Friday, July 8, 2016
Nathan's Famous Hotdog Eating Contest - July 4th, 2016
I have been supervising the staging build of this monstrosity since 2011, except for last year, when I didn't need the money and ditched it a week before it went up. That has been my 4th of July ever since I moved to nyc, and it seems too sharply on point as popular event/commentary on the de-evolution of what America was supposed to stand for, once upon a dream.
Some of my boys from my first steel shop arrived to supervise with me, the richness of their love for me outshone the nature of the event. One of my favorite people in the world, my shadow brother, wide and dark and stronger than anyone I know - taught me an enormous amount about the physical world and the laws of physics, I still wear his fearlessness with steel, I think about it every single day. In our current cultural climate, I am afraid for him, his big, beautiful blackness, for his wife and children who are loved by this bright human being. Once, years ago at the shop, he came back late from grabbing lunch, because he was stopped outside of the Chinese restaurant to be patted down by bored cops under the premise of a robbery nearby - apparently he fit the description, but he knows they stop black guys regularly with excuses while they check their backgrounds to hopefully snag someone over peanuts. Like me, he hasn't ever smoked, is pure and good, we are even the same age, born weeks apart - but he has already been held at gunpoint by cops more than I will ever be stopped by a cop and questioned for my existence on a city street. He lives the dystopian reality white people have been writing about for decades.
I am strong, but only as long as the adrenaline is coursing through my body, in those moments where my Meyers briggs type flips from INTJ to ENTJ, extroversion as a necessary mechanism to function at the level that comes so easy for him. For a lot of them, actually. I'm convinced none of them would recognize me if my system weren't flooded w that adrenaline. It's taken a long time for me to realize that I may be taking someone else's place in the labor world and leaving vacant the place where I should be, utilizing those things that come naturally to me as well. To realize what I have to give is important too, and denying that expression IS a rejection of self. Watching my friend move, I am stung, as always by his ability to move his weight through the air with such grace compared to my clunky ineptness. Seeing his face across Surf Avenue, I can read his frustration with the other guys. I swing in to work with him, to show the other guys how its supposed to work, and I notice in my hands the familiar lightness of objects when we are working together. The ground moves through him, I now realize. He radiates the support of the earth underneath his feet out through his hands, which is why he can fly through the air, and up on to the back of the truck like its nothing, his weight. Maybe he doesn't even know the nature of his gift, this resonant rock, transubstantiating ground to a force that flows through him into the relationships around him - but it has dawned on me, clear as day.
After two days of flipping decks and tossing screw jacks and unloading and reloading carts of pipe and crates of scaffolding clips, waking up is rough. Walking to the dog park, my low back is so tight my pelvis can't move, and since it can't shift around the ball of my thigh bone, the connections on the outer edges of the hip joint are screaming as simply walking asks the joint to overextend itself on one side of the relationship, struggling to articulate from the frozen mass of my pelvis. The movement travels up my body and leaks out via a sway of the shoulders. The shape I make echoes a traditional masculine gesture, a walk that is associated with power, strength, intimidation. This is how I naturally move when walking alone at night, losing the feminine glide of pelvic halves sliding with and around the thigh bone - the lumbering and stone like expression sends a message to would be assailants, much like stances signal aggression from one dog to another.
I was trapped in that shape. I see now how so many of the aging men I know in the labor industry have developed their ways of maneuvering. How joints fall apart after a lifetime of accommodating a self induced lack of mobility, and in the familiarity of that shape, we have formed a stereotype, a flavor, a style of man and movement, and I am trapped inside of that shape - suddenly all I can see is the damage it is doing. I don't feel strong anymore, I feel crippled.
Patterns are important, because they streamline processes, so the body can move faster and more efficiently - but the patterns I have when dealing with weight are useful in the short term due to their familiarity, but damaging in the long game. Seeing my future flash in front of my eyes, I reach back to the beginning, with my spine. Since all I can hear is the groaning of my back body, I look instead for the shadow, listening for what is silent. Walking with my dog, I locate a sense of the front of my spine, trying to shift where movement is emanating from - almost instantly my low back lets go and my pelvic halves feel individuated, begin to wrap around thigh bone. Chasing that awareness in both directions, I feel for the first time the front side of my sacrum, and as I follow the front of my upper spine, my shoulder blade release, sliding forward. My back is quiet.
I still can't fully extend my left elbow, and the fingers of my right hand refuse to extend past anatomical neutral and send pain shooting up my forearm, but at least I can walk without my lower back screaming. It takes constant vigilance to keep looking for the sense of the front of my spine in daily movement, but the back pain is a quick reminder to look inward, to invite the front of my spine into the conversation so it isn't like living inside of a constant monologue of having my back up, a chip on my shoulder, a lonely soldier, a shield protecting the soft insides. Its an invitation for the rest of my body to experience supporting itself, for all of me to be strong, not just the outside edges - like thick skinned fruit that draws predators due to its energy packed sweet soft insides. If the rest of me is involved, my back doesn't have to go it alone, but since that's all I've known, it is an arduous task to keep that invitation open.
On the train, I think a lot about force traveling through the body, I think a lot about my friend and his fluid relationship to supportive contact, the idea of transmitting the support of the ground up through the body - and it quickly becomes clear that I freeze my shoulder blades the way I freeze my pelvis with an all consuming back body response, which asks the head of my arm bone to overarticulate which causes pain I feel almost every day, and the remedy is the same. When I find the front of my spine while holding the bars on the train, my shoulder blade shifts and I can feel the relationships that allow for the force in my hand to reach my spine, to flow down to the sacrum and split, pass down my legs and out of my feet. It's a glimmer, but I get it.
I've had strange and intense experiences over the past year, studying the body - first I woke up to a fierce vibration flooding the length of my spine, almost to the point of calling out for help, except it wasn't painful as much as deeply stimulating - as well as weird electric zaps between my shoulder blades and along my body. Last night I woke up to a humming electricity, but instead of just my spine, there was a clear line of energy along all of my limbs. I felt like a Pisces symbol sculpted in neon. It flickered on and vibrated softly like flourescents flipped on by a light switch. The phrase that popped into my head was 'coming online'. In the light of day those words remind me of local networks being connected globally. It felt like I must be glowing in the dark, like I was a character in TRON.
The picture shifted, or maybe access to the light I was using to look at it with - everything just got a little clearer.