Popcorn, pop, and candy bar in hand, I made my way into an empty theater while Jason parked the car. There are perks to watching a 4:30 matinee, and one of them is that you can dance in the aisle to the piped in Regina Specktor music as you try out every possible seating location. Come to think of it, there's nothing saying you can't dance in the aisles even if the theater is packed to the gills.
A little bit of strategy had to go into my seat selection. As much as I would have loved to believe that I had my own personal viewing room for the afternoon, I knew I could depend on the 4:35 stragglers to come in during the Coke commercial that preceeded 10 movie previews. If I were seeing a movie alone, I would head for the very back row. Theory being that the wall behind me can't answer its cell phone, ask its girlfriend what's going to happen next, or snap gum. With my husband along, an entirely different strategy was needed. He likes to sit way up front, chin darting up to the cieling while the actors on stage look like the spaceship in the opening credits of Star Wars. So I compromise and try to find something in the middle.
If you want any evidence that humans are a herd specieis, simply try to park your car far away from all the others in a parking lot or sit in a remote location in the movie theater. Chances are, you will become the pioneer of a small cluster of humanity that ignores dozens of other empty spaces. I can't say that I mind this, as long as the unspoken courtesies of movie etiquette are followed. There is something to sitting in the dark with several other people who are eager to get whisked away in a fabulous story that has its own charm. When it goes well, it's enchanting.
Heaven knows I have been in movie theaters where gummy bears faced martyrdom as they slid a painful dissent down the silk screen. I have had Coke flood the bottom of my shoes and soak the underside of my purse when the person behind me accidentally knocked over their drink. I have also been the priss who calls in the usher to get the person behind me to get off their stupid cell phone.
But today, I had already made my peace with the four other people in the theater. There were two single women who I doubted would make any noise at all. An elderly couple sat four or five rows behind me, and at worst, they might ask each other what had just happened in the last scene. Whatever chair squeek, cellophane crinkle, or poor attempt at whispering happened in the next two hours, I was ready to tune them out and simply enjoy the movie. Yes, after 18 months of rigorous meditation training, I'm sure my mentors would be thrilled to know that I am putting the ancient discipline of mind mastery to the enjoyment of feature films.
Today, the last straggler in was a man I had seen outside the movie theater talking loudly into his cell phone. I imagined he was talking to a friend, and he didn't seem to have his heart set on any particular movie as he blithly ripped off the times of each flick. Secretly, I hoped he wouldn't go to mine. I had nothing against him except the idea that his overflowing voice and personality counldn't be adequately contained in a movie theater for 100 minutes, and he and I were both fools to think otherwise.
Sure enough, he popped into the row directly in front of me just before the credits began. Turned out there was nothing I could fault him with. The only thing that stood out was his sheer enjoyment of every punch line and gag. A line that might deserve a chuckle got an enthusiastic knee slap as he doubled over in his seat, repeating the line to himself as he wiped his eyes, and said things like "That's rich!" "Too funny!" or "Hillarious!" It wasn't ironic - he geniunely was loving each and every line. But it had a unique effect. I realized you could focus on his over the top reactions and think they were out of place - too much for too little gag. In no time, it would be easy to be annoyed at his constant outbursts. The alternative was to let his laughter become infectious, and this worked pretty well. Sure, my husband and I noticed that he got up at least 3 times during the movie. My husband guessed he was supporting the drug habit that allowed him to giggle so easily. I decided to believe that in addition to enjoying the film so much, he didn't want to disturb others when his silent vibrating cell phone went off. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
I've been blown to pieces by Allende's House of the Spirits, which has reminded me repeatedly why writing matters, to me, and what role it can at best play in the evolution and maturation of the human spirit.
My good friend Mukoma has often chided me, You Have Issues, Kenyon. You Don't Trust Your Imagination. You Have To Finish Your Shit. I knew simultaneously that a) he was on to something, and b) that imagination has never been an issue for me.
It occured to me for the first time this morning, in a Krishnamurti breakthrough moment, that it's my Words I do not trust... that I've been seeking some impossibly poetic perfection for what should really just be flying out of my fingertips at least several hours per day. Enough said.
Two good friends of mine are sailing south tomorrow morning, bound for the Carribean. Mamalinda mentioned more than once she wanted me to come out and bless the boat before they left.
It bears explanation at this point that I performed the wedding ceremony for her golden child, TKO, and one of my oldest dearest friends, Raquelita, in Charlotte one year ago May. This entire crew refers to me with some irony as The Good Reverend, which shortens nicely to TGR in written form.
Around 4:30 I hit the road, drove east to the marina on the St. Croix, where I parked the Full Monte and got into TKO & Raquelita's Lexus, and promptly placed myself in the hands of the GPS lady. She was smooth as hell and never steered me wrong, through endless sunlit golden cornfields and along the ever widening river, through a half dozen small towns and past innumberable bikers cruising & drinking in legion throughout the region. When I arrived two hours later at the appointed place, T & R met me with a cold glass of champagne and warm hugs.
They took me out on the docks to Mamalinda & the Captain's boat, which I'd spent one relaxing day upon a couple weeks before. Captain had replaced a part that day, which I asked about. "Is that an underwater job?"
"No," he said. "Do you want to see?"
"Sure," I said, "Unless you'd rather just relax." Captain was already opening the floor hatch. I followed him down the step ladder once he clicked on the light below. Crouching room only, he showed me the part he'd replaced, a fat rubber gear with long teeth which had lost its gripping capacity. The notion of losing one's grip (via an Avril Lavigne lyric) occurred to me just then, and it struck me as a reasonably apt way of evaluating mental health. At what point do we have, or not have, a grip on ourselves, our situations? The question too is raised as to when we must loosen our grip (Lavigne's album is titled Let Go) vs. clinging to expectations; the 2nd Noble Truth is, of course, Expectation is the root of our suffering.
Captain pointed out that a particular hose was going out, where a certain belt was a bit looser than he liked, and when I asked, explained that he'd loosen xyz bolts and pry a certain framework outward to increase the tension. He gave me a brief tour of the diesel generator, the three house batteries, and the AC/DC/AC converter which enabled one to run things like refrigerators and hair dryers without running the generator 24/7. All this in a relatively warm crawl space, but the man was a fountain of knowledge, and I am always interested in his perspective.
Up above, TKO asked "What'd you think of the engine room?"
"Cool," I said. "In a warm kind of way."
Mamalinda and the Captain took us out for dinner. Two musicians played guitar and keyboard and sang outside a nearby cafe; a couple or two danced on the sidewalk while the rest of us awaited tables or enjoyed the warm summer evening.
Afterward, we returned to the boat. The blessing had been mentioned, but things were winding down. There wasn't going to be any kind of group ceremony going down; we are not by dynamic a spiritual clique, but I did get a strong sense that I should go to the foredeck, which I did.
Up there the air was cool and the stars glistening, and I understood immediately it was them I'd be addressing. Overcome with emotion, I simply said, Stars, I know I've been asking you for a lot lately, but you've come though every time, so I just have to ask you to help protect this boat.
And the musicians back up the hill, outside the restaurant, were seriously playing some extraordinarily solemn and churchy music. I'm more a natural than a stained glass mystic, but everything aligned in this energetic and solid way. I went to the railing, touched the ropes and felt that they were solid. This boat is solid, I knew. It doesn't need my blessing. It's aligned with the fucking stars.
"Reverend, you ready to go?" asked Raquelita, out on the dock. I was.
Up at the car, Mamalinda and the Captain said their goodbyes to R & T & their granddaughter Mia. When I shook the Captain's hand, he said, "Well, your blessing must have worked, cause if I hadn't noticed that hose was going, I'd have been in a world of trouble further down the line."
I turned 31 last week. It's sort of one of those very adult birthdays. Too adult. Like you should go and buy yourself some shredded wheat or something.
Staying put for as long as I have is making me sooooo itchy. Not that I have any real idea of where to run off to or how to get my very responsible professor husband to play hookie. So of course I'm trying to find the legitimate reasons for my escape. I need to do an MFA (no - I probably don't). Yes I do! I do! I do! I do! (Why?) Cause I can walk around Greenwhich Village dressed as a post-millennium copy-cat hippy. (A+ on the originality) And I must write!!! Dammit!! Write I say!!!!! The art is calling me!!! (And you can't do that where you are because . . .?) There are cows and horses looking at me. I need to suffer in the city. (Doubtful.) Are you questioning my muse!!! She will not take that! No she won't!!! (yes, I'm Irish, one of the only two nationalities in the world singled out by psychologists as the most likely to suffer from schizophrenia. And to boot - I have the other nationality on my mom's side! Seriously, I'm not schizophrenic. Herbie the 7 foot purple hamster I live with would have told me so.)
So I'm chatting with my friend last night telling her about my scheme to get my 4th degree (Hello, my name is Kaye, and I can't stop signing up for shit). Her response: Kaye . . . meet Fun. Fun . . . Kaye. Her point? I often find the hard way to loosen up. True, I'm a nerd. A ridiculously focused nerd who can be a little too snobbish in what she finds "interesting." Phooey.
And part of me wonders if I am not avoiding the embrace of a new turn in life. After a decade worth of proving myself, I am being offered the top slots like "director" of work projects, "creator" of educational content, and even the person who gets to teach meditators how to teach meditation to novices. If I'm an addict for anything, it's the open realm of possibilities, and maybe my inner twitchiness comes from the idea that my path is getting a little more defined. It's kind of like when you endlessly flirt with someone, egging them on to notice you - and then they do, and you go - oh, right, that's so, ummm, great.
But the truth is, one of the only definitions I am happy to take in life is the title of writer. Hell, even the guy who drives the Oscar Meyer hotdog truck can call himself "Director of Mobile Meat Snacks" (and that's no diss on the Oscar Meyer hotdog truck man). But saying you are a writer means you write. And I am very, very insistent that I stay a writer. Even if, like now, I take a break from the writing (itty bitty break, I swear) - I. AM. A.WRITER. Hear me roar. This isn't just ego talking. The writing is what I love. It's scary as shit. And really, to get the job done, you sit your ass in a chair, write, and keep up with great writing. There's another topic - Define "great" writing. I'd rather not right now. I'll just stick with what I know. If anyting, I think I need to maybe stick my fingers in my ears and go "la! la! la! la! la!!!" But I'm a sucker for a community of like-minded artisits. Did I mention my friend has also pointed out that I am a relentless idealist?
About a month ago, KDawg was talking about lilacs. Interesting because these are my father's favorite springtime bouquet, and one that makes him very melancholy. Me, a whif of the lilacs fading into the heady green of a wet summer makes me restless. As my father would say - it is still spring afterall.
campus for the past two weeks. Bruce was my partner on these runs,
and riding shotgun, he twice warned me when pedestrians to my right
were about to walk/run right out in front of the (accelerating) truck.
Once it was a student (okay, ipods, springtime, finals, etc),
but the other time it seemed to be three University faculty
basically double-timing into the path of this obviously accelerating
Bruce & I reflected on how strange it was that in some parts of the world,
you have to be on the lookout because someone might rob or kill you
(for your car, possessions, or political beef)-- while in places like this,
you have to maintain utter vigilance because people might actually run out
and kill themselves beneath the wheels of your truck.
It is also interesting to note that in the first example,
your jackers & guerilla assassins are among the most
desperate people on earth (economically, legally, politically).
In the second case we have students and faculty so utterly assured
of their survival that they see no need to acknowledge the existence
of moving motor vehicles, much less other human beings.
All that aside, this was a good two weeks.
The delivery truck rocked, the pallet jacks & I eventually became friends,
and the vast majority of students and faculty did not wander out in front
of us as we ran our daily routes.
I scored copies of The AP Style Manual,
Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels,
Mardsden's Understanding Fundamentalism & Evangelicalism,
& Lakoff's Don't Think Of An Elephant!
Looking forward to digging into these--
though first I need to blaze through the second half of
Rushkoff's Coercion. It's on loan from a friend,
& I'll be heading to Madison for the summer soon.
Impossible shards of starlight
we tear across the face of creation
ever skeptical of the Whole
from which we exploded
so many forevers ago
When Wave & Particle fell in love
& had such wonderful sex
that they had trillions of children
& as they watched their tiny beloveds
spiraling luminous out into the infinite
they glistened with pride
naming every last one of them
We had what seemed a forest of these when I was three...
deep purple & lavender, bright white & everything in between.
They still smell like Life to me.
There was a writer of some kind on NPR this morning,
wheezing on about the lilacs for what seemed like forever.
In all honesty, poetry & lilacs are two of my all-time favorite things,
but after three minutes of telling myself this was somehow poetry
(while miniature kittens played the needle-sharp claws game
on the chalkboard of my inner ear), I had to break out the headphones.
Bon Jovi's Runaway exploded, instantly synchronizing a million
yowling brain waves into a singular harmonious flow.
(Say what you like about Bon Jovi; they have brought into the world
a number of musical moments which, if one is willing to actually listen,
are likely to rock one's face off.)
The line in this track that slays me is--
No one heard a single word you said
They should have seen it in your eyes
What was going 'round your head...
And I'm reminded of friends-- and women in particular--
who grew up in homes with idealogical frameworks so stringent
that it took them decades to reach the outside world.
The three women I think of off the top of my head
are as bright, beautiful, creative and resilient as anyone
I've ever met. Moreso.
What takes some people through hell brighter than ever?
What buries others, and resigns millions to Thoreau's quiet desperation?
Real Gold Does Not Fear The Fire
titles Sifu Ray Hayward's biography of Grandmaster Wai Lun Choi,
suggesting the rest of the saying, only the impurities are burned away.
For the past couple of days I've been making the morning & afternoon deliveries
for the warehouse that supplies the University bookstores.
They're having a sidewalk sale on campus, and there's hundreds
of boxes of sweatshirts and pants and keychains we drop off in the morning
& pick back up in the afternoon.
Well today it started raining like a MF tsunami.
I could hear rain drumming on the warehouse skylights high above.
Ravenous, I put on my perennial hoodie/flannel jacket,
grabbed my bag & headed out to lunch.
One of the office ladies was blocking the doorway,
talking on her cellphone, watching it pour.
She didn't look up; just leaned there bullshitting
between me and lunch. This was insanity.
"Excuse me," I said.
"Oh," she said, stepping aside.
"Thank you," I said, pushing through the door.
A metallic ca chunka clack gave way to a rush of rain.
"You're going out in that?"
"Yep," I say, flipping up my hood, running down the stairs.
It looks and sounds like there's more water than air.
I begin to wonder which of my electronics might electrocute me
on the 15-foot walk to my car.
Inside the Monte, the door slams shut, cutting off the rain.
It's dry in here but I am wet. The lady had a point. I'm not dressed for this kind of rain.
The cellphone rings.
"K-- it's Cal," says my manager. "We need the truck out here-- it's pouring."
"Now?" I ask.
"Yes, now, please. Take Mike."
"Mike took off."
"He's on lunch," I said.
"He's in the lunch room," said Cal.
"Oh right," I say. "We'll be right there."
Mike was salty about losing the last five minutes
of his lunch break, & me, I'm thinking--
Shit is getting rained on, man-- the captain needs us!
Out loud I say, "I'll meet you out at the truck."
When he finally came out he was wearing a
yellow rain slicker, which is admittedly wayTF better
than the hoodie/flannel in rain, but by then the rain
had more or less given up.
So we bounced down the road in this loud ass diesel
monster of a delivery truck. This is my second day
driving; it's the biggest thing you can drive
without a CDL, and the MF gives me perma-grin.
So we bump the truck up over the curb (which is apparently
acceptable) & park on the sidewalk.
The rain has stopped. Out in front of the student center,
Cal and another manager survey the damage, draping back
crackling plastic sheeting off t-shirts & sweat-pants in various stages
of wet, cradled in soggy cardboard boxes.
We stand around contemplating whether to take down the sale
& load it up, or whether that blue patch over there is in fact
the end of the rain, in which case maybe the sun would
just dry everything out. To what degree were these items doomed
to stank of cardboard? Would they dry out in the truck overnight
or would that just seal the wetness in?
Only in academia. We're trying to get people on the phone.
Still, it's stopped raining, and students are once again browsing,
holding up the dampened University gear for a better look.
"Erin would know," I say.
Hell, she deals with every one of these products,
and picks up things like climbing & kayaking
for the simple pleasure of passing the knowledge &
experience on to others. She'd tell us what to do with
these soggy ass sweat pants in a NY minute.
This does not address Cal's fundamental question, which is more like,
"Why do we have all this wet & potentially ruined product on our hands,
and how do we prevent this from ever happening again?"
It must be pointed out here that Cal is the nicest possible guy.
He's a fair manager and an intellectual in the truest sense;
once a quandary of significance presents itself, the pursuit of its
absorbs his full attention.
Eventually the sun breaks through. Mike & I climb back up into the truck,
fire up the beast, then clunk clunk down off the curb, roaring out over the wet
& pot-holed pavement on our way back to the warehouse.
BTW Kaye I'm so glad you mentioned it
because Grandma asked me about crystal meth once too,
& I'd completely forgotten this.
I remember saying something to the effect of--
"Well, it's like cocaine, but it lasts a lot longer,
& people can basically make it in their bathtubs
instead of flying it all the way in from Colombia.
Plus it's super addictive and is decimating a lot
of rural areas."
I may have then gone into something re: friends who'd kicked meth
back in the summer of 95 in Monterey (there's an angel in that story,
but we'll come back to that one later), and somehow tied that to the
current meth epidemic.
And my folks are there listening, and there's this silence during which
I realize my explanation of crystal meth might have been too raw for the
family/third-ring suburban setting.
"Because I hear about it all the time on the news,"
says Grandma, "and me, I don't know the first thing about it.
I figure you kids get out more than I do," she says, laughing
with a wave to the world outside her patio door.