Tag Archives: artists

“The Heart Is a Bloom, Shoots Up Through the Stony Ground…”

The first sentence — is always the hardest.

True:  Sometimes, it flies out of her, like a butterfly trapped in between the two tiny palms of a kiddo who hasn’t lived for long enough to realize the fragility of her dreams, yet.

“You can’t do that to butterflies, little one!  They break their wings.”

But other times, she must cradle the cocoons of her beginnings, checking up on them, every few breaths:  Are they ready for the magical reveal of their births yet?  Can they leap out at the world that didn’t even suspect how much it needed them?  On harder days of creation, the luxury of time begins to test her patience, and it challenges her — to start.  To just:  Start.

Because starting — takes a courageous flight of fancy.  And only she knows — because she has asked for her creator to allow and to forgive her the hubris to make things happen — only she knows when her beginnings can no longer wait to happen.

The days, the moments, the creations that begin easily — are often easier to also take for granted.  And they can’t really be trusted, actually.  But the easy creations lighten the step and color the world with more flattering palettes of her imagination.  And even though, she may not remember the achievement of that day, she gets the privilege of spending it — while half dreaming:  Still the little girl, chasing butterflies, and trapping them in between her tiny palms.

Gratitude comes easy on those days of nearly no struggle.  And she breathes through the misty sensation in her eyes:  After all, her compassion has not expired yet!  And despite all the losses, it continues to give back.

On luckier days, life permits for such illusions to last:  That people are good.  That art — matters.  That beauty — is a common addiction of all humankind.  And that perhaps (please, please, let her have this “perhaps”!) we all speak a common language which may be determined by our self-serving needs — but that those needs belong to LOVE.  Alas!  How marvelous — are those days!

And she learns to savor them!  The days of easier creation — of more graceful survival, when the whole world somehow happens to accommodate for her dreams — those days she must savor for the future.  Because in that future, as she has grown to accept (once she’s grown up and out of certain dreams), there will be days of hardship.  She knows that.  No, not just the hardships of life itself:   Those, she has by now learned to forgive.  After all, they have taught her her own humanity.  They have connected all the capillaries between the organs of her empathy and inspirations.  And she understands it all so much better — after the days of hard life.

But the hardships of persevering through life for long enough to get to the next easier moment — that task can only be done by eluding herself.  So, she suspends the memories of better days.  Easier days of creation.  She stretches them out, makes them last.  (They taste like soft caramel or bits of saltwater taffy.)  She rides them out to exhaustion and prays — oh, how she prays! — that they will bring her to the next beginning.

Then, there are days, seemingly mellow, but that do not grant her easy beginnings.  On those days, she must work.  She must earn the first sentences to her dreams and earn her beginnings.  She may go looking for inspiration, in other people’s art.  And sometimes, that works just fine:  Like a match to a dry wick, other art sets her imagination on fire.  All it takes is a glimpse of a tail of that one fleeting dream.  It takes a mere crumb of someone else’s creation to set off the memory and the inspiration — follows.  Just a whisper of that common language!  A whiff of the unproved metaphysical science that it’s all one.  We — are one.  (Is that silly?)

And when the art of others does not start another flame, then she must have the courage to begin.  Just simply — begin!  It’s mechanical, then:  a memorized choreography of fingers upon the keyboard, the sense memory of the tired fingers clutching a pen.  On those days, she merely shows up — and she must accept that it would be enough, on just those days.

Because if she doesn’t show up, then she may as well consider herself defeated:  Yes, by the struggles of life and the skepticism of those who do NOT have the courage to dream.  To start.  To begin.

The courage to remain the children they once were, also chasing butterflies and ice-cream men; sucking on icicles in the winter and building castles under the watch of the giant eye of the sun.

The day when she stops beginning — she will consider herself a failure.  But until then, she must continue to begin.

“Proof! I Guess I Got My Swagger Back: TRUTH.”

“Hey, Ra-Ra!” — one of my brothers leaves me the same voicemail, for the nth time.  “Don’t you think it’s kinda ironic that after six years, your outgoing message hasn’t changed?”

My brothers call me Ra-Ra.  They’re both Latin:  For them, rolling their “r’s” — is half the fun.

“Rrra-Rrra!” the younger one always winds up his tongue; and he gleams while shaking the long hair out of his squinting dark eyes.  “RRA-RRA – BABY!”

I chuckle:  How I adore those hearts!  

This morning, I listen to the message, and I slide open the windows.  It’s been feeling like autumn, lately.  But how exactly — I just can’t pinpoint yet.

Perhaps, there is a vague aroma of dying leaves, much more aggressive on the other coast, where my older brother now dwells.  He is making things happen over there, moving at twice the speed than we do, in this paralyzed city.  And his energy — his hunger, his passion, his perpetual up-for-it-ness — is contagious, even if only captured on my voicemail, this morning.

All throughout the year, he is in the habit of wearing long, tattered scarves, a couple at a time.  A few — seem to be made out of his own canvases.  Others are thicker:  I imagine they’ve been crocheted by the hands of lovely girls who tend to adore him, with their open, yet calmer hearts.  And when I meet him, in the middle of autumn, on the other coast, I study the flushed tip of his nose peaking out of the bundle of those endless scarves — which he is in the habit of wearing, all throughout the year, a couple at a time.

“Ra-Ra!” he’d say, while untangling himself.

And I would chuckle:  How I adore that heart!   

 

It’s not going to rain here, not for another month.  So, my own scarves, long and tattered, can remain stored for just a bit longer.

Still, I can already smell the oncoming change.  It sits at the bottom of a clouded layer that now takes longer to burn off in the mornings.  At night, I’ve started using thicker blankets.  And when I leave my day job, these days, the sun is already on its way out.  I walk home, alone in this paralyzed city, and I bundle up in my oversized sweaters whose sleeves remind me of the long arms of my brothers.  I bury my face in the generous, knit, tattered collars, and I chuckle.

My brothers:  They stand over a foot taller than me.  My baby-talls!  My two gorgeous, loyal creatures from two foreign lands with convoluted histories of political detours, similar to my own Motha’land’s.  We each belong to the people prone to chaos, to revolutions and idealism.  So, our comfort level — is flexible.

Moving — or moving on — comes easier for us.  Neither one has settled yet (and we won’t settle for less than the entire world!); and we tend to keep our luggages readily available at the front of our closets.

My younger brother tends to get easily distracted.  On every adventure, every journey, he loses himself completely, disappearing for months at a time, on the other coast.  But every time he resurfaces, his energy, his passion — his perpetual up-for-it-ness — is absolutely contagious.

He takes weeks to return my messages.  And when he does:

“RRA-RRA – BABY!” he winds up his tongue, and I can hear his gleaming while shaking the long hair out of his squinting dark eyes.

And I chuckle, instantaneously forgiving him for disappearing on the other coast: How I adore that heart!

This morning, I slide open the windows:  It’s been feeling like autumn, lately.  I pull the luggage out of the front of my closet and I begin packing.

“How ’bout an adventure?” I think.  “Why not?”

And immediately, I am flooded with a certain feeling of lightness and peace.  But what it is exactly — I just can’t pinpoint yet. Where I am going — I do not know.  It’s always been easy to move.  But lately, it’s become easier — to move on.

Fuck it, I think, and I go digging out my long, tattered scarves.  A couple of them seem to be made out of my brother’s canvases.  I don’t remember where I got them though; and I rarely wear them.  So, I pack those away again.  The others, thicker and multicolored, crocheted by lovely girls with open, calmer hearts — those I start trying on, as if with their length, I can measure the mileage to my beloved hearts.  One at a time, I wrap them around my neck, bury my face and I chuckle:  In my life, I have adored so many hearts!  And so many hearts — adore me.

It’s not going to rain here, not for another month.  So, maybe, today, I’ll just drive up north:  Somewhere else to tangle myself up — up to my flushed nose — and to think of my brothers; to think of all the other hearts, dwelling on the other coast.

In less than an hour, my luggage is packed.  I’m ready to go; and immediately, I am flooded with a certain feeling of lightness and peace. Is it gratitude?  My adoration for other hearts?

I listen to my brother’s message again:

“Hey, Ra-Ra!” (he left it, months ago, for the nth time.)  “Don’t you think it’s kinda ironic that after six years, your outgoing message hasn’t changed?”

Because for the last six years, I’ve lived vicariously through my brothers’ energies:  their adventures, passions — their perpetual up-for-it-ness — on the other coast.  My own travels, however, have been carefully planned.

I reach for my phone and prerecord another message.  I think I may use it, in my seventh year:

“Hey.  It’s V.  I’ll tell you something new.”

I zip up my luggage.  Leave a voicemail for my brothers:

“How I adore your hearts!”

And I get a move on.

“Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam, Dream, Dream, Dream. Drea-ea-ea-ea-eam…”

I’m seeing white.  From where I sit, this morning, I see the white rooftops of the apartments below, and they temp me to step out right onto them and play hopscotch:  To leap from one to another, all across my neighborhood, while using pinecones abandoned by squirrels as my markers.

I see the off-white borders of that perfect little house on the corner, with pink-brownish tiles on its gable roof, where many times I had watched a lavender-gray kitten basking, rolling, purring in the hazy sun.  Most certainly, that must be where the perfect life resides:  Right underneath that pink-brownish rooftop with its off-white borders; inside the attic behind the snow-white windowpanes:

Idyllic.

To the right, on the greenest peak of the mountain, I see the white of the Observatory reigning above Griffith Park; and it sits there — a lighthouse for the angels of this City — like a lovely mirage in the midst of this sun-produced haziness.  And you better squint your eyes — from all of this light and all this idyllic pleasure — to take in the vision.

If I scan my squinting gaze from East to West, across the mountaintop, here and there I pick out the perfect whiteness of the old Spanish houses clutching onto the hillside.  They are idyllic and absurd at the same time:  stubborn against all of nature’s reasons.  And if these structures persevere — past all the rains or the fires, or the occasional shivers of the planet, in this stretch of its skin — they decorate the already complete beauty quite well.  Idyllically.

And to the left, I see the HOLLY of the sign that has led too many of the world’s travelers to worship it in closer proximity:  A lighthouse for the dreamers of this City.

I swear:  Sometimes there is so much odd glory in this town, I catch myself wondering if I’m dreaming, among angels.

A stark white dove has just dashed across the sky (I didn’t even know those existed, in this City), and it outraces the white bird of the plane with red markings on its wings.  Both, I hope, are carrying messages of love.

I turn around:  My couch is draped with freshly bleached sheets, and tangled up in them — is a gorgeous young boy, slowly waking to this perfect day.  He is tall, with a head full of longer coal-black hair; and his handsome, tan face outlined by the morning stubble juxtaposes the whiteness of the bedding in such a lovely combination, it makes me wish I were a painter, or a photographer at least.

Ah:  Idyllic.  

I rest my chin on the back of my chair, draped with an eggshell-colored throw, as soft as the fur of some lavender-gray kitten, and I say:

“You look so perfect right now.”

The boy raises himself onto his elbow, blushes a little — underneath his tan — and he grins.  And when he does, a row of perfect white teeth glows against the sun whose rays are now bouncing off the white rooftops of the apartments below.  He shakes his longer, coal-black hair and chuckles:

“Nah.”

And I swear:  Sometimes there is so much unexpected glory in this town, I catch myself wondering if I’m dreaming, among angels.

Behind him, hanging off the button-nose handle of my armoire, painted in shades of eggshell and white chalk, there hangs a white cotton dress shirt with a band collar.  Its material is thin, perfectly suitable for the tropical climate of this gorgeous boy’s homeland.  And while I measure his face against the background, I wish I could hear the sound of the Ocean punctuated by the beat of men’s heels dancing zapateado, accompanied by the mellow strumming of a singular Spanish guitar.

“If you could choose any other culture — for yourself — what would it be?” the gorgeous boy asks me, blinding me with his stark white teeth reflecting in the hazy sun.

I smile:  He’s read my mind.  And in the manner that so many of my former lovers have found evasive or mysterious — until they eventually find it annoying — I don’t answer the question.  Instead, I ask a question of my own:

“What made you say that?” I say from behind the off-white door panel, having wandered off into my bedroom by now.

“Dunno,” he says, and he tangles himself up into the white sheets, the coal-black hair spilling into a halo on the white pillow.  “I woke up thinking that.”

I sit down on the edge of my bed surrounded by the white curtains of the canopy I had untied this morning, and while staring at my brown feet, I say:

“Um.  Spaniards always seemed to suit my temperament.”

And then, I laugh, to myself.  The joy of getting to know someone is always so thrilling, most certainly.  But the acknowledgement of my own being — my growing awareness of self — it relaxes my body with esteem and peacefulness.

While the gorgeous boy hums in response to my answer, I drift off into a narrow alley with cobble stones and cracked walls of old Spanish houses, and I see myself, walking downhill with my bare, tan feet.  My hair is unleashed and the long skirt of my white cotton, lace dress swooshes sideways, imitating the sway of my hips:  The lighthouse for my most perfect, ideal lover.

And I swear:  Sometimes there is so much unexpected glory in this town — and so much beauty — I catch myself wondering if I’m only dreaming, among angels.  

Idyllic.  For now. And always so much more idyllic, the very next day.

“The Blues Is My Business — And Business Is Good.”

What’s this nauseating feeling looming in the pit of my stomach?  That time of the month?  Or maybe I should just lay off the coffee.

Back in Manhattan, I used to live on that shit.  Now, I limit myself to three cups a day.  On a good day.  Nights don’t count:  Nights keep their own count.

Sometimes, I forget to eat, too — a habit of my student days that hasn’t dissipated despite the new habit, of my non-student days, for daily running whenever my anxiety strikes.  Back in the student days, I could just call up a lover and get tangled up in that mess.  Not now though.  Now:  I just run, for miles.

And, oh, I could run for miles, right now!

But first:  Must have some coffee.

Or maybe I should lay off the coffee.  I hear it invokes anxiety.

Anxiety.  Ah, that.  It looms in the pit of my stomach, and it’s sickening:  this battle of mind over matter.

I lie down on the floor.  I should meditate, I think; or count some fucking sheep.  Whatever it takes to get rid of this anxiety thing, looming in the pit of my stomach.

And coffee:  I should definitely lay off that shit.

There is some drilling happening somewhere in close proximity; and because it’s been hot enough this week to sleep with all the windows slid wide open (come on in, thieves and ghosts!), the sound has awoken me, long before I was ready to get up and do my thing again.

What IS my thing, by the way?

Well, it starts — with making coffee.

Which I do.  I get up from the floor and stare at the drip.

“thinking, the courage it took to get out of bed each morning

to face the same things

over and over

was 

enormous.”

Bukowski.  That old, ugly dog was the bravest of them all, never whoring himself out to academia, yet always producing the words, despite being ridden with vices, not the least of each was the endless heartache of compassion.  And he knew a thing or two about clocking-in every day, at some maddening day job for a number of decades, then over his unpublished papers, at night.

Because nights keep their own count.  And days — are mostly spent with some nauseating anxiety looming in the pit of the stomach.

“and there is nothing

that will put a person

more in touch 

with the realities

than

an 8 hour job.”

But he would do that, until the day job was no longer necessary — and the papers were finally published.  And after that happened, did the nausea vamoose for good?  Poof!  Or did he continue drowning it in liquor, exhausting it on the tracks or in between the thighs of his lover-broads; then getting up for the grind all over again, in the morning?

I stare at the drip as if it’s going to give me some answers.  It reminds me of sitting by the life-support machine and staring at a sack of some gooey, transparent liquid — but not transparent enough to give me some fucking answers.

The pot’s half full.  I think I’m supposed to wait for the whole thing to finish, or it ruins it.  It interrupts the process.  Fuck it.  I pour myself a cup — I interrupt — and take it back to the floor.  I lie down.

Maybe I should count some fucking sheep, I think.  Or get me some poetry.  It has put me to sleep last night, with all the windows slid wide open.  Because the fucking sheep refused to be counted, at night.

And because nights keep their own count.

I take a sip of coffee and close my eyes.  Open them:  The drilling has started up again.  I haven’t even noticed the silence.  I put down the pen, the Bukowski.   Start listening to the drill.

It reminds me of my never made dental appointment for a check-up.  A check-up?  What the hell do I need a check-up for?  Just to see how much damage life has done to my enamel — with all that coffee — the timid receptionist called Lisa quietly explains, in so many words.  She is always kind, whimpering her messages into my answering machine like a cornered-in mouse.

Goodness.  Thank goodness — for kindness.

I should meditate, I think, after all.  I take a sip, close my eyes.

Whatever happened to that girl, I wonder, remembering a colleague gloriously succeeding somewhere in this town.  I had known her for years by now, but haven’t seen her for half of those.  We began to lose touch, two of my lovers ago, after a row of coffee dates were meant to be broken.  Eventually, the colleague and I forgot whose turn it was to make plans for the next date, to choose the next coffee shop.  It must be a self-protective thing with her, I realize.  She is successful:  It’s hard for her to relate.

Oh well, I think.  I’ll just keep in touch by overhearing some good news, on her behalf; and keep drinking my coffee alone, outside of coffee shops.

But then, I bet she too gets up to the grind, every morning.  She too must feel the looming nausea in the pit of her stomach until she forces herself to meditate.

Because after years and years of getting up to do my thing, I realize that it pretty much summons success.   

Success is simply getting up again.

But then again, there must be more to it.  Certainly, there must be more to life — than getting up.

I get up, take my coffee with me.  The drilling has stopped.  I stare outside through the windows slid wide open.

“I listen and the City of the Angels

listens:  she’s had a hard row.”

I remember:  I’ve got to start the work.  Because isn’t it what I’ve gotten up for?

I pour myself another cup.  I begin.

But what’s this nausea looming in the pit of my stomach?

“the impossibility of being human

all too human

this breathing

in and out

out and in

these punks

these cowards

these champions

these mad dogs of glory

moving this little bit of light toward

us

impossibly.”

I take another sip.  I continue.

The nausea begins to vamoose, giving room to the acidity of my coffee, incorrectly brewed; interrupted.

He Ain’t Heavy: He’s My Bro!

“How’s the writing?” he asked me, yesterday, as a matter of fact.

As a matter of fact, he was so matter of fact about it, I didn’t think twice that, like to most of my friends, to him, my writing — was just a matter of fact.

As a matter of fact, I am not flocked by my comrades — other writers — all suspended in loaded pauses in between pontificating on the history of the novel or the future of the industry.  We don’t sit around a round table (yes, it must be round) in the middle of the night, playing with nostalgic shticks, like card games, cigars or tea cups with saucers — because we are just so fucking eccentric.

We don’t make fun of humanity while others zealously nod or slap their thighs in a gesture of agreeing laughter; but then, take ourself so very brutally seriously. (Seriously?!).  Many of us have gone through love affairs; several — quite tumultuous.  But we don’t arrive to coffee shops favored by Europeans while accompanied by mysterious lovers (in scarves or berets) that have inspired a poem or two — a sketch or a lovely line-up of guitar chords — making the rest of us want a piece of that creature.  We don’t share lovers, passing them around like a well-rolled joint.  And:  we don’t dis the exes.

My people and I are a lot more matter of fact, in life.  Sure, some of us are stranger than others, worthy to be gossiped about.  And yes, we tend to be adventurous, always up for playing, always on the lookout for a good story.  Many travel, quite often treating LA-LA as a rest stop, even though we all live around here.  Quite a few are in the midst of an art project that will change their lives upon fruition.  But we don’t spend our daily lives in some sort of artistic isolation or exhibitionist suffering; slamming down phones and doors if ever we are interrupted.  We don’t keep lists of our losses and griefs against humanity — or against our mothers — posted up on the wall, framed.

My people and I:  We live, as a matter of fact.

And especially, when it comes to my brothers:  They are the simpler of my clan.  Rarely do I double-guess their intentions.  Never do I wonder about their moods and the words with which they choose to communicate them.  Never do I decipher their facial ticks, eventually finding myself in despair, impatience, followed by frustrated judgment.  And it’s always quite clear with them that even though they don’t obsessively seek my company; when in my company, nothing seems to thrill them more.  (Now, I’ve heard about those moody mothafuckers that torture my girlfriends with their mixed signals and facial ticks in dire need of deciphering.  But no such mothafucker — is a brother of mine!)

So, when my baby-brother asked me about writing yesterday, I gave him an answer specific enough to be respectful of him and of the time that had lapsed since last we saw each other; and respectful enough to not sound flippant about my work.  (Because my work — I take seriously, not my self.  Seriously.)  But then, a discussion of our lives, happening as a matter of fact, continued, letting my work be — just a matter of fact.

Later, however, I found myself picking apart the category of men that become my brothers.  I am normally quite hard on their gender, especially toward the ones that end up as my lovers.  But with my brothers, I never feel the urge to break their balls or to demand explanations; constantly digging for more honesty (but not realizing that no love can handle that much truth).  As a matter of fact, everything is quite clear with my brothers and I, and I am never tempted to ask for more clarity.  So: I let their mysteries be.

This one — a beautiful child — used to be a colleague of mine.  Both of us had worked at a joint that was meant to pay for our dreams while costing them the least amount of compromise.  And I would be full of shit if I claimed I was never titillated by his loveliness, measuring it against my body in his tall embraces or against my chest as I would rub his head full of gorgeous Mediterranean hair.  I would watch him with others — with other women — and notice the goodness of him.  He was respected, always:  the type of a man worthy of man crushes from his brothers and dreamy sighs from every girl in the room.  His charm would come easily.  Never strained, it seemed to cost him nothing. And it’s because that charm came from his goodness — it never reeked of manipulation or his desperate need to be liked.

Here, as a matter of fact, I would be lying if I didn’t think at one point or another about all of my brothers as potential lovers.  But somewhere along the way of building the history of intimacy, something would tilt the scale:  and we would make a choice to leave our love untamed by so much honesty — it wouldn’t survive the truth.

That something — would take a bit effort to define yesterday, after my rendezvous with my baby-brother expired and we parted, as a matter of fact, never fishing for assurances that we would see each other again soon (because we would).  And it would all come down to:  Goodness.

Even if not with me, my brothers — are committed to their goodness.  Because of their commitment, that goodness happens with ease — as a matter of fact — and it earns them good lives and worthy loves.  It earns them — my love, as a matter of fact.

“Do Your Thing — Like There Ain’t Nothin’ To It!”

“How do you never run out of things to say?”

My comrades ask me that, quite a lot, these days; and most of the time, they follow-up with their ready theories:

“You’re just so disciplined!”

“Maybe this means you’ve found your calling.”

“But you’ve never done anything half-assed-ly!”

And then, the voice of my most beloved soul that has witnessed my hustle from the East Coast, for over a decade, resonated on the phone last night:

V!  You’ve never procrastinated!  Not even in college.”

Damn it!  Well, today, you just watch me:  I’m gonna do some serious procrastinating, as if I have nothing to say indeed.

It’s an experiment that rings true considering my feet are so swollen from my weekend’s work, they’d look better on a cartoon character (or on the Michelin Man, if he were drawn barefooted).  For the last few morns, it’s been a slow start.  My sleep has been dreamless, so I find no material there.  And once awoken, I’ve been opening my shades to cloudless, clear skies outside.  So, even the weather can’t justify my proneness to heavy pontification today:  Oh, it’s summer alright!  No doubt about it.

As for the little break-up related chaoses of the last two months, they have quietly slipped out.  Finally.  Yes, there had to be a lot of work — and so much agony! — with all that self-searching in the name of growth, and lessons, and my future, better relationship.  (Lord, Shiva!  It was starting to feel so excessive.)  The Zen peeps say all human misery originates from a refusal to recognize the impermanence of things — a refusal to surrender, to let go. 

And if it weren’t for the previous break-up related chaoses, I could’ve carried on like this for years:  with this love, coming and leaving the affair, then cradling my misery as if it were my lovechild.  Holding on.  Refusing to let go.  But no!  Not this time around.  Yes, it took me a while to acknowledge my partner’s decision to quit; but once I heard it:  Oh, it was over alright!  No doubt about it.  (But then again, I hear I’ve never done anything half-assed-ly; and that must include my new ability to let go.  To surrender.)

So, you see:  I have no readily available material this morn.  So, you just watch me:  I’m gonna do some serious procrastinating!

Here comes — my morning coffee!  It’s the first thing I’ve done every day of my adult life:  Turn on whatever device is going to deliver my wake-up elixir.  It could be preceded by the whistling of a tea kettle or the laboriously percolating of my rusty drip machine; but the smell that follows is enough make me want to start.  Start what?  ANYTHING.

So, is that it then?  Is that why I never run out of things to say:  Because despite the losses and the regrets, the suffering and the unpredictable strife ahead — I adore the very act of living? Because I’m not done yet, with any of it:  art, craft; love, worship, discovery; friendship, camaraderie, motherhood?  And because it is a quality of my own motha’s spirit:  to be in awe with every activity, however new or habitual?

Armed with my chipped Starbucks cup containing about a liter of caffeine, I proceed to my laptop.  First stop:  The New York Times.  I roam, I skim through, click away.  I proceed to the NY Region section, linger on this summer’s production of Shakespeare in the Park.  I can already hear it:  The sounds of that City poorly absorbed by the man-made strip of nature running through its middle.  I surrender to the feeling of immediate gratitude:  for having lived in so many places; for having lived so much and so well.  So, is that it then?  Is that why I never run out things to say?

The side column is flooded with editorials on this weekend’s Gay Pride Parade.  The photographs of those well lived-in faces — bohemians and lovers, subversives and revolutionaries, and local leaders — they all seem so different this time.  Yes, there is still joy and flamboyancy, and utter emotional freedom.  But I cannot ignore those who are tearful or hysterically relieved.  I roam through the pictures of the same sex couples, some with their children, all looking like they’ve all suddenly learned to let go.  Yep, New York has done it again:  It stepped up to the plate and despite its relatively small territory, it gave its people enough room for their dignity.  Oh, it’s New York alright!  No doubt about it.

I pour myself the second liter of coffee and proceed to my books, spread all over my joint and in different stages of being read, yet equally marked-up.  Here is Junot Diaz, both of his bestsellers on my desk.  Like me, he is bi-cultural; speaks fluently in two languages — and irony.  He is badass, you can tell; has lived a lot, and well; learned some serious letting go.  Zadie is right underneath him, but oh so equal.  She is funny and brown, always good to flip through.  A master of dialects, she is so far ahead of me — so worthy of my worship!  But in our empathy, we are equal.  In my bedroom, I find my favorite Manhattanite, Tony Kushner, and his shit never gets old.  Or maybe, I’m in the mood for some melancholy:  I wander into the living-room and find some Lorrie Moore, on the floor, near the balcony.  I park my coffee, get lost.

And is that it then:  Is that why I never run out things to say?  Because there is still too much to read, to learn; because others have not procrastinated from speaking?  They speak in different voices — some in awe, others in surrender — and in that likeness and difference, I can always find inspiration. 

Or is it because we are all so equal, in our love for the human race?  Because we dwell in the very act of living — anti-procrastinating — none of us running out of things to say? 

Still, you’ve just watched me doing some serious procrastinating.  I did that!  And how did I do?

Money Makes My World Go ‘Round

Definitions, definitions.  This year has been all about definitions.

How I’ve gone through my entire life without defining my boundaries or my personal relationships, I haven’t had time to wonder.  Because I’ve been surviving, my comrades, up until recently:  maneuvering through a hormonal cocktail of adrenaline and testosterone that came from either my obnoxious determination or fear (both of which I often covered up with sex).  But it is now that I feel clear-minded and calm enough to examine my life’s choices and figure out my future ones.  

And according to numerous testimonies:  I’m right on time.  My 20s were supposed to be chaotic.  So, okay, I could’ve settled for a calmer childhood; but that is the very tragedy of children:  They don’t have a choice.  They survive whatever circumstances are granted to them, whatever chaos they inherit.  And I could hope that they come out as strong and compassionate adults at the end of it all.  But then, I’d rather spend that same hope on a continuous prayer that every child is granted a more peaceful, innocent childhood in the first place.  I myself no longer harbor any feelings of being gipped as a child.  Instead, I chalk it up to a lesson in my own better parenting, in the future.

One of the leading topics of the year — is money.  Or rather, whether or not money defines success, and how? I find that for most of my American contemporaries, this particular definition has been long established:  They are more at ease with cash; and many make it the ultimate goal of their living.  Which must be why there is no better plot to an American life than the one in which the pursuit of making a living — is often synonymous to making a life.  (And if there were any saving grace in the current recession we’re all still surviving, it has to be the necessary — generational! — reexamination of our values.)

Many of my friends with more traditional professions invest their lives in the purpose of their jobs.  For the sake of these jobs, they work insanely long hours, taking a few sick days here and there; and they rarely take vacations.  But even then, their typically American vacations don’t last long.  They are comprised of a quick, and sometimes stressful getaway to an exotic location — for just a week; while most European families I know won’t even consider packing their suitcases unless they have a near month to spare.

As for me, it has been ingrained in me by my own socialist childhood that money is merely the means, not the end.  But then again, I’ve witnessed my parents’ poverty; and let me tell you, my comrades:  There is no more brutal dehumanization or humiliation than that.  So, as far as experiencing poverty goes (for me or my folk) — I’m done with that one!  All set, thank you very much.  Good to know; but here, I’d like to think I’ve fulfilled my life’s quota, so I’ll just to join the money race now.  Where do I start?

My bohemian friends who manage their survival via freelance gigs and an occasional income from their artistic endeavors tend to define money as energy.  Many years ago, one of my first LA-LA comrades defined it this way:

“If you use your money to help people — not start wars — money becomes the force of goodness.”

However simplified, I had to write that one down; and thank Shiva I did!  Because back then, so painful was the lack of my own money, I could only be preoccupied with investing it in my basic needs.  But these days, as I invest endless hours in the pursuit of my self-made career, I’m also in a position to start defining the purpose of my money:  current and future.

A couple of days ago, a sensitive and inspiring young creature descended upon my evening, but nearly ended-up staying the night.  I have adopted her, you see, as my soul’s guardian.  It’s a two-way exchange:  I look out for her physical wellness, while she — continuously saves my soul.  (What can I say?  It is a habit of mine:  To walk through every chapter of my life while keeping an eye on a handful of young women.  “Feminism”, “a delayed maternal instinct”, “a comfortably bisexual orientation” — call it whatever the fuck you want:  I believe in helping those who, just as I, have been robbed of a peaceful childhood.)

While she vented, albeit gracefully, about a job at which she was underpaid but also humiliated on a weekly basis, I thought:  Bingo!  My definition of financial success must include helping my friends.  But then again:  My friends are my equals (which is why my friendships have always worked out better than my romances), so I wouldn’t go calling it “help”.  Rather:  I would consider myself ever-so-successful if I were soon in a position to hire my friends.  Of course, I am very careful about entering into any business ventures with acquaintances.  But what better way to pay it forward — for any possible success or prosperity of my own — than to eliminate unnecessary suffering from the lives of those I love, by granting them better opportunities?

And then, of course, there are those beloveds whom I have adopted as my family (which includes, by the way, my own old folks).  There aren’t very many of them, but they are my very truth — the very gist of my worth; and for them, I wish my prosperity were limitless.  I would dream of no better success than to be in a position to contribute to my goddaughter’s education, for instance, or her plans to travel the world.  It would thrill me with gratitude to contribute to my best friend’s first house downpayment or to purchase arrangements for my girlfriends’ getaways while they’re the midst of their undeserved heartbreaks. To buy a luxury vehicle for my old man — just so that nerd could take it apart and put it back together — it would break my heart with humility.  Because what better manifestation of a life well-lived than its limitless generosity?

Finally:  What is the definition of money for my own existence?  Easy-peasy, comrades:  MONEY — IS FREEDOM.  Freedom to pursue my own opportunities, to fulfill my own wonderings (and to pay for my wanderings), to chase my own dreams.  Freedom to have the privilege of time.  Because not every life may have the deficit of money — but the deficit of time does appear to be universal. 

So:  “Time — is money” it is, eh?  And considering I’ve already been quite successful at defining the ways I choose to spend my time, I’m right on time in defining the spending of my money.

“Where Dem Girls Talkin’ Trash?”

Mornin’, Haters!  Rough night?

I’ve been watching you, you inconveniences of the human race!  You interferences en route to the happiness of my own!  I’ve caught you sticking foreign objects into the spokes of my fellow dreamers’ rides, for reason you don’t even know yourself.  Around this town, you slither, dropping banana peels out of your back pockets as if they were horse shit.  I’ve heard you hiss and gloat at others’ defeat, chiming in your hateful sounds into the collective white noise that hangs above LA-LA like a toxic rainbow.

What?  You think life’s unfair?!  You think you deserve better?!  Perhaps.  Most likely, yes, actually; for life could always be a lil’ bit better, or easier, or more just.  But you’ll be getting bupkis, if you continue to reach for a piece of someone else’s happiness.  You gotta make your own, you see.  Play your own game.  Place your own bets.  Cast your risky ballots.  So, let me do you this favor and tell you what you look like; because no matter how pretty the wrapping, a hater — is always a nature’s disgrace.  Now, you don’t wanna be that, do ya?!

As for you, my magnificent dreamers:  Take notes!

—  A single hater — is easy to pick out; for whatever smoothness they may possess in a social setting, they are always accompanied by a slight stench of discomfort. It may be disguised behind a narrowing of their eyes or a hideous, strained smile.  Beauty always sets off a certain discomfort in their skin.  So, they start shooting the comparing looks and tagging on their own clothes.  That’s the moment in which their self-hatred becomes so unbearable — they better start looking to blame someone else for it.

—  When they speak — insincerity is their spiel. Some of them think they are so suave, with their forced compliments and eager nodding!  All you gotta do — is do The Fake Walkaway. Besides sex, it’s my favorite sport, my gorgeous comrades, and it goes like this:  You wrap up the chat, excuse yourself and swing your proud head in the direction of your fake destination.  Then, count to three and quickly look back.  The spiteful stare that you’ll witness will make your skin crawl, so brace yourself, my dreamers, and start groping for your own forgiveness and esteem.


—  A ballsier hater will address you with a pet name. See the following list:  “honey” or “hun”; “missy” or “Miss Thang”; “look atcha” or that annoying “aah” sound, as if they were looking at babies.

—  Female haters — a special category. To me, it’s the most fascinating and heartbreaking one.  They glare at beautiful girls from behind the rims of their martini glasses.  If confronting beauty face to face, they linger before smiling (if at all!); and even then, that smile is so painful, their faces appear pumped-up with Botox or novocaine.  It is beyond their ability to pay a compliment that’s not back-handed.  Here are some samples:

“Pretty dress,” — (sometimes, they start pecking with their hands at the mentioned frock) — “Whereja get it?  Forever 21?”

“I love your eyebrows!”  They squint and lean in.  “But they’re a bit crooked though.”  And then:  THEY TOUCH YOU!  Some haters are big on touching:  It’s their way of testing just much they can violate your boundary.

“Nice hair!”  “Nice” is a female hater’s favorite adjective; and they say it as if whining a bit.  Sometimes, a “nice” is accompanied by a raising of eyebrows, or a rolling of the eyeballs, or a chuckle.  Other times, they may even pat your shoulder blade.  But on the receiving end of it, these gestures always make you feel like a leper.

—  Some haters hang in packs, kinda like hungry hyenas, waiting for the scraps of a lion’s dinner.  You can always observe them congregate:  hissing at the same round table at Starbucks, or hugging the walls of a dance floor, or giving tiny blow jobs to their cigarettes while being quarantined from the healthier mortals.  In packs, they’re slightly braver and maybe even sadistic.  So, beware when passing them:  Hold your own and be prepared to retaliate!

—  Speaking of a comeback:  The only way to handle a single hater — or a pack of ‘em — is to call ‘em out. Here, the good news is you needn’t be mean or vindictive.  What freaks out a hater the most — is honesty.  So, you see, my glorious creatures, it’s not about defending yourself.  It’s about confronting atrocious human behavior with self-possession and truth. All you do — is call it like it is:

“You sound condescending,” or “Is that a back-handed compliment?” usually gets a hater to panic, for they’re weasely fuckers.

“Is there a problem?” or “Do you have something to say to me?” just might give ‘em a heart attack.

But I must confess here:  It’s a little bit fun to watch them scramble for excuses and less than eloquent explanations of their original meanings.  It’s the only pleasure I get out of handling a hater, bare-handedly.

Besides that, my beautiful boys ‘n’ girls — you dreamers that make this fucking planet worth treading! — I treat dem haters like a herpes-infected piece of chewed-up and discarded gum:  Avoid touching ’em with my hands, scrape ‘em off the bottom of my fancy shoe and leave ’em on the side of the road!


“If You Feelin’ Like a Pimp — Go ‘n’ Brush Your Shoulders Off!”

Good morning, you courageous creations of Nature!  You Herculeses of fate!  You wander-lusty Amazons of the world!

My beloved quirky dreamers stepping into the spot normally occupied by my Inspiration (for that Amazon wander-lusts a lot on my bohemian ass!).  My gypsy friends with messy heads of curls telegraphing your love via the Northern winds.  You curious hearts refusing to give up on charity or love.  You soldiers willing to rest only in my company while stretching your exhausted thighs underneath my pine table loaded with a homemade feast.

My Angles, my Black Birds; my Peter Pans and Wendys; my Little Princes and their Brave Roses.  My Shivas.  My Bad Asses.  My Hearts.

Where in the frigging fuck are we all running to?

“Gotta do something!  Gotta be somebody!” you tell me.

I bet it is your ambition and your courageous pursuit of your dreams that makes me adore you.  But I have seen some of you slip up — but never crumble — on the way to your conquests; and in those vulnerable seconds I could NOT have loved you more.  Because it is in the way you chuckle when you pick yourself up; the way you rise up again, albeit embarrassed; the way you mend your torn-up clothes — with dignity of kings!; the way you bite your lower lips when I tend to your scratches; and the way you brush off your shoulders from the hail of the words of haters — in all that you teach me the merely invisible line between pride and dignity.  And then you take off again, pushing yourself with your impatience, or your fear of not mattering.

“Gotta get somewhere!  Gotta become something!”

Last night, a beloved woman best compared to my personal Mother Teresa was beating herself up in our phone conversation.  She has experienced motherhood late in life, and instead of living for the sake of her daughter alone — she went back to school.  Astonishing!  Off she went, my kindest LA-LA heart, pulling along a full-time job, a full-time class schedule — and a frigging stroller.

“I’ve got to do this for my daughter!” she flagellated the soft skin of her back with her frustration at the current, undeserving employer and her impatience with the world’s injustices; and the self-imposed pressure to be a better parent.

The last time I’ve encountered that mentioned girl-child, born so smart she conjugates her verbs better than most grown-ups she meets at her play-dates, she wasn’t asking her mother to become better.  Her mother’s time — was all she wanted.  And who could blame her:  In the company of my girlfriend, every person feels fully received, understood and unconditionally accepted.  Oh so many times, my red-headed Mother Teresa had gotten an earful from me about the errors of my underserving men or my own sins against my self-worth.  Yet, she remained nonjudgemental, kind — just the way a mother is supposed to be.  So, the only thing I miss about her these days — is her company.  Her time.  Her very being.  To me, she is perfectly enough; and I bet that little brilliant child of hers feels the same way.

“Well!  I’ve gotta do this, for myself!” my favorite redhead concluded last night, after a couple of my meek objections.

A’right!  NOW we’re talkin’!  The most stubborn advocate of learning, I shall not disagree with this woman’s ambition to better herself — but she better not pull that sacrifice card on me, or on her child.  Do it for yourself, your own high expectations of your humanity.  But in the mean time, please:  Treat yourself with a lil’ bit more kindness, will you?

Now, I wish I would live by my own sermon, my comrades.  Having skipped out on sufficient sleep for a month now, I am tearing through time that passes way too quickly while my dreams seem to move way too slowly, crashing the face of every clock I encounter on my way like a petulant child who’s not fond of hearing “Nyet!”.  With each new wrinkle underneath my exhausted eyes, I’ve been chalking-up the sacrifices committed for the sake of my future, accomplished and seemingly overall better self.

Gotta, gotta, gotta!” I mutter in my lover’s bed; and he — Shiva bless him! — tangles up his callused, manly hand in my hair and whispers me to sleep.

Okay!  I promise:  Tomorrow I shall rest!

…Yet already, my to-day’s heavy schedule is scratching at the front door, like a homeless, scrawny cat I’ve made a poor choice to feed every once in a while.  The sound of everything I’ve “gotta” do is speeding-up my heartbeat and making me slightly nauseous with anxiety.  Just like always, I bet I shall accomplish every one of my “gotta’s” with grace and efficiency; and when I do, I promise to celebrate with a cup of brutally-brewed black Russian tea, with brown honey.  And during my rest stops — my breathing breaks — I shall let my beloveds remind me of my magnificence and demand my time and company; for it is in the shared moments of slowness that I tend to feel most accomplished and merely enough.

But tomorrow, my beautiful dreamers, my curious bystanders and compassionate witnesses — tomorrow, I promise to do this, all friggin’ day: