vendredi, octobre 29, 2004

Blog Fatigue

Who knew such a thing existed? I've got a bad case of it (on top of my bad case of adrenal fatigue- good stuff.) I still like everybody plenty fine, but feel like I'm beating a dead blog here lately, so I'm going to take the blog equivalent of a nap. A short nap. (I'll read you in my sleep, though, promise.)

Lucky for you, I don't snore.

mercredi, octobre 13, 2004

I Took My Dog To The Levee

It rolls up green to a line of trees along the Mississippi close to where I live. I talked smack on my cell phone with big bro' Chez Jo and wielded the leash with the other hand. This was silly. But I've already explained why I don't think clearly enough to do things logically. Anyway, I walked my dog. He did what dogs do. And then some.

He's a rescued dog. Discovered wandering through southern Ohio- fur matted and muddy. Skinny as all hell. The woman who took him in required some real convincing when it came to letting him leave. She called him Champion. I called him Nando Vincero. The first name is from my favorite fast food place in South Africa- Nando's Chicken. A lot of chicken is eaten in Africa. Who knew?

The second name isn't really a name. It's an Italian verb, masculine, singular. (Vin-chair-oh.) I know it contextually- it's something like (I have) conquered/ overcome. It's a bit much for a 21 lb. cocker spaniel that is constantly being mistaken for a girl dog. (He's got big talent, mind you, but nobody sees that when his coat gets long.) Not his fault. The name, I mean. His owner got carried away listening to the Three Tenors.

I don't know what he's been through, but he's gentle around people and a real pain in the balls around other dogs. Well, okay, BIG dogs. I mean rottweilers and dobermans and great dane's, for fuck's sake. I joke that he's got a prison yard mentality- like he's gonna get in and beat up the biggest one there and then all of the others will think he's crazy and leave him alone. Oy vay. He has no sense.

Sometimes he's lucky and the enemy he's facing down on the poop strewn field of battle is actually not very dominant and will back down, frightened, and run away. More often, though, the big dog feels like a big dog and wants to fight. My pooch- cute and stupid- will not back down one inch. This is why I have to keep him on a leash at a dog park where all the other dogs run free. This is also why I have to circle around between him and big, barking dogs who want to take a chunk out of his hide for daring to challenge them. I circle. They circle. One day, one of these big dogs is gonna take a chunk out of my hide just for being in the way. Like I said, I don't really think clearly enough these days to do things logically. (Now who's cute and stupid?)

Never mind all that. What I really wanted to tell you about was the fact that I didn't go straight home after the visit to the park. Instead, I drove up and down Magazine Street, back and forth. And then I headed over to St. Charles to do the same thing. Looking both ways before flipping a U-ey across the streetcar tracks. And yeah, it was repetitive. But it was pretty. People with more energy than I have were out running in the neutral ground. The oak trees took up both sides of the street. Old houses never looked better. The tiniest bit of cool was in the air and the light faded like my favorite perfume.

And that's not really what I was into. I kept driving because ChezJoel mentioned he'd heard "Wonder Boy" on some university radio station recently. Because that reminded me that I love me some Tenacious D. I was driving because I wasn't done listening to the entire damn disc. That and I wasn't done with the soothing illusion that I was getting somewhere. Even though I'm tired. Even though I was just driving back and forth.

I write pretty stuff sometimes. What I like about Kyle and Jack is that they do, too, and then they turn all of that on its head and they're just foul. Foul and funny. I'm not even gonna say which tracks had me laughing out loud.

You never know who's reading this shit.

lundi, octobre 11, 2004

(Anticipating) Feeling Fine

I know I have been cranky lately while I've been sick. In fact, I reached a very low point here recently (which you couldn't know about without me describing it.) A couple of weeks ago, I hit a one year anniversary of adrenal exhaustion due to out-of-control pollen allergies. Truly, I am a person to be pitied. I moved to New Orleans- one of the premier party citays on the planet- and a month and a half after arriving was knocked flat on my ass by allergies which are off the Richter scale.

I'd never experienced anything like it before. Ever. So, yes, I have spent the past year pretty much incapacitated energy-wise. Lovely things happen to you when you become this run down: you lose the ability to concentrate, think clearly, manage your emotions, feel optimistic, feel joyful. Your appetite runs away with the spoon. You sleep and sleep and still wake up feeling like you've been hit by a Mack truck.

You visit your cute, young doctor who tells you it's all in your head. He wants to prescribe trendy antidepressants. You want to kick his tanned shins. "You're just depressed," he says kindly. "I am not depressed! I am seriously excited about my life, I just don't have the energy to live it," you retort helplessly. You suddenly understand the bullshit women have been putting up with for centuries. (OOOOH, so if you'd just cut out my uterus, I'd feel great and stop bothering you! Thanks, doc! I really AM insane! Good thing I have a rational man like you around to tell me what I'm feeling and thinking. Wshew! God's really looking out for me, isn't HE.)

You lose your temper easily. (Exhibit A above.) You exercise- which feels good- but still doesn't raise your energy level. You learn to manage your emotions. You learn to ration out the bitter grief you feel about losing month after month of your own personal, amazing existence to this idiotic exhaustion. You learn that you have to figure out how to be "happy" in a smaller and smaller corner of your world. Your expectations dwindle. You try to settle.

You can't. You weren't made to settle and you know this with your whole soul and it's breaking your heart. You begin (for the first time in your life) to think of food as medicine. You jettison all of your favorite things. Your cravings go away. If it works, you won't mind being a food monk. It doesn't work. You can tell you're better off eating healthier (duh) but your metabolism is still dragging its ass and your immune system has turned into the worst whore ever- consorting with any damn infection that's interested.

You make AIDS jokes (about yourself, obviously. There's no way in hell you'd joke about anybody else's suffering.) You make SARS jokes. Anthrax jokes? Anything to be able to laugh at how stupid it feels to be so diminished. It's not funny. But you're tired, so sometimes it's funny how not funny it is.

But... you start to write for the first time in your life. (Everybody's doin' it.) And this, it turns out, is something that a tired person can do. And this, it turns out, is something you have a gift for (to one degree or another- new and unpolished, certainly.) And this, it turns out, keeps you sane. This delivers up the same kind of joy that you find when you dance or sing or design for hours on end. And that, it turns out, is even better than nice. You don't feel "happy" . You feel thrilled.

Still, before you know it, a year of your life is gone- a year in which you couldn't get to the design work you love, the dance lessons you promised yourself, the singing you need to do to be happy, the social whirl which awaits your inner drag queen's entrance, the up-to-your-eyeballs amour fous you were going to have with this beautiful and decaying place you will only live in for a brief time- no, you can't get to any of that. You can't have that. Your mail is delivered each day to the 7th ring of hell. You can look, but you can't touch. You are reduced to longing- to pleading- for one single drop of the life you knew, the person you have known yourself to be. There is no Lazarus. Don't even ask.

Yes, that one year anniversary rolls around and you crash and feel lower than low. And remember again the heights from which you've fallen. And everything tastes like dust. And you get kind of cranky online- thinking all the while now why would I be that way with people I like? And you know the answer, but it's not a good answer (such an unsatisfying answer!) so you don't even bother to speak it. Until now.

This is current. This is work in progress. This needs to get better soon. So, I'm going to Houston, fokles, to see American doctors practicing European medicine. (Hope is a thing with feathers- and beads, probably- falling down drunk on Bourbon Street.) I can hardly see straight when I think of the time I've lost, but I'm screwing my courage to the sticking point, 'cuz I've had it with a year that has invalid-ated almost everything I am. I've had my last 'nice cry'. I'm not a girl now- I'm a fighter. That thing up there at the top of my page is aimed at me alone. I am this close to fucking fierce.

Oh, and did I mention that I never have been anything less than completely loved this whole lost time? God, it turns out, doesn't give a shit about me not being as cool as I can be, so long as we're not separated. He's so damn loyal. So, I got that going for me, which is nice. Hell, that is way nicer than nice.

I'm still tired, I can tell, 'cuz my eyes are watering. (Loyalty always gets to me.) Oh, dammit to crap. I'll say it, so you don't have to: I'm still definitely very much a girl. Happy now?

Me, too.

vendredi, octobre 08, 2004

I thought you were dead.

But you're not. You've just gone underground. A bit. When I read the part about no comments and no numbers, it felt like a new Dogme 95. Blogging in its purest form. And I thought that was beautiful. And inspired. Well, it inspired me anyway. Not that I'm going to jettison my comments. Or my statcounter. Or any of my silly baggage.

But I'm glad you're still there. When you hit your stride, dancing in the street like that, you are one of the loveliest voices I have ever heard. You with your keys and your cats and your Russian place. (Did you have the borscht? Was it the place with a black and white floor and big glass cases?)

I thought I'd roll you onto my list of ones to watch. And then I thought, naaah, this is private stuff. I'm not even sure I'm supposed to see it. But when you are so true- so faithfully human- how can I look away? C.S. Lewis said one of my favorite things ever- "We read to know we are not alone." Maybe you write for the same reason.

You do your thing. I love how not-neat it all is. And I'm glad you're there. So glad.

I'm not the only one who can't really keep it all together.

mardi, octobre 05, 2004

Please Do Not Feed The Animals

I've taken over one huge work table in the corner by windows closed against the mosquitoes which swarm in the late Florence summer. I am prepared to work all night if necessary to finish a project which just does not capture my imagination. By tomorrow morning, I need to have completely inked over 100 illustrations for original fashion designs. Children's clothing. Children's clothing made out of micro-fleece, to be exact. (Micro-fleece does capture my imagination, but not for children's clothes. I want to play with it. Inappropriately. You know- turn it into evening gowns suitable for Grace Jones in Paris. Ugly. And bravely, angrily out of style. Right now. Just because I feel like it.)

Instead, I pick up another Letraset Pantone Tria marker. Ripping off the cap covering the medium tip, I start filling in yet another huge button, on yet another goofy kid's outfit. I'm frustrated. And bored. And this is a very real kind of fashion design moment, to tell you the truth. The kind of moment, where every dumb idea I've ever cherished about being the next crazy couturier to blow away every other, long established house in the Chambre Syndicale De La Couture, is ground into a fine powder. A fine powder suitable for snorting (at) late at night when I realize that this entire industry is just a bunch of silly salmon swimming upstream to die. To die or to design Fruit of the Loom Underwear while living in a rat infested hole, excuse me, apartment, in the city that never sleeps. And yeah, I can do that and every time my soul weeps over how my mighty soufflé of a dream has fallen because the oven was too hot or some fool opened the door too soon or what have you, I can sternly remind myself that I wanted this. I wanted to take this chance.

Me and every other fool who spent too many giddy hours flipping through fashion magazines, acclimating our eyes to the outright ugliness of high fashion- the high concept art of artifice- which has never met a boundary it wouldn't cross. Our pupils dilating to see in the dark. The dark of editorial pictorials using elements of every single kind of violence, sickness and sexual deviance known to mankind. Just to shock. Just to sell.

Kicks just keep getting harder to find, I tell you. After years and years of wading through an art form which advances, lock stepped, in time with every cutting edge thing happening in music, writing, visual arts, science, culture and politics, I am quite comfortably numb. In fact, this is an art form which often anticipates and even forces changes in those other areas. I know, for instance, literally years before mainstream pornography consumers do, which kind of body they will be instructed to desire next. My chosen industry is bored, vacuous, sick, filled with longing, anger, sadness, jealousy, and fear. And then a Donna Karan comes along and does things with a great measure of sanity and joy, for woman's sake, and stranded fashion consumers feel hopeful and lovely and grounded. And they catapult her into monstrous commercial success. Still, my industry is stupid. So they don't duplicate her triumph. They continue to trade on women's weakest and worst selves.

And this is what they appeal to in fashion magazines. Most of the time. I am used to this. So used to it, in fact that I forget it's even there. Whenever I have set my magazines down on the couch at my sister's house, she rushes in to find me in the next room. She pushes Nylon, Elle and Surface into my hands and says, "I just don't want the boys to flip through them. I don't know how I'm going to explain these kinds of pictures to them when they ask about them." I feel simultaneously, that surely, this is an overreaction, and also, oh, she's right. These contain some complicated, rather adult stuff. And not happy adult stuff, either. Her boys are young- very young- and she is trying to let them take on the entire, complex matter of learning this world in a way, and in an order which, hopefully, they can handle well. They'll get to everything. Eventually. She is a good mom and she preserves childhood for her children. For the time that they need it.

But I am a grownup. And I am working on a dream which is, by now, 16 years old. To become- to learn to be- a fashion designer. Which means, that as I lay color down- blending in this (by now) second nature way, with no apparent overlaps in application, building volume and shadow and texture into this 2-D form- I push all other considerations aside. Push away my deepest longings for beauty and sensual enjoyment. What my mind may create. What my hands may touch. What my eyes may see.

I push away every desire for creative community. For approbation and understanding. For pride in the pleasure of my peers. For belonging with others who eat, sleep and breathe these problems of which fabric and how to cut it. These problems of bodies and how they're made and how they turn. The knee bone connected to the thigh bone. She moved in circles and those circles moved.

I push off every part of my own woman's heart which understands why these things must exist- why it is necessary to become fluent in the language that fabrics possess. Why we may rail against the way things are between men and women, but must never be foolish enough to ignore the way things are. Between men and women.

I refer to the reality that women are- at least in part- made for eyes. We did not make ourselves, of course, and this is something that men are often confused about. They feel fear and desire about what they see and often attribute the power of their responses to women themselves. They believe that women are consciously and capably making them fear and desire and in response to this belief and these feelings, men often pile on even more fear and desire, often with a good measure of shame and anger to boot.

All of this power, of course, attributed to women who are usually running around without even 1/5 of an appropriate understanding of the impact the "made for eyes" aspect of them will have. Has had. Does have. Even the women who make a living off of a rather cynical understanding of the "made for eyes" aspect of their existence, just don't get it. (Baby, will you eat that there snack cracker? In your special outfit? For me? Please?)

I'm not sure why it's this way, but I know that it just is. On this point, I am an old French woman shrugging her shoulders. She's seen it all and is no longer surprised. It was ever thus. Still... romance stalks around every corner. Every dream, every longing was made to be answered. Put on that dress.... and make a wish.

And I push away every fear I have. Fears of insignificance and wasted time. Of not being good enough. Of never reaching what I dream of having. What I dream of being. And I drift into this Zen state of work. For work's sake. This is enough. There is nothing more. No more fear. No more desire. Just color laid down. On the correct side of marker paper.

And music is in my ears the whole time. So, I sing. Lost in this color. Lost in this sound. Lost in this old, old room in Italy. Bebel Gilberto leads and I follow behind her, for her pretty sake, through this disc of Brazilian music. Pantone ink soaks and bleeds through my paper as I push color all the way up to the black inked edges of each shape. And easy, sinuous music rises in this small room. I push sound effortlessly off these stone walls. And they curve it back to me. We are all- paper, pen, voice, walls- very pleased. And we are lost in here. Time has run away. And left us to our own devices.

Someone is at my left shoulder and I speak- too loudly, I'm sure, because the music is still pouring into my ears- "You're back already! Did you eat?" I turn to see the smart, irritating, funny and courageous girl who was working in the same room earlier this evening. And stare in shock at someone who is very definitely not her. One of the graduate architect students from downstairs is standing beside me- too close. I flip one of the earphones aside and raise my eyebrows questioningly. He smiles and says, "We thought you guys were up here having a party and didn't invite us." I say, "Oh!" (I can't think of anything else. I am, you will remember, rising up from my drugged state of peaceful color and easy sound.) He just stands and smiles at me. Evidently, it is still my turn to speak. So I try again. "I'm sorry, I'm kind of right brained right now- the drawing, the singing." I wave distractedly at the pile of supplies on the table to my right.

Logical, conversational words are the most difficult thing to form at this moment. They are utterly beside the point where I have just been. But he wants to speak with me, so I try. "I'm sorry if I was bothering you all downstairs. Was I being too loud?" He smiles even wider, and says, "No, you sound beautiful. I can't believe you were actually singing. We all thought somebody was playing music up here." "You sure? 'Cuz if I'm bothering anybody, just tell me and I'll be quiet", I insist earnestly. He tilts his head, considering me and says, "You're not bothering anybody. Keep singing." And then he walks out the door. I yell, "Just let me know, though, if I bug you guys." I shrug and go back to work. And I go back to my singing. Because it's fun. Because it feels good. Because I'm not hurting anybody.

My friend arrives a few minutes later, having been stopped downstairs by more of these architect types who want information about the singer upstairs. We shake our heads. There is no time for this kind of foolishness. There is too much work to finish. We turn away from each other and burrow back into our own toil.

Later on, I am most of the way through my 100 illustrations. And I am most of the way through a shuffled Sarah McLachlin disc (and damn that's heavy stuff. What's sadder than sad?) I have finished

oh, but every time I'm close to you
there's too much I can't say
and you just walk away

and I forgot
to tell you
I love you
and the night's
too long
and cold here
without you
I grieve in my condition
for I cannot find the words to say I need you so.

And while the feeling of that still eddies around me, I slide into

it doesn't mean much
it doesn't mean anything at all
the life I've left behind me
is a cold room
I've crossed the last line
from where I can't return
where every step I took in faith
betrayed me
and led me from my home.

This is all touching on painful stuff- religion and deception, love and death- a grief that just won't end. But I am nearly done with my work and I can afford to send my heart up in flames before I walk home, foolish in the dark.

I catch movement out of the corner of my eye and still singing-

is misery
made beautiful
right before our eyes
will mercy be revealed
or blind us where we stand

will we burn in heaven
like we do down here

- I look toward the doorway. He is back and he's brought two friends. He points at me and I hear him say, "She's the one that sings." Another answers, "Man, I thought you were lying about her!" They watch me in my corner by the windows as if I were an exotic animal. Trapped in this little design school zoo.

And truly they are adorable boys. All looking at me. Drifting into what my voice has done to them. Eyes softening. Bodies tensing. Ready to compete with each other. Over me.

I shake my head and turn my eyes back to my page. I am older than they could ever imagine. And I have work to do.