Saturday, September 27, 2003

if you want something done, give it to a busy person

Last night I saw the movie The Cell, finally, on PRobot's gargantuan television, and then we had a long conversation about how difficult we both find it to get all the things done we want to. There was this whole funny bit about how the bad guy in the movie comes into possession of the remote locale where he perpetuates his murders--I wanted to know why the evil psycho-serial-mutilate-killers in these movies always seem to have plenty of money to build elaborate containers, contraptions, and video setups. If you've seen the movie, you know that this particular bad guy apparently doesn't build the entire thing himself; it seems that someone else built it, and then ran out of money or got caught on back taxes or something, I don't know, and the movie's villain took possession.

So we were talking about guy number one, the fella who started building this contraption and never used it. We figured he has the same problem we do--he gets an idea, starts working on it, and then gets distracted. The kind of moment PRobot calls "shiny!" and I call "I'm going to organize my sock drawer now." We had this whole riff going about it, and how maybe there would be a lot more psycho-serial-mutilate-killers, except many candidates have follow-through problems, and perhaps could use some success coaches to realize their dreams of mayhem.

I don't remember having this problem when I had a day job. But my journals tell a different story. I had lots of ideas, but since I had no time to execute (sorry) them, I just whined about how my job didn't allow me the time to do all these things I wanted to do. Now I have the time, but I'm bad at managing it; and I squander lots of of time and energy that I could be putting towards creating all the great stuff I like to think I have in me.

I was so relieved when I read this story about Douglas Adams, who of course wrote the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It seems he was terrible at meeting deadlines. His editor had to lock Adams in a hotel room with lots of paper when he wanted a book finished (the idea of my editor doing such a thing is absurd). Here's the quote from Adams: "I love deadlines. I like the sound they make as they fly by."

Thursday, September 25, 2003

let's have a moment of silence for the lagomorphs

Seems that Ahnold plans to cast Arianna Huffington in Terminator 4 and only the Green Party candidate was able to stay above the fray tonight. Nope, not surprised. Earlier today I was crouched down reading an Examiner article through the window in the box (yes, I know it's free; I still don't want to handle the blasted thing) and a street fella walking by said, "I voted! Yes! I voted already at City Hall! I voted for the Terminator! Yes! I voted!"

It wasn't until 1969 that there was universal suffrage for every Brit over 18. Imagine. It came in dribs and drabs over decades. First you had to be wealthy, landed, and male. Then the wealth requirements started coming down. In 1918 British women got the vote, but only if they were older than 30 (men: 21). Then it was 21 for everyone. Now it's 18.

Voting is incredibly, incredibly precious. Remember when all the people of South Africa got to vote, the first time? The election that brought in Mandela, still shaking off the prison dust? People all but crawled over broken glass. There was a great photo of a woman older than god pushing herself up from her wheelchair to stick her ballot in the box.

Do I really need to spell this point out? I mean, Ahnold. Maria Shriver speaking in front of the Commonwealth Club: "My husband blossoms in adversity." I don't care if Ahnold is some sort of plant, we need a governor.

Maybe it's me. I went to school in the state that elected Jesse "The Body" Ventura, after all. I am taking up a collection. Wind me up and point me at the state you want run by a blustering, short-sighted, musclebound bozo; I'll take care of the rest. All I need is airfare and a per diem.

In other news, I was looking for a Web site featuring merit badges for PRobot, and discovered that not only is there not a merit badge for procrastination (I would make one up, but...I have to go roll up my clean socks now) but they have discontinued some merit badges. Imagine! Botany; gone. Consumer Buying; gone. Masonry; gone. Rifles; gone--and is anyone cough Columbine cough cough surprised?

But here's the kicker. BSA has discontinued the merit badge for Rabbit Raising. I feel like I should be sad about this, except that I don't know why they were raising rabbits to begin with. Perhaps to have a steady supply of targets for the guys working on their Rifles badges?

I think we need adult merit badges. Yes?

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

white thong panties with glow-in-the-dark cartoon amoeba octopus thingies

Don't you love laundry day?

I taught two kids' aikido classes with the aforementioned under my gi. Not that the little darlings will ever know, or the bus drivers, or the maiden aunt I just picked up from the BART station (well, maiden might be stretching it a bit...), or the parents of my students worried that their children have Sensory Integrative Dysfunction, or the woman who showed me the room I hope to rent.

But now you do. Lucky you! I leave it to my more politically-inclined friends to blog about the important things; I'm putting my space to more, um, fundamental use.

The Beijing Dog Park. Better known as the Shenzhou Doggy Park. I don't know what I was thinking when I made the journal entry on August 31, 1995; mostly I talked about the Women's Conference (which is edifying) and the fact that the portolets were squat-style (which is not.) Finally, I had this to say about the Doggy Park: was astonishingly, grindingly depressing...a far cry from the description in the infernal grey book. [The park] itself seems abandoned--like it was built to be really nice, and then promptly forgotten.

And that's it! The next entry deals with two women architects talking about 'the spirit of space' and the role of women in environmental design, then there's the address of some guy in Hong Kong who I guess I was supposed to write to and didn't, and then bang, it's two years later and I'm whining about some other guy and trying to keep my car from being repossessed. And I wonder why I'm not a famous travel writer. I guess I thought my photos would be evocative enough.

So here's what I remember when I look at the photos, which I may someday scan and throw up here. A gilded swan boat, half-submerged in an artificial lake. An absolute herd of tiny dogs with big eyes and big hairy ears, standing behind a chain-link fence and yapping like it was going out of style. A dog that looked exactly like the one my mother bought when my folks were first married, the dog who won Mike Royko's Ugly Dog Contest in the Looks the Least Like Any Known Breed category. A fox in a box, literally; a train car that had been fitted out with tiny animal enclosures in the windows, and a black fox in one of them, pushing its snout against a hole in the plexi. My climbing a fence to fill a German shepherd's bowl with water. Our friend trying not to cry as she looked at lethargic dogs in a cage. And everywhere faded paintings of dogs in heroic revolutionary settings with heroic revolutionaries--working dogs, police dogs, valiant dogs.

Oh, and some very unusual chickens with extra flappy bits hanging off their beaks and necks, and the capybaras. Which weigh up to 110 pounds, incidentally. UC Berkeley's site mentions that they are truly rodents of unusual size, and I appreciate the Princess Bride reference (PB may just be to Cary Elwes what Rocky Horror was to Tim Curry--the sexiest thing we'll ever see him do, and the role for which he'll always be remembered.)

Just to confuse the whole favorite rodent thing even further, I'm now voting for meerkats. I know they're not actually rodents but mongooses (mongeese?) but they're just so damn cute. Had I known I could go play with some the last time I was suffering in Palm Springs, I might have escaped that insanely boring dinner where our friends talked endlessly about how expensive manicures had gotten. A date with a suricate. If I can't have a meerkat, how about a Baluchistan pygmy jerboa (which is in fact a rodent)?

Yes, I was the kid who amused herself reading the Funk and Wagnall's Animal Encyclopedia, which was available in the seventies one volume at a time from the grocery store. I so looked forward to the new ones--Iguana to Jerboa, say--Mom would buy them as soon as they were available, and I'd read them in the back of the car heading home, surrounded by bags of groceries. Kangaroo to Langur. Lemur to Meerkat. Mole to Nuthatch.

My aunt, freshly arrived from Chicago, wants to know if I'm excited by the recall. What an odd question. I buried my face in my hands and groaned when she asked. I would sooner see, oh, a capybara in the Governor's mansion than Ahnold. If I'd thought of it sooner, we certainly could have gotten one on the ballot.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

my favorite rodent

There's a strange thing going on between Radio Free Mike and Golgonooza about favorite rodents. I have no idea what it's about, but I'm feeling spunky this morning and anxious to join the fray. But it's way too early for me to remember any truly strange and as-yet unmentioned rodents. So for now I think I side with Mike on the capybara. The first capybara I ever saw was at the Dog Park in Beijing, one of the world's stranger zoos; the note in my sketchbook reads: World's Largest Rodent--And Looks It. A blockier animal does not exist.

When I'm more awake, and back from looking at itty-bitty share rentals, I'll probably come out in favor of the kangaroo rat.
why do I keep comparing my life to other people's? why?

A few years ago, I drove up for the Battle of Seattle with a few hipsters from CELLspace, a radical art community here in SF (which, incidentally, I heard being badmouthed yesterday in a cafe by a kid too young to have any idea of what he was talking about). It was an intense few days, and I could talk about the political aspects and the things I saw for days. My first teargassing (mom and dad were so proud), people dancing defiantly in front of the cops, the moment when the word came that we'd managed to shut the conference down.

But something smaller that has stuck with me is hearing one of my fellow travelers talking about how fabulous the sex was with his fiancee. I was in the waning days of a long-term relationship that had been pretty much dry for about a year; Slice and I were desperately trying to hold things together through couples counseling but the writing was on the wall. So it was especially painful listening to Spider talk about sex so good that one partner hit their head against the wall and blacked out, or orgasms that sent everyone tumbling off the bed.

Slice and Spider were (and are) friends and collaborators; when Slice and I broke up, I mostly lost touch with Spider and his fiancee-now-wife. Which saddened me--I liked them both very much, but you know how it is. They were Slice's friends first. As it happens, PRobot and Spider are friends, so I've been hearing more about Spider lately, which is nice. Well, I just found Spider's blog, where he mentions (among other things) how wonderful married life has been, and how pleased he is that Slice is getting married to the woman he started dating two months after we broke up.

You know the story of Achilles, dipped in the River Styx by his mother. Since she was holding him by the heel, that part stayed dry and vulnerable while the rest of his body was coated with protective magic. Achilles died in battle when someone managed to get a spear through said heel. It's an image that's always been especially meaningful for me because I had a bike accident as a little kid that took off much of my left heel and kept me off my feet for months. Everything changed as a result of that accident. Although I was eventually able to walk, the physical fearlessness I'd had before just dried up and blew away. I became scared, cautious. I stopped taking dance classes...and started reading more. So I suppose there was a gift in the loss that I've never identified as such before.

Seeing Slice's name like that felt a lot like a spear going in during an unguarded moment. Of course I know he's getting married; we've talked about it and I'm glad for him. I like his girlfriend well enough, and I know what kind of work he's had to do to get to this point. I'm not even sorry I'm not the one marrying him. I'd go insane, and I'd take him with me straight to Bedlam. But. There are times when I look around and, forgetting how dismal the retention rates on marriage are, wonder why everyone else seems to be so much more "successful" in this way than I have been. I'm also, truthfully, pretty hurt that I wasn't invited to the wedding. Slice and I have been trying to stay friends, but it feels like he still means more to me than I do to him, and that realization stings. I respect that who he invites is his choice, etcetera, but I had a speech all figured out! A nice one! I was going to be the model of enlightened exgirlfriendhood!

Anyway. It doesn't help that I work so many weddings. A big and heretofore unspoken reason I need to get out of catering...I keep seeing the upside, and forgetting that marriage is not necessarily the glowing, effortless, transcendent situation we're taught to expect. I don't even know where I got so hung up on marriage. I certainly didn't want it when I was a teenager, or even up until my mid-twenties.

It was actually my relationship with Slice that changed that. First man I knew without a doubt I wanted to make that commitment to and with. For the first year, anyway. Year two I was not so sure. Year three I was chewing off my own foot, with steak sauce, and I was so relieved to be out of the relationship. But something has stayed lodged in me, like a kryptonite arrowhead lodged in the muscle a certain way. I can walk around for days, weeks, without feeling it--and then I twist or jump and there's the twinge, hard sharp surface against living tissue.

I wasn't raised with the expectation that I would or should marry; quite the contrary. I was raised to be self-reliant and I generally am, to enjoy my own company and I do. But of all the adventures I've had, there's one that I'm missing, one that I can't make happen the way I made Madagascar happen for myself, or becoming a working writer, or going to art school. It will happen or it will not.

Most of the time I am totally okay with this.

Some nights--especially ones where everything seems so jumbled--I'm not. The other night, the friendly bus driver wanted to know if I was going home to a meal cooked by my husband. He seemed totally surprised to hear that I hadn't any such thing (I hear this from black men a lot, actually) and wanted to know why; and what could I say? I haven't met that man? No man has had that faith in me yet? I had a husband, but after we mated I ate his head and laid my eggs in his twitching corpse? You should see the kids, they all look exactly like me, down to the red hourglass on their hairy backs? I found myself admitting, to this bus driver on the N Judah at four-something in the morning, that I was sort of hoping to have a mate (and a baby) to show my father before he moves on. The driver suggested I marry him, and wrote his phone number on the back of the little pad of transfers and gave it to me when I got off at Van Ness.

I know this funk is temporary, I know I'll probably have totally forgotten how sad I am right now by the time I wake up tomorrow (the gift of age-forgetfulness!), I know on a rational level that my singlehood doesn't mean anything about my competence as a person or my desirability as a partner. I just think that our culture puts such weight on wedlock--and casts so much shadow on the unmarried!--it's hard not to judge onseself accordingly. In the morning I will remember how much I like being single.

At least this morning, the guy who broke into my place last year FINALLY pled guilty, putting ten months of waiting to an end. I didn't even have to appear in court, and I can recycle the great huge wad of subpoenas I've received waiting for this trial to happen. This is one great weight lifted.

Monday, September 22, 2003

go home and string the beads you already own!

Although I'm hip-deep in beads already, I always end up in bead stores...ever since I was a teenager hitting the bead shop in Birmingham, Michigan, after school. I'd get my little muffin tin and start choosing two of these, four of those, each kind into their own little muffin spot. I've bought beads all over the US, in Paris, Spain, Canada, Madagascar. If there is a bead shop, I will find it. I'm the drug-sniffing dog of beads.

So when I walked by Beadissimo, the magnetic pull was strong. The 'we're closed' sign, however, was stronger, and bore the above admonition. I thought it was so funny I read it out loud, and then looked to see if there was anyone I could read it to who might appreciate it as much as I had. People walked by with their children and dogs and cell phones, wrapped in their own not-obsessed-with-beads lives, and I had to keep my amusement to myself, for fear of looking crazier than I suspect I am.

Craziness. After work Saturday night, I ended up out at Ocean Beach looking vainly for a bonfire/party I'd been invited to hit. That's a whole 'nother story, involving a guy named Jake the Wizard, Asian kids setting off illegal fireworks, and yours truly slogging around in the sand after 2 am in tux pants, work shoes, and a red fleece pullover, a wine box full of Krispy Kreme donuts and cold mashed potatoes under my arm. Anyway, after I decided that maybe walking home from the beach was not such a swell idea and writing off calling Mike, who lives out there, and asking if I could crash on his floor, I found myself on the N Judah with a very friendly bus driver and a blonde woman howling in the back.

People talking to invisible people is a very common sight in San Francisco. As I understand it from a training I went to when I was working with homeless kids, schizophrenia is primarily dangerous for the people who have it, not the people around them. Listening to someone respond to the voices in their head can be unnerving, but the affected are far more likely to hurt themselves on the voices' orders than other people.

Which is small comfort when you're listening to someone really getting angry, scared, confrontational--and loud. The driver, a gregarious guy with three teenaged children and an urge to move back to Chicago, responded by turning on the air conditioning to drown out the woman's voice. At one point when she started addressing him directly, he threatened to call the police to "put her off the bus." I didn't know what to do. Telling him that calling the cops seemed excessive didn't seem like the best plan, but I wanted to advocate for her in some small way, because I really didn't think she was herself. Or dangerous.

Of course, the day before he'd been driving the 44 O'Shaughnessy route in Hunter's Point, one bus ahead of the one that got strafed by gunfire. So I can see where he might be a little edgy.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

why we have friends

Is it cheating to totally rip off an email I sent someone tonight? I mean, it's my own email. And after I read it, I wanted to put it here.

Princess and I went out to a pretty good play tonight, and then to Cafe Abir to debrief and get me caffeinated for a night of writing. We haven't hung out since before Burning Man, and were both feeling the lack. We got to talking about my dad, and the possibility that Princess's mom might have lymphoma (she just had a melanoma removed from her foot) and something that had been hanging around the edges of my consciouness finally crystallized. I've been worried about how my mother isn't seeking out any support other than talking to me, how I fear that her "I will grit my teeth and bear this" attitude is going to take its toll, and suddenly it dawned on me; I'm doing the same exact damn thing. Obviously we're in different places, literally and figuratively; I'm not the one driving to the chemo clinic and arguing with pharmacists. I'm not the primary caregiver. But this is still obviously affecting me.

My mother and I are a lot alike--it is very, very hard for us to ask for help. I think we both see asking for help as weakness, as an indication that we can't take care of ourselves, and we both fear burdening other people.

But you know...what fun are invulnerable people?

So I came home, logged on, and started looking for support groups for the family and friends of folks with lung cancer. It's time. I feel so awkward talking to people who aren't going through this. As caring as my friends all are, and god am I grateful, there are places where I can go and really get into this with people who know the lingo. Too many of my conversations these days entail my trying not to cry in public...maybe I need to go sit in some hospital conference room, drink bad instant hot cocoa from a styrofoam cup, and see what happens. There's a family and friends group that meets every second and fourth Thursday; next week I think I'll go. As it happens, that's exactly when my aunt is in town (dad's sister), and I bet she'd be willing to come along--she's survived breast cancer herself, and was with my grandmother through the latter's lung cancer. She's a pro. And just knowing that I'm taking this step is making me feel a little more stable.

I am struck by how I'm at one of those points in my life where it feels like stuff is just breaking loose and floating free, the way toxins are said to do when we start exercising after a period of inactivity. New aikidoists who haven't been physically active see this, and it's always interesting; they bruise and get tired easily because all this entrenched junk in their systems starts to break loose of its moorings and float around and cause a little trouble before it finally gets pushed out. I think this is happening to me on an emotional/psychic level. I won't say that it's pleasant because it isn't, but it is fascinating. Once again I'm glad of my aikido training because it gives me a map, a frame of reference, a way of looking at a situation and seeing that I can navigate it because I've done it before.

I also signed up for a bellydancing listserv mentioned in Snake Hips (which I'm going to keep flogging here, as it is very funny). All mental/spiritual work and no play...I could stand a little sequin gossip.

Written on a bathroom stall door at Abir: "Satan vs. Videogames: Satan Wins". I have no idea what that means.

Monday, September 15, 2003

what's so common about the common cold?

Draining, draining, draining. Summer colds suck. This one seems to have knocked the stuffing out of me; sitting on a beanbag watching a documentary about four first-time Burners and their Profound Experiences, I found myself dozing off repeatedly. Great music, good editing, and as Poi puts it, flat.

Flat flat flat is probably as good a description of this day as any other. I went out with PRobot yesterday for the first time since our Discussion of last week. It was a good afternoon/evening in general, although it would probably have been better had I been healthy, and had I not harbored doubts that I hadn't had before Burning Man.

In other news, I got a note from my dad today. Typed. He sent a check for my plane ticket, some newspaper clippings about pandas and women basketball players, and the note. When I looked at the check, and the envelope, I saw that my father's usually very precise, draftsman's handwriting looked a little wavery. Mom says the chemo tires him, and I wonder if that's what I'm seeing in his handwriting. It saddened me, and it meant that every time the makers of tonight's documentary focussed on the Temple (the structure covered with memorials) I found myself wondering if at next year's Burning Man, I will be writing my father's name on the wall.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

external abdominal obliques

I love the library. I found exactly what I needed; a book with an illustration I could color-xerox, and now I have it on my desk. Muscles of the Human Body, Anterior View. Now I can identify what hurts, what's stiff, and which funky little groups I'm supposed to be learning to use independently of the others. Yow. I think I've even picked out the muscle that lets me wiggle my ears--the temporalis.

Just got home from a party at Poi's. It was fun--a lot of Burners, some of whom I'd met at the Crashland Inn--nice to see people again. Poi spun fire for the first time at home, nicely, and we all stood around watching a slideshow of burningman photos being projected on the wall of his house.The cute EMT Almeida'd been chatting up in BRC was there, and it looks like they got into a little deeper conversation tonight. I'm crossing my fingers for her.

When people asked me why I was picking up all the beer bottle caps, Poi got out his necklace, and now there are a few people on me to make one for them. I promised the guy who manages the space outside my studio that I wouldn't pour again until I had some kind of ventilation in place--I'm trying to figure out how to hack together a fume hood--used ones online start at a couple grand (!) and I don't really need that much protection. So, it was great getting the affirmation. And the bottle caps. I need to start looking for copyright-free art for those caps that I plan to sell, and maybe drawing some backgrounds myself...scary...

Do you ever pick up a book and know within the first few pages that it's going to be really fun reading it? I just started Anne Soffee's Snake Hips: Belly Dancing and How I Found True Love and I can see it's going to be a hoot. She begins at an airport Holiday Inn in Richmond, Virginia, backstage at a big bellydance performance. I wish I didn't have to work in the morning, I'd stay up reading until the sky lightened. Maybe tomorrow.

So I've been musing on romance a lot over the past several months, and a conversation I had with Almeida has catalyzed an idea that makes sense. We were talking about someone she's interested in, a guy who makes less money than she does, and she was wondering if he was hesitant to pursue her because he was intimidated by that fact. So we started wondering if men generally believe that they have to do elaborate things for women, and feel trapped by it. "He could make me dinner," she said, "and it would mean more to me than if he took me someplace fancy and spent a lot of money on me." So we got into it--it's the idea that counts, maybe some women require high-ticket treatment but we (and our female friends) don't, etcetera etcetera.

The idea that has started to gain currency in my mind is that a romantic gesture--not romance, per se, but a gesture--fits at least two criteria, neither of which have anything to do with capital outlay.

1. While it may benefit the "gesturer", it's oriented to the recepient and may not immediately benefit the giver at all.

2. It is a way of letting someone know that you're thinking about them even when they're not around. This is really important to my conception of romance. Even the littlest, humblest gift, chosen with an understanding of the intended recipent, their likes dislikes and so on, can delight the recepient. In this case, "gift" is a very open concept, and could include things like forwarding a link, say.

Can barely keep my eyes open. Laaaaaaaayter.

Friday, September 12, 2003

ketchup and cayenne

Modelled this morning for an art class where something new happened, which is pretty amazing considering that I've been at it for twelve years now. One of the students drew me with pencil on the first pose, and then on the second picked up a squeeze bottle of Heinz 57 and drew with that. And highlighted with chili pepper. And added texture with salt. The studio filled with the smell of ketchup, and the other students started smiling. On the third pose, she got a little more subtle, and either dabbed the condiment on with a paper towel or used a palette knife to create tone.

She drew well to begin with, so the resulting images were recognizable if a bit soft-focus. The effect was a little unnerving for me because I am, as the enlightened say, on my moon right now; ketchup spread with a palette knife bears a strong resemblance to menstrual blood. But they were interesting drawings.

I have a lot I should be doing this afternoon, like organizing my studio and going to the (air-conditioned) library and trying to find a diagram that will show me, once and for all, where my obliques are. There's a teetering pile of receipts and ATM slips to go into Quicken. I should be looking for an apartment. But it's so hot I'm tempted to just lay down and take a nap until it's cooler, Spaniard-style. Blood will out, I guess.
it's too darn hot

I never realized that this, one of Cole Porter's best-known songs, was from 'Kiss Me Kate' until a couple of months ago, when I saw a production of said musical at the Woodminster Amphitheater in Oakland. Adequate production, great song; maybe the best number of the show. Chorines in tap pants, a guy with a great deep voice, a sultry night.

It so applies tonight. We're having our Indian Summer, so it's suddenly 90 degrees, and all over the Mission people were sitting outside or driving slowly down the street, stereos thumping. Snufkina and I (hello pretty girl!) had made a plan to go hot-tubbing, which seemed a little unnecessary after the first round of soak and sweat. So we hunted down an open coffee shop in our usual diffuse way, marked by repeated calls to information, and I tried to explain the sidestroke by bracing myself on a chair at the ribcage and paddling pathetically in the air.

Which reminds me in turn of a short bit of prose from the Cuban playwright/poet Virgilio Pinera:


I've learned to swim on dry land. It turns out to be more practical than doing it in the water. There is no fear of sinking, for one is already on the bottom, and by the same token, one is drowned beforehand. It also avoids having to be fished out by the light of the lantern or in the dazzling clarity of a beautiful day. Finally, the absence of water keeps one from swelling up.

I won't deny that swimming on dry land is somewhat agonizing, one is quite alive, quite alert, listening to the music entering through the window and watching the worm crawl across the floor.

At first my friends criticized this decision. They fled from my glances and sobbed in the corners. Happily, the crisis is past. Now they know that I am comfortable swimming on dry land. Once in a while I sink my hands into the marble tiles and offer them a tiny fish that I catch in the submarine depths.

How quickly can one catch a cold? I was out with Snufkina for a few hours; she was sick and I was well. I'm home now and sniffling. I refuse to believe that the two things are related. It can't happen that fast, right?

The heat makes it difficult for me to hold a thought, and I'm sleepy from a day of cleaning and studio rearrangement. I suppose when other people decide all the furniture must move, they ask for help...I seem incapable of waiting for such a thing. One of the worktables is now in a much better space, and I have revealed whole colonies of dust aliens. I moved a bookshelf, thinking all the while of Josh Kornbluth describing his father moving a bookshelf down several flights of stairs--with the books still in it. I don't know why I'm so inclined tonight to quote everyone else's work. Maybe because I'm feeling so scattered myself.

Finished reading Mike's book Too Much of Nothing. It's really good. At first it was a little weird, because the narrator's voice in my head was Mike's, and he's about twice the age of his narrator. But I got over it. As jealous as I am (is that the word I want? I can never distinguish between jealous and envious) of Mike's tenacity and command of the language, I'm also very inspired by his example. He thought I was joking when I said I was going to treat his readings like rock concerts and holler and throw my panties...heh heh heh...I'd do that thing with my lighter, too, but here in smoker-hostile Cali, I think just brandishing a lighter is probably enough to get one dragged away by the heels and locked up.

Man, we had a bad thing happen around being locked up recently--two seperate women suing because they claim that after being arrested (on minor charges) they were forced to spend the night in holding cells without any clothes. Like the SFPD needed any more egg on their face. I don't understand how the cops get away with stuff like that. I am probably a lot more pro-cop than many people I know--living in places that get broken into, one sometimes befriends the police who show up at the scene--but this is wretched.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

a moment at the Temple of Honor

This really isn't my story, it's Almeida's, but I tell it because it captures some of burningman for me. On Sunday, the day we chose to clean up for a few hours and check out the art in the deep playa, one of our stops was at the Temple of Honor. A fanciful, vaguely Byzantine structure set in a direct line with the Man, the Temple seemed to be constructed entirely of cardboard tubes and light wood, the easier to burn. It also did not have to support the weight of people walking around on it, so it had all sorts of things sticking off of it. It had been papered in black and white designs, apparently photocopied, that combined to create a very Moorish feel.

The Temple serves a different purpose than the Man. It's usually burned the day after, winds permitting, and I'm told that the crowd (much smaller, as mamy people go home right after the Man burns) is much quieter and more contemplative. The Temple honors those who have passed, and is inscribed with names, covered with photos and small items, surrounded with flowers, and so on.

Visiting the Temple is sobering. People write messages to their departed loved ones, sit quietly at the base, and cry. I wrote something that I won't share here, expecting to stay cool, and found myself crying and had to turn away for a few minutes.

Almeida was standing near a man who clearly wanted to cry, but wouldn't let himself. He was shaking, she explained, with the effort to contain himself. So Almeida wordlessly put her arms out, and he fell into them. Which is apt, as she is short enough that for many of us, hugging her does require a bit of an altitude adjustment. He hugged her and he cried freely. When he was done, he thanked her, and they parted.

"So often," she said of the experience afterwards, "I feel like I know what the right thing to do is, but I feel constrained. If I'd seen him somewhere in the outside world, I would have wanted to do something, but I wouldn't have felt like I could, like my gesture might be rejected. Here I could do the thing I knew was right."

So much of burningman is presented as this massive libertine explosion--you can do whatever you like, whenever you like, with whoever you like. And in a very messy and visible way, that's true. PRobot heard a story about something that happened in a Portolet that totally bears this out, and eventually I may write it down. But there's another facet, besides the drugs and the silly costumes and the dancing and the screwing and the sunburn. I think burningman also offers the freedom to behave in line with one's best instincts.

It also magnifies and exacerbates, exaggerates and intensifies. PRobot and I had a discussion there that probably took a turn (at least on my part) that it didn't need to because I was pretty exhausted and stressed out. We agreed to a moratorium on Discussion until we'd had a chance to come back to the so-called real world; then our schedules precluded our talking. We're going to see each other today. I am very curious to see what happens.

I also have to return my rental funmobile this afternoon. And I never figured out how to use the four-wheel drive! I don't suppose it's wise to try that on the freeway, running errands. Maybe I'll try driving over a curb, or one of those things they put in mall parking lots to block your wheels.
bustin' out all over

Something I ate at T&C's wedding tonight is fighting back by giving me this strange, virtually unrecognizable bloated stomach. Perhaps the staff poisoned me because they heard me being snarky with another guest about how awesomely unprofessional the service was?

We were standing next to each other during the ceremony, and we started talking about how badly we wanted wedding cake. It was a short jump from there to the revelation that we've both worked in catering, although he's been out for two years. We proceeded to spend most of the cocktail hour and the period between dinner and the cake-cutting talking. Way too much about catering, with the occasional foray into music, schooling, our "real lives." He's the guy behind He'brew, the Chosen Beer, which I'd heard of at the Estherminator Purim party at 111 Minna last spring. Pretty funny.

I was so glad to be at the wedding, so honored, but as dinner (and the speeches) wore on, I started to tire of the whole thing. Obviously I've seen a lot more weddings than your average bear, but I don't remember one whose speeches were so openly self-congratulatory--and so repetitive. I started to envy the waiters, who could go hide out somewhere. And of course I got sad. I still have faith that there is someone out there who's just going to love me to pieces, who wants to warm himself by my fire, but I'm not sure I've met that person yet...and weddings are hard.

I have to remember to try to repeat T's vow, because it was (not surprisingly, for T is an actor) quite dramatic and kind of funny too. I liked the part where he shouted, "C is my woman, and I am her man!" It was very atavistic. I don't know how I'd feel about someone saying it about me in that way, but it worked on them.

I rented a car for the weekend, since I needed it yesterday for work as well as driving out to God's Country, Marin today. Asked for an economy, but all they had available was a Suzuki XL-7. "Can you drive a 4x4?" asked the woman at Dollar. Oh boy. I couldn't believe it when the guy pulled it up. Long, high, narrow, and silver. Seats seven. Drips with doodads like sunglasses holders. I've really enjoyed having it, although I can feel how much the puppy wants to roll over, and I feel terrible about the mileage. I drive it and find myself rationalizing why I should have one of my own. "When I start bellydancing with a snake," was my fantasy today, "I'll need a big car so the snake is comfortbale going from job to job.

I mean, how silly?

Friday, September 05, 2003

wretched cat

LabRat has been kind enough to make a little space in his flat for me, while I sort out my housing situation. Last night was the first night I took advantage of the freshly-puchased air mattress...which I hadn't realized would be located squarely under his sleeping loft. For some reason, I thought they still had a utility room, or that I might be in the living room. Because I'd been out gallivanting through a theater festival with Poi until late, I didn't get to LabRat's until 1:30 in the morning. Couldn't make the key work. LabRat woke up to my scrabbling and came to the door.

"WHERE have you been? Your mother and I have been worried sick!"

Then the fumbling down the hall for the bathroom without light, cursing my own pride that I think I can see in the dark when I clearly can't, the settling in, petting a surprisingly tractable Dee the cat. LabRat sleeps on an air mattress himself, which squeaks terribly against the wood of his loft, and one of his roommates clearly wears heels and needs to walk around a lot in the morning.

I have fallen out of the habit of sleeping in clearly defined residential spaces.

Then Dee--the cat I rescued and introduced to LabRat lo those many years ago, the cat named after me, the cat referred to as my familiar--turned on me. Yes! Ungrateful wretch. Rescued from a certain dreadful fate at the hands of teenage Satanists and turned over to the one man I know prepared to hand-cook her every meal, and what do I get in return?

Bupkes (and a clawing).

Tuesday, September 02, 2003


The first time I heard someone hissing at a bellydance performance, I didn't understand that it was actually a sign of approval. Because of course hissing at most other kinds of performance is Not A Good Thing. But if you watch bellydancers watching other bellydancers doing slow stuff--taxeem, snake arms, like that--you'll see that they hiss in appreciation.

A couple of hours ago I stepped out to the art supply store because I had, apparently, too much cash on hand and a great desire to get away from my computer. This art supply store always has good music playing--the employees bring in their CD's. Once I even heard the Red Elvises come up in rotation as I looked over the oil paints. Anyway, I always dance a little there, in the aisles, practice something I'm trying to learn in class, whatever.

Tonight as I was waiting in line to pay for paint, I started working on something that's been giving me a tremendous amount of grief--undulating plus shimmying--I can do one, or the other, but the two together just shut my brain down entirely. Like my head has been encased in a block of ice. Undulating has always come easily, actually, but I've had to reverse-engineer my shimmy to meet my teacher's standards, which have a lot more knee involvement than I'm used to. So I decided that instead of shimmying, I would just taxeem, which is much slower, and try a little undulating while I was at it.

And I think I'm finally starting to get it. I'm keeping my elation down because it isn't consistent or reliable yet, but I could see the edges of the thing. I can almost pull it out from its hiding place. I practiced all the way home.

People walking by me must wonder.
manna from heaven

Just quickly. In my studio this morning, trying to dig free of the drifts of Burning Man flotsam and scattered project stuff, bottlecaps fabric books powerdrill dremel camping gear resin cans beads buttons yarn clothing papers paint etcetera, trying to track down people to interview for articles due tomorrow, wearing my most hideous pants, my phone headset, and the sweatshirt I slept in. A knock at the door. Karate has taken a cab over from the house he's watching for an ex-girlfriend. Her fridge gave it up last night, and she'll be gone for another month. He leads me to the kitchen and shows me bags bulging with food. "Is it okay if I put it in the fridge here?" he asks. Well, duh. I'm no great fan of Lean Cuisine--you have to eat so many to feel full!--but hey, considering that I've eaten nothing but beef jerky, Triscuits, fruit leather and Tasty Bites for the past however many days, those sweating shiny boxes are like God's own Meals on Wheels right now.

So we loaded the freezer, and I am eating a pudding cup in celebration.

Back to work.

Monday, September 01, 2003

the spice must flow

Back from the desert, lips chapped and stray playa in everything...Almeida and I spent last night in Reno, at her brother's house, taking incredibly long showers. This morning we had eggs! and toast! off plates! at a table! and then spent a couple of hours wielding her brother's shopvac on the interior of her 4Runner. It was a little strange. No, a lot strange. Because while I desperately wanted to be clean--and was delighted to learn that I was not, after all, going to have to shave my head to deal with the stiff, tangled mass my hair had become--I felt bad watching all the dust disappear into the vacuum. Ziad's house is of course immaculate, and there we were stumbling in near midnight looking like ancient crones with our hair totally white, shaking dust everywhere.

Yesterday in Black Rock City, Almeida and I had planned to spend a couple of hours doing MOOP duty (Matter Out Of Place) before we headed home. "We'll combine that with going out into the deep playa and looking at the installations out there," we told each other. Our new friend Poi came with us. So there were three of us pretty far out--I think we had just left the chandelier, a massive chandelier complete with the section of ceiling it had taken down when it fell, at least ten feet high--when Poi said, "Have the two of you been in a white-out yet?" He was looking up, you see; we were looking down for cigarette butts and loose feathers and so on. We were looking up to answer when it hit.

They tell you to make sure to have goggles and a mask, or at least to pull up your shirt over your mouth and nose so you can breathe. They also suggest that you sit down and wait it out; a white-out allegedly usually lasts a half-hour at most. But we didn't want to sit, and none of us had masks; Almeida and I pulled up our bandanas. "You don't have a mask," Almeida said to Poi, who shrugged. "I guess you just get used to it," he answered, and took a manly swig from his water bottle. We stood there for a while just looking at each other as the white dust swirled around us until we couldn't see anything outside of the circle we formed. "Nothing to do but dance," said Poi, so we did, our Moop-bags swinging from our hands, the music from a club still audible across the expanse, the bells of bikes, the train-horn someone had fixed to their art car, and the rattle of a machine gun adapted to shoot fire instead of bullets attached to one of the Death Guild Mad Max-styled art cars. Danced on the cracking ground in the bright, thick white. A huge black costume feather bounced by and I went after it, Almeida and Poi calling after me; I couldn't catch it and when I stopped trying I could hear their voices but I couldn't see them. So I started moving towards their calls, feeling slow and stately, my arms for some reason over my head. I sometimes imagine that I was born that way, stretched out in an eternal dive. I thought about the shape I was forming, a dark amphora emerging from the blowing sand; silent and solid.

Eventually we headed blindly back to the Esplanade. I had a cheap plastic squeezy bike horn which I honked frequently in the naive hope it would keep us from getting run over by a massive welded-metal dragon, or a motorized couch, or a Spanish galleon. Bicycles and people materialized, disappeared. When we got to the Center Cafe, it was packed with people, some of whom looked, like us, as though they had been spray-painted. Armed with iced chai, we headed back to our camp on Theory, hoping to break it down in time to get to Spiral's Sunday-night spaghetti dinner.

But the white-out wasn't done with us. It subsided long enough for me to go to PRobot's camp to borrow the crescent wrench to pull rebar; it sort of leaked around the edges of the day. As we started to break down the storm came back up, and Almeida decided to wait it out in the car.

I sat there with her for a while, but it didn't seem right, so I went back out and finished pulling the rebar. It was soothing to work in the bright quiet, and the rebar came out easily. I restacked things and rolled up the carpets we'd used under our shade structure. It seemed perfectly natural. Almeida and I nearly came to words, which is rare for us; she wanted me to come sit in the car like an intelligent being and I wanted to get out of there and eat hot food. I also wanted to watch the sun set over the mountains. The mountains themselves were barely visible, but the sun cast about a sort of nimbus that outlined the jagged bits, and it was almost heartbreakingly beautiful.

The rest of the week was amazing and painful and intense and a lot of other things. I was grateful, for a few moments, that it was also peaceful.