27 November 2006

On Beauty

In every book I read there is a line, sometimes two or three, that can’t be turned away from. I have to underline them, defile the book, because they are that revealing – they command something in me, in my heart, beyond me. If a book doesn’t have at least one sentence like this, I wonder if it was worth reading at all.

I think I found one or two in Zadie Smith’s On Beauty.

The greatest lie ever told about love is that it sets you free.

18 November 2006


Greetings from Baltimore. Indeed the real fun begins tomorrow. Yesterday the conference was interesting. I slept through the morning sessions for the jet lag and the delayed flight due to inclement weather. The afternoon was stellar, however.

Today I holed away in the hotel room and struggled over my presentation for tomorrow. Why it’s taking me so long to pull my thoughts together is beyond me. By the early evening, however, I’d tugged and pulled and braced my weight into it and I think I put the finishing touches on it. I’ll leave it until the morning, find some coffee and review it one more time before printing it out (somehow) and turning it in.

I’ve been looking over the schedule for when I might sneak away to the aquarium or evening wander the waterfront for an hour or two. I feel so stagnant and stifled when I travel. Tomorrow is a big day – presenting a special lecture and later saying words at the awards banquet for one of the two awardees. After that I can sit back and just soak it in and perhaps learn something.

Okay… I’m not very exciting.

12 November 2006


Firstly the NaNoWriMoing isn’t Wri-ing right along. I’ve hit a stand still. I won’t say that I’ve given up (yet?), but progress has ground to a screeching halt – metal against metal, sparks flying. That’s okay. It is what it is. There’s been such a fanfare of activities, holiday this-ing, dinner-thating, lunch in the City, guests, and oh yes, the biggest time-suck of them all, the latest season of the Sopranos is out on DVD.

Secondly, I didn’t mention this business about this old friend of mine hitting the bottom of the cage a few weeks back now. I say old friend as in former friend – he wasn’t old and he was no longer a friend. I’ve tried to write about it, but everything that comes out sounds petty and stupid and crazy. I didn’t attend the memorial (which was yesterday) mainly out of respect for his wishes. Though some contend that his wishes might have changed over time, I made the mistake of acting on those contentions while the dude was still fluttering up on the perch and getting bitch slapped for my good graces. I vowed to never let that happen again – an easy and painless vow to keep.

Without going into a great deal of detail, it’s him that needed to make his peace with the world – it wasn’t me who needed to make peace with him. I’m good with who I am mostly. Or rather, how I’m not good with how I’m walking on this planet, I feel quite fine about how I’m going about figuring that out and setting my feet right on the world. That was his fucked up journey, not mine. They just collided and it was an unfortunate collision from the start.

It’s the tense times, the unpleasantries, that I have a tendency to sit with and try to suck the marrow out of. There are lessons and learning in life that are not painful, even joyful dare I say, but when the lesson is so easy it’s hard to take pause and acknowledge that change and growth happened. When it’s accompanied by pain, that is when you really know you’re alive. It doesn’t make the joyful stuff less meaningful, important or real – it just makes it a little more invisible. When it leave a scar or mars us, there’s some proof it happened. Or so we think in these fallible, silly lives.

I have to say, ultimately it’s like those first oil-streaked pages of the Messiah handbook in Bach’s book, Illusions. If God asked you to sacrifice - your life even – would you do it? And the multitude says, “Glory to be sacrificed, crucified.. honor to be nailed to a cross, tortured and killed!” And then the Messiah says, “And if God asked you to go forth in this world and be happy?” And the crowd goes silent. And he simply says, “I quit” and walks away.

People will endure excruciating pain and discomfort in the name of their God, beliefs and religions – but far fewer will endure their own happiness – far fewer will boldly live in bliss and joy as a way to honor their Gods. I don’t know what that says about people. I don’t know what it says about their Gods. I’m not suggesting that unhappiness, conflict, tension, discontent are all failure. They’re just parts of the road – like being born and dying – they’re merely facts of the journey, places in the sidewalk that we must step. But come on, not every dot on the twister board is red – switch it up people – you have fucking choices and it’s up to you to use them. Poking the same spot in life marked “painful” doesn’t lead to transcendence – it merely dulls the sensation and eventually normalizes it. What good is that?

Anyways. I digress. So another old friend (this time I would say that old infers a longevity to our friendship) was in town from Houston, to attend the memorial, and I fetched her from the City on Friday. We roamed a crest trail with the dog and sat and talked into the evening – about nothing in particular. It was sweet to catch up – to hear – to listen (that one is a talker..heh!) She’s a social worker with chronically homeless folks in Houston and in her late forties has gone back to school into a master’s program for social work and political science. I’m proud of her – she’s beautifully full of conviction and determination and making a better world outside herself and this in turn makes a better world inside herself. She doesn’t make a lot of money (and probably never will) but she is happy. This is so important. She is happy.

We laughed and I quizzed, “is it that Lesbian’s identified that Social Work is a chronically under-paid profession and thus flock to it?” If you want to meet cool chicks, don’t look in the G.A. line, look in professions that pay well below living wages – they are eeking out meager, starving existences in questionable neighborhoods with rampant poverty, high crime rates and slum lords. (Of course that’s not true… well.. it’s sort of not true. You can meet them at softball games too. Okay. I’ll stop. I’m kidding. You know I’m kidding.)

If you’ve ever read Studs Turkel’s Coming of Age it’s not the people who made millions in high-powered business professions who at their end of days look back on a life well lived, content with their contributions and creations. But living in poverty doesn’t guarantee happiness either.

The old friend of which I initially wrote – he didn’t live in poverty, but he also served others, sometimes even selflessly – but he still was such a bitter, miserable, cruel, thankless and unhappy coot. Goes to show you. No guarantees. But then again, maybe he had his proverbial coming to Jesus (I don’t mean that literally.) Maybe he found peace there at the end. I hope so. I genuinely do.

For my own self, in tribute to his life, in tribute to his leaving, to memorialize his time on this earth, I would set to work on peeling a few layer of bitterness from my own life and commit to be kinder and more joyful. That seems like a nice karmic end to the story of our walk on this planet.

I should say, all of this happening now is not an accident. I did not contrive it, but certainly the fates are having a hand in these days.

Wiley is fetching another old friend from Oakland today, who is in town from Philadelphia/New York for a harm reduction conference – in this case old refers to longevity of acquaintance and friend is used loosely. I have a fondness for the woman, I’ve never approached her as a confidante or felt great affection between us however. I like her, I admire the work she has done in the community, she is kind and enthusiastic and has wonderful determination with endless optimism.

She is a natural leader, yet she’s unassuming and non-threatening. It’s fucked up, but strong women who are charismatic and convey strong opinions are eaten alive – every aspect of their personal and professional lives are scrutinized. While men are revered, women are often torn to shreds and fed to the dogs. Somehow she’s escaped this fate by maintaining a down-with-the-people, down-trodden and humble leadership style. Don’t be too outspoken, always play nice with a smile on your face. She’s not ineffective and she really hasn’t sold anything out – she’s adept at flying under the radar screen. I think she’s got something going – if you’re a woman and you’re a leader, it’s best to do that by not letting anyone else realize that you’re leading and not receiving any recognition or credit for what you’re accomplishing. There is something SO fucked up about that. I am so over that. And I’m looking forward to her visit this afternoon.

I leave for Baltimore (the City that Reads – you know, because it tops the nation’s chart in terms of illiteracy rates.. so the town adopts a grammatically ill-conceived ironic motto. Dude, cities don’t read, people do) later this week and by tomorrow have to book ticket for DC the end of the month. I’ll mostly be out of town from now until then, thus my dwindling hopes about the future of my NaNo-ing this month. But maybe the time in hotels will actually be good? Like I say, I won’t write it off (heh) until failure in truly inevitable and staring me down in the 11th hour.

Okay… it’s time to hot tub (verb) until my conference call starts (in 15 minutes, yes on a Sunday) and lasts (excuse me!?!?) for three and a half hours (are you serious!?!) until guests arrive.

I feel like I haven’t wrapped up these trains of thought.. let’s just let ‘em go though the junctions – lights flashing, bells ringing, full speed ahead, and see what happens…. I’m not afraid of a little train wreck on a Sunday afternoon…. Let’s raise a glass to derailment.

02 November 2006

Cotton Rock

Okay… I’ve been quite busy lately and now we’re off and running into NaNoWriMo. Isn’t it the way it goes (predictably) that when the NoWri-ing begins the journaling seems urgent, attractive and painfully neglected – certainly in need of prompt tendering? It’s not just the journaling that screams out and demands attention when the NoWri-ing begins. It’s also the kitchen floor, the laundry, the dishes, the dog. Don’t you think I really need to go shopping for some winter wardrobe stuff? Perhaps those closets and cupboards need rearranging. Why do I run from it all so adamantly?

The rains began today and I went to pull the rain gear out of storage so I could take the Sweetness, the Honey Bee on morning ablutions (Ed’s at Zend Con so I have morning duty too) and I discovered I’d packed away all the winter things neatly in the armoire in the back cottage. Lovely sweaters and warm bulky things. Somewhere from there to here, unfortunately, I’ve developed some allergy or sensitivity to fleece. I’m wearing a fleece pullover now and my skin is crawling and hot and itchy. So much for that incredible softness – it’s all for naught when the reaction begins. I don’t have that reaction to the blankets – I wonder why just the clothes. (And of course that’s another thing urgently in need of pondering in the face of NaNoWri-ing.) And I have the same (worse?) reaction to wool – and there’s this craze around natural fabrics of late. I’m all about cotton. Cotton rocks.