a bar full of pink cheeked fishermen, we learned how proudly, morally defiant the indigenous people were of things like cell phone usage, and of the tourists that define the economic structure of the island itself. The intentional separation from connectivity permeates the island's locals, a state of mind that directly manifests into reality, one that I hadn't realized I was in, until I boarded this train without a ticket and find myself struggling to maintain the here and now as the train hurtles me back into the future, where I came from. I have no idea how many emails and texts I've received from this past week, the voice-mails that wait for me, the state of my world when I return to it, and I'm walking straight into gig after labor intensive gig, but I can only count the seconds by the shadows of trees rolling across my skin, the minutes through the sleepy blinking of my puppy, sprawled across from me in a sunspot, in a red bag, in my heart. I can do nothing, I am trapped like a still frame, in my helplessness, trusting that everything is alright ahead of me, and in the five days that passed without me... but the clinging awareness of the duality of time, and the precious awareness we gave to our play hasn't dissipated yet. It feels almost like I acquired the ability to choose the speed at which I perceive reality, like a camera lens, to shift the focus of my gaze at will, rather than being required to point my attention at things by someone else's order of importance. I AM a time machine. Time and space and the world wheel around MY center of gravity, like my limbs as I shift yoga poses around my core, from Downward Facing Dog to Warrior 1, before exploding into Warrior 2. Thou art God.

The world is the same as I left it, but completely new and different. We all move through time at different paces, meeting up with college friends and family members brings us back, we step out of time briefly to a gap toothed reality that is still present, depending on who's eyes we are looking through. Coming back to the city, it looks like how I always pictured Paris, the city of layers, nuances and reflections of the future and past colliding, constantly shifting depending on the time of day, the way the light hits it, who looks at it, and where they were in time when it moved them. We try to see time as a straight line, because it's simple and easier to pretend we understand, but Einstein's relativity and Heisenberg's uncertainty suggest we already know better. Time travel is a matter of definition. We do it constantly, we just haven't redefined our concept of time to match what we instinctively know. An artist I chatted with recently described a finished portrait as a lie, because we are such different things depending on whose eyes are holding us - I have been/am daughter, granddaughter, sister, lover, friend, ex girlfriend, coworker, steamroller, confidant, boss... and everyone I encounter sees me completely differently, so a single freeze frame, a time, a specific context, an expression captured is a fragment, a glimpse, a joke compared to the entirety of who we are as a complete person constantly moving forward in time.

I return to the city a tourist, curious about my own culture for the first time in a long while. The people and places that I have tuned out in anger or embarrassment or in a sense of being disconnected from their reason d'etre, the weight of digging into those reasons seemed so overwhelming, so I brushed past everyone on my way to work. But there is so much for me to learn from how individuals in my immediate local reason with their reality. Looking past southern or jersey accents, and what seem like mundane choices evolved from feelings of having limited options, generations and economic boundaries... there exists so much more meaning to be derived than I was ever aware of.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

and he tells me that maybe we used to be flint.

Once, during an exploratory meeting with another creative type, as we were discussing a potential partnership of sorts and researching warehouses for rent, I nonchalantly pulled out a painting I had done recently on a piece of wood and handed it over in lieu of a description of my work.  The painting was on a small square of 3/4'' plywood, taken from the shop I was working in, one of a million pieces of scrap used to shim up height variance in the building of platforms. 

In the dry spells between busy seasons, in the industrial district of Greenpoint (Brooklyn) one could almost see the comical tumbleweeds blow past, gray-green metaphorical shadows against the acidic spray paint colors shaming the walls around me, it was like the wild west, lonely and desolate and sometimes blisteringly hot. In the blinding, scraping nothingness of boredom, my awareness to the things I was blindly stacking and re-stacking, to keep busy, to avoid censure, suddenly shifted focus and I saw music, frozen into the surfaces around me, and emotive eyes, pure poetry looking up at me out of the rich textural grain from the massive amounts of sturdy sheets of wood being tossed into the dumpster every day. Little, practically worthless bits of wood, that I smuggled a handful of home like a bandit with a bag of diamonds became resonant and full of depth, after layers of varnish and the backsides of each, supple and soft from ruthless sanding, because the world is beautiful, and we have no respect for it, like Pocahontas mistaking corn for gold, like our own bodies, strong and resonant and capable, but we move through life too full of fear to express its full power, so we forget how to see it, or what it even looks like - the shape and texture of our uniquely human motive power. Those worthless bits of refuse were like the shining pieces of my soul, that were getting whittled away from the disregard, from disrespect, from the fact that in those old movies the sheriff is always dirty, and the law is often opposite of justice. Those pieces that I salvaged, that I could take home and buff away the splinters and the lies from, barely needed a hint of paint to be sodden with purpose and a potent extension of self. 

The other creative type, a carpenter with whom I was sharing this recent excavation of my soul with, could have had no idea how much that painting on that piece of wood meant to me. What it represented. So many people look at artwork face on, and it doesn't penetrate any of our other senses. The barriers of visual art keep us from reaching deeper into the craftsmanship, the meticulous care with which some of us strive to make a piece complete, and something about the remove makes me fiercely angry, because it is perpetually inaccessible. What is the point of any kind of expression, if it cannot truly breach the boundaries of perception? Why are we so afraid to touch each other, or to let ourselves be examined in return? Are we afraid of what others will see?

He took it from me, looked, appraised its visual appeal with his eyes, then rolled it around in his knowing, work-roughed hands. He flipped it over and felt the back, he looked at all sides of it, found value in it and acknowledged that as he handed it back to me. It was a moment, but it was my entire life, my soul and body's yearning to be handled and explored so specifically, respectfully as a whole, the front and the back, the hard and the soft parts. To be explored and witnessed, and accepted for what is there... by hands as sensitive and conscious as eyeballs. All the blemishes and scratches, down to the roots and the core, the structure underneath the shine, witnessed and accepted as valuable simply because I exist. 

He will never know what that meant to me, and my interactions with him are random and a bit strained due to the odd consistency of life (full of lumpy weird bits)... but I learned something about myself in those few seconds, like a sudden burst of clarity. There was no emotional exchange, yet the depth of sharing from myself that was given without fear or expectation, based on my innate knowledge that the product I had created was of value... became the most intimate exchange I've ever experienced. Like a caress to my deepest principles. He would never remember that tiny moment, but I saw it, and it meant something.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Eyes locked with a Cyclops dressed in Armani gear and high tops

Sometimes I wish I could just walk away from everything and busk my way through the underbelly of this city, living from handcrafted latte to latte, rich and thick as a meal, food for my soul and nothing else, my hands and body emanating ambiance, tapping, striking into the collective mood, and inspiring random emotional resonance in the rush of faces and days. A playlist for our lives.

Working so steady, the days repeating themselves, so painfully bland, 9 to 5, I miss being lost in the semi emotional trance of genius, walking at some brink in my brain that accesses a higher self, dips into some collective emotional truth that leaves me when the work is finished, and I am shocked by what I have created. It's a similar other, higher self that walks in my feet when I dance, rolling and riding the waves of my sexuality and the air is heavy with sound, and I am unable to stop until the music finally releases me.

I want to live in this state all the time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Hold me like a conversation

Door clicks shut. The instructor's voice cuts through the chatter, as rhythmic, pulsing music washes over the room, baptizing it, transforming the space and our bodies into a sacred space, a port in which to dock our souls, a respite from the pace of the city and our own obsessive feelings of inadequacy. We coalesce on our mats, torsos flowing, cascading over folded thighs, arms reaching and resting in supplication or prayer, stretching the skin of our ribs long and deliciously free. Something about sinking back, hips to heels, sinking into the floor in child's pose, and for the next hour of flowing and rippling, rooting and growing into our musculature and the sophisticated architecture of our bones becomes one liquid blur, like sinking into a hot bath and feeling your whole body yawn, open and loose. Turning our constant ingestion of information inwards, to listen to the silent screaming of our joints and the subtle relocation of ligaments and tendons wrapping muscle around bone, I could feel my soul sinking more deeply in. It finally made a commitment to itself, filling and expanding the space like my breathe filling my lungs, wrapping itself more truly in the crevasses and the wrinkles, getting lost in the striated cords of muscle fiber, impossible to know where inner self ends and physical self begins.

Like parallel existences overlapping in space, sometimes sinking into one's self like this feels like greeting a childhood friend from a hazy past, or a sibling you haven't been in contact with, with a strong sense of having lived a shared experience, but from two different points of view. Disparate, disconnected, but intimately knowledgeable about each other. 

But this time, it was different.

It was myself. I was me. And I was moving through space with gravity, with weight, not the lightness and noncommittal lack of being that is refracted light and projections, smoke and mirrors... but a solid connection between brain and body, material and immaterial. I am not a ghost any more.

The instructor closed the class with a quote:

'you must let go of the life you planned to live, to live the life that is waiting for you.'

Let go. I dare you.