Tag Archives: art

“You Meet Me Down On: Heartattack and Vine”

This is an ode to you, my Holly:  

You’re looking quite glorious this morning — all decked out in sunlight so bright it appears hazy; with your birds going bonkers in trees, as if they’re still coked-out of their little heads since 2 a.m., once you closed your clubs and bolted shut your dive bars.  And if it weren’t for the frequent sirens (those fuckers woke me up today!), I could pretend I lived somewhere like paradise.  Or the Greek Isles.  But only until I step out — out and into — letting you hit me with your tales of humanity, my Holly, of which you have galore.  

You weren’t so easy to fall in love with, my Holly; and it doesn’t really make me cool to fess up to it. 

It is much cooler to dig New York.  Because New York always treats you like an arrogant lover to whose skills in the sack you find yourself quickly addicted; confusing all that lust, and all those hormones — and its reeking fluids — for love.  But when it doesn’t work out with New York, you are sure to find another brokenhearted with the same addiction.  Then, you can all hang your heads over your drinks at a random dive bar — in Holly — and share your scars.

With you, my Holly, it’s different.  You are much quicker to reveal your armpits and your glitz.  You’re such an exhibitionist!  But it took some serious hanging with you and more patience than I knew to possess to discover the pockets of those tribes and ‘hoods to which I didn’t mind belonging. 

And so:  This is an ode to you, my Holly!

To the jingling sound with which you tickled my ears yesterday, at one of your art spaces.  It was so dainty and arhythmic, I was sure it belonged to a lovely, fragile installation I just had to see.  But when I looked around for the source, I found it on the ankles of a tiny girl-child, in the arms of her Indian mother.  So intensely was my stare, the young mother got startled at first.

“She’s lovely,” I said; nodded and quickly walked on by.

The woman relaxed and smiled.  “It’s alright.  She’s brown.  She’s ‘one of us’,” she must’ve thought, of me.

Oh, Holly! 

It surely helped that you’ve found my skin color so perfectly democratic from the start:   Smoothly, I become “one of them,” “ethnically ambiguous,” or just “not from around here” — depending on whom you ask.  To my comrades visiting from Beverly Hills, I am “sort of white” — but mostly “spiritual”.  Next to a brown man, I am his “hot Brazilian girlfriend”.  But really, it’s the Chicanos and their gorgeous, curvy brown girls that dig me the most:  Somehow, they know I’m not above their strife, not too far off from their survival.  And the further in crawls your long summer — the darker I get — the more I become “one of them”.  And it is just my fucking luck it’s more fashionable to be “exotic” anyway, around here.  Around you, these days.  

A balding, sadly aging museum guard with a blubbery body absorbed me with his wet eyes, yesterday.  No way he could ever afford a girl like me; and if he happened to touch her, she could only tempt him from behind the screen of his computer.  Or from a stripper pole, at a safe distance.  When I looked at him, he freaked, turned away and adjusted his crotch.

“Don’t look now, mister,” I thought at the back of his clammy bald spot, “but you’re standing right in between DIVORCE and REAL HUMAN HAIR.”  (They were signs that some artist found ironic enough to replicate and hang onto the wall that the sadly aging man was guarding — but for not enough money to afford a girl like me.  The irony — worked.)

“She’s brown.  She’s ‘one of them’,” he must’ve thought; and when I granted him the last profile of my face, he turned away and adjusted his crotch — again.

Oh, Holly!

I am anonymous, like the hundreds of your graffiti artists that tag your skin with their marks.  My markings are not as well distributed yet (my publicist sucks!); but I too prefer to blend in, moving in between your demographics, collecting my stories when no one is looking, often in the dark. And once the mission is accomplished, I walk away with enough surrender to not have to sweat about what’s going to happen to my work.  Because, once I’ve found what I dig in life — humanity, of which you, my Holly, have galore! — patience comes as easily as breathing.

I am content with being your next Bukowski, hanging with you long enough to see your other layers (not necessarily pretty or dignified, but always relevant) and drooling at your girls:  Yesterday’s stunning Filipino creature in a tiny, ruffly skirt with strategically placed beauty marks all over her face.  The funky Harajuku girls who stormed past me with their fashions and smells and chatter, making me grin moronically and confusedly.  The African princess on your subway with a wide wrist band of faded gold who played with the ringlets of her hair for the three very short stops.  The young Mexican girl accompanying her awkward, unknowing boy who granted me a tiny nod:

“Aren’t you brown?  You must be ‘one of us’!”

This is an ode to you, my Holly; to your being so many things, depending on where I look, how long I hang, and whom I ask — sort of like me. 

You are sort of like me:  democratic, and anonymous, and not above the strife.  You’re “one of them” when I find you discomforting, “one of us” — when you reveal something I don’t mind poking.  Or jotting down, leaving my mark. 

Strangely, against all fashion, I’m into.  Into you.  I’m into your people.  And as I continue to walk your streets — so strange, worn-out, used-up, repaired; tagged and marked-up; not necessarily pretty or dignified but always poignant — I offer my ode to your humanity, of which, my Holly, you have galore.

And so:  This is an ode to you, my Holly…

“Inhale, Exhale… Hold Up, Wait a Minute!”

“All you have to do to be a miracle — is breathe.”  

Who said that?

Here is the thing with me this morning, my comrades; here is the thing:

Defeatists make me lose my hard-on, for life!

Because no matter my own chaotic, insane; perpetually hysterical or complicated; difficult or impossible to decipher mindset, I tend to march around this kinky town while daring to have a stubborn enthusiasm for some good livin’. 

“What?!” you might snap.  “You call yourself a Russian?!”

Well, here is the thing, here is the thing:  Yes, there is an inherited quality to my former nation’s character to be dark (and perhaps, to be simultaneously or accidentally poignant, thank goodness).  And yes, Motha Russia is a continent full of old souls nostalgic for their lost innocence.  And finally, yes:  No other nationality seems to beat us at our love for death.  Because in death, we no longer suffer, da?

But the other national quality of my former motha’land — is an ingrained desire for some stubborn livin’ (not necessarily good livin’ — but livin’ nonetheless).  Be it an incredible vastness or beauty of my Motha Russia; but the variety of its scenery makes our old souls want to howl at the moon, with desire.  Or is it love?  Or wanting to take in one more breath — because in it, there still may be some hope?  (One of my favorite thinkers o’er there once identified this quality as “godliness”.)  Da:  Motha Russia — is one gorgeous motha’fucker; and she makes you want to live.

“You are an artist:  You CANNOT be a defeatist!” 

Who said that?

On this 175th day of my rant blogging, my thoughts on the meaning of art appear to be better formulated.  (They better be, da?)  This year, I’ve had a slew of mouth-foaming arguments on the definition of art and who exactly identifies it as such; and what makes it last; and whether or not art makes any difference at all.

And here is the thing, there is the thing:  I believe that art — is in the eye of the beholder.  And yes, it does indeed have the power to change a mind, a mood, and maybe even, to change a heart.  But making a difference — cannot be an artists’ objective.  Or at least, it cannot be this artist’s objective.  Because I live — in the very doing of it.  It is the process of creation that turns me on.  Kinda like breathing.

Because in it, there still may be some hope, da?

Which must be why the mandatory discipline of it comes to me with such ease.  As for its sacrifices — they merely add inches to my writerly dick.  ‘Cause here is the thing, here is the thing:  I could take an easier route; perhaps, get myself one of those nine-to-five gigs, excel at it and settle for a more mundane survival.  Maybe, I could play it up a bit on weekends or live vicariously through my affairs with men.  And eventually, I could start raping other dreamers with my skepticism, hating them for reminding me of my own unhappening ambitions.  And I could wait for my death.  Because in death, we no longer suffer, da?

“And that is exactly where defeatism must dwell:  Wherever the soul surrenders its dreams.”

Who said that?

“Man, I hate this fucking town!” a comrade I hadn’t heard from for months was venting to me last night.

I got his spiel.  Really, I did.  I was’t even judging.  Because I too have faced some challenges in this city and allowed my inability or fear to expand beyond the difficulty of the moment; then, blame the entire city for it.  Because here is the thing, here is the thing:  LA-LA is one of the most common scapegoats for personal failures.  Here, the defeated equal the dreamers.  (But oh, how I have always wished for the defeated to move on; to return home or to leave for better suitable cities!  But for whatever geographical reasons, they stay, making this — the capital of defeat.  So:  Thank goodness for its dreamers. Because in them, there still may be some hope, da?)

Last night, I tried to work with the brother, trying to convince him out of his hatred:

“Yeah, but look at all these things you have accomplished!”  I strained my memories of our rare encounters for any recollections of his pursuits.  Sadly, there were none.  None that I could remember.  Yet, still, somehow, in this man’s occasional sweetness and simplicity — in his mere breathing — I saw some hope.

But he was on the roll by then:  “I mean:  There are no jobs here!  And the women are shit, and…”  He wasn’t even listening.

I studied his face and wondered what had brought him here in the first place, to this city shared by dreamers and the defeated alike.  Surely, there had to be a plan, a vision; or perhaps, a former love.  And what made him stay here, long enough to immerse into the pool of such bitterness and self-pity?

“So?  What are you up to?” he had exhausted himself with his monologue and politely remembered that I was still there.  He wasn’t a complete goner, I suppose.  Not yet.

But no way!  No way was I going to tell him of my dreams, still in the making; of my art — still in the happening.

Because here is the thing, here is the thing:  I believe that art — is a celebration of life.  It’s a celebration of livin’, not necessarily good livin’ but still:  Livin’!  Stubborn livin’ in pursuit of love, in pursuit of hope — all of which must live in the very next breath; in the very doing of it.  And it is this very pursuit that makes my livin’ — a good one.  And good livin’ — is a celebration of the miracle that is self.

Who said that?

Pretty. Little. Liar.

“Because there are enough lies in life, 

so you better be in control of your own fiction.” 

“But I didn’t know that I loved her!  Not after she left!”

The night before, this man had challenged me to a writerly duel:  to commemorate a story of a woman whose departure he regretted the most, in his life.  He slouched on a high chair outside of a club filled with pretty honeys galore.  With his black, dense Persian hair in a cloud from his own cigarette, he hung that head low, frowned, avoiding my eyes, and confessed his loss of that one woman — the one that every man must have in order to become a man; the one that has changed his heart, for good — for the better! 

The following day, after my words had been published, he rang me up immediately, to justify his truth.  He must’ve sobered up a bit:

“You wrote that I loved her!” he objected to my story, seemingly irritated.

“Didn’t you?”

“I mean, well, I did.  I did!  I did, but I didn’t know I did.  I didn’t know I did until, you know, she left me.”

Oh, c’mon!  Don’t give me this shit!

It was my turn to be irritated.  The truth, in actuality, was a lot more brutal than I made it sound:  “A first lesson in the fragility of love and the preternatural cowardice of men” (Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao).  In my writing, I had been forgiving to his one crucial fault, never calling him any low name, never scolding for the lapse of his better nature.  Yes, I would side with the woman — that one, that good one, like me! — that has changed his heart for the better.  For good!  On behalf of her truth, I had written that day’s rant blog; even though she had left long ago, in pursuit of an even better truth.  On behalf on her truth and of my own, I’d spoken — because I too had just left a man that “did and did, and didn’t know, didn’t know he did”.  Fuck you, I thought:  It’s MY fiction!

“But you wrote he was all that — ‘holding his own’,” another reader — my brother who’d always changed me for good, for the better — was saying soon after my own break-up.

I had rung him voluntarily, for some truth; because I had been digging around for it, desperately.  Perhaps he would know, I thought, what had gone wrong in my love, before I left it.  Perhaps, he could’ve seen the signs while its truth was still happening.

“Well, truthfully,” my brother confessed, “he didn’t.  He did NOT ‘hold his own’.”

Brutal.

But fuck you, I thought:  My lover was MY fiction.  How else was I supposed to be in love — but all in, despite the other player’s truths, more obvious to others than to me?  Yes, we all do this:  We fall in love with the wrong people, ignore the signs, go out on the limb and lose ourselves; only to go scrambling for truth later.  And yes, I had done it again — for love, for good.  For the better. 

Sometimes, the choice is clear:  To alter the truth to fit the story.  Other times, the split between truth and actuality is not even visible.  Because the truth — is a matter of an experience.  It’s an opinion.  Because no artist creates for the sake of THE truth — we create for the sake of OUR truth.  The way we see it, perceive it (and it’s all very specific):  The way.  The truth.  Happens.  To US.

So, last night, when I got inside an elevator with three middle-aged men breathing down my neck — and down my backless dress — I gave jack shit about their truth.  They could’ve been in town and in this fancy hotel for a vacation with their families.  They could’ve been each in the midst of their very happy marriages, with healthy kids in college and their own college sweethearts sleeping dreamily in their beds that they wouldn’t have to make in the morning, for a change.  They could’ve been sweet and clumsy — good men slightly discombobulated by the presence of my brazen sexuality and of that goddamn backless dress.

They could’ve been, but last night — they weren’t!  All three rode down with me, from the Penthouse to the garage, and they flirted, unapologetically:

“Come on in,” one of them held the doors, waiting for me to join them.  “You’re in for some trouble!”

“Am I?”

The doors closed.  It was just the four of us:  Me, in my goddamn backless dress, and three middle-aged men in the midst of their dissatisfactory marriages, in town for their conferences, their infidelity, on the hunt to satisfy their mid-life crises.  (See how it’s done?)

“We’ve been watching you all night,” another one said.  I wasn’t sure which one of them was speaking; because for the entire ride down, I would be facing out, giving them the full view of my exposed back — and not a sliver of fucking hope!

“Have you?” I said over my shoulder, turning my head just far enough to be seen, but not far enough to see.

“We have!  We have!” the third one chimed in, spraying me with his drool.  “You were texting viciously on your phone and crossing and uncrossing those long legs of yours.”

“Was I?”  I had decided to give them as little as I possibly could.  But then there was that goddamn backless dress!

“You were…” one lingered, and I could feel the shivers of disgust bounce down my spine like pearls of a broken necklace.

“You were doing a little Sharon Stone act.”

They laughed.  Brutal.

Yes, these men could’ve been sweet and clumsy — good men, slightly discombobulated by my presence.  But TRUTH be told:  They weren’t!  And I had already forgiven them for their faults.  I hadn’t called them by some low names, scolding them for the lapses of their better nature.  But I was sure that they would reappear in my words — my fucking fiction! — and I wouldn’t even need to alter the truth to fit the story.

“But you wrote…”

Just a few weeks ago, my own former scorned lover would ring me up and give me a laundry list of all the untruths he had to object to.  But truth be told:  Fuck you, I thought!  My life — is MY fiction! 

But God Bless the Child That’s Got Her Own

“I want…  I want…  What is it that I want?” she was squeezing herself into the corner of a vintage, peach-colored chair that couldn’t have been a better throne to her feminine divinity.

She scanned her eyes across the tiny room she’d made her home, as if the answer were somewhere around there:  Was it under this tiny bed that she’d surrounded with her art and nature?  Or had it fallen out of these mismatching picture frames in various degrees of hanging on and leaning against the walls, as if Frida Kahlo herself had been living, working, pacing here?  Had she slipped it, by a forgetful accident, into the unfinished pack of cigarette on her windowsill — the only visible sign of her insomnia and self-destruction, committed in the name of the departed, then turned back into her art; her nature.

“I want to be adored!  Because I — I adore!”

This entire evening I had been watching this face — and all that hair — and her gentle grace; and I had been wondering:  Was I just like this, in my own youth?  Or did I possess more corners:  All anxiety about my self-sufficiency and my self-enough-ness?

I’ve arrived here from a harder history, you see.  For centuries, it had been unforgiving to our women’s youth and tenderness.  Back where I came from, we worshiped our men, but only behind the closed doors of our bedrooms.  For the rest of the day, it was a nation filled with female fighters, women-survivors –hustlers — who assumed enemies in every living soul (especially other women, younger and more tender) and who are most content when standing in breadlines.

But by now, I had paid my dues around here.  I had suffered and survived the often ungraceful — and sometimes undignified — existence of an immigrant.  I had done my share of standing in different lines to get approved as worthy; only to rush myself back to the university library and learn at double the speed, just so that I could be more than that:  Just so I could be equal.  And I worked.  I worked hard, harder than most of my colleagues, American or foreign-born, like me.  And only behind the closed doors of my bedroom would I worship my men:  For the rest of the day, I was just an Amazon, refusing to let them in on any of my softness.

“I want to be adored,” she repeated, then looked in my direction.  Had I seen it laying around her artist’s quarters, by any chance:  This adoration that she deserved and was willing to return ten-fold?

“You know?” she asked, then didn’t wait for my answer and said, “You do know.”

My comrades and enemies had so far been unanimous at calling me out on my generosity.  In my motha’s fashion, I tend to grant it upfront, as if to back up my name with it.  My name:  Truth.  (Or Faith, depending on which language you speak, or whom you ask around here.)

But even that has altered a little bit with age and cynicism:  I am slightly more withdrawn these days; more careful.  Because I have yet to raise a child, so I cannot give it all away.  And because I myself haven’t finished dreaming yet, so I need my strength.  Because these days, if a lover’s departure must be easy at all, it is only if I hadn’t lost myself in him.  So, I take my time now.  I only meet my people half-way.  And I wait:  I wait to see if I am — to them — indeed, the adored one, too.  

Some souls though!  They still know how to draw it out of me:  this uncensored generosity, this kindness that hangs in the back of my first name, like the middle initial “V” by which I had been called for most of my life (in all languages).  And she — the soul resembling the past child in me and the future one, at the same time — had been like this from the first embrace she’d once decided to grant me.  Never once had I caught myself wondering if I was going out too far on the limb, for her sake.  Because I knew that her need — was not all consuming; that I wouldn’t lose myself in it (even though, I’d much rather, at times).  And in her case, my generosity felt returned ten-fold:  The more I gave, the more it replenished me.

So, despite the exhaustion (that this late at night begins to feel like defeat), I had shown up to her home.  Other women had come and gone already.  I could tell by the variety of the pink shades of lipstick they had left of champagne glasses.  A couple were in the midst of departing as soon as I arrived:

“Here!  You look like you need a lot of space,” they seemed to be saying while peeling on their coats, and sweater, and ponchos, and shawls.

And I did.  I did need (even though I had come here only to give).  I immediately dominated her bed.  I took over her library, dreaming of the day I could find my own name leaning on it, sideways.  And after the last woman departed, I took over the kitchen too:  Putting away the disorder, just so in the morning, she would find a clean slate.

She chirped behind me — my darling sparrow! — about whether on not to discard this aging chunk of cheese, or whether or not to dismiss this old lover.  Occasionally, I would look back — at that face and all that hair — and wonder:  Was I just like this, in my own youth?

But then, suddenly, I blurted out:

“Did the other women bring you food?”  My words came out commanding and little bit too loud.  She got silent.  I landed:

“Oh my!  So sorry!  I’m so sorry!”  Wiping my hands on the towel with force, like all the women in my family do, I gushed:  “I sound like my motha.  I’m so sorry!”

But her face showed no evidence of having been undermined or offended.

Instead, she rather seemed tickled by this hard softness of mine — an underbelly she must’ve suspected long ago (or why else would she decide to grant me her embrace?).  She was in the midst of being adored — by me — and she knew it.  She adored it.

And I, suddenly finding myself standing out on a limb, didn’t mind this incomparable generosity of mine:  Because it was already replenishing me, ten-fold.

Hands On! Balls — Out!

No way!  No way I could’ve foreseen what this year would bring!

Almost a year ago, I was merely picking up the pieces.  For I have lost myself in a love, as I have done so many times before; and it would take my falling hard — so hard! — to never do that again.

Of course, as before, I’ve gotten up, gotten myself a job and an apartment, fixed myself up, fell back into another love.  Didn’t like the job, got a better job; made lists of desires and dreams, went for them.  Started a project — balls out! — got an odd gig to support myself through it; the gig went under, but I already had something else lined-up.  Watched a love depart — fell down again.  Got up, continued the project, left the better job, became self-employed.  Made more lists, with new desires and clearer dreams.

True to my feline nature, I tend to land on my feet.  Never out of a job or a dream, I am not the one with a failing ability to survive.  But oh so much time has been wasted on the anticipation of the fall!  Fears have turned my memories of time into rubber.  Days, pages of journals, other people’s attention has been wasted on my doubts.  And every single time, in the past, I noticed the faces of my comrades get skewed by a slight disappointment:

“A Woulda Coulda Shoulda — just doesn’t become you, V!”

No way!  No way I could’ve foreseen that doubt would suddenly become a new allergy of mine, making my entire body short circuit with impatience and annoyance:  I know better than that.  I AM — better than that.  These days, I shake it off, like a midnight shiver or an atrocious sight I’d like to forget.  And forward I launch.  Balls out!

 

“You know who would’ve have been eighty years ago?”  a beautiful boy-child was asking me last night.

“I dunno,” I was chuckling, tickled to the outer edges of adoration by this creature’s innocence and kindness.  “A suffragette?”

“Amelia Earhart!” he said with such a surplus of conviction, I had to stop chuckling.  “The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.  The fears are paper tigers.”

Damn, I thought, he just did that!  That beautiful boy-child simply launched into a quote by the very epitome of courage, on courage — balls out! — and with his uncensored act of curiosity and goodness, he then resurrected me.  Because that’s what they would much rather do — my comrades! — remind me that a Woulda Coulda Shoulda just doesn’t become me.

Let me do that one again:

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.  The fears are paper tigers.”

When I started my rant blog — 157 days and nearly 30,000 hits ago — no way (NO WAY!) I could’ve foreseen the obstacles and the lessons.  There would be, of course, lessons in my own craft and discipline.  I had hoped for those!  But even then, I couldn’t have imagined the amount of skill that a curiosity equipped with courage could deliver.  The unforeseen has also brought on quite a bit of unexpected pain.  I could NOT have predicted the insecurities of others that my acts of personal courage would activate.  Neither was I prepared for being misunderstood, dismissed, or hated upon.  I had no idea so many humans anticipated another comrade’s fall, in this world!

And so, recently, when yet another human had given me grief — hitting below the belt this time, via his intimate knowledge of me — wrathfully, I thought:

“Don’t you dare doubt yourself!”  (Well, actually, I first thought:  “What the fuck?!”; then gathered my graces and thought the other thing.)

Because I could waste more time on making new lists of how I want my art to be perceived.  I could worry about my image and the memories I would leave behind.  I could undermine my courage or my character by writing retractions to suit every single person I could’ve possibly offended along the way.  I could do all that; but a Woulda Coulda Shoulda just doesn’t fucking become me!

Every visionary I have ever admired, every artist ahead of his or her time, every leader that had stepped up during times of historical changes — they all had to have had these growing pains.  I may not have the audacity to aspire to be in the same category with Susan Sontag or Zadie Smith, Vladimir Nabokov or Junot Diaz.  Roth, Bukowski, or Lahiri.  I am no Frida Kahlo or Yoko Ono; and I am a fucking galaxy away from Lady Gaga.

But I do have the audacity to aspire to their courage:  The courage that is takes to make up a mind — and to act.  The courage that demands to finally put away all those lists of desires and dreams.  To stop venting to your comrades about the challenges and the fears, the betrayals and the growing pains.  To stop apologizing for your vision, for your ability to dream.  To undermine your talent, skills, education, history — with doubt.  To retract for the sake of those whose most treasured outlet in life is to tear down those who scare them — those who fucking dare to dare!  But to make a decision — balls out! — and to do.  To act.  To be:  To be precisely the YOU that your talent, skills, education and history has created.  To live up to the potential of the magnificent, the authentic being that every one of us — already IS.

And so I say:

To every dreamer that may have stumbled upon this page by accident or every comrade that continues to return to it by devotion:  A Woulda Coulda Shoulda just doesn’t become you.  Make a decision and go for it:  Balls out!  

Don’t you dare doubt yourself!  If your vision is true, don’t retract it.  Get to the edge and jump.  

Your people — truly your people — will stand by you, I promise:  Because in their eyes, you are already already equipped with wings.  They’ve just been waiting for you to start soaring.

There will be many challenges.  But there will also be new heights, new sights, new comrades.  And as Amelia Earhart once dared to say:

“You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”

Let me do that one again:

“[T]he procedure, the process is its own reward.”

Balls out, comrades!  See you in mid-flight.

I’m in the Mood for Love-ly

Mmm-mornin’.  Mmm-moany mornin’.

It was a long night, kittens.  But that’s a’right:  I have another long — and mmm-magnificent — day ahead.

But I did greet this day for you already, bright ‘n’ early.  I did that!

While most kittens were whirring quietly in their cots, I spent the first hours of the morn’ pontificating with a fellow gypsy and a stunning heart:  on the nature of love, and art, and the world itself.  All the way from the other coast he told me that the world was still magnificent (despite my recently lost love); and as he could see it from o’er there, it was waiting to be treaded on.

“And did you know,” he told me, “there aren’t many interferences along each path — but opportunities to learn?”

“Really?”

I was already drifting off, leaving my gravity behind:  We, fly gypsies, often don’t need our feet.  He brushed my forehead with his words of gentle and intimate knowledge of me; and then, he left to do his own treading.  Bye-bye, baby.  Bye-bye, boo.  Mmm.

So, today:  I’m packing up.  Suddenly feeling like I’ve shed a few kilos off my back, I am in the mood to recoup and get ready to move again.  There is a tribe of gypsies hollering out my name in their bard songs, on the coast of the other, tamer ocean.  (Oh, how I adore them, for keeping my heart!)  A few solitary ones are waiting for me under the scorching suns of Mexico, and India; and somewhere in a quirky town in Texas.  And then:  There is my father — the quietest of all, who has patiently waited in the other hemisphere, for the return of his prodigal child.  (I’m on my way, P.  I’m well on my way.)  And when we meet, we shall sit around the pots of my slowly simmering, healing stews and reshuffle our stories as if they were cards of Solitaire.

Mmm, ‘tis the season — for reunions.

But while I’m gathering my belongings and courage today, I shall be treading quietly.  Very, very quietly.  The thoughts of today’s meditation are vague and ever-so-changing.  They remind me of an abstract watercolor painting:  At any moment, another stroke can change their entire gist.  Another color can shift the mood.  So, I’ll try not to speak much; ’cause I don’t want to fuck it up.

It doesn’t happen often — today’s Moment in Between — because generally of an impatient mindset, I never sit for long enough to let it pass.  So intensely I insist on living my life that I rarely sit in silence.  Instead, I continue moving, shrugging off the urge for prayer as something I could do in mid-step.

“I don’t have time for this!” I tell myself and others when confronted with a suggestion — or an ultimatum — to chill out.  “I’ve got shit to do!”

That may be true, my darlings, but one’s ambition does not negate those privileged moments of silence and aloneness.  To the contrary, if one decides to devote a life to a great empathy for humanity, aloneness — is mandatory.  Because by its very definition, compassion is a recognition of one’s self in another.  And how in the world am I going to recognize that self if I, myself, don’t know my self?  (Sorry, kittens:  I’m probably sounding a bit too So Cal for some o’ ya.  I’ll be back to my East Coast Bitchy in no time.)

Last night, I heard a lovely actress with a delicious accent and painfully poignant heart eloquently speak of the common introverted nature of all artists:

“It’s that thing of having to inhabit… yourself,” she said, “whatever that is… And it can often be quite uncomfortable.”  (Ah, Cate:  Ever so magnanimous you are!  You give us, humans, way too much credit.)

So before I bounce again — toward the other coasts and countries, and loves — I’m just gonna sit a lil’.  Alone.  Quiet. Mmm-meditate.

…But what’s this I’m hearing?  A voice of a man screaming aggressively on my street.  How dare he?!  Despite having Hollyweird’s zip code, my ‘hood is stubbornly quiet.  So, what’s all this, sir?  How dare you?!

I look out of my window:  If only I’d see him, I think, I can forgive his unknowing act.  But:  Not a visible soul in sight.  I study the yard below and the baby-blue guest house whose single staircase is always decorated with drying canvases.  A woman in a headscarf quietly steps up to its wide window, while wiping her hands on the bottom of her apron.  Like me, she’s cross-examining the street for the source of the disturbance.  Apparently, she too — is asking for silence.

“Oh,” I think.  “So, you’re the one creating all this beauty,”  Despite heaving treaded this side of the world for over three years now, I’ve never met her before, my kittens, only her art.

She looks up.  She sees me.  I freeze:  I am not ready to hang with others yet.  Mmm-m’am?

She is older than me, much better lived in; less stubborn.  I can see she used to be a stunner.  Her forehead is un-crinkled, unlike my own:  She’s taking it easy.

“Mmm-m’kay, O’Keeffe.  I’ll take your lead.”

I manage to do a half-wave, then slide closed my window.  ‘ Cause I’m sitting alone — in silence — today, don’t cha know?!

“I gotcha,” — she nods, then leaves her window open and walks back to her work.

Mmm-mornin’:   mmm-mazel tov.

A Change Gonna Come — Oh Yes, IT WILL!

“The world has no idea!” she said last night, her jet black eyes sparkling with reflections of the caramel candlelight with which the bar was illuminated.  “The world had NO idea of the responsibility that comes with being a woman!  And the beauty, and the intuition, and the struggle!  And the weight, and the…” — (she paused for long enough for me to overhear my own heart’s whimper) — “and the awe!”

Oh you beautiful girl child!  You magnificent survivor of your own destiny!

She was one of those exotic, smart girls.  Barely in her mid-20s, with a face constructed from genes of some ancient culture, she sat at the bar last night and — get this! — read a book.  Only V, in her younger days, would pull shit like this.  But that was just it:  The hunger of her mind, the refusal to compromise her vocabulary, the fieriness of her still idealistic beliefs, her stubborn love for humanity, and the religion of her kindness — all that reminded me of myself.  In a funny-kinky way that only life can think up, this younger version of me appeared at an unexpected time and place — and with that very higher grace that insists I should never give-up on living, she guided me to the next chapter of my own self.

I am now living, my comrades, in a visceral anticipation of change. The recent survival chapter of my life has so obviously expired!  There was a heartbreak, followed by brutal lessons of self-discovery and a painful birthing of forgiveness.  But that’s over now.  There is a new art in my life.  A new art and a new love.  But that doesn’t mean that today, there is no suffering; because the choice of living as an independent woman and a self-made artist is a loaded one.  There are still survival jobs that eat my time with their tedious nonsense.  Frequent disappointments in the lapses of human goodness, in acquaintances or occasional strangers, still scratch my heart with metallic claws.  This year’s coming-out as a writer who publicly reveals her word has, unfortunately and unexpectedly, been one of the harder lessons my life has offered.

Yet, still, my beautiful witnessing comrades:  It HAS been worth it!

I bow down my disheveled head in recognition that despite all the pain and loss and disappointment; despite the horrific, border-line criminal offenses that I’ve suffered at the hands of others; despite my own poor choices and embarrassing missteps, my life — has been magnificent.  And the main reason that I carry on (despite an occasional temptation to give-up on it all and retire into a commune of Tibetan monks) is because it continues to change.

Sometimes, change comes in as a storm, hitting me from all angels, tangling me up in my own hair and nerves, and confusing me about the functions and the origins of gravity.  Other times, it slips in gracefully and non-violently, like a San Francisco fog, reminding to hush-up, and to breathe and bear:

“It’ll all work out,” it promises.  And somehow, I believe it.

This oncoming one — is the quiet type.  With the very follicles of my skin, I can feel its approach.  It tickles with excitement and; only when I’m alone and this town’s exhausted children are asleep, it scares me, ever so little, with the proposal of the unknown.  Alas:  A woman’s intuition!  (My intuition, I’m convinced, lives in my uterus.  When shit ain’t right, it raises its sleepy head from my ovaries that it uses as pillows, and, like a quirky, misbehaving child, it starts to raise havoc.  Off it goes, swinging from my tubes, and nibbling at my gut, and playing patty cake with my diaphragm; and if I continue with my Dumb Bitch act and refuse to listen up, it then sits down into a lotus position and observes the consequences with a sardonic smile.  Because that rascal — is always right!)

But just maybe — and just maybe for this first time — I am not going to brace myself.  Instead, I’m going to strip myself — of all the residual dead weight — and in the nude form, while my unbound breasts bounce to a tribal beat, I shall chant for courage and grace.  It will be painful, I know; and there will be losses to count at the end of the battle.  But in the end, I bet there will be a discovery of my own upgraded self; and I bet — she will still be worthy of the serious yet innocent girl-child I was always meant to be.

My Life — and Sex — in Art

“What’s it all for?” a comrade of mine and a regular reader of my rant blog was interviewing me last night in the midst of a chaotic nightspot filled with beautiful children at play.  “I mean:  Why are you doing it?

When I started self-publishing my words on the first of this year, I had already been writing on a daily basis — for years.  Years, my magnificent reading eyes!  As a child, I was always the smallest creature in every classroom, quietly and perpetually jotting things down in my journals.  Motha blamed it on my lack of siblings; but I think:  I was just meant to write.

I am story collector, you see.  In the fashion of my motha’s nomadic people, I’ve bounced all over the world, passing by tragedies — sometimes getting caught in them — then retelling those tales, to a human ear or to an empty page.  Why else would I be granted a life that has made me a witness to dozens of world-changing events of the current and the last century?  And if that weren’t enough:  Why would I be given a hand of lacking a home — or a home country — or a family, or any other predictability, or insurance?  (These are valid questions, my comrades, although I am no longer seeking an answer.)

Since my landing in LA-LA six years ago, writing became more of a regimented daily activity; and when this Russian says “daily,” she means, “every bloody day.”

(Well, to be more precise, she actually means:

“Fuck my birthdays, fuck your birthdays!  Fuck national holidays and vacations!  Life’s too short!  Do something about it!”  Which makes V — an intense lil’ cunt on a mission; but y’all already starting to pick-up on that, I suspect.)

But not until my good-hearted and boyish comrade’s interview last night had I actually formulated the objective of my rant blog:

“Well, I want to make a living at art,” I said; but judging by my comrade’s face, I quickly realized I was being all Russian-mysterious and overall too vague for his American ear.  So, I elaborated.  “If this thing takes off as a column or a paid blog, with a steady following — great!  A book deal?  Even better!”

My comrade was beginning to nod.  Phew!  At least, I was on the right track of being understood — an event of rarity in my daily life.

“So, you’re trying to make money?” he said.

The socialist in me got a bit uncomfortable with being simplified this way, so I had to grope for my own balls — just to remember I still had some:

“Well…  Yes!  I want to be a working artist. But I also revel in the act of DOING it.  You know?”

He didn’t know.  My boyish friend still looked as if I was breaking down the gist of quantum physics for him, but I found myself somewhat surprised at the sound of my objective:  To do art — for the sake of doing it. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it?

Now, don’t get me wrong:  I am fully fed-up with taking on endless, completely random and often hectic survival gigs.  I’ve had it with the tedious, mind-numbing office jobs, and restaurant jobs; and Shiva knows:  I’ve had enough of the self-abuse that comes from having to report to gigs where I’ll be lectured or patronized or, what’s worse, perpetually jammed into a box of a more convenient category by employers with bored or fearful mindsets.  So, yes:  I am ready to get paid for my art!

But what makes the grind of survival much more tolerable is that, in the very act of creating MY ART — it feels like the best life I could possibly ask for.

 

Last night’s conversation with my comrade got stuck with me for long enough to bring it home; and despite having had such a day — to call it day, I’ve kept myself awake by watching this tribute to Sidney Lumet:

 

 

http://video.nytimes.com/video/2011/04/09/obituaries/1194838961597/lwlumet.html

 

Allow me to recap the words I wish I had the wisdom to pass on to my boyish comrade (but then, I think he’d already had plenty of my intensity by now):

Reporter Tim Weiner: “How do you want to be remembered?”

Sidney Lumet: “I don’t give a shit!”

TW: “But what about the work?”

SL: “It’ll make its own way.  Nothing I can do about it any more.  [But] I’d like somebody to take notice of that…  That I wasn’t afraid.

And here is my favorite part, my lovelies; the part that I am only now starting to get the balls to admit to myself.  Because, as I have written this late morning to my lover (oh, but I do so like quoting myself!), who’s currently three time zones away from my heart:  Life — is chaos.  We try to slow it down by making sense of it, and sometimes by demanding justice (and that, more often than not, leaves us disappointed.)  The better route to commemorate a life or a person — is, but of course, with love.  We, artists, do it by commemorating completely random happenings of beauty; and it does take courage and fearlessness to commit a lifetime to doing it. And thusly, we live:

SL: “I don’t think art changes anything.  I do it because I like it — and it’s a wonderful way to spend your life.”

Does that answer your question, my young-hearted comrade?  Oh, and look at that:  You’ve just been commemorated.  Yourr velkom.

Take it away, Comrade Kanyeezy!

Sex — with My Motha

As every woman I know, I have the type of relationship with my “motha” that makes me smile sardonically when speaking of her and roll my eyes back (far back enough to lose my contacts in my skull) when hearing other daughters bitch and moan.  “My life had stood—a loaded gun,” wrote a suffragette nearly two centuries ago.  I could easily misquote her, and on the topic of mother say: “My love had stood—a loaded gun.”  (Want irony?  Mother’s name does indeed translate to “Love” from Russian).  Or I could accept that the trials and tribulations woven into my life by my mother’s hands (her hands:  always baby-soft, manicured but with a grip) have made my life worthy of storytelling.  Our three-decade long love story is one of an absurdist comedy, an exhausting epic, and a heartbreaking tragedy.  She is my rock of Sisyphus.  My Ariadne’s thread.  My Pandora’s box.  My cross.  My heart.  My very Love.

To this day, she sneaks into every character of my fiction whom I adore and despise equality.  Every woman of tremendous beauty and charm that I think up (or fall in love with on a daily basis on the street) is—Mother.  Before I am aware, I hear her roaring laughter in my pages, her passive-aggressive sigh and overly dramatic delivery.  I see her flirtatious hair-flips and shoulder jerks, and the darting of her feline eyes.  Her killer sexuality that makes men act like moronic children is not one I could’ve thought up as an author.  As I age into my womanhood, I observe her lines come through on my face and hips, like a superimposed image.  As I mature as an artist, I accept that she is the main source of my inspiration and work—the very point of it all; and the sooner I surrender to that, the sooner my art will flourish.  Mother:  had not only granted me my life—she granted me my livelihood.

All this—is just a prelude, my comrades.  A little 101 on my Love.

The other day, with mother on a speaker phone in my car, I had to pull off the road; for this rambunctious, loud, dangerously charming woman had me in tears from her bit on dating.  Regardless never having read my blog, mother had decided to contribute.  Nyet, nyet:  More accurately, she demanded her own column!  To this wisdom on her dating life as an older woman, I subject you, my readers; for you—as I—do not have a choice to avoid my “motha.”  (Although I do wish, you could hear these words for yourself, heavily laced with a Russian accent, directly out of the woman’s gorgeous mouth—and you’d lose your shit as well):

I.  “The second you call a man your “baby”—he starts shitting his pant.”  Mother was never a nurturing type of woman, as I have learned in my own childhood.  She is sort of like Stalin when it comes to love:  The more they fear you—the better they love you.  It is understandable then that she never catered to her man; and one certain way to make my mother retract her affection or watch her phenomenal hips sway side to side as she walks away and leaves your ass for good—is to act needy.  Herein lies the lesson for the mankind:  Unless sick or on your deathbed, don’t let a woman see your weakness!

II.  More on that topic:  “I am not mothering another human being—unless it comes out of my vagina.”  In my childhood, my mother had reiterated a few times that I had stolen all of her love.  Her love was very tough, but apparently—it was love.  Anyway:  No man, she said, including my father, could ever claim her heart—for it already belonged to me.  Although I have yet to experience my own motherhood, I agree with this unforgiving philosophy:  A child should always remain a parent’s priority.  Add to that the priority of nurturing and perfecting the self, and I predict that when a mother, my hands will be full.  However, this is not a single-edged sword because I will demand the same from my man:  When raising a child together, grant most of your love to our offspring—and take care of your own shit (for I have neither the time nor the patience to do it for you).

III.  “It’s too late to be switching to mineral water—when your liver is falling out.”  Like mother like daughter, I too possess high expectations when it comes to my man’s health.  However, my opinion had to be developed with time; and as my last love story proves, I should’ve listened to my mother sooner.  Unlike hers, my belief has little to do with the man’s appearance though, but everything—with his longevity for the sake of our children (and consequentially, for the sake of our partnership):  One’s health is one’s own responsibility.

IV.  Finally, because mother was never the one to beat around the bush, here is the best summary of her high dating standards:  “If he gave me a tub of borscht in wartime, I still wouldn’t fuck him.”  Clearly, authentically and to the point—that’s the gist of mom.  I wish I could think this shit up on my own, my comrades, but because I can’t, live and learn from the woman:  Do not lower your expectations, for if you do—you alone will suffer the consequences.

She is good, ain’t she?  But as I have learned for myself, mother is good in small doses.  So, process these four bits of enlightenment for now, my comrades; and start jonesing for her return.

(P.S.:  Mom!  If you’re reading this, don’t call me with your edits!  I’ll call you.)